Paranoia I & II; Beauty

    1. Why King Saul was on edge
    2. The Friends of Enmity
    3. Interlochen Center for the Arts


I never quite understood why King Saul, Israel’s first king, was so erratic toward David, trying at times to spear him. My morning devotional reading guide has taken me to the book of I Kingdoms (I Samuel in the typical western Bible), and I’m reminded that his paranoia was fueled by a series of encounters with the prophet Samuel, ending with this unyielding conclusion:

The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.

I think that would put me a little bit on edge.


Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, home to super-pastor Rick Warren (Obama inauguration, Purpose Driven Life, etc.) has joined forces with Southern California mosques to adopt a three-step plan for ending enmity between evangelical Christians and Muslims.

All together now, 1, 2, 3: Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Imagine that! Trying to end enmity! What gall is that?! Don’t they know that Islam is violent extremism while Christianity is a religion of peace? links in turn to a sister site,, which gets to the nub of the matter bye’n’bye:

The plan’s first step calls for Muslims and Christians to recognize they worship the same God.

Oh, the horror! I must tell my Arabic Christian friends to immediately cease referring to God as “Allah” (Arabic for – hold your hats now – “God“). They have led folk astray!

I have been hearing this sort of thing – that Muslims and Christians worship different Gods – for several years now. And I’ve been hearing it in places that make me wince, which is to say not just from the websites of dispensationalist heretics.

I am a very particular type of Christian: Orthodox (and cantankerous). If radically different understandings of God amount to “different gods,” then most professing Christians worship a different God than I do, including Fred Phelps, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, the folks at and, and even Anselm of Canterbury (as I understand his view of God as a sort of medieval lord, extremely prickly and vindictive). I don’t think those folks and I even share an understanding of what Jesus meant by “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

This is not a theology blog and I’m not a qualified theologian of any sort (though there was a time not that long ago when I was under the illusion that I was a good lay theologian). But I thought it was really rather fundamental that there is only one God. Islam says it worships the God of Abraham. So, I thought, do Christians.

Muslims, however, believe that God is an absolute monad while Christians of virtually all sorts believe that one God exists as three persons while remaining one God. Christians further believe

in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all æons, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father … who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

Islam, a later arrival, very pointedly denies any such thing:

The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort?

And (we believe) that He exalted be the glory of our Lord hath taken neither wife nor son.

Those are no small differences. And if Rick Warren really thinks (as I doubt he does) that we can just syncretistically paper over them, joining in a rousing chorus of Kum-Bah-Ya, he’s on a fools errand.

But is it really outlandish to suggest that Muslims and Christians have radically differing dogmas about the same God? If so, then I guess I am outlandish.

I am aware of the danger of crying “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. As I say, the difference between Christianity and Islam is nothing trivial. And between some schools of Islam and the Western world, there exists a great enmity.

But I’m also aware of the danger of substituting for friendship with God ideological hatred of Communists, secular humanists, jihadists, or whoever the day’s designated demons may be.

If I must risk error – and I’m sure I must – I prefer erring on the side of peace rather than enmity. In this, too, I seem to worship a different God than some who also claim the name “Christian.”


I was interrupted in my blogging by a call I really didn’t mind: a student fundraising for the Interlochen Arts Academy. You could find a much worse home for some charitable shekels.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

One thought on “Paranoia I & II; Beauty

  1. Whenever I read anything like Pastor Rick’s initiative, I have to be careful I do not strain any muscles when my eyes start rolling. And the cynic in me notes that recent reports from Pakistan, or Egypt, or Syria (or any number of other locales) indicate that the “enmity” is a rather one-sided affair. I believe Christians and Muslims should be clear about what divides them, and not try to blur those distinctions. In this vein I rather resent the disingenuous Islamic newspaper ads around western Easter—“We believe in Jesus too, come and find out more,” or something of that nature…As a historical figure, yes…as the Son, not so much.

    That said, I believe your approach is the correct one. We must respect the faithfulness of the other. I sympathize with the attitude of St. John of Damascus (our mission’s patron saint, btw) who believed Islam a heresy, certainly, but a “Christian heresy.” I recently read commentary somewhere (here, perhaps) that noted that Islam has more in common with apostolic Christianity than does Mormonism. I would not argue with that.

    Back in my traveling days (hopefully to be revived as finances improve), I had the great privilege to experience Turkish and Arabic culture. I have visited any number of mosques from Istanbul to Damascus and have observed Muslims in worship. And while I reject the foundational document of their faith, as well as its founder, the faithfulness of its followers is not a sham. I came to be good friends with my guide in Turkey, a young man of thoroughly modern sensibilities who, if the opportunity arose, would not turn down a shot of whiskey. I had to go to his room one night about something, and he opened the door with his prayer rug under his arm, having just said his prayers or just about to do so. I had traveled with him for about 10 days by this time and had no idea of his quiet attendance to the tenets of his faith.

    One of my favorite contemporary saints is St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, his biography written–if I am not mistaken–by St. Paisios. In the years prior to the Removal of 1923, the distinctions between Muslim and Christian in the small central Anatolian village of Farasa (which I have visited) were not so rigid as we might imagine. Countless stories have been passed down of local Muslims seeking his counsel and healing, recognizing in the simple village priest a true holy man of God.

    I’m with you, let’s err on the side of peace and grant them that they seek God as do we.

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