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The world did not change on September 11. Instead, Americans found themselves in a wider struggle in which the rest of the world had been engaged for some time. The terrorist attacks marked the end of America's geographical immunity from the horrors of the outside world. This is not a war between Arabs and the United States or Muslims versus America. September 11 was a manifestation of a deeper struggle between one set of values and another. Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage explores the roots of the conflict...
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The world did not change on September 11. Instead, Americans found themselves in a wider struggle in which the rest of the world had been engaged for some time. The terrorist attacks marked the end of America's geographical immunity from the horrors of the outside world. This is not a war between Arabs and the United States or Muslims versus America. September 11 was a manifestation of a deeper struggle between one set of values and another. Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage explores the roots of the conflict and offers a perspective on what is going on, how it developed, and what our response as Christians should be.
To the purveyors of Islamic rage, past history is at the heart of the hatred they have toward the Christian West. Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage looks at the key issues of today, and it explores how those issues are influenced by events of the past. You'll learn about the history that led to current conflicts, including old wars and ancient empires that still capture the minds and imaginations of millions around the world. The book traces the rise of Islam, the rise and fall of Islamic superpowers over the centuries, and the clash of values between Islam, Christianity, and Western civilization.
Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage examines the core beliefs of Muslims without either demonizing or idolizing them. You'll also learn how belief affects people's perspectives on world events and how cultural values color the way we interpret today's headlines. Moving beyond the limitations of strictly secular interpretations, the author brings a biblical and evangelical dimension to our understanding of what is happening in the world today.
The book addresses the issues of oil in the Middle East, the political and religious consequences of economic issues, and the differences between Western civilization, Christianity, Islam, and extremist beliefs. An analysis of the ebb and flow of empires, especially the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the rise of modern Middle Eastern nations, will help you identify the players in this geopolitical chess game and the forces that motivate them. Finally, Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage offers a glimpse of what God is doing in these chaotic times, bringing biblical insight on how these conflicts will finally be resolved.
This book is going to begin by looking at the key issues that enable us to understand the nature of the Islamic world today. If we look at, for example, the alleged statement of Osama bin Laden on 13 February 2003, we will see a lot of references to history, to battles fought over 1300 years ago. If we are going to understand the present, we must first study the past, however strange this might seem. The first three chapters do exactly this. We will look at how we as Christians should look at history. We do, after all, have a faith firmly rooted in real events that took place thousands of years ago and have eternal spiritual significance. Jesus was born in a manger, he had a genuine ministry here on earth in what is now the Middle East, and he died on the cross and rose from the dead. In addition, Jesus was the authentic Son of God whose death redeems those from their sins who have faith in him. Christianity is a historical, fact-based religion - one we know to be the truth.
But being creatures of the present, we too easily forget, in the bustle of twenty-first century life, how much what happens now owes its origin to events long gone. As Christians we should not make this mistake, and this chapter should equip us to look at history through biblical spectacles.
Islam, Christianity, and the debate over the past
Besides studying our own religion, there are other reasons why history is important. One is that Islam also claims to be a history-based religion, and in some sense that is true as well. Mohammed really did exist as a provable historical figure in a part of the world not far away from Palestine. He gathered disciples around him, and within a century of his death his teaching had spread over thousands of miles into a major religion. All this is historically verifiable and makes Islam a history-based religion.
Furthermore, Muslims today frequently argue with Christians on the basis of history and on genuine events that took place incontestably in the past. It was joked that Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers (probably the brains behind the executive part of the operation), was mentally more at home in the seventh century - the era of the Prophet Mohammed's life - than he was in the twentieth (or twenty-first). To the purveyors of Islamic rage, past history - whether historical triumphs such as the seventh century conquests, historical grievances such as the Crusades, or the twentieth century European occupation of the same territories - is at the heart of the hatred they have toward what they deem to be the Christian West.
A specifically Evangelical view of history
One of the reasons why the Bible is so vital to us as Christians is that we see directly in the inspired words of the writers exactly what God said to people, and, in some cases, such as Job, what he says in heaven as well. This is not that Job himself knew, but we do, since the author of that book reveals it to us. (We will look at the different ideas of inspiration between Islam and Christianity elsewhere.) We can read what God said to people as diverse as Abraham and Peter, and, of course, the gospels themselves contain the direct teachings of Christ himself, God the Son.
However, for those of us who are Protestant Evangelicals, direct written revelation finished there. That is, we would argue, because the Scriptures are all sufficient. The Reformers called it sola scriptura, Scripture alone is our guide and no human institution or individual can match the unique authority of the Word of God.
But for most of us, especially those who come from the Reformed end of the Evangelical spectrum, God is still very much at work in the world today. So it is not that God is somehow less active than he was in biblical times - far from it. But since we don't have new Scripture, because we don't need it, we are not able to say why God does what he does, why he permits things that puzzle us, and why events go one way in one country, and the exact opposite somewhere else. We can guess, but we could be quite wrong.
Protestants often wonder why God waited so long to bring about the Reformation. Catholics, needless to say, ask why it happened at all! Within the history of the Reformation itself, for instance, interesting interpretative questions arise. Secular historians point to the significant detail that Luther began his ministry not long after the invention in Europe of the printing press. This meant that Lutheran pamphlets could be circulated in enormous numbers rapidly in a way that made their widespread distribution much easier than when all manuscripts had to be handwritten. Looking at the juxtaposition of Luther coming to realize some vital spiritual truths and the means to get them easily available to tens of thousands of people, it is hard to think otherwise than it was God who inspired men like Caxton and Gutenberg to invent the European version of the printing press, even though those two men would have had no idea of the spiritual impact of their discoveries when they made them.
Where Protestants disagree with one another
So far most Protestant readers can agree. As this example shows us, secular historians can get the details right - the invention of the printing press greatly helped the rise of Protestantism - even if they don't get the spiritual message. We need not read only Christian historians to be able to thank God for things he has done.
However, the early Reformers fell out with each other on theological issues from early on - Luther and Zwingli on the nature of Communion, most Reformers with the Anabaptists on the role of the state, and so on. Inevitably, this means we become increasingly partisan in how we imagine God to have been at work. Baptists, for example, were often persecuted viciously by their fellow Protestants, let alone by the Catholic Church. Christians with an Arminian view of the doctrine of salvation love to tell how Calvin was responsible for the death of Servetus. In turn Reformed Evangelicals, like me, point out that it was amazing that in such a bloodthirsty age, when professing Christians often put other professed believers to death, Calvin can only be said to be involved in one judicial execution and not hundreds.
Our interpretation of the past becomes steadily more partisan, with each one of us convinced we are right, but with many of our fellow Christians disagreeing with us, and often passionately. Those in the Reformed wing of Evangelicalism often have what is called a providential view of history - we can see God's providence at work as the centuries unfold. This could be a major reason why so many of us in our different denominations are so drawn to the study of history. However, if one looks at British or American history, we can see that the spiritual antecedents of some Americans or Britons were persecuted by the spiritual forebears of others. Baptists in Virginia were persecuted by the Anglican establishment there, something that many a twenty-first century Baptist remembers to this day. Knowing many Virginian Baptists and Anglicans, I doubt if either side would think that that persecution was a good thing today.
Being in large measure a Calvinist, I can find myself sympathizing on numerous doctrinal issues with the New England Puritans, but I would certainly never even begin to agree with their putting Quakers to death for what they felt was their mistaken theology. While at Thanksgiving we can rightly celebrate and thank God for his providential care of the early Christian settlers in America, we surely can't claim that all they did was blessed by God. Yet in doing what they did, they completely and sincerely believed that what they were doing was very much in the will of the God whom they loved and served. So in saying that some things in the past are providential, we must always examine ourselves and ask whether all our fellow Evangelicals - or whoever - would feel the same way. Printing we can agree upon, but persecution is something about which we must lovingly differ.
The terror of the Crusaders
I am deliberately mentioning Protestant demeanours first so that no one can think I am describing the hideous Catholic mistake I am about to mention out of prejudice. I am referring to the Crusades, a historical act that still, both fairly and unfairly, vitiates relations with the Muslim world to this day and was used extensively by Osama bin Laden in his tirades against the West in 1998 and in 2001.
When I wrote a book about Billy Graham back in the 1980s, he graciously agreed to help me by inviting me to spend a week with his team in Orlando, Florida, where he was actively evangelizing in collaboration with the local churches. The name of that event? The Central Florida Crusade. In Britain there is an active interdenominational Christian youth group of many years standing: Crusaders. When an American president or British prime minister wants to tackle the terrible social problem of widespread drug abuse, what is such a government campaign called? A crusade against drugs. All this goes to show that in the West, both in Christian and in secular circles, we regard the word crusade as something benign and wholly positive, whether used evangelistically or in support of a social programme with which all right-minded citizens should agree.
Yet, as we have seen, bin Laden accuses the West (and gains massive street credibility in the Islamic world) of being crusaders, something the Muslim world regards in the exact opposite way, as a profoundly evil event that shows the true extent of Western perfidy and wickedness. The terrible truth though is this: When we look at what the Crusaders actually did, both bin Laden and moderate Muslims who like to engage in friendly dialogue with Christians are actually right.
Some of the worst examples of mass slaughter from the Middle Ages were the Mongol invasions of the twelfth century, when thousands of innocent people were massacred wholesale during the Mongol conquests of most of the Eurasian land mass. We look on them now with horror - as did many of their descendants, such as the famous Emperor Kublai Khan in China or the Mughal Emperor Akbar in India. But when you read accounts of how the Crusaders invaded the Holy Land at the end of the previous century, you discover that there is no difference between them and the Mongol horde who attacked the world a few generations later. Even Western eyewitnesses talk of Crusaders wading deep in blood after the seizure of Jerusalem, since the so-called Christian knights slaughtered everyone in sight, Muslim, Jew, local Arab Christian, man, woman, and child alike. It was total carnage, and it was all done in the name of reclaiming the holy places for Christian rule. Whatever the considerable wrongs of the Muslim conquests of the seventh century, no Muslim army came anywhere near the Crusader level of atrocity. When the Kurdish Muslim prince Saladin eventually reconquered Jerusalem for Islam, he was careful to spare all the inhabitants, Christian or not, and local Arab Christians and Jews were able to live in the Holy Land for centuries afterwards.
This is very different of course from the romantic version that we learn about in the West as children. Although King Richard the Lionheart was one of England's most unsavoury and violent of kings, both personally and morally, it is for his bravery in the Crusades and for his patronage of music that we tend to remember him now. In the tales of Robin Hood, he is seen as the heroic good king, not as the psychopath he undoubtedly was.
Unfortunately, it was a pope who launched the two centuries of crusades against Islamic rule of Palestine. He did it in God's name, to which the assembled multitudes shouted, "Deus lo veult," or "God wills it!" Even though Christians today would never condone such violence in the name of Christ, we are still being blamed for it centuries later. When President Bush launched his retaliatory attack on Afghanistan in 2001, bin Laden and others did not hesitate to depict it to their fellow Muslims as a Christian crusade against Islam, with Bush as the crusader in chief. Such is the memory that medieval, supposedly Christian, atrocities have sustained for over seven hundred years since the last Crusaders left the Holy Land in 1291, with the fall of Acre, the last major Latin city in Palestine.
Why we are accused of the Crusades today
So when Muslims today attack people in the West for what happened in the Crusader era, there is a real historical sense in which they are right. A person can, if he or she wishes, say truthfully that the Crusades to recapture and hold Jerusalem were not the only crusades of the twelfth century. We tend to think of the medieval Crusades as being solely against Muslims. This is, in fact, not the case. The Albigensian Crusade, which took place in what is now the south of France, was against French heretics. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries many Europeans - the Cathars in Mediterranean France and the Bogomils in the Balkans - supported a version of the ancient Manichaean religion. The northern French Crusaders crushed the Cathar religion during the Albigensian Crusade with every bit as much savagery and ferocity as the eleventh century Crusaders slaughtered Jews, Muslims, and Arab Christians alike in the Holy Land and Egypt.
In other words, it was not that the Crusaders particularly or necessarily hated Muslims; it was that they were equally barbaric to everybody! This is not to defend the Crusaders in Jerusalem, but to point out that European warfare at this time was frequently bloodthirsty - and, one can thus add, not at all in tune with the teachings of Christ. Christian Just War teaching evolved after these sanguinary times, and by the later Middle Ages made very clear that civilians were never deliberately to be touched. So we cannot and should not ever defend the excesses of the Crusaders, whether in the Middle East or the South of France.
We are still paying for the mistakes the Crusaders made
There is surely an equally important theological point to be made. Western writers have pointed out that the Crusaders were doing no more than trying to reclaim lands that had been Christian ruled until the Islamic invasions. This is true but in a slightly more complicated form.
When Pope John Paul II went on a pilgrimage as part of the Jubilee celebrations in 2000, he had to do more than apologize for the Crusades in the Arab countries that he visited. (We will soon see why this kind of apology is always unfairly one-sided.) He had to apologize for them in Greece as well.
Excerpted from Christians, Muslims, and Islamic Rage by Christopher Catherwood Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|1||How Christians should think about the past||35|
|2||The rise of Islam||53|
|3||The rise and fall of Islamic superpowers||73|
|4||Core Muslim beliefs||89|
|5||Other Muslim beliefs||103|
|6||What Muslims really believe||127|
|7||Is Islam uniquely Satanic?||145|
|8||A clash of values : Islam, Christianity, and Western civilization||165|
|9||Christians and the Arab street||189|
|10||Oil and America : the political and religious consequences of everyday decisions||209|
Posted August 14, 2003
Posted July 25, 2003
This is a 'must read' book for these troubled times - and especially one that all Christians ought to read to find out what on earth is going on in our world today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2003
This is the book that any Christian user of your website has been looking for - it deals with all the issues in exactly the way that any thinking Christian needs to read. I urge anyone Christian to read this book - and Muslims for what moderate Christians are thinking (I am not sure what total non-Christians might think about it since it is clearly written for a Christian/moderate Muslim audience).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.