Christianity, Hell, and Islam


For those who don’t follow, I recently had someone leave a comment on my post “Brian McLaren, really?“. I attempted one response that was a bit long and he responded back with a long response as well. Rather than engage in a “comment debate,” I’d rather just post my full reply as a post, since it will be a bit lengthy. I’d encourage you to read the comments before reading this post.

Well after reading that and reading your link, it looks like you are not interested in thinking any differently then you do now.

Well, to be honest, unless given a good reason to change my beliefs on something so central to the worldview I follow, I don’t see why I should be open to changing my views. Though we should always be open to examine our views, this is generally done by looking at rational arguments and evidence against our position. If our position holds strong against such critiques, there shouldn’t be a willingness to abandon it.

Our Christian Bible, many would say, is just as sexist as the Qur’an or Hadith, (maybe not in as blunt of ways). There are scripture in the Bible that talks about Woman not even being able to talk in Church. We can’t say that the Church treats woman fairly even now, I mean there is a reason why 90% of Church leaders are MEN.

If you define “fairness” by responsibilities, then yes, men and women are not treated equally. However, I think your attempt to equivocate the two is quite unfair. For one, both the Qur’an and Hadith teach that women are ontologically lower, that is, they have less rights, less value, etc by nature of being a woman. This is why rape, beatings, and the like are allowed by many Muslims. One simply look to Surra 2:282 to see that men are a “degree above women.” Prior to this, 2:223 says that men are to treat their wife (or wives) as property and do whatever they will with them. The justification is that women are lesser than men by nature. The Hadith is actually worse considering that the writings of Bukhari, chapter two, verse twenty-eight, states that the majority of Hell is composed of ungrateful women. If you look to Ishaq 593, we’re told that women are plentiful and it’s okay to leave the one you have to find another one. All of this shows that women are, by nature, lower than men and to be treated as property, a bit above animals (though Muhammad’s youngest wife A’isha complained that Muhammad was created women to be on the level of dogs and donkeys [Muslim 4:1039]).

The Bible, alternatively, teaches that men and women are ontologically equal. One merely look to the narrative in Genesis to see that men and women are both made in the image of God (“…male and female He created them…”). One can turn to the works of Paul, specifically in Corinthians, and see that he says the wife’s body belongs to the man and the husband’s body belongs to the wife, thus showing it’s equal. If we turn to Galatians, we find Paul telling the husband and wife to submit to one another. Elsewhere he tells husbands to lead with authority as Christ leads the Church, which is completely self-sacrificial. Paul also says that a man who doesn’t provide for his family, but can (and “provide” in the Greek implies both material and immaterial [i.e. emotions, psychological well-being, etc]), is worse than a heathen. Though women were devalued in Jewish culture, in the New Testament we see that Christ has no problem interacting with a sick woman who needs healing, a woman who is on her 7th marriage and considered a whore by the community, a prostitute who washes His feet with perfume, and the first witnesses of the Resurrection in all the Gospels are females.

All of the above indicates that the Bible sees women as ontological equals. Now, for whatever reason, God has declared that on some issues, men and women have different responsibilities, but this does not make them unequal or elevate men above women. Only those who are power-thirsty would see authority as a standard for equality. Authority has nothing to do with equality – some people, male or female, aren’t called to be in a position of authority. Does this mean they are unequal with those who are called to such a position?

So as you can see, I don’t see your argument as compelling.

If you are going to say that the majority of Muslims support the rape of woman, I would show some scripture from the Qur’an, that supports your statement or maybe take quotes from a Muslim you know that supports it. Also I would like to hear some Muslim Scripture that talks about it being okay to murder others because someone doesn’t believe in their God?

A fair request. The one that comes to mind (I don’t have time to research right now) is Iman Mesbah-Yazdi, a Shi’a Iman in Iran stated that rape is permissible when done to a non-Muslim. To do it to a Muslim generally warrants the death penalty, whether the victim is male or female. If not a Muslim, however, it’s usually seen as justifiable. He probably gets this from the Qur’an, which has multiple verses that discuss how a man can take his wife or slave girl at whim, whether they want it or not. However, further justification probably comes from the Hadith, which is far more explicit in its condoning of rape.

The Hadith of Sahih Bukhari (9:506) talks of how the argument of Muhammad’s men after taking women from a city was whether or not they should pull out before ejaculation so as to not impregnate the women. However, it was expected by both Muhammad and others that the men would force themselves upon the non-Islamic women. The Hadith of Abu Dawud (2150) gives the historical context of Surra 4:24 (And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.). The context that Dawud gives is that the men were uncomfortable having sex with these slaves in front of their husbands. Muhammad told them, “Who cares, it’s your right.” That may not explicitly say “rape,” but it certainly is implicit; Muhammad’s soldiers were going into captured towns, enslaving men and women, and then forcing themselves on the women, married or not.

The list goes on of course of how Muhammad, his generals, his men, and even his adopted sons would use men as prizes for war. If you don’t believe me, read both the Hadith and Qur’an for yourself.

When you say that Christianity was not violent until 325 A.C. you might be completely right. I would not compare the Church today however to the original “Church”. Christians have their faults like every other religion. I however think, based on my life of being a Christian and what I know from scripture and example of friends from religions such as Buddhism and Islam, that they promote peace and furthering of true faith.

You missed the point of what I was saying. You were attempting to say that the violent Muslims we see today lack justification from their Qur’an, Hadith, and history to be violent. I was merely comparing and contrasting. The fact of the matter is that it took 325 years for Christians to begin to engage in violence en masse. Until that point, most Christians were either complete pacifists or had an extremely narrow view of justified war. Much of this is due to the writings of Christ. So when we see war-mongering Christians, whether it be the modern age or the Middle Ages, we can say, “This is most likely inconsistent with the history of their faith and their Holy Book.” The same cannot be said for Islam.

I was attempting to show from history that from the very beginning, Muhammad engaged in war and genocide and his followers didn’t let-up. They continued on. There was no peace to be found except in surrender. So your claim that Islam is peaceful needs justification, most specifically by using its holy writings and validating your interpretation with the history of Islam.

Something that Christians, who believe in Hell, want to think, is that all unbelievers are completely evil. This is simply not true. I have many Atheist and Buddhist friends, and I find good in all of them. Gandhi, is a great example of a professed “non-Christian”, who did many good things in his life time. Would “justice” mean a Eternal Hell for Gandhi?

Though some might believe in such a proposition, I do not count myself among those “some.” If you’re truly interested in my position, you can read it here. Suffice it to say, I believe humans are capable of moral goodness, but this doesn’t make them righteous. Ghandi did a lot of good things, but he wasn’t perfect, thus he wasn’t righteous. After all, how can our good actions, which are temporal, compare to an eternally good God? So yes, Ghandi or anyone for that matter going to Hell is justice. After all, if we sin against God, no matter how minuscule that sin seems to us, it falls short of the infinite goodness of God. Our offense is infinitely separated before God. Because God is a God of justice, He can’t simply ignore an injustice, for then He would be unjust. If you want to argue and say that God isn’t a God of justice, keep in mind that concepts such as “grace” and “mercy” and even “love” as we know it are contingent upon our understanding of “justice.”

When Jesus was on this earth, He seemed to find good in the lowest of people. Even if there is only an ounce of good in someone, they do NOT deserve Eternal Punishment. I thank God for Grace. I am not saying that all paths lead to Heaven. I only believe in one Path, through Jesus, but I think all of us will eventually find it.

This really doesn’t make any sense. If we allow that one of the attributes of God is that He is just (which, if we want to believe that He is gracious and merciful, we must first admit that He is just) and that His standard is Himself, then anything that falls short of Himself is infinitely evil. Consider the following:

Let’s say that Johnny has been told multiple times not to play in Mr. Smith’s yard. Johnny fails to heed the warning and while playing in Mr. Smith’s yard, he damages some of Mr. Smith’s property, causing $500 in damage. Now, Mr. Smith could ignore this, but Mr. Smith happens to be a judge for the county court. Since Johnny broke a property law, Mr. Smith asks Johnny to do some work around Mr. Smith’s home to pay off the $500 owed. No matter how good Johnny is, he has still committed an offense that has cost someone something and justice dictates that he must pay for that offense.

Imagine how it is with God. God is infinite, meaning any offense to His character is equally infinite. Thus, to make up for any offense to God’s character, we must pay it off eternally. Since we are temporal beings, this is quite impossible.

Now, you might say that God can just forget about it and forgive us, no matter the cost. But then God wouldn’t be a God of justice. The poor and oppressed of this world would have no one to turn to. The hope of victims is that even if temporal justice is not handed out to perpetrators, eternal justice does await them. What you are saying is that a man who brutally rapes women and never shows any remorse for his actions gets a free pass in the afterlife, so long as he baked cookies for the local homeless shelter or did a lot of good things as well. Your system of belief portrays God as nothing more than a stone hippie who looks the other way when injustice rises up. This is hardly a God worth worshiping.

I would be careful about acting as though you have found God completely. For example, you might think the Bible clearly talks about an Eternal Hell. I however, have studied the scriptures for many years, on the topic of Hell, and think the Bible clearly speaks against an Eternal Hell.

I have never stated that I understand God completely, for such knowledge is impossible. However, the Bible is extremely clear that Hell is eternal. Christian tradition dictates as much. The idea of a temporal Hell is a relatively recent one, one that lacks the proper justification in its claim.

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36 thoughts on “Christianity, Hell, and Islam

  1. I have no desire to debate Islam with you. I have not studied it nor do I want to just to comment here. I wonder though if by saying THEY are worse than WE are you are neglecting to look at where modern day practices of Christianity fail to up hold Biblical principals?

    1. I think it’s different in some ways. In some ways it is worse that we hold the Truth, yet fail to adhere to His principles and follow all that He has taught us. If the ignorant are to be punished, how much more will those who are aware be punished?

      On the other hand, however, we can look to the Crusades or modern Christians who support abhorrent actions and show how such people are being inconsistent with Scripture. Muslims can’t do that. They can’t look to modern terrorists or those calling for the death of Westerners and say such people violate the Qur’an and Hadith…mostly because there’s nothing condemning such sentiment in either writing. Thus, for Christians it’s an issue of inconsistency. For Muslims, it’s an issue of being all too consistent.

  2. I think the point is the spirit/message that foundation of either religion has, not necessarily what past, present or future practioners of either religion DO with the religion. I don’t know what the Qur’an says, I just know that we Christians don’t always portray the best representation of Biblical Truths. I’m certain the same is true of Islam, but my very layman understanding of Islam is that their message is not filled with grace or love.
    -J

  3. I have a number of problems with your discussion in this post. First, and the point I think Striker might have been trying to make in his response to your McClaren post, if we engage in picking and choosing verses whether from the Bible or the Qur’an we can make either book say almost anything. Over the years the Bible has been used to defend slavery, kill witches, engage in war, wipe out people groups, take Indian children from their parents, and dominate women. In some ways these behaviors are still justified by a particular interpretation of scripture–just tweak a word here or there, pull a verse out of context, ignore cultural issues or other passages that seem to contradict what you want the Bible to say, and you have all the justification you need to hold the opinions or promote the doctrines you want to promote. Perhaps the Qur’an says everthing you say it does, like I said before I have not studied it so I don’t honestly know. But, the experience I have had with the few Muslims I know is that they are not out to rape non-Muslim woman or kill all non-Muslim people groups. And to suggest that Brian McClaren wants to become a Muslim or supports everything Muslim’s believe because he recognizes where the practice of their faith and the practice of the Christian faith overlap is simply rediculous.

    Your statement that, “Only those who are power-thirsty would see authority as a standard for equality. Authority has nothing to do with equality.” is absurd. Ontological relates to a state of being. Authority has to do with a position of power. Suggesting that two being can be equal in value even though one has power over the other might make oppression sound nice but it does not prove your premise. I personally do not believe a proper reading of scripture gives men authority over women but that debate is for another day.

    You said: “So when we see war-mongering Christians, whether it be the modern age or the Middle Ages, we can say, ‘This is most likely inconsistent with the history of their faith and their Holy Book.’ The same cannot be said for Islam.” Once again I refer to the first argument I made. Especially if you read the Old Testament it is very possible to argue that the Bible supports a variety of “war-mongering” like behavior.

    I do not understand your distinction between moral goodness and righteousness. David, an imperfect person was called righteous. Abraham an imperfect man was called righteous. Job, Simeon, and Cornelius (a centurion) were all accredited with righteousness. And, if our good actions can only be counted at temporal than our bad action must be seen as equally temporal. They cannot be judged by different standards or there would be no justice. Furthermore, when you say, “Because God is a God of justice, He can’t simply ignore an injustice, for then He would be unjust.” you leave out one injustice that is not only “overlooked” by God but the core of most Christian’s belief system–that a sinless Jesus was made to die on the cross to pay for the sins of the rest of us.

    1. Your first point about passages being taken out of context doesn’t really help you. For one, you’d have to show how such passages were taken out of context. Secondly, the history simply isn’t in your favor. The passive Muslims that exist today are the exception and not the norm when we look to Islamic history, specifically from its foundation. So maybe I am taking the Qur’an and Hadith out of context, but if I am, this would mean that Muhammad and all Muslims that knew Muhammad took it out of context as well, which makes little to no sense. One final point; if you haven’t studied Islam and your only experience with Islam is completely anecdotal, then how can you defend it or say I’m wrong?

      As for the issue of authority, how is what I’m saying absurd? I’m making a very valid point – just because someone has authority over another doesn’t mean the two are unequal. It simply means they have different responsibilities. You make two grievous errors in your thinking:

      1) You equate the word “authority” with the word “power,” and then assert “power” to have a negative connotation. The simple fact is, there are those in the world with more power than others. There are those who have more authority than others. Yet all still share the same rights. President Obama has far more authority and power than I do, but we both have the same rights when it comes to which religion we choose to pursue, what we want to say, etc. Though he has authority and power over me, such power must be kept in check due to my innate value as a human being.

      2) If you are anti-authoritarian in all senses of the word, then I feel for your children who will lack a proper upbringing. Certainly you wouldn’t argue against the idea that a parent has authority over a child, yet both are still equal in value. The simple fact is both have different roles, which begets different responsibilities. Sometimes those responsibilities require authority, other times they don’t. Regardless, it doesn’t change a person’s value. Again, only someone who is already power-hungry would see a position of authority as a value-giving position.

      You then go on to say that the Bible supports warmongering behavior, but you’re grasping at straws. Again, look to the first three centuries of Christianity and compare it to the first three centuries of Islam. Christ established the Church, which is different from Israel, and never commanded the Church to take up arms in an effort to defend its land or expand its territories. The followers of Christ followed this command for the first three centuries (until government and Christianity began to mingle under Constantine). Compare this to the followers of Muhammad, who for the first three centuries followed his example and the example of his disciples by invading lands and killing those who refused to convert or, at the very least, pay a tax for living in a newly formed Muslim land.

      Your final point is one that, in my opinion, goes against the central aspect of Christianity, begging the question of why you would even bother to call yourself a Christian. If you’re not going to adhere to traditional Christian doctrine, then why bother?

      Regardless, David, Abraham, and others were counted righteous because of their beliefs, not their actions. Paul says as much in Romans when he says that it was faith that made Abraham righteous, not his works. His works were moral, but ultimately temporal. Without righteousness, they were meaningless. Thus, it was their belief in a Holy God who would redeem them of their sin that made them righteous.

      If we deny a belief in the God of Scripture, then we are not righteous. We might be morally good, but ultimately we are still evil.

      As for your attempt to say goodness and evil must be judged by the same standard, where did I argue differently? I’m simply pointing out what should be obvious: When we perform a moral action it is temporal because we can’t perform it perfectly. When we perform an evil it is eternal because it goes against the One who is eternally perfect. That’s not a double-standard, that’s simply looking at the situation and realizing the facts.

      Finally, to say that Christ dying for our sins is an injustice, I would ask that you study the issue before making a comment on it. First, Christ wasn’t “forced” to do anything. He willingly laid down His life for our sakes and, had He chosen to, He could have walked away from that. That’s hardly an injustice. Secondly, it only makes sense that an eternal being could cover the transgressions of many, transgressions that were made against Him. The fact that God required a sacrifice is just, that Christ fulfilled this requirement is merciful; the only injustice is when people deny this sacrifice, the impact of this sacrifice, or deny that it was needed to begin with.

  4. Sorry about the length, but there is a lot to touch up on.

    I will not try to fight with you about who knows more about the Muslim religion. I personally have done very little studding of the Qu’ran and Hadith. My point was that I didn’t think that Brian was calibrating the rape of girls or murder of boys, when joining in fasting and being generous to the poor, with his Muslim friends, while participating in the observance of Ramadan.

    You, being a man that has deleted comments because they did not give evidence for their position, did not give much evidence for Brian McLaren advocating Universalism. I realize that you said, “McLaren is, by his actions (and words, look at his “part 3″) acknowledging Allah and the Christian God to be the same”. However, I have read all the parts of, “Ramadan 2009”, (the article that you sited to prove Brian McLarens avocation of universalism) and found nothing of him claiming that he thinks, Allah and the Christian God are the same. You might want to bring out a specific quote for such a claim.

    He does say in Part 1 that, “We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends”. This seems to show that he and his Christian friends were trying to be careful about what parts of Ramadan, they participated in. He even went on to give an example of what he means, by saying, “the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran”. I think Brian McLaren was very careful to have us realize that he was going to stay true to his faith, but felt it was okay to show the Muslims all the places that Christianity and Islam are alike, by celebrating those things side by side. It is also a testament to the Muslims that they are not shunning Brian or murdering him and his friends for staying true to their Christian faith, as you said Muslims tend to be taught, by the Qu’ran and Hadith, to do.

    I do believe that the Qu’ran and the Hadith have many verses that seem to be extremely sexist and unjust. But might that be because you are not putting them into context of the time they were written? If we take Bible verses like, 1st Corinthians 14:34-35 that says, “34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”, and try to apply it to today’s Church, they would seem extremely sexist and unjust. Another verse that comes to mind is 1st Timothy 2:11-12 says, “11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”. It seems as though the Christian Bible is saying, “they have less rights, less value, etc by nature of being a woman”, as you said about the Qu’ran. But, if you put them in context of the time period and realized that Paul was talking to a specific group, this would make more sense and we would realize that Paul was not talking about ALL women, but just that specific group. Point being, we can very easily show woman to be unequal and less valuable then men from actual scripture of the Bible, just like you can do from the Qu’ran or Hadith.

    The scripture I quoted, if taken literally, says that “women should remain silent in the churches”. This is indeed limiting their right as a woman. It has nothing to do with authority. To speak is a right not an authority. I have the right to speak to President Obama, even though I do not have authority over him. I also have the right to speak in the Church, even though I have no authority in the Church. The Bible, if taken completely literally, says woman do not have that right.

    I do believe that you have done your research and there are many verses that do truly come from the Qu’ran and Hadith that seem to be unjust and unreasonable. However, I think if you are searching for unreasonable things in the Bible, you are able to find them as well. For example, how can we as Christians justify Bible verses like Mark 9:43, “43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out“, if we are to take it laterally? There are many more instances in the New Testament (such as woman not even being able to talk in church) and even more verses in the Old Testament that if we take literally would seem to be very unjust and unreasonable. But, I do not think that is why you or I study the Bible, and I think you should not have the agenda, to prove how bad the Qu’ran or Hadith is, if you are to read them. To tell you the truth, I think if we really studied other religions like Islam and Buddhism without an agenda, we would find more things that we agree with then things that we are against.

    How can our evil actions, which are temporal, deserve an Eternal Punishment? I do not think that we deserve to make it to Heaven, no matter how many good things we have done, but how can a temporal sin deserve an eternal hell? Jesus tells us that we should forgive our neighbors 70 times 7 times (which means infinite). Why would Jesus be telling us to do something He is not willing to do? I do not think that God gives us a, “get into heaven free card”, but I think the only “punishment” God will give us, will be for our own good. I simply think that we will always have free will and eventually will see and except Jesus as King.

    Many Christians, who believe in a Hell, think that you only have a curtain amount of time (how ever long of time we live on this earth) to except Jesus as savior. How can we have a free will if we are stopped from being allowed to except Jesus after we die? If we truly have a free will, then we will be allowed to choose God no matter how long it takes.

    Some might think that people see Jesus and then choose to not fallow Him. I realize that everyone has worldly things that stop them from pursuing Jesus, but to say that “worldly things” will win out from Jesus is an understatement of who Jesus truly is. How can things that God made be more important than God Himself? I think of people like Saul in the New Testament, he was a man who killed hundreds of Christians and was dedicated to destroying the Church, but as soon as Jesus revealed Himself in His true form, Saul (now Paul) changed right around and helped write more then half of the New Testament. In the Old Testament there are people like Nebuchadnezzar, who needed to be lost in the wild for seven years before he found God, but he did find Him.

    There are many things like lust for self pleasure, money, and power that get in the way of us and God. There are even verses that talk about our foundations, and how important our works are. 1st Corinthians 3: 13-15 says, “13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames”. I think this is a great example of how God doesn’t give us a get into Heaven free pass but does save us. After getting rid of the things that are burned up, such as lust for money and power, we are able to then see Jesus with clear eyes and will freely choose Him (be saved).

    You said, “The hope of victims is that even if temporal justice is not handed out to perpetrators, eternal justice does await them”, when trying to defend Justice. I do not agree with that statement. In fact Jesus taught us all to forgive, as I have stated above. Your system of belief goes against that statement as well. You think that if someone accepts Jesus as Savior, they will not need to face “eternal justice”, kind of destroying your own argument.

    You also said that, “Your system of belief portrays God as nothing more than a stone hippie who looks the other way when injustice rises up. This is hardly a God worth worshiping.” I think my system of beliefs is much like yours. I think that Jesus died for us all, thus being the “Justice” God needed. You think that Jesus died for all who chooses Him. Both these beliefs seem to show that God looks the other way (at least for those who except Jesus) when injustice rises up, because Jesus already paid for the sin. Or we can look at it as though God chooses to forgive. I mean again, why would Jesus tell us to forgive if He was not able to?

    I hope you realize that I am not saying, “that a man who brutally rapes women and never shows any remorse for his actions gets a free pass in the afterlife”. I believe that we all will be tested and will all need to accept where we sinned and choose to let it be burned away before we get into Heaven. Not because God is stopping us, but because our own sin is. I have seen many people blinded by a lot of sin and live very sad lives. Jesus has told us to help those people and show them who Jesus truly is. But even if we fail, I am convinced that Jesus will win at the end.

  5. Point One: I am not defending Islam. Nor am I saying you are wrong. I am saying that because I have not studied the Qur’an I do not know the context of the verses you are quoting. I am also saying that TODAY the vast majority of practicing Muslims are not killing and raping non-Muslims. Finally on this point, I am saying your portral of Brian McClaren is inaccurate.

    Point Two: Authority which is defined by Webster as “the power or right to command” inherently implies an unequal relationship. If you can command me but I cannot in turn command you there is no equality in our relationship. To a third party we may have equal value but that does not change our relationship. By the way, good luck gaining access to classified information just because you think you have the same “rights” as the president. Finally with regard to authority, I have not said having authority or power over someone is inherently negative. Many of our relationships are unequal because of a difference in knowledge, experience, or strength create the inequality. The example you used of a parent and child is one such example. Many of these kinds of relationships are in a continual state of change however, as the individual with less knowledge, experience, or strength grows and matures. Eventually some of these relationships may even equal out or reverse. My problem with authority is not with the concept; my problem is with how it can at times be determined. When a person’s talents, abilities, knowledge, etc are not the determining factor but their ethnicity or gender is–I have a problem.
    I suggest you start addressing the points I am actually making instead of trying to creat a strawman from what you want me to be saying.
    Point Three: War-mongering. Seriously, I could not care less who did what for the first three centuries of their existance. Study the Crusades and a little Native American history if you want to see the Bible used to defend wiping out people groups and taking land. Does when the behavior occurred really matter? My point is we, Christians, have a poor record of manipulating the Bible to make it say what we want it to say and just as bad a record of pointing our fingers at other peopleto try and take the heat off ourselves. Your whole discussion on this matter proves my point!
    Point Four: When you say: “When we perform a moral action it is temporal because we can’t perform it perfectly. When we perform an evil it is eternal because it goes against the One who is eternally perfect.” You are actually saying actions–good (moral action) and evil–performed by temporal beings must be judged by different standards not because of the performer but rather because of the judge. If that is true (and I do not believe it is) I would say such a situation is unjust because the judge can not be impartial.
    I agree that Abraham was counted as righteous because of his faith. His faith did not however take away his imperfection. And even if in Abraham’s case that is what happens how is it that Cornelius, a centurion, is called righteous in Acts 10:22. You use such a narrow definition of righteousness that you refuse to take into account all of what the Bible teaches us about the concept.
    Point Five: Saying that Jesus was not forced to die on the cross does nothing to further your argument. Did Jesus deserve to die on the cross? If He did not deserve to die on the cross allowing Him or making Him matters not, His death was still not just! I am NOT saying it did not accomplish God’s purpose. I am saying it was not deserved.
    Before I address the second half of your comment I have a question for you–What does it mean that Jesus was fully human?
    Finally, to answer your question: “If you’re not going to adhere to traditional Christian doctrine, then why bother?” I do not find the fact that something is “tradition” a compelling argument for adhering to its thinking or practice. May traditions of man are in fact unBiblical.

    1. I am not defending Islam. Nor am I saying you are wrong. I am saying that because I have not studied the Qur’an I do not know the context of the verses you are quoting. I am also saying that TODAY the vast majority of practicing Muslims are not killing and raping non-Muslims. Finally on this point, I am saying your portral of Brian McClaren is inaccurate.

      This right here should disqualify you from any further discussions on Islam. You haven’t studied it, so how can you possibly have anything to say about it? Regardless, when you say the vast majority are not practicing this, I would ask where you get your statistics. Though it is true that the vast majority may not practice such acts, how many support such acts? It is quite easy to say that a vast majority in America do not support such acts, but what about the worldwide Islamic population. In Iran, Pakistan, parts of Egypt, parts of Saudi Arabia, parts of Afghanistan, parts of Syria, Indonesia, and many other Muslims countries, it is perfectly legal to kill any Muslims that converts to Christianity, any Christian that evangelizes, or anyone deemed a blasphemer of Islam. If you wish to contest this, then please first explain the Muslim reaction to the Muhammad cartoons.

      Authority which is defined by Webster as “the power or right to command” inherently implies an unequal relationship. If you can command me but I cannot in turn command you there is no equality in our relationship. To a third party we may have equal value but that does not change our relationship. By the way, good luck gaining access to classified information just because you think you have the same “rights” as the president.

      Good job ignoring the point. The president has more responsibility than I do, thus he is entitled to more information than I am concerning certain matters. Likewise, equality is not based upon authority. No matter how much authority the president has, at the end of the day it is only granted to him because of his position, not because of who he is as a person. The position grants the authority, not the person.

      I would ask you this; should children and parents have equal authority?

      When a person’s talents, abilities, knowledge, etc are not the determining factor but their ethnicity or gender is–I have a problem.

      Why would authority based on gender be a problem? If that is how God ordained it, then what is wrong with it? Obviously there are significant differences between men and women (not so with races, where skin color is the only differentiating mark), so it would make sense that authority would be based on gender.

      I suggest you start addressing the points I am actually making instead of trying to creat a strawman from what you want me to be saying.

      I suggest you start making better points and explaining yourself then.

      Seriously, I could not care less who did what for the first three centuries of their existance. Study the Crusades and a little Native American history if you want to see the Bible used to defend wiping out people groups and taking land. Does when the behavior occurred really matter?

      This is just insulting; for someone who is admittedly ignorant of Islamic history, but still tries to debate it with me, to tell me to study the Crusades and Native American history is absurd. Have you studied either? Have you actually looked at what happened, the primary source writings, the writers of the day, or are you relying on what you learned in 8th grade history? The Crusades, for instance, was actually a brilliant military campaign that if it had not occurred, would have lead to the downfall of Western Europe. Does that justify the Western armies using Christianity as a justification for war? Does that justify the rape and murder of thousands of innocent civilians? Of course not, but the Pope was pretty brilliant to call for a Crusade to the Holy Land. Now why is that? Because the Muslims were using a pincer strategy on Europe; by taking the fight to Jerusalem, he effectively ended 400 years of Muslim aggression.

      As to your question of if it matters, it matters quite a bit. The original contention I made was that Islam is an inherently violent religion based on its holy writings. You challenged this (even though you’ve never studied Islam). I pointed out that the early Muslims interpreted the Qur’an and the Hadith in the way I’m interpreting it and this is demonstrated through their violent expansion. Now you’re saying it doesn’t matter, mostly because I believe your point is completely shot down. The fact that Islam has a violent beginning only proves my original point; it’s an inherently violent religion.

      When you say: “When we perform a moral action it is temporal because we can’t perform it perfectly. When we perform an evil it is eternal because it goes against the One who is eternally perfect.” You are actually saying actions–good (moral action) and evil–performed by temporal beings must be judged by different standards not because of the performer but rather because of the judge. If that is true (and I do not believe it is) I would say such a situation is unjust because the judge can not be impartial.

      I already addressed this. You’re simply repeating the same thing I already addressed. Go back, re-read it, and deal with what I said.

      I agree that Abraham was counted as righteous because of his faith. His faith did not however take away his imperfection. And even if in Abraham’s case that is what happens how is it that Cornelius, a centurion, is called righteous in Acts 10:22. You use such a narrow definition of righteousness that you refuse to take into account all of what the Bible teaches us about the concept.

      Again, this is the problem with emergent thinking. It takes one passage of the Bible and says, “haha, my point is proven!” Instead of lazily reading the Bible, it’s better to look at the entire narrative and see what is going on.

      Cornelius was righteous in the sense that he followed divine laws and sought after God. But he wasn’t righteous in the sense that he was redeemed, for if that were the case then he’d have no need to hear of Christ. You see, Romans 3 states that no one is righteous. I know this might be difficult to understand, but Greek words often have different meanings in different contexts. The same word used for “righteous” is also the same word for “just,” but the connotations aren’t always the same. Just because someone is just doesn’t mean someone is righteous (redeemed before God). Look no further than Romans 4:5, which states that our faith in Christ causes righteousness (redeemed before God) to be imputed to us. If you want something even more specific than that, you can turn to Romans 10:3-4 which says our righteousness can only be found in belief in Christ. Cornelius, being God-fearing, knew who the one true God was and sought after Him. In light of this, he was sent Peter so he could hear the good news of Christ.

      The above is a far cry from saying our good works make us righteous, when the Bible is adamant that our good works have nothing to do with being righteous. Isaiah 64:6 says that our good works are no better than filthy rags to God. Taken in a broader narrative, God certainly looks favorably upon those who lead virtuous lives and seek after Him, but our good works do not make us right before God. Only our belief, our faith in His Son, can accomplish such a task.

      Saying that Jesus was not forced to die on the cross does nothing to further your argument. Did Jesus deserve to die on the cross? If He did not deserve to die on the cross allowing Him or making Him matters not, His death was still not just! I am NOT saying it did not accomplish God’s purpose. I am saying it was not deserved.

      This is a silly standard. To say that God was unjust in killing Christ since Christ didn’t deserve it is a non-sequitur. Just because someone doesn’t deserve a punishment doesn’t mean the punishment is unjust if placed upon a person who is willingly taking that punishment. If anything, justice says, “A punishment is required for act X.” If an innocent person stands up and says, “Let all who are deserving of act X accept my sacrifice so that the punishment might pass over them,” then justice has been met. It’s certainly unjust for the people who forced the hand of justice in the first place, but it is not unjust for the one enacting justice.

      Before I address the second half of your comment I have a question for you–What does it mean that Jesus was fully human?

      Please don’t tell me you buy into the heresy that Jesus wasn’t also fully divine. To say that Christ was fully human is to say that He had a human essence. This, however, is completely irrelevant to the fact that Christ is an eternal being, mostly because He still had the essence of God (though empty of the attributes).

      “If you’re not going to adhere to traditional Christian doctrine, then why bother?” I do not find the fact that something is “tradition” a compelling argument for adhering to its thinking or practice. May traditions of man are in fact unBiblical.

      When you begin to deny the traditional doctrines that make Christianity Christian, then why bother calling yourself a Christian? If you’re going to deny them, then go create your own religion instead of claiming a religion, but abandoning its traditions. Even if the traditions are wrong, it makes no sense to call yourself a part of that tradition and then depart with everything it stands for.

  6. stumbled upon your blog and i can’t really figure this out. are you a christian or a non-believer? i’d guess christian because most non-believers don’t bother to study a religion to truly understand why not to believe. of course i could be wrong.

    1. He is a Christian, nowkcam.

      Regarding the post itself, I find it quite informed. Though I’m not entirely sure of these comments by those who haven’t studied Islam, yet engage in the argument. It seems we (or rather, they) are attempting a sort of misguided contrast between the ‘practices’ of Christians and Muslims today, whereas the foundation of those practices is what’s in question (and how anyone who hasn’t studied Islam believes themselves to be qualified to answer these questions is slightly beyond me). Further to this, the ‘argument’ seems to focus upon not what is found in the Qur’an or Hadith (this seems to be assumed on account of no one aside from Joel having studied Islam) but what can be found in Scripture that ‘may’ or ‘might’ make Christ / Christians / Scripture look bad. I think the reality is that even if one were to make the above ‘look bad,’ we still have not dealt with the claims and supporting words Islam finds in the Qur’an and Hadith (and, I suppose, other such writings).

      That simply to say that the comments appear to be a road related to the question, but distant enough to not actually engage what’s been said, either by McLaren or Joel (in this instance). And yes, I do acknowledge saying this even while understanding that ‘power’ ‘equality’ ‘ontology’ and Joel’s argument is under examination. However, I return to what’s been originally said — how can these things honestly be examined if half of what’s being examined (i.e., Islam) is not understood by the examiners?

      I liked your post Joel.

    2. I’m a Christian who is fascinated by other religions. Maybe it’s due to my foundation in philosophy, but I do love to study other faiths. Contrary to what I have been accused of in this discussion, I study the religions simply to see what they believe, and after the study I draw my own conclusions.

      Though these religions fascinate me, they are all still wrong and false.

  7. Nascentthinker, I am not trying to argue if the quotes that Joel made from the Qur’an or Hadith are actually true. I have not done enough research into those two books to have a educated opinion of what the books truly teach. I do think that Joel’s quotes came from those books, but as I pointed out, you can take quotes from the Bible and make them look really bad. Why look into a religion if you only seem to be interested in proving how wrong it is?

    My point is that Joel was miss representing Brian McLaren. After reading the post that Joel referenced on his original “Brian McLaren, really?” blog, I found nothing of Brian advocating Universalism. In fact, Brian seemed to be very careful to point out that he was going to try to stay true to the Bible (as I explained in my last post).

    Why are we trying to make this stuff be a bad thing? Why not support the poor with a fellow Muslim or support kindness toward others, with Muslims? Brian McLaren was specific in what he was participating in and what he was trying to do by observing Ramadan. I feel as though Joel was trying to twist Brian’s actions into a bad thing without much evidence to support his case.

    1. Why is it anytime someone critiques an emergent author, the author himself or his supporters always use the tried and true defense of, “Oh no, you’re just misrepresenting him.” That defense gets quite old because it makes it appear as though emergents stand on shifting ground or are horrible at communication. Either way, if the major defense is, “You just don’t understand” then there’s little reason to follow a movement that either hasn’t made up its mind on what it believes or fails at communicating itself properly.

      The fact is, I’m not misrepresenting McLaren at all. One can look to his other writings or to the act itself to see that he certainly leans toward universalism or pluralism. Celebrating a holiday that is geared toward the worship of a false god is not what Christians are supposed to do. To do so is to lend legitimacy to the false belief, which is in itself universalistic.

      Responding once again to your assertion that I’m taking the Qur’an out of context…honestly, this is getting old. It’s quite simple – look to the history! To say I’m taking the Qur’an and Hadith out of context is to assert that in the first 500 years of Islamic history, EVERYONE took the Qur’an and Hadith out of context, including Muhammad! That’s simply asinine. The interpretation I’m providing of the Qur’an and the Hadith is supported by the first 500 years of Islamic practice, so it is up to you to prove I’m taking it out of context. If you can’t, then drop it.

      Finally, I don’t have to twist anything that McLaren did into looking bad. What he did is inherently bad – he participated in an event that aids in worship of a false god. This goes against everything the true God stands for. What more even needs to be said on that point?

    2. I believe I understand what you’re arguing and that’s exactly my point. You (and perhaps others) seem to be assuming that Joel is either arguing with McLaren in a misguided attempt to show Islam to be wrong; or that Joel is arguing against ‘support’ of Islam by McLaren and others (but what do we mean by ‘support’?) through their observance of Islamic religious traditions. I really don’t think that’s what Joel has done here at all. I read two specific – explicit – statements coming from Joel:

      1) Muslims can find justification in their holy texts for their acts of violence, whereas Christians cannot.

      2) McLaren, in observing Ramadan, is giving validity and legitimacy to Islam (here Joel might be guilty of assuming too much of his readers, believing them to be wholly familiar with McLaren’s other writings).

      There is a therefore:

      3) Islamic aggression cannot be compared to Christian aggression; McLaren is wrong.

      Now, what has happened is that in examination of this argument, most everyone has acknowledged that they aren’t familiar with the tenets or teachings of Islam, though they haven’t said the same of McLaren’s writings. Further, they have engaged Joel on a specific level — an examination of Christianity. The argument is as follows:

      1) Joel quoted the Qur’an and Hadith
      2) These quotes are probably in there, but they might be out of context
      3) [I] can quote the Bible out of context, therefore:
      4) The Qur’an and Hadith could be out of context as well

      There is an enthymeme to be found here as well; it is the assumption that all holy books are flawed, that one can quote and misquote to get a desired result — the text truly lacks an objective meaning: an author’s intent.

      That, to me, is incredibly disappointing. I understand that everyone (myself included) feels as if they are providing something relevant to the discussion, however, I don’t know if that is really the case.

      With respect to Joel taking McLaren out of context; perhaps if one has only read the above then I can see how one might arrive at this conclusion. However, if one is familiar with McLaren’s other writings, his interviews, his works of joint-authorship, then it’s very much not the case. If Joel has suggested that McLaren is teaching overt universalism, then I don’t think I would go that far. However, McLaren has hinted time and time and time again that this is something of his position (declaring the cross to be false advertising for God certainly doesn’t help). R. Scott Smith recently commented on a discussion between himself and McLaren (I can’t recall if it was in the book Passionate Conviction or Contending with Christianity’s Critics, but it was one of the two) and while McLaren does clarify himself, he still leaves open the possibility for salvation outside of Jesus, as I understand what he’s said.

      Ultimately, McLaren is participating in a religious observance dedicated to a god other than Jesus. Nowhere in Scripture (yes, I will appeal to the Bible, as unpopular as that is nowadays) are we told to do such a thing, in fact, it’s forbidden — rightly so. I think it’s a good thin to show love and grace, I think it’s a bad thing to do that the wrong way.

  8. Lets just remember, striker, that good works in and of themselves aren’t really what matter; it’s the reason and heart behind it. And, we aren’t on equal playing fields with the Muslim’s, and while I think “being a good neighbor” is a good idea [again, going back to doing good works], Muslim faith is misplaced and I don’t think letting them see us (in terms of faith) as equals is good for either party. Were I McLaren, I’d help/befriend someone because’s it right … not being they’re Muslim. In fact, I wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was because they were Muslim. I said before that I have not studied the Qu’ran, but that’s not the point of this. I have, however, read McLaren’s blog on his oberving of Ramadan, and though he gave some excuses/reasoning on why he was observing, in the end, he’s still observing a holiday that is sacred … TO ANOTHER RELIGION. A false religion. It jumped out to me that his intentions were … good hearted? … but niave, and really stupid, if he would just reflect on his own professed faith. He’s observing another religious holiday, and justifies it by pulling scripture out of context of his own faith. We have enough misrepresentation and skewing of the Bible, without one of “our” [read, not mine] leaders doing the skewing. Deception; it’s a tool of the devil, and Pride, is not far behind.

    1. I completely agree with this point. We’re supposed to befriend people simply because they are people. They are in the image of God, regardless of their beliefs.

      At the same time, we must remain true to Christ and not sacrifice His command to be holy for the sake of befriending people. When I worked in a high school I had many Muslim students, which is why I took the time to study Islam. Of all my students, it was the Muslims I got along with the most, but I still didn’t celebrate their holidays with them. They actually respected me for that, because it showed them I wasn’t a typical American Christian who really didn’t have a belief (their words).

      My point is to show it’s quite possible to befriend someone, understand where that person is coming from, and all the while refusing to compromise your own beliefs.

  9. I am familiar with several of Brian McLaren’s other writings and I do not agree that he advoxcates universalism in anything I have read.
    Nascentthinker said: “There is an enthymeme to be found here as well; it is the assumption that all holy books are flawed, that one can quote and misquote to get a desired result — the text truly lacks an objective meaning: an author’s intent.” Part one and two of this statement: 1) that all holy books are flawed and 2) that one can quote and misquote to get a desired result, while true (in my opinion given that we are talking not about original texts but rather about translations at least as far as the Bible is concerned) do not lead to part three 3) that text truly lacks and objective meaning: an author’s intent. The problem is not that no objective meaning or author’s intent exists the problem is that we each think we know what that is and do not agree. AKA: We hold differeing interpretations of scripture. Why Nascentthinker is even raising this observations is unclear and I will resist the temptation to read into his purpose.
    As for the point and purpose of the post–here too there seems to be some disagreement. I guess Joel is really the only one able to explain his point and purpose. But if as Nascentthinker seems to think it was primarily to argue that Muslim violence is supported by their holy writings but Christian violence is not I simply remind you that the Old Testament is still part of the Christian Bible last I looked and the Christian Bible has been used to justify violence. Personally I believe this to be a misuse of scripture but nevertheless it has at times and still is by some Christians used to justify violence, as well as racism, sexism, isolationist thinking, greed, etc.
    Given the holiday season we are in I wonder, do you celebrate Christmas and Easter? Both were after all originally pagan holidays. And Christians more or less co-opted them. It is intriguing to me that in “observing” Ramadan Mr. McLaren was careful to point out that he embraced only what was found in his own faith traditions. I wonder how the first Christians to celebrate Christmas and Easter as a Christian rather than a pagan holiday went about doing so.

    1. I understand you’re continually returning to the point that the Bible can be used to justify violence. The question raised is, is that support (for ‘modern’ violence, at least violence outside of the Old Testament narrative) legitimate within a biblical framework? Can a modern draw from the Old Testament and support an act of violence removed from the context of the Old Testament? We would ask the same of the Muslim and we would come to a conclusion. This conclusion, in fact: Christian’s can’t support acts of violence from their Scripture (violence which takes place external to what’s found in Scripture), whereas Muslims can. That is why, as Joel pointed out, it took centuries for Christians to engage in wars, whereas war was an immediate part of the Islamic identity. However, I don’t suppose you’re really interested in that sort of discussion. You’re content believing that Christians misuse scripture to support violence, and the same might be said of Muslims.

      I’m not really concerned with what people believe. I’m concerned with what the text itself says. And this isn’t an issue where we could be and stay legitimately split.

      As for McLaren celebrating Ramadan, I don’t see what impact celebrating only those traditions that Christianity and Islam share which would validate his actions. I’ll just come right out and say it: on that I’ll never change my mind. Perhaps I would appeal to the Old Testament myself to give a few examples of what happens when God’s people start mixing up their religious traditions.

  10. Joel, you did not point out a single thing about what Brian said or was doing that seemed to show he was supporting Universalism. Nor, do I think his other writings support universalism. As I showed earlier, Brian made specific statements on what he was and was not participating in. You made a broad comment about Brian’s Ramadan post supporting universalism. This is simply not true, I understand that you think his books and blogs support universalism, but that is just your opinion if you can not show any real evidence. If you are going to accuse Brian of supporting the rape of children and murder of the innocent, you need to bring in specific evidence.

    I really do think you guys might be right about the beginning of Christianity and Islam. The first 300 years of Christianity was probably mostly peaceful, the first 300 or so years of Islam probably had a lot of violence.

    Shouldn’t we even be happier then, that some Muslims are turning from their evil, raping and murdering ways? Shouldn’t we encourage the parts that truly are coming from God? Brian was talking about supporting the Muslims in things like, helping the poor and practicing kindness to others. These are not bad things, and there is no fault in practicing them with other religions. Yes, we should stay true to our God and our Bible (as Brian explained in the post) but that doesn’t mean we should not have relationship with other religions.

    There are many things you have not touched up on in your comments Joel. The second half of my original comment on this post seemed to go unnoticed. The Brian McLaren blog might of been just talking about Islam and Brian McLaren, thus you only want comments about those two subjects. But, this post was written based on things I said. I felt like you were trying to make me say things that I didn’t say, so I replied with my original comment on this post. Can you please address that comment?

    1. Joel, you did not point out a single thing about what Brian said or was doing that seemed to show he was supporting Universalism. Nor, do I think his other writings support universalism. As I showed earlier, Brian made specific statements on what he was and was not participating in. You made a broad comment about Brian’s Ramadan post supporting universalism. This is simply not true, I understand that you think his books and blogs support universalism, but that is just your opinion if you can not show any real evidence. If you are going to accuse Brian of supporting the rape of children and murder of the innocent, you need to bring in specific evidence.

      This is the problem – I’ve kept pointing out why I’m saying McLaren is supporting Universalism, but you keep repeating the claim, “No evidence!” Instead of saying, “Eh, that’s not enough,” deal with what I’ve given you.

      When you engage in a holiday of another religion that pays homage to a false god, that is an implicit stamp of approval on universalism, or at the very least some pluralistic form of inclusivism. McLaren has said in multiple interviews that he’s not a “traditional universalist,” but instead always wants to “raise the question.” When you’ve read enough emergent material, you learn that such language means, “I don’t buy into the majority view on this belief, but I lean heavily that way and embrace many of its tenets.” This is reflected more in his writings; after all, if McLaren isn’t a universalist, then what is his teaching on Hell or on what the requirements for salvation are? The problem is he doesn’t see it as an issue of sinners attempting to be redeemed by God, but rather, “…how we can help God in His kingdom.” Source

      At best, McLaren is hiding what he truly believes, but actions speak louder than words. When you participate in an event that is intended to honor a false god, by a religion that supports the rape and murder of “infidels,” it’s hard to interpret such actions as something other than universalistic.

      I really do think you guys might be right about the beginning of Christianity and Islam. The first 300 years of Christianity was probably mostly peaceful, the first 300 or so years of Islam probably had a lot of violence.

      Shouldn’t we even be happier then, that some Muslims are turning from their evil, raping and murdering ways? Shouldn’t we encourage the parts that truly are coming from God?

      You’re completely missing the point. I’m pointing out that the Qur’an and the Hadith were turned to in the first three hundred years of Islam to support their violent expansion. My point is when modern Muslims interpret such passages to incite violence, they aren’t wrong since the vast majority of Muslims from the foundation of Islam for the next thousand years afterwards interpreted the passages the same way. Not so with Christianity, where both Jews and Christians recognized that the Old Testament passages were meant for a specific people group.

      Brian was talking about supporting the Muslims in things like, helping the poor and practicing kindness to others. These are not bad things, and there is no fault in practicing them with other religions. Yes, we should stay true to our God and our Bible (as Brian explained in the post) but that doesn’t mean we should not have relationship with other religions.

      Helping the poor, distributing the wealth of the Church, etc were all to happen within the Church. When we practice such acts with those outside of the faith, we are doing two things:
      1) Saying we can do these things in our own power
      2) Lending credibility to their faith

      We are to do such acts in the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, when you help the poor and they ask, “What causes you to do this,” if you are with your Muslim friends, how do you respond? Do you say, “Through the power of Jesus Christ” or, “Because God wants us to”? Never forget that while we have an obligation to people’s physical needs, we have an equally important obligation to their spiritual needs, something that can’t be met when we’re mixing faiths.

  11. It seems as though you have not given enough evidence to accuse Brian of supporting the rape and murder of the innocent and the support of universalism.

    You have said in the past, “Start providing some evidence for your position, or your comments will be deleted”. For someone who stands on that principle, you do not seem to bring much evidence for your position on Brian McLaren. I have read a lot of “emergent material” and I do not think they are saying, “We lean heavily toward universalism”. That is your opinion and not fact. You came out with a pretty harsh statement against Brian McLaren, and all you seem to have as your defense is interpretations and generalizations of what Brian and the Emergent Church have been saying. You seem to be saying that sense they question their faith and doctrine, they can not truly be a believers.

    Brian was paying homage to his Christian God by participating in Ramadan. He said specifically, “For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran”. He was not going to desert the Bible and pick up the Qu’ran, it just happens to be that there are some similarities with the two books. Brian was very careful to tell us that he was only going to embrace what was found in his own Christian faith.

    I think Minnow made a good point about Christian Holidays like Christmas and Easter, I am curious hear what you think about that comment?

    Please send me the verse that tells us that we can not participate in good acts with other religions? in Matthew 25, when Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats, He explains that when you help the “least of these” you are helping Him. Jesus does not apply the people who help, to one religion. He is not talking about people who claim to be Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Atheist. In Matthew 25 Jesus is talking about those who help the “least of these” are helping Him.

    I would appreciate if you addressed my original comment Joel? I think you tried to make me say many things I wasn’t saying and I spent a lot of time addressing your post about the comment I made.

    1. It seems as though you have not given enough evidence to accuse Brian of supporting the rape and murder of the innocent and the support of universalism.

      Enough evidence? It seems I said this in a previous comment, “This is the problem – I’ve kept pointing out why I’m saying McLaren is supporting Universalism, but you keep repeating the claim, “No evidence!” Instead of saying, “Eh, that’s not enough,” deal with what I’ve given you.

      At this point, what this shows me is:
      1) You’ve never stated what quantified “enough” in terms of evidence
      2) This is the ONLY argument you have, meaning you really have nothing to add to the discussion (which, to be quite honest, you’ve literally added nothing to the discussion in all your comments)

      So, to put this as simply as I can – show me where McLaren isn’t a universalist. I’ve provided sufficient evidence (including quotes and links) showing that, at the very best, McLaren is a “universalist lite.”

      You have said in the past, “Start providing some evidence for your position, or your comments will be deleted”. For someone who stands on that principle, you do not seem to bring much evidence for your position on Brian McLaren. I have read a lot of “emergent material” and I do not think they are saying, “We lean heavily toward universalism”. That is your opinion and not fact. You came out with a pretty harsh statement against Brian McLaren, and all you seem to have as your defense is interpretations and generalizations of what Brian and the Emergent Church have been saying. You seem to be saying that sense they question their faith and doctrine, they can not truly be a believers.

      If you want to take that route, then I can argue that everything is an interpretation. I am currently looking at a computer, but whatever value I place on this computer is an interpretation. Likewise, if someone says, “2+2=4,” then we have a cold hard mathematical fact. But when we add an evaluative comment to the fact, then we have an interpretation, but an interpretation can be factual. It is up to you to show me how my interpretation is false. “Well that’s an interpretation” does not suffice as a refutation.

      Brian was paying homage to his Christian God by participating in Ramadan. He said specifically, “For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran”. He was not going to desert the Bible and pick up the Qu’ran, it just happens to be that there are some similarities with the two books. Brian was very careful to tell us that he was only going to embrace what was found in his own Christian faith.

      If you were to actually study Islam, you’d learn that when you celebrate one of their holidays with them that you’re lending validity to their faith. Though Christians are called to fast and pray before God, it is for completely different reasons than Ramadan. When you go to a Muslim’s house or to a Mosque to celebrate Ramadan, in their eyes you are saying, “I see your belief as truthful.” As Christians, that is not the message we are to send to those of other false faiths. If he really just wanted to embrace what he saw in his own faith, then do that without celebrating Ramadan.

      Let me add to this to the discussion; celebrating Ramadan is a mockery to the martyr’s of the Middle East, from the time of Muhammad to the modern era. These are people who refused to submit to Islamic authority and bow before their holidays and they were killed for a belief. To say, “Actually, it’s not a big deal” is the equivalent of saying that these thousands of people were stupid for not celebrating these Islamic holidays. I, for one, am not prepared to make such an arrogant and ignorant statement, but apparently you are.

      I think Minnow made a good point about Christian Holidays like Christmas and Easter, I am curious hear what you think about that comment?

      To be honest, it wasn’t a good point at all. Ramadan is not a “Christianized” holiday; when we celebrate Ramadan (as it is supposed to be celebrated considering Islam isn’t a buffet religion) then we are paying homage to a false god, whether we realize it or not.

      Please send me the verse that tells us that we can not participate in good acts with other religions? in Matthew 25, when Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats, He explains that when you help the “least of these” you are helping Him. Jesus does not apply the people who help, to one religion. He is not talking about people who claim to be Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Atheist. In Matthew 25 Jesus is talking about those who help the “least of these” are helping Him.

      You do realize that’s not the only thing Jesus said, right? To take one passage and go, “This supports my case!” while ignoring the numerous other passages telling us to worship God alone, to worship Christ, to not be unequally yoked with nonbelievers, to remain holy before God, etc is, well, wrong.

      2 Corinthians 6:14 comes to mind, specifically on the word “yoked” which in the Greek indicates a close bond. Considering that Christian service is to take place among those who are close-knit (because, as I pointed out and you ignored, Christian service is a dual activity), this verse would apply. Likewise, how are you to share with Christ when the people you serve with do not even believe in Christ themselves?

      In the end, when you’re using a holiday dedicated to a false god to serve with the people who worship that false god, you’re yoking yourself to those people and subjecting yourself to that false god. It’s simply a situation Christians shouldn’t be in.

      In the end, it is up to you to prove that my opinion is wrong or that my evidence is not enough. Simply saying so doesn’t make it so. If it did, my responses to you would be much, much shorter and would simply be “Nuh uh!” Instead, I choose to engage in intellectual discussions that actually explain positions rather than rely on talking points. I’d ask that you do the same.

  12. When we began celebrating the now Chritianized holidays and actually now secularized holidays of Easter and Christmas we did so in an environment where those holidays had a much stronger pagan meaning than they do now so my point was actually very applicable.
    The bottom line is, I guess, that we simply do not agree about what Brian McLaren has said/written and what he did by walking along side some Muslim friends during Ramadan. You say scripture is clear about not having anything to do with other religions and expand that interpretation to mean we should not even work with non-Christians. When I read and study scripture I do not come away with that same understanding. You seem to be saying we are only to help the poor who are Christians already “Helping the poor, distributing the wealth of the Church, etc were all to happen within the Church.” I do not find that dictate in scripture. As Striker pointed out, we are expected to help “the least of these”, we are also to love our enemies, and in so far as we are able we are to live at peace with those around us. The Bible not only instructs us as to how we are to interact with our weaker brothers it tells us how we are to live in the world (as foreigners).
    As for Striker’s request that you address some of his original arguements I too would be interested in what you have to say about his points regarding free will and hell. I do not think you can say that Brian McLaren is a universalist simply because he does not advocate an eternal place of punishment (the traditional idea of hell).

    1. It’s a bit unfair to ask that I address all your points and Striker’s points when both of you manage to continually ignore mine and twist mine. I’ll address what I see as relevant to the discussion; if something is off in left field or a red herring, it’s going to be ignored.

      Your point about Christmas and Easter still isn’t a good one. For one, both were “Christianized” and thus has competing interests between Christians and pagans. Whereas the pagan down the street might still use either holiday to worship his own god, the Christian was able to use the holiday for an entirely different reason. This is not the case with Ramadan, specifically with what McLaren did. You are comparing apples and oranges, or to make this clearer, you’re committing the fallacy of equivocation.

      Secondly, I never said we were only supposed to serve Christians. I said that when it comes to serving the poor, regardless of their religion, those we serve with must be Christians. Christian service is always a dual activity; it serves the physical needs of a person and the spiritual needs of a person. If those you serve with do not have the same interest in the spiritual needs of those you serve, then this will certainly cause a problem. Likewise, the whole point and idea of Christian service is to rely on the Holy Spirit; how is this to be done when you work with those who do not have the Holy Spirit? If those of another religion want to come into your church for a service activity and understand that you will be addressing both the physical and spiritual aspect of those you serve, then so be it. But if it’s one of these “inter-faith” meetings where all religions are viewed as equal, then forget it, Christians are to have nothing to do with such events.

  13. P. S. I won’t bother asking you to address the 5 points I made on 12/12, but I am still interested in what you think the Bible means when they call Jesus fully man.

    1. I responded, but I’ll elaborate a bit more:

      To say that Christ was fully human means that He had a human essence. In the incarnation the person of Jesus had both a human essence and a divine essence. This does not mean that He shared in all the accidental (I’m using the philosophical definition here, not the layperson definition) aspects of being human. Likewise, to be divine in essence doesn’t mean everything the Father could do, Jesus could also do. Jesus emptied Himself of certain attributes, but still held onto the divine essence (for an essence is not defined by its parts).

  14. Okay Joel, I understand that you think Brian McLaren is obviously a universalist (just as much as you think 2+2=4). The problem is that you do not have specific evidence to point that direction. You have NO direct quotes of Brian saying he believes universalism or the Muslim religion. In fact we actually have the opposite, where Brian McLaren explains that he will stay true to the Bible and his Christian faith.

    You think that sense Brian is observing Ramadan he is going against the Bible and “mixing faiths”. I guess that depends on what we consider is “mixing faiths”. I think you mix faiths by adding things onto your faith. If I said, “I will praise my God and your god”, I would be mixing my faith. Brian made sure to say that he was only praising his God. Now, if I said to another Muslim friend, “I will be obedient to my God and participate with you in feeding the poor”, can you find fault in that? There is a HUGE difference. My Bible already tells me to help the poor and be kind to others, thus I am not adding anything onto my faith from the Muslims faith by participating with them in doing those things. Brian was NOT saying he was going to attribute helping the poor and being kind to others to the Muslim God. I think he was just showing that the faiths have some similarities and those sort of things can be celebrated on the same holiday.

    I think it is incredibly important to show the places where Christianity and other religions are alike. By NO way am I saying to mix the religions. But, if other religions are showing qualities of God, why not point them out? You do not get to a unbeliever by saying, “you are completely wrong”. If you want to reach the “lost” you must show them the places God truly dwells. You do this by saying that their desire to help the poor, comes from Jesus Christ. You point to the places that Jesus is already moving in and draw that out.

    You told Minnow that Christians were using the Christmas holiday, when it was originally used to praise a pagan God, to praise Jesus Christ. I really do not see a difference in what Brian is doing. He has NOT said that he was using Ramadan to praise the Muslim God. He specifically said he was using it to help his walk in Christ. Why are you willing to say that Christians used Christmas, “for an entirely different reason” and not say the same about Brian and Ramadan?

    If you still think I have “nothing to add to the discussion” about Brian McLaren and Ramadan, then fine. We will need to agree to disagree. I have already admitted that you have researched the Qur’an and Hadith more then me. If you think those are the two things you need to know to have anything to say about the “Brian McLaren – Really?” blog then you have already “won” because I know very little. However, the second half of this Post was addressed to my position on Eternal Punishment and Hell. The second half of my original comment addressed that issue. You have ignored that half of my comment, and I would appreciate if you would reply to it?

  15. This: “Helping the poor, distributing the wealth of the Church, etc were all to happen within the Church.” is a direct quote from you. Thus you did say we are to only help the poor within the Church. It may not be what you intended to say but it is what you said.

    To try to spell out the point I was making by bringing up Christmas and Easter more clearly–perhaps, just maybe, Brian McLaren is “Christianizing” Ramadan by celebrating those elements found in the celebration of Ramadan that are embraced within the Christian faith at the same time that Ramadan is celebrated.

    I am not, no matter how many times you say to the contrary that I am, trying to twist what you say. I DO NOT CARE whether or not Islam can support violence, et als, by its holy writings. I am NOT advocating a belief in Islam. I am NOT saying it is a way to God. I am saying the Muslims I know DO NOT promote or practice violence. Perhaps they are not considered very good Muslims. Still I think they comprise the majority.

    I DO CARE that the first 300 years of Christianity were more closely lived in accordance with the Bible than the last 1700 years have been. In fact, it breaks my heart that we have twisted and distorted scripture to try and make it fit our greed, hunger for power, and self-centerness. I am dismayed that the vast majority of American Christians do not walk out their faith in their every day lives in a manner that is respresentitive of scripture but rather seem to think being a patriotic, American is the same thing as a God-fearing Christian. And quite frankly I am angered by the whole my-book-is-better-than-their-book-even-if-the-walking-out-of-my-life-doesn’t-show-it attitude so many fundamentalist Christians seem to have.

    The only reason I brought up the idea of our ability to distort scripture is because people have done so through out history, all the while claiming they are only saying what the Bible says. I still see it today. People take passages out of context, ignore the cultural in which the scripture was written, and act as though scripture was originally written in modern English. I do not mean to besmirch your character by questioning your knowledge of the Qu’ran. I only mean to say that unless you have read it cover to cover, studied it in context, and know it from its original language you may need to be careful about presenting yourself as an expert on what it says/means.

    I CARE about the practicing of my faith and the witness my life makes to those I might never actually talk to about the specifics of my faith. (Which is NOT saying I do not give an answer when I am asked). I CARE MOST about those portions of scripture that have been written to me as a follower of Christ, for my encouragement, instruction, and admonishment. I HOPE that both my walk and my talk will be seen by my Jesus as a true testament of His presence, His reconciliation, and His redemption in my life.

    Perhaps I have not understood the points you were trying to make. Maybe how I recieved what you said in this post has so skewed your intent that my response came across at completely irrelevant. Whatever the case, it seems the water is so sufficiently muddied now that continuing the dialogue is fruitless. I do not enjoy feeling angry and frustrated because what I am saying is deemed off track or
    not of value and I suspect you probably have a similar feeling. May the new year bring you new vision, Minnow.

  16. I understand that he Holiday season is busy, I just wanted to make sure you were planning on replying to my post? If not, please tell me. I hope you are having a wonderful New Years :).

    1. Not really. Neither you or Minnow said anything new. I’ve had multiple people read through these comments to see if I was missing something, but the consensus seems quite clear that you guys are simply restating your original points, which are the points in contention. So there’s really little to no reason to try to reply when everything you’ve said is simply repetition of an already failed point.

      Hope you had a wonderful holiday season! 🙂

  17. But you have not even replied to the second half of my original comment :(. This Blog was not a bash on Brian McLaren for what he was doing about Ramadan, it was addressed to a comment I made. I did NOT think you were representing what I was truly saying well, so I spent many hours writing a reply. This original reply I made, was never really addressed by you, especially the second half.

    Did you have an “Emergent” or Muslim read through the post and comments? Those are the people you are mostly talking about in this post.

    1. Had you raised new points or good points, I would have responded. Fact is, what you were saying was no different than comments from the other post or the comments from Minnow on this post. You were simply repeating what others had said (and what I had responded to).

      Why should I waste my time with someone who admits to having not studying Islam, yet is so quickly to say, “One can celebrate Ramadan and simply ‘Christianize’ it” without knowing a single thing about Islamic culture or exactly what Ramadan entails? That is the definition of a useless debate and, to be quite honest, it seems you have an opinion, but not the knowledge to back that opinion up. If you had studied Islam, I’m sure this would go differently, but why should I waste my time when you admit ignorance of a subject, but still continue to debate it?

  18. Joel you saying that seems to be ignorant in itself. Both Minnow and I both have told you right off the bat that we had not studied Islam or Ramadan. We were just going based on what Brian McLaren said in his post. You told us that Brian was supporting Universalism when Brian made specific examples of how he wasn’t. You want Brian to be saying something he is NOT saying. That is the only problem I had with your Ramadan post.

    When you began to address my position on Hell, you began to go into a topic that I have done A LOT of research in. I have studied the Bibles position on Eternal Punishment for several years. This is a subject I know MUCH about. I brought up reasonable questions and examples of what the Bible says about Hell and NONE of them were addressed by you. You accused me of saying things that I was NOT saying when it comes to eternal Hell (nothing to do with Ramadan), so I spent much time replying to those accusations. You hadn’t even acknowledged my original Comment. I think that I deserve a reply, especially to the second half of my original comment. I am not ignorant in the subject of Eternal Hell, so I do think you should reply to that part of my comment.

    1. That’s my point. If you know nothing of Islam, then how can you say that McLaren isn’t supporting universalism by participating in Ramadan? If I say, “I’m going to join in a Canaanite festival for one of their gods, but I’m only going to participate in some of activities that align with my faith,” then I’m still supporting the Canaanite god. I’m still a universalist. In this particular instance, even if I engage in eating food with the Canaanites, I’m still supporting their sacrifice of children to their bull-god. It’s still universalism, no matter how you cut it. Likewise, if I participate in Ramadan, I can’t just adhere to the “Christian elements” while celebrating with Muslims. I might do so in my mind and heart, but to the Muslims they don’t know that. Like it or not, that’s universalism lite, no matter how you try to defend it.

      As for your comments on Hell, I didn’t need to respond because your point was repetitive. You asked how can a temporal action require an eternal punishment. That had already been explained three times prior, namely that because God holds the eternal standard of goodness, any evil act against Him is eternally bad. It is infinitely bad.

      The Free Will argument was illogical, so it was ignored. It’s illogical because when applied to similar circumstances, it cancels itself out. For instance, if I choose to drink and drive and I end up paralyzed, does this mean my choice to drink and drive wasn’t made under free will? Of course not – my ability is limited because of the choice I made. The fact is, the choice was deadline at the point I attempted to drive and ended up paralyzed. Just because something is a libertine choice doesn’t mean it’s free of a deadline (otherwise free will doesn’t exist since, at the greatest possible point, we must make a choice on everything before we’re dead…but this is superfluous since all choices come with a deadline).

  19. Well I guess that is that then :/

    I am sorry I wasted my time with the rest of the stuff I said, because you seem to be only willing to talk about the things you can twist around to fit your already memorized arguments.

    It is probably a good time to cut this conversation to an end. I hope you find a way to reshape the world through rational and relational Christianity, even when that Christianity doesn’t see eye to eye with you.

  20. Heh. I love the passive-aggressiveness of some of the comments, and the blatant lack of it in subsequent replies. A “:)” doesn’t really take the edge off the underlying tone.

    At risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to miss these threads if this is the end of them! I mean, I’m not the moderator, but I hope this single incident doesn’t discourage from commentary in the future!

    And just to add my own little bit of mind, I don’t think most of us can, without very extreme premeditation, and deliberate mediation during the course of the occurrence, celebrate/observe/recognize/participate-in other religious celebrations without getting caught up in them either in body, mind or spirit. You’re either very dull-witted and ignorant, or extremely strong-willed, to participate and not be caught up the celebration or rituals. I would argue you can’t celebrate without consciously succumbing to the ideals of the celebration. Even if you don’t admit it publicly, in your heart I would say you rationalize what and why you’re participating, and that doubt is the devils playground. What’s that warning about being unequally yoked?

    Joel! When is your next controversial blog? We’re all biting at the bit!

    -J

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