Sunday, September 19, 2010

7 Questions and answers on Islamic community center

My friend John Rankin posed 7 questions to prayer leader Feisal Abdul Rauf regarding the planned community center and Islam. My answers to John below, with a few typos cleaned up since I commented on his blog. To see both the questions and answers, open his in a new window:

There are all kinds of problems in your questions to Rauf, especially in how you compare ideal Christianity to practical Islam, whereas the honest thing is to compare equals - practical Christianity to practical Islam, and ideal Christianity to ideal Islam.


1. Islam is no more a one-way religion than Christianity. Islam states that there is no compulsion in religion, and so people are free to leave, just as Christianity allows. In practice, where Islam captures the state or otherwise dominates culture, it coerces people to remain, and in some places even kills them - and in practice that has been the invariable practice of Christianity for the past 1800 years. In theory, both are perfect in this matter. In historical experience, both are bad, Islam being much less so, being the eastern Mediterranean version of the Reformation, which historical circumstances guided in a somewhat different direction.

2. Cordoba was the most tolerant and religiously equal society anywhere at the time, far exceeding the history of practical Christianity from the moment Christians obtained any political power from around the 2nd century onward. It fell somewhat short of the Christian ideal of the level playing field, but it also fell short of the Islamic ideal - no compulsion in religion. But it is perfectly reasonable for an Islamic cultural center, or a Christian church, to apply the standard of Cordoba on its own premises - protection of others as dhimmis. Christians are in fact quite resentful of efforts to apply secular non-discrimination statutes to their own hiring practices, and rightly so. To conflate Cordoba House's application of Cordoba's principals in its own house with a purported goal of establishing a Muslim caliphate over the US as a whole is simply not honest.

3. The tolerance of Cordoba is insufficient, but so is that of Calvin and the other Reformers, who explicitly stated that it was the job of the emperor to punish heresy, and who murdered people over religious doctrine all the time. That the Reformers were more likely to drown you than burn you as the RCs did was not a truly radical departure. Again, you compare Islamic practice to the Christian ideal. Proceeding that way is by no means beyond reproach.

4. In fact, as you've made clear in your own writings, integrity and wholeness are only found in submission to Allah, so that these are equivalent. Moreover, Paul wrote that we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, which clearly implies that peace derives from submission to Allah, so that peace is lost through rebellion against that rule. The Islamic doctrine of peace through submission to God is in fact a biblical teaching happily preserved in Islam. That this is distorted into religious authoritarianism in Islam is obvious. [sarcasm alert] That's very unusual in the history of Christianity, isn't it?

5. The law of Christ is obligatory for all Christians, and it regulates the minute details of our lives. There isn't anything in a Christian's life that is not to be subject to the lordship of Christ. Shari'a can distort that principle by regulating things with a rule that need to be regulated by relationship, but that's just what happens with Moses in Judaism, and most certainly in every Christian tradition.

Moreover, since the Qu'ran refers to Mary and others long before Jesus as Muslims, it is evident that Islam in Qu'ranic thought precedes Muhammad and is indeed submission to God. And John Rankin, among other Christians including Peter Attwood, holds that true peace can be attained only through submission to God. Hence to hold that belief, which is our own, against Cordoba House is certainly not the use of equal weights and equal measures that is required of us.

6. Shari'a no more implies a top-down government than the statutes of Torah do. In fact, the regulations involved are frequently impossible for any government to police and can easily lead one into conflict with the demands of civil government, as in fact they often have. Top-down governments that regulate the small details of our lives are historically quite impatient with religious codes that do the same thing and which do not look to government for their enforcement.

Do governments like Sa'udiyyah, the "Christian" kingdoms over 1500 years, and the modern state of Israel elect themselves as enforcers of such codes, with the connivance of religious people? Sure do - even now in the States, to wit, the Chino Valley Unified School District - so far as they can get away with it. Is there any evidence that Rauf is entertaining such ambitions?

7. Now there's a good question. Will Cordoba House get a chance to see an expression of Christianity that meets or exceeds what Islam teaches concerning Jesus the Spirit of God and the Word of God, who will judge the world by the law and the gospel in the last day? They won't see it in the statement of the previous six questions in this piece.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Christians are afraid to disagree with you. So they ignore you. Have you ever thought about inviting President Ahmadinejad to stay with you while he was in the US? I think it would set a good example myself. It would also get you some publicity. Not that you are looking for or need publicity.
I am just saying that would be a natural by product of such an event.
You could then choose to let the moment pass or you could choose to seize the moment and say something that you have always wanted to say and have lots of lost people hear it. Of course maybe you are not interested in making it easy for people to hear your message. It could be that if they do not work at finding it they are not worthy to hear it.
I only mention this because you have not received any comments yet on this post. Its a pity. in my view anyways.

9/23/2010 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Hello again Peter,

I think your approach in establishing a difference between the doctrine and the historic practice of religion is on the money. Regarding Islam being a “one-way religion” where apostates are killed, however, I would go further with another distinction which is that Christians had to violate fundamental doctrine to kill people for falling away, whereas Islamic doctrine provides a wealth of justification for Muslims to adhere to their faith by doing so.

People are fond of pointing out that there are no Qur’anic injunctions to kill apostates, but Islamic doctrine does not derive solely from the Qur’an. It is a trickle-down process beginning with the Qur’an, then the Hadith, and if both these sources are silent on a contentious matter, then fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is initiated which is an encompassing term hiding all manner of confusing and contradictory schools of law and sectarian opinions.

The question of whether pure Islamic doctrine legislates the killing of apostates is answered in the affirmative multiple times in reliable Hadith (Bukhari) and less reliable, but still used Hadith where we read plainly, “Kill the one who changes his religion.” Furthermore, all four major schools of Sunnite jurisprudence (Malik, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i) concur that adult, male apostates in their right minds should be killed. For women, the consequence is usually restricted to imprisonment until they recant of their apostasy.

I left out sourcing due to size limitations, but let me know if you need any of it. This information is readily verifiable and is both understood and uncontroversial among those with a working understanding of Islam. Your reference to the lack of compulsion in Islam is accurate in the sense that the verse exists in the Qur’an, but when considering the whole of Islamic doctrine, your use is woefully misapplied especially when considering the rampant opinion among medieval and modern jurists that this verse was abrogated and replaced with a decidedly more hostile stance. Given the clear and direct instruction to kill apostates in the Hadith as well as the widespread agreement among the various legislative schools, bringing up “There is no compulsion in religion” at best introduces an apparent contradiction in Islam and does literally nothing to negate the question of what Islam mandates for apostates. In other words, no, pure Islamic doctrine does not simply allow apostates to walk away from the faith.

9/25/2010 4:28 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

If we define pure Islam as including the hadith, first of Bukhari and then others less reliable, and then the opinions of various schools of jurisprudence, then pure Christianity is the Bible plus tradition of various kinds, notably the creeds, but also the post-apostolic fathers and so forth. And this pure Christianity has always held that apostates are to be persecuted, so long as the secular government could be brought in to do so.

It was not a failing or a denial of Christian doctrine for Calvin to turn Michael Servetus over to the Roman Catholics to be burned. It was what all Christians agreed was the proper treatment for heretics and apostates. Certainly in Foxe's Book of Christian Martyrs and such like the Roman Catholics are denounced for persecuting people, but that was not wrong in principle. They were just doing it to the wrong people. Drowning and torturing Anabaptists was fine with Calvin and the other Reformers, not because they were unbelieving, but because they were faithful to pure Christianity as your definition of pure Islam would have it.

Now it's agreed by Christians that we can't persecute people over religious differences. But that's because Christians no longer can avail themselves of secular power to do so, and with that constraint, Muslims are no slower to make that discovery themselves.

But even now, especially in the United States, Christians regularly assert the right to impose their views in the public square on the ground that the US is a Christian nation, nonsensical as that notion is, expressing much resentment at being unable to do so.

9/28/2010 2:13 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...


Even if one were to accept your assertion that we must adulterate pure Christian doctrine by including creeds and post-apostolic tradition because Islamic doctrine sources from the Sunnah and fiqh, my original point stands … pure Islamic doctrine does not allow apostates to simply walk away. As I pointed out, capital punishment for the sane males and indefinite imprisonment for females is prescribed in reliable Hadith numerous times and stands in stark contrast to your cozy “no compulsion in religion” where apostates are free to walk away free of consequence. You can expound for pages on how Islam is not the only religion to murder apostates, but your initial comments about Islam nonetheless remain incorrect.

Furthermore, Muhammad did not leave behind a complete doctrine. For example, within days of Muhammad’s death, the question of succession which was not addressed in the yet to be assembled Qur’an had to be established. Islamic doctrine continued to be created post-Muhammad and without guidance from the Qur’an. Bakr, the first Caliph, proceeded to fill in gaps to Islamic doctrine; throughout the Rightly Guided and beyond, Islamic doctrine evolved from being created to being deduced via the practice of fiqh. As such, the mechanism for Islamic doctrine is based upon the Qur’an when possible, ijma (consensus) when necessary, the Hadith when contentious, and fiqh when absent. This system as a whole IS pure Islamic doctrine. In fact, we see that more value was placed on the Sunnah as it grew more robust than on the Qur’an when Caliph Ali advises Abdallah ibn ‘Abbas, “Do not use the Qur’an as you contend with them, for the Qur’an can be interpreted in various ways and has different aspects. Fight them with the sunna; that will leave them no avenues of escape.” [Nahj al-balagha (orations and sayings ascribed to ‘Ali) 75:7]

You appear to be confusing your very own requirement of separating pure doctrine from practice. In Christianity, whether it be Calvin, Polycarp, Clement, or the Council of Nicea, the Bible alone was the source from which all else was derived however incorrect the interpretations or applications may have been. If the practice of Calvin was to hand Servetus over to be murdered, it was certainly not doctrine regardless of how much of a consensus could be found whereas consensus has always been a confirmation of authority and truth throughout Islam’s nearly 1,400 year history (“My community will never agree on error.”) Certainly this opens Islamic doctrine to all manner of bad practice, but that does not change the fact it is considered authoritative doctrine in which there is no valid equivalent in Christianity. You’re trying too hard to level the playing field.

9/29/2010 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

You should fix your comments. Did you at least get an email?

9/30/2010 11:08 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I did, and I figured out that blogger has been dumping your comments in the spam tank. I'll be responding when I have time, and I'll be watching the spam tank, now that I know about it.

9/30/2010 11:33 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

You are misreading my argument. I'm not claiming that we should adulterate pure Christian doctrine with creeds and traditions to compare that with pure Islam. I'm only stating that pure Christian doctrine as defined by Christians makes tradition and the creeds authoritative in just the way that Islam does with the hadith and traditional jurisprudence. That is the explicit position of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which constitute the majority of professing Christians.

The Protestant churches ostensibly hold to the Bible alone. But is it not tradition by which they determine just what constitutes the Bible? Nothing in the Bible defines just what is inside or outside of it; that determination is by church tradition. All the Christian traditions consider such as the Nicene creed authoritative.
Of course, even very recent innovations, such as the notion that we become born again by asking Jesus to come into our hearts, have great weight, and people are very ingenious at finding biblical support for them.

I myself find such contradictions intolerable; one can't imagine Jesus swallowing such blatant internal contradictions, such camels. So being his disciple, I have had to seek to put things on a more honest and sound foundation, which I set forth in my "Deaf and Dumb Church," which has a link on this blog.

The bottom line is that the only evidence of pure doctrine is pure conduct. Islam and Christianity as we encounter them in reality are both persecuting one-way religions, both of them apostate from ancient times in this respect, and neither one worthy to be preached.

Muhammad stated that the teaching of Jesus is authoritative, and that Jesus quite literally has the last word, judging the world in the last day. Thus Islam is clearly a variant of Christianity, and its our business to direct Muslims to their own doctrine in this respect, instead of arguing to the contrary in order to justify our own groups at Jesus's expense. Muslims don't need to become Christians; like Christians they need to become disciples of Jesus.

10/01/2010 3:36 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...


Are you really going down the “that’s not what I said / you’ve misunderstood me” path again? Come off it man, you clearly wrote in your last response that if we are going to define pure Islamic doctrine as the Qur’an plus the hadith and jurisprudence, then we must likewise define pure Christian doctrine as the Bible plus traditions and creeds to maintain an apples to apples comparison. Your words are still there, go read them. If this was not your intended point, you have an extremely cumbersome way of expressing yourself.

In response to this, I demonstrated that this one-to-one mapping you are attempting to create does not exist. In other words, the role of the Qur’an in Islamic doctrine does not equate to the role of the Bible in Christian doctrine, and adding the hadith or sunnah to the Islamic side of the equation does not necessitate it being added to the Christian side as well. You would in fact have incomplete Islamic doctrine if you failed to include the hadith and sunnah whereas the Christian creeds and traditions distort, not complete the doctrine. Put another way, you can remove the Qur’an and you would still have a significant portion of orthodox Islamic doctrine left intact. If you remove the Bible, Christian doctrine disappears completely.

Christian doctrine is neither defined by Christians as you suggest, nor can tradition be promoted to doctrine via popular opinion as though the Word of God is temporally pliable and subject to veto by a majority of its followers. This mob rules validation mentality of Christian doctrine is wholly foreign to the Scriptures from which pure doctrine is derived. For example, if the official stance of the Episcopalian church is that homosexuals can serve as pastors and 90% of the congregation accepts it, does this graduate to doctrine, or do we have that bad practice you at one point referred to? Is confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving forgiveness from a man Christian doctrine or bad Catholic practice? Confession and forgiveness of sin is indeed biblical doctrine … the transaction with a human priest is faulty practice. You started out correctly distinguishing between these two but now you’re regressing.

You write, “But is it not tradition by which they determine just what constitutes the Bible? Nothing in the Bible defines just what is inside or outside of it; that determination is by church tradition.” I have no idea what you’re getting at here. The Bible itself tells us the Bible itself is sufficient in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 where Scripture thoroughly equips the believer for every good work. Jesus relies solely upon Scripture to ward off the temptations of Satan in a powerful lesson that the Word of God is independently sufficient. We do not live on bread alone, but by ever word that proceeds from the Father, words recorded in Scripture. Both the prophecies and the evidence given for their fulfillment are contained within Scripture. Examples can go on for pages. However, the Bible deals differently with the problem of tradition trumping doctrine when the scribes and Pharisees come whining to Jesus about His disciples transgressing the tradition of the elders, in which case Jesus replies by questioning them why they transgress the commandment of God because of their tradition (Matt. 15:1-3).

Your bottom line that the only evidence of pure doctrine is pure conduct is problematic on two fronts. First, as I have already pointed out, Jesus Himself acknowledges the pure doctrine of the Pharisees, but the hypocrisy of their conduct in ignoring it. Secondly, doctrine dictates conduct, not the other way around. What does it mean to call conduct pure in the absence of a doctrine declaring it as such? Where doctrines differ, so does conduct. This brings us back to the fact that yes, both Christianity and Islam have murdered apostates. Ideal Christian doctrine was violated in these cases with bad conduct whereas ideal Islamic doctrine from the pages of its sacred texts provides the very justification for doing so.

10/01/2010 1:15 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

This is what I said:

"If we define pure Islam as including the hadith, first of Bukhari and then others less reliable, and then the opinions of various schools of jurisprudence, then pure Christianity is the Bible plus tradition of various kinds, notably the creeds, but also the post-apostolic fathers and so forth."

I will exegete it for you.

The basis for holding that pure Islam is as you say is that the Muslim consensus says that that is what it is, although among such a varied group, that's probably not universal. But let's stipulate your point.

Then pure Christian doctrine must be defined by the same standard - what the CHristian consensus says it is. And the general consensus is that the creeds, such as the Nicene creed, and the essential place of such doctrines as the Trinity, are pure Christian doctrine. I will grant you that the Trinity can be shown in the Bible as correct, although I don't think the tidy precision of its definition is really there. But that it is of central importance to the faith is simply not there - neither Jesus nor the apostles ever saw fit to address it explicitly, which if it were essential like the resurrection they certainly would have.

Finally, you seem to assert that your position is that the Bible alone is the word of God, without resort to tradition, asserting that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the Bible asserts its divine authority.

I have heard this before, and here's the problem. It can be read two ways. One is that "All scripture is inspired by God . . ." All scripture? Mein Kampf or the latest papal bull, or the writings of Barack Obama? Uh, I don't think so.

The other plausible reading is "All scripture inspired by God . . ." That doesn't tell us what scripture we're talking about here either. It doesn't tell us what belongs in the Bible and what should be excluded. It just says that what should be included, whatever it is, is profitable and sufficient.

I'm waiting for you or someone like you to show me where in the Bible we're told, say, that 2 Peter belongs in it, while the Letter of Barnabas does not, as many early Christians held. Where does the Bible tell us whether Enoch belongs in the Bible, as the Egyptian Coptic Church holds - it is certainly quoted in our Bibles - or whether Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom do or do not belong in it?

You rely wholly on extra-biblical tradition to determine what writings belong in the Bible, and you and other evangelicals blip over this inconsistency to say that you rely wholly on the Bible for your authority. This flagrant intellectual dishonesty, which we may be sure Jesus would never countenance, could you tell me what is pure about that?

10/01/2010 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...


In your original post you wrote, “Islam states that there is no compulsion in religion, and so people are free to leave, just as Christianity allows.” This assertion is false and I have illustrated why repeatedly. If you would prefer to scoot and nudge the discussion into broader and different topics rather than man up and acknowledge your statement was incorrect, I would be happy to oblige, but let’s not pretend that the validity of your statement is pending us getting to the bottom of everything else you’ve brought up.

There is no need for you to continuously re-explain your point. Telling me that I’ve misunderstood and then re-wording the paragraph to make precisely the same point I responded to while ignoring my input is just adding words to the thread. If you had not ignored what I said, you wouldn’t make the statement that I think the basis for holding that pure Islam is Muslim consensus. I explained that pure Islamic doctrine is the result of an entire process, consensus being only one piece and certainly not the base. I haven’t the interest in regurgitating points I’ve already made … scroll up. Your conclusion that we must define Christian doctrine by the same Islamic standard is therefore structurally flawed because church fathers and popes, unlike the Caliphs, qadis and imams had no need to create Christian doctrine to fill in gaps the Bible missed. Various councils were held not to establish new doctrine but to confirm a theological dispute in which all opposing viewpoints came from the same body of Scripture. I’ll certainly grant that consensus played a key role in the confirmation of official Christian doctrine, but this process didn’t create the doctrine as was the case in Islam.

Lastly we move on to the question the role tradition played in the formulation of canonical Scripture, the 66 books sola scriptura advocates confine themselves to. I can hardly be accused of blipping over this, me and the rest of us repugnant evangelicals, as I have not taken it upon myself to address the issue you just now bring up to muddy the fact your were incorrect in your original post. I could attempt the point that “tradition” is hardly the word to use in describing the process by which canon was selected, but rather a scrutinizing, dare I suggest divinely inspired, process that would be utterly foolish of me to attempt to summarize in the comments section of your blog post. It is perfectly logical that if God inspired the recording of his Word, He would oversee the consolidation and preservation of it as well, thereby making the tradition of man a moot point. It makes no more sense to conclude the process of canonization is suspect because men were involved that it does to conclude the recording of God’s word is suspect because men were involved. Do you scrutinize the process that delivered the candidates for canonization like you scrutinize the process of selecting them, or do you only accept the commandments God etched with his own finger on stone tablets?

And while you have Jesus chastising my intellectual dishonesty for an opinion you developed and imposed upon me before I knew what hit me, I would add to this peripheral discussion a reminder that Christianity involves faith at some point. Suffice it to say that I have faith that God saw to it that the Bible I have sitting on my desk is what He wants me to see and the hundred thousand pages of intellectual debate about why what we have is trustworthy vs. why what we have is not complete is at best distracting. You will not receive a water-tight intellectual response to this question.

10/02/2010 9:34 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Since Islam holds that the Qu'ran ("recitation") is God's particular revelation to Muhammad, while the hadith and later traditions are elaborations on it, and the Qu'ran states that there is no compulsion in religion, I think we can reasonably hold Muslims to that standard, and Muslims I've spoken to agree.

The Bible itself states that it is not complete as a guide to life and doctrine. Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and they testify of me, and you will not come to me that you may have life." The Bible is adequate as it leads us to Christ, not otherwise.

Tradition has always completed the text in real life. Thus in Ruth Elimelech yielded to Boaz his duty to take Ruth, even though there is no explicit provision for that in the statute.

Your assertion that confessing and receiving absolution from a fellow man is bad practice is not bibical doctrine. Jesus tells his apostles when he breathes on them that when they forgive sins in earth they will be forgiven in heaven. Jesus made the point when healing the lame man let in through his roof that the authority to forgive sins is implied in the authority to heal - as Naaman realized with Elisha's approval.

Likewise you assert that Jesus replying from the scriptures proves that the scriptures are sufficient for everything, but you're filling in the blanks from your own prejudice - your own evangelical tradition - because that doesn't prove your point. Jesus responded there with the scriptures because he was in a legal argument with the devil. In his teaching, Jesus often didn't go to the Bible at all, explicitly. His parables were based on the ordinary things of daily life most of the time, not the Bible except when arguing with Bible scholars. With Pilate, he was silent. Romans 1:19-20 is explicit that the canon of God's word includes God's revelation in creation and among ourselves. Job referred his friends to the animals. Paul quoted Menander and other Greek poets.

10/02/2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Repeat all you want that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tell us that the Bible is sufficient, it doesn't define for us what the Bible is. It was dishonest of you to blip over that before, and it still is.

Pressed, you retreat to unsupported assertion that the canonical scriptures were defined not by tradition, but "rather a scrutinizing, dare I suggest divinely inspired, process that would be utterly foolish of me to attempt to summarize in the comments section of your blog post." So because you call this extra-biblical process scrutinizing and divinely inspired it's not tradition! That's what everybody calls their Tradition, capitalizing it to tell us how divinely inspired and authoritative it is. When we're done with this clatter, the biblical canon rests upon authority outside of itself, and that authority, which defines what the Bible is, is what the Bible derives its authority from.
You knew you were begging this question when you tried to sleaze 2 Timothy 3:16-17 past this minor obstacle - twice! So why get mad when I point it out? Don't do the crime and you won't be busted.

Finally, evidently recognizing that your argument is a quart low, you say, "I would add to this peripheral discussion a reminder that Christianity involves faith at some point. Suffice it to say that I have faith that God saw to it that the Bible I have sitting on my desk is what He wants me to see and the hundred thousand pages of intellectual debate about why what we have is trustworthy vs. why what we have is not complete is at best distracting. You will not receive a water-tight intellectual response to this question."

So now faith as arbitrary belief when you don't have a good answer! Where does the Bible teach THAT nonsense about faith? Faith is holding to the truth faithfully, even if it looks wrong. It's akin to expecting Kepler's laws of planetary motion to be true even if Uranus is not quite in the right place, and thereby finding Pluto. There's nothing irrational about it.

Peter wrote to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." Paul further stated that we are to commend ourselves to every man's conscience.

Will your resort to logical fallacies commend itself to the conscience of an honest unbeliever, quite reasonably requiring a high standard of proof for our very big claims? Can't you at least spare them logical fallacies? For you to get snarky and resentful - is that what Peter had in mind? Go read!

10/02/2010 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...


I think it can be agreed that your ignorance concerning Islam has more to do with the fact your knowledge of it appears to be mostly derived from some Muslims you’ve spoken with and a choice verse you can cough up over and over again in the face of a more informed holistic approach to the subject . What’s ironic is that you for some reason make a spectacle of accusing me of repeating 2 Timothy “all I want” when I have referred to that verse a total of 1 (one) time in the whole thread and this is what, your fourth uninformed application to “no compulsion in religion”? Issues such as the Dr. Jeckyl / Mr. Hyde construct of the Meccan and Medinese eras of the Qur’an along with the concept of abrogation seem totally lost on you. I understand from our last interaction that you have a difficult time with admitting error, going as far as acknowledging how your statement that “the Bible knows nothing of good doctrine and bad behavior” is utterly refuted by Jesus Himself while nonetheless retreating back to your original and incorrect stance on the issue. I’ll quit pestering for an acknowledgment of error as it really isn’t necessary to begin with. You were wrong about apostates in Islam whether you are comfortable admitting it or not.

As you skirt any of the other relevant issues brought up in my comments on your original post, you now seem to want to tap dance on the fact I didn’t have a good enough answer for your absurd requirement that I detail the canonization of Scripture in 50 words or less. I gave a perfectly logical progression that if God saw to it that His word was recorded by man and preserved generation after generation, then it makes sense God would oversee the consolidation of His word, especially considering the Bible’s obsessive preoccupation with sound doctrine which by definition could not be maintained by including uninspired works. The foolishness of my attempt to comment was confirmed in your juvenile celebration in pointing out why you thought it an inadequate response (at least you can see the snarkiness of others), but little else of substance and certainly nothing coming from your end to advance the discussion, beyond making it clear you are ready to define “tradition” to encompass anything and everything you need it to in order to keep from having to admit (again) that you are incorrect about something. Why is it so laughable that God was behind the selection of canon and why does someone who so arrogantly prides himself on being a true Christian surrounded by a sea of Christoids sound identical to a dried up professor in what they will admit as evidence?

Looking over your patchwork of labored illustrations of increasingly off-topic points, I see no value in pointing out how some of these are even less relevant and more incorrect than your flawed handling of the doctrine/conduct mishap based on your previous refusal to budge an inch from demonstrably wrong premises.

10/02/2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

To address your point on the canon of scripture, I think the Bible makes it clear that that need not be settled. It wasn't settled in the time of the gospels, and Jesus showed in his dispute with the Saduccees about the resurrection how you deal with that. It still isn't settled to this day, even among Christians. Protestants have the 66, the Roman Catholics add several more, the Eastern Orthodox and the Egyptian Coptic church have a slightly different take.

That a particular canon of Scripture is essential is a peculiarly Protestant take on things, an error which Protestants share with Islam by the way, and as you examine your Bible you'll find no support for it. So in this as in much else, crucial things are added to the Bible in evangelicalism that are not there, and it's tradition.

I define tradition as the body of authoritative beliefs that guide a community, including inspired scripture and whatever else is authoritative. That's the understanding of most Christian churches. There is much you rely on apart from scripture - the authority that established the 66 books you accept, the way you interpret it, and so on. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, but there is a problem with kidding yourself it isn't so.

My view on dealing with Islam proceeds first from the obvious reality that it is a form of Christianity, as John of Damascus held 1300 years ago. We ought to follow the examples of Jesus and Paul in avoiding disputes with outsiders about what is canonical and to preach the gospel from their own religions and authoritative writings, as Paul did in Lystra and Athens.

We would have less to argue about if you would be guided by their examples instead of by those you've chosen in their place on this question.

10/02/2010 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Do you even notice the irony in your mocking my responses only to make the same point yourself? When you say you’ve been waiting for someone to tell you how to know which books make up the Bible and I venture a response, stating clearly that it is a matter of faith that we have the correct books and it is a question in which no intellectual answer can be given, you deride me for it. Now here you are acknowledging that it need not be a settled matter. That is a summary of what I spent more wording on. I never stated that a particular canon was essential … I said I believe we have preserved what we need to know. Perhaps it could have been clarified if I used the word Scripture instead of Bible, but you even found a way to nitpick that, suggesting the possible reading that it could include Mein Kamp, or perhaps Judy Bloom’s Superfudge, a descent into nonsense I haven’t seen for some time.

But perhaps even more ironic than that is when you affirm that we should avoid disputes with outsiders about what is canonical … Peter, you are the one who brought it up. I am not in a dispute with Muslims about what is canonical since 99% of Muslims will freely acknowledge that the Qur’an and hadith are canonical in Islam and both are the foundations for the creation of doctrine and law through the processes of fiqh and consensus. And it was from the text of this sacred canon of Islam that I made the point that Muslims are not free to turn apostate without consequence. This is not a dispute with me and outsiders about what qualifies as Islamic canon, it was a dispute with your claim that Islam does not legislate a penalty for apostasy when it clearly does.

I would much like to address what I see as a serious blunder when you state that Islam is a form of Christianity, but yikes … look what was necessary to address your erring in how Islam responds to apostates and you still won’t admit you were wrong.

10/03/2010 8:31 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Let's see.

First you continue to define faith is believing things for which there is no adequate support - "a matter of faith" in contrast to that for which there is no intellectual support. There's no trace of that thinking in the Bible, where that is called not faith but presumption.

Next I learn that declaring the 66 to be the right scriptures by "faith" is equivalent to holding that the canon need not be settled at all. That is certainly news to me!

In fact you stoutly urged that the 66 are the canon of infallible scripture in the course of defending your assertion that you do not depend on the tradition that determines the canon of infallible scripture. This arose out of our discussion of what constitutes pure doctrine, and what constitutes accretions.

10/03/2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I wasn't nit-picking concerning "scripture," which means "writings," and "bible," which means "books." The problem with the reading "All scripture is inspired by God" is that it means everything written. That certainly is nonsense, but it's not nonsense that I've stated. It's nonsense that indicates that that is probably not a good reading, which was my point.

I was not suggesting that you're arguing about Muslims about what is canonical in Islam. I was arguing the point that defending a canon of 66 books is not how Jesus and the apostles did it, Unlike you, they left such questions open instead of resorting to obscurantist talk about faith when reason fails - an approach we never see in Jesus or the apostles.

Like Eastern Orthodoxy, from which it sprang, Islam holds to revelation plus tradition to settle questions. My point was and remains that if that is pure Islamic doctrine, then when Christians hold to scripture plus traditions of various kinds as equally authoritative, as you do too as we've shown, then that too should be considered equally pure Christian doctrrine.

Well, I don't think either is really pure, but either way, they should be weighed in the same balance.

And so Islam deals with apostates as Christians do, varying degrees of ostracism and retaliation, depending on how much worldy social and governmental pressure they can bring to bear. A Muslim in the States that repudiates Islam and finds alternative social support will face no consequences save nice speaker fees for telling his story in churches. In Lebanon, it will be inconvenient but safe enough, and in Sa'uddiyah probably fatal. In New York City, an apostate Christian will lface no bad consequences, in his small town in Mississippi significant retaliation short of murder, but probably severe bullying in school. Since Christians have never held official state power in the States, murder has generally not been a problem, even though Christians have always managed to exceed constitutional limits in their exercise of coercion.

So I don't see a lot of differences in behavior based on ostensibly doctrinal considerations, but there's plenty of variation due to sociological factors. Since the Qu'ran is supposed to be God's entire revelation, along with Torah, the Prophets, and the Gospel that came before, I think it's reasonable to argue to Muslims its conflicts with their added tradition - as with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and evangelicals, among others.

Finally, you haven't in any way refuted my claim that the Bible holds that doctrine is not pure unless behavior is, as the proverb says. You rightly pointed out that Jesus said of the Pharisees that we should do as they say but not what they do, which shows that people can indeed say the right stuff while living the wrong life - Balaam is a good example. But it doesn't follow that their doctrine is pure, since Jesus said of the Pharisees again to beware of their leaven, which isx to say, their doctrine - which means that indeed their doctrine wasn't pure. So I'm not backing up for the usual reason that people don't back up, you haven't made your case.

10/03/2010 1:40 PM  

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