I have been finding it interesting to explore how the greetings and affirmations of the New Testament authors sound when phrased in a more Arabic ways. Consider these examples:
Salam to all of you who are in al-Masih (1 Peter 5:14)
Mercy and salam to you from Allah our Father and from Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih. (Romans 1:7)
For the law was given through Musa; mercy and truth came through Isa al-Masih. (John 1:17)
Accept one another, then, just as al-Masih accepted you, in order to bring praise to Allah. (Romans 15:7)
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)
But we preach al-Masih crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the nations. (1 Corinthians 1:23)
But Allah demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, al-Masih died for us. (Romans 5:8)
If you are insulted because of the name of al Masih, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of Allah rests on you. (1 Peter 4:14)
Praise be to the Allah and Father of our Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Isa al-Masih from the dead (1 Peter 1:3)
But in your hearts revere al Masih as Ar-Rabb. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)
Yet for us there is but one Allah, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Ar-Rabb, Isa al-Masih, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Maybe you find this language confronting? Maybe you find it thought provoking? Maybe you struggle to connect with it? Whatever your response, please share.
Should we assume that retribution and restoration are opposed concepts?
Commonly they are defined thus: retributive justice is a system of criminal justice based on the punishment of offenders rather than on rehabilitation; restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.
Many readers of the Bible have noted that the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is plural given the -im ending and wondered how that squares with strict monotheism. Some, usually with a Christian agenda, have anachronistically read Trinitarianism into it. Some, usually with an counter-Christian agenda, have provocatively read polytheism into it. I would like to suggest both are mistaken.
Elohim is a plural word, but it functions as a plural or a singular word depending on the context. This is not as strange as it sounds. Consider the words: sheep, fish, squid, scissors and aircraft. They're all words for which the plural and singular forms are the same.
Now let's read Genesis 1:26-28, the source of this controversy, with this in mind.
Then Elohim said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness ... So Elohim created humankind in his image, in the image of Elohim he created them; male and female he created them.
I would suggest that what we have here is a single person, God, addressing a group, the heavenly hosts or divine assembly, what these days we call angels. Then having made the announcement God goes ahead and acts - unilaterally. The others watch, just as they did when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). Maybe that's why Daniel calls them Watchers (Daniel 4:13,17).
Valerie Horner sent me this picture which she recently painted for an illustrated book of Bible stories called Holy Fire - Holy Blood. It reminds me that I should say more often that submissions are welcome.
The scriptures give us only a taste of who Jesus was and what Jesus did. They tell us this explicitly (see John 21:25). There is more than we know. More than we can know. Many have tried to fill in the gaps with wild tales, of an infant Jesus speaking from the crib, of a boy Jesus amazing adults with magic tricks, of an adolescent Jesus journeying to the far corners of the earth, of a risen Jesus teaching so much more than he though to impart before the crucifixion, and more. But these are all exercises in missing the point. We don't know everything. We don't have to know everything. We do, however, know enough.
"The limitation of theology and language, let alone of speaking about God, indicates that preaching is not just the verbal proclamation of the gospel in the pulpit but also the need for ritual, living and solidarity. It incorporates these significant elements not in a compartmentalized but in an integrative and holistic whole."
PREACHING THE GOSPEL ANEW: A Reappropriation of Negative (Apophatic) and Positive (Cataphatic) Theology in Redemptorist Mission and Identity in the Age of Globalization by Joseph Echano
As a moderator of the The Christian-Muslim Interfaith Bridge it shouldn't be any surprise that I'm interested in how we practically practice (yes, I know I'm verging on tautology) reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. Recently I came across these comments in Peace-Building by, between, and beyond Muslims and Evangelical Christians by Mohammed Abu-Nimer and David Augsburger (Editors):
"There are a wide range of forgiveness practices and rituals in both religious communities. Some are similar, perhaps parallel; others unique in character and practice. In their description of rituals of reconciliation, you Irani and Funk (2001, P. 187) portray the powerful rituals of sulh (settlement), musalaha (reconciliation), musalaha (exchange of handshakes), and mumalaha (breaking bread together) that demonstrate forgiveness and further reconciliation with the language of bitter coffee shared and broken bread together. Each group possesses a vocabulary and a set of practices that facilitate the offering and reception remorse, repentance, and a desire to return to relationship and reconciliation. Dialogue on the nature of these practices and their unique strengths to resolve injury is a central task of interfaith conversation on peacemaking."
The mention of breaking bread resonated with me deeply given I take Acts 2 as a pretty good description of authentic Christian community:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Breaking bread isn't a practice that should just be practiced with people we are already reconciled with. It can be an act of reconciliation in itself.
The problem with Evangelicalism is that many Evangelicals aren't evangelical enough. To paraphrase Bebbington, Evangelicalism stresses the euaggelion, the good news. It's hallmark is a fourfold emphasis on the experience of the good news, the authority of the good news, the story of the good news and the practice of the good news. When the number one thing on your lips is not the good news but hate speech, towards Muslims or homosexuals or abortionists or drug addicts or anyone else for that matter, recognise that you've lost your Evangelical moorings.