Monday, December 21, 2015

[CORRECTION:] Is the Pope Catholic?

Well, it appears that, according to Snopes, the quotation below, attributed to Pope Francis is a fake. 
“Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah.  These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.  For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths.  This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith.  Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is to respect each others beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by.  We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now.  No longer shall we slaughter our neighbors over differences in reference to their God.”
Read the rest (from the website that posted the fake quote!)
However, I am struck by the fact that, if you read my previous post about the professor at Wheaton college who is wearing a hijab during the season of Advent, she also believed the Pope said we all worship the same God.  To quote Professor Hawkins again:
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.  And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God," Hawkins stated.   
The great tragedy is that, given the rise of an uncritical, unthinking pluralism among so much of establishment Christianity, it was entirely believable that Pope Francis could have said the words falsely attributed to him.  After all, a professor at Wheaton College bought this line of thinking to the point she started wearing a hijab and got suspended for itShe may well have read the same fake quote that I did and said to herself, "Yup, sounds good to me!"

So the rest of what I had to say about the theological issues at stake when trying to say that Christianity and Islam are compatible still applies.  Professor Hawkins, quoted this sentiment approvingly in order to gloss over the differences between Christianity and Islam, and, in doing so, is engaging in universalism and syncretism that diminish and even deny the uniqueness of the Christian Gospel. 

Which is all the more reason to cite Pope John Paul II, who, while being very impressed by the religiosity of Muslims, nevertheless wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope,
Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation.  It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son.  In Islam all the richness of God's self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside. 
Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Islam is not a religion of redemption.  There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection.  Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad.  There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent.  For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity. 
That the revelation of God through his Son has been "set aside," as John Paul says, is seen in verses from the Koran such as these,
  • “The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was no more than God’s apostle . . .God is but one God. GOD FORBID THAT HE SHOULD HAVE A SON!” (4:171)
  • Those who say: “The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son, preach a monstrous falsehood, at which the very heavens might crack . . .” (19:88)
  • “Praise be to Allah who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom . . .” (17:111)
The challenge of Islam to both Christianity and Judaism is seen even more clearly when one considers the construction of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque (completed in AD 691 and 705, respectively) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was a popular site for Christian pilgrimage in the Byzantine era, thus precluding Jewish worship at Judaism's holiest site, while, at the same time, challenging Christianity with words emblazoned in Arabic on both buildings: “God has no Son.”  In the very place where God says his Son's throne will be established (Psalm 2:6, 10-12), Islam challenges the very existence of the Son and the reality of the promise.

Pope Benedict XVI invited controversy when he said, regarding Islam, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The early 20th century Roman Catholic author,  Hilaire Belloc, was prophetic in predicting: “We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future.  Perhaps if we lose our faith, it will rise.”

I plan on posting more quotes from Belloc later this week because his warnings are prescient.  And while most of the world would rejoice at the prospect of genuine peace between Christians and Muslims, naïveté and bad theology in the face of a radical and aggressive Islam are not the way to achieve that end.



rick allen said...

I think you need to check your sources.

Robert S. Munday said...

Post corrected.

rick allen said...

Thank you for your correction.

Seems that there has been a great brouhaha lately about "whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God." To me it's always been a discussion based on simple semantic ambiguity.

Example: To some, Donald Trump is a straight-shooting businessman with ideas outside of the box; to others, he's an unprincipled libertine who panders to our worst fears. Do Trump's supporters and detractors believe "in the same Trump"? Well, in a way, yes, and, in a way, no.

For Catholics, the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, though not a statement of dogma, carries a certain amount of weight:

"The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting."

This description of Islamic belief can fairly be characterized as describing the glass as half full rather than half empty. It's an exhortation to keep the similarities in mind so that, if we don't share the same faith, we be decent neighbors. Insofar as Moslems worship the single God who created the heavens and the earth, one could say we worship the same God, even though we differ about His nature, His revelation, His moral demands. Those are considerable differences, but those kinds of differences also exist among those whom Christians may recognize as fellow Christians. For myself, I've always thought that the medieval understanding of Islam as a heresy is more helpful that the more modern characterization of it as a different religion. Moslems are Eastern, teetotaling Unitarians, who claim that Mohammed simply purified the religion of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Do they worship the same God? Well, yes and no. Depends on the sense of "the same."

I am also always uncomfortable when the argument is made that Moslems cannot worship the same God because the God of the Moslems is not Triune--this, obviously, because the Jews also deny the Trinity, and I am not comfortable saying that Jews, whose conception of God comes directly out of the Old Testament, worship a different God from the Father of Jesus. That's a little too Gnostic for me.