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Posts Tagged ‘Comparative Religion’

Differences Between the Muslim and Christian Concepts of Divine Love

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
Murad Wilfried Hofmann

1. Introduction

All religions fulfill several functions. They try to establish a relationship between man and the larger Reality of which he forms a tiny part, orienting him within the immense universe that he inhabits. This usuallyBuddhism is an exception in as much as Buddhists refuse entering into any speculation about transcendental reality. See Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, The Teaching of Buddha, 9th ed., Kosaido Printing Co., Ltd.:Tokyo, 2004. leads to a metaphysical interpretation of the world and conceptionally to the postulation of a divine Supreme Being. These efforts sooner or later culminate in a science of God , verbally “theology”, called al-aqida in Islam.

 

In everyday life religions are also called upon to provide rules for worshipping the Deity (al-´ibadat) and for the conduct of human affairs in all fields (al-mu’amalat). These aspects of religiosity tend to command the greatest attention, not only because they impact directly on the conduct of everyday life, but also because they are more concrete and practical than the rather esoteric contributions of theology in its original and purest sense. Worse, the role played by religions in politics today begets activities which totally overshadow the theological aspects of religion. This is true of all contemporary religious or pseudo-religious phenomena known as “-isms”.

They include American Evangelical Christians promoting a frighteningly politicized fundamentalism as well as what now is called Islamism, i.e. a militant political ideology practiced by Muslims.The latter phenomenon has recently been diagnosed by Meghnad Desai, a British Lord, in his book on “Rethinking Islamism – The Ideology of the New Terror”, Tauris: London 2007.

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Do We Have the Original Old Testament?

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The Old Testament was written in different eras (times), and by the hands of different authors from different cultures”.

In his book, “The Story of Civilization”, Will Durant said that these stories had been mixed, and took their final form in 300 BCE. He said, “Scholars agree that the earliest book of the Old Testament’s books is Genesis, some of it was written in Judah, and some in Israel. Then what was written here and there was combined after the fall of the two countries. The prevailing opinion is that the five books of the Torah took their final form in about 300 BCE”.

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Whom Must We Worship

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Whom Must We Worship


Prepared by
 

Dr. Saleh As-Saleh

 

     The submission of man to His Creator is the essence of Islam. The name “Islam” is chosen by God (Allah) and not by man. It is the same unifying Message revealed to all the Prophets and Messengers by Allah and which they spread amongst their respective nations. In its Final form it was revealed to Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of Allah be upon him) as a complete Message to whole mankind. The Lord, Allah, is the True and Only Creator that deserves to be worshipped. No worship is worthy of being given to a stone, statue, a cross, a triangle, Khomeini, Farakhan, Eliajahs, Malcom’s X or Y, Ghandi, Krishna, Guru, Buddha, Mahatma, Emperor, Joseph Smith, Sun, Moon (not to that from Korea too!), Light, Fire, rivers, cows, Rama, Temples, Prophets, Messengers (Yes! Muslims do not worship Muhammad-peace be upon him), Saints, Priests, Monks, Movie Stars, Sheiks, etc.!!! All are created beings or things.

    ALLAH, is the Name of the One True God. His Name is not chosen by man and does not have a number or gender. It is known that Allah is the Name of God in Aramaic, the language of our beloved Prophet Jesus and a sister language of Arabic. The Name “Allah” has been used by all previous Prophets starting with Adam and by the last and final Prophet, Muhammad (Peace be upon them all).

    The Innate Nature in man recognizes what is good and bad, what is true and false. It recognizes that the Attributes of Allah must be True, Unique, and All-Perfect. It does not feel comfortable towards any kind of degradation of His Attributes not does it qualities to the Creator. Many who became “discontent with God” did so because of the practices of the Church in medieval Europe and because of the claims of “god dwelling in a son” and the concept of the “original sin”. However, they “escaped” into worshipping a new theory called “mother nature” as well as the “material” World. With the advancement of materialistic technology others from different religions adopted the concept of “forgetting about God” and “let us live this life and enjoy it!”, not realizing that they have chosen the worship of the “original god” of Rome: Desire!.As a result the “enjoyment” is turning to “suffering” from AIDS.
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The New Testament

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.
                              —William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel

 
Of course, Blake’s sentiment in the quote above is nothing new.  The New Testament contains enough inconsistencies to have spawned a dizzying variety of interpretations, beliefs and religions, all allegedly Bible-based.  And so, we find one author offering the amusing observation:
You can and you can’t,
You shall and you shan’t,
You will and you won’t,
And you will be damned if you do,
And you will be damned if you don’t.[1]
Why such variance in viewpoints?  To begin with, different theological camps disagree on which books should be included in the Bible.  One camp’s apocrypha is another’s scripture.  Secondly, even among those books that have been canonized, the many variant source texts lack uniformity.  This lack of uniformity is so ubiquitous that The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states, “It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS [manuscript] tradition is wholly uniform.”[2]
Not one sentence?  We can’t trust a single sentence of the Bible?  Hard to believe.
Maybe
The fact is that there are over 5700 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament.[3]  Furthermore, “no two of these manuscripts are exactly alike in all their particulars….  And some of these differences are significant.”[4]  Factor in roughly ten thousand manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate, add the many other ancient variants (i.e., Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Nubian, Gothic, Slavonic), and what do we have?
A lot of manuscripts
A lot of manuscripts that fail to correspond in places and not infrequently contradict one another.  Scholars estimate the number of manuscript variants in the hundreds of thousands, some estimating as high as 400,000.[5]  In Bart D.  Ehrman’s now famous words, “Possibly it is easiest to put the matter in comparative terms: there are more differences in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.”[6]
How did this happen?

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The Old Testament

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

 “[The Bible] has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”
                              —Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Vol. II

Let’s begin by putting “two of every sort (of animal) into the ark,” and then … Oh, wait.  Was that “two of every sort,” as per Genesis 6:19, or seven of clean and two of unclean animals, as per Genesis 7:2-3?
Hmm.  Well, we’ve got up to 120 years to think about it, because that’s the limit of the human lifespan, as per God’s promise in Genesis 6:3.  So, just like Shem …
Oops.  Bad example.  Genesis 11:11 states, “Shem lived five hundred years…”
Oookay, forget Shem.  So, just like Noah … Double Oops.  Genesis 9:29 teaches, “So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.”  So let’s see, Genesis 6:3 promised a lifespan limited to a hundred and twenty years, but a few verses later both Shem and Noah broke the rule?
Whoa, time out.

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Religious Mysteries 101 – The Crucifixion, Part 2

Saturday, July 21st, 2012


 

But, hey, Christians tell us Jesus had to die for our sins. A typical conversation might go something like this:

 

 Monotheist: Oh. So you believe God died?

Trinitarian: No, no, perish the thought. Only the man died.

Monotheist: In that case, the sacrifice didn’t need to be divine, if only the man-part died.

Trinitarian: No, no, no. The man-part died, but Jesus/God had to suffer on the cross to atone for our sins.

Monotheist: What do you mean “had to”? God doesn’t “have to” anything.

Trinitarian: God needed a sacrifice and a human wouldn’t do. God needed a sacrifice big enough to atone for the sins of humankind, so He sent His only begotten son.

Monotheist: Then we have a different concept of God. The God I believe in doesn’t have needs. My God never wants to do something but can’t because He needs something to make it possible. My God never says, “Gee, I want to do this, but I can’t. First I need this certain something. Let’s see, where can I find it?” In that scenario God would be dependent upon whatever entity could satisfy His needs. In other words, God would have to have a higher god. For a strict monotheist that’s just not possible, for God is One, supreme, self-sufficient, the source of all creation. Humankind has needs, God doesn’t. We need His guidance, mercy and forgiveness, but He doesn’t need anything in exchange. He may desire servitude and worship, but he doesn’t need it.

Trinitarian: But that’s the point; God tells us to worship Him, and we do that through prayer. But God is pure and holy, and humankind are sinners. We can’t approach God directly because of the impurity of our sins. Hence, we need an intercessor to pray through.

Monotheist: Question—did Jesus sin?

Trinitarian: Nope, he was sinless.

Monotheist: How pure was he?

Trinitarian: Jesus? 100% pure. He was God/Son of God, so he was 100% holy.

Monotheist: But then we can’t approach Jesus any more than we can God, by your criterion. Your premise is that humankind can’t pray directly to God because of the incompatibility of sinful man and the purity of anything 100% holy. If Jesus was 100% holy, then he’s no more approachable than God. On the other hand, if Jesus wasn’t 100% holy, then he was himself tainted and couldn’t approach God directly, much less be God, the Son of God, or partner with God.

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Religious Mysteries 101 – The Crucifixion, Part 1

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

 

Of all the Christian mysteries, none rank as highly as the concept of Christ’s crucifixion and atoning sacrifice. In fact, Christians base their salvation on this one tenet of faith. And if it really happened, shouldn’t we all?

If it really happened, that is.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the concept of Jesus Christ having atoned for the sins of mankind sounds pretty good to me. And shouldn’t it? I mean, if we can trust that someone else atoned for all of our sins, and we can go to heaven on that concept alone, shouldn’t we instantly close on that deal?

If it really happened, that is.

So let’s check this out. We’re told Jesus Christ was crucified. But then again, we’re told a lot of things that later prove to be doubtful or even untrue, so it would be reassuring if we could verify the fact.

So let’s ask the witnesses. Let’s ask the gospel authors.

Umm, one problem. We don’t know who the authors were. This is a less popular Christian mystery (i.e., waaay less popular) – the fact that all four gospels of the New Testament are anonymous.  Nobody knows who wrote them. Graham Stanton tells us, “The gospels, unlike most Graeco-Roman writings, are anonymous. The familiar headings which give the name of an author (‘The Gospel according to . . .’) were not part of the original manuscripts, for they were added only early in the second century.”
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Pauline Theology

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

In the midst of the growing 19th and 20th century awareness of the differences between Trinitarian doctrine and the period of origins, a person might be surprised to find one group who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus reading the following in the Holy Quran:
“O People of the Book!  Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of God anything but the truth.  Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of God, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in God and His Messengers.  Do not say “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for God is One God: glory be to Him: (far Exalted is He) above having a son.  To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth.  And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs” (Quran 4:171)
And warning:
“O People of the Book!  Exceed not in your religion the bounds (of what is proper), trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by – who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even Way.” (Quran 5:77)
One may wonder what, from the New Testament, separates these two groups by such a vast expanse of understanding.  No doubt the key difference which divides Trinitarians from Unitarians, and Christians from Muslims, is Pauline theology.  For centuries the argument has been put forth that Trinitarian Christians largely follow Pauline theology more than that of Jesus.  This charge is difficult to deny, for Jesus taught the Law of the Old Testament, whereas Paul preached mysteries of faith, in denial of the Law which the prophets had suffered and struggled to convey.  In disrespect to thousands of years of revelation conveyed through a long chain of esteemed prophets, and contrary to the teachings of the rabbi Jesus himself, Paul focused not on the life and teachings of Jesus, but upon his death.  As Lehmann put it:
“The only thing which Paul considers important is the Jew Jesus’ death, which destroyed all hopes of liberation by a Messiah.  He makes the victorious Christ out of the failed Jewish Messiah, the living out of the dead, the son of God out of the son of man.”[1]

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Divinity of Jesus? An Inquiry

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

 

Man is made to adore and to obey: but if you will not command him, if you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own divinities, and find a chieftain in his own passions.

                                                      —Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby

The critical difference between Jesus’ teachings and the Trinitarian formula lies in elevating Jesus to divine status—a status Jesus denies in the gospels:

“Why do you call me good: No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Matthew 19:17, Mark 10-18, and Luke 18:19)

“My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)

“I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself …” (John 5:19)

“But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent me.” (John 7:29)

“He who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

“But now I go away to Him who sent me …” (John 16:5)

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me.’” (John 7:16)

“For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49)[1]

What does Pauline theology say?  That Jesus is a partner in divinity, God incarnate. So whom should a person believe?  If Jesus, then let’s hear what else he might have to say:

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Mark 12:29)

“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:8)

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me …” (John 4:34)

“I can of myself do nothing … I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

“My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me.” (John 7:16)

“I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)

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Idolatry

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Idolatry

It is a strange irony that those who reverence stones live in glass ideologies.

                                                                             —L. Brown

Idolatry—every monotheist abhors the thought, and yet many commit the crime themselves. Few today fully grasp the complexities of this issue, for the definition of idolatry has been buried beneath nearly 1,700 years of church tradition.

The second commandment states, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4–5). Alternate translations employ slightly different, though significant, wording, as for example: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (NRSV, NIV).

The commandment not to make carved images speaks for itself, as does the subsequent decree not to make any likeness whatsoever.

These directives could not be clearer.

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