25 May 2017

Honest Medicine For The Religious: Beliefs or Faith?

John 4: 15 (Isaiah 55: 10-11)

There is a polarity that exists in the Quran that is not present in the New Testament, while being found when the Old Testament is read alongside the New. Throughout Muhammad's poetry, we see and hear the message of both the Old and Testament in soundbite fashion. On one hand we see the approach to those outside of Muslim identity, as unbelievers, being similar to the Christian approach to non-Christians. On the other hand we see the approach having historically included lawful severity (eye for an eye, death remedy for trespass, etc.) as reflected in the Law of Moses, although such a law was actually prescribed directly and solely only to Israel. Those receiving the prior covenant established through Isaac's descendants were to be judged according to their own laws. These are contrasted with the new law and light of Christ, established by Christ. This is the conclusion a study of the Old and New Testaments reveal. The polarity is quite distinct between the Old to the New Covenants according the fulfillment of Christ, even historically notable by a secularist's point of view. While this polarity has been widely misunderstood in the Islamic world for over a millennium due to several factors, it has been an issue of misidentifying covenant concepts and is a major issue despite the promoted similarities between the Christian and Islamic identities.

The peaceful and humble approach examples found in the Quran's poetry has been attributed to the early developing effort of relations between Muhammad's cause and local communities; the period prior to Muhammad's triumphant return to Mecca where his legitimacy and his new order was made evident. Yet no clear covenant is mentioned in his message, at least not a new one nor a continuation of the New Covenant of Christ, but more of a retelling of the idea of the covenant of work with Adam (the first man). This covenant is not clearly identified nor explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but something loosely explained by later theologians when reflecting what was mentioned about Christ in reflection of Adam. The change of tone, if Muhammad was to be regarded as a prophet heralding a return to God, was a drastic move away from the law of Christ that promoted love and forbade violence. This reality is recognizable with every ensuing battle for legitimacy, land, rule, and the eventual conquest of all surrounding peoples and areas under the blanket of a new single perspective on God and religion: Islam.

How did Christendom begin and what about the violence committed underneath the cross of Christ?

As the faith in Christ grew out of suffering at the hands of that time's imperial state, with the “bless and do not curse” and “love your enemy” ideal, those destined to believe in the risen Christ found it difficult to oppose the law of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Those not destined to hear such words directed at one's heart, and who balked at such a seemingly naive ideal, were not compelled to believe or accept the kingdom within by the early Christians, but were allowed to do as they pleased from without the church. The early Christians did not have an aim to conquer the state's government, but aimed at being a people living at peace with all others, moving away as a final resolution, not going to battle in defending land or property. Sadly, in due time the old order of man's mind would eventually and forever clash with the new order of the Spirit's heart as the church became more influential and the state softened its approach to the church. After the state capitulated to the priesthood in the 4th century, the New Covenant doctrines would eventually adopt aspects of both the Old Covenant and the state's already present methods of dealing with lawbreakers, who unfortunately have always existed. Temporal power was a challenge for those not truly ordained to head the kingdom of God on earth, and their sins and waywardness is clearly read throughout the common era histories of crafty church activities. Despite this obvious hypocrisy and polarity at the top of the new government dynamic, the new order of peace in Christ was never abrogated from Above, although men wrote their logical arguments into laws justifying the grievous manner outside of full submission to God and dependency on God for protection, correction and worldly grievances.

The dilemma of ruling the unruly, when the unruly do not do to others as they would like to have done to themselves, was dealt with through Old Covenant methods religiously speaking and state methods physically speaking. One would wonder, and this is where the separation of church and state argument would eventually appear; if the church was to rule in place of secular government, or rule over government with Old Testament manners at their disposal? Again, temporal power is a great challenge for any man, only being justly wielded by the truly ordained, not by any strong man or person desiring the power, responsibility and influence the earthly throne brings. This reality, spiritual in actuality and thus not capable of being actually physically understood as one does military or political rank, is what is also exemplified and reflected in the early Islamic community.

What is missing from the Islamic view of God's prophetic procession?

It can be reasoned that Muhammad followed the cues of some Jewish and Christian communities he encountered, being reflected in a political approach to religious issues when promoting his idea of religious identity outside the previously understood covenant sequence already mentioned. Although Jewish communities had spread throughout various places in the existing empires over time (Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman by the time of Christ), the religious method was that of a closed community comprised mainly of ethnic Jewry under the covenant made through Isaac. This covenant only speaks and binds the children of Isaac initially. The children of Ishmael, and all others (collectively called Gentiles), were not included into this covenant that eventually produced the monarchy, the priesthood, worship at the Jerusalem Temple and eventually revealing the Christ after a succession of many prophets and prophecies. By contrast, the Christian effort was not exclusive but inclusive and inviting, and thus the Christ-centered identity was absorbed and accepted by peoples of all languages and into nations beyond empire's reach as prophecy predicted it would be. The worshipping of the Son of Man who entered into the Father's Presence as the vision revealed, that same Immanuel (Hebrew for 'God with us') who was promised to a maiden, that revelation who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, would come to pass. This is the expanded theological definition, according to the primary sources of the Old and New Testaments, of Messiah. These are the very details absent the Quran's poetic message, absent Muhammad's poetic appeal to the world when proclaiming himself as a final prophet to the inheritance of the kingdom of God. The concept and explicit idea of the kingdom of God having been ushered onto earth (and being found within the believer) through Christ, is absent the Quran besides mention of a kingdom when speaking of something Abraham was shown. The clear foundations of the Old and New Testaments are unfortunately absent the Quran. Only in Hadith (testimonies claiming to quote Muhammad and others) certain ideas not mentioned in the Quran are hashed out in some detail, yet their development over the centuries have been initially Arab-centric, then Muhammad-centric, and are Today still vacant of the full reality expressed in the Old and New Covenants.

The variety of ideas and positions regarding the death of Christ on the cross is a clear example of later developments in Hadith and Tafsir (exegesis of Quran and Hadith notions) that are broad in their explanations, while failing to answer the historical record of the death of Christ from Jewish, Christian and secular sources. Although the Quran clearly portrays Christ as being killed and being raised from the dead, such references have not been popularly taught in Islam throughout the centuries despite such historical references being found in the earliest Islamic writings. Whether Muhammad actually believed such a message, or was himself baptized into Christ, is not found, or whether the Quran did mention it previous to the Quranic manuscript burnings of Abu Bakr when that man was compiling and 'authorizing' a single dialectic version of that work, is most likely lost to history pending a future discovery. The cross is widely disdainful for the uninitiated, both religious outside of Christendom and the atheist, but for the believer it is the crowning achievement which expresses the guaranty of salvation.

How has God used the honoring of a poet with a misleading testimony of Christ to fulfill His will?

From the earliest of times after Christ rose to heaven, the message of the cross spread through loosely organized groups in rural places and more formerly in cities and towns, with the conquest of peoples and places being one of the heart with later manifestations into physical realities. By the time of Muhammad's birth in a distant 6th century Arabian desert, far from Christian power centers, the realities of a Church-led absolutism model through the apparatus of the state (or for some, the other way around) was recognizable even in that distant Arabian peninsula. So it was no surprise for the Islamic approach to mirror this formal reality of the church and state being blended into a single political and religious factor exacting both spiritual and worldly affairs, legality and punishment.

I view this subtlety as God's allowance in bringing historically autonomous and inferior intertribal relations, what is still present in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere, under a single umbrella of a monotheistic approach to the view of God. Various identities having on the surface a semblance of unity previously only through trade and a common language, now a religious identity bridging divides...if even by force. Similar to how the captivity of both the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel and Judah) would serve a greater purpose. Although the exile was actioned by sinful and difficult manners, God exacted His punishment on Israel through the Assyrian and Babylonian instruments of chastisement. It then could be argued, historically speaking, the Islamic effort has brought forth eventual inroads, with 'inroad' being defined by that noun's two stark dualistic meanings (progress and hostility). The people who encountered Islamic conquest had three choices: convert to Islam and adopt the external identity fashioned by Muhammad in Mecca, pay a yearly tribute in order to keep your 'allowed' religious identity (Judaism, Christianity or Zoroastrianism: the dhimmi), or death for refusing to convert or submit the levy for living if being one of the dhimmi. This political / religious position should come at no surprise since the Christian nations had their own methods of forceful conquest, or forceful defense by the time Muhammad formulated his dreams into religious theology.

By the time Muhammad's followers began writing his poetry into what would become the Quran, the influence of power and politics had been fashioned within a generation...what took Christianity several centuries to development through internal battles and conflation of the Way with the old wine. The poetry of the Quran captured people's attention and beckoned emotions, as it still does today, with its cadence, rhythms and references to ancient and local myths, storied legends, time-stamped regional attitudes, reflections of some Jewish laws with a narrative coupled with Christian manners, some called incorrect while at the same time, amazingly and cryptically, glorifying Christ.

References to primary and secondary sources supporting the author's original research are available upon request.

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