Friday, September 17, 2010

interfaith construction

Studying scripture and doing theology are fascinating and complex enterprises. Often Christians are confronted with radical cultural differences between the world they live in and the world of the Bible. Questions without easy answers are typical. The simple fact is there are so many practical questions that arise in daily life to which the Bible simply does not directly speak. 

A friend recently asked for my input on this question and I've wrestled with it considerably. It is a question of faithful Christian ethics. Here it is,

If you were a Christian building contractor would you be opposed to building a Mosque, a Hindu Temple or a Synagogue?

Please keep all comments and responses respectful. While this is a hypothetical question it is based in reality, so please keep that in mind. Also, this is not about critiquing religions. This is a question of Christians being faithful to their story. 

Is it faithful for a Christian to build a Mosque? I think it is an especially interesting question considering all the recent debate about the ground-zero building project.

66 comments:

Thom Stark said...

The question for me would be, would I have a problem, as a Christian, building a Christian church building? There are a number of reasons why building a mosque wouldn't be as problematic for me.

But ultimately, the answer is, if we can't get along with our neighbors of other faiths, then we can't get along with ourselves. The Golden Rule also applies. Would you want a Muslim to deny you help when you needed it and the Muslim was in a position to offer it, just because you were a Christian?

We're all humans, and we can disagree with each other without having to anathematize one another.

Eric said...

I think that the root of the question deals with how the Christian community conducts itself within broader society. I think that advocates of withdrawal from society or of open animosity toward other religions in the public sphere are misguided. How could even a simple refusal for services to a non-Christian be seen as demonstrating the love of Christ? I don't really like framing the question in light of the Cordoba project because there is so much (undeserved and ignorant) animosity towards it. Can we think of it with the term non-Christians? these are the questions that come to my mind.

Should Christians only purchase products from Christian business men and women?

Should Christians declare an embargo on non-Christian nations?

Should Christians boycott non-Christian products?

Should Christian contractors refuse to build buildings and homes for non-Christians?

Should Christian business owners refuse to sell to non-Christians?

Should Christians pretend that non-Christians don't exist and create "Christian Phonebooks" so that we can be sure we aren't giving money to the purposes of satan?

Personally I think that this borders on the ridiculous. A Christian contractor that makes a stink about building something for a non-Christian is likely an ineffective witness and potentially a barrier to the message of the gospel.

Eric said...

BTW, did someone bring this up to you in conversation?

Tyler Stewart said...

Thom,

Interesting way to frame it up. I'd not thought of it in terms of humanity.

I would point out this this is not a question of whether or not the Mosque can be built or not. It is whether or not the Christian should participate. It will be built either way. I don't know if that matters.

Eric,

A very similar question came up in conversation.

I think this question is a little different than withdrawing from culture.

One of the main issues with cultural participation for Christians and Jews throughout history is the degree of participation. When does participating in pagan culture become idolatry?

In terms of a Hindu temple, for instance, from the grammar of Christian faith a contractor is building a place where idol worship happens.

Should a Christian build a strip-club? Christians think this activity, like idol-worship, is a sin. Is it being unloving to refuse that service because you don't believe in the end result?

Does that change anything for you?

Thom Stark said...

Nope. Doesn't make a difference to me. As far as Christology, I think Muslims are closer to the NT anyway.

Nicole said...

I would mostly agree with Eric.

On the issue of a Christian building a strip club or anything building that would result in people sinning, I would have to ask the question of whether or not the contractor should take a survey of all potential clients and make sure that they were not going to sin or participate in idol worship in their home/business? Should he double check that the people using the establishment were not going to look at porn or watch to much t.v. or drink too much alcohol?

I know this is a little extreme but it is more to point out that we get so concerned with the sin of non-Christians instead of realizing that we all have amounts of sin/idol worship in our own lives. I am not saying to ignore the sin but we what an opportunity this contractor may have to share Christ's love.

If the contractor is going to deny building the mosque or temple based just on the fact that the people using it will be participating in idol worship/sin then I would guess by those standards he would be out of business.

Just a thought.

Jay Greer said...

I like this question.

I agree with Tyler that "this question is a little different than withdrawing from culture" but is about Christian participation.

I think the Christian should not build the mosque.

REASON WHY IT'S NOT GOOD:
1) Building the mosque is not a show of love to the non-Christian. To say "Love is giving people what they think they want" is a shallow definition of love. Mosques and temples do not lead to fulfillment in this life. As someone who lives within a 10 minute walk of over a dozen temples and shrines, I see the hopelessness and enslavement that overtake the devout worshipers of false gods. The building of structures that facilitate the worship of false gods may be facilitating someone's choosing of a path to damnation. I doubt that a muslim at judgment day would be so impressed with your loving gesture of facilitating the worship of a religion that gets them sent to hell. Building a mosque for someone who wants a mosque is a no greater show of love than building a gallows for someone who wants to commit suicide.

REASONS WHY IT IS BAD:
2) Based on the first two commandments, facilitating the worship of false gods is probably not something that God is cool with. "Hey take it easy YHWH, if I didn't do it someone else would have."
Jesus recognizes sin and temptation will come but he has a special warning for the one through whom it comes. (Lk. 17:1)

3) It is poor stewardship of your life to use some of it for the advancement of another religions.

There are my thoughts.

By the way, if after reading the NT you don't worship Jesus, you are not close to the NT.

Thom Stark said...

Jay,

I've read the NT. I don't worship Jesus. I worship God through Jesus. Just like James Dunn, and the early Christians themselves.

So please try not to condescend those whose beliefs are informed by careful biblical study. You seriously think I'm not close to the NT? What would that even mean?

Muslims do not worship a false God. They worship Yahweh. Or haven't you read the Qur'an?

Thom Stark said...

Jay,

If you haven't already done so, please read my entire series on NT Christology and explain to me at what point I am "not close to the NT."

http://thomstark.net/?p=1130

If you can't do that, if you can't support your offensive claims, then don't make them.

Thom Stark said...

My response to Jay's other points would be this:

1) On the other hand, if (some) Muslims are correct and you are going to hell for worshiping Jesus as a God (the Qur'an actually praises Christians, however), don't you think you'd be better off having built the mosque? Then, maybe Yahweh would have mercy on you on judgment day, because you did at least one thing right.

2) As already noted, Muslims do not worship a false God, unless Jay thinks Yahweh is a false God. By Jay's light's any Christian denomination that isn't his denomination (the Mustard Seed denomination?) is going to hell for worshiping a "false God," i.e., Yahweh with some bits Jay doesn't like. A Baptist contractor shouldn't help build a Catholic church, and a Seventh-day Adventist contractor shouldn't help build a house that is going to be used for worship on Sundays.

3) Is your faith and your religion so weak that you think helping others to get their ideas out there is going to damage your own? Can't Christianity stand in the face of the Islam? To my mind, that displays how little faith Jay has and how tenuous is his grasp on his particular religion. I would think that rather than not participating, a Christian would bring more glory to God by helping the Muslims express their religion in the best and clearest possible way, so that Jay's God's truth can show itself to be greater even than the greatest expression of its opposition. I guess Jay wants God's truth to abound all the less.

Thom Stark said...

Forgive the long string of comments, but Jay isn't replying. He must live in Japan or something. Anyway, I love how Jay takes Luke 17:1 out of context, while accusing "others" of not being close to the NT. In Luke 17:1, the command to rebuke the sinner takes place within the context of discipleship. On the other hand, Paul gives opposite instructions for those outside the faith in 1 Cor 6.

Meanwhile, many Jesus scholars think Jesus and his dad probably helped to build idolatrous buildings in Sepphoris. After all, a job's a job and Gentiles is Gentiles.

Eric said...

Tyler,
What do you think of situational ethics? Do you think that love is the primary "law" for believers? Obviously situations are subjective and perhaps we don't know all the facts about this particular scenario, but if I was a builder of buildings, it would be difficult for me to discriminate against a community because they don't believe the way I do. Also, I assumed that the builder had a working relationship with a Muslim (a leader perhaps)... maybe this isn't the case.

Participation becomes idolatry when you fly the flag of another, pledge your allegiance to another. The act of constructing a building is not the same as the act of worshiping the idols of that building.

A strip club is a different scenario altogether. Honestly, I think that God can turn the construction of a strip club into something good. Of course, it's a matter of sin, not salvation. You're also not dealing with a "community of people" as much as you're dealing with a business, something entirely different.

Jay,
You assume that creating a structure is the same as facilitating idol worship. That's a leap. With that logic, Christian builders would have no work, like Nicole said.

I never said that love was giving people what they want, those are your words. This is what I was thinking:

Assuming that the builder will have some level of professional communication with muslims during the construction of the mosque, shouldn't he/she seize that opportunity to be a witness in any way possible?

To decline such an offer could, IMO:
1. cause the job to go elsewhere, potentially to someone who could care less about loving Jesus
2. offend the muslim community and hamper outreach efforts
3. demonstrate (like Thom said, cynical or not) fear of other religions (just like the anti-mosque issue)

The act of building a physical mosque isn't advancing Islam and it's not idolatry, it's treating people how you would like to be treated.

I agree with Nicole about our obsessive concern for the sins of non-Christians, our focus should be the relationship with the non-Christian with hope that they will come to Christ. Focusing on the sins of non-Christians creates animosity towards "enemies" that we should simply be loving ala "Ground Zero Mosque."

Honestly if the builder thinks that he/she will be sinning by building a mosque, he/she shouldn't do it.

Thom Stark said...

Good comments, Eric.

The only thing is I do think all this talk of the "idolatry" of Islam should really cease. Islam is more iconoclastic than Calvin. Besides being one of the most inaccurate accusations a Christian could make about Islam, it also happens to be the most offensive to Islamic sensibilities. There are no idols in mosques, not even hypothetical mosques in situational ethics scenarios, and to say that there are is to confuse the ethical scenario, at the very least.

Tyler Stewart said...

As I suspected this has turned into a very interesting discussion. I honestly don't know where I'm at on this issue, so as of right now I'm trying to prod both sides of the debate. I've appreciated everyones' comments.

Eric and Nicole,

I wonder if you think that worshiping in a Mosque is a sin? If so, then I find it difficult to excuse participation.

Nicole you are obviously correct to suggest that a contractor cannot dictate what happens in the buildings he builds whether they be houses or office buildings. If, however, he has a Christian conscience he might think twice about building a structure he knows will be used for an activity he deems as sin. The goal here is not to judge the non-Christian so much as to avoid participation. So, I guess the question I've got to ask is, "Do you think that Muslims worship a false god?"

Regarding situational ethics, I'm not an "ethicist" but from what I have read I am more drawn to virtue ethics. We create habits of virtue that inform our ethical decisions rather than "decide" what is right in given situations. I think my question is framed up in terms of situational ethics but what I'm driving at is perhaps a question of virtue. What virtue dictates our actions in this case? I would appreciate help from someone more informed in the language of ethics here.

Jay,

I don't know that its helpful to frame the whole question in terms of "heaven and hell." It is condemning and falsely portrays the purpose of witness. We are witnesses to the identity of God not eternal insurance salesmen. I think you probably don't want to make too much of a distinction there, but I do. Our witness is about God's identity and purposes for the world. It's not about getting people in or out of hell.

Still, I think you are correct to point to the significance of worshiping false gods. Thom does not think that Muslims worship false a god. Am I correct there Thom?

Thom,

If was a Hindu temple, where there was going to be idol worship would that change your decision?


For everyone,

I wonder what is peculiar to us as Christians that ought to dictate our actions here? How does the crucifixion and resurrection inform our logic?

Thom Stark said...

Tyler,

Correct. Muslims do not worship a false God, unless Yahweh is a false God. Muslims worship Yahweh. I don't know why that's so hard for some to understand. Do they have some different notions about Yahweh than John Piper? Yes. But so does Greg Boyd. In fact, Greg Boyd's God and John Piper's God are so dissimilar that one of them has to be false. Which displays the insanity in trying to use such black and white categories for theology. The reality is, Muslims and Christians agree about way more than they disagree. Their theologies are infinitesimally different.

So too with their respective Christologies. But I take it Jay isn't aware of that because he hasn't read the Qur'an (why bother, right? Jay's religion is right because he was born into it). In reality, the Qur'an affirms the virgin birth of Jesus and confesses that Jesus is the Messiah who will come again to earth at the end of the age to judge the righteous and the unrighteous. The Qur'an says that Jesus is God's WORD (capital W), and that he is the very spirit (ruh) of God.

If Jay will read my series on NT christology, or maybe a James Dunn book, or a basic NT Intro textbook, he'll realize that the NT Christology is even more similar to that found in the Qur'an.

The only thing Muslims reject is the Trinity, because they are monotheists. Guess what! The Trinity isn't in the Bible.

Jay seems to me to have abandoned his Stone-Campbell sensibilities and replaced them with the dogmatisms of creedal Christianity.

It's a shame. Because I like him. But now I have to oppose him.

No matter, I suppose, since I'm going to hell anyway.

To your second question: if it were a Hindu temple would I still build it? Yes. I gave several reasons why it wasn't problematic to build a mosque, and my point that a mosque wasn't an idol center was only made in response to fallacious claims that it was. But my other point in particular about helping the other religion to come to its fullest expression so that the truth (whatever it is) can shine the brightest—that point stands.

Plus all the other points. Say I'm like Jay and think being a Christian is all about telling people they're going to hell and trying to get them to go to heaven. In that case, as others have pointed out, I would want the building contract so that I could spend all that time with those people developing a close relationship so that I could annoy them with my parochial religion everyday. If I turned the contract down, I wouldn't have such a unique opportunity to spread my bullshit.

Thom Stark said...
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Thom Stark said...
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Thom Stark said...

Here's a question: do you think Paul made tents for Gentiles?

Thom Stark said...

Unrelated but related. Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry.

Michael DeFazio said...

Wow, the last time I checked in there were only like five comments. Definitely not going to try and weigh in on everything, though everything has been instructive in one way or another.

I think another important factor here should be Paul's thoughts about purchasing and eating "food sacrificed to idols" and other such issues in various places in the NT. (Not calling Islam idolatrous; my point is elsewhere and I'm not sure I deserve an opinion on that question anyway.) In the end Paul was okay with buying and eating that meat, even though this would benefit the idol-making folks and keep their "missions" afloat (among other things). But the point I want to draw from this is not that the Christian contractor should go ahead and do it. Rather, the point I want to make is that Paul counseled that Christ-followers each do what they think is right, while being sure to take into account the sensitivities of what he calls the "weaker brother."

So if this case is at all parallel, we shouldn't expect to come up with a once-for-all answer, but rather allow for some freedom among Christians to respond according to conscience. To be honest I don't like that answer, so if the texts I'm pointing to are being misused, I welcome that being pointed out. But it seems that'd be a good starting point.

This question reminds me of another conversation a few of us had on a blog some time ago in answer to the question of whether we'd vote for or against the opening of a Muslim school.

There are some important differences in the two situations, however, namely that in that situation all I had was a vote about whether to allow it. In this one I'm being asked if I would personally work on it. I don't know whether I would or not.

Two final thoughts:

1. I don't think the golden rule applies here, at least not for me. I don't care if a Muslim helps build my church or not. I'd probably have more respect for them if they refused.

2. I'm not sure if working on a Muslim house of worship is any different than working on an American house of worship. If we do reject such a project, for the sake of integrity we're going to have to pay attention to the underlying theologies and allegiances taught and supported by other buildings we might work on, such as memorials, skyscrapers, etc, and also refuse to participate in building them. These are no less houses of worship simply because people don't actually consider them such.

I'm afraid this came out as a bunch of random rambling. Hope something can be salvaged from it!

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Tyler Stewart said...

Thom,

Paul certainly made tents for Gentiles. His participation in culture is notable. That's a good point. I still think it is a different issue when referring to building a place for people of another religion to worship.

I really enjoyed the NY Timess article. It is a sad reality that so many people are discriminated against.

Please refrain from using expletives in comments. Disagreement is fine, but demeaning someone else's view the way you did will not be allowed. I'll delete any more comments like that. In fact, the only reason I haven't already deleted the one you have up is because there is some good stuff in there. Please don't make this an issue.

Michael,

The "food sacrificed to idols" passages (i.e. Romans 14; 1 Cor 8, 10) were what came immediately to my mind as well. I don't think you're misreading them. I think I might be the "weaker brother." Also, each of us will stand before God to be judged. So it's not my job to decide. I think there is some room for disagreement.

I've found the argument that we ought to serve all humans compelling. I also think that your point about building other, less recognized houses of worship, is helpful. I probably wouldn't even raise an eyebrow if this were participating in building a stadium. That's arguably more idolatrous than any other religious "temple." It then becomes hard to draw distinctions of what one will and won't participate in.

Your statement about the golden rule raised a thought for me. I wonder if a Muslim would want the help of a Christian contractor? I don't want to lump all Muslims together, but I wonder if the contract would be accepted?

Thom Stark said...

You can't edit my comment?

Thom Stark said...

Anyway, sorry. I guess I thought expletives were out of the bag after Jay's use of "hell."

Jay Greer said...

Tyler,

You've said two things that really peaked my interest!

1) "We are witnesses to the identity of God"
Very well said. You're right that I don't want to make a distinction between God's character and what he does or says he will do. Namely, return and judge. Question: How does making decisions in light of what God has promised he will do contradict with witnessing to God's identity? (...Part of His identity being a judge who is jealous for worship.)

2) "How does the crucifixion and resurrection inform our logic?" That's a good question. If you have thoughts, I'd love to hear them. I will continue to think about this.

Everyone,

What is your endgame? Do you hope for the conversion of these muslims in question? Do you work and pray for the conversion and subsequent salvation of all muslims? Wouldn't it be great if in all of their prayers they were able to boldly approach the throne of grace because of salvation through faith in their Lord Jesus?

Alex said...

I would build the building (mosque or whatev). But for political reasons, not religious. I honestly think the framing of the question as an ethical one is odd.

Thom Stark said...

Good point, Giltner.

Eric said...

I think that blanketing the sin label with what happens in a Mosque is problematic for a two specific reasons.

1. It neglects the presence of insider movements in Muslim communities. Some Muslims are also Christians.
2. Paul taught, prayed and participated in activities in synagogues.

Also, are you saying that by simply constructing a building, the builder is sinning? It still seems like you are holding the builder responsible for what happens in the building he/she constructs.

The golden rule argument is not about what you would have someone do for you, but what someone would refuse to do for you. This is the refusal of service to a customer because he/she is a Muslim, the service provider happens to be a builder. It's also not about preference if it happens to align with the refusal of service. How would you feel if a Muslim refused you service (for anything) on the basis that you are a Christian (even if you prefer them not to do so). This is why I asked the questions in my first post, it's a logical extension to the argument.

I wonder if Christians shouldn't be builders if it is problematic to construct a building, lest it be used for sin. Since Michael referenced it, I wonder if your friend has similar qualms about building for the military, government, banks, payday lenders, etc.

As for the endgame, of course we want all Muslims to come to Christ. Insider movements are potentially the greatest hope for this happening, and guess what... insiders still worship/pray/participate in Mosques.

It's important to note that, until circumstances change, we have to live with people of all religions. We can't isolate ourselves from Muslims (or any other religion) by refusing them services and attempting to hamper their efforts. In fact, since Muslims are perhaps the most oppressed group in America, I certainly wouldn't want to be seen as participating in that oppression.

It should also be noted that here in the US we have the ability (through an exception in the Civil Rights Act) to "refuse service" based on religious persuasions. Since the US is a predominately "Christian" nation not servicing Muslims wouldn't necessarily hurt a provider financially. Christians in Muslim nations, however, don't have these luxuries. Would you declare that a Christian national in a Muslim nation also couldn't build a mosque?

Based on virtue ethics, why would your decision differ? Is love not the virtue in this situation for the Christian? Who are you trying to appear virtuous to? It sounds like virtue ethics for a Christian could be an easy segue into legalism or is more attractive to legalists. Perhaps I'm simply misunderstanding.

I agree with Michael, the reference to the "weaker brother" really seems to be key here, so if the builder thinks he will be sinning, he shouldn't build the mosque.

Jay Greer said...

I don't think anyone is talking about refusing service to someone because they're a muslim. I'm talking about refusing to perform the service of building a mosque.

Yes, I would declare that a Christian national in a Muslim nation also shouldn't (not "couldn't") build a mosque even if that meant financial hardships. Seeking financial security shouldn't factor into our thinking process.

Thom Stark said...

Would you build a home for a Muslim family?

They pray in their homes, to their "false god."

In fact, Muslims pray wherever they are throughout the day.

Would you build an office building that was going to have Muslim employees? The office building would be required to have a prayer room for the Muslims.

A masjid ("mosque" is a French word) is anywhere a Muslim prays.

Would you refuse to pave a sidewalk in the city, in case a Muslim has to stop and pray there?

Alex said...

In regards to Virtue Ethics:

Eric, virtue ethics does not lead to legalism; quite the opposite. Call me, and we can talk more about virtue ethics.

Tyler, I think that virtue ethics is part of what makes this question, as you first posed it, malformed (I mean no disrespect to you in saying this). The phronetic aspect of virtue ethics could only contemplate this question with some kind of context in mind. As it stands, the question seems to be devoid of context.

If the question is really, "How ought Christians relate to Muslims," then that question has some narration that gives rise to its proper contemplation. This seems to be where the conversation has gone.

It could be, also or instead, the context of the current anti-muslim, Quran-burning, "ground-zero" posture in American politics. But in such a manner, our ethics would have to be contemplated quite differently, because it is no longer a question of one religion relating to another. Hence my comments about my reasons being political. But then again, this would mean that your question is waiting on the reader to contextualize, and the real questions is to do with American/Muslim politics.

For the question itself to have any particular context, we would need some kind of narration, some kind of case study. The building of a Mosque by a Christian architect cannot be the same thing every time; the situation would contain particulars so numerous that we could never actually make heads or tails of the "right" or "faithful" way to act. Now this may seem a banality, but the notion of virtue ethics was brought up, and in virtue ethics, it is precisely the concept of phronesis that disbars this question from being contemplated without something concrete to move on from.

Jordan told me a story he heard on CNN or somewheres, where a preacher and a mother in a church in TN (I believe) has been across the street from a Mosque for two decades, and their relations have always been respectful and helpful and benevolent toward each other. They helped the Muslims move in, they made them food when they were waiting for their own kitchen to be built, etc etc. When the interviewer asked this preacher why they would do this (and for the interviewer, we cannot be deceived into thinking this is some kind of "religious ethical question"), the preacher, who was described to me as something of a "good ole boy," simply said, "Because Jesus said to love our neighbor, and these people are literally our neighbors."

There's a lot of needless obfuscating going on. This is really not that complicated an issue, if we want to continue to abstract the question into some kind of "ethical" question of being faithful.

If you really are driving for a question of virtue, then it's simple. The highest virtue for the Christian (and this is ubiquitously maintained throughout Christian history - at least in theory :) is love. Until a more specific context can be divined to frame the question, then that's the answer.

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Alex said...

Okay, the billion deletions were because I kept getting this message from Google that my comment was too long, and so I kept trying to repost it, when all the while it was posting. So humblest apologies. I was not being censored or anything by Tyler. :)

Also, for those receiving emails from the thread, sorry fo blowin up yo mailbox.

Peace.

Thom Stark said...

Yeah but love for some of us is different than love for Jay. For Jay, love is telling them they're going to hell and refusing to help them pray to Yahweh in a building.

(Just clarifying that love can be construed different ways.)

Alex said...

Yeah, and it's a fine clarification. I honestly can't make head or tails of all this burning in hell talk.

That is not to say I don't understand the English words being used, or even the ideologies behind them. It's to say that I just don't get it. As politely as possible, and without too much detail.

Jay said...

It's true Alex, the highest is love--love for God. I don't think I would be loving Jesus through building a mosque. (See how I used Jesus and God interchangeably there?)

As for the second highest--loving your neighbor/muslim, I think it's best to stick with sharing the gospel and refraining from anything that could be seen as approving of Islam. Such actions include the building of mosques in my opinion. The gospel message includes the warning that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. That good word bothered the Jews that first heard it and it bothers muslims today.

Thom Stark said...

I think it's cute the way you, Jay, (or Nick standing behind you) are choosing to be stubbornly and willfully ignorant, but playfully so. I'm not even sure why you are a part of this conversation, since you don't seem to be capable of hearing what others are saying and responding. The only thing you've done so far is dig your heels in and reiterate the position we've all been challenging. It's almost as if you're not capable of computing the words we're speaking.

Also, you still doesn't seem to be aware that Muslims believe in Jesus and identify him as the Messiah who is to return in judgment and to save. It's in the Qur'an.

JAY: I am talking to you. Stop ignoring me. Even if Nick did tell you to dissociate from me. You're a big boy.

Thom Stark said...
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Thom Stark said...

*still don't

Alex said...

Jay, first off, I don't know who your comment about using Jesus and God interchangeably was directed at, but actually, even from an ORTHODOX standpoint, that's not good Trinitarian theology. Jesus is God, from the standpoint of accepted (mainline) orthodoxy, but he is not interchangeable with God. That is a sloppy language to use (if you claim to be orthodox, which I imagine you do) about Jesus. And if you don't care about the history of your tradition, then I don't know how you're going to get that straight from the NT (as you claim to do, as if Trinitarian theology is just clearly delineated within the NT; the reason for all those controversies in those first centuries is because its NOT perfectly clear the relation of what would later be appellated the Trinity). Your commitment is deeply indebted to the developments of theology throughout the history of your tradition. Even those ones you read right back into the text. (And for the record, I do buy into orthodoxy - just not for the reasons a lot of people think you should).

Secondly, your response makes me ache. "I don't think taking in a prostitute would be loving God." Yeah, the Jews found that one offensive too. In fact, in one instance a Pharisee found it awful that he should even speak with her. Your view of loving God and loving your neighbor (which I think you falsely separate, and miss Jesus' point in the Matthean version of that story, where the Greek does not say the "second commandment is like it," but that it is "like THIS ONE," i.e. doing one IS doing the other) so narrowly defined as evangelism does not find its witness in the NT, where loving includes all kinds of other things. In fact, once Jesus said to a young ruler apparently that what he had to do to get eternal life was to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Perhaps if we all did that, we would understand this issue a lot better.

And I'd be willing to bet some of that money would be given to some bad sinners. I bet some Muslims might even get some it, and then maybe they, like the widow Jesus praised, would take that little bit we gave and give it to their community to help build a mosque. And THEN we would all be funding a mosque. Then we wouldn't be loving Jesus.

But we don't have to worry about that, because apparently the only thing it takes to love Jesus is to evangelize the world. We just need to stick to spreading the Gospel, and refrain from anything that could be seen as approval of things Jesus don't like.

And actually, I believe that text too, about no other name. But I don't believe it like you believe. So just quoting the Bible at me (which, it might be hard, I'm just a Church Historian after all) isn't going to settle this issue. See, I've read that one too.

Oh yeah, and it didn't bother the Jews for the same reason AT ALL that it bothers Muslims.

This conversation can interesting if we can be rational, and provide arguments, not just prooftexts and assertions.

Alex said...

Jay, first off, I don't know who your comment about using Jesus and God interchangeably was directed at, but actually, even from an ORTHODOX standpoint, that's not good Trinitarian theology. Jesus is God, from the standpoint of accepted (mainline) orthodoxy, but he is not interchangeable with God. That is a sloppy language to use (if you claim to be orthodox, which I imagine you do) about Jesus. And if you don't care about the history of your tradition, then I don't know how you're going to get that straight from the NT (as you claim to do, as if Trinitarian theology is just clearly delineated within the NT; the reason for all those controversies in those first centuries is because its NOT perfectly clear the relation of what would later be appellated the Trinity). Your commitment is deeply indebted to the developments of theology throughout the history of your tradition. Even those ones you read right back into the text. (And for the record, I do buy into orthodoxy - just not for the reasons a lot of people think you should).

Secondly, your response makes me ache. "I don't think taking in a prostitute would be loving God." Yeah, the Jews found that one offensive too. In fact, in one instance a Pharisee found it awful that he should even speak with her. Your view of loving God and loving your neighbor (which I think you falsely separate, and miss Jesus' point in the Matthean version of that story, where the Greek does not say the "second commandment is like it," but that it is "like THIS ONE," i.e. doing one IS doing the other) so narrowly defined as evangelism does not find its witness in the NT, where loving includes all kinds of other things. In fact, once Jesus said to a young ruler apparently that what he had to do to get eternal life was to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Perhaps if we all did that, we would understand this issue a lot better.

Alex said...

And I'd be willing to bet some of that money would be given to some bad sinners. I bet some Muslims might even get some it, and then maybe they, like the widow Jesus praised, would take that little bit we gave and give it to their community to help build a mosque. And THEN we would all be funding a mosque. Then we wouldn't be loving Jesus.

But we don't have to worry about that, because apparently the only thing it takes to love Jesus is to evangelize the world. We just need to stick to spreading the Gospel, and refrain from anything that could be seen as approval of things Jesus don't like.

And actually, I believe that text too, about no other name. But I don't believe it like you believe. So just quoting the Bible at me (which, it might be hard, I'm just a Church Historian after all) isn't going to settle this issue. See, I've read that one too.

Oh yeah, and it didn't bother the Jews for the same reason AT ALL that it bothers Muslims.

This conversation can interesting if we can be rational, and provide arguments, not just prooftexts and assertions.

Jordan D. Wood said...

P.S. Our notion of "evangelism" is a modern creation.

Jordan D. Wood said...

Which means, if that is the highest practice of the Christian virtue of charity, then the Christians of the first 4 centuries didn't really love anyone.

Jay said...

Alex, I did use sloppy language. I should have asserted Jesus' divinity with more precision. Thanks for calling me on that one!

I will stop asserting my stance. Instead, let me seek to understand your (everyone's) stance(s) better.

1) What's your endgame?
2) How will you accomplish that endgame?
3) Explain to me how loving muslims is equivalent to building mosques as a Christian contractor.

Thom Stark said...

We already answered all three of those questions, Jay, in numerous ways, and you're yet to interact with what we've said.

michaeldefazio said...

Jordan, do you mean our view of evangelism is a "modern creation" or something more like "Christendom construct"? Either way I'd love to hear how you'd flesh out what that means.

Eric said...

Well Alex, I think you may have killed this discussion :). All this nonsense about context really makes obfuscating difficult.

Tyler, do you have any follow-up questions? I wonder if you could give us more of the back-story behind your conversation to add some clarity (and context). We could always talk about something else, I think that the Ground Zero mosque debate has plenty of life to it.

Otherwise, it's on to the hard part... actually loving people.

Tyler Stewart said...

I plan to give a full response soon. I'm lecturing tomorrow for a class so I don't have time to really address the questions and issues being raised. I've learned a lot from everyone already so thanks for your willingness to contribute.

In the meantime, I would echo Michael in asking Jordan to flesh out his statement about evangelism. I would also challenge Jay to give an assessment or critique of Thom and Alex's arguments.

Right now I'm trying to categorize everyone's arguments. I would appreciate if everyone would give at short reply to the question:

"What is this whole debate about?"

Is it a question of ethics?
Is it a question of politics? If so what does that mean?
Is it a question of neighbor-love?
Is it a question of evangelism?

I think there is a lot of talking past one another because we don't really understand what the question is about. We may radically disagree about what the question is most fundamentally concerned with and it might allow us to analyze those assumptions. Maybe this won't be helpful at all. If not, I'm sure Thom will let me know promptly :).

I hope to post a more thoughtful comment soon. Perhaps on a new Post to save our scroll buttons?

Thom Stark said...

Tyler,

Establishing what the exact question is and in what context/s we need to come up with an answer to it is always a helpful (necessary) exercise.

I'm not sure it will make a difference to Jay, however, one way or the other.

Jay said...

Tyler,
Sorry for my simplistic interaction with others. My main interaction is that I do not think the building of a mosque is a loving act. That's the main presupposition that I disagree with.

One other interaction might be helpful. A mosque is qualitatively different than a sidewalk. I also think we're comparing apples and oranges when we compare buildings that might afford opportunities for sin and centers of worship for other religions.

Michael, your thoughts are good. You're either slightly wrong or I'm a weaker brother. : )

Thom Stark said...

Jsy,

You haven't said my name once in this whole discussion, or directly addressed me once.

Why? Is it because you think I'm going to hell? If so, wouldn't the loving thing to do be to tell me so in as direct a manner as possible?

As for your comments to Tyler, no one here had a "presupposition" that building a mosque was a loving act. People proffered arguments why it could be so construed, but nobody presupposed that to be the case.

My point about the sidewalk is that it is unclear where you would draw the line and why you would draw the line where you do.

You didn't answer my question about whether you would build a home for a Muslim family. Such a home is just as much a house of worship as a mosque. So if you were a homebuilder, would you refuse to serve Muslim clients?

Jay said...

Thom,
I'll change "presupposition" to "idea."
I would build a home because I think houses and mosques are qualitatively different.

Fellers,
My work week begins today and I need to stop blogging for time sake. Thanks for talking with me. Carry on without me and if there's something I said that you still need to speak against, please do so. Just don't be offended at my silence.

Thom Stark said...

If you think houses and mosques are qualitatively different, then you don't understand Islam.

Thom Stark said...

Moreover, you still didn't answer the question. The question was why you would draw the line wherever it is you draw it. I know you've given yourself an out from responding, which is fine, but you've managed to continue to evade all of our challenges to your position.

Why is a home qualitatively different from a masjid? Muslims worship Yahweh, sorry, a false god in their homes. They invite other Muslims to their homes to worship their "false god." They teach the Qur'an in their homes. Everything they do in a masjid, they do in their homes.

So what's the qualitative difference?

Is it just what the masjid represents? If so, isn't that just avoiding the apperance of "evil," without actually avoiding "evil" itself?

It's difficult to make heads or tails of your position. But you don't seem to be interested in clarifying it for us. But if we're wrong, and if our position is a sin, aren't you obligated to tell us why your position is the right one? Otherwise, you share in our guilt, because you didn't do the loving thing and warn us of our error. (I'm just following your logic here.)

Jordan D. Wood said...

I'll clarify what I mean as soon as I read the 400 pages due tomorrow.

jared said...

This has been an extremely interesting conversation to observe. Though there were certainly instances in which I glazed over a little as things deviated from the original question. However I believe at this point I'm actually landing more in line with a very early question that Alex posed--what is the context? I don't want to champion a simplistic position; but it is hard for me to deal with this beyond the esoteric level without some sort of a (hypothetical or fictitious) narrative framing the question. Without which the question gets lost in this "ethics in a vacuum" sort of argument.
So then, if as a narrative we supposed our "Christian" contractor is struggling to provide for his family wouldn't the acceptance of this job fulfill his ethical responsibility to his household? I hope that doesn't appear as an immature wrinkle thrown in; and certainly I have read fewer books and poured through fewer blogs than the other esteemed commenterait here. Though I think it furthers this point--without a narrative context the conversation is somewhat devoid of impact. Jay, you're asking about endgames and such, a fine request, though without a beginning there isn't really an end to forecast. Even the comments concerning Paul's statement about "weaker brother(s)" and such really implies a narrative context. If all this seems a bit redundant redundant I apologize.

Oh and Tyler if this sounds like a a sophomore journalism student writing in to the New Yorker, please delete it before Thom or someone else destroys me.

To the point--I build the mosque if the money is good (just kidding, a little).

Thom Stark said...

Jared,

I'm only interested in destroying the positions of those who pronounce destruction upon millions of people they've never met, and whose traditions they do not understand.

jared said...

Thom,
Please understand I was speaking in jest. I would find a way to carry on regardless of your or any one else's critique. Though I certainly welcome said critiques.

Thom Stark said...

Jared,

I figured. Just clarifying in case. ;)

Nathan said...

How about building the mosk because it is a chance to experience and learn about God from a tradition that you would not have necessarily learned about before.

or if they are Hindu... gods.

I'm up for learning and hearing and being in proximity with other humans and their traditions.

And if that leads to Hell some day, then we'll just have to continue the conversations and life from there.

Thom Stark said...

*smiles*