Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Sign of Peace?

Belief.net has posted a story about Muslims in Florida who have sent $5,000 (and are raising more) in seed money to Palestine to rebuild burned Christian churches. The Muslim group notes that, according to the Qu’ran, churches are to be protected. This is a wonderful example of the Just Peacemaking practice of taking independent transforming initiatives for peace. Now, how can Christian groups reciprocate? Can this start a snowball downhill that will generate numerous interfaith independent initiatives that undermine both non-state terror groups and imperialist military machines? Please God, may it be so. Amen.

September 26, 2006 - Posted by | interfaith, Islam, just peacemaking

11 Comments

  1. Right on Brother. Keep up the good news blogging

    Comment by Ken | September 26, 2006

  2. I wonder, Michael, if you would say that Christian groups have done this for years when they have either moved into the Middle East, despite the threat of possible persecution and death, and shared the Gospel with Muslims or have given the funding for those who feel called to minister to Muslims to do so? Isn’t the ultimate act of peace to share the Gospel of Peace with people who otherwise would die without Christ, only to awaken to an eternity of Hell? Don’t you think this would be much better than rebuilding Muslim mosques that will only lead more people to destruction?

    Comment by D.R. | September 26, 2006

  3. No, Daniel, I wouldn’t say that at all. Sharing the gospel is a good thing–a command of Jesus, even. But we cannot substitute it for another command of Jesus (peacemaking) and claim to be doing the latter by doing the former.

    As I understand it, these churches were burned by Muslim groups and the Florida Muslims, horrified by this violation of their faith, are rebuilding them as an act of peacemaking. If Christians burned mosques, I would expect Christians to pay to rebuild them–no matter what they thought of Islam.

    However, I did ask that we do the same action, but that we find other transforming initiatives we can do.

    The question of whether Islam leads to hell is more complicated for me. Scripture says that Christ is the “only way,” and the only name by which we must be saved, etc. But Scripture does not say that all who come to God through Christ do so knowing that it is Christ that calls them.

    As the African theologian John Mbiti says, “The missionaries did not bring God to Africa. God was already here and God brought the missionaries.” God is already present and working in our sister monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam–even though they are imperfect revelations of God (as they would say about us).

    What bothers me about your post, D.R., is that you and others have claimed that Muslims have to prove that they aren’t all terrorists. When a group tries, you imply that Christians shouldn’t try something similar because sharing the gospel is “the ultimate act of peacemaking.” It’s very disturbing.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 27, 2006

  4. Suppose there were two faiths traditions in your neighborhood. Some supposed supporters of Group A went over and burned down Group B’s church building. Some in group B, outraged at such an attack on their holy site, went over and burned down Group A’s building.

    Some in Group A were horrified at their supposed brothers’ actions and went over and rebuilt Group B’s building. Some in Group B suggested they do the same, but others said that would be preposterous to rebuild A’s building, as they will only teach them bad stuff and they’d probably come over and burn down their building again. Instead, they support further attacks in the area where Group A folk were, hoping to kill the arsonists.

    Tell me honestly, which group are you going to be more inclined to be part of? Or at least think their faith tradition is more genuine?

    There are more ways than one to be a witness to God’s transforming Love.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 27, 2006

  5. Michael, first, I get my view that the preaching the Gospel is an extension of peacemaking because of Acts 10:36 (Peter describes speading the Gospel as “preaching peace through Jesus Christ”), Ephesians 2:17 (where Paul uses Isa. 57:19 to describe the Gospel, “he came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near”) and Ephesians 6:17 (“and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace”, which is clearly an example of “peace” as an objective genitive describing the Gospel). So I believe that the Bible teaches clearly that the sharing of the Gospel is an act of peacemaking, especially since the real threat of violence comes as a result of sin (“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28).

    As for your comment Michael, “But Scripture does not say that all who come to God through Christ do so knowing that it is Christ that calls them” I heartily disagree. Romans 10 seems clear on this subject. Here Paul says,

    For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

    It is clear in this passage that the Word of Christ is the Gospel because men must be sent out with it. Also, faith comes through hearing the Gospel and we know that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Furthermore, this was the universal view of the Early Church until Origen, who was universally condemned by all the groups of Christianity at that time for his views. Inclusivism, while it sounds charitable, is actually not. Under such a view it proves to be destructive to preach the Gospel to men who reject it, for had they not had the Gospel of Christ preached to them, they would not be responsible to it, thus leading them to eternal torment. And why would Christ say that He came not to condemn the world, but to save it if he gave the Great Commission knowing that it would lead more people to a rejection of Him than an acceptance of Him? And why would His goal be that the Gospel would be preached in all nations if those nations did not need Him for salvation, especially since Christ is not a better way if there is a chance that the rejection of Him would lead to Hell and not salvation?

    Additionally, Islam itself is a rejection of Christ since Mohammed did indeed consciously reject Christ and the Koran speaks of Christ with a large majority of Muslims knowing the Christian view of Jesus Christ, even as my friend at work is very familiar with the Gospel. Finally, inclusivism of this stripe fails to fulfill the cheif purpose of Christ’s work, to Glorify God and exalt Christ in all the earth. Christ cannot be exalted if He is not known. And one cannot exalt what he or she does not know. Inclusivism fails the tests of comprehensibility and consistency. (For more Scriptural evidence on Exclusivism see my post, “The Holy Spirit and the Exclusivity of the Gospel”
    .)

    Also Michael, please quote me where I said, “Muslims have to prove that they aren’t all terrorists.” I would like to know exactly how you arrived at such a conclusion since I never made anything resembling such a statement and I do not believe it to be true. I think all false religions lead to eternal destruction, but not physical violence. Unless you can substantiate your claim, then the more disturbing thing is how you could view this about me without any evidence to suggest such.

    And as for the act these Muslims did, I applaud their efforts, but my point was in reaction to your seeming suggestion that Christians don’t reciprocate peace like these Muslims do and yet they should. My point is that the most loving and peaceful act one can do toward a Muslim or any other unbeliever is to preach Christ to them. That may mean helping them rebuild homes, feeding them, and caring for them, but it will never be as loving if those things are done to the exclusion of preaching to them the only Gospel that has the power to save them from eternal destruction.

    On a personal note, it bothers me when people speak harshly about conservative Christians, especially Southern Baptists, in regards to their views on Islam and the Middle East knowing that Southern Baptists probably have more missionaries in the Middle East than any other missionary agency in the world. Even the Mormons won’t touch the Middle East for fear of persecution, but brave men and women every day surrender their lives to go tell others of Christ. Inclusivism, in my estimation, is a heterodoxical view that robs them of that sacrifice (and the millions more throughout history that have died for the cause of sharing the Gospel of Christ), because after all, inclusivism teaches those for whom they die can inherit the kingdom of God without those beautiful feet bringing the good news.

    Comment by D.R. | September 27, 2006

  6. Dan, one problem with your “parable” is that you made a huge unnecessary jump in regards to the actions of Group B (thus making it impossible to make a real choice) when you said,

    Some in Group B suggested they do the same, but others said that would be preposterous to rebuild A’s building, as they will only teach them bad stuff and they’d probably come over and burn down their building again. Instead, they support further attacks in the area where Group A folk were, hoping to kill the arsonists.

    It would be more helpful if instead Group B made the decision not to do anything that violated their theological and spiritual conscience and instead decided to rebuild homes or to provide food and crops to Group A, but at the same time to share with Group A their beliefs. In the end I would side with those who preached the Gospel, because regardless of the actions of these people in peacemaking, the only ultimate peace will come when all men have made peace in their hearts with God through Jesus Christ.

    Comment by D.R. | September 27, 2006

  7. Peace may be an extension of preaching the gospel (capital G refers to one of the four canonical Gospels), but preaching the gospel is not a substitute for peacemaking, which is what you were proposing.

    I apologize for confusing you with someone else (or many someones) who claimed that Muslims were inherently terrorists. I have fought that argument so many times lately that all my critics were merging together in my mind. I’m sorry. I did not mean to bear false witness against you, Daniel. Please forgive my error.

    I will not debate inclusivism/exclusivism because it is a rabbit. My rules for commenting on my site are always to stick to the subject. If you want to write about soteriology on your site (Good; your blog needs updating), I might come by and participate. I did not design my blog, though, to be a theological blog, per se, but only to deal with a religious-ethical vision that connects with contemporary politics in a Leveller-style tradition. So, since this post is about a Muslim group’s transforming initiative for peace and asks what analogous moves Christians might also do, THAT is what I will discuss—not rabbit chases about differing views of salvation. I tend to think that in many ways, D.R., your whole initial comment was such a rabbit—a way to get the subject off of transforming initiatives for peace and onto evangelism. I didn’t say that Christians WERE NOT taking similar actions, but simply asked for brainstorms about what we might do.

    I have not criticized conservative Christians for missionary efforts in the Middle East or anywhere. I have always been a supporter of missions work. I am quite critical of the DIRECTION that SBC missions have taken since the fundamentalist takeover, and the huge restrictions now placed on missionaries, but I have never been a critic of mission work per se. In fact, I have been on several short-term missions and, just as the SBC takeover was being completed, my spouse and I volunteered and were turned down as missionaries. I have since twice sought other ways to exercise my gifts as a theological ethicist and educator in mission settings. I have written many places about how often and in how many various ways missionaries, especially in Baptist circles, have LED the WAY in justice and peace work—from the days of William Carey onward.

    But this post is about transforming initiatives in peacemaking—and nothing else. Other topics will be treated as spam. My email address is on my profile for anyone who wants to talk to me about something else, but the blog has strict and limited purpose.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 27, 2006

  8. D.R. said, “It would be more helpful if instead Group B made the decision not to do anything that violated their theological and spiritual conscience and instead decided to rebuild homes or to provide food and crops to Group A, but at the same time to share with Group A their beliefs.”

    These are some helpful transforming initiatives. Will you suggest to your congregation that they raise money for such a purpose?

    “In the end I would side with those who preached the Gospel, because regardless of the actions of these people in peacemaking, the only ultimate peace will come when all men have made peace in their hearts with God through Jesus Christ.”

    This again attempts to play off one command of Christ against another illegitimately. It also confuses the Ultimate Good with penultimate goods. That’s not helpful. How is anyone to see the truth of the gospel if those proclaiming it don’t live it?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 27, 2006

  9. DR said:

    “one problem with your “parable” is that you made a huge unnecessary jump in regards to the actions of Group B (thus making it impossible to make a real choice)”

    Well, apparently most church-goers in the US supported Bush in his attack on Iraq (much to my heartbreak), so I found it plausible that the Group B folk would support the attack rather than rebuilding or even, as you suggested, preaching the gospel. But certainly rebuilding homes would be a tremendous peacemaking response, as well.

    Still, I could think of few peacemaking efforts that would go so far as rebuilding a mosque. Can you imagine the impact upon the Muslims attending that mosque – the mosque that Christians built?!

    Perhaps not unlike the impact upon Christians entering the church that Muslims helped rebuild.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 28, 2006

  10. Michael,

    First, I am sorry that I haven’t responded in a few days, but I have been busy. Second, to respond to your suggestion that my “whole initial comment was such a rabbit—a way to get the subject off of transforming initiatives for peace and onto evangelism”, let me clearly state for the record that this is not true. Your post to me suggested that your view was that these Muslims were doing something extraordinary, something that Christians either haven’t or do not do. Thus, the point of my initial comment was not to distract, but rather to pose the possibility that Christian missionaries have for years practiced peacemaking via preaching the Gospel of Peace. And further I wanted to know if whether or not you believed this was a legitimate form of peacemaking. That’s all. No vicious intention of steering people away from what these Muslims have done or what Christians should do.

    Which leads me to another point. Thanks for the apology regarding misrepresenting my views on Muslims, but it makes me wonder, based on your wrong views of my opinions on Muslims and your suggestion that I might have intentionally tried to divert this discussion, what is your opinion of me? Are you in some way projecting an image onto me that represents not what I think, but what you believe people like myself think? As I believe you would desire, I want my views to be evaluated based on the merits of the argument itself, not on your views of me personally, nor your views of other conservative Christians. I hope you can understand my worry that this might not be the case and my hope that it indeed is.

    Regarding my comments about exclusivism/inclusivism and your statement that this was a rabbit, I wanted to just say that I felt it an appropriate discussion given the fact that you brought it up initially and used them as a foundation for rejecting my suggestion that preaching the Gospel was indeed an act of peacemaking. Hence, when I entered into a theological discussion on the topic, I did so with the intention of pointing out that one of the foundations of your arguments was flawed. I actually felt that my response was rather short in that regard, hence again, not fueling a desire to chase rabbits, but rather to engage in a discussion for which you, yourself opened the door (blog discussions often tail off into related fields, which are nonetheless relative to the discussion at hand).

    Finally, back to the topic at hand. I think Dan’s illustration is a problematic one because it does not adequately portray all of the complexity involved in the situation in Palestine, nor does it even touch the complexity of the issue in the greater Middle East. Southern Baptists are currently involved in initiatives that help to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for victims of war in the Middle East and the Cooperative Fund monies that my church and other SBC churches provide goes to help pay for that, so we already do support such projects. That is greatness of the Cooperative Fund, that with only a few dollars from a few churches, Southern Baptists can do great work all over the world – including peacemaking.

    Comment by D.R. | October 2, 2006

  11. I do think these Muslims were doing something extraordinary and, whether or not Christians have already been doing something similar, I highlighted this story because it illustrated perfectly the just peacemaking practice of “transforming initiatives.” I have not heard of Christians doing anything similar in the Middle East and I think we should reciprocate.

    I do think inclusivism/exclusivism an important issue, but I don’t want to write about it on this blog. If you defend exclusivism on your blog, I’ll be happy to comment. I can see where you thought I brought it up, but all I was doing was trying for a BRIEF response to an earlier question of yours.

    Now, am I judging your answers based on you, Daniel, or on my views of conservatives, especially those who identify with the post-takeover SBC? I don’t know. I try to take each person separately, but it is easy to get confused about which conservative critic said what. I am always happy to correct any error I make about someone’s opinion.

    Although I once had great admiration for the Cooperative Program, D.R., I am so against most of the programs that it funds in the wake of the takeover (including the distorted mission philosophies since my day), that this is no longer the case. I tend to tune out just as soon as anyone sings the praises of anything being done by the current SBC, I’m afraid. I will probably hold that view until at least Paige Patterson, Richard Land, et. al have died. They have done such evil in the name of God. Maybe once they are gone I can evaluate the SBC after that with fresh eyes.

    But, in general, I try very much to pretend the SBC doesn’t even exist. One thing I don’t like about participating in the Mainstream Baptists blog is that I want to talk about post-SBC global Baptists and too many people there still want to obsess over the SBC–like Greg Tomlinson and others at BP obsessing over the CBF.

    I don’t think Dan’s example was problematic. I think it is right on and it parallels some enormous missionary breakthroughs in history.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | October 2, 2006


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