Friday, August 17, 2007

No God but Allah?

Cranmer was not intending to comment on this facile contribution to Muslim-Christian relations, but so many of his Communicants have pleaded with him to do so that he has no option but to feed his flock.

This is Bishop Martinus Muskens of Breda in the Netherlands, who has suggested that Christians should refer to God as Allah as it would promote better relations with Muslims. “God doesn’t mind what he’s called,” he said. “Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years. In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?”

Bishop Muskens admitted that he did not think his suggestion would be welcomed readily and that it would take about 100 years before Catholics would feel comfortable calling God ‘Allah’.

Cranmer is not sure that Western Roman Catholics will ever ‘feel comfortable’ with the proposal, but at this rate calling God ‘Allah’ may eventually have a degree of compulsion to it, and it is not going to take a century to get there. There is an acutely political dimension to the Bishop’s comments, not least because the Netherlands is only a few decades away from a Muslim majority, and Bishop Muskens is simply doing his John-the-Baptist act and making straight the highway.

But does God mind what he is called? What’s in a name?

Firstly, Cranmer notes that Martinus Muskens is also known as Tiny Muskens, so there may be something there which is indicative of his intellect or theological understanding. But the name of God is rather more significant, and in that revelation it is manifest that God does care what he is called.

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD (Heb. ‘YHWH’) thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Ex 20: 1-3).

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you… this is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations (Ex3:14f).

The Bishop is right to point out that Christians throughout Arabia would use the name ‘Allah’, not least because it has come to be simply the Arabic term for God. But this was not revealed to Mohammed: the term predates his era and that of the Qur’an. Allah was in fact a Babylonian moon god, one of a pantheon of gods. Over the centuries he came to be the chief god and then the only god. Of course, most Muslims refute this, but they are largely ignorant of etymology, the evolution of language, cultural history, and textual criticism. And those who dare to delve into such areas as the ‘satanic verses’ either lose their heads or end up with a fatwa on their heads.

The use of ‘Alla’ for Arab Christians has always been as natural as ‘Dieu’ is for the French or ‘Gott’ is for the Germans. But ‘God’ is a job description, not a name. For Jews and Christians the name of God is revealed and he has made himself known; for Muslims he is unknown and unknowable. For Jews and Christians God is immanent and is their Father; for Muslims he is transcendent and not intimately related. For Christians God is revealed in Jesus, the Son of God; for Muslims God is one and has no partners.

Unfortunately, this Roman Catholic bishop who would have spent three years studying philosophy and a further four being steeped in theology (they train longer and much more thoroughly than the Anglicans…), completely misunderstands or chooses to entirely ignore the missio dei expounded so clearly in the New Testament. The entire story of the Early Church is dominated by the profound difficulties inherent in communicating a Hebrew messiah to a Greek audience. The modern Western world lives with the consequences of fusing Greek philosophy with Christian theology, which is why Jewish Christians tend to have a very different christology from Christians in the West. Christianity adapts to culture, but its central truths are immutable.

For Christians in the West to call God ‘Allah’ is nothing but dhimmitude. And what of reciprocity? Might we ask the Muslims to call Jesus the Son of God? No, of course not: the compromise is one way. And the problem is that ‘Allah’ does not now simply mean ‘God’: it has come to symbolise a distinct theology, and a particular doctrine of God. The connotations are salvation through works by adherence to law, absolute and unquestioning submission, and a complete absence of grace. Islam is intolerant of other faiths, and insensitive to cultural diversity. For many in the West, Allah is vindictive, oppressive, and his name has become the battle cry of terrorists and murderers. For Christians to use the term in a Western context would therefore be what St Paul termed 'foolishness to the Greeks'. If the gospel is already foolishness to those who are being lost, the use of 'Allah' to reveal the saving grace of Jesus would be a further hurdle to overcome, an offence, a stumbling block. Here, where nomenclature is so important, it clearly matters what one calls God, and to get the term wrong is to risk the salvation of souls.

Our Father in Heaven, the one who asked that we call him Abba, Father, is manifestly not of the same ontology as the Allah of the Qur’an. One might just as well propose that churches be called mosques, Christians be called Muslims, and pretend in a pluralist Hickian kind of way that it doesn’t really matter because God is really an elephant and no-one sees the whole creature - Muslims have a leg and Christians have a tusk and Jews have got the trunk, but the greater truth is in the whole, which no-one sees.

Except, of course, for Bishop Muskens, who appears to have grabbed hold of the penis.


Anonymous bob said...

One of the most disappointing things about Catholicism is that it's bishops tend to be, in a lot of cases, numbskulls. Bishop Muskens seems sadly to be another in a long line of bishops who seeks to pander to pc causes rather than to fulfil his vocation.

Also, Your Grace, you over-estimate the academic rigours of Catholic clergy - they only study philosophy for three years and theology for four - not that it always bears fruit, unfortunately.

17 August 2007 at 10:47  
Anonymous sparkyd said...

I must say your grace, that your final line made me laugh hard! Thankyou for making my morning a little brighter!

17 August 2007 at 11:00  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Bob,

His Grace knew seven years came into the process somewhere, and he has amended that article accordingly.

It still puts Anglican training to shame. One may become a vicar in the Church of England with little more than a diploma...

17 August 2007 at 11:12  
Anonymous bob said...

Judging by some of the Catholic clergy, I sometimes wonder if seven years is nearly enough, especially if Bishop Muskens is anything to go by.

17 August 2007 at 11:19  
Blogger botogol said...

"But ‘God’ is a job description, not a name"

I like it :-)

Is'nt actually a type of being, sort of like a species (OK, who said endangered?)

17 August 2007 at 11:25  
Blogger 16words said...

If history is any guide then a dispute over the name of God has to be worth a killing or two. So, may I pump up the volume and suggest that UK Muslims be invited to replace the word Allah with the word God?

I jest, of course, and my muse is Jonathan Swift.

17 August 2007 at 11:54  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Bishop has missed the obvious issue - Evangelism. Convert the Heathen to Christianity. It is the only path to Redemption for those living in Darkness and Ignorance.

If only the Netherland had accepted the generous offer from Lord Protector Cromwell to become a united nation with England how much better things might have turned out.

17 August 2007 at 11:58  
Anonymous Observer said...

The Bishop is ignorant - Al-Lah is a pagan deity preceding Islam together with Al-Lah and Al-Uzzah and Manat.

Al-Lah is the Moon God which is why Islam adopted the Cresent symbol

The Bishop is mentally ill to deny Christ

17 August 2007 at 12:02  
Anonymous oiznop said...

No, Voyager - Christians don't do 'conversion' anymore - it's not PC!

In fact, I remember reading recently that all the churches (including Orthodox and Catholic) have agreed a Code of Conduct. It probably stems from EU directive, but whether it does or not, talk of conversion is now offensive and you'll probably get arrested for harassment or incitement.

17 August 2007 at 12:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an idiot. What's next? Hijabs for all?

17 August 2007 at 13:31  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Is His Grace familiar with Peter Simple?

Dr E W T Spacely-Trellis, the go-ahead Bishop of Stretchford, this week presided over a moderate trans-faith conference in the People's Narthex of his cathedral. He had originally intended it for moderate Muslims only, but "in view of the overall world crisis", he decided to enlarge it to include moderate adherents of all religions, including the Nerdley Aztec community.

He wore symbolic trans-faith vestments designed to express the "essential oneness" of all religions. His bishop's mitre was surmounted by an Islamic turban; a phylactery gleamed in the folds of a garment, part chasuble, part Buddhist's saffron robe; he carried a crozier and a lama's double-ended thunderbolt and his face was painted with the sacred patterns of Australian aborigines.

In his opening address, he emphasised the importance of apologising for all the wrongs Christianity had been guilty of: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of the Jews, the slave trade and all the actions of colonists and missionaries throughout the world.

"The key to world peace," he said, "lies in the hands of moderate believers, particularly moderate Muslims. We moderate Christians have got rid of most of the immoderate superstitions that disfigured our religion in unenlightened times: God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Saints, the miracles, the Bible - all the accumulated rubbish of centuries.

"I feel sure that our moderate Muslim friends will likewise get rid of Allah, the Prophet, the pilgrimage to Mecca and all the other obstacles to a moderate, rational religion suited to the needs of the average Muslim man and woman in our day and age."

I remember hearing a service on Radio 4 (I think at Easter this year and organized by Tricky Dicky Harries) which regaled its audience at one point with a loud 'Allahu Akbar'. But when the chief rabbi tried to suggest something along those universalist, 'we each have only fragments of the Truth' lines, he got v. sharply slapped down.

Of course, most Muslims refute this,

No, they merely deny it, for to refute it they would need not to be

largely ignorant of etymology, the evolution of language, cultural history, and textual criticism.

17 August 2007 at 15:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He has opened the floodgates now, I can see our new asbo generation praying 'yo man wheres it at' and 'hey dude hows it hanging'
'our dude who art in heaven he the man'

17 August 2007 at 16:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dizzyfatplonka is comedically out of touch with todays yoof.

17 August 2007 at 17:51  
Anonymous Dr C. Riyal Kilah said...

"For Christians God is revealed in Jesus, the Son of God"


As we Muslims are constantly reminding you filthy hell-bound kuffars


He does however have three daughters - Lat, Uzza, and Manat - see and

Well, I must go now as it's a quiet evening in A & E. But Dr Sewi Saeed should soon fix that, if you know what I mean!

Lat, Uzza and Manat Akhbar! (though not quite as Akhbar as their dad)

- Dr C. Riyal Kilah

Muslim Medical Malpractitioners' Association.

17 August 2007 at 19:01  
Anonymous Islamophobic and proud of it said...

Brilliant Islamophobic videorant from Pat Condell. Watch it before it's banned!

18 August 2007 at 00:48  
Anonymous USpace said...

This Bishop is a bit wacky, his suggestion will only embolden the Jihadis. I just read that he said a little while ago that Islam had no future because of all the violence. He seems very confused and conflicted.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe thinks
insult Christians

if you want a riot
which the police will allow

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
appease angry religions

someday there will be just one
let the conversions begin

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
change religious history

blasphemize the Christians
they will not murder you

22 August 2007 at 06:40  
Blogger Meg said...

Just a heads up here people:

Christianity is a religion which associated a human being with Allah. Do you all not know the first commandment? I is YOUR religion. I would think that you would at least know the first rule concerning it. a religion named for one ethnic minority of ne'er do wells who murdered prophets. Not Isa of course (your favorite prophet Jesus, SA) because you see, NO ONE ever murdered a messenger who was also a prophet.

Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed (SA)...not one of those four was murdered by anyone or weren't you aware of that?

You see, a messenger has a book (you haven't ever seen Jesus' book now have you? is called the Injeel)....and Allah protected them from mayhem in order to complete their missions.

Jesus mission isn't done yet and hence, he isn't dead either. That is why you dodos...he is coming back. You of course know he is coming back but you don't know why.

Well that is why. To prove to the people of the world that their disagreements were um...completely off base and man made. And who else could prove that to such morons like you? Not me of course...just a little muslim who knows the truth and likes the truth.

You people the LIE.

Oh well.

You will submit to Allah willingly or unwillingly. Regardless of how much you plead to go back in time and do it all over. By then it will be too late.

Oh well. You've been told. That is the best anyone can do for you.

4 September 2007 at 08:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Children, children.
You are all arguing feverishly - and pointlessly - over who has invented the best imaginary authority to replace your dead or missing parents. The Shahadah has got it half-right: There is no god. And that's all there is to it.

21 December 2007 at 12:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't understand one simple thing: why is Martinus Muskens not yet excommunicated for his heresy? :( Such people dishonour Holy Catholic Church...

31 December 2009 at 15:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to mass a few year ago in Malta, and was surprised to find that "God" in the Maltese language (a Semitic language influenced by Phonecian, Latin, Greek and Arabic) is "Alla." "Qadish espiritu ta Allah" is how you say "Holy Spirit of God." On one level, it's just a word.

23 March 2010 at 00:34  

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