A little over a week ago I had a conversation with a friend and parishoner about Islam. It was a good an interesting conversation and has caused me to think further about dialogue between Christianity and Islam, as well as my own understanding concerning religions. But I realize that my knowledge of Islam is sketchy so I picked up from the communities library, a book on Islam, (I believe it is Amy's contribution to the library) by Esposito. Both from Esposito's survey and my conversation it has dawned on me that there is a major difference in the two religions in their origins surrounding it's native religio-politico stance. For Islam from very early on and based in Mohamad's own actions (as well so far as I can tell supported by the Quran) is that Islam is both a way of life and a political system. However, Christianity is always already a way of life from which in certain circumstances a particular political system might be coopted by or emerge from this way of life. My friend argued that Jesus in fact rejects all political systems, though I would say more to the point, that Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Logos, is the proper source of all political systems, thus in some sense Christianity rather than exemplifying a particular system of goverment or laws is itself transcendent in relation to political systems. In any case these differing relations between a religious way of life and political system can cause misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims esepcially if it is assumed that the mere fact that there have been Christian and Islamic societies means that each religion approaches their relationship from similar perspectives when in fact their relationship is concieved of radically differently, if for no other reason than that the church existed as a persecuted and ilegal minority for about three centuries, while islam within the life time and due to the actions of its founder was already a political and military force before Mohomeds death.
For some reason this has lead me to reflect on historical Jesus research. I have always found this research even that of the Jesus Seminar to be useful in gaining insight into the Gospels and Jesus of Nazareth, though I have always seen it as telling us the least we can say about Jesus of Nazareth, and thus always a beginning point for further refelection and study. Of course Funk et al unfortunately see their work as difinitive and thus telling us authoritatively and objectively who Jesus was. What is frustrating is not so much the research as that certain theologians and thinkers take these findings and then use this reconstructed Jesus as normative for Christian theology and ethics. this seems to me to be very wrong headed and faithless since it requires a belief that Christians in someway distorted (probably knowingly and purposefully) who Jesus was. If this is so I have no idea why Jesus should be considered a person to follow, nor why such people even remain Christians. Also, why it is believed that scholars 2000 years after the fact of Jesus of nazareth based on very limited evidence appearantly know better than people who in the very least knew, if not the apostles, then those who knew the appostles, is beyond me. It also seems to exhibit a great deal of faith in methods which are not entirely objective in the first place (not that I have any great faith in objectivity). So, I am in a space where I find the scholarship of a Dominic Crossan very valueble but find his own faith in his reconstructed Jesus astounding. Rather I read the gospels with greater insight and can then see Jesus in his disputes with the Pharisees as they probably were disputes over the meaning of the Torah between competting rabbi's, though to say that Jesus was merely a Rabbi is insanity if one is claiming to be a Christian, and what one accepts is that since Jesus is God, Jesus is obviously the supperior interpretor of the Torah. What I will assert is that whatever historical Jesus scholarship may conclude, a Christian must take the gospels as authoritative and any scholarship as only commentary, the scholarhsip itself can not become more authoritative than the Gospels themselves.
The connection between these two thoughts maybe that I am becoming increasingly frustrated by fellow Christians who either insist on ignoring scholarship or who take that scholarship as more authoritative than scripture and the Tradition of the church. Both seem to be engaged in faithless theological positions which both deny the possibility of historical continuity of the fiath and the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.
Out of faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel I can both engage in dialogue with Islam and appreciate the work of historical Jesus research, neither requires that I give up a firm stance within the historic fiath tradition of the church, even though some conservative Christians fear that is where such things lead, and some liberal Christians believe such things demand such a retreat.
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