Interpreting God

Kyle Cupp writes over at Journeys in Alterity:

The idea of an infallible teaching authority has long made sense to me given the idea of a divinely-revealed text proclaiming matters of eternal life and death, especially as the particular text – the Bible – seems to avail itself to multiple conflicting interpretations. Put another way, it doesn’t make much sense to me to say that God revealed what is necessary for salvation through a text marked by ambiguity and layers of meaning, a variety of genres, and myriad historical and cultural nuances (not to mention inaccuracies and inconsistencies) without also providing a way of resolving fundamental disputes concerning salvation that inevitably arise during the difficult task of interpreting that text. The assurance that the Bible is divinely inspired and free from error in the essentials doesn’t mean much if we don’t have any assurance of knowing whose interpretation is true and whose is false.

He is right precisely because knowledge — all knowledge — is an interpretative projective act.  Let me give a simple example:  The other day, for some reason that I cannot quite explain, I was watching Glenn Beck.  Don’t worry, I went to confession after.  He was ranting about government and about the fact that we all “know” what it is supposed to be just by looking at it, and that it is the same as looking at a chair.  You look at it and say, “that is clearly a ‘chair.'”  The same is true of government.  It is what it is.

The obvious problem of course is that a chair is not simply a chair to everyone.  All knowledge is based on interpretation. Husserl would say that the act of interpretation takes account of one’s inner and outer horizon.  For example, if someone from the jungle were to see what I call a chair, his own inner horizon of experience — his past life experiences and memories — and the outer horizon — the chair is near a wall with a picture hanging above it — may lead him to conclude that A.  he has never seen one of these before, but he has seen something like it used for climbing, and B.  it is a climbing aid to get to the picture.  In other words, without any previous context, he has no way of interpreting what the thing that I call a “chair” is.  He does not know, as I do, what the carpenter intended of it, or what it is commonly used for in its immediate environment, and without that knowledge, he cannot know it.

The same is true, magnified, with god.  Why are there so many religions in the world?  Because, without supernatural intervention, the interpretative knowledge of “god” will be based on various projections of people’s inner and outer horizons.  When it comes to god in particular, there is no absolute way to know “what” he is.  With a chair, the native can ask someone who uses it regularly, or ask the carpenter.  But with god, we cannot do that.  So we continue to project and interpret based on cultural opinions or deep-seated desires.  This is not a wrong approach; it simply is all we have.

It is precisely for this reason that Kyle is right.  To know God, we need revelation. We need Jesus to overcome the hermeneutical problem of projection interpretation in knowledge.  Jesus is the interpretation of God.  He is the hermeneutic of God, solving the problem of many religions.  Yet to know him too, we need an infallible church.

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54 Responses to Interpreting God

  1. Donato Infante III says:

    “He was ranting about government and about the fact that we all “know” what it is supposed to be just by looking at it, and that it is the same as looking at a chair.”

    Except as the great Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan showed, knowing is not taking a look. Knowing is a three-part process that involves experiencing, understanding, and judging. Beck only knows it’s a chair because he is doing all three. It seems like he is only doing one because he has made the judgment at least once in his past that an object is a chair, and so he knows what he needs to know in order to know if an object is a chair, and he knows whether or not he knows that in this case. But it all happens so fast now. He is confused, and claiming that knowing is obviously what the most obvious part of knowing is.

  2. Philip Endean SJ says:

    I always enjoy reading this blog,and I agree with much that is in this post. Our stories about something special happening in Jesus presuppose a fundamental reliablility in the mechanisms by which that event is transmitted to us–hence we need a doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, the special authority of the Church and so on.

    But how is it sensible to conceive what happens in revelation as somehow ‘overcoming’ the hermeneutical problem of projection, and hence to see the infallibility of the church primarily as a matter of guaranteed solutions to what is otherwise an inescapable historical problem? Let me try a Rahner quotation: ‘Even in grace and in the immediate vision of God, God remains God … the holy One who is only accessible really in worship … the … One who can never–and thus not even through His own self-communication in grace and immediate vision–be be grasped … (Foundations, 119-20, translation adjusted). Even Jesus knows his Abba as mystery.

    I don’t think ‘overcoming’ here means giving us answers and truths about God by some special mechanism; positive descriptive statements about God remain impossible. Rather, we have a guarantee that false projection is not the whole story: just as Christ is truly divine and truly human, so our human projections will, if we entrust ourselves to the processes of discipleship, eventually lead us to the whole truth, a truth of divine self-gift which as such implies a coincidence of divine reality and human response, of reality and projection. If we think in the end that human projection is simply replaced by divine projection, we’ve misunderstood what grace is about.

    The basic point here about an infallibility in the Church remains, but in more modest form. True infallible statements are always promissory; they point beyond themselves to what is still to come. The resurrection of Jesus is not just a miracle of resuscitation; it is also, and more centrally, a promise that the kingdom has been inaugurated and will come, even amid the unstable shambles that we are pleased to call our faith or our virtue or our church. Hence the tradition of learning and devotion and action stemming from it cannot be pure projection, pure mistake, despite all the grounds there are for being suspicious. To put the claim in such modest terms seems to me important: the Church’s teaching authority is not defended, but rather brought into disrepute, if we make claims for it that it cannot bear.

  3. I agree. Maybe I didn’t mention in the post that he said something to the effect that “we all know that is a chair.” Of course we don’t all know that, which is my point. The act of judging is an interpretative act, since all knowledge is relational. To receive the intelligible species is not enough in itself, since I only know it when I relate it to something else in the act of judgment. This is why it is so hard to know God. We have nothing to which to relate him.

  4. Nathan, it’s more than “we need an infallible church!”
    He LEFT us an infallible church: HE instituted it,
    not WE!

    Secondly, Glenn Beck states he is an “entertainer!”
    WHY are you referencing a goon of our times?! Ever
    since he went extreme and was dumped by CNN, I not
    only will not, but refuse to watch or hear anything
    he has to say! Quote us something from PBS’s Bill
    Moyers and truly leave us thinking…!

    Lastly, Lonergan represents the best of Scholastic
    Philosophy, which means, knowledge highly limited
    to ONLY the use of reason: blend in also the
    insights Lonergan misses in the founding work of
    Henri Bergson who articulated “intuition” vs.
    “intellection!” Which in turn in our age, has been
    matured definitively in Carl Jung’s life work,
    specifically in Personality Type Theory (of the
    MBTI) which now points us to aspects of decision
    making we knew nothing about:
    judgments are not of one type as Lonergan postulated,
    but of two: the Perceiving vs. the Judging functions.
    Etc.

    I leave out another significant contributor on this
    subject matter: Polanyi’s “Personal Knowledge!”

    In essence, to again prove the utter insufficiency
    of abstract intelligence to grasp the richness of
    experience, God is accessed on TWO fronts: revelation
    and inner experience. The latter is a different
    kind of knowing! There is not the only way of
    knowing of Scholastic Philosophy!!!

  5. crystal says:

    I agree with what you’ve written, that our knowledge of things is full of projection and interpretation, until you get to the part about the church being infallible. Why should the church be any less partial to projection and interpretation than the rest of us? If it’s due to revelation from Jesus, why can’t our personal revelations of him be as trustworthy as the church’s? Thanks.

  6. Speaking for myself, Crystal: well put. And, unless
    I’m misreading Newman, he says as much, and much
    of his theology on us laity, permeates Vat.II….

    Nathan though, is correctly focused on the
    institutional Church, as “institution” (which was
    founded by Christ when He, not we, appointed Pete!).
    Personal conscience is a real subset thereof…
    and as Kierkegaard, beyond Newman, stresses it:
    in maturing, in growing, and ultimately
    no matter what else, in dying, we stand a l o n e
    before God! Because we are created, equally,
    before God.

    Communally, in the mystery of Organizational
    Psychology if I may attempt to so state it,
    we need structure, or we face chaos. Hence the why
    of appointment of Peter by Christ….

    God is more truly imagined
    than explained, an exists more
    truly than can be imagined!

    We need another 20,000 years of time to get our
    theology right (bettered!) About all we’ve
    accomplished in these 2,000 years is getting a
    good bible translation done; and only started
    on a theology thereof (!)

  7. Brandon says:

    First of all, why was this published without the author signing it?

    Secondly, I would like to see where Truth ties into all this. Everything “meta” aside, a chair is either a chair or it isn’t. A chair can also be a climbing device. A climbing device can also be a chair. I am a little surprised to see such a blatant disregard for pragmatics.

    Similarly, how I am limited to thinking of God is no different. Personally, I am quite sure of what God is limited to being in my mind, e.g., The Creator, the Force, the Most High, and I am content with those concepts, even though those concepts are expressive of mysteries. The limits of our intellect are always near and direct, and deserve no special attention.

    Finally, and most importantly, (not only because this is what I am currently wrestling with in my own spiritual life, but also because I hope this issue is fought by scholars with internet access before it is fought with guns and tanks), how does this relate to Islam and the Qur’an? From what I have experienced, the Muslims and Islamic philosophers solved this problem 1400 years ago.

    P.S.
    “So we continue to project and interpret based on cultural opinions or deep-seated desires. This is not a wrong approach; it simply is all we have.”

    I find this quote deeply disturbing, and I think it deserves a lot of contemplation by whoever wrote it.

  8. Father Joseph LeBlanc says:

    The confessional remark could have been withheld. But to each his own. . ..great article as usual.

  9. crystal says:

    Virgilijus Kaulius, thanks for a further explanation. I do see value in structure, but Peter himself made mistakes, changed his mind, and the church over the years has done so too.

    A question about Rahner. Fr. Endean wrote …

    Even in grace and in the immediate vision of God, God remains God … the holy One who is only accessible really in worship … the … One who can never–and thus not even through His own self-communication in grace and immediate vision–be be grasped …

    But didn’t Rahnaer (and Ignatius) also believe that one could have a direct and indubitable experience of God – a consolation without preceding cause – that would give one knowledge of the “truth”?

  10. Brandon,

    I think my name shows up on the bottom.

    When it comes to artifacts, interpretation is easier since we can just ask the carpenter what he intended to make. But even then, that doesn’t have to make it what it “is.” It can morph into other uses. A treasure chest becomes a coffee table in some yuppy’s den. So what is it, a coffee table or a treasure chest?

    When we move away from artifacts, it gets even blurrier. What a tomato “is” can vary. For some, it is a decoration. For others, a food. For others an object for hurling at people on stage. Just because we’ve named it, doesn’t get to what it “is.” It is defined by its uses and possibilities. But those are by no means exhausted by a name. A tomato of course is what it is. But that doesn’t help. We still spend tons of time learning exactly what that entails.

    When we get to God, we have no context, or only the context of his creation that he has given us, to know him. I don’t know how you can be content with some concepts that are expressive of mysteries. The whole idea of being “content” with a few concepts of God seems absurd to me. Sorry.

    I am talking about in our natural state. Without revelation, all we can know of God is blurry projections and interpretations from within our own context.

    • Brandon says:

      Again, I have to ask where Truth and pragmatics ties into all this. You state, “… But even then, that doesn’t have to make it what it “is.” It can morph into other uses.”

      Is this to mean that what a thing “is” is based only on its use? Just because a treasure chest can be used as a coffee table doesn’t make it any less a treasure chest. In such a case, a person in such a room would be truthful in referring the the treasure chest or the coffee table.

      I studied chemistry. I now consider table salt differently than, say, my grandmother, yet that in no way affects what table salt is. The same for tomatoes. And this brings me to my next point: no matter how much time we spend learning about what a tomato entails, at the end of the day we will be left with concepts that never wholly express what a tomato is.

      Now, to tie all this together, we are given an awareness of an objective reality exactly in this way— that whether it be NaCl or table salt, it still reduces the boiling point of water equally for both of us. And this is exactly the “context” we have to get to know God. So, I disagree with the statement that “we have no context” in which to approach God. What else is life? Who is not curious of their Creator? And who is so gifted as to be able to think beyond the limits of human intellect? So, my contentment in believing in a mysterious God may not be so absurd as it is Truthful, especially considering that these concepts themselves are not limiting, e.g., The Most High, even though I understand my mind is limited to such concepts.

  11. What problem did Islam solve?

    • Brandon says:

      I am going to try to be as unbiased as possible. I’m not trying to champion either side, and again I say this for the sake of peace.

      From what I’ve experienced, your post highlights exactly why Christianity is an invalid religion and why Islam is a valid one.

      I wish it wasn’t so. I want to believe in the human spirit and human abilities. I want to see creative free thinking people. But, from what small knowledge I have, Islam is based on this pure revelation, recorded in a book unchanged for 1300 years.

      Islam gives warning to believe in The One God, acknowledges all the prophets of the Old and New Testament, and gives a very clear presentation of a pure Faith with, except where absolutely necessary, no room for interpretation. It draws the line. It is a direct challenge of Faith. A “yes” or “no” confrontation of Faith in God and His mode of Revelation.

      • Henry says:

        Dear Brandon,

        If you don’t mind, I’d like to know what your experience of Faith is? I ask this because you state that you are wrestling with something, and, based on my own journey, I can tell you that this is a good experience to have! Now, I am not looking for a catechetical answer but rather an experiential answer.

        So, I am asking because I am interested in understanding your experience. On my end, I can tell you that I embraced the Catholic Christian Faith precisely because I was faithful to the deepest desires of my heart and the questions I found therein. That is, I did not close or reject the questions.

        Pax,

        Henry

    • Brandon says:

      In college I was discerning the priesthood, spent time at monasteries, and lived my senior year with a priest. However, I decided not to become a priest and by God’s will ended up in Medina, Saudi Arabia teaching English. Here I have been confronted with Islam as it is most likely to exist in its purest form.

      So, I am familiar with the Christian Experience. I know the faith, and consider it as beautiful as beautiful can be and owe my entire philosophy to it. But, I am also aware now that the RELIGION is lacking in precisely the way highlighted in this post.

      “the idea of a divinely-revealed text proclaiming matters of eternal life and death, especially as the particular text – the Bible – seems to avail itself to multiple conflicting interpretations. Put another way, it doesn’t make much sense to me to say that God revealed what is necessary for salvation through a text marked by ambiguity and layers of meaning, a variety of genres, and myriad historical and cultural nuances (not to mention inaccuracies and inconsistencies) without also providing a way of resolving fundamental disputes concerning salvation that inevitably arise during the difficult task of interpreting that text.”

      I could write a small book on the short comings of Islam and what turns me off and why I think it is dangerous in some ways, but Islam does not have the problem mentioned above. The Qur’an is unchanged since it was first recited, or so the story goes. It is not so much a text as it is a recitation, and the very early changes in the text were to make more clear the recitation and didn’t change any meaning, but rather clarified.

      The philosophy of Christianity is great! It’s absolutely great! But, I am just not familiar with any scriptures, in an unadulterated form, that professes that the Catholic church, as it is, is at all valid.

      I see Christianity as a much better philosophy. But I am now thinking that if one wants religion, Islam is the only valid RELIGION.

      I think anyone who has something to lose would be afraid of this, but after considering what religion is, I’m not afraid of this at all. (it is nothing but a mercy to mankind) There is another very popular quote in Islam that goes, “There is no compulsion in religion.” And therefore I think the world won’t know peace until we are concerted under one religion yet aware that there is no compulsion in that religion and that one is free to do and pursue any philosophy he or she desires. BUT, should not be allowed to proclaim that philosophy as religion without valid proof.

      • Henry says:

        Thank you for your reply Brandon. The points you raise deserve a very thorough reply and I promise to do that tonight, or tomorrow night at the latest. Until then, allow me to offer a few brief comments.

        It’s now see, from what you wrote, that I was unclear when I asked you to share your experience of the Faith, so let me try again with the hope that I do better this time.

        First, I asked because in your comments in the “Church for Agnostics?” post you wrote: “(Quick bio: I was raised Catholic and then left the church when I was asked to get confirmed. Then I returned to get confirmed my freshman year of college. While in college I lived with five atheists, had brief stays at Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, attended retreats with the Jesuits, and lived my senior year with a parish priest. Now I am in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islam, studying the Islamic faith.)”

        Now that’s an interesting journey and one that intrigues me. So, when I asked about your experience the questions I have in mind are: What made you come back to the Church in college? What made you think you had a calling to the priesthood? What made you discern that you didn’t? Etc. I am not interested in theological and/or philosophical questions or issues, but rather your experience of your journey with this Being we call “God”.

        So, I am not interested in having a debate about whether Islam is a better religion than Christianity or vice versa, I am interested in something else.

        In closing, for the sake of Truth (which has always been my primary concern and I suspect it is yours too!), I must tell you that the novelty of the Christian announcement does not consist in a thought or book, but in a FACT: God has revealed Himself. Yet this is no blind fact, it is a fact that is, itself, Logos – the presence of eternal reason in human flesh. Verbum caro factum est (Jn 1:14) So, this Fact is a rational fact! Of course, as Pope Benedict and other’s have pointed out: “the humility of reason is always needed in order to accept this Truth for it takes man’s humility to respond to God’s humility.”

        Pax,

        Henry

      • Brandon says:

        Hi Henry,

        Thanks. That last paragraph raises the discussion to a level I am interested in, and I find such ideas great entertainment. And, in fact, this is consistent with Islam. However, is such a deep understanding of Jesus for the majority? Should a Religion be based on this?

        And, I think this is a very appropriate place to compare Islam and Christianity, because, as I stated, Islam does not have this particular problem (although it has many of its own), —essentially that the Church’s scriptural foundation is spotty at best, if not completely obscured and meaningless. Thus dependent on a false or skewed history.

        As for my experience, sparing any unnecessary detail, my return to the church was based solely on the realization of my own sinfulness and my sincere desire for a second chance —to strike out in a new and more righteous direction. A submission to God was intrinsically a part of this, and the Church was there to field questions that inevitably arose. At the time they made perfect sense and helped me a great deal. I am infinitely grateful. However, as my horizons broaden and my experience goes beyond the confines of a sheltered rural theology, I am again questioning these things with respect to the bigger world picture I now possess.

        As for now, I’m playing the devils advocate—pressing the questions on others as they have been pressed to me, in the hope that such matters of division, which I am confident are not unique to me and my experience, are resolved by discussion before they are resolved by the violent means so many are currently involved in.

      • Henry says:

        Brandon,

        Reading the last part of your second sentence in your first paragraph made me think of a quote by Barbara Ward – “Men rarely learn what they think they already know.”

        I want to tell you up front that I am not interested in providing entertainment for you. I guess I misunderstood your intentions because I thought you were interested in exploring the Truth but I now have the impression that you are only interested in being an apologist for Islam. Well, I have engaged in Apologetics with practicing Muslims, Practicing Jews, Protestants, etc., ever since my conversion and I know it’s a waste of time if the other person is not willing to consider that they might be wrong – or to phrase it in a positive way – if they are not open to the Truth.

        The Faith is not a toy for me, it’s a life, an abundant life with a living God-Man named Jesus who I love with all my heart and who loves me unconditionally with all His heart, and I will not sully that relationship by engaging in foolishness. Perhaps others are willing to do that, but I am not.

        Assalamu alaikum my friend,

        Henry

      • Brandon says:

        Maybe the word entertainment was misunderstand. Essentially I meant that these ways of thinking are great and beautiful and are certainly possible. But so are a lot of things. However, I am talking about the foundations of a religion here.

        “One has not truly started to live until he raises above the narrow confines of his own concerns and considers the problems facing all of humanity.”

        I am aware of the love story. And what a great love story it is! It changed my life. But in the public domain, where an issue of validity of claims is put to question, I expect anyone professing a faith and encouraging others to do the same to be able to stand by that faith with ease. Especially when it comes to the greatest possible claim that can be made, i.e., God.

        Apologetics and discussion are great ways of arriving at the truth. There is nothing wrong with taking the stance as an apologist for Islam.

        I would give you more credit if you engaged in these discussions with apologists before you converted. Because now I have to ask, who really is the one not open to the truth or changing their stance?

  12. Crystal,

    “Why should the church be any less partial to projection and interpretation than the rest of us.”

    Good question, but also the whole point, right? As Kyle wrote in the quote, why would God lay out “his” revelation in a text layered with meanings and ambiguities without giving us the interpretative key? The church from very early on was commonly held, as de Lubac has shown us, to be the hermeneutical extension of the body of Christ on earth. It is our best access to Christ, no least through very human things like Apostolic Succession. Without these, the church would project like everyone else. But if course, if we don’t think that Christ gave us the key in the Church, then you are right. From outside it is just a community of fallible believers. We either believe it to be the key to the problem of interpretation or we don’t.

  13. Crystal:
    It would appear to me that you certainly are
    being moved by the Spirit to be asking these
    questions. So at the risk of erring in attempting
    further clarity, let me share some further
    reflections:
    – The institutional church brings communal structure
    but not stricture on conscience: both entities
    should, must either agree or converge on truth
    or the truth is not of God, specifically, not of
    His Spirit. Since the present stage of Salvation
    History has the Spirit active plus acting in
    our both communal and individual histories….!

    You are right about imperfections: Christ even had
    a Judas. And Pete was such a jerk that God had to
    use a Paul to kick his butt: but that’s how God
    wanted to organize it: who am I to disagree?
    Yes, He could have said on the cross, it’s over,
    go play golf. Instead, He said get your eyes
    out of the clouds and go wash cars: work!!!

    One author wisely states it that once the church
    was founded, that’s when the mess began! And it
    won’t change: what I believe changes, is our visions!
    When young, we expect least of the church, but as
    we age, the expectations become demands, which can
    become impatience with impertinence in leaders,
    and their leadership…. But what has changed?
    Nothing!

    All that has happened is that we’ve matured: in time
    we begin to see what our parents saw, and now, we
    are the parents, seeing the same imperfect
    organizational psychology that even Mary saw in
    the founding Church: the Spirit had to use a flame
    thrower to get the men out of the Upper Room Bar!
    (Hey, the women went to the tomb! Not the men!)
    Etc.(!)

    BUT, I will add something you haven’ yet alluded to:
    what do we mean by succession? Succession from what?!
    Sure, iteration of body flows, but not of organizational structures! We did lose something,
    and that something is significant!

    Today, Zachariah Chapter 8 has us scrambling: we lost
    our umbilical cord. We severed ties with our Jewish
    roots: our Mother Church was Jewish, was Hebrew,
    not Latin, not Roman!
    And the End Times mandate unity, before these end
    times can transpire! So, we’ve got some catching up
    to do, and some serious house repairs: Mary was
    Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, the Apostles were Jewish,
    the FIRST CHURCH was Jewish.

    With the Jews, we HAVE a common ancestry, a n d
    a common destiny: God does not take back what He
    has given. BOTH Covenants stand! But the final
    banquet WILL BE O N E !

    Now, as to your 2nd question: what Rahner writes
    is sophisticated abstract language attempting to
    articulate that we don’t ultimately know anything
    about God, EXCEPT the little that He has revealed
    about Himself to us. Period!

    And, that revelation is meager. But enough to give
    us enough info to attain our own end, which is to
    get ourselves into heaven, hopefully!

    Within that, you are right that we do -can- experience
    God independently of church structures, with Rahner
    also elsewhere, talking about “An Anonymous Christian”
    which I leave for another time, or to our great Jesuit
    contributors here…

    But on a practical spiritual applied level, yes, in
    one’s growing spiritual life, you will as you should,
    encounter God directly, experientially. In silence
    speaking to Silence: that is His preferred way!
    (Only if it deviates from Church core orthodoxy
    should one doubt such inner movements or as some
    Saints have done in past questionable times,
    challenge those Church structures: both are
    capable of sin!)

    Hope that helps? And may you at Easter respond
    to His Peace, because it always beckons! May we
    follow, and may we in following, experience Its
    embrace! So that His Spirit continues to work
    through us, to accomplish His will in our remaining
    days!

  14. crystal says:

    Thanks, Virgilijus Kaulius, for the further explanation. I think I get what you mean.

    we don’t ultimately know anything
    about God, EXCEPT the little that He has revealed
    about Himself to us.

    There’s the start of a whole new discussion …. analogia entis 🙂

  15. Good to see that brings closure, Crystal!

    Being curious humans, we speculate. About everything,
    and probably too much? But as for “God,” any god,
    it would appear to be a universal human condition,
    because so far, every unearthed human civilization,
    had some form of “religion!” (This fact is
    conveniently ignored by atheist authors!)

    And who in a sense brings this phenomenon to a
    maturity point, is C.S. Lewis in his most significant, but difficult book, “Til We Have Faces,” in which he traces historical mythology as becoming
    mature around the time of the Greeks, and in Greek
    mythology, evidences a pre-dispositional expectation
    of a religion to come into being, that later did,
    termed “Christianity!”

    But separate from “reason” as reason exploring this
    human hunt, is human psychology: it comes to God
    in every and all ages by a different medium:
    experience, encounter, and definitive embrace….
    that words cannot and do not capture.

    Knowledge of God is not a possession
    but an ever maturing faith,
    searching in hope,
    within the practise of love!

    And as Rahner writes, every encounter with the word
    of God, is an encounter with silence!

  16. Brandon,

    But how can words be uninterpreted? Islam seems to me to elide the problem by equating what Christian’s understand as a person — Jesus Christ — with a text — the Quran. We would say that Jesus is the absolute uninterpreted Word of God. But he can only be known in relationship through the Church. The Bible is inspired, but not dicated. It has errors of grammar, cultural elements, human language, etc.

    Islam says that the Quran is actually God’s words diretly dictated in Arabic. First, what about the grammatical errors. Can we just say that all other Arabic grammar is wrong, which is what many say? That seems irrational. Second, how can words not be interpreted? They change in meaning. Words do not have a one to one correspondence with things. They convey meaning in a nexus or web that they share with other words. The words need interpretation. And how do we even know that the words we have are the exact one’s that were given to Mohammed? His scribe recorded them 30 years later. But since we are not allowed to do source criticism and redaction criticism like in Christianity, we are not allowed to challenge the text as it comes to us.

    Finally, how can words, human words, communicate the fullness of God? They are finite sounds, symbols, adn God is infinite. So they are terribly inadequate to the task. They can only be a shadow of the whole. Even in Islam there are various groups in disagreement, precisely around interpretation of who God is and how to serve him.

    I don’t see how Islam solves the problem simply by ignoring it. Analogy, not univocity, moves us in the right direction.

    • Brandon says:

      Of course. But I don’t think you are listening to what I am saying. I never said words can be uninterpreted or that there is a one-to-one correspondence. I am aware of how limited words are, and this means nothing with regard to the Qur’an. From my reading of the Qur’an, it’s one man’s struggle with faith. It is a recitation of reminders of the faith of the prophets, and a warning that a day will come to which you will be held accountable for your actions. Not much more. It’s extremely repetitive and offers nothing truly profound or ambiguous. It’s a simple, straightforward warning.

      However, trust me, I could go on and on about what turns me off with regard to Islam. But that’s not the point of this post.

      What I am saying is that there is a history of unadulterated scriptures (or at least there appears to be) supporting Islam as a valid RELIGION and a WAY to salvation. There is not a such a thing that I am aware of supporting the Catholic church. (see my post above in response to Henry)

      The religion of Islam, as it is practiced where I am in Saudi Arabia is relatively unchanged since its inception. Nowhere am I aware of is Christianity like this.

      As to sects. Is Christianity split into more sects or is Islam? I ask that sincerely.

  17. What makes a religion “valid?” That is the whole question.

    Unless one is a dualistic of the strongest sort, a religion must satisfy the reason that God gave to us. In other words, it can transcend it, but not negate its processes completely.

    Just because they claim to be valid, why are they valid? I still don’t understand your point. Religion and philosophy must go hand in hand.

    I agree that we need one religion.

    What “proof” do we have of Islam over Catholicism? What are you using as “proof?” Aside from the simple claim to be so, if we cannot bring in philosophy, what makes a religion valid?

    Allah cannot love.

    Love is the greatest human act.

    The Quran cannot be questioned.

    The mind is God’s greatest gift.

    Islam has no answer to suffering.

    Why is it valid?

    • Brandon says:

      Mainly proof from the scriptures as related through the prophets, trustworthy people with a much deeper awareness than any of us. This provides the bases for Belief and Obedience and makes these accessible to all humans.

      Must strikingly for me is John 16:7-14:

      “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you.”

      Many would argue this Comforter to come is the Holy Spirit, but how can it be that the Holy Spirit is already so active in the Old Testament and was always neuter in gender yet made masculine in this sense in the Gospel?

      With regard to philosophy, I want to know what you mean by philosophy. Abstract thought? Then, yes, I would say religion is very capable of existing without philosophy. There are plenty of devoutly religious people without the ability to form complex abstract thoughts.

      “Allah cannot love.”??? Al’Lah means in Arabic, “The God.”

      The Quran cannot be questioned. The Qur’an, which means “Recitation,” cannot be questioned.

      The Quran cannot be questioned!

      The mind is God’s greatest gift, …and also the devil’s only resource.

      Islam’s answer to suffering is that suffering is a test.

      My question remains:
      What, unadulterated, scriptures support the Catholic church as the way to salvation? If it’s none, say it’s none.

      And again, I wouldn’t care what anyone’s religion was if it wasn’t a matter of life and death for so many people, and the cause of so much division. I have a new found responsibility with regard to what I support and am involved with, no matter how small or great that involvement may be.

      “The same is true, magnified, with god. Why are there so many religions in the world? Because, without supernatural intervention, the interpretative knowledge of “god” will be based on various projections of people’s inner and outer horizons.”

  18. Dear Brandon:
    Here, on this blog site, we practising Christians
    are discussing Christianity: I for one, am not
    interested in discussing Islam! I do not wish to
    be a Muslim.
    Secondly, Saudi Arabia houses one of the most
    extreme Islamic traditions in Islam: BBC had a
    special on this past month. The worst offenses
    any world religion can portray, is its handling
    of women. And Islam, in its application in most
    nations, is the worst offender, especially in its
    Shariah pseudo laws. So, that’s just some material
    that if we met over coffee I would challenge your
    naive positions on. But again, this here is not
    the place for this kind of rhetoric!
    Thirdly, you evidence growing faith maturation
    issues: limit that exploration to circumscribed
    humility to the little you have actually “experienced”
    at this juncture in your limited life span, and
    asceticize the assumed knowledge.
    Here you are in the company of Jesuits taking
    multi-years of courses (it takes over 12 years to
    become a Jesuit, etc.!), all of which cannot be
    condensed into brief sound-bites!
    As for me, I’ve mastered Ascetical & Mystical
    Theology: one does not flaunt it in public. Only
    the immature do that! It is completely based on
    both Scripture and the Catholic Church as established
    by Jesus the Christ of history in His words to
    Peter, something you write you don’t know so go buy
    a Catechism and relearn what is needed and then
    come back to this table of shared intellectual food!

    Lastly, your Koran came into BEING hundreds of
    years AFTER ours. It CAN be and is questioned by
    your Muslim interpreters of your Shariah law, and
    as mentioned, misinterprets it against the female
    gender, which offends my religiously formed
    sensibilities: any religion that does not respect
    women in equality to men is a pseudo religion!

    So, I pray for success on your faith journey:
    we all must experience one, whether Pagan, or Jew,
    or Christian, or Muslim, or…. ! Shalom!

    • Brandon says:

      I’ve mentioned my limited experience since the beginning, however, you may not be giving me the credit I deserve.

      First of all, I am aware of how long it takes to become a Jesuit. I was invited to apply to be one, and I have a sincere reverence and respect for all Jesuits.

      Secondly, I have not made any statements in defense of Islam. As I said, I could write a book on why I am not a Muslim and what turns me off. I have only shared what I have been confronted with in curiousity to know how others respond (because I know these questions are not unique to me and I am seriously concerned for anyone searching for the truth). And I would say that this particular meeting place (whosoever desires) would be free to conspire to any means it desired if it wasn’t in effect proclaiming to posses the keys to Heaven and guiding others on this way.

      It’s not about us. I am talking about the institution you are a part of and contributing to. And I am concerned for the well being of my fellow man. I don’t care what religion you WANT to be a part of. It is a question of truth.

      The Catechism? Which one? I am in fact challenging the roots of this entire institution. I would expect any book CREATED by an institution to be fully in support of itself.

      You can keep the BBC. I am in fact living in Medina, Saudi Arabia, and I will tell you what I have experienced: !. Women who have a choice and choose to live here instead of the U.S. because of how well they are treated here. 2. Men so protective of their wives that they won’t even let me see them. Women here are treated with the utmost respect and considered extremely precious. Yet, they can work, own their own businesses, own land, and are given very specific rights in the Qur’an. In fact, my boss is a woman. 3. Families that go to the beach every weekend. 4. I don’t have a car so when I want to go somewhere in the city I walk to the street. Within five minutes a random stranger will stop and ask me where I am headed and usually give me a ride for free, as if we are family. 5. I’ve started taking backstreets on my evening walks because I have been met by so many people and given so many gifts when I walk on the main streets that I just need alone time. 6. An entire population and way of life based on Faith in God and a pace and a peacefulness everywhere to match. (again, I could write a book on the negatives but they are certainly not what anyone would expect, and in comparison to any western style city, they are trite).

      So, I find it terrifying that you would propagate such a shallow understanding of Islamic culture. (Your understanding of it would be like presenting a documentary on the ghetto of Los Angeles and calling it a documentary on the United States.) But I know where you are, as five months ago I only knew what western media portrayed as well.

      Again, I am not trying to champion either side. You should know that I post these challenges as valid contradictions. And I do this only for the sake of peace. I think everyone is free to believe in whatever they want, but when they start making claims to God and the Way, they have to be able to stand by those claims because they affect society so profoundly.

      And my questions remain: What unadulterated scriptures exist in support of the Catholic church as being the way? And remember, it’s not so much about us. I’m asking this in reference to the whole of humanity as it seeks to concert on religion (because in fact they are not mutually acceptable). Valid RELIGION is the question here and scriptural revelation as being a way to overcome “interpretations” of God is the theme. As stated in the original post, “The same is true, magnified, with god. Why are there so many religions in the world? Because, without supernatural intervention, the interpretative knowledge of “god” will be based on various projections of people’s inner and outer horizons.”

      I am, in fact, in someways afraid of the spread of a narrow minded form of Islam, and think it so important that these things are discussed on the internet.

      Wa laykum salam.

  19. crystal says:

    Brandon,

    I hope you don’t mind if I comment on your comment. I think a lot of the bad stuff perceived of Islam is like the bad stuff perceived of Christianity – examples of fundamentalism rather than the ideal. There’s an interesting video lecture by Keith Ward on Islam and Christianity … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkzxQ3nKumw

    But I do disagree with you about how women are treated. For examples, check out the wikipedia page on Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. There was an interesting link at the bottom of that page about women and equality ….. the writer of that page explains that asking if men and women are treated equally under Islam is the wrong question – that the qyestion should be whether they are each treated justly. What’s funny is that I think the Catholic Church has something of the same stance, sadly (that Theology of the Body complementarity stuff).

    • Brandon says:

      Crystal,

      Any particular instance, for example, segregation of the sexes, is going to seem absurd. I am telling you based on what I have personally experienced. I’m not sure what you disagree with. Do you disagree that my boss is a woman? That I have met men who treat their wives like nothing in the world is more precious? That the entire system is based on a consideration for the differences in each sex and how to allow each to be happiest and most fulfilled and as such each sex makes sacrifices to help the other?

      You make a great point: that we should be asking if they are treated justly. I entreat anyone interested in the truth to meditate long and hard on how women are treated in the west, and ask which is truly holier.

  20. Henry says:

    Brandon,

    On what basis do you assume that I didn’t have discussions with the followers of many religions before becoming a Roman Catholic? Moreover, on what basis do you assume that I have stopped doing that since becoming a Roman Catholic? Perhaps, to quote you, “you may not be giving me the credit I deserve.”

    Now, since you imply that you are not playing games, allow me to address some of the fundamental misunderstandings that you seem to have about the Catholic Christian Faith – note, I say seem because we have not spoken in person and at length. And, since this is not my blog, I will only briefly touch upon some of your assumptions/questions/statements.

    First, the Catholic Christian Faith is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God – not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living Word. Second, Catholic and Protestant understandings of Divine Revelation are not the same. Third, anyone seeking to verify a personal opinion of the Catholic Christian Faith must keep in mind that any real understanding of a life, which is what the Catholic Christian Faith is, requires that one share that life in a way that lets him or her know it in it’s fullness and entirety. Lastly, if one is going to engage in inter-religious dialogue and/or apologetics, then he or she should make it a point to understand the other person’s faith by both reading about it from orthodox texts and by having discussions with orthodox practitioners of that faith. Nothing ruins a person’s credibility more than engaging in straw-man arguments and/or ignorance of what the other’s faith really actually teaches and believes.

    Ok, imagine my class has 1,000 students. I am sitting at my desk taking attendance and I say, “Is John here?” and Susan tells me, “I saw him in a few minutes ago” and I say, “OK, he’s here” and I check him off as present on the attendance sheet.

    This vignette illustrates the two methods we – you, me, everyone we know – normally use to acquire knowledge: the “direct” and “indirect” methods.

    The “direct” method is straightforward. Susan saw John and so she had a direct experience of John.

    I, the teacher, on the other hand, did not see John but I am certain that John is present because Susan told me that she saw him. So I acquired knowledge about John indirectly because I acquired it through Susan’s testimony. That is, I acquired knowledge of something through an intermediary who is called a witness. What is this latter type of knowledge called? This method of acquiring of knowledge, the “indirect” method, is also called knowledge by “faith” because I obtain knowledge of an object, of a reality, through the testimony of a witness.

    So faith is a “method of knowledge” because it’s knowledge of an object, of a reality, that one obtains through the testimony of a witness.

    And since faith is a method of knowledge that utilizes the testimony of a witness, this method has one problem, the problem of trust; that is, can I truly trust the witness?

    Now it is obvious to me that both Catholic Christianity and Islam build on the testimony of a witness, Jesus Christ and Muhammad, respectively.

    To illustrate why I am certain that Jesus Christ is the only credible witness of God and the founder of the only true religion in the world, I will share with you a dialogue between Helena and Constantine form Evelyn Waugh’s book “Helena.”

    She pressed her husband for information. “There’s no harm in knowing the general story,” he said. “It’s very beautiful,” and he told her the tale of Mithras. He told it rather well and she listened intently.

    When it was finished she said, “Where?”

    “Where?”

    “Yes, where did it happen? You say the bull hid in a cave and then the world was created out of his blood. Well, where was the cave when there was no earth?”

    “That’s a very childish question.”

    “Is it? And when did this happen? How do you know, if no one was there?

    Forgive me for being blunt, but I end my long comment by telling you that your comments to date give the impression that you do not know the Catholic Christian Faith as well as you think you do; and I assert this because of my 12 years experience teaching the Faith to cradle Catholics (especially in the Catechist Formation Program that I am a part of) and to converts to the Catholic Christian Faith. I realize, of course, that I may be mistaken and if I am mistaken then prove that I am wrong.

    Now, I am never so blunt except when a Catholic Christian claims that they know the Faith well and yet they do not even understand something as simple as the fact that the Catholic Christian Faith is not a religion of the Book. And to answer your question, if Catholic Christians want to learn what Christ truly teaches us through His Church, those teachings can be found in either one of these two official Catechisms – either the 2nd Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, both of which can be consulted for free on the Holy See website.

    So I agree, it’s a matter of Truth, and the Truth is that the veracity of the Catholic Christian Faith rests on the veracity of God Himself, who is the founder of our Faith. And, from my study of various faiths, only one founder claimed to be, and proved, that He was God. And that founder, and no other, said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that’s a fact.

    Pax,

    Henry

    P.S., By the way, the four Gospels embody the tradition of the Church, the extension in scriptural form, in the believing community, of the message of Jesus. This was originally proclaimed orally and written down later. This understanding of the Gospels is to some degree analogous to the Muslim concept of Sunna – the preservation, outside the Qur’an, of traditions about Muhammad’s words and deeds.

    • Henry says:

      I have a typo above and so I am correcting it in this addendum: Second, Catholic and Protestant understandings of the transmission of Divine Revelation are not the same.

    • Brandon says:

      I am well aware of Catholicism although I’ll never claim mastery of anything. I understand the philosophy of the word incarnate. I am familiar with the spirituality.

      Yet, I have two major points of disagreement:

      1. That Faith is the trusting of others as witnesses.

      My Faith is in God and God alone. And an ability in this Faith is inherent in my being.

      I see these “vignettes” (I find one of the definitions of this word a little humorous: “a small illustration that fades into its background without a definite border”) as mere pacifiers that leave the real issue untouched.

      Thus, number 2, my main question remains unanswered, so I will answer it and expound on it myself.

      What unadulterated scriptures exist in support of the Catholic Church as being what it claims to be?

      The answer is that no unadulterated scriptures exist that do this.

      So, what can give us any type of assurance that the Catholic religion has the sufficient means to fill the needs of humanity when it comes to “trusting witnesses” and the desire for a religion and a Way? Is it apostolic procession? As if the priests form an infallible institution? Let’s face it, the Catholic church is riddled with scandals, and not only scandals, but scandals never amended. I see Catholicism as a square peg trying to fit into a circular hole —it’s just not working. I think to be a valid religion and a Way it has to have worked, be working, and have the ability to work in the future, as it is.

      Also, no matter how often someone claims that Catholicism is not a religion of the book, he or she will inevitably go to the Bible for their proofs or to settle any major discord.

      So, I am not poo-pooing Jesus or the spirituality that is revealed through the meditation and contemplation of his life as it is presented in the Bible, but rather I am averse to any indecisive and dishonest use of the Bible.

      The reason I love Jesus so much is because he was so against the organized religion of his time.

  21. Brandon:
    Thanks for your response; nice to see you are
    trying to be open, but whether or not you really
    are, only you know in the possession of your own
    freedom of mind…

    The Catechism I was referring to is our Catholic
    one, because the nature of your questioning should
    first go there: it is too basic. Our questioning here,
    is premised on the presence of Faith in our religion.
    If you lack it, you cannot and will not understand
    our positions. Nor our conclusions. Nor our perusal
    of deeper, advanced issues, germaine to our
    ideological interests, etc.

    Additionally, our Spirituality is broken down into
    3 Stages: you cannot comprehend a Level 2 discussion,
    least of all a Three, if you are only in Stage One.
    Psychology defines our capacity to comprehend! And,
    so does one’s spiritual advancement, while pride
    says, or would say, no to this reality.

    Therefore, for us, we are not into either having
    a faith-based classroom here, nor in challenging
    our Roots: both are a “given” by our baptism into
    Christ, the Founder of our Catholic Church. Get
    the details on that in the Catechism, or a generic
    theology text on Christology, for example….

    As for Islam, I personally have reservations
    about some of its ideological direction, as well as
    much of its Hijacked status in our times by radicals
    that Muslims at large refuse to reign in, at least
    so far. Here is not the place to explore this: I
    simply assert my stance, the same as you assert
    yours against my faith-based allegiance.

    To the extent you really are seeking the truth, then, for example, look at Irshad Manji’s book
    “The Trouble With Islam Today.”
    This is a serious mainstream (as opposed to
    extreme) contemporary analysis of structural
    deficiencies in Islam, today. A public TV special program, aired April 19, 2007 and I’m sure still available on PBS.org entitled
    “The Trouble With Islam Today”
    explored how to bring Islam INTO the 21st Century:
    the West interprets it to be somewhere in the Middle
    Ages, like Christianity was, then, but not now!
    Also, in March of 2007, there was a “Secular Islam
    Summit” held in St. Petersburg, Florida for the same
    purpose.

    As a religion, Islam has its place. But for me,
    it is not the truth. Christ for me is The Truth!
    Everyone, like yourself, should start with their
    root religion. But if they really are seeking god,
    they will be led to God in Jesus the Christ of
    history. (Muhammad was married and did not die for
    his cause nor ascend to the right hand of God.)

    And whereas you are free to reject the BBC, you
    cannot reject its mainstream media legitimated status!
    And it’s not only the BBC that has aired Islamic
    programming to educate the adult mind. So have other
    stations, especially CNN and CBC, both TV and Radio!

    Here, the focused interest is to both present
    and explore Faith-based issues of relevance to
    believers for advancing both the understanding of
    our Faith and to nurture plus further our individual
    spiritual advancement….roughly worded. With added
    strength as a byproduct thereby to counter the ever
    present Dark Forces at work in the World:
    if we are of this world, it will love us;
    if we are not of this world, it will hate us,
    the same as it hated and still hates,
    our Founder, Jesus.
    And to follow Jesus is to take up the same cross: there are no exceptions; there are no shortcuts to eternity, the land we seek whic is our Jerusalem.
    So, whereas the Jews are baptized into Moses and land
    is part of their existing Covenant, with Jerusalem as
    their home (cf. Zach.8), we are baptized into Christ whose home is in heaven, which is our Jerusalem
    (for us, the New Testament is silent on the land question). However, the Last Banquet will be
    one!

    Anyway, ‘nuf said! You clearly at this stage of
    your life are a faith-seeker, for whom philosophy
    is needed. Philosophy means our search for meaning,
    and purpose! A seeking of true wisdom. And it takes
    its toll on time.

    For those who believe, no explanation is needed.
    For those who do not believe, no explanation is enough!

    Meantime, for those who are advanced, iterative experiences of mysticism creep in without notice
    and co-join mysterious phenomenon termed “grace”
    that makes the interior journey become a delight,
    a true freedom, a liberation from the old self,
    and the beginnings of the experience of Eternal
    Happiness in the here and now…. Mystical
    experience occurs in mystical space devoid of a
    world of text which is why all text is incomplete
    because incapable of translating infinite experience
    of the Infinite. Because it comes not from ourselves,
    and no longer our religion, but from outside ourselves.

    Its source is God. And then, one moves from mere religion, to God Himself.

    • Brandon says:

      I think that if your religion is what you use to move onto God himself then you had better have a very solid religion. It’s one thing to start from a firm and consistent foundation and reach very high, and it’s quite another thing to skip over inconsistencies and continue building until your vision is so obscured that you think the inconsistencies in the foundation no longer matter.

      But all poetics aside, I’ll copy and paste part of my response to Henry.

      “…my main question remains unanswered, so I will answer it and expound on it myself.

      What unadulterated scriptures exist in support of the Catholic Church as being what it claims to be?

      The answer is that no unadulterated scriptures exist that do this.

      So, what can give us any type of assurance that the Catholic religion has the sufficient means to fill the needs of humanity when it comes to “trusting witnesses” and humans’ desire for a religion and a Way? Is it apostolic procession? As if the priests form an infallible institution? Let’s face it, the Catholic church is riddled with scandals, and not only scandals, but scandals never amended. I see Catholicism as a square peg trying to fit into a circular hole that is creation —it’s just not working. I think to be a valid religion and a Way it has to have worked, be working, and have the ability to work in the future, as it is.

      Also, no matter how often someone claims that Catholicism is not a religion of the book, he or she will inevitably go to the Bible for their proofs or to settle any major discord.

      So, I am not poo-pooing Jesus or the spirituality that is revealed through the meditation and contemplation of his life as it is presented in the Bible, but rather I am averse to any indecisive and dishonest use of the Bible.

      The reason I love Jesus so much is because he was so against the organized religion of his time.”

  22. Brandon:

    Correction to the PBS titled Program:
    “Faith Without Fear.” (PBS.org; April 19, 2007;
    to bring Islam into the 21st Century.)

    I sought my soul but my soul I could not find;
    I sought my God but my God eluded me;
    I sought my brother and I found all three!

  23. crystal says:

    Brandon,

    Sorry – I didn’t make myself clear. I do think men and women should be treated equally. I think that saying people should be treated “justly” instead of equally means really that there will be discrimination.

    The examples you give of the men and their wives is rather creepy actually – they seem to feel about them as if they are valuable possessions. It’s not that I don’t believe your recounted experience there, but your experience is limited.

    If you were to have looked at the wikipedia page, you might have seen some of the reasons I feel that women in Saudi Arabia are discriminated against …. they cannot vote, they don’t have a choice about what to wear, they can’t drive acar or ride a bike, polygamy is legal, there are honor killings, etc. Human Rights Watch wrote in July 2009 ….

    Saudi officials continue to require women to obtain permission from male guardians to conduct their most basic affairs, like traveling or receiving medical care, despite government assertions that no such requirements exist….The government made its assertions most recently in June 2009, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva….Saudi doctors have confirmed that Health Ministry regulations still require a woman to obtain permission from her male guardian to undergo elective surgery. In late June, Saudi border guards at the Bahrain crossing refused to allow the renowned women’s rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider to leave the country because she did not have her guardian’s permission, al-Huwaider told Human Rights Watch….

    • Henry says:

      Crystal, the quote from Human Rights Watch is frightening! Thanks for sharing it with us.

      Pax,

      Henry

    • Brandon says:

      Ok, first of all: Fear is the greatest tool the devil has.

      Now, make a decision. Do you believe in equality or justice for the sexes?

      A few points to consider:

      1. If we seek equality aren’t we just ignoring what makes each sex unique?

      For example, in France women are granted by law 4 months paid maternity leave.

      Now, do you think they should not be granted this because men cannot be granted this? That would be equality.

      2. Do you think by any measure the Catholic church treats women equally?

      3. When I wrote that segregation of the sexes seems absurd, I meant to say it seems absurd when taken out of context. For example, restaurants have two seating sections: One for families and one for single men. It didn’t take me long to realize this is not discriminating against women but rather against single men. And why not? single men are nothing but trouble. Hahaha. I say that jokingly but with a nod to the truth.

      4. It’s not so creepy that these men also take their families to the beach on the weekends. Or that one of my Saudi friends one night while we were eating got a call from his wife. After he talked with her, he looked at me with a smile, and with almost an air of “Married With Children” like humor, went on to say that I have no idea how demanding Saudi wives can be.

      Lastly, are some women beaten here? Yes. Are some women abused physically and emotionally by their husbands? Yes. Of course. This is a problem that faces all humanity. But statistically is it a greater problem here than in the west? I believe not. I think the opposite is true based on my awareness of how closely nit family relations are here. These women are sheltered from associating with strange men yet are much more confident with their extended family members than women typically are in the west.

      My experience may be limited, but it is not limited to Wikipedia articles. Please, for Heavens sake, use a more credible source.

      Islam-phobia is a far greater ignorance and is a far greater discrimination than anything truly professed in Islam.

      P.S. Am I completely in favor of the culture here and the way women are treated? Absolutely not. I am only trying to open minds and quell fears. Yet, I again entreat all women to really look deep within themselves and ask if how the west treats women so consistently, (that is as marketing tools and sex objects), is this really what was envisioned by the woman’s rights activists? Because essentially, if you fight to be treated equally as a man, how can you also demand to be treated as a lady?

  24. Henry says:

    Brandon,

    Despite your assertion that you are familiar with the basic beliefs of the Catholic Christian Faith, your most recent reply once again demonstrates your mendacity. Moreover, you are now showing your true colors!

    Well, unless this being you are addressing as God has personally spoken to you, you have no choice but to rely on the testimony of a witness named Muhammad. That’s why everything Muslims believe about their faith is directly traced back to his “alleged” revelations.

    Regarding the book containing his “alleged” revelations, on what basis do you assert that the version of the Qur’an that you have is the true one? After all there were originally seven versions of the Qur’an which were considered authentic and true until khalif ‘Uthman decided that his version was the true one and then ordered the destruction of the six other versions. And the question that naturally arises is what makes him a credible witness, especially since he paid with his life for what he did? Thus, even a superficial analysis of the facts makes it clear that it is impossible to assert with any degree of certainty that a particular section of the Qur’an is the authentic statement truly pronounced by Muhammad.

    Now if you are willing to believe that the witness you follow is credible despite that fact that he is simply a fallible human being with a – ahem, colorful life – please feel free to do so.

    Pax,

    Henry

  25. Brandon:
    You are not understanding what I wrote so further
    dialogue is not possible: you, sir, are a beginner,
    and need to familiarize yourself with more knowledge
    and less opinion. Most of what you write to me
    and others here, is opinion. With little formation
    supporting it.

    Secondly, you make the typical beginner’s earmark
    mistakes: you confuse “behaviour” with “dogma.”
    Your descriptions of life in Saudi Arabia are
    confused with actual Islamic dogma. And you are
    doing the same for Christianity: you confuse
    behavioral sin with sacrosanct dogma and write off
    the latter based on observations of the former!
    That won’t do! Nor can it. If you can get over
    that psychological mistake, then just maybe
    we can carry on.

    Lastly, we do NOT reason “into” faith, which is
    what you are existentially attempting to do! Wrong!
    That is the same contemporary myth practised by
    notable atheistic authors, blind to their use of
    reason “as” a mere tool to knowledge for which,
    this tool is not designed for use!
    Go read Kierkegaard if nobody else on this as
    the best blaster of humankind’s utter stupidities
    on this topic! Easter peace!

  26. Henry says:

    I am interested in Brandon’s answers (answers that contain facts, not opinions!) to these questions, and so, if you will indulge me Nathan, I’d like to post them. If you think it’s inappropriate, then don’t post my comment. Pax, Henry

    ********************************************

    Brandon

    1. Is it reasonable to believe that Allah descended the Taurât, then he allowed for its falsification; then descended the Bible and allowed for its falsification; and then when he descended the Qur’an he guarded it from falsification? If he is not capable of protecting his books the Taurât and the bible, then how he is capable of protecting the Qur’an from falsification?

    2. Where did the alleged falsification happen? All know that the Christianity since the time of the Christ’s apostles (disciples) prevailed in many places of the world in Asia, Africa, and Europe; consequently the Holy Bible prevailed in those places. So my question is: “In what country of those continents did falsification take place – Asia? Africa? Europe? Or the “alleged” falsification happened in all of them? And How did this happen?

    3. Who had performed the alleged falsification?
    a) Did the Jews perform the alleged falsification of the Taurât and the books of the prophets?
    b) Or did the Christians perform the alleged falsification of the books of the Jews and also the Bible?
    c) Which Rite of Christianity performed that falsification?
    d) Or are we to believe that the Jews agreed with Christians that both books together (the Taurât and the bible) should be falsified?

    Again, I am interested in factual answers, not unsubstantiated opinions.

    Pax,

    Henry

  27. Dear Brandon, on the topic of the “sexes,” your
    defence of the indefensible is evident in your
    display of logic but not of philosophical reasoning:
    after you tell me how Islam is applied against
    women in Darfur, et al., will you yourself confront
    the Devil at work!

    Fear is not of the Devil: Lies are!

    Fear is normal in man, and idealized at core as
    a requisite for true Faith: “Fear of the Lord!”

    Stick to Scripture, and not to interpretations plus
    applications thereof. IF you truly are a truth
    seeker! Dogma doesn’t change: each culture changes,
    and houses its own sins: in everyone: which is why
    God had to come “down” to man and not man “up”
    to meet God !

    Lastly, you want to use the term “gender” in this
    kind of discussion. The “sexes” is archaic proof of
    gross continued illiteracy not just on your part
    but on the part of most men for just too many
    generations!

    And as far as Catholic dogma goes, gender positioning
    neutralizes the questions of equality, or justice,
    or just plain decency: their is none in the eyes
    of God! He is neither male nor female: WE human dorks
    keep projecting gender bender nonsense into, and on to
    God! He never was either, nor will there be either
    in the hereafter, heaven.

    And as far as Muslim dogma goes, gender is skewed
    against the female, starting right in the Koran
    itself! Unacceptable, to me! Find peace in that!

    PS: “Men at the Crossroads” by Balswick remains
    a significant researched book on men, attempting
    to position it as a contribution to a “Men’s Movement”
    which didn’t happen, and won’t happen!

    Because of the two core male deficiencies:
    Ego, and Competitiveness. In that order!

    “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men
    to be thought half as good.
    Luckily, this is not difficult.” – Charlotte Whitton

  28. Brandon says:

    OK, this will be my last post here, yet I’m not looking to have the last word so feel free to continue.

    John Paul II shouted at his inauguration, “Do not fear! Open the doors to Christ!”

    I have a lot to say in response to all that has been said, even though it has strayed far far from the original topic. I simply don’t have time to tackle all these topics in depth now, but I don’t want you to think that I concede to a single one of the things stated. I see the propagation of such negative stereotypes as a major problem, and I feel I’ve shared enough of what I have experienced to help combat them for now.

    In my response to the original post I referred to the Qur’an because in Islam there is not the problem highlighted in the original post, i.e., it does not “avail itself to multiple conflicting interpretations. Put another way, it doesn’t make much sense to me to say that God revealed what is necessary for salvation through a text marked by ambiguity…”

    Thus Islam lacks the problems that arise from such a problem and thus produces an alternative philosophy and way of life. And in fact an alternative solution to the problem far from a point of view that has as its conclusion the need for an infallible church doubled as a self-justification. That is what I was interested in investigating here.

  29. Henry says:

    Well Brandon, you should take Pope John Paul’s words to heart and actually learn what Christ, through His Church, so you can truly understand the fullness of Truth and beauty in the religion started by the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And yes, we certainly strayed far from the original post but that was because of you.

    Now, I, for one, am simply asking for factual answers to the objections and questions many of us have posted in our comments.

    Ok, since you end your post by citing “experience”, I will do the same and tell you why I (note, I am talking about me, not anyone else) think that Islam is not worthy of credence. And this experience is born of study, observation, and discussions with practicing Muslims.

    In addition to what I have cited in some of my earlier comments, I would say that my general problem is summed up in this quote from the Pope’s talk at Regensburg (a talk you should seriously study!):

    But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality…

    Now I realize that this belief is and has been held by Jews and Christians, but in many parts of Islam it is used to justify an obedience to Allah that has no criterion to judge whether what is practiced or demanded is reasonable or not; for the logic of this position is that obedience to Allah is absolute even when unreasonable. Thus, I have discovered that practicing Muslims are not even allowed to ask (or even think!) a simple question: Is it reasonable that the revelation to Muhammad that negated the Trinity and Incarnation is itself reasonable?

    Now if this view – God is absolutely transcendent and His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality – were not misinterpreted anywhere but in a very small minority in Islam, then I wouldn’t have a problem. BUT, it appears to be held by many Muslims and it is being used to justify suicide bombings, persecution of Christians, persecution of women, etc., because it appears that the religious system, at it’s root, believes that Allah could make what is violent good, or what is wrong to be right. But, if it is true that Allah could make what is violent good, or what is wrong to be right, then it seems to me that Allah is a “capricious God.”

    Lastly, I am astounded that in many Muslim countries it is called an insult, or worse, it is considered blasphemy and/or a crime to even ask this question: Is it or is it not true that Muhammad or the Qur’an permits violence in the name of religion? And the fact that the majority of the Muslim world (or the majority of religious leaders) as a whole does not condemn acts of violence against innocent people (like the recent bombing in London) speaks volumes. Now I am not saying that the bombing was done by Muslims, what I am saying is, if it is discovered that the act was committed by Muslim suicide bombers will the majority of Muslims publicly stand up and say this cannot be justified by the Qur’an, etc.?

    And so, for me, any religion that forces me to deny the virtues that God Himself gave me (including my conscience) or to deny the rights I am entitled to simply by that fact that I am a person, is not worthy of credence.

    In closing, why did I become a Catholic Christian? Because I love the Truth and because God, in Christ, answers and fulfills the human heart!

    I look forward to your answers to all the questions we’ve posed.

    Pax,

    Henry

    • Henry says:

      A correction and a help to clear up a misunderstanding you have about the link between Christ and the Church.

      My first sentence should read: “Well Brandon, you should take Pope John Paul’s words to heart and actually learn what Christ, through His Church, teaches us so you can truly understand the fullness of Truth and beauty in the religion started by the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

      Now the help: Christ is the Truth and the Church is His “divinely appointed conduit” for bringing us the Truth, which is Christ Himself. For the word “Church” indicates a historical phenomenon whose only meaning lies in the fact that it enables men and women to encounter the living Risen Jesus Christ now and to attain certainty about Him. For it is not a question of how God enters the world (the method is called “incarnation”) but where? (See the following paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: #770, 771, 774–776, 779, 788, and 789.)

    • Brandon says:

      Ok, I said it would be my last, but because I have something to share, I will, if Nathan deems worthy.

      To your first three:

      1. Not that God was unable to protect these books, but rather that there was no need to protect them. Abrogation is the word used to justify this.

      2. I never said “falsification.” I said adulteration, def., “render something poorer in quality by adding an inferior substance.” This has happened in all these continents as the church has morphed into what it is today. (profound example: no married priests)

      3. These adulterations are propagated by anyone professing excuses for these adulterations, building philosophies in defense of these adulterations, or even anyone in complacency to these adulterations and in fact changing the Religion of God.

      My relationship with Christ is in fact the foundation of my spirituality. But, I will not claim it as being a religion, and this is why:

      First of all separate the religion of Islam from the culture and governance of predominantly Islamic countries or populations. These are two different categories: 1. the study of Islam and 2. the study of sociology.

      In fact, I am averse to all the same things you are averse to. But, I also see Islam as a solid religion and in fact a religion consistent with the religions of Noah, Moses, David, Salomon, and Jesus, etc. And I see all the problems associated with Islam to be as a result of an incomplete or ADULTERATED understanding of Islam.

      Again, separate the man Muhammad, from the religion of Islam. (obviously hard to do being a Christian) Also, hard to do while taking a pragmatic look at the origins of the Qur’an. But if one is able to separate these things, and understand what the religion of Islam is really saying, they will see that it is a bare-bones revelation of how to have a pure Faith in God, with out compulsion, —and only for those who care to have one in this way, i.e., the way of religion.

      Again we will be tempted to criticize Muhammad. We will be tempted to criticize radical Muslims. We will be tempted to criticize men who mistreat women. We will be tempted to even hate. We will be tempted to criticize the fact that Muslims seem to not speak out against suicide bombers (this of course is because there is no institution that speaks for Islam, but if you speak to a Muslim personally, I guarantee 9,999 times out of 10,000 times they will speak out against suicide bombers). But, if one gets over all of that, and decides to look at what precisely the religion says, they will see it to be beyond reproach. Also, a line in the Qur’an states that so many different examples are given so that you may use Reason. Have I been confronted with narrow minded and even dangerous Muslims? Yes, I have. Once, after I engaged a Muslim on a discussion of pragmatics relating to Muhammad’s life, he took my Qur’an from me saying that I wasn’t allowed to even touch it and that if I was seen at the Prophet’s Mosque by him or his friends they would tell the authorities and I “would be taken care of.” So, I had to chalk that up to his narrow-mindedness. He was in fact being a bad Muslim and later apologized and gave me back my Qur’an.

      Thus, personally, I’m at a crossroads. Not between Catholicism and Islam, but rather between religion and no religion. Christ has given me the confidence to ask that question. And I think maybe many Christians would be a lot happier to focus on Christ and leave behind so much adulteration.

      • Henry says:

        Brandon,

        My friend, I wish you peace, abundant peace, which, for me, only comes from accepting the embrace of the Nazarene!

        Now, for your information, I generally refer to the Oxford English Dictionary when checking the definitions of words and here’s what it says:

        “Adulteration”: 1. The action of adulterating; corruption or debasement by spurious admixture. 2. The result of adulterating; an adulterated condition, product, or substance.

        “Adulterating, ppl. a.:” Debasing, corrupting, making counterfeit or spurious, by base admixture.

        “adulterating, vbl. n.:” The action of corrupting, debasing, or falsifying, esp. by spurious admixture.

        And so I zeroed in on “falsification” because most Muslim apologists really mean that when they speak of adulteration. Be that as it may, even though I enjoy verbal ping-pong, etc., I think it’s time for us to stop, don’t you?

        You are on a journey and you must follow it to the end with courage and honesty.

        I really wish we could sit down and talk face-to-face because I know what it’s like to be at a crossroads very well. In fact, the more I travel the road I am on, the more I feel the drama of Christ’s question: “will you go away too?” I have confronted that question many times, and probably will forever, for, as Aaron wrote, “Christ is always both obscured and revealed in His Church.” So the scandal of the incarnation in not simply an event of the past, but something that confronts all of us now, today.

        As I wrote to Virgilijus a little while ago, I was reading a poem by Jacopne da Todi this morning (The Lament of the Soul for the Intensity of Infused Charity) and I want to share a few lines with you because they express my own longing:

        “A new creature is born in Christ:
        I hasten to put on the new man,
        And Love continues to rise in the veins,
        A knife blade cutting into the heart,
        A heart that sears all powers of thought.
        Christ in His beauty draws me to Him,
        Locks me in His embrace, and I cry out:
        ‘Love for whom I hunger, let me die of love!’

        So, as Thomas More says to his daughter Meg in the movie “A Man for all Seasons”: Well…finally…in the end it’s not a matter of reason, it’s a matter of Love.

        Let’s accompany each other in prayer during these most holy of days Brandon.

        Pax,

        Henry

      • Brandon says:

        Agreed. I appreciate your perseverance and patience with me.

        Oh, and my definition is from the Oxford American Dictionary.

        Anyway, when it comes down to it, I couldn’t be happier to be a Catholic (but am I still satisfied to call it my religion, I don’t know, I still think Jesus might have conquered that outdated institution for those who are ready to accept it (now we’re going to argue semantics, haha)).

        But anyway, in fact, the Catholic church has made me what I am today and I can not deny I was able to find a Life, a Truth, and a Way within it. But do I think it is infallible or perfect? Not really. So I am just trying to encourage change where change is needed and in whatever way possible make it easier for those still looking for that peace. And along the way assist everyone in a better understanding of Islam and our Muslim brothers based on my experience.

        The single greatest thing the Catholic church has given me is a Confirmation in Christ that I now realize will never leave me. Here I am in the midst of Islam, able to investigate all things to my minds content, thousands of miles from a Bible, Church, or Priest, yet I am possessed by a peace, joy, awareness, and understanding that refuses to forsake me. And truly, the only word I have that comes close to describing it is Christ. And it stands out amongst the Muslims. I have had them tell me so personally.

        So as we encourage each other toward the True!

        Peace to you brother!

        And without a doubt, you will be in my prayers!

  30. Brandon:
    I categorically reject the errant logic in your
    last post: the Koran is as subject TO HUMAN
    misinterpretation as is the Bible OR ANY written
    medium. That is a fact of psychology, not of theology!

    And your Koran is blatantly misinterpreted BECAUSE
    Islam does NOT have a centralized church, like we
    Catholics do!
    Each religious Muslim cleric comes up with HIS OWN INTERPRETATION of the Koran!

  31. Moving poetry, Henry: thanks!

    And Brandon, you write being “at the crossroads…
    between religion and no religion.” Have you considered
    moving away from such an interpretation, towards
    the role of theology? Because in fact, each person
    has “religion” as religion: that is our subjective
    stance in ideological orientation to God. Whereas
    theology is an attempt to objective such stances
    towards understood plus shared commonalities
    within His creation, as Creator…

    Furthermore, take solace in knowing that significant
    scholarship already exists (while, yes, much more
    is needed) in support of your desire to bridge Islam
    and Christianity: time and interest allowing, take
    a look at “Merton & Sufism: The Untold Story;
    A Complete Compendium” (Fons Vitae, 1999).

    In matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, controversy
    is of little value because it takes us away from the
    spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas.
    In the realm of realities we may have a great deal in
    common, whereas in words there are apt to be infinite
    complexities plus subtleties which are beyond resolution. However it is important to “try” to
    understand the beliefs of other religions,
    time precludes depth therein, not delimiting the effort!

    Much more important is the sharing of the experience
    of divine light, and 1st of all of the light that God
    gives us even as the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

    It is here, that the area of fruitful dialogue exists!
    Between Christianity and Islam and Judaism….and….!

    And so, Sufism per se, looks at man as a heart and a
    spirit and a secret, with the secret being the
    deepest part: the secret of man is God’s secret;
    therefore it is universally in God for all real,
    all serious religions, but in unfathomable infinite
    Mystery.

    “My secret is God’s innermost knowledge of me,”
    writes Merton, “which He alone possesses. It is God’s
    secret knowledge of myself in Him, which is a
    beautiful concept. The heart is the faculty by which
    man knows God and there Sufism develops the heart….

  32. Moving poetry, Henry: thanks!

    And Brandon, you write being “at the crossroads…
    between religion and no religion.” Have you considered
    moving away from such an interpretation, towards
    the role of theology? Because in fact, each person
    has “religion” as religion: that is our subjective
    stance in ideological orientation to God. Whereas
    theology is an attempt to objective such stances
    towards understood plus shared commonalities
    within His creation, as Creator…

    Furthermore, take solace in knowing that significant
    scholarship already exists (while, yes, much more
    is needed) in support of your desire to bridge Islam
    and Christianity: time and interest allowing, take
    a look at “Merton & Sufism: The Untold Story;
    A Complete Compendium” (Fons Vitae, 1999).

    In matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, controversy
    is of little value because it takes us away from the
    spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas.
    In the realm of realities we may have a great deal in
    common, whereas in words there are apt to be infinite
    complexities plus subtleties which are beyond resolution. However it is important to “try” to
    understand the beliefs of other religions,
    time precludes depth therein, not delimiting the effort!

    Much more important is the sharing of the experience
    of divine light, and 1st of all of the light that God
    gives us even as the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

    It is here, that the area of fruitful dialogue exists!
    Between Christianity and Islam and Judaism….and….!

    And so, Sufism per se, looks at man as a heart and a
    spirit and a secret, with the secret being the
    deepest part: the secret of man is God’s secret;
    therefore it is universally in God for all real,
    all serious religions, but in unfathomable infinite
    Mystery.

    “My secret is God’s innermost knowledge of me,”
    writes Merton, “which He alone possesses. It is God’s
    secret knowledge of myself in Him, which is a
    beautiful concept. The heart is the faculty by which
    man knows God and there Sufism develops the heart….
    both in Sufism and in the Christian tradition:
    to develop a heart that knows God, not just a heart
    that loves God, but a heart that knows God.”

    That is a very ancient Biblical concept that is
    carried over from Jewish thought into monasticism.

    It is the spirit which loves God, in Sufism. The
    spirit is almost the same word as the Biblical word
    “Spirit” -the breath of life. So, man k n o w s God
    with his/er heart, but l o v e s God with his life!
    It is our living s e l f (which per Kierkegaard, “is”
    our soul!) that is an act of constant love for God
    and this inmost secret of man/woman is that by which
    he/she contemplates God, it is the secret of humanity
    in God Himself.

    May we always at Easter time roll back the stones
    to ever reveal the emerging risen new self called
    by God to union, through and in unity of community!

  33. Henry says:

    Brandon,

    Just a quick note to say hello and to ask what’s new? I remembered you at Mass on Easter day.

    Hope all is well.

    Pax,

    Henry

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