Daily Archives: January 14, 2010

Of God and Allah

And finally this morning (a busy day for blogging after a bit of an hiatus) a Malay friend of mine has been emailing me with concerns about the opposition Christians in Malaysia are expriencing in regards to the new law forbidding the use of the name “Allah” in any context other than Islam.

It must be said from the get go, that this is a singularly parochial idea on the part of the Malaysian Muslims. It is not shared anywhere else in the world, as far as I know, by any other Muslim majority – not even in Indonesia, which has its fair share of Christian-Muslim troubles.

Why don’t the Christians in Malaysia just give up the use of the name “Allah” and use some other word for “God”? Well, just consider that wherever Christianity has been proclaimed and taught and celebrated in Arabic, “Allah” has been the word used for God. This is only obvious, since the original Arabic from which the name comes is “al-ilah”, ie. “the God”. It is the direct equivalent of the Greek “ho theos” used in the New Testament. In the Hebrew, the word used for God shows the same cultural borrowing: since the ancient cultures among which the Hebrew faith emerged only had a plural word for divinity – “Elohim” – they continued to use just this same word, but with singular rather than plural verbs and adjectives (see an example in today’s first reading at Mass, from 1 Sam 4, where the Philistines exclaim “Gods have come to their camp” – it could be translated also as “God” or “a god”).

And if you still can’t understand the predicament that the Malay Christians are in, imagine for a moment, even in English, let alone Arabic or Greek or Hebrew, trying to speak about or praying to the Trinity without using the name “God”. Pretty hard, eh?

I don’t know which way this one will fall in the end, but the Malay authorities are way out on a limb here.

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Resolutions for the “New Feminism”?

Many readers will be familiar with the term “The New Feminism”. It is a term that has been coined by “John Paul II Catholics” to describe a kind of Christian feminism in line with the Church’s witness to the truth about human sexuality and relations. It represents just one of the many ways in which John Paul II used his strategy of capturing terminology that was originally secular and often anti-Christian and redefining them in Christian terms to serve the Gospel.

Cathnews carried a link this morning to this article, from San Francisco, in which two writers – one male (Henry Karlson) and one female (Marjorie Campbell) – outline their “New Feminst” resolutions for 2010. I think you will find it interesting. There is quite a long comment string attached to the article.

I find a couple of Henry’s resolutions particularly interesting:

1. To reflect more on what the New Feminism should mean for the masculine; to continue to work out all the underlying structures that have hindered an appreciation of the masculine; and to encourage men and women alike to understand themselves according to their gender and appreciate those differences, instead of seeing them as a hindrance.

6. Encourage more men to research the authentic Catholic understanding of gender so that they will not find themselves confused, angered, or overreacting to those concerns the Church rightfully brings up.

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The Church in the Middle East still suffering

I am reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s new “History of Christianity” at the moment (see here for a review of the book by none other than the Bearded One himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury). One of the significant features of the book is that, like any global history written since September 2001, there is much more attention given to the the situation of the Church in the Middle to Far East (in this case, to the non-Chalcedonian “miaphysite” – aka monophysite – and “diaphysite” – aka Nestorian – Churches) than in many other one volume histories of Christianity written in the past. (As an example, my neighbour showed me an old but fairly good single volume history of civilisation the other day. It gave almost 70 pages to the Roman civilization, and only 6 pages to the Eastern Islamic civilisations). MacCulloch comments at the end of his sixty page summary (out of a total of 1150 pages in all – the hardcover version of the book is a BRICK!):

Western Christianity, heir to Chalcedon, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, still has a long way to go before the balance is fully righted.

He is probably right there. Certainly the tales of persecution and martyrdom in the East, under the Sassinids and the Mongols and the Chinese as well as the Muslims (who actually were rather mild overlords in comparison to some of these others) are often much worse than those perpetrated by the Roman Emperors before Constantine. In many localities these Churches were completely extinguished by these persecutions. And yet, in many others, they have held on through thick and thin.

One of those “survivors” is the Coptic Church of Egypt. In today’s Age is a story which shows these persecutions – not “official” by their Governments but still very real and often ignored by the authorities in Egypt – are still very much continuing. Australia is home to many Coptic Christians (70,000 according to the paper – Melbourne has a particularly strong and evangelical community of Copts, under the leadership of their Bishop Suriel), many of them refugees from just such persecution.

This is a case for prayer. And also action. Those in Melbourne might like to join the Copts in their planned march on the Egyptian consulate tomorrow to demand that the Australian Government take some action in this matter.

It should also be noted that the relationships between these Eastern non-Chalcedonian Christians and Catholic Church is good and continuing to improve. Theological studies and ecumenical efforts are now healing the 1500 year old breach that occured at the fourth ecumenical council (it was all a terrible misunderstanding, apparently!), and we hope that full communion may be seen in our lifetime.

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A miracle by anyone’s standards.

Last night I was discussing with Cathy and my mother-in-law the testimony of the woman who experienced the second “miracle” accredited to Mother Mary of the Cross (aka Mary MacKillop). Even my not-very-sympathetic-to-Catholic-idosyncracies mother-in-law said she had to acknowledge that Kathleen Evans’ healing – from terminal lung and brain cancer 16 years ago with no recurrence of cance – was miraculous. The ascription to the intercession of Blessed Mary may be taken with a grain of salt by non-Catholics, but I think we can all agree that this was a miracle sent by God.

The obvious question “Why me?” is one that has occured to Kathleen, as it will many others. We don’t know. Why did Jesus just heal some sick people and not others? Why did he only raise two people from the dead and not others? We do know that when God grants a miracle, he has a reason – which is always, in one way or another, for the sake of his glory. Perhaps – who is to say? – his reason in this instance is to bring glory to himself by glorifying his servant, Mother Mary?

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From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

This article in Cathnews interested me this morning: Easter Bunny arrives far too early in Cairns. The problem is not isolated to Far North Queensland. I walked into our local Coles yesterday to find hot cross buns for sale. Deary me.

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Archbishop of Haiti among the dead

We woke here in Australia to the tragic news of the earthquake and the many thousands dead in Haiti. No one life is worth more than any other, but the Catholic community in Haiti will be hard hit by the fact that their Archbishop, Joseph Serge Miot, is among the dead. Please pray for him, and keep the Catholic Church in Haiti and all Haitians in your prayers.

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