The Expansion of Islam – Two Perspectives, One Distorted Outcome

Blog Signature

             Here is a quick write up on the expansion of Islam according to a couple of Christian books I am working through on Islam (one by a former Muslim scholar turned Evangelical and the second put out by Caleb Project).   I wanted to post it in order to get some dialogue going on our cultural understanding of Islam.  It is distressing to me that there are so many shared similarities between Christianity and Islam, and yet it seems that Christians are generally willing to go on picking the speck out of Muhammad’s eye while the plank is still firmly in place in their own.  Here are the works in question:

Braswell, George W. Islam: Its Prophet, Peoles, Politics and Power

 islambraswell

Swartley, Keith E. ed. Encountering the World of Islam

 islamswartley

             It is certainly no secret that history is written by the “winners.”  However, in a nation that embraces freedom of speech and other inalienable rights, it is also no secret that nationalism, political affiliation, regional prejudices, and religious views will create lenses through which we view human history.  Unfortunately, whatever the cause may be, the effect is always a myopic view of the past.  If this is indeed indicative of how we “do history” as human beings, the careful and discerning consumption of accounts from a variety of traditions is the student’s best hope at deriving the truth.  All philosophies of history aside, is it any more reasonable to base historicity on the account of a rival than it is to assert some sort of naive prime facie acceptance of an institution’s self-history?  In the spirit of compassionate and heartfelt ministry, Braswell and Colin Chapman (“The Spread and Development of Islam” in Swartley) both present histories covering the expansion of Islam that soften the blow of the nationalist American and religious Judeo/Christian lenses, but one still cannot shake the feeling that the agenda colors the product.

              Braswell claims that there are no less than five causes for the rapid spread of Islam.  First, the Muslims encourage adherents to have large families.  The outcome is a kind of grassroots population surge of constituents who are born and raised in the tenets of the faith.  Second, Islam has strong roots in a mercantile mentality.  Muslims have always been accustomed to adapting to life within distant cultures, because that is where travel associated with trade took them.  Third, Islam is a “missionary religion.”  Consequently, it is the duty of both individual Muslims and Muslim communities to spread the message of Muhammad to all corners of civilization.  Fourth, Islam is presentable in simple to understand terms.  While the relative complexity of Islamic theology is debatable, the interface that Muslim communities offer to non-Muslims is straight forward and easily disseminated.  Finally, Braswell asserts that Islam is receptive of cultural distinctives, and is willing to integrate national or regional beliefs into itself.

              Chapman cites that the spread of Islam was due to at least two reasons that Braswell does not breach.  First, Chapman believes that Islam experienced prodigious growth largely because the Christian church failed to execute its own mission.  The contention is that Christianity was so schismatic and untoward in matters of institutional propriety that it was impotent to stop the rise of a rival.  Second, Chapman explains that Islam succeeded in imperialistic terms largely because of conquest and subsequent economic pressures exerted on those among the conquered that refused to immediately convert.  Chapman is careful to note that the heavily culturalized view of Islamic military expansion as a cruel and bloody campaign against the infidel is hardly an accurate depiction.

              While the spread of Islam may be alarming to many Christians and the exact details of how jihad is actually carried out are fuzzy, it is mostly tragic to see how the conflict between Christian/Islamic and Western/Middle Eastern factions has distorted some of the more meaningful contributions of Islamic expansion.  Many will be shocked, if not struck with disbelief, to find out that Algebra, many of our medical advances, and educational system were all products of Islam.  It was necessary, but (I suspect) wholly ineffective for both authors to mention the multitudinous contributions that Muslims have made to the joys and comforts of modern life.  What will ultimately prove ineffective about their assertions is the continued blind adherence that many (Christians included) will continue to place in nationalism, political affiliation, regional prejudices, religious views, et al.

Advertisements

39 Comments

  1. Kung’s book on Islam is a good exposition on the similarities and distinctions between Christianity and Islam.

    Reply

  2. Joshua,

    Good to see you back on the site. I am checking out Kung right now – I might have to pick up a few of his works. Thanks for the heads up.

    Reply

  3. One of the books I received for review from Baker is “GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Post Modern Turn” and it has some really great stuff on Islam. When I review it I’ll make sure to reference this post. I think that our interactions with Islam are going to be increasingly important.

    Oh, and I totally agree about Kung.

    Reply

  4. I also enjoyed Karen Armstrong’s book, “Mohammad”.
    Thanx for the quick review of why the writers feel Islam is spreading.

    Here are some more thoughts:
    Maybe Islam still uses hell correctly — see this study, reviewed by one of my favorite sites.

    From one atheist’s perspective: Religion is meant to fill gaps, especially in times of trouble and insecurity – See this study.

    Islam is in the right place at the right time. The scary thing is that it DOES share much with Christianity — all the nastiness of the Old Testament. Paul overhauled Judaism, someone needs to overhaul Islam. Science has a way to check itself, religion prides itself in perseverance.

    Reply

  5. Hi Shawn,

    How Jihad is actually carried out is not fuzzy at all. It is “Fighting in the way of Allah, to make Islam dominate over all other religions”

    Nothing fuzzy about that, and this is how the Islamic activists have been “doing Jihad” for centuries.

    Algebra and medical advances were developed by SECULAR scientists and thinkers (not all Muslim), and the only “Islamic” thing about it was that it was under Islamic rule and was done mostly in Arabic.

    It had nothing to do with Islam the belief system. This is a myth that is being perpetuated by Islamic apologists and propagandists, and many people (yourself included) had fallen into this trap.

    The advance of science and inquiry was enabled by secular open-minded rulers. When the religious leaders had the upper hand, all these advances were halted and suppressed.

    Read my blog th3cow.wordpress.com for a better, more accurate overall perspective om Islam.

    Reply

  6. @th3cow: I like your point about secular muslims — I knew many of them when I lived in Pakistan and India — they fight a hard battle there.

    But going to your website, I see the very disturbing quote in your “about”

    I hope that one day the Land will be restored to its rightful owners – the Jewish people…<

    As long as people like you (Jewish), and conservative Christians, believe in a "choosen people" and thus choosen lands — be they Hindu, Muslim, Jew or Christian graft-ons, humanity is doomed to interminable violence.

    Reply

  7. th3cow,

    I could not have written a more perfect demonstration of my point. Thanks for helping me out on that one!

    Shawn

    Reply

  8. Sabio,

    I appreciate your point, but we will just have to “agree to disagree” on the subject of the ownership over the Land.

    Another issue that you might want to re-look at Karem Armstrong – a propagandist for Islam, driven by a combination of guilt and misinformation. Her books make good impressions on the ill-informed.

    I strongly recommend that you make your own inquiries, going to the source, rather than forming your opinions on the basis of second and third hand information from pseudo-experts with agenda.

    Reply

  9. @ th3cow
    — Actually, I recommend Armstrong because she tells the story in such a way as to lead the reader to be sympathetic to Islam. Thus you can understand Islam as a peace-loving Muslim may, to some degree. But I think both Islam and its “holy” Quran are deadly, dangerous items. I have lived among Muslims for quite a while. I think the virus of fanatic Islam as the virus of tribal Judaism and tribal Christianity is dangerous. So please don’t view me as an Islam sympathist. I have read a bit more than Armstrong.

    Going to the source (as you chided me to do) shows that in THE COW (your name) Koran 2:286 we see:

    “Give us victory over the disbelieving folk.”

    This is the prayer of your people, the Muslims and the Christians. Mohammad just happened to be honest about it. Odd that you choose this for your handle.

    I am curious how many of the people on this site support that Jews should be the RIGHTFUL owners of Palestine? I see people are afraid to touch that one. It makes out sweet religion all too dirty to talk actual implications of our beliefs, doesn’t it?

    Reply

  10. Sabio,

    I most certainly do not believe the Jews have any claim whatsoever to the geographical space which makes up modern Israel.

    And those Christians who do are hung up on bad readings of the book of Revelation and are confused as to the nature of “Covenants.”

    Jesus and Paul were very concerned with the immanent destruction of Jerusalem as a sign and justification of Jesus’ message. One of the reasons that the “Land” has almost no place in the New Testament is because what was once thought to be the privilege of Israel – Land, Law, and Covenant – was radically universalized by Jesus and the Apostles.

    And even IF (and it’s a BIG IF) they did, they would certainly come under judgement from YHWH for their abuse of the Palestinians. So completely atrocious the way they are treated. Jeremiah mourns for them in Abraham’s bosom.

    Reply

  11. One confirmed agreement, Reed and Shawn to go. I think I know where the other two boys fall.
    Now, why did none of you speak up against th3cow?
    Maybe Shawn was, but I couldn’t tell by his comment.

    Reply

  12. @Sabio,

    What Hunt and Reed said – ditto.

    Also, in fact, I don’t think the “real” answer to who “owns” Palestine dirties Christianity at all. You’re baiting again. :0)

    There is a group of fundamentalist zionists that are very vocal, but they are not the univocal opinion of Christianity. You are making a hasty generalization.

    @Reed,

    I think I could answer th3cow intelligently on the matter, but like Tony I don’t think it would matter. He just wants to fight, and feels like his own opinion is the qualification of “good research.” So, he has tried to set the parameters of the argument ahead of time in order to stack the deck in his favor. I just don’t feel like beating my head against a wall.

    Shawn

    Reply

  13. Reed

    Frankly, it is embarrassing that the group of Christians that is most vocal about Islam is also the most misinformed. I appreciate your candor regarding your ignorance, and I am also in that boat with you. However, I am finding that it really is not that difficult to apply research skills that I already have to another field. This is why I think I am so frustrated. It seems that there may not be a clear voice coming from the Church, because many do not care. This makes the fundamentalists who think all Muslims are violent terrorists even more dangerous.

    Shawn

    Reply

  14. All,

    I come late to this thread. Clearly th3cow was trolling for blogs about Islam so he could promote his “book.” I completely lost interest in what he had to say with his “come over to my blog and get the real truth about Islam” thing. I have no patience for that sort of thing.

    Of course Muslims have made positive contributions to society, and so have Christians, and Jews, and Buddhists, and Hindus and Witches, and so have Atheists. Only a boob claims that the group that he doesn’t belong to has never made positive contributions to society. Its a very unsophisticated form of bigotry.

    Reed said it best, even if modern Palestine did belong to the Jews [I don’t believe it does], they would be [and I think probably still are] under judgment from YHWH because of their unjust treatment of the Palestinians.

    Reply

  15. @ Shawn — you are so quick to scream, “you are baiting”. Others answered the questions peacefully and honestly. I asked several Christian friends I have if they though Jews were the rightful owners of Israel and they definitely thought so. American politics is partially driven by this version of a Christian mentality. Have you heard of the book “The Family”?

    I fault Christians who do not speak against Zionism — against their fellow Christians. But it is like Muslims speaking against Muslims — they don’t want to attack their own tribe.

    Reply

  16. @ JS

    You said (agreeing with Reed),

    even if modern Palestine did belong to the Jews [I don’t believe it does], they would be [and I think probably still are] under judgment from YHWH because of their unjust treatment of the Palestinians.

    Where is your evidence that “YHWH” is judging Jews for their crimes against Palestinians???

    Is it like floods on New Orleans? (we all know that homophobic rhetoric) Or Tornadoes? Or does YHWH cause Muslim fanatics to attack them as a form of judgment.

    Do you really believe in a deity who actively punishes humans on Earth nowadays in real concrete ways? And you can actually tell when he is doing it?
    Wow !

    Reply

  17. Sabio,

    I feel that you aren’t looking deep enough and are making a caricature of how “speak” of God.

    I’m going to go out on a limb (correct me if I’m wrong) and assume that you support a justice system. I’m going to assume that you believe that if someone willfully commits a crime that they should suffer the legal consequences for such actions? Yes? It is, after all, the foundation of most societies.

    How then can you get hot and heavy about a conception of “punitive” action taken by God in response to injustice? A casual reading of the OT reveals just how concerned the God is Israel is with care for the outsider, the poor, etc… So Jews are well aware of how YHWH expects them to treat the Palestinians.

    Now, since St. Augustine, it has been rather uncontested Christian tradition that “evil” is not a thing in the world but the absence of “good.” That is, The Good. God’s “judgement” of Israel can be more thoughtfully conceived of as the “absence” of God’s presence.

    Can we tell when God is “doing” this? Yes and no. There is no methodology for determining such a thing. But it can be empirically observed to be sure. How else can the constant violence, fear, hatred and injustice be anything BUT the consequences of “sin?” I’m assuming – if you’ll allow me a ‘generous translation’ – you have some moral value system, deviation from which you would consider “wrong doing” of some kind, allowing for certain cultural relativisms most likely.

    The Christian would say that there are consequences for “wrong doing” and that can be conceived of by the traditional word “judgement.”

    I guess I just don’t see much of anything controversial in mine or James’ statement.

    Reply

  18. Reed, Tony,

    Sorry to get who said what mixed up.

    Sabio,

    In addition to what Tony already said, I also believe in the Resurrection and the the coming of Christ to judge the quick and the dead. I believe the Jews have failed to live up to their covenant obligations, and are therefore “under judgment.” I don’t feel the need to assign events such as tornados and floods to the judgment of God, this is because I have faith that God in his time will bring all things into reconciliation, and while this means judgment, it also means mercy. To me this faith in God to set everything straight makes more sense than to have have faith in science, et al. to set everything straight. I understand we disagree on the last point, but I thought we were focusing on what we do agree on: Modern Israelis are being unjust to the Palestinians. Incidentally, I also strongly agree that crazy fundamentalist views concerning Israel have a lot to do with American politics. I intend to talk further about that in my upcoming series on Eschatology (I’m doing reseach). Have a wonderful evening!

    Reply

  19. @Tony,

    OK, you guys have no evidence that your god is punishing Israel. Nor can it be “empirically observed” as Tony suggests. Yes I can agree on a justice system, for this discussion, and looking at all the injustices in the world, not all are suffering the same constant violence, fear, hatred and injustice. Much escapes your god.

    Sure, I can agree that often bad action has bad consequences, so in a generous translation I guess I could let you get away with equating that to “YHWY Punishes” — but you are smart guys. You should know that there is no direct divine punishment going on. It is like you want to have it both ways. You want to use all the standard hackneyed expressions of your faith-culture — ones used violently over the years, and yet back down to more liberal interpretations stripped on real meaning when the going gets tough.

    There is no god out there punishing and rewarding good and bad. Much wrong doing gets by for decades and decades (Soviet Union, Burma, Korea … heck even the USA).

    @ JS

    Running to the final judgement is not an answer — you can have all the faith you want in final “reconciliation”. But you said your god is acting NOW and actively punishing Jews.

    Yes, we agree on the injustices of Israelis. And I think Palestinians and neighbors are also incredibly wrong. Yes, we agree on that. I just see absolutely no evidence or even hint of suggestion that an ALL POWERFUL creator of Justice is rewarding and punishing anyone. History proves that wrong. You only have faith in reward and punishment in your afterlife, goes it don’t happen here. Sure, bad action often reap bad results. Buddhists explain that in natural terms without a big deity intervening. The theological statements are superfluous. What gets me about them is that many Christians use them seriously to explain “brain cancer”, “tornadoes”, “floods”, “Tsunamis”, “war” — you know very well, you listen to the same news I do. And now you are using the same language and thought. It is a dangerous thought. That is why I am speaking out on it — even if it is on this Christian site. But you guys are bright and have good dialogue skills so I thought I’d take a chance and see if any of you get my point.

    @ Reed: Great people can hold terrible beliefs. Remember, I use to be Christian, graduated from a Christian College and work with almost nothing but Christians. So, no, the people I know are not “either horrible people or terribly confused”. That is like the “Jesus was either a madman or god” false dichotomy. We can all believe very isolated odd things. Heck, that is how I look at you guys and how you look at me.

    Reply

    1. Sabio,

      At the risk of making it seem as if we are ganging up on you I did want to make a quick response. It is funny that you feel that I interpret Christian theology “liberally” evacuating it of it’s content when amongst the majority of my denomination and some of my friends I am decidedly in their “traditionalist” camp (though never ‘conservative’ thank God).

      There have been more than a few comments on this site, including the one you just made, which reveal your painful lack of un-charicatured knowledge of the history of Christian thought and of the content of sophisticated Christian theology. It is the hard-literalist-conservative-pentecostalism of your youth that is the encroacher on the Christian scene of theology. I dig from much deeper wells and if that makes it seem “liberal” then it shows how Christian theology gets distorted in biblicist evangelicalism, not that I’m using Christian language in vacuous ways.

      I might recommend a couple books myself that might help you understand more if you want to keep talking with sweeping generalizations about what Christians believe

      This is the most widely used introduction to Christian Theology currently in Seminary and University use and includes 100 pages of “Historical Theology” as well. There is an accompanying reader if you want to dig more in depth.

      This set is for more in depth study but is the gold standard for a comprehensive intro to the history of Christian thought.

      Reply

  20. Sabio,

    First, if similar conversations in the past are any indication (and they may or may not be), this is going to get very frustrating for you, simply because I am post-modern, because I’m slippery when it comes to words like ‘proof.’

    You are mis-characterizing what I said about Israelis, I never said that God was “acting NOW…” or was “actively punishing the Jews.” I said that I THINK that PROBABLY the Jews are under God’s judgment. That phrase “under judgment” might mean actively punishing to you, but it certainly does not mean that to me.

    When you say that there is absolutely no evidence of a Just God, and that “history proves that wrong,” I must disagree. I don’t like universal statements such as “there is absolutely no evidence” because they’re hard to prove. Maybe your statement was rhetoric, and that’s fine. I also don’t think that history can ‘prove’ anything necessarily. History is so subjective that it may convince me of one thing, and convince you of a completely opposite thing. History provides evidence, but rarely proof.

    And so I come to the jist of my contention: I can, and indeed I do rely on the future Justice of God, but I don’t necessarily rely on it blindly. The Kingdom of God, which is the framework for this Justice (as well as this mercy and reconciliation) that I’m talking about is both a future and present circumstance. Not that the all things are set straight yet, just that through the acts of Christ that process has begun. I believe that Christians are called to be part of that process, a task that we have failed miserably at in a lot of cases.

    As I alluded to before, the Resurrection (both a past and future event) and the future coming of Christ are my ultimate solutions for the problems of evil and injustice. I believe that there is plenty of evidence that a just God did indeed intervene in human history; there is plenty of evidence that there was indeed a man, Jesus Christ, who was crucified by the Romans and was Resurrected by the power of God. I cannot objectively prove all that anymore than you can objectively disprove it. None of this means that I am compelled to run around calling earthquakes and tsunamis the wrath of God; quite to the contrary.

    You may think me unreasonable for believing all of this Resurrection and Reconcilliation business and that’s fine. I’m post-modern, remember. The ultimate modernist reproach of being unreasonable does not faze me. You may also think my thinking is dangerous, but with all due respect, sir, your last post made it seem that the only thinking you deem safe is your own.

    Reply

  21. @Sabio,

    Your rhetoric is taking a decidedly antagonistic tone. I am assuming it is rhetoric (by offering you a “generous translation”), because I have not “screamed” anything at you or anyone on this site. I may be blind to it, but I feel like my posts are very reasonable and tolerant of others.

    How is it you take issue with my pointing out that you are baiting and then launch into a tirade that is only remotely related to the post? (Though, fairly, it is on topic with how the comments have developed – but only because you have pushed them that direction) Just be honest, you are “grinding an axe” here – or are we supposed to translate generously and pretend that you’re not really doing it?

    Just so I’m not misinterpreted here: you and others have been very critical of how condescending you think Christians are in your blogging, but are you aware of how condescending all of this “generous translation” crap is?

    Shawn

    Reply

  22. @Shawn
    Concerning my Generous Translationscrap“:

    Since you guys apparently believe in: YhWy, Cherubim, Archangel Michael, Archangel Raphael, Jesus-Spirit and a whole slew of other heavenly hosts. , I need to do “generous translations” and assume that besides literally believing this stuff, your mind is also using these as metaphors to make yourself better people depending on how you tie them in with the rest of your life. That is my generous translation method. I use it when I hear stuff I think is bizarre. Otherwise, I would have to assume you are absolutely loony.

    Maybe you consider that condescending but in your worldview, I am damn wrong — I will burn in hell. Which is more condescending, Shawn? When we are honest with each other, the raw facts are offending, no two ways about it. Remember, I live in a world where I have to hide my beliefs. You are at a cultural advantage in this country and on the conversations on this blog.

    So you will have to pardon the generous translation. For it is the only way I can have dialogue with you meaningfully in my head.

    I guess the only reasons you may waste time on dialoguing with me is:

    1) To try to save my soul (I don’t think you care about that — and probably see me as hopeless)

    2) to demonstrate to other readers how to counter atheists

    3) to hone your intellectual skills (I doubt I am doing you much good here)

    4) to practice patience and other virtues (hmmmmmm?)

    When I started this post, I was just concerned that you guys weren’t speaking out against Zionism. But everyone has clarified that by claiming that either they are unfamiliar or they don’t have time for folks like th3cow. I am glad this crowd is against Zionism. I wasn’t grinding an ax, I was addressing Zionism. The ax issue came up when a phrase like “ywhy is punishing Israel” came up. Maybe I should have let it slide. But hell, Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog — he really believed it, or used it because he felt others would buy into this millennial-old mythology. We went to war on this damn rhetoric ! This is real and important stuff. I know lots of Christian sites who would denounce taking this stuff literally, but then I know many that would applaud such literalness. So my “ax” was not an atheist vs theist thing necessarily at all. But heck, I am an atheist — and that always seems to make you angry — sorry dude.

    Reply

  23. @ James
    Yeah, it is hard jumping between modernist and post-modernist Christians.
    I don’t really got a handle on that post-modernist stuff. It seems a bit slippery, as you state. At times it seems like post-modernist want to say modernist things and get away with all its normal implications but slither back into their dark safe post-modernist cave when the going gets rough. Almost like Christians who make empirical claims but then scream , “faith, faith” when they are confronted for operational definitions and such to verify their claims. So we may have a stand still.

    I must say, I am enjoying the site of Peter Rollins and starting to read and listen to his stuff. He is pretty Post-Modern, right? Are you guys of a similar Christian sect?

    I am not good at classifying epistemologies yet. I am not sure even what I am in the scheme of things. I probably fall in the “sloppy” category.

    (I wrote this before I got Tony’s note which I will now respond to — busy day sloggin’ it out in this Colosseum.)

    Reply

  24. @Sabo,

    I have a lot of knee jerk reactions to your post, so I am just going to post them stream of consciousness style (I hope it isn’t difficult to comprehend, if it is, I will try to organize them more clearly)

    /1/I talk to you because you are a human being and you have intrinsic value, because you are a part of the community, and because your opinion matters. Why do you keep projecting these “hard-literalist-conservative-pentecostalism (as Tony puts it)” agendas on me?

    /2/ Apparently, you don’t understand (care? recognize?) that all of this “generous interpretation” crap is offensive.

    /3/ I am in no position to tell you whether you will burn in hell or not. I believe that Christianity is about more important things than avoiding hell (and so do you, if I have read your “why I troll Christian blogs” post correctly)

    /4/ Whether you are correct or I am correct – neither of us is in a position to assume much about the other personally. I just don’t know you (and you don’t know me). All I have to work with is what you write.

    /5/ You may be the minority worldview on this site, but I think you have overestimated what kind of disadvantage you have with us at theophiliacs. We have given you a voice and appreciate your posts. As far as being an atheist in general is concerned, I wish I could change the behavior of others – but have been largely unsuccessful at it thus far.

    /6/ The kind of fundamentalist ideology that drove our country to war in Iraq was scary to more than atheists. It scared the crap out of me, too. You’re right, it should be stood up against – and the church should have been leading the outcry (peacefully).

    /7/ Your atheism has never made me angry (though, your baiting and then acting like your not baiting irritates me). I am not sure why you get that impression from me, but I would love to stop whatever it is that I am doing.

    Shawn

    Reply

  25. Sabio,

    Really quick; I also am in the “post-modern” camp, and yes I connect with much of Pete Rollins, even if I glide in a different “post-modern” direction (we are not heterogeneous to say the least!)

    Reply

  26. @ Tony
    Thanks for your calm notes. Well, except for the “painful lack of un-charicatured knowledge” slam.
    Thanx for the links. I read Amazon reviews — McGrath sounds repetitive — have the new editions fixed that?

    As for my background, I am sure you are right and I am scarred by my hard-literalist-conservative-Pentecostalism of my youth. But let me give you a little background. But remember, my town for the last 5 years is a Evangelical hotbed and has a seminary 5 miles away. And the 3 years prior I was in deep rural Pennsylvania around Baptists and Methodists. So it was not just my “Youth” — it is large swatches of America. And remember, we have had traumatic things in my family when my little kids (7 & 9 years old) have had other kids who were good friends have their friends avoid them after told by their parents that we are sinner atheists — once after I turned down an invitation to Christian summer camp and when asked why, I told the parents who previously were good friends in the making. And 2 other families never talked again after seeing Buddhist statues in our living room. These were close friends of my kids that finally dried up. Kids at his lunch table ganged up on my son telling him he was going to hell, last year and it took me an hour to get out of him why he was crying. And you know that came from their good Christian parents. So you see, it is not just my “youth”.

    When I did my year of theology at Wheaton I read the Gonzales series “A History of Christian Thought”. I reread it last year. (Is McGrath better than Gonzales, cause I still have that).

    Also, I taught comparative religion at Univ. of Minnesota. My PhD work in philosophy was comparative Buddhism and Hindu stuff along with symbolic logic. And I had a hobby for 18 months of visiting a different churches/synagogue each week, reading on it and taking notes. Tons of ministers knocked on my door for months after that — never sign guest books.

    Finally, when de-converting, I attended a reform synagogue (services Fri and Sat schule), learned to pronounce Hebrew to read the prayer book for 1 year and then did Israeli folk dancing for 1 1/2 years with dreams of living on a Kibbutz and reading Jewish mystic stuff and Christian mystic stuff — I had a slow slide out of my monotheism !

    But, I may look into the text you recommend since you see me painfully ignorant — for indeed, in all seriousness, I forget quickly and always need to rethink. I am recently trying to figure out these emergent Christians.

    But remember, I also love much of Buddhism and read on that — I am a confused lad, I guess. Now I got to pick up my kids to go play with some Christian kids whose parents whisper to them (“Remember, don’t tell them that they are going to hell, just be nice !”)

    Reply

  27. Just read an excellent article on “Why are Atheists so disliked?”
    I think this crowd will like it.
    But you have to read to the very end — therein lies key insights.
    This gentleman’s blog is fantastic and I think you all would benefit from reading it.
    It may actually support much of what you believe, even if it is an atheist’s site.

    Reply

  28. But I don’t dislike atheists. As a matter of fact I have way more intellectual respect for atheists than the “spiritual but not religious” kind.

    Reply

  29. Don’t get me wrong, I am not accusing, I am inviting understanding. Seriously, that site’s author does great data analysis. I am trained extensively in evaluating research, but that guy does it very well. Very objective and level headed. And he is asking many important questions.

    Reply

  30. Sabio,

    Re: the books

    McGrath can sometimes be repetitious (this is true even in his more academic theology), but the broad range he covers is (to me) unparalleled in other introductory books.

    As to Gonzales’, I had both his books for Church History as well and found them to be engaging and concise. But there is a difference between Church History and “Historical Theology” which is a bit more like a “history of ideas” and the cultural backgrounds to those ideas than it is a running narrative of historical ’cause and effect.’

    Gonzoles does have a three volume “History of Christian Thought,” http://www.amazon.com/History-Christian-Thought-Beginnings-Chalcedon/dp/0687171822/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252692000&sr=8-1 but “The Christian Tradition” series I recommended is a bit more in depth. I do intend on getting Gonzales in addition, but Pelikan first.

    Reply

  31. At Tony: It is the three volume set of Gonzales which I have read twice — Dr. Webber used it in his course (see my last post on Emergent Christianity).

    I will look into McGrath for the “Historical Theology” — I can get a cheap 3rd edition — do you think it matters if it is the 4th edition or not?

    Reply

  32. Sabio,

    You really do do your homework. I think you represent a broad picture of “Emergent” christianity significantly better than most evangelicals that have read thirty “emergent” books and come out the other side not knowing a damn thing about them (us? see my “Why I’m Emergent, from a Guy Who Doesn’t Care”). I agree with Simon that Bell is far more “orthodox” than Pete Rollins (though I so tire of the word “orthodox”). Rollins, Jones and Paggitt come under heat for their accepting stance toward homosexuality, but Jones and Paggitt are really more “liberal” evangelicals than hardcore “post-modernists.”

    I myself identify strongly with a “post-modern” vein of theology known as “Radical Orthodoxy” which is far more Catholic than most Emergents are willing to go. It is soundly confessional because it is soundly post-foundationalist and IMO recovers the Christian tradition in ways that many “Emergents”do not do (the term “Emergent” should not be meant by me to imply a hetergeneous theological perspective).

    If you’ve read Gonzales’ series I’m not sure McGrath’s one volume “Historical Theology” would reveal much (except perhaps insights from the last 30 years of scholarship or so as Gonzales is getting old). Plus McGrath is an Anglican; a “theologian” proper (Gonzales is more a historian); an Ivy level biologist and Gonzales a Methodist. Often Anglicans are able to recover Church history is ways Methodists do not.

    Reply

  33. Hey, thanks for the compliment Tony. I was thinking of doing a post called “Emergent Atheist” ! Wait for that one. Funny thing, tonight I am arguing with John Loftus on his post called “Why do Liberal’s Still Profess to be Christians“.
    Not sure if you have heard of Loftus (big in the Atheist circles — not one of the Four Horsemen, but one of their minions perhaps. Anyway, funny how many different approaches people have toward knowledge, relationships and mind. After many conversations, though I think I know how my mind works, I am not really sure how it fits in with others. Fun testing the waters though ! Smile.
    I like Rollins (but I have a mystical inclination), I will order “McGrath” Vol. 3 !
    Thanx for writing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s