Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wake Up Call

I am currently reading a book by a Muslim lady called 'the trouble with Islam' and I have read 2 chapters thus far and I am loving it. What's extremely refreshing about the book is the honesty.

I find a lot of her critiques 'spot on' and a result of some great 'question asking' as a result of being a 'religious person' (in this case a Muslim). She raises two questions for herself to 'come to terms with and find an answer'. And these were some tough critiques she raised about her own faith - I couldn't help but feel a certain admiration for her stand.

She was not afraid to ask questions concerning the Muslim holy book and certain 'contradictions' within the faith - which I find inspiring. She also raised questions about the current state of 'fatwa's' and the way her faith has become 'unintellectual'. I have only read 2 chapters so far but I really like this woman's honesty.

It got me thinking - asking questions about the results of what we believe isn't neccesarily a 'bad thing'...actually it seems to be quite the opposite. Take any belief - like the idea of salvation. Shouldn't we be asking ourselves every possible question about what we believe and why? Just what is the extent of this salvation - and is it a here and now idea? I don't think this will destroy our faith but only make it better - and I am very glad that we can discuss this stuff about our faith quite freely...some don't seem to be so lucky. I think if we follow rabbinical thought - then we just might be discussing issues of belief from a variety of levels and the depths of what we believe - which makes for a well-rounded belief.

I guess I find less and less a reason for things that don't impact the 'here and now present world'. For example, Christ died for our sins (past event), prophetic revelations from John (future or past), and we look towards heaven (future event) - ideas which strongly shape our theology (and they should) - but ever ask 'how does this relate to my world now - and what is my role in this?'

So faith is always evolving - changing - shifting focus and view - and I think this has always happened and has to happen for our faith to stay relevant. I am not saying 'take Christ out of the equation or anything radical like that' but I think we need to re-evaluate some of the things we inherited from Calvin, Luther, Simpson, and Knox (although they were great for their day - maybe they missed the theological mark at times). I read the bible un-aided by their theological motifs and I see things in a very different light - maybe the churches founded on their dogma (from many moons ago) need their faith to be criticized - for growth reasons. Not saying all beliefs need to be challenged - but we need to ask our questions to those beliefs - if not for our own personal well-being - then for responsiblity purpose. What beliefs from the past have you asking the big questions you don't dare ask other Christians?

28 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

Hi society
You have to admire the courage of that woman. If I'm not mistaken, she was on a discussion on an Arab news show and one of the sheiks threatened her life right on the set. Whereas criticizing Christianity is done with impunity, criticizing Islam is deadly. I've come to the conclusion that Allah is the same as Baal, but don't tell anybody...

We should always keep our analytic minds charged. I agree. The more we study the Word, the clearer the shepherd's voice is to us. Indeed, there is much to criticize in our (dis)organized Christian churches.

Keep up the good Word.

My Garden said...

My Family Doctor is a Muslim, and he supports his faith, but from a male perspective it is not as detrimental emotionally...yet, his family is the happiest I have ever met or seen...any belief can be abused or used in the wrong way, and I am not a muslim, and nor do I promote them, but I guess I just understand it really is the heart of the man, or people that matters...there are plenty of people with different labels, but are not a living how Jesus would have wanted them too for the well being or to have the best life that Jesus would have wanted for them...regardless of the faith or non-faith that they choose. I choose Jesus, and I am clear about that choice with everyone I know, but now what do really do with that...

HeIsSailing said...

SocietyVs,
Jim Jordan has it absolutely correct. I thank God that I live in a society where I can openly question his claims. We live in a pretty unique place and time where we are able to do that without great persecution, threats or death. Since I began questioning my beliefs, yes my faith in what I believe and why has definitely grown, I am more secure in my foundation. But saying that, my faith has definitely changed, and is still changing.

I think the biggest danger with any religious belief system is when claims are made for holding absolute TRUTH at the exclusion of all other belief systems. That is when people get ugly and dangerous.

What is the name of the book you are reading?

HeIsSailing said...

Sorry, I mean who is the author?

Jim Jordan said...

Heissailing
Things get ugly and dangerous when people do ugly and dangerous things, or threaten to do so. Believing your own beliefs to be absolutely true is neither ugly nor dangerous per se, particularly if they're true.

I've studied Islam extensively. However, I am a Christian for logical and experiential reasons and I do not believe that the Allah of the Koran is my Creator. But that's to be expected, isn't it? I am a Christian. I certainly wouldn't be offended nor think it ugly or dangerous that a Muslim does not accept Jesus as his savior. One understands that the other does not believe as they do and that's that.

Things get ugly when an articulate point is rejected violently with the threat of greater violence. The former would be the kind of talk meant to "end the conversation".

I believe the book he's reading is The Trouble with Islam Todayby Irshad Manji. society, correct me if I'm wrong. Thanks.

SocietyVs said...

HeisSailing - Jim has a link to the book I am reading by Irshad Manji - great little book to read - asks some tough questions and she is great writer also - which makes the book a very easy read.

Soul Food Dude said...

I have a question: what is rationality?

Is it that to think rationally is nothing more than to think as we ought to think?

If this is so, then how does one determine how one ought to think?

Ought all people to think the same way?

It seems that this 'ought' is rooted in a value judgment. I've heard it said that values should be determined rationally. Is this circular thinking, if indeed rationality presupposes a value judgment?

Can someone enlighten me?

the_burning_bush said...

Christianity can't be put into a neat little package and shown to people. It's always going to offend someone because it is radical and vigorously anti-systematic. If Heissailing heard Jesus preach about how he is the only way to the father he would be totally offended. It wouldn't be a failure on Christ's preaching to be 'nice' enough because the message isn't designed to be socially acceptable -and it isn't.

Although I think good will come of the woman's public questions of Islam it is a far cry from personally questioning Islam. As long as Islam fails to recognize that God is love it fails to recognize God. When the muslims cheered around the world on September 11th they showed the world their regard for God.

Personally, I find the anti-intellectual style praiseworthy (in actual practice I think a lot of muslims are scholars and do a lot of thinking). You don't need a lot of brains to love someone.

Speaking of the anti-intellectual style I don't think the Church today has much of anything left from the reformation. I think that is very sad. My views on free-will are very libertarian, but I think we have a lot to gain from Calvin and Luther (haven't read Knox or Zwingli). Our society today has a lot of 'rituals' but how rare to find someone whose heart is in it, you know? We're like a bunch of non-practicing individuals.

Soul Food Dude said...

heissailing said:

"I think the biggest danger with any religious belief system is when claims are made for holding absolute TRUTH at the exclusion of all other belief systems. That is when people get ugly and dangerous."

I would agree that the one seems to coincide often with the other. But the truth claim is not the problem. It's the people. People are ugly and dangerous, period.

HeIsSailing said...

Jim, Soul Food and Burning Bush -
I think the more I read and learn about religions, Christianity, history and human nature, I am pretty convinced that when a large collection of people with political power claim exclusive spiritual truth at the exclusion of all other beliefs, they will by default become dangerous. And I say that no matter what that Truth Claim may be, Christianity, Islam, any sect in between, whatever. Because as Calvinism teaches, we are totally depraved, born into original sin. The Bible itself says that there is not a righteous one among us. So why is it so hard to believe that people who hold beliefs that contradict all others, and when those people have political power, they will not become dangerous? Islam currently has great political power in certain parts of the world, and look at the results. Christians had their turn in centuries past, as did athiestic societies who held to exclusivity.

On a separate topic, I am not offended when I hear Jesus preach that 'no man comes to the Father but through him'. I have heard that and believed that nearly my whole life. It is only lately that I am questioning that claim.

Jim Jordan said...

Heissailing
No one is questioning the truth that political power corrupts. Just the same, who can question that people become ugly and dangerous when they become ugly and dangerous?

The heart of Jesus' claim is this: who has love, and who does not? Jesus claimed that we should love our enemy, Mohammed preached that we should burn our enemy to death. Who has love?

We might be born into original sin but God can lead us to the light. If you are questioning your belief in Jesus, I recommend this exercise: try questioning your unbelief. Why is it there?
Blessings.

HeIsSailing said...

Jim Jordan sez:
"We might be born into original sin but God can lead us to the light. If you are questioning your belief in Jesus, I recommend this exercise: try questioning your unbelief. Why is it there?"

If you are really interested, my unbelief is there because many (not all) of the claims that Christianity makes don't make sense to me any more. I am trying as honestly as I can to make sense of the faith by asking questions that I have had for many years as a Fundamentalist, but was afraid to address. Now I am taking them out from under the rug and asking.

If you want to read more, check out some of my articles at www.heissailing.edublogs.org - I try to not just spout off, but get dialogue going so that I can also benifit and learn. I would appreciate Christian honest insight into some of the problems that I pose there. societyvs is a regular visitor and I value his input.

SocietyVs said...

Thanks 'heissailing' - I always love it when someone mentions me - it's like I mean something to someone in the middle of somewhere. (lol - thanks though)

I personally think HeisSailing has a great blog where he asks some very honest questions and isn't afraid to have 'doubt' (on no he said the Christian curse word) when the answers aren't sufficient - but at the same time he doesn't put that in people's faces either - I find him very honest and sincere.

Jim Jordan said...

Hi sailing
Perhaps as a Fundamentalist you were afraid to address certain questions because you didn't want to appear that you didn't have all the answers. Does that describe your experience?

You are correct in not believing something unless you can understand it. My point to the question "why is it there?" was that we can move forward when we cut down to the specific bone of contention that is causing our doubts to creep up on us.

BTW, I responded to your notes on my website here.

HeIsSailing said...

Jim Jordan,
no it had nothing to do with not appearing to have all the answers. It has to do with the fear of questioning God. Questioning him can lead to doubt once we consider possible answers - and lack of faith makes Christians nervous (Heb 11:6). I am not surprised that few of my Christian friends want to talk about these problems with me, in fact my wife sometimes has a hard time with it too. I used to tell Christians who raised too many questions that they were "Openly challenging God". But after being a Christian for so many years, leading Bible Studies and youth ministries, feeding our groups the same Biblical pablum year after year while letting these problems fester inside of me was just a stranglehold.

Am I now openly challenging God? Hmmmm I dunno, am I? I guess I am.

Jim Jordan said...

Hi sailing
Your posts beg the question "what's festering inside of you?" What is it specifically? Are you afraid of being wrong? Do you doubt that there can be absolute truth? What is it?

In my opinion, there is a fine line between doubt and unbelief. But I think the distinction is this: doubt has not seen but it will find out the truth. Unbelief sees the truth but does not believe it. Doubt is curious, unbelief is lazy.

My Garden said...

Society Vs"I guess I find less and less a reason for things that don't impact the 'here and now present world'. For example, Christ died for our sins (past event), prophetic revelations from John (future or past), and we look towards heaven (future event) - ideas which strongly shape our theology (and they should) - but ever ask 'how does this relate to my world now - and what is my role in this?'"--Where is the tie to eternity in these questions?--the here and now is just a fleck in time, in comparison to eternity, and the reality is we are looking at building our lives towards eternity, storing up our true riches (eternal) for heaven, so if we don't understand how to store up for heaven then it will be hard to make the tie or link

SocietyVs said...

"storing up our true riches (eternal) for heaven" (my garden)

Just where are you making these riches again? Couldn't be 'earth' could it - mind you - it is a world we all believe God created. But just what do you mean by 'riches' exactly?

My Garden said...

Riches on this earth, are to me, in a personal view either, emotional well being and things like seeing your children develop a truly healthy lifestyle and life, and eternally I see it as knowing that I have shared the love of God with someone and they have seen the love and God and have been able to know that they can see that love of God and understand that there is a better place beyond this very temporary world, and that God's desire is that we spend a wonderful eternity with him...so souls is riches to me, and here is knowing that the riches that are real are not the things that are spent or break down (cars, money, or anything that does not really last)...what are real riches, here - family, love, and relationships...eternally riches to me are the people that I can show God's love to and those that accept that love and get a true vision of eternity...but that is just me

SocietyVs said...
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SocietyVs said...

"eternally riches to me are the people that I can show God's love to and those that accept that love and get a true vision of eternity...but that is just me" (My Garden)

I don't think you're alone on this idea - actually I would say most of us (if not all of us) on this blog would agree.

It's what I also call 'investment in people'. The real question is - how does that investment into others lives play out? For example, right now I am trying to run a campaign by my Action Group about helping these youth in a neighborhood in my inner city - to donate money to a group that is trying to find better activities for these kids besides 'crime and it's likes'. I see that as an investment into something that is 'worthwhile' or 'worth the endeavor and resources'. So in essence, I don't disagree - I 100% agree with your point.

However, I wouldn't say that the acceptance of love is the dividing line - if it is - then we might 'sell some people short' - maybe they will come around and be a little thankful later. I think investment in the human life is worth anything we can give - sometimes it's a listening ear and sometimes it's giving out of our 'worldy riches' for the betterment of others. We sow what we have and we look deep enough we'll see we have quite a bit to give to others in all aspects of our lives.

Storing up treasure in heaven, from what I can tell, is treating the people that God loves with the respect He'd give them - and sometimes this extends beyond the church and the kind of people - well...like us. That group I want to help isn't a church group - most church groups I know won't go close to the 'streets' to do much - unless it's 'percieved as salvific'. However, I think any investment in others is quite salvific if done with a good heart - and this youth group has that. I guess for me the term salvation has to be expanded or scrapped as a working 'ideal' - maybe this falls under 'transformation'. I think God cares about pulling people out of despair - even while they are on this planet (as our neighbors). Just my weird ramblings.

My Garden said...

Rescue, Recover, and Restore...these three words are words that the church I go to uses as a mission or a vision, and using money on this earth does help, and I totally agree that there is a place for earthly riches to be used to meet a need and make a difference...if you are only worried about someone's salvation but never feed someone who is starving is needful too, so 'investment in people(Socetyvs)' is done in a variety of ways, we use this place we live to touch the inner places of people...I just made the comment, because I wanted to see where the convo was going...
so, in the end what impact would you say that "acceptance of God's love has on a person?"...

Steve Scott said...

"What beliefs from the past have you asking the big questions you don't dare ask other Christians?"

Well, aside from everything on my blog, my biggies have to do with authority. Most especially state and church authority. Where does anybody think authority comes from and who gave it?

SocietyVs said...

"in the end what impact would you say that "acceptance of God's love has on a person?"..." (Mygarden)

I would say it can change the very fabric of their whole being - from perspective/world-view to day to day actions...but needs to be presented in a very honest way (not as some system whereby loving God is something we can lose in some way).

SocietyVs said...

"Where does anybody think authority comes from and who gave it?" (Steve)

I have some of the same concerns - namely that churches are given the right to exist 'by virtue of a countries law'...and I think, well isn't that nice of my country but it's a gesture that neither affirms the validity of a church or not.

However, I am all for seperation of church and state - if this is what your aiming at.

Steve Scott said...

I wasn't aiming directly at states giving churches rights to exist, but since you bring it up, I agree, and this would be part of it. Where do states get the authority to tell me what can be in my potato chips, where do pastors get the authority to say that if I don't wear a suit or believe 100% in their pet confession that I can't be a member of their church? Etc.

SocietyVs said...
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SocietyVs said...

Steve I like this idea you bring up 'where do pastors get the authority to say that...I can't be a member of their church?" Now that's a great question.