Friday Fundamentals – Dogma and Fear

Recently we have seen, both the threat of violence and the denunciation of that violence from the same source. Islamic believers. Different Islamic believers, I hasten to add but the common denominator is most definitely Islam.

The threat and/or manifestation of such violence and the correspondent denunciation of violence does two things for Islam. It expands the place of Islam at the table of civil discourse. This place is maintained because of the denouncement of violence and the general ‘religion of peace‘ vibe but this place is actually strengthened because of the threat or actualisation of violence.

I am not suggesting that the actors who violate and the actors who denounce the violation are in cahoots. I am just noting the obvious – Islam is in no way harmed and is in fact only helped by it having a minority – only numbering in the hundreds of millions as opposed to billions,  thus making it a minority  – who will threaten violence and a smaller number who will bring to fruition the rotten threat.

I have to say that what I am proposing only applies to western, liberal, secularising democracies. A government dominated by Hindu nationalists for example will tend to see the world of Islam differently and time will tell, though our confirmed liberals may never be able to tell for dogmatic reasons, how accurate the Hindu view is or isn’t.

So why does this strengthening of the place at the table occur? There are a couple of reasons. In the western, liberal, secularising democracies, the denunciation from some of the Islamic community is what those at the table want and need to hear. Need to hear – if they are to remain in any way confident about a possibly peaceful future. But also they are glad to hear and entertain it because to consider a lack of denunciation and it’s implications would be too nightmarish. Nightmarish – both in terms of future possible events but more immediately because it would challenge the very foundation of their non-negotiable assumptions about the world.

The liberal worldview posits the view that ‘others‘, like muslims, real muslims don’t and so the dogma goes, can’t actually pose any threat to anyone in anyway. The counterpart to this underestimation is the overestimation of who can be an actual threat – an enemy of the state. There is an enemy within – those still holding too firmly to the Judeo-Christian perspective. The Christians, real Christians, are alas not ‘other’ enough. Christianity is the mother, father, and forbear to the western, liberal, and now through mutation, secularising democracy. And like so many children in this age of individualism, the child has grown to hate it’s parent, it’s past, it’s heritage. Now the sole enemy is the dark shadow of the West’s previous self. At the table, the liberals look soley at their forebears with suspicion. Generally speaking, everyone else gets a free pass. There are no enemies without, only enemies within. The shameful, historical, hegemonic, did I say shameful, colonizers are the Christians. Muslims, gays and the new kids on the block, the transgenders are their victims. All new arrivals are innocent. Not by proof but by dogma.

denial

For source – click image

The dogma of seeking to accept and value ‘the other’ without prejudice and critique is both an ideal of brilliance and strength but fast becoming the fatal flaw of the Western liberal society. Consequently, at the table of civil discourse, Islam, no matter what happens, good or bad, near or far, gets a free pass, gets to drape itself in the flag of victimhood and those at the table gather round it, puts their arm gingerly around its shoulder and gives a look of unqualified, supportive comfort.
I have no objection to some support and comfort and there is certainly much good that comes from the world of Islam; but it’s the unqualified, uncritical, liberally dogmatic approach to Islam that is objectionable, to my mind. Objectionable, unwise and almost certainly unsafe.
But let’s get back to the table. The assertion is made that the place of peaceful Muslims at the table of civil society is actually strengthened by there being Muslims that threaten, kill or just express support for threateners and killers. Dogma aside, what else is at play that strengthens Islam’s place at the table? Fear. Clear and simple.
Non-Muslims at the table are actually, counter-intuitively, frightened of Muslims in general, and especially of the killing kind. This is primarily because they can’t quite fully bring themselves to trust Islam; the religion which lies behind both types of Muslims frequently on the minds of western people – the good Muslims and the bad ones. The good ones thankfully outnumber the bad ones. By the way, all this good and bad descriptors are not necessarily Islamic descriptors but common sense desciptors. But these descriptors are fluid in regard to at least the persons being referred to. Sadly, there are now too many examples of those men and now women, from stable, well resourced, peaceful Muslim families and communities who have turned into the other kind of Muslim. The killing kind. Yes, thankfully a minority. But regrettably growing in numbers and now increasingly even challenging the peaceful Muslims to the point of death, to engage in war against the infidels – the un, non and dis-believers. The non-muslim is not even a muslim and then there’s the wrong kind of muslim – off with all their heads! Just like in the good old days.
Fear of any community or group can have the same effect as living, working or schooling with a bully. You give them a wide berth when you can and more room when you have to. They end up with getting their requirements met more easily and more often than others. Why is this? Because people are afraid of the consequences of not playing ball. Not playing ball, paying appropriate respect, not giving up what you thought was your reasonable entitlement, has consequences. Negative consequences.
Threats from one member of a family eases the way for other family members. Whether this is desired or not. Threats and violence even when denounced, still have a direct effect at the everyday table of generally peaceful people. There is a subconsious effect on all and a conscious effect on some at the table.
fear table

For source – click image

Even at the table of light entertainment and sarcastic, cynical comedy, comedians don’t mock Muhammad or Islam. This is never out of respect and always out of fear. The brave ones, as one might call them on a very generous day, even admit this. Jimmy Carr – equally foul-mouthed and foul-minded, a man who wastes his God-given talents of wit and charisma – says on stage that his will to live prevents him making any kind of jokes which offend the person of Muhammad and then shows a cartoon of Jesus being …. I can’t actually finish this sentence. It’s so offensive. Jesus is my saviour and the Son of God. Jimmy Carr’s Saviour and the Son of God.
But Jimmy doesn’t respect or fear me as a Christian. He’s right not to fear me. Actually he doesn’t respect Muslims either but he does fear them. Not just the killing kind. But the book burning kind. Jimmy sells books and DVDs by the truckload. He really doesn’t want to spend his summer holidays with Salman Rushdie.
So dogma and fear combine to give peaceful Muslims a place of disproportionate strength and influence at the table of civil discourse; whether they want it or not, whether they dispise or regret this mechanism or not. Many, I’m sure regret this mechanism. It may be unislamic according to their brand of Islam but it is beyond their control. It just happens. It cannot not happen. The liberal uncritical dogmaticians with one eye closed permanently to the bad and the other eye optimistically open to the good lean in to ensure for Islam a place at the table (that’s good) and then automatically, unknowingly, expand that space and increase the deference for Islam (that’s bad). Dogma may be foundational but it is fear that is formative.
fear

For source – click image

Trinity on Thursday

Trinity

Excerpt from Concise Theology
by J.I. Packer“This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator, who must be worshiped and loved exclusively (Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25). The New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5) but speaks of three personal agents, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring about salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.

The doctrine springs from the facts that the New Testament historians report, and from the revelatory teaching that, humanly speaking, grew out of these facts. Jesus, who prayed to his Father and taught his disciples to do the same, convinced them that he was personally divine, and belief in his divinity and in the rightness of offering him worship and prayer is basic to New Testament faith (John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15). Jesus promised to send another Paraclete (he himself having been the first one), and Paraclete signifies a many-sided personal ministry as counselor, advocate, helper, comforter, ally, supporter (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). This other Paraclete, who came at Pentecost to fulfill this promised ministry, was the Holy Spirit, recognized from the start as a third divine person: to lie to him, said Peter not long after Pentecost, is to lie to God (Acts 5:3-4).

So Christ prescribed baptism “in the name (singular: one God, one name) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—the three persons who are the one God to whom Christians commit themselves (Matt. 28:19). So we meet the three persons in the account of Jesus’ own baptism: the Father acknowledged the Son, and the Spirit showed his presence in the Son’s life and ministry (Mark 1:9-11). So we read the trinitarian blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14, and the prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:4-5 (would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as divine in the same sense as they are?). These are some of the more striking examples of the trinitarian outlook and emphasis of the New Testament. Though the technical language of historic trinitarianism is not found there, trinitarian faith and thinking are present throughout its pages, and in that sense the Trinity must be acknowledged as a biblical doctrine: an eternal truth about God which, though never explicit in the Old Testament, is plain and clear in the New.

The basic assertion of this doctrine is that the unity of the one God is complex. The three personal “subsistences” (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being “I” in relation to two who are “you” and each partaking of the full divine essence (the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two. They are not three roles played by one person (that is modalism), nor are they three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism); the one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. This is the truth about God that was revealed through the words and works of Jesus, and that undergirds the reality of salvation as the New Testament sets it forth.

The practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it requires us to pay equal attention, and give equal honor, to all three persons in the unity of their gracious ministry to us. That ministry is the subject matter of the gospel, which, as Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus shows, cannot be stated without bringing in their distinct roles in God’s plan of grace (John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15, and John’s expository comments, which NIV renders as part of the conversation itself, vv. 16-21). All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Wrath Cup

Cup-of-Gods-wrath

For image source – click image

Wrath Cup

Wrath Cup it be full up

it be held over us

we wait for it to fall

it be right to be so

 

Wrath Cup it be poured out

it be our cup

it soon drown us

it be right to do so

 

Wrath Cup – it miss us

it pass us

it still pour out

it fall to another

be it right to be so?

 

Wrath Cup – why, how, who?

Wrath Cup – justice pour it

Wrath Cup – mercy cause it to miss us

Wrath Cup – grace instead cause us peace

be it right to do so?

 

Wrath Cup – justice poured

Mercy Cup – wrath cup averted

Grace Cup – grace cup drunk

 

Original poem by Humble Donkey.

Please feel free to reproduce electronically for non commercial purposes and with a link to this blog post.

This poem was inspired by this piece of writing by Jeremy R. Treat which I am reading at the moment. Out of my depth but getting blessed.

“To be handed over to the Gentiles is to be handed over to the wrath of God (Lev 26 :32– 33, 38; Hos 8: 10 LXX; cf. Ps 106: 41; Ezra 9: 7). 57 Even more explicit is Jesus’ reference to his death as drinking “a cup,” a common Old Testament symbol of God’s wrath (Ps 11: 6; 75: 8; Hab 2: 16; Ezek 23: 31– 34), especially for the Isaianic new exodus (Isa 51: 17). Based on this context, Bolt is right to conclude that “the servant’s death . . . has exhausted the cup of God’s wrath on behalf of Israel. Jesus now predicts that, as the servant of the Lord, he will drink the cup of God’s wrath.”

The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology by Jeremy R. Treat     Kindle page 101

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GS084RW

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files

Over the next number of Tuesdays I am going to reblog a number of posts that respond to the pre-Christmas Newsweek slammathon on the Bible and Christianity. Although it was the pre-Christmas edition, it’s theme of ‘Christians and their everyday reading of the Bible stink, like really badly’, is not just for Christmas. It seems that it is for life.

The extensive Newsweek piece (8500 words – 14 pages), labelled by many as Newsweak because it was so badly researched, biased, unbalanced and unrepresentative of widely available credible scholarship is actaully a wonderful encapsulation of what a lot of people believe already. Typically this is because they’ve heard someone say the same sort of things many, many times before or read them somewhere like Newsweek – typically in the pre-Christmas or easter edition. Ever noticed that coincidence of the publishing industry.

So looking at thoughtful, thorough responses can be a useful exercise for the open-minded and edifying for the Christian believer.

Think

Before I link to a response to the piece, here is the link to the article which is available online by clicking here.

Go there, let it confirm some of your own thoughts, biases or whatever but then give New Testament scholar Michael Kruger a hearing by clicking his name. It’s part one of two responses by him. He is thoughtful, generous and corrective where he needs to be. Enjoy.

From The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable by Stephen D. Boyer & Christopher A. Hall  Baker Academic 2012  Page 121

God is not just tri-personal; he is expansively, creatively tri-personal. The triunity of God is something that unfolds and opens out, not something that curves in and closes down on itself. God’s intrinsic relational completeness, the unimaginable eternal intimacy between the Father and the Son in the Spirit, does not exclude other relations. The unquenchable divine joy that makes creation unnecessary also makes creation possible in the first place, for the love of Father, Son, and Spirit is in no way threatened or imperiled by flowing out beyond itself into a created world. ……. God is  love, and creation itself is the wholly free outpouring of that love, in generous, gratuitous, open-handed bounty, a bounty that is infinitely hospitable not because it needs us but simply because it is itself.