Over the last 2 Friday’s, I participated in what I believed to be an amazing opportunity.
Let me set the scene:
I teach a class entitled Missiology. We discuss the concept of the mission of God in our world – what that entails and many related topics. Such topics are covered as the church, the kingdom of God, the gospel, the mission that began in Gen 1 (not the NT), the work of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, modern mission movements, and a few other areas.
But one other topic addressed for merely 2 class sessions is that of Mission & Other Religions.
Learning needs to be practical. It has to work its way down deeper into our hearts and bodies, not just our cerebral capacities (though it includes that). Education is not simply dissemination of information. Rather, it affects the whole human. If you need more back up on this idea, check out Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom.
Consequently, in Missiology, I’ve tried to lay out a couple of very practical assignments where we experience mission of some sorts together.
The first was about serving the poor and disadvantaged in Memphis, which you can read about here. Yet, with the second assignment, I have a tad bit of trepidation in sharing the concept, mainly because of expected backlash from my evangelical friends and acquaintances.
In our discussion around Mission & Other Religions, I tasked the students with attending a mosque for the Muslim Friday prayer service. The goal was to learn, to listen, to observe, to engage as they could.
Tough one for many – and I presume for some students as well when I began sharing about the assignment at the beginning of the semester.
Upon arrival, we entered, were given a brief tour of the mosque and then took our seats in the rear of the prayer service. Now, there was a little lack of participation in that I wasn’t going to require the students to join in the actual prayers. It was to be a learning and observational experience, though ironically some of the girls were given head garb during the first visit and asked to join on the prayer mats. I actually thought this was a beautiful opportunity to show respect and grace – and I appreciated the respect they showed.
But, overall, this visit was a big step for many – mind you, it was my first actual attendance to an Islamic prayer service as well.
Yet, I tell you I walked away with great appreciation and deep respect for these Muslim friends (and I believe just about every student found themselves in a similar place, though I’ll find out when reading over the Reflection Papers).
Stay with me before the accusations arise.
You see, most Christians have their identity shaped by what and who they are against. It would work better to start with what we are for – not simply Jesus in an ethereal way, but Jesus and all of his attributes. We start with the formative idea that we don’t just follow our Lord, our Master, though we do. But we follow his example, how he lived, including the awkward atrocities to the religious elite.
You see, having our identity shaped by what we are against leaves us functioning with hostility towards others (other Christian groups and those in the world) rather than hospitality. The launching pad is flawed, I believe. We cannot properly consider a response of mercy towards “the others” when we identify them as the outcast. Imagine any group taking up such a call. Maybe that’s the underlining perspective behind the holy wars of old between Christians and Muslims, the wars of eastern European peoples, the Spanish Inquisition, the murders of the Anabaptist, the slaughtering of Jews, and many more.
And here is the thing: This statement about the difference between a hostile and hospitable approach to others – I learned this from a well-known speaker who’s name will remain anonymous, lest the motivational (or manipulative?) judgment be unleashed on a person who has been branded a heretic with nothing good to offer to the table of Christ’s people. Fortunately we live in the 21st century so that this person does not fall under the same death judgment of those like the Anabaptists.
Well, I could simply say that Jesus taught these same concepts of merciful hospitality towards others – both in word and deed. But somehow we would make it out as if Jesus never taught such. There would be a memory lapse to Jesus eating with actual slutty prostitutes, the dung-of-the-earth tax collectors of Rome, and conversing with pagan-mixed worshipping Samaritans (including their adulterous women!).
And interesting that Jesus affirmed some sense of the Samaritan worship in John 4 – you [actually] worship what you do not know…
But here I found myself in a mosque with a heart of gratitude for these Muslims. They are not jihadists and they have no desire to be. They proclaim peace, not war. They know to not run to certain texts in the Qur’an to support jihad holy war, just as most Christians know we don’t run to Joshua to support the extermination of Jews or Palestinians or [insert a certain despised group here].
Respect, appreciation, honor – all these I sensed for these Muslim friends. They are involved in great works of serving the poor of Memphis, even putting many a Christians to shame. Of course I believe they need to have a fuller revelation of Isa, that is Jesus the Christ. But I still believe it amazing they they are seeking Allah. Remember, Allah is the general Arabic word for God, like Elohim is the general Hebrew word for God – actually, Middle-Eastern and Indonesian Christian worship Allah, knowing it means God.
Their knowledge is lacking – just as the Samaritans, just as the philosophers of Athens we read of in Acts 17 – whom Jesus and Paul attributed some worship to the one true God, though it lacked full knowledge. And I’m not speaking of salvation here, but more of worship. Worship and salvation can be distinguished. Think of creation – it worships, but is not “saved” in the normal personal way in which evangelicals think. Jews or Muslims can worship the one true God without it speaking of their standing with regards to salvation.
In his book, Allah: A Christian Response, Yale theologian, Miroslav Volf, offers these reflections from Martin Luther’s writings:
As Luther the preacher developed his position before the congregation in Eisleben, he invoked the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, recorded in John’s Gospel. In the course of the conversation about proper worship, this shrewd woman asks Jesus where one should worship God, on Mount Gerizim in Samaria or at the temple in Jerusalem. On the surface, the issue seems to be the place of worship. Deeper down, the issue is identifying whether the God of the Samaritans or the God of the Jews is the true God. “You [Samaritans] worship what you do not know,” Jesus responds. He then adds, “We [Jews] worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (4:22).32 In Luther’s account, true Christians are like the Jews in Jesus’s statement: they worship the true God whom they know. All others—heathens, Jews, Muslims, even “false” Christians—are like Samaritans: they worship that same true God whom they do not know. (p70)
I believe Muslims are functioning at some level of worship to the one and only God. And many of their hearts are seeking, and I pray these sons of Ishmael do come to a full knowledge of the true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But here they are; here we were. Learning, listening, observing. I sense they struggle a bit in their own circles of backlash when interacting with Jews and Christians. But they’ve made headway. I want to contact Usman and Younis again to see about having coffee together, even listening of how we Christians could bless them – making Jesus actually real to these people.
Yes, I want the good news of the rule of God in Christ to be made known to them. But I don’t think some Romans Road plan will be too successful for Muslims that have their base in the center of the Bible belt. The gospel is the power of God for salvation – but that is not encapsulated in “four spiritual laws”.
And, so, the fearful motivations, or manipulations, will definitely exist. One might have to pay the price like a Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa (and I’m not saying that is what I would do, or where most Christians would end up) in standing up for and relating to the despised and outcasts. But we’ll never make any headway without taking those little steps of listening and dialoging.
Most atrocities and fear come from ignorance, not truth. A wise man once said: the truth will set you free. Perhaps the truth about who Muslims really are as human beings made in the image of Allah (or God), seeking Allah, serving Allah, might help us faithfully make Isa (or Jesus) known to them.
Scott – Was very grateful for the opportunity to attend and learn from this experience. I think I had/share many similar thoughts as you did. I was very fearful at first, but as we were welcomed and greeted felt oddly ‘at home’ there among these loving people. Keep doing this.
Yes, I think we need to keep doing this. Would be nice to do the same with the Orthodox Jewish synagogue next year.
hi Scott – thanks for your great testimony. This is an issue I frequently find myself wrestling with.
I clearly see Jesus mixing frequently with the “social underclasses”, yet, when I read Gospel stories like that of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, I don’t find Jesus seemingly entering into an exchange with her, with open ears, respectful of what she’s saying, and promissing to go away and think about it. Never does this happen – Jesus always comes with answers that are spoken with the assumption that they are incontrovertable and unanswerable – he never needs to go away and rethink his message, (or appear to give the impression that He will) for the sake of not wanting to offend someone. Jesus simply tells them the truth and leaves them with it.
The irony is that I agree that your approach seems to be something we must all take very seriously, because in our common experience, sometimes it is the only way that people on two sides of a faith disagreement can be pursuaded to risk coming out from their trench and into no-man’s land to take a closer look at the other side. Only when your “opponent” sees your vulnerability in no-man’s land might he also – with sincerity – come out to join you there.
But I don’t see this approach being Jesus’ approach -either when He minsitered to individuals, or when He instructed the disciples as to how they should go out among the local townships they visited, preaching the good news of the Kingdom.
I do feel that your point is well made – and maybe this is because the cultural and spiritual situation of Palestine in AD.30 is vastly removed from our own present situation, and because the example we find of our Lord in His ministry cannot be reproduced by any of us because firstly we ae not Jesus, and secondly, none of us are in a place where we have the right to speak to others in the way that the unique Son of God did.
I think you hit the nail on the head, Jonathon, with your last sentence. While we ARE Christ’s representatives, we are NOT Christ, and we need to keep that in mind. He has given us PERMISSION to speak with His authority, but we need to respect our audience. If we go in spouting the truth of Christ (calling it love because we are “warning them of their fate”), we are likely to be met with indifference or hostility, neither of which will lead anyone to the truth.
We must learn to earn the right to speak into people’s lives. Sometimes this takes quite a bit of time. While there is room for the hit and run style of evangelism in the world, this setting is not one of them. A slow and patient approach is more likely to bear fruit (and fruit not borne out of fear but out of love).
Jonathan – Great to hear from you. Sorry for the delayed response on such good questions. I’ve been quite busy with a house move (and no internet at home yet). I’ll come back to you soon.
Wow Mate, you are on that “liberal freight-train” aren’t you! I have seen the Muslims in Britain, and even have a friend there or two. But they are not radical (yet?) And theologically-biblically, myself, I just don’t see Islam as a part of the faith of Abraham! The Cross of Christ really is that great separation! “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Phil. 3: 18) Yes the true Christ, and Christianity, is always narrow in this fallen, sinful world! My thoughts anyway… Yes big differences between us!
But again, best ‘In Christ’!
*Btw, the Jewish Orthodox, would have been a better choice, especially with the Blood Moon and the Tetrad! Always October! And next year!
“Jesus took His twelve disciples up the slopes of the Mount of Olives to give them the Spine of Prophecy – it was everything they needed to know from that moment until His glorious second coming.” – Oh that “Spine of Prophecy”!
This is SUCH a great idea. I would have loved to have joined you.
When I was in HS, we had a young lady in our youth group who’s father was an “elder” in a local synagogue. Thankfully, he was a very open-minded guy, and was OK with his daughter being part of our Conservative Baptist congregation (in fact, she eventually married one of the other guys in our group). I remember there was a time we visited the synagogue just to get an idea of what it was like (it was SOME kind of occasion but I don’t recall what now). They were very warm and welcoming of the “Christian kids” in the back rows. I LOVED it.
To see how other people worship God is a fascinating thing. And like you said, it gives us common ground from which to gently walk someone toward the Christ.
Just one more comment.
I have had MANY Christians tell me that Allah is NOT God, or anything like God, so Muslims worship a false God.
Beyond the obvious historical fallacy of this statement, this line of thinking is just incredible to me. If we take this reasoning to it’s conclusion we all worship a “false God” because NONE of us really KNOWS God or has a clear vision of His personage. God tells us this. Job certainly worshiped and trusted God, but God told Him in no uncertain terms that he had NO idea how God really worked, and never would. The same is true for all of us.
God is God, no matter what name you may choose to call Him. Anyone who worships a supreme being above all else, no matter how twisted their understanding of Him may be, is still worshiping God. He will not give that place to another. And His desire is for them to come to KNOW Him (through Christ) and have a relationship with them. So that these ones whom He has not known become ones He has known.
I will just quote a “few” Texts for our friend Ken here… Matt. 1: 21 thru 25, noting verse 23 also. Also John 8: 24 ; 28, and of course verse 58! And finally, Acts 4: 12!
Actually, the whole chapter of John 8 should be read. noting the Jewish leadership! And this so sets aside the last paragraph! See too, John 10: 26-7, etc.
Jesus/Yeshua, help of Jehovah/Yahweh & Savior! And as Paul flips the Name: “Christ Jesus”, the Glorified Man, God Incarnate: Risen & Ascended, for HIS people! (1 Tim. 2: 5-6) And as John, Jesus is the “Logos” and the “Rhema”! Yes, the Bible does give us God’s saving Revelation! The Person & Work of Christ!
Robert, I was talking about worship, not salvation. You can worship God and not be saved. Salvation comes only through the name (person) of Christ, but you can worship God and not know ANYTHING about Him.
For instance, many Native American tribes worshiped a Supreme Being (“Great Spirit”) whom they believed created everything. They didn’t KNOW much about Him, but they were still worshiping the true God. The inaccuracy of our knowledge of God does not negate our worship. Like I said,, He will not give that glory to another. He accepts worship from whomever will. Even the animals and (if possible) the very rocks can worship God.
And it is this worship of God that can provide a common ground with our Muslim brothers (and others) from which to build, introducing them to the man Jesus, through whom they can have a saving relationship with the unknowable God.
So, I’m not disparaging the importance of Christ at all.
@Ken: I would surely disagree, that we can worship “a god”, that we don’t know! This was the whole essence of the missionary sermon of the great Apostle Paul, on Mars Hill, i.e. the court of the Areopagites (the Areopagus)! The men and people of Athens, who Paul called, “in all things you are too superstitious”. (Acts 17: 22, also looking back at verse 21!) “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions (or god’s that you worship), I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship (or better, “You are ignorant of the very thing you worship!”) Him I declare unto you.” (Acts 17: 23) And then the depth of the Pauline Gospel, with first the doctrine of God, verses 24 thru 29.. and then God’s command of Repentance, (verse 30), “and then the Man whom He has appointed and set a Day when He will judge the world with justice and righteousness. And He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” (Verse 31)…Of course Jesus Christ! So again, without Repentance & Faith ‘In Christ’…His death, resurrection & ascension, there is really no salvation! Indeed we must know (to some degree) the God we are to worship, and this knowledge comes by God’s Own Revelation and Word. This is surely the Pauline Gospel, and really the whole NT Gospel itself! And as Paul also said: “God was through the foolishness of preaching, or of what was preached (Christ crucified), to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1: 21) Oh yes, that “believing”, and In Christ Crucified-Risen is the “Kerygma-Message”: the Gospel itself! Here is worship created and made, and in the salvation message itself: the Person of Christ and His Work! Amen-Amen-Amen! 🙂
You amaze me Robert.
I was actually thinking of Paul in Athens when I wrote my previous comment. Then you quote it and say it proves the opposite of what I said. Incredible!
Paul says, “You are WORSHIPING this UNKNOWN God. Let me tell you about this unknown God.” He didn’t tell them that they were worshiping the WRONG God, but that they didn’t have enough knowledge about Him. In fact, given that the Greeks had a PANTHEON of Gods, it’s amazing that He didn’t rebuke their “Idol worship”, but instead focused on the ONE THING he could find that they might have in common, worship of a God they didn’t fully understand. They KNEW they were missing SOMETHING. He wanted to tell them about that something. The ONLY reason He wasn’t successful was because they were more interested in jabbering on about religion than having a RELATIONSHIP with God. They talked to feed their own pride in how much they knew. Paul, with his classical and religious education, could have EASILY engaged them at that level, but the Spirit had OTHER things for him to do, so he disengaged with them and moved on.
But the concept of engaging them on common ground was NOT wrong. People try to say that Paul failed because of that approach, but that simply is NOT true. He “failed” because they were looking for KNOWLEDGE, not FAITH.
The Samaritan women also worshiped a God she didn’t fully understand. That didn’t NEGATE her worship. She wasn’t worshiping the “wrong God” because she didn’t understand Him. She needed a clearer picture of God, and nothing is clearer than Jesus. The world has very messed up views about who God is. Some people give Him different names to try and make sense of God in their culture or religion. But God is God. He will not share His glory with another.
A more exemplary form of worship comes from knowing God through the Spirit after salvation through Christ, but He will accept worship from whomever wills. Remember, He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
@Ken, and you amaze sir! Your just one of those guys that likes to fly by the ‘seat of their pants’, with their feelings and emotions, rather the Bible and sound doctrine! And always kind of unteachable! Sorry mate, but Muslims are just not Judeo or Christian, and thus not regenerate or saved! Only meeting the Lordship and Saviorhood of Christ will do this! And of course this is “spirit and truth”!
And in 1 Cor. 2: 1-4, it seems Paul had thought and reflected since Acts 17 and Mars Hill, and had come realize that only the power of the Gospel itself, i.e. “except Jesus Christ and him crucified”, “would but the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power.”
Btw, try just this aspect and reality on the Muslims, this alone, though of course mostly rejected in human terms, but spiritually and by the Spirits power ‘In Christ’ is the only saving Gospel!
Note, I lived in Israel, and so I saw and heard some of the Arab Muslims often! Many were quite generous people, but spiritually and with the Gospel, they were and are simply dead!
PS..Btw too, it seems you need to re-read John 3: 1-21! The Miracle of the New Birth is of course one of the greatest in Holy Bible itself! And simply cannot be seen or had without Jesus Christ, and both His Lordship and Saviorhood in Power!
See too, the idea and reality of the so-called ‘Augustinian Conversion’, which somewhat follows Augustine’s own conversion to Christ, which was biblically noted by Augustine himself, with the Text of Romans 13: 13-14!
I have read too about the “biblical” conversions of both the Wesley brothers, which followed closely and were too biblically modeled. The point is the New Birth is done by GOD Himself, In Christ! And then too the great Evangelical Revival in the 18th century, which affected so many people, and well known men and women, etc. And the long history of the Church is quite filled with people of the New Birth in God In Christ! Note too the Moravians and Count Zinzendorf . From here both the Wesley brothers become close to Luther, etc. And too later John Wesley’s rather Puritan Heritage, some of which came from both his mother and father. And from here we can see both brothers experience of Faith and the Assurance of Salvation, and the Witness of the Holy Spirit!
Indeed the New Birth is very real, and certainly Christological, i.e. ‘In Christ’!
Robert, I NEVER said Muslims are saved. They aren’t. They are dead men stuck in a halfway point between knowing there IS a God, but not knowing how to connect with Him. Only Christ can save them and lead them into a trusting relationship with God. I said as much several times.
Over and over you keep saying I’m saying they are saved. And I NEVER DID,
I only said they worship the same God, and God accepts their worship. But worship alone is NOT enough. It wasn’t enough for the Jews and it isn’t enough for the Muslims either. It’s not enough for ANYONE to simply worship God. But it still gives God glory, though a much lesser glory than redemption through faith in Christ brings Him.
And I also agree with you on the 1 Cor 2 verses. Paul didn’t engage with the Greeks on Mars Hill because they wanted to discuss and be convinced by clever words. They weren’t interested in true faith, just more knowledge, and pride in it. I said that earlier.
Would that we all would “fly by the seat of our pants”. The Spirit is so much more open and free than we are afraid to accept. We want to stick Him in a little box (called canon), but He won’t be contained by that. The Bible and the church historic are NOT the end all be all of knowledge about God. The SPIRIT leads us into all truth. And the Spirit isn’t in a book or in a building (or a particular preacher(s)), it’s in each one of us. And He leads each one on a journey unique to us, just as He did with men over and over in scripture. It’s OK if we get things “wrong”. As long as the character or mission of Christ is not changed, I’m open to ALL possibilities. I think we will be amazed how much we have wrong when it comes to theologies we always thought we “knew” once we get to heaven. I wouldn’t be surprised if some will consider “arguing” that they CAN’T be wrong because of this verse or that verse or what some old theologian said in a book. Really?
@Ken: I always find it interesting when people argue ad hoc, but don’t quote any Scripture? of course in these biblical aspects and subjects. This is where you and your arguments quite fail! First, and really foremost Muslims and Islam simply don’t occupy any “covenant” position before God! (Only Ishmael was made a nation! And even circumcised. (Gen. 17: 20 ; 25-26 / see too Gen. 16: 12). And the Abrahamic Covenant was confirmed to Isaac and Israel! And of course there’s no ‘half-way’ to regeneration and salvation. The Jews and “Israel” however still do occupy the place of being God’s Covenant and “elect” people, though during the Gospel dispensation and economy, they as a people have been set in the background, generally in unbelief. National Israel is judicially blinded! (Rom. 11: 7-12 ; 15-29, etc.) And yet Israel is yet to be saved nationally, but this will come with great cost, and only a “third” of the Nation will survive during the Great Tribulation (Dan. 12: 1 / Zech 13: 8-9), and at the literal and physical Second Coming of Christ to the earth! (Zech. 14: 1-4, etc.) See too, (Matt. 23: 39).
Now we are quite seeing the great Gentile Apostasy! (2 Tim. chap. 3 ; 4: 3-4 / see too Gen. 36: 1. “Peopled by descendants of Esau (Gen. 36: 1-19), Edom has a remarkable prominence [in the hand and purpose of God, negatively and for judgment] in the prophetic word as (together with Moab) the scene of the final destruction of Gentile world-power in the Day of the Lord. See “Armageddon (Rev. 16. 14 ; Rev. 18. 21) and the ‘Times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21. 24 ; Rev. 16. 14). Cf. Psa. 137.7 ; Oba. 8-16 ; Isa. 34. 1-8 ; 63. 1-6 ; Jer. 49. 14-22 ; Ezk. 25. 12-14.
Yes, we are right on the brink of the Eschatological End! And here, led by Russia, the northern powers…many Muslim countries, will follow the Mideast Beast, (an Islamic Antichrist?) (See Ezek. chapters 38 & 39)
And so our only saving grace is the Gospel of the Grace of God, in Jesus Christ! And only herein will we find and experience the New Birth In God In Christ! And this comes always by God’s Sovereign Grace, Itself! Sadly, the so-called historical Church, is itself now full of both “Wheat & Tares”! As our Lord said it would be, (Matt. 13: 24-30). See, the whole chapter of Matthew 13! And note here too, St. Paul’s Last Will & Testament, in his great Second Epistle and Letter to Timothy!
All this may not happen tomorrow? But it will happen! Note, I am Historic Pre-Mill, Post-trib however. And speaking of course for myself, I just don’t see man and humanity surviving the 21st Century!
Come Lord Jesus!
The evangel, the announcement of the coming rule of God, has been proclaimed before any “dispensation” – Isa 52:7.
The eschatological end as attributed to in the scripture has been upon us for quite some time – it’s the days in which God’s Messiah would reign.
The field in Matt 13:24-30 is NOT the ekklesia of God, filled with wheat and tares. Jesus tells us the field, full of wheat and tares, is the WORLD (see Matt 13:36-38).
Robert, listing many scripture references does not make your arguments (whatever those might be this time) any more valid, it just means you have more head knowledge.
However, in this case, I read what you wrote and said, “Huh? What does ANY of this have to do with Muslims worshiping God?” Are you saying no Muslims (which, btw, doesn’t even have to mean someone with Middle Eastern descent) can have any part of salvation? That they are all doomed to judgement? I don’t THINK you believe that, but you came CLOSE to saying it.
Again, I agree with everything you said (even the end-times stuff, though I don’t hold strongly to those beliefs, as difficult as eschatology is to work out,) But you seem to THINK I don’t. All saving faith for ANYONE comes only through Christ. I keep saying this, but you keep arguing like I’m NOT agreeing with you.
You are simply confounding.
What, exactly, was the point you were trying to make? Which of my “arguments” fell flat?
@Ken: Anytime someone quotes Holy Scripture definitively, you seem to cry “head knowledge”, and this is simply quite ill and wrong on your part! Its simply a dodge to me! And as I wrote, one simply but profoundly cannot worship God without knowing HIM! This is simply the essence of the Samaritan woman, at the well of Jacob! Jesus MUST show her: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 22-23) Seems very clear to me! And then Jesus Himself speaks and brings her to Himself, the Messiah, and the Eternal Life! “Jesus said to her, I AM (HE), The One speaking to you!” (John 4: 26)… Glory! 🙂
Sorry mate, but this pretty much sets aside what you seek to make!
And my disagreement is on the religion of Islam, and not strictly the Muslim people themselves!
A Blessed ‘Maundy Thursday’ Mate!
@Scott: Of course when I quote the word and idea of “dispensation”, it is from Paul… i.e. the Greek word: Oikonomia, as Eph. 3: 9! Here as too Irenaeus of Lyons uses the word, it is the management or administration, as in Paul’s case and revelation, and it is too both stewardship and responsibility, therein! As Paul says of HIS preaching of the Gospel, 1 Cor. 9: 17! Yes, the word carries more in the NT Revelation, to the mode of and arrangement in the division and understanding of the whole of Holy Scripture itself! (2 Tim. 2: 15)
And as to Matt. 13, the whole chapter is about proper regeneration and the people of God, both Jew and Gentile within the world (though not the world system, as in 1 John 2: 15, etc.) So, the “Wheat and Tares” best suits, not the world system, but as the text in verse 24, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” And here the “field’ and “good seed” is thus closer to the Church, as we can see also in verse 30… “Let both grow together until the harvest, etc.”
This is rather quick, lunch time for the old Irish Brit! 🙂
I’m not arguing anything against “dispensationalism,” though I think it’s flawed. All you need to note is that the evangel has been a reality always, though fully realized in Jesus.
And look at Matt 13:38. To quote: “The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one.” Very clear
Someone brought me a nice delli-sandwich, so I shall continue, as I eat!
As I have said elsewhere the so-called eschatological reality began in Acts 2, especially the quote from Joel 2: 28-32! And now some 2,000 years almost, we are certainly closer, as even Paul wrote in his day! (Rom. 13: 11-14)
Btw, I forgot to quote Paul’s Eph. 3: 2–4, etc! That Greek word: Oikonomia, is surely Paul’s and profound! Economy is again used often by Irenaeus here! But it is really St. Paul’s disposition and arrangement of things revelatory, i.e. HIS scheme, or “schema”! And since Paul wrote most the NT Letters, and calls himself the Apostle to the Gentiles, though remaining always Jewish, and Greco-Roman in his Jewish Hellenism, as too a Jewish Pharisee! … “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience…” (2 Tim. 1: 3)
Wow this corn-beef is good! 😉
Scott: WE must build our theology on the Bible and the Biblical Text, and not OUR theological ideas (in and of themselves), this has become the bane of people like N.T. or Tom Wright! He’s of course brilliant, but brilliance is not the Text of Holy Scripture itself, but GOD’s Revelation! Btw, even with some of his mistakes, Karl Barth is much more of a “biblicist”, than Wright or Enns! I would hope that you would also read Gordon Fee? Of course a Charismatic or even a Pentecostal perhaps, but I think he’s still at Regent, though maybe he has retired fully? My favorite of his, is: Pauline Christology, An Exegetical-Theology Study, (2007 Hendrickson). I also have the Third Printing, April 2010. Fee’s not always right either, but he’s closer than most exegete’s today! However, I must say I was disappointed with his work on the Book of Revelation! Oh well, we all have feet of clay!
@Scott: But you have again overlooked what “world” we are talking about here?! As I noted, its NOT the world of 1 John 2: 15, etc. And of course we cannot get too overly dogmatic in a Parable. But there are of course several Parables in Matt. 13, in verses 24-30 we surely don’t have the most negative idea of the world here, but a general and ethical one, the world of just men and people. And so this is really closer to the profession of the kingdom, and thus even one that professes to be in the kingdom, otherwise judgment makes no sense, as in verse 30, the separation of the wheat and tares!
Btw, you should try to help out Ken on his idea that we can worship a god that we don’t know! Grave mistake here! Again, Jesus and the Samaritan woman, John 4: 6-26, dispels Ken’s position sharply! WE can really only worship a God that we know! And this is of course the Judeo-Christian God! And we must have the New Birth for this! (John 3: 1-21)…Absolutely! (And btw of course the New Birth was in both Testaments or Covenants!)
The people of the kingdom are defined right there. The good seed is “the people of the kingdom.” That is the ekklesia-qahal-church of God. The field is not in any actual sense God’s community of people – it’s something else, however we define “world” (and I’m aware of the Ps 19:1 sense & 1 Jn 2:15 sense). Not dogmatic here, just Jesus simply defining things.
@Scott: I can see we are not going agree much here! I see exegesis as rather a simple, but always a historical thing and comparing scripture with scripture, I tend toward Biblicism myself! And there are certainly many shades of dispensationalism, some which are of course quite over-done! But I surely see Wright’s theological supersessionism, for example, as very over-cooked also! And yes, I keep up with his Pauline stuff anyway. Btw too, I would recommend reading Gunther Bornkamm’s book: Paul (Paulus), translated by D.M. G. Stalker, (Harper and Row, 1971) F.F. Bruce wrote a positive piece for it, on the back of the dustjacket! It is certainly far from perfect, and suffers from Bornkamm’s idea of the non-Pauline authorship of those now certain Letters. But as too Saul-Paul the Roman citizen, Jewish Hellenist, and Greco-Roman writer it is very good! Also Richard Longenecker’s book: Paul, Apostle of Liberty is also a must read! Again, (Harper and Row, 1964). I have a First Edition, in both books! Yes, I miss them old London Book Shops! (You can find these books often really, from the several On-line Book Company’s).
It is no secret that I am myself something of a “Paulinist”, but I hope one that seeks to believe the Text and revelation of God In Christ, in the whole so-called Pauline Corpus! St. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, and that’s me, an old Irish Brit Gentile, that loves the Jewish people, and their Messiah Jesus! 🙂
Oh, my. I’m gone for a few hours and the board explodes with posts. 🙂
Robert, THANK YOU for finally explaining in a way that I could understand exactly what you see as the flaw in my argument concerning Muslims worshiping God.
You make a strong case for your point of view. I would agree that we cannot fully worship God as God INTENDS without being part of His Kingdom through personal rebirth in Christ. It is then that we worship :”in spirit AND in truth”.
However, Jesus and Paul both state that worship (of some form) is occurring. Neither the Samaritan women or the men of the Areopagus are told they are worshiping a FALSE GOD, which is something I have been told that Muslims do when they worship Allah. I would label it a lower form of worship, akin to but maybe slightly greater than the worship that nature itself gives to God, But even ACKNOWLEDGING God is a form of “seeking God”, and God tells us He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Which to me means He will actively continue to send people to give them more truth about His Son. Certainly it is easier to lead someone to the truth of Christ who at least desires to communicate with and please God, than someone who rejects the very idea of God or is angry with God or gives worship to a different deity altogether (say Shiva, for instance). I say we should claim their worship as a kind of common ground to work forward from, rather than rejecting it as worthless or their God (Allah) as a false God. I just think you are going to get nowhere fast taking the later approach.
As to what you and Scott are discussing, I’m staying well out of that. 🙂
@Ken: I think we have somewhat come full-circle now! Btw, for me, as both a historical churchman and classic-like Evangelical Anglican (and a so-called priest/presbyter therein), Allah is never identical to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ! To use a few statements of Ergun Mehmet Caner… I, ‘think of Islam as a form of “medieval Mormonism”. Like Mormonism, Islam is based on the faulty premise that the Bible’s description of God and Jesus Christ is incorrect. Like Mormonism, Islam teaches that both Christianity and Judaism are false religions, and that Islam through the Qur’an is the only true faith…. Ultimately, this is not an issue of vocabulary; it is an issue of definition. The Allah of the Qur’an is described and defined in a way that clearly shows Muhammad was not presenting the same God. The God of Islam is remote, and not intimate (Surah 112). Allah does not have a son (Surah 2:116), is not a Trinity (Surah 5: 72), and does not love unconditionally (Surah 8: 53). In Islam, Jesus is simply a prophet, and emphatically is not the Son of God (Surah 5: 72), and the angel Gabriel is the Holy Spirit (Surah 2: 193).” (by Ergun Mehmet Caner, page 1754, in The Apologetics Study Bible, Holman 2007)
I truly don’t want to offend our Muslim friends! But we must be true to our biblical and theological differences! To God be the Glory, ‘In Christ’!
And btw… A Happy and Blessed ‘Good Friday’ to all who name the Name of Christ! (1 Cor. 1: 2)
Let’s not forget too that we Brit’s, and other allies, as of course the Americans have fought Radical Islam and Islamists back to 1991! I have a few friends that died in both Iraq and Afghanistan (Brit’s & Americans,as a few Dutch!) And I was also attached to the Americans for a bit in Gulf War 1, (Intell & Recon officer). The effects of all of these wars, will be lasting for those that fought! It is always so easy for some to speak from their living room chair!
I also lived and taught in Israel in the latter 90’s! None of us knows what it is like to live in such a small land, with enemies on every side! And least we forget, Jesus/Yeshua, the masculine name of the Jewish Messiah, and surely much more than a Prophet, is the King of the Jews and Israel! We Gentiles only enter into their covenant blessings! (Eph. 2: 12 / Rom. 15: 8-9…looking back at Rom. 1: 16…”to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, (Gentile).” No overt “supersessionism” here!
Scott, we are doing something similar at my church, which is located in an area with a significant Muslim population. Through the leadership of a minister in our presbytery who has an outreach ministry to Muslims (Ahmad is also Arab), we have been participating in these formal dialogue dinners (renamed Meetings for Better Understanding). The dialogue dinners are done in conjunction with a Muslim association. So far we have had 2 and the 3rd one is planned for the weekend after Easter..
The thrust of the dinners are to get to know our neighbors and also to present the Christian understanding of selected topics. The evening begins with a dinner in which we are encouraged to sit with our Muslim neighbors and get to know them as people (not widgets to convert), hopefully forging relationships. Then a presentation is made by the Muslim representative and then the Christian representative, followed by a Q and A. The first one was Who is Abraham (my pastor served as the Christian rep). The second one was Who is Jesus (Ahmad served as the Christian rep). Not only did it give an opportunity to present the gospel through the selected themes, but it also provided us with a better understanding of what Muslims believed and also their culture. . The beauty of these meetings is that we have the opportunity to present truth without compromise, but also hostility and know our neighbors. In the Q and A session in the 2nd one on Jesus, Ahmad had to respond to some pretty pointed questions about Jesus being the only way. One of the leaders from the Muslim association later told him that he has never been told he was wrong with such kindness.
It does show that loving God and neighbor needn’t involve fear or compromise. I loved that we are encouraged to treat them as fellow image bearers and respect their culture. We needn’t be unnecessarily offensive because the gospel is offensive enough to those who don’t believe.