Month: December 2015

“Same God” for Muslims and Christians? False Starts

Recent events at Wheaton College have once again raised the question whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  This is a question which I have faced with some regularity, given that I have a small amount of theological training and that I study the mixed society (including Muslims and Christians) of the medieval Middle East.  With due regard to Biblical authority and the many learned people who have weighed in on the question, I find the issue to be rather more ambiguous than anyone likes to admit, and dependent upon certain non-obvious answers to tricky questions regarding the nature of worship and the relationship between sense and referent when speaking about spiritual beings, including God.  In other words, contrary to what everyone would like to be the case, the answer is not obvious either way.

Merry Christmas!

I did not prepare a special Christmas post because I was quietly celebrating the holiday with family.  Sometimes religious blogging is incompatible with religious observance.  But I wish you all a happy Christmas!

At Easter we say, “Christ is risen!”  While I understand and agree that Easter is more important than Christmas, I’ve toyed with the idea that Christians might greet each other during Christmastide with the announcement, “Christ is born!”  The Messiah has indeed been born to take away the sins of the world.

The Cost of Doing Wrong

It seems that many people have a vested interest in publicly proclaiming that there is no such thing as right and wrong.  Some of them even anticipate making profits out of advertising aimed to convince an audience that doing wrong is fun or in some other way inherently rewarding.  Yet even if morality is a merely human invention (a viewpoint I do not hold), so is language.  So are computers.  That does not make them any less real.  I have been struck recently by noticing the very real cost – in terms of money, time, quality of life, and general happiness – of doing wrong. (more…)

Judaism and Christianity: Together Again at Long Last?

Earlier this month a collection of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis published a manifesto of sorts “toward a partnership between Jews and Christians,” as the document’s subtitle states, on the website of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation.  In doing so they were, they say, “accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters.”

Now I’m all in favor increased mutual understanding, and indeed of partnership toward shared goals, such as peace.  But I found the document disheartening, and in one place misleading.  I thought I would discuss it here, and through it, how Christians might best serve their Jewish neighbors in Christ-like love. (more…)

Being Black in America

Today Professor Steve Locke at Massachusetts College of Art and Design posted an account of being stopped by police officers on his way to lunch.  It graphically illustrates a side of interacting with the agents of the state of which the privileged (middle class white people like me) are generally ignorant, and that makes the account moving and difficult to read.  There is something wrong with a system in which a law-abiding professional can conclude that he will probably be killed by the agents of the state to which he pays his taxes.  He was stopped because he “fit the description” of the perpetrator of a recently reported crime, but the description was stupidly broad: “Black male, knit hat, puffy coat.”  Gee, a thick jacket in Boston in December, with a head covering of the most common construction worn by Americans in winter?  How many other black Bostonians did they stop today with a description like that?

As a member of the privileged group, I recognize that my duty is to shut up and listen, and to attempt to understand situations which I will likely never encounter myself.  One aspect of the account continues to confuse me, however, and I post it here in the hopes that some kind soul might enlighten the ignorance of someone who would like to understand. (more…)