Archive for June, 2010

New Style “Contemporvant” Worship Music: Do you like?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

For “Proper” Christians….

I’m defo experiencing some serious growtivation right now….

Diarmaid MacCulloch: A History of Christianity – Islam: The Great Realignment (622-1500) Muhammad and the coming of Islam

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Previous posts; here, here, here, here and here.

Another snippet from Diarmaid MacCulloch’s book: A History of Christianity – The First Three Thousand Years.

Pages 255 -258

In the late sixth century, at the time of the birth of Muhammad in the city of Mecca (Makkah in Arabic), three varieties of religious belief confronted each other in the Arabian Peninsular. Over the previous century, Judaism and Christianity (itself bitterly divided) had been locked in murderous clashes. Both despised the traditional cults of the region, which amid their considerable variety boasted one of the Middle East’s ancient centres of pilgrimage at Mecca, around a sacred black stone contained in the shrine known as the Ka`aba. For centuries the shrine at Mecca had been of merely local importance, far outshone by the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem, whose cult Christians had in good measure renewed by their pilgrimage in honour of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, while leaving the actual site of the Jerusalem Temple dishonoured and waste. Then in the fifth century one prominent family of Mecca had vigorously promoted their local shrine and set it on the road to fame and prosperity. A proud descendant of that family, born around 570, was the merchant Muhammad.

[.....]

Muhammad’s revelations of words from God only began for him in middle age, in 610, while he was on one of his regular expeditions to a cave outside Mecca, to retreat from his daily cares into meditation. As revelations continued, he would dictate the words he had heard to an every growing body of disciples, through the years of struggle in which he and his followers (Muslims) saw their fortunes transformed. At first they were a beleaguered group suffering oppression and expulsion – their moment of withdrawal (‘Hijra’) from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) in 622 CE has become the basis of Islamic dating. Within Muhammad’s lifetime – he is generally said to have died in 632 CE – Muslims in Mecca had become a victorious and self-confident community which now needed regulation for its life. Both these experiences are reflected in pronouncements which, during the next century and a half, came to be a fixed and written text – still known despite its written form as ‘that which is to be recited’, or Qur’an. In contrast to the similar transition in fortunes for the followers of Christ witnessed in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles of the New Testament, the Muslims from the earliest days won their survival at least partly by physical force of arms, another phase in the struggles which had convulsed the peninsula over the past century, and their subsequent extraordinary expansion was inseparable from military conquest. Little more than half a century after the first convulsions in Mecca, the Dyophysite Patriarch Henanisho I had the courage to point this out to ‘Abd al-Malik, then Islamic caliph (that is, the leader who claimed to be successor to Muhammad). The Caliph asked him to give his opinion of Islam. The Patriarch replied, ‘It is a power that was established by the sword and not a faith confirmed by divine miracles, like Christianity and like the old law of Moses.’

This is not the whole story – in fact forced conversions were not at all the rule in early Islam, even while it was extending its reach by military campaign. At the centre of Muhammad’s achievement was the extraordinary poetry which enshrined his revelations. Muslim sources have often ascribed the Qur’an’s power to its exceptional beauty in the Arabic language, and the Qur’an does not translate well, particularly into English. Conversion to Islam can therefore be a deeply felt aesthetic experience that rarely occurs in Christian accounts of conversion, which are generally the source rather than the result of a Christian experience of beauty. It is perhaps for that reason that from the beginning Islam has set its face against any further representation of the divine in pictures, since the divine beauty is already represented in the words of the Qur’an. It is often said that the Qur’an plays the role in Islam which the incarnate Son has traditionally done in Christianity: a final revelation of God.

{My Note: This is an important point to grasp, to wit, direct comparison of Muhammad with Jesus is moot and inappropriate. If direct comparisons have to be made, then a more fitting one would be that of Jesus with the Qu’ran, as both are viewed as the eternal word of God, perfect and pre-existing.}

[....]

The Qur’an is strikingly preoccupied with the two monotheisms which Mohammad had known from his boyhood, Judaism and Christianity. He was concerned to proclaim a new unity of religion through ‘the God’ (al-ilah, subsequently abbreviated as Allah) who had been the focus of the shrine cult at Mecca, but otherwise Muhammad spoke contemptuously of Arabian traditional cults, and he was very aware of the sacred books which had previously spoken of one God, the Tanakh and the Christian New Testament. His concern for them, and indeed stringent criticism of their content and their over-credulous readers, is particularly evident in the early suras (sections) of the Qu’ran. In its present arrangement, after an initial proclamation of God, who is given the titles of mercy and compassion traditional in Arabian religion, the Qur’an passes to a long sura which takes the name of “The Cow” from its references to stories of Moses and the Children of Israel in their exodus from Egypt. The name of Mary, the mother of Jesus, occurs almost twice as often in the Qur’an as in the New Testament, and she gives her name to one of its suras. By contrast, there is one silence in the Qur’an which is startling once it is noticed: the name of Paul of Tarsus.  Such naming and silence may have been the emphases of the Jewish ‘Ebonite’ Christians long before; and that provokes interesting reflection.

Far from speaking a new message, Muhammad proclaimed Islam as the original truth which later centuries had obscured. Christian apologists of the second century had made the same claim for their message in relation to Judaism. His theme of oneness is a clear contrast with the Christian quarrels about the nature of Christ which Chalcedon failed to heal. in a much-discussed and and not conclusively understood verse of the Qur’an, God is represented as telling the Christians ‘believe in God and his messengers and do not speak of a “Trinity”….God is only one God, he is far above having a son.

{My note: And this is the crux of the problem and conflict, namely, overt denial of the Sonship, and Trinity. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem for instance, bears……

Wikki

……..According to Goitein, inscriptions decorating the interior clearly displaying a spirit of polemic against Christianity, whilst stressing at the same time the Qur’anic doctrine that Jesus was a true prophet. The formula la sharika lahu ‘God has no companion’ is repeated five times, the verses from Sura Maryam 19:35-37, which strongly reaffirm Jesus’ prophethood to God, are quoted together with the prayer: Allahumma salli ala rasulika wa’abdika ‘Isa bin Maryam – “In the name of the One God (Allah) Pray for your Prophet and Servant Jesus son of Mary”. He believes that this shows that rivalry with Christendom, together with the spirit of Islamic mission to the Christians, was at work at the time of construction.[5]

Jim Henderson recovering evangelist: How to sell Christianity? Ask an atheist.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Just because I found this one interesting….oh, and this one….

USAToday:

Jim Henderson is a recovering evangelist. Back in his soul-chasing, church-starting days, he began hearing a grating dissonance between his faith in Jesus and the way he went about winning new converts. Henderson realized he was doing unto others what he would never want done unto him. He was manipulating conversations to set up a pitch. Viewing people as potential notches on his evangelism belt rather than fellow sojourners and prospective friends. Listening only to the extent it could reveal an argumentative opening. He realized he hated the whole enterprise.

“I told the people in my church, ‘I don’t like evangelizing, and I know you hate it, so I’ve decided that I’m formally resigning from witnessing. You’re all free to do so the same,’ ” Henderson recalls. “I said, ‘I love Jesus, you love Jesus, and we all want to connect people with Jesus. But we’re gonna have to figure out new ways to do it.’ ”

In the 15 years since, Henderson has blazed a new path as an innovator, author, church-evaluator, self-professed subversive, and leader in the creation of new ways to be publicly and persuasively Christian in the 21st century. Maybe the most subversive — and sensible — surprise of all is the population to which this well-caffeinated Seattle man has turned for partners, friends and teachers: atheists.

What could a Christian possibly learn from atheists? A lot, it turns out. As more and more Jesus followers like Henderson are discovering, taking a look at yourself and your religion through the eyes of the unconvinced can be a revelatory experience.

Although he is just north of 60, Henderson is emblematic of an up-and-coming wave of evangelicals intent on course correction for the church. Through public-opinion research, grassroots dialogue and ears to the shifting ground, they are getting the message that the old ways don’t cut it anymore.

The shift has serious implications for the age-old mission to evangelize — the focus of untold generations of well-intentioned Christians compelled to live out the Great Commission that Jesus laid out in the Gospel of Matthew (“Go and make disciples of all nations”). The standard argumentative approach — built around “spiritual laws,” A-to-B-to-Z logic, and black-and-white propositions about the one religious truth — seems more counterproductive with each passing year, more likely to repel than persuade.

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The Sad Truth About Modern Day ‘Revivals’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Jim West (of Zwinglius Redivivus) has just posted the following on his blog, and although this relates specifically to the US, I believe this has more than a little relevance here in the UK.

A very large, or a major denomination of the United States which has 11,500 churches throughout the US – in 1991, their first year of what they called “the decade of harvest,” they got 294,000 decisions for Christ. They found that only 14,000 remained in fellowship. That is, they couldn’t account for 279,000 of their decisions for Jesus. And this is normal modern evangelical statistics when it comes to crusades and local churches. – True and False Conversion, Ray Comfort

I’m sure you’ll agree these statistics are startling and troubling.

Jim rightly points out:

……Most people converted at large evangelistic gatherings seldom take any further steps in Christian faith or life.  But that’s simply because evangelism was never intended to be a mass experience, it was intended to be a personal experience.

Real, meaningful, and lasting religious experience comes in the wake of personal friendship and personal engagement.  Lifestyle evangelism, in other words, is the only evangelism worth the name.

Indeed!

BeliefNet JesusCreed: In search of truth

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

There’s an interesting article over at BeliefNet, which taps in to the recent controversy involving BioLogos, which I wrote about here.

Following this spat, I blogged on the intrinsic difficulties of occupying a non-extremist “middle ground”:

……It would seem to me, that both P Z Myers and Phil Johnson are rather fundamentalist in their respective polar zones, and both cannot tolerate a non-extremist middle ground approach, as this effectively undermines their positions.

As P Z Myers and Phil Johnson occupy antithetical positions in relation to one another, they have in fact an ironically close symbiotic relationship.

Antipodal positions actually serve to strengthen one another and provide fuel for the validation of further polarisation, with each proving the other to be “true”.

A middle ground position such as that promoted by BioLogos cannot be well received by those who occupy the extreme positions, as it simply serves to undermine their hyperbole.

And so we are left in the position whereby the middle ground approach is attacked from left and right, and from within and without.

No easy place to reside.

And now RJW over at BeliefNet has picked up the gauntlet, and also written on the “middle ground”.

Last Wednesday Science and The Sacred posted an essay by Darrel Falk entitled On Living in the Middle.  The essence of the essay is a discussion of the difficulty in charting a course between extremes – in this case the extreme of young and old earth creationism and the extreme of evangelistic atheism. On one side there is a conviction that our Christian faith requires a specific kind of constrain on both our understanding of scripture and our understanding of nature. As James Hannam points out in his essay on Patheos, it is not that these people are stupid or ignorant, rather many are quite simply convinced that the Christian faith stands or falls with this interpretation.

On the other side many today are convinced that scientific naturalism, atheism (or at least agnosticism and practical atheism) is the only rational approach to the world we see and the life found within. To open a conversation on the topic of intelligent design or the historicity of Adam and Eve is to walk into a world of primitive superstition and fairy tales. The only appropriate response is derisive dismissal.

This essay spawned a long comment thread – 340 entries at this writing – with extensive involvement from both extremes. I have not read all of the comments, and frankly don’t have the time (or the stomach for some of them). But the essay started me thinking.

Is there any intrinsic value toward seeking a middle ground, living in the middle? What are we seeking?

I don’t think either Darrel Falk or BioLogos are intentionally seeking a middle ground. I know that I am not seeking the middle ground. In fact,  there is no intrinsic value in the middle ground or in an unwillingness to take sides. Rather , I suggest, on the issues of science and faith this “middle ground” is where a search for truth leads.

There is no anti-intelligent design agenda, there is no anti-creationism agenda, there is no anti-science agenda, there is no anti-bible agenda. There is a search for truth and an attempt to go where the evidence leads.

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The comments are also well worth reading…..

DUDE TALK MORE CLINT EASTWOOD THAN CHRIST

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Cross-post Cranmer’s Curate.

Male headship is being undermined by the apotheosis of the young male ‘dude’ as the model, entrepeneurial church planter. This ideal is being vigorously promoted by the leader of the Mars Hill mega-church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll.

It is a reaction against a real problem, the feminisation (‘chickification’) of the modern church and the undermining of the biblical doctrine of male headship and the complementarity of the sexes. But this projection of the ideal male ‘dude’ appears to owe more to Clint Eastwood than to Jesus. It is so fundamentally unrealistic and image-driven that it has the potential to stunt the young men who buy into it from growing into mature Christians capable of acting as servant leaders to their wives and negotiating their way through difficult and painful decisions in the life of their families and churches.

Here are some of the deficiencies of the dude ideal:

· It fails to reckon with the fact that we are creatures with limitations. Clint Eastwood’s character Dirty Harry famously said in Magnum Force that a man’s got to know his limitations. He didn’t mean it as a compliment but the Lord Jesus understood the limitations that are intrinsic to created humanity. He accepted the limitations of his incarnation, openly confessing that God the Father knew things that had not yet been disclosed to him as the incarnate Son (cf Matthew 24v36).

· It fails to reckon with the fact of human weakness. Jesus experienced weakness, fear and grief, most intensely in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Apostle Paul famously came to boast gladly of his weaknesses, for the Lord had said to him: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12v9 – ESV).

· It fails to reckon with the reality of the church that the Lord Jesus calls into being. That church is made up of people who are not impressive in the world’s eyes (cf 1 Corinthians 1v28-31). The Lord calls what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. Christian leaders emerge from the church that the Lord has called into being, to his praise and glory.

Those to whom God grants his gifts of courage, boldness, faithfulness and resolution are often not the men we would naturally choose. Hudson Taylor, the chemist’s lad from Barnsley, fell far short of the mid-19th century ideal of a dude. But by God’s grace he exercised more influence for Christ in the long run than did those who more closely conformed to the Platonic ‘philosopher king’ ideal, such as the Old Etonians JC Ryle and CT Studd.

The final nail in the coffin of the Dirty Harry dude ideal is Jesus’ behaviour at the tomb of Lazarus his friend as recorded in John 11 and his reaction in front of the ‘chicks’ who were Lazarus’ sisters. That reaction is recorded in the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11v35).

An Abnormally Interesting Lexicon Of Scholarly Usage

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Hilarious cross-post by Prof. James McGrath of Exploring our Matrix:

An Abnormally Interesting Lexicon Of Scholarly Usage

Duane Smith has shared fragments from a “Lexicon of Scholarly Usage” that he remembers encountering at some point. Some of these “definitions” are priceless.

•“et al.” = “plus some people I’ve never heard of,” or, in some contexts, “my co-authors.”

•“apud” = “I’m too lazy to fine the original so I’ll quote it from someone else.

•“passim” = “I have some vague memory of the author discussing this elsewhere in his or her book”

•“As I have demonstrated elsewhere” = “Please read my previous paper on a different subject.”

•“c.f.” = “You look it up, I didn’t have time.”

•“e.g.” = “not quite supported by”

•“etc” = “there may be other examples but I can’t find any.”

•“i.e.” = “or as I should have said in the first place”

•“It has long been known” = “I think”

•“It is well established” = “Those who think what I think agree with me”

•“Most scholars agree” see “It has long been known”

•“scholarly consensus” = “group think”

And for those working on articles likely to contain such shorthand, Marc Cortez shares some advice for academic writers from Inside Higher Education.

Chaplain to the House of Commons debacle involving: John Bercow (Speaker of the House of Commons), the Very Rev Dr John Hall (Dean of Westminster Abbey), Rev Andrew Tremlett and Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin

Monday, June 28th, 2010

OK, there is a lot of hoo-hah right now over this one.

Put simply, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin has been appointed to the centuries-old position of the House of Commons Chaplain.

She was appointed by the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, even though, Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, favoured the appointment of Canon Andrew Tremlett.

It transpires that John Bercow didn’t want a boring, predictable, white, male, middle class, mini-clone of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so he chose a female, black, left-leaning minister, who has been working in a deprived inner city parish, and supports the gay rights movement within the church.

I’ll leave it to your imagination how the conservative Christian fraternity will react.

Anyway, since I’ve nothing constructive to add, I’m simply going to hand over to the Mouse and Mann:

The Church Mouse – Speaker John Bercow Vs the Church of England?

And

Julian Mann guest posting as Heresy Corner – Prayers before politics

What is a common temptation in caring for sick and suffering people?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

How many of us suffer from the propensity to want to “solve” someone’s problems, rather than just afford them a loving ear? I know I’ve often been guilty of this, and Brian Croft of Practical Shepherding tackles this very issue in relation to caring for the sick and suffering.

This is an excellent and timely message and well worth a read in my opinion:

Practical Shepherding – What is a common temptation in caring for sick and suffering people?

Ukraine plays referee between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Over there Russian Orthodoxy has its cornerstone. And over there, there is the most numerous Eastern Catholic population. With John Paul II the two Churches were at loggerheads. With Benedict XVI the turning point. But peace is still far away

by Sandro Magister – chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it

ROME, June 28, 2010 – From many years now the feast of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul is a deep moment of dialogue between the Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, with the participation of delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, if not of the Patriarch himself, to the liturgies celebrated by the Pope.

This dialogue with Benedict XVI has made incredible progress. Even the Primate of the Pope – main historical reason for the schism –is not taboo anymore and has become the object of ecumenical seminars.

During the current pontificate, even the relationships between the Church of Rome and the larger part of the Orthodoxy, that is the Church of Russia, have definitely improved. Both agree in addressing together the major priority for Christians in Europe today: a new evangelization of all of those who are far from faith. The same new evangelization which Benedict XVI has decided to dedicate a specific office of the Roman Curia.

At a practical stage though, there is still an obstacle that stands between Rome and Moscow and that prevents the meeting of the Pope with the Russian Patriarch. Meeting that has never taken place in history, but that both Benedict and Kirill I wish with all their hearts.

This obstacle is Ukraine.

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