Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fear, Faith and Change

This week on the Awareness Course we were looking comparing what Christian believes about the authority of the scriptures and comparing that with Islam and Judaism. Apparently a major difference is that Islam sees the Quran as the ultimate authority. Every word is believed to be the word of God hence they read it in its original language and revere the actual books themselves. Interpretations or Sharia decide what is the correct meanings and application of the scripture i.e. what is Halal – the right thing to do. Similarly our Old Testament particularly the Torah is treated similarly by the Jews.

However these interpretations tend to be very literal whereas usually when Christians interpret the Bible we would tend to approach it differently. For instance we would attempt to understand the style of writing, take into account the context of a verse in the whole Bible and attempt to understand the cultural context in which it is written. We would then apply our understanding of these principles with an awareness of our ever changing cultural context. Though it is scary this means that we are forever journeying in our faith re-applying it to new cultural contexts in are ever changing world.

As Christians rather than saying that our ultimate authority is the Bible many would tend to say that our ultimate authority is Jesus. We would use the Bible as a sign post to point us and others to Christ rather than a finishing post. Of course we love the Bible and it is very dear to us but we do not exalt it to a place of authority above God himself. But rather than simply using our logic to prove points of doctrine from texts in the Bible we are thrown back on God himself to discern how to apply the Bible to our situations that will involve relating to people who may be living very differently from ourselves.

BTW you might be interested in David Matthew's notes on this book that challenges the idea of the inerrancy of scripture.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Half Term News

Half term has nearly gone and I’ve still got lots of marking to do. As well as playing on facebook, I have so far managed to catch up with some reviews for Crossrhythms and be part of an interesting discussion on mission in our church.

But I have had some time with my little daughter Callie. One day we went to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery again and did another workshop at the icon gallery. We also popped into the Halcyon Gallery on the way.

I’ve also been catching up with the news. I’ve been following the recent debate in the news about the role of Sharia law. I think that these comments by Richard Sudworth are the most sensible response that I have found so far. What do you think?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tolerance, Dialogue or Embracing Diversity

We had another interesting discussion last week in the Awareness Course. This time it was on how to dialogue with other faiths. The main emphasis was on humility. By this we meant realising that our faith is ‘incomplete’ in the sense that we are all on a journey trying to understand our faith better. We wouldn’t say that all faiths lead to God but we had to admit that Judaism is based on God’s revelation in the Old Testament and Islam appears to have some Christian roots. Even though we may disagree with the teachings of these faiths we still wondered if someone of these faiths – or others for that matter – who were sincerely seeking God may find him without hearing the message of Jesus.

Anna did a great job pointing to the idea that since Christ died for all then all or justified, for which there is possible support for in scripture. She deliberately presented this as an interesting idea but quite as a convincing idea. What would be the motivation for mission if this was the case? We were a little more convinced that as God reveals himself in creation then there may be a possibility that someone could come to know God without hearing the message of Jesus. But I think in this section we were saying more about what we didn’t know than what we did know. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Also we discussed how we may learn from other people who are not Christian ways of outworking our faith. For instance, Eastern culture can teach us a lot about hospitality that we don’t practice in the West as we are socialised to retreat into our own private worlds – especially as we are so busy with our stress filled lives. But hospitality is more than having people round for a meal. Helen mentioned the idea of imaging we are the host wherever we go and so making sure everything is alright for everyone. Finally we were challenged to think of who we know who has a different faith and how we can be hospitable to them.