Misreading the Qur’an

A lot of work is being done on what the Qur’an refers to [it is largely incomprehensible without exegesis]. Gabriel Said Reynolds has helpfully summarized some of these developments in this article. Another helpful source is this Wikipedia entry on the Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran. I came across another example of this dependence on the Bible today in an article about the Corpus Coranicum project:

Gerd-R. Puin, a retired professor of Arabic studies at Germany’s Saarland University, has been working for decades on a trove of Korans from a mosque in Yemen — possibly the oldest ones in existence. Because they were primarily memory aids, early Korans were written in a vowel-less “skeleton” language. Deciphering those clusters of consonants requires a sense of what languages and what cultural and religious traditions Mohammed and his earliest followers were borrowing from and reacting against. Much of the wording and imagery of the Koran are borrowed from Christian and Jewish texts, Puin argues. In fact, he says, much of the Koran is incomprehensible unless read alongside those earlier texts. As an example, he points to the term “sakina,” which Muslim scholars have translated as a spirit of calm — Puin argues that it only makes sense as a descendant of the Hebrew term “shekhinah,” which means the presence of God. The more one studies its historical context, Puin argues, the harder it is to resist the sense that the Koran itself was, at least in part, pieced together from parts of other religions.

I would love to see a version of the Qur’an in the future that fully cross-references these notional Christian sources: liturgies, Creeds and the Bible itself. That should be fascinating.

What to do after the Healthcare Defeat?

Many Christians are asking what is to be done in light of our latest defeat and the expansion of the Messianic State. Conservatives have lost every single battle of my adult lifetime and are forever retreating, even when in power. Back in the 1980‘s in an essay called “Rebellion, Tyranny, and Dominion in the Book of Genesis” from the book “Tactics of Christian Resistance”, James Jordan exegetes Genesis and its implications for Christian politics. His bottom-line is that right now we are in a situation where we must wait with patient faith, mature, and achieve power only in the distant future. Note that you should probably read the whole essay and understand his exegesis to understand his conclusions. An extended quote follows; Jordan writes:
 Is the “New Right” really “ready to lead”? I doubt it. The New Right has not yet figured out the message of the book of Genesis. It continues to think that reformation will come through the acquisition of political power. By looking to the state, New Rightists (and old conservatives as well) make themselves statist. […]
Many conservative Roman Catholics thought that John Kennedy would help turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Kennedy apparently spent too much time doing other things to ask what he could do for his country. Mainline conservatives then trusted Richard Nixon, a man knowledgeable in international affairs, to turn things around. They were disappointed; Mr. Nixon’s conscience was not sufficiently seared to permit him to act like a Democratic Party politician, guilt-free. Bible believing Christians had high hopes for Jimmy Carter. Need we add that they were disappointed by the decisions made by Mr. Carter’s mother, sister, and wife? And then the whole New Right got behind Ronald Reagan, who by his appointments betrayed them before he even took office, and has now signed a bill, updating social security, which directly taxes the churches.
[We could add the two George Bushes, New Gingrich and Sarah Palin to this list, we never learn. – Joel]
[…]
Frankly, I believe that in all of this God has, as always, been gracious to us. Are Christians in this country ready to take charge? Heaven forbid! Virtually none of them knows the first thing about the law of God, by which they are called to govern. Most of them do not even acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Few have any experience in governing, since their churches have no courts, being at best mere preaching points (where they have not degenerated into spas and literal circuses). The most powerful New Christian Right people are personality-cult oriented, one-man shows (and by shows I mean shows: radio shows, television shows, and the putting on of shows).
[…]
This is not to despise the New Christian Right, or to argue that we should not exercise our (remaining) liberties as Americans to pressure the larger governments toward more Godly actions. We need to remember, however, that there is only so much time and energy alloted to each of us, and essentially that time is far better spent acquiring dominion through service than in power politics.
We may contrast three different approaches, which are not mutually exclusive, but which are of varying value at present. First, there is the effort to change laws by getting people elected to office. That has not been very successful so far, and the reason is that the vast majority of Americans essentially like things the way they are. That’s why things are the way they are – it is what the people want, and it is what they deserve, and so it is what God gives them…
Second, there is the effort to go about our business as quietly as possible. We submit to the “powers that be,” not to any law that such powers may happen to enact. We do not recognize their right to make laws, for to do so would be to grant them absolute power; but we recognize that God has given them power, and we are not to contest that power as such. We practice deception where morally necessary, and that includes preserving our capital, protecting our households, and rearing our children, as Genesis makes clear. If we are taken to court, we fight in that arena for the right to conduct Christian lives, as Paul did in the book of Acts.
Third, there is the effort to develop a Christian subculture, building up the churches as true courts and sanctuaries, developing Christian arbitration and reconciliation commissions, Christian schools, Christian medical facilities, and the like. These latter two methods are the primary ones for our times. […]
When we are ready, God will give the robe to us. That He has not done so proves that we are not ready. Asserting our readiness will not fool Him. Let us pray that He does not crush us by giving us such authority before we are ready for it. Let us plan for our great-grandchildren to be ready for it. Let us go about our business, acquiring wisdom in family, church, state, and business, and avoiding confrontations with the powers that be. Let us learn to be skillful in deceiving them and in preserving our assets for our great-grand-children. For as sure as Christ is risen from the grave and is ascended to regal glory on high, so sure it is that his saints will inherit the kingdom and rule in His name, when the time is right.

Bing Maps is better than Google Maps

At least for the moment. I watched this video which led me over to Bing Maps which I have been using with more frequency over the past six months. You may have to click “Try it now” for the new Bing Maps once you get there. There are several icons on there that let you zoom to city, region, state etc.

The really cool thing is the 3D view from above and the WAY cool thing is the street-side view for areas with it enabled. I used the location of our old church in D.C. to look around and it was fun to use. Add to this the nearby Photosynths and I think Microsoft is on to something. It almost makes me wish I had a Windows machine for some things! In our day, innovation is rapid but catch up is also rapid; I expect Google to have something similar in the near future, that’s just how it works. But it is good to see some life out of M-soft, and overall I think that by 2020 we are going to have roll out, thin, scroll-like computers that provide imagery, text and video on an almost mind-boggling scale of beauty and ease of use. Of course, it will be so ubiquitous that we won’t even think about it anymore.

John Edwards and Abortion

It should not be surprising to us that politicians, particularly Democrats, support killing babies in the womb if this interview with Rielle Hunter is any kind of guide to their thinking. When “Johnny” Edwards impregnated her, he seemed to hope and suggest that she get an abortion, witness:

And what was his reaction?
He was always very gracious about it. And always said that he would support whatever decision I made. But I believe on some level he was hoping I would get an abortion. Because he didn’t—he wasn’t happy about the timing. Which is understandable. [laughs] He was married and running for president.

So he was gracious, really? There were no fights about it?

No, there were no fights. He was very gracious, but I always felt the underlying discontent in his graciousness. I remember one time in Miami—or was it Orlando? [laughs] I traveled a lot to see him. But he said to me, he was like, “There’s just nothing I can say to make you change your mind about this.” and I said, “Nope.” he said, “Guess I’m just gonna have to accept it.” very teasing and sweet.

Isn’t that nice? There was nothing he could say to change her mind and get her to agree to killing the baby he had conceived and which was about to become a big inconvenience in his life of lies. So, he was sweet about it. “I support whatever decision you make” equals “you may kill or keep this baby alive, it’s up to you.”

So, one reason that will never be uttered in the Senate or House about why we need to keep abortion legal is so that politicians can have their mistress’s babies killed to cover up the cheating. Of course, they could probably fly them somewhere or pay enough to get it done even if it were illegal, but it’s so much easier on the conscience since it is legal.

The Barbarian Conversion

Richard Fletcher [The Barbarian Conversion] notes that ancient Christendom was not monolithic:

In terms of custom and practice there were many churches in sixth- and seventh-century Europe, not One Church. Christendom was many-mansioned.

Fletcher talks about the motif of exile in the monastic expansion. Christians, following the writing of Augustine, saw themselves as exiles and pilgrims and then the monastics took this exile literally. They often left their homeland and people to found monastic missions amongst others. Fletcher says:

Pilgrimage, in the sense of ascetic renunciation of homeland and kinsfolk, is of special importance in our understanding of the phenomenon of conversion in the early Middle Ages. Pilgrimage merged insensibly into mission. The monasteries that were founded by the exiled holy men had something of the character of mission stations. It was not that they were established primarily among pagans; indeed, they could not have been, dependent as they were on wealthy patrons, necessarily Christian…for their endowments…But their monastic communities were situated on the margins of Christendom, and had what might be called “diffusive potential” among nearby laity who were Christian only in the most nominal of senses.

It seems to me that we could apply this same method to the diffusion of the faith in our day. Establishing tightly-focused communities at the margins of our society, for example in rural areas and urban areas that aren’t glamorous. Communities devoted to Biblical saturation, mission and learning which could aim to gradually convert the surrounding area.

Dead Sea Scrolls: The Scroll of the Rule

I have been reading the Dead Sea Scrolls and I am currently in the Scroll of the Rule. Some things that have caught my eye are:

[1] The interpretation of Isaiah by these Essenes…close, but yet so far off to the truth. The Essenes had to leave the cities for their desert caves, and the Scroll refers to this by saying:

…they shall be separated from the midst of the habitation of perverse men to go into the desert to prepare the way of ‘Him’: as it is written, In the wilderness prepare the way of …. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. This (way) is the study of the Law which He has promulgated by the hand of Moses, [Scroll of the Rule VIII:13-15]

So just as John the Baptist went into the desert and lived apart from the mass of Israel, calling them to repentance and fulfilling the Isaiah passage, the Essenes withdrew. But they missed both the forerunner and the Messiah with their interpretation of the passage.

[2] The Essenes forsook the sacrificial system of the Temple much as later Rabbinic “Judaism” would do and yet claimed to be zealous for the law. I don’t know how they squared this circle. The law contains the sacrificial system for atonement but the Essenes believed the priesthood and the Temple to be corrupted and impure. The Scroll says:

…they shall expiate guilty rebellion and sinful infidelity and (procure) Loving-kindness upon earth without the flesh of burnt offering and the fat of sacrifice, but the offering of the lips in accordance with the law shall be as an agreeable odor of righteousness, and perfection of way shall be as the voluntary gift of a delectable oblation. [Scroll of the Rule IX.3]

and yet:

And they shall not depart from any maxim of the Law to walk in all the stubbornness of their heart. [IX.10]

Just as modern Judaism and Islam claim to keep Torah but in no way keep the sacrificial system, so the Essenes forsook the Law while claiming to keep it. I am interested to see if the other scrolls address these subjects in more detail.

Mourning

I was very sad today to hear that Michael Spencer’s cancer is terminal. When I iron I usually (used to) listen to his podcast to keep me company and he ‘s one of those guys that I felt I knew even though I’ve never met him and he doesn’t know that I exist. I disagree with him on a lot of things, but I so admire his love for Jesus, his love for the Church and the way he wrote himself into the broader world, using his talents to say what was on his mind and get recognized and admired for it. Thank you God for giving him to the Church. I will still pray for his healing, but if he indeed is called to Jerusalem above, I will thank God for his brief time on this earth. And how scary it is to read this post of his on “the day before” just a month before his cancer struck.  He said:

Live each day as the day that all of the Gospel is true. Live this day and be glad in it. Live this day as the day of laying down sin and taking up the glad and good forgiveness of Jesus. Live this day determined to be useful and joyful in Jesus. Live this day in a way that, should all things change tomorrow, you will know that the Lord is your God and this is the day to be satisfied in him.

Amen.