zenpundit.com » christianity

Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

DoubleQuote in the wild: gun, flag, scripture

Monday, July 7th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- offered as an opportunity to compare and contrast -- not an equation to swear by ]

Some will prefer one side of this DoubleQuote to the other, and feel it proposes an unjustified “equality” between them. Some will want to say “A pox on both your houses”.


I prefer to think of it as a Socratic question — an equation with a question mark, perhaps?



  • The Blue Street Journal
  • **

    If there are such qualities as the words good and evil denote, I’d say with Solzhenitsyn:

    Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an uprooted small corner of evil.


    Sunday hilarious surprise: Eric Metaxas and Canon Andrew White

    Sunday, July 6th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- if religion is neither your cuppa tea nor your hookah mixture, you can safely ignore this post ]

    Move over, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — just this once?

    Both Eric Metaxas — who “wrote the book” on Bonhoeffer – and Canon Andrew White — sometimes known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” — are simply hilarious in this interview, if you’re interested and potentially amused by the intricate varieties of religious experience within Christianity. I haven’t had this much fun watching two real people talking with one another in a long while.

    And behind the delight, there’s more..


    You know me, I love echoes, symmetries, fugal restatements of a theme. I thought Canon White’s bizarre and engaging dialectics, both spiritual and ethnic, was worth a DoubleQuote:

    — but you really need to hear White’s deadpan delivery of those lines to fully appreciate the humor.


    Varieties of ecumenical alliance, in two tweets

    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- let's just say the world is awesome -- and you can take that to mean amazing, tragic, infuriating, or hilarious -- your choice ]

    Let’s have the bad news tweet first, get it out of the way.

    The Reuters article Laura links to tells us the Ugandan army now views Séléka, an almost entirely Muslim militia, as “in bed with” Joseph Kony‘s Lord’s Resistance Army, a group generally regarded as Christian — air quotes optional in both cases.

    Here we go:

    Uganda’s army said on Tuesday the mainly Muslim Seleka group in Central African Republic was now its enemy as the fighters were “in bed” with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels they are hunting there.

    A spokesman for the Ugandan army said its forces in CAR had clashed for the first time with Seleka, killing 12 and suffering one casualty. A Seleka official told Reuters on Monday that 15 of their fighters and three Ugandan soldiers were killed. “Seleka had never tasted our fire. I think it was important that they taste our fire so that they are careful,” Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) said, when asked about clashes on Sunday and Monday in CAR.

    The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, is using CAR as one of its rear bases for attacks across regions straddling CAR, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Uganda heads a 5,000-strong African Union force tracking down the rebels but has no specific mandate to confront Seleka, which seized power in CAR in March last year and was pushed out under international pressure in January. “We know we don’t have that mandate but since they are in bed with our enemy, we’ll treat them as such,” said Ankunda, accusing Seleka of forcing civilians to give food and medicine to the LRA and trading ivory and minerals with them. Seleka’s time in power in Bangui was marked by rights abuses, prompting mainly Christian self-defense militia to spring up across the country. Nearly a million people – around a quarter of the population – have been forced from their homes in cycles of sectarian violence. Tit-for-tat killings continue and Seleka fighters still occupy pockets of the country.

    Colonel Christian Djuma Narkoyo, deputy spokesman for Seleka’s armed wing, dismissed Uganda’s claims as “lies.” “If they have proof, let them show it. … There is no reason for us to collaborate with the LRA,” he said.

    Enough of that.


    Now for the good news:

    Mmmm, yes! That’s what I like to see.


    Dialectic, or a waltz within revelation

    Monday, June 23rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on three-fold movements in time in Islam, Christianity and Judaism ]

    The three ages of Joachim of Fiore, in the latter's Venn-like diagram


    The question of how Islam in its many varieties views other religions is a compelling one, and perhaps never more so than in our own times. Today I was informed that many of William Chittick‘s papers were available for download on Academia.edu, and the first couple I wanted to read were these:

  • The Theological roots of peace and war according to Islam
  • A Sufi Approach to Religious Diversity — Ibn al-Arabi on the Metaphysics of Revelation
  • While scrounging around the net for an easily quotable form of the second paper, I ran across Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir — and like a dutiful netizen, I stopped off to read a little, and ran across the gem I’d like to bring you this morning>


    Shaykh Faraz Rabbani offers a fascinating example of the dialectic three-step in the prophetic books of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Tawrah, Injil and Qur’an), writing:

    A familiar example cited by ulama is the law of talion, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, which was obligatory in the religious law of Moses (upon whom be peace), subsequently forbidden by the religious law of Jesus (upon whom be peace) in which “turning the other cheek” was obligatory; and finally both were superseded by the law of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), which permits victims to take retaliation (qisas) for purely intentional physical injuries, but in which it is religiously superior not to retaliate but forgive.


    In general, Christianity — having the Tanakh and New Testament for its scriptures — offers a binary or two-step process in place of this movement of the dialectic: the lex talionis is commanded in the Old Testament and rescinded in the New. Only in the work of Abbot Joachim of Fiore do we find a three-fold dispensation, in which the first term or “age of the Father” follows the many laws (mitzvot) of the Old Testament, the second follows Christ’s abridgement to include simply the two commandments of Matthew 22. 37-40:

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    And the third?

    Mirabile dictu, it is the age in which the presence of the Holy Spirit liberates us from all necessity of law. Gianni Vattimo, writing in After Christianity, expresses Joachim’s vision thus:

    Three are the stages of the world indicated by the sacred texts. The first is the stage in which we have lived under the law; the second is that in which we live under grace; the third is one in which we shall live in a more perfect state of grace. . . . The first passed in slavery; the second is characterized by filial slavery; the third wiII unfold in the name of freedom. The first is marked by awe, the second by faith, the third by charity. The first period regards the slaves; the second regards the sons; the third regards the friends. … The first stage is ascribed to the Father, who is the author of all things; the second to the Son, who has been esteemed worthy to share our mud; the third to the Holy Spirit, of which the apostle says “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

    The Archdruid’s Report discussed Augustinian and Joachimite views of the nature of time a while back, and while his entire post is worth your attention, here I would like to pick out this one paragraph:

    What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages — was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.

    Indeed, Norman Cohn in his classic Pursuit of the Millennium sees Joachim’s Third age in the Drittes or Tausendjähriges Reich (the Third or Thousand Year = Millennial Kingdom) of Nazism, and in Friedrich Engels’ notion of the “withering away of the State” — both great tolitarian systems of the last century thus being under the spell of Joachim’s apocalyptic notion of utopia.


    And Judaism?

    Judaism has its own developmental scheme, in which sacrificial Temple worship gives way to the synagogues, talmudic scholarship and the diaspora — yet always with the Pesach refrain:

    Next year in Jerusalem.

    Here too, it may be surmised, time moves to the music of the dialectic.


    Theology matters: sun god moon god

    Saturday, June 21st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on soundbite mischaracterizations in a volatile and complex world ]

    Isn’t it time we stopped maligning each others’ religions with third-rate “theological” speculations?

    The upper panel here is taken from a WND piece by Joel Richardson in which he describes the conspiracy-laden “Muslim” video-tube series “The Arrival” depicting the Christian savior as a sun god, while the lower one is taken from one of the “Christian” Chick tracts describing Islam as worshipping a moon god.

    The idea in each case is to score points preaching to one’s own “choir” — but any Muslim will tell you that the God they worship is in fact the One without a second, and any Christian will tell you that neither the Savior nor his Heavenly Father is the sun god Ra.


    Speculating about the origins of religions is an interesting business, and David Fideler does just that in his book, Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism. He’s not, however, the only person investigating the rich brew of religious ideas from which Christianity emerged — the Nag Hmmadi and Qumran documents between them have made this a fertile field of study and speculation, and the theories range as far afield as the distinguished linguist John Allegro‘s claim that Christ was a mushroom.

    Islamic texts have not until very recently been subject to the same kind of scrutiny that Textual Criticism has brought to bear on Biblical studies since the time of Julius Wellhausen, but if time allowed me a second life in parallel with this one (and with less of an attention deficit?) I’d be very interested to read and compare Keith Small‘s Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts with Ahmad Ali Al-Imam‘s Variant Readings Of The Quran: A Critical Study Of Their Historical And Linguistic Origins.

    For those of us who lack the linguistic and scholarly chops for post-doc level research, however, and particularly those of us inclined to polemic, it may be wise to avoid citing any particular version of Islamic or Christian origins as definitive, and concentrate on the actual theologies, extreme as well as mainstream, of our contemporaries, and of major historical thinkers on the order of St Augustine and Martin Luther, Ibn Arabi and Ibn Taymiyyah.


    Telling Muslims they worship a moon god is as unlikely to dent their faith as telling Christians they worship the sun — it is more likely simply to hurt or anger them. It is falsehood — and as the saying goes:

    the truth shall make you free.


    Switch to our mobile site