Monday, May 27, 2013
The Woolwich muderers were converts to Islam, if memory serves more than a few other Islamic assassins are converts too. Being Muslim is more or less self defining, the credal proclamation of "God is Great and Mohammed is his prophet" is all that is necessary; beards, circumcision, prayer, pilgrimage, mosque attendance or anything else are desirable "additions". In Islam though there are scholars and scholarly opinions there is no body to define orthodoxy, except the local Islamic community, in the West there are perhaps more diverse and isolated extremes than in traditional Islamic countries, though even in these countries, which were once marked by a degree of tolerance are now moving towards a bloody extreme. Perhaps there is a reaction to the secular "westernisation" of the West.
On Trinity Sunday it is worth comparing the two Gods: the monotheistic God of Islam and the Trinitarian God of Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity isn't about mathematics 1+1+1=1 but about relationships, in his oneness God is a Community of Persons. He is in his very nature dynamic and although he has no need of his creation, it is his nature to desire a relationship with his creation. The Christian God is not a solitary being who delivers positive law through his "prophet" so that we might become abdullah, servants/slaves of God, but rather he embues us with his own divine nature and makes us a "new creation". Indeed at the heart of Christianity is not obedience to divine positive law but theosis, humanity becoming by adoption, infusion by the Holy Spirit, what Christ is by his Divine Nature. We become Sons.
Pope Benedict's Regensburg address is important in understanding the fundamental difference between these two God's. The question of the Emperor Manuel II still stands, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” In the best interpretations of Islam God is merciful, even compassionate, towards human failings but he is always distant. God sharing human experience, temptation and death is obviously entirely alien to the Islamic God.
The Regensburg address not only draws attention to the difference in the understanding of God but consequently also the difference in understandings of man. The Christian God through his desire for intimacy enables man through reason to understand the the very mind of God through the Natural Law, hence humanity even untouched by revelation can by reason grasp something of the mind of God.
Perhaps the Church needs to recognise the enormous distinction between the Christian God and the Islamic God and taks seriously the need to evangelise Islam. "We all believe in one God" is true but it certainly is not the same God, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity liberates, redeems and sanctifies humanity.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake