At Cary Christian School, I occasionally try to summarize the findings of New Testament scholars in a way that shows the relevance for studying Biblical Greek. Kenneth Bailey has done ground-breaking work in what he calls “Middle Eastern” Biblical interpretation. He argues that we need to read the Bible through Middle Eastern eyes if we are to truly understand it. His reading of the familiar story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15 is especially helpful as we discuss the Bible with our Muslim friends.
Here’s the power-point presentation. But, don’t stop there–get the book for yourself!
I’m really enjoying Professor David Cook’s (Rice University) book, Understanding Jihad. Prof. Cook is clearly knowledgeable, objective, and seems quite fair in his treatment. Nevertheless, he criticizes others for not being as honest or fair with the source material of Islam. Cook presents extensive proof that militant jihad has been part of Islamic teaching and practice since the beginning.
“In conclusion, several important points need to be made about the ‘greater jihad’ [spiritual struggle]. The spiritual, internal jihad is the derivative form, and not the contrary. This is clear from the absence of any mention of the ‘greater jihad’ in the earliest hadith books on the subject of jihad (it is entirely absent from the canonical collections and appears only in the genre of zuhd, asceticism, and then in comparatively later collections). Nor does the ‘greater jihad’ find any mention in the later literature on jihad, except occasionally in the most perfunctory form. It is also apparent that anyone who studies the subject of jihad has to wonder about the focus placed upon the spiritual warfare among contemporary Muslim apologists. Continue reading “David Cook on Jihad”
In Muslim vs. Christian arguments, I’ve heard it said that Muslim societies were much more advanced than medieval Western cultures. Also, it’s claimed that we should thank Muslim scholars for preserving the classics of Greece for us. Philip Jenkins has a different view. In The Lost History of Christianity, Jenkins reminds of the history we never knew. In particular, he writes:
“It is common knowledge that medieval Arab societies were far ahead of those of Europe in terms of science, philosophy, and medicine, and that Europeans derived much of their scholarship from the Arab world; yet in the early centuries, this cultural achievement was usually Christian and Jewish rather than Muslim. It was Christians–Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox, and others–who preserved and translated the cultural inheritance of the ancient world–the science, philosophy, and medicine–and who transmitted it to centers like Baghdad and Damascus. Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian, and Coptic, and it was not necessarily Muslim. Syriac-speaking Christian scholars brought the works of Aristotle’s Topics from Syriac into Arabic, at the behest of the caliph. Syriac Christians even make the first reference to the efficient Indian numbering system that we know today as ‘Arabic,’ and long before this technique gained currency among Muslim thinkers,” (The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died, 18).
Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? by Tom Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was an amazing book! I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first. I typically don’t give much credence to “dreams” or “visions,” but the overall argument of the book is compelling. Doyle lists many examples of Jesus appearing to Muslims all over the Middle East, and the cumulative effect is astonished gratitude for how God is showing His face to people trapped in dark places. The stories of torture, persecution, and execution were heart-breaking, and stirred me up to pray more diligently for my brothers and sisters in Muslim lands. If my father, mother, brother, son, or daughter were being tortured in an Iranian prison, I’d pray for them every day! Sadly, we get so distracted by our petty problems in America (Land of Freedom and Plenty), that we forget the daily struggle and danger confronting so many thousands of our spiritual family. God is at work in the Middle East–will we join Him?
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Interestingly, the tension between authoritative text and tradition is not unique to Christianity. It also seems to exist in Islam. In a review of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, Philip Johnson relates an interesting dynamic:
“When coercive Muslims want to justify their ways by referring to some Muslim precept, they usually find the desired text in the Hadiths rather than in the Qur’ran.
“It is strange that some Muslims seem to prefer the Hadiths to the Qur’ran, because only the latter records the revelation by God (Allah) to Muhammed. Muhammed himself always distinguished between teachings that he had received by revelation and statements that came only from his own wisdom. Muhammed is revered by Muslims as the faithful messenger of the divine revelation, but when he spoke from his own ordinary human wisdom, he was as capable of error as other men.
“Despite this distinction, some Muslims will even say that a line from the Hadiths can supersede a teaching of the Qur’an itself. Mustafa [the author of the book, and a personal friend of Johnson] has told me that he admires the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Perhaps a similar doctrine might be of benefit to Islamic teaching.
 Philip Johnson, “Peace-Seeking Muslims” in Touchstone, March/April 2012, 10-11.