Thursday, March 30, 2006

Debate : Does Islam Respect Religious Freedom ?

Inayat Bunglawala from the Muslim Council of Britain will be debating someone from the Barnabas Fund on this question on Premier Christian Radio this Saturday the 1st of April from 12:00-1400 GMT.

God sends a deluding influence

David Field deals with a very difficult issue.

This is a tough one for me.

For one thing the Muslims have a similar 'doctrine of reprobation'.

I wish I could say the Christian one was 'better'. Sam Shamoun does make a pretty good case for it HERE , I suppose .

In answer to David's concluding question i am tempted to say :
"it is compromised because He is sovereign".

I know that is not right.

I will have to think and pray about it. If you read this and can help me please do use the comments feature.

La Repubblica interviews Abdul Rahman

via Cantanima

Who did (and who did not) support Abdul Rahman

click HERE to find out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hotel California

Question :
What else is like the Hotel California ?

For the answer, read Cecil's comments at the bottom of this page .

UPDATE : The link doesn't work anymore. All you get is a blank page and the original article called "One Muslim Presence, One Vision" is also gone.

So the comment by "Cecil" who was responding to another comment from someone else about the treatment of Abdul Rahman is gone. The truth is too embarassing and inconvenient for some, it seems.

"Cecil" concluded his post by saying that Islam is also like the Hotel California in the lyrics of the famous song by the Eagles : "you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave" "

World's Oldest Creature Dies

Addwaitya, a 250 year old tortoise dies . . .
click HERE for more

Monday, March 27, 2006

Eternal Subordination of the Son

Spotted on radar via Siris and Ben Witherington .

This idea that the Trinity must be three persons in some kind of fungible equality is so strong, so entrenched . Oh yes we do refer to one of the persons as ‘Father’ and the other as ‘Son’ but we won’t let that bother us for now.

The Apostle Paul is that apostle everyone loves to hate, especially the feminists. But others of more orthodox persuasion damn him in other ways : “he doesn’t really mean what he says” .

Or epistles like 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians are immediately discounted, aren’t they, because they don’t give us that kind of meaty doctrine we love to put into our creeds and confessions :

"Don’t bother me about all that this primitive man is saying concerning structure in the family and in the church. What does he know? He probably came up with that stuff after a nice long session in the bath and thought it might be good for Timothy to be getting busy over, to keep him out of trouble . It’s not really God’s own truth, is it ? After all, we know better than Paul how to organise and run our churches. We’ve had more practice and success than him."

“Eternal subordination of the Son to the Father” ? Bite your tongue, you Arian heretic !

We are so accustomed to our fallen universe of lust for tyranny and love of rebellion that we shrink with horror to allow any place at all to concepts such as ‘submission’ any place within Triune Deity.

We have to qualify it : the Son only obeys the Father in his human nature . Yeah, right.

After all, the boss who calls the shots is so obviously a more superior and cleverer being than the chap who submits and obeys the will and purpose of another. It’s so obvious, isn’t it ?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Someone’s Been Fighting the Wrong Battles

Christians have to choose carefully what battles they will fight and how they will fight them.

After 7/7, Patrick Sookhdeo (pictured on the right) wrote an insightfully information piece.

Then came the cartoon controversy and an item looking ostensibly like an interview but frankly coming across more as a megaphone for Mr. Sookhdeo's prejudices appeared in the Telegraph.

That piece has since been removed from the Telegraph website for "legal reasons" , as the blurb on the page used to say. Now it just tells us the page is not available without giving the reason .

It only takes a little speculation to identify the offending item. Actually, there are potentially two offending and unnecessarily provocative statements. The first one is his reference to "a book" which Sookhdeo cagily intimates should be banned. I'm sure he's aware he's referring to the Koran.

OK, yes the Koran has some statements that are clearly incitements to hatred and perhaps even murder. But how this is interpreted is a theological matter. It's not a sociological matter. Unless one adopts a "historicist" view once could equally say some passages of the Old Testament are also incitements to hatred or even genocide.

Christian and Jewish theologians (but not all of them) take the historicist view that this was for that particular time and that particular place and is not intended to be normative. Some (but not all) Muslim theologians take a similar view of similar injunctions from the Koran.

Unfortunately, due to the different view Islam takes on the nature of Scripture, those who take a historicist view of the Koran are a very small minority indeed; but, they do exist.
The Swiss-born Egyptian Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan (pictured on the left) appears to be one of them greatly tempering its literal injunctions which brings us to the second piece of indiscretion committed by Mr. Sookhdeo when he is quoted in the interview as saying :

"Take, for example, Tariq Ramadan, whom the Government has appointed as an adviser because ministers think he is a 'community leader'. Ramadan sounds, in public, very moderate. But in reality, he has some very extreme views. He attacks liberal Muslims as 'Muslims without Islam'. He is affiliated to the violent and uncompromising Muslim Brotherhood."

Is he ?

This accusation has been repeated time and time again by numerous people usually with a hostile agenda and always without substantiation. Some have said the things Ramadan says in Arabic are of a more radical nature than what he says in French and English for western consumption. But, even that has been left unanswered by his attackers who are also fluent in Arabic (see here - particularly the comments section ).

Therefore, one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that such accusations amount to "slander" and "libel" . As such, they are rightfully actionable in courts of law. This may indeed be why the Telegraph has taken the article down realising it probably did not have a legal leg to stand on and was not in the mood to shell out a few hundred thousand pounds to Mr. Ramadan.

So where does that leave Mr. Sookhdeo?

As a Christian, I have to say it leaves him in not a very nice place.

For one thing the Barnabas Fund (his organisation)has become (the unwilling) poster boy for the racial supremacist British National Party! He has recently announced that he is taking steps to have link to his own organisation removed from this web page put up by the BNP .

UPDATE : click HERE for an update on some Christians' response to the BNP's attempt to use Christianity for it's own supremacist ends.

It will now be more difficult for him to be taken seriously in the future when he tries to make any judgement or when he suggests policy on how the majority should be relating to the Muslim population in the UK. (He bewails the fact that he is being ignored by the Blair government. I'm thinking now there may be good reason to ignore him: one of the traits expected from folk who advise governments is wisdom ).

He has slightly lost his way in this arena where he puts himself out as an expert and, frankly, he only has himself to blame as the withdrawn Telegraph article and the unwanted attention from the BNP loudly testify.

As an aside, had the Religious Hatred Bill gone through as intended then we could have had oddball situations like good Christian ministries being prosecuted for the actions of evil people using Christianity as a cover. As the BNP now seems to be pursuing this very strategy we should be grateful for and commend the efforts of the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship (also featured on the BNP website) for forcing last minute changes to the bill.

Actually, most Christian organisations are misguidedly and unwisely fighting peripheral or wrong battles . The real war is happening elsewhere folks, in a (metaphorical) place which the political philosopher Robert Kraynak has very ably isolated and identified but most people don't have a clue.

I hope to touch on the Kraynak diagnosis and possible cures later, God willing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


click HERE.

Quote of the Day

One mark of maturity is to realize how complicated things are, and yet know with humble childlike certainty where you stand historically.”
(Calvin Seerveld, in an unpublished lecture from the “After Evangelicalism” conference at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, September 15-17, 2005.)

via Gideon Strauss

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Robert Kraynak's book ...

... which i had requested from interlibrary loan has finally arrived from the British Libary.

I look forward to reading it and maybe blogging about it in due course.

Conference about Turkey

Looks interesting, doesn't it ?

Ziya Meral is one of speakers.

See you there on the day ?

UPDATE : read a review of the conference HERE .

Monday, March 20, 2006

3rd Anniversary of Iraqi Invasion

While George W Bush shares his Pollyanna-ish 'optimism', some of us might prefer to check out Juan Cole's (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) "Top Ten Catastrophes of the Third Year of American Iraq" for more sober-minded analysis.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Wafa Sultan - Part Deux

I had featured her HERE.

If you watched that video (and liked it) you might be interested to know she has had another similar debate.

It's video clip number 783 at Memri TV.

You can get there via links from The Religious Policeman. The R.P. also has some interesting commentary, as always.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Random Platitudes: The "Cartoon Row" dissected -- part 5

I had mentioned HERE of our "lecturer and historian" friend in Copenhagen who has been serialising an historical analysis of this issue.

The serialisation continues with Parts 5 & 6 now posted on his blog with more installments to come (apparently).

Monday, March 13, 2006

God is a Holy God 3/3

It's been in the television and the mainstream print media that the "Reverend" Julie Nicholson has resigned from her post for the most bitterest of reasons.

A legacy of 7/7.

My heart goes out to her. She needs our prayers and constant pastoral care. I hope she can be helped in her very difficult circumstances.

I don't know why this should have received such wide publicity but it certainly has. I watched her speaking about it freely in interviews on television. In one of the newspapers there is a posed picture of her in her "dog collar".

All this leads me to believe it was not merely incidental but that Ms.Richardson desired to make her resignation high profile. I cannot personally understand why. But there it is and she does not seem displeased with the media attention.

On the basis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (but not limited to this Scripture only) would it be too insensitive to say that Julie Nicholson should never have been a vicar ?

It certainly highlights her very great integrity in taking the step she has. But does it highlight anything else to which we as Christians should be giving some thought and attention ?

What about the holiness of God, for instance ?

UPDATE: I just received my latest issue of TIME (the American weekly newsmagazine). She is featured there as well. For the effect of this on unbelievers click HERE .

God is a Holy God 2/3

The legacy of 7/7 continues.

Moreover, they are unmistakably theological legacies.

The initial theological legacy of 7/7 (and 9/11 before it) is : Where was God ?

Upon reflection one can come up with a theologically coherent and consistent conclusion which is that these incidents occur in what is called the "permissive will of God".

But is that it ?

Let's look at a passage from the book of Amos to a backslidden people :

"I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD.(Amos 4:10)

God actually says he "sent" these disasters on His people.

God is a Holy God 1/3

Last week during the evening service at my church we read this passage together from the book of Exodus:

"Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank."(Exodus 24:8-11)

What a lovely picture of fellowship with the Living God : in His very Presence. Awesome, really. Please note that i have highlighted the names of two of the people that partook of this fellowship : Nadab and Abihu. Those of you who know your Bibles probably already know where i am going with this.

Let's read where Nadab and Abihu are mentioned again :

"Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: 'Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.' " Aaron remained silent. Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and said to them, "Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary." So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, "Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting or you will die, because the LORD's anointing oil is on you." So they did as Moses said.

Then the LORD said to Aaron,"You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses." (Leviticus 10:1-11)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ziya Meral

I met him today. He's a very interesting chap. He's Turkish. He's a Christian. And he's an original thinker. That's not a threefold combination which is commonly found.

He is also an amazingly engaging speaker. Invite him to speak at your church, you won't regret it. You can google him and find a couple of essays he has written. My own favourite is this one.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Friendship (or Love)

"Today it seems to me that love and friendship play a central role and that without them even the noblest achievements and the most fundamental principles remain pale, empty, and dangerous.

And when speaking of love, I don't mean an abstract commitment such as "love of truth" or a "love of humanity," which, taken by themselves, have often encouraged narrow-mindedness and cruelty. Nor do I mean emotional fireworks that soon exhaust themselves. I can't really say what I mean, for that would delimit a phenomenon that is a constantly changing mixture of concern and illumination.

Love lures people out of the limited "individuality," it expands horizons, and it changes every object in their way. Yet there is no merit in this kind of love. It is subjected neither to the intellect nor to the will; it is the result of a fortunate constellation of circumstances. It is a gift, not an achievement."

Feyerabend (1924-1994)

H/T: Prosthesis

Update : Here are some thoughts by Rawls on "Fraternity" but i'm not sure it can be seriously applied society-wide for the obvious reason of man's fallenness.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Verse of the Day

"I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all".

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest

via The Religious Policeman

Did we just miss 'High 5 a Muslim Day' ?

CAUTION : Before you click HERE to watch the video be warned that it contains a depiction of the Lord Jesus Christ in a light-hearted context. If you think you may be offended don't watch.

At first, I hesitated and then applied the WWJW (What Would Jesus Watch) rule and concluded that the Lord Jesus would watch this clip and approve of the important social criticism and message it conveys.

I may be wrong.

Please use the comments feature and let's get a discussion going.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Coherence of the Incarnation

HERE is a logical attack on the coherence of Incarnation.

Vallicella’s argument consists of three parts and is presented as “a trinity of tightly interconnected problems” in the introductory section of his essay:

(P1) How can one person, hence one individual, exemplify seemingly incompatible natures? (P2) How can one person exemplify seemingly incompatible non-nature properties? (P3) How can there be only one person or hypostasis if, as is arguable, the very concept of Incarnation implies that one person incarnates himself in, and as, another person?

He begins with the following assertion:

The difficulty common to (P1) and (P2) may be cast in the mold of an inconsistent triad:
1. Necessarily, if two things are identical, they share all their (non-intentional) properties.
2. God the Son and Jesus do not share all their (non-intentional) properties.
3. God the Son and Jesus are identical.

(1) is a version of the Indiscernibility of Identicals, which is surely very secure

The “Indiscernibility of Identicals” is misplaced if we consider that the Incarnation has to do with the identity and continuity of a Person (singular) not of natures (plural).

Then he has an entire section entitled “The Apollinarian Defense and the Ambiguity of ‘Incarnation”. The Apollinarian heresy has to do with how one defines “human nature” and has no bearing on the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation when human nature is defined correctly.

In the following section, Thomas V. Morris’s treatment of this question in The Logic of God Incarnate, is introduced in terms of the three distinctions he says are raised by Morris.

A clearer and more detailed treatment of Morris’s position can be found HERE.

I was going to say that both Vallicella and Goncalves pick up on a most serious blunder committed by Morris. But on further reflection I’m not sure it is a blunder. In any case, here is how Goncalves puts the knife in:

For example, Morris sees "possibly coming into existence, coming to be at some time" (p.67) as not essential to being fully human. Now, on the traditional Christian view of creation, one which I am fairly confident Morris adheres to (c.f. p.68), it would appear that having a human body implies having been created. If coming into existence is not essential to being fully human (and Morris states that all mere humans are fully human) then there exists at least the logical possibility of the existence of an eternally pre-existent corporeal human being.

Does “the [mere] logical possibility of the existence of an eternally pre-existent corporeal human being” require that such a being actually exist? It’s a bit of the Anselm’s Ontological Argument but in reverse.

Nevertheless, this is no fatal error to Morris’s defense of Orthodox Christology for there is metaphysically nothing to prevent the pre-existent Logos from taking on human nature at some or any point in time.

Vallicella asserts: “But mere humanity is not a kind-nature” .

My response is: “Well how do you know that?

Goncalves, in his essay, spends considerable effort trying to defeat Morris’s distinction between “kind nature” and “individual nature”. He even calls on the great name of Quine. But his efforts are nevertheless inconclusive --- a point conceded by Goncalves himself. And, so Morris’s usage is unfalsified which is all that Morris needed to maintain a successful defense of his position.

Vallicella then brings in S5 modal logic without any explanation as to why it is relevant and makes this most curious conclusion which only serves to support Morris’s thesis :

Of course, given that I am non-divine, and non-abstract, it follows necessarily that I am a contingent being. But it does not follow that I am necessarily a contingent being.

Yeah right, which is also the very condition which permits the Incarnation as a logically coherent possibility.

Vallicella then very perceptively makes the following comment:

“Now being a creature, if not a kind-essence, is surely a general essence. So individual essences are beside the point.”

But even this is not a defeater for Morris’s defence of Orthodox Christology. Consider a genus or a set containing only one being or element. For the purposes of our discussion, let that being be the Creator-creature or the Logos-man individual essence. Is this “individual essence” not also a “kind essence“?

He later seems to recover from his appeal to Apollinarianism in the section entitled “The Asymmetry of Incarnation and the Doctrine of Anhypostasia” but then shows with the following comments how he has completely misconstrued the Incarnation.

“The agent is God the Son, the one who incarnates himself, and does so freely. The locus of Incarnation is the one in whom the Son incarnates himself. Now either the Son incarnates himself in himself, in which case agent and locus are identical, or he incarnates himself in another, in which case agent and locus are distinct. (…) it also has the much more serious defect of violating the result of the last paragraph: to understand the
concept of Incarnation is equivalent to understanding that agent and locus of Incarnation are necessarily distinct.(…) But if the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, this can only mean that the Word became an individual concrete human
being, and not a human being in the abstract. Surely nothing can become man without becoming a man. God can become man only by becoming a particular man. So the point stands: God the Son incarnates himself in, and as, another

There are not two or more persons involved in the Incarnation .There is only one Person, one Principal and He is the Logos who takes on human nature. There is thus no “agent” and there is no “locus”.

He then concludes :

Indeed, this must be the doctrine if it is to avoid both Docetism and Apollinarianism. For if the Logos becomes man without becoming a man complete with a human personality, then either he is only apparently, but not really, a man (Docetism), or he is a divine being in a human body

This is indeed a false contrast between Docetism and Apollinarism. Of course , the Incarnate Logos is “a man complete with a human personality”. This is no defeater as regards the Orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation. What Vallicella asserts actually falls into the error of Nestorianism.

Let’s not stop here. We can go beyond these attacks on Orthodox Christology to a more positive formulation of the doctrine. This has already been done in church history and so here are some of these important insights as given in Louis Berkhof’s The History of Christian Doctrines :

“ The important distinction between nature as substance possessed in common, and person as a relatively independent subsistence of that nature, is entirely disregarded” (p.105)

“The most prominent opponent of Nestorianism was Cyril of Alexandria. According to him the Logos … formed the only personal subject in the God-man” (p.105)

“… the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon was convened in the year 451, and issued its famous statement of the doctrine of the Person of Christ. (…) The most important implications (…) are the following : (1) the properties of both natures may be attributed to the one Person, as, for instance, omniscience and limited knowledge (2) the suffering of the God-man can be regarded as truly and really infinite, while yet the divine nature is impassible. (3) it is the divinity and not the humanity that constitutes the root and basis of the personality of Christ (4) the Logos did not unite with a distinct human individual, but with a human nature” (p. 107)

“Leontius [of Byzantium] stressed the fact that the human nature of Christ is enupostasia, not impersonal but in-personal, having its personal subsistence in the Person of the Son of God from the very moment of the incarnation” (p.109)

“(…) the Logos is the formative and controlling agency, securing the unity of the two natures. The Logos did not assume a human individual, nor human nature in general, but a potential human individual, a human nature not yet developed into a person or hypostasis” (p.110)

“ There is a circumincession of the divine and human in Christ, a communication of the divine attributes to the human nature, so that the latter is deified and we may also say that God suffered in the flesh” (p.111)

“(…) there is co-operation of the two natures, and that the one Person acts and wills in each nature” (p.111)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

M.Cartoons : Another History

Random Platitudes is a new blog by a Danish academic historian.

He has been documenting the early history of the cartoons controversy in (so far) 4 parts ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ).

For a link to another academic historian (American) who has done a similar chronicle of events click HERE.