Friday, January 19, 2007

A mini-essay on Islamo-Christian growth through history

This blog is in response to to Caitlin’s comment which was in response to Paul’s blog entitled “Call To Arms”. Caitlin said the following:

I'm glad that you addressed this issue Paul, cause it is something we all need to be more aware of! and thanks for that quote from Ganhdi, it is profound... I recently learned that at about 1900 Christianity represented 1/3 of the worlds religions, and today that percentage is still the same! This is sad for many reasons, one being that other religions such as Islam are growing faster then Christianity is now. There are so many people who have no clue about the beauty of Gods' grace. We can not become stagnant!

Caitlin, I noticed that you mentioned Islam. And since you brought it up, I can't help but add my two cents, small as they are.
It is interesting to note that when Christianity and Islam were "growing up" side by side, they were alike in many and numerous ways. They both experienced many of the same circumstances in their first toddler steps, and even up to their teenage steps. (That is not to be taken in literal toddler and teenage years) But it was their reaction to these events that began to separate them, much like twins who grow up together but simply make different choices and end up in two different places in life. (Note: this analogy is not my own. See "A Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization" by Richard W. Bulliet) Christianity began to put more emphasis on hierarchal structure and became extremely centralized while Islam focused on extreme purity and were spread out all over the Arabian peninsula and other conquered lands. Soon, the Christian church split, dividing into Protestants and Catholics. Muslims experienced similar internal issues but instead of splitting, they bent with the change and became even more unified. (Don't worry, I'm about to make my point. You just needed a little history to understand it.) As these two religions moved into more modern times, we can see a definite split in their priorities. Christianity had previously been mainly about converting the masses, but as the period of enlightenment came about, they became focused on increasing their knowledge. This is when many people believe that Christianity shot far ahead of their sister religion, while Muslims trailed behind because they weren't able to keep up in the more technological and intellectual world that was developing. However, in actuality, Islam was not left far behind but was actually far ahead of Christianity in regards to the number of conversions. Christians got so excited about increasing their brain power that they forgot about what it really means to be a Christian. (I am not insinuating that all Christians of this time period were of this nature. We have many examples of those who weren't, such as the Waldenses, etc. However, they were the exception, not the rule) The point of this mini-essay on the growth of Islam and Christianity is that many times we make the same mistakes that the early Christian church did. We get so caught up in technology and modern-improvement that we forget that the point of our faith is to share the love of Christ to others. That is why Islam is growing much faster than Christianity. Sure, they have their extremists, but then so does Christianity. My prayer for us as SDA youth is that we will keep our eyes fixed firmly upon the reason that we are followers of Christ and not loose sight of our Heavenly goal.

P.S. If you're wondering why I randomly expounded on the Islamo-Christian heritage, it's because I'm taking a Middle Eastern Politics and History class this semester and it's causing me to really rethink some things that I have always just assumed.

12 comments:

Paul said...

Great post. As SDA's, we need to focus on soul winning, not increasing our worldly wisdom.

just one note:
many of the major advances in art, philosophy, and science were springboarded by Islam while Christians were struggling in the "dark ages"

CJK said...

I quite agree, Paul. Islam wasn't just some backwards culture without class. I was quite amazed to find out how much they have contributed to the society that we now know.
It's amazing to realize the large amount I assumed, and still do assume, about something I knew/know very little about. And in that way, knowledge is useful. By using it for learning about other cultures, we can rid ourselves of our preconceived suppositions and get down to the heart of the matter: how we can reach out to them in the Spirit of Christ.

Joel said...

it's also interesting to note the similarities between Islam and Seventh-day Adventism. For instance, Muslims have a strict health message, they have a special prophet who they believe received special revelations from God, they're very devoted to their scripture, and a very high point of emphasis in Islam is the coming Day of Judgment. But there's more: both religions are known for their extremely high growth rates, especially right after their birth (granted, through two VERY different means of evangelization!) And, what they're experiencing now has eerie similarities to SDA eschatology, facing growing suspicion from mainstream civilization, hiding in caves etc. I'm not sure what exactly what significance this has, but it's definitely something to watch.

Oh, and I'm not sure I'd agree with the point that you made that Islam bent with with the changes and stayed unified. Islam has been split pretty sharply ever since Muhammad died into Sunnis and Shi'ites, and that doesn't even take into account Sufis and Wahhabis, plus all the other lesser know sects. I'd say Islam and Christianity went through pretty similar schisms.

CJK said...

That is really interesting Joel, I'll have to think about it.

and I get what you're saying about the bending/dividing issue but I know that I can give you lots of proof for my point too so I guess I'll tell you my conclusions on the matter after I finish the class :)

Caitlin said...

So now I want to take that class too! It is a fascinating study... perhaps I'll choose Islam to do that huge research paper I get to do for world religions... so I can better converse with / understand you experts ;)
The similarities between SDA's and Islam were very interesting...
I'm now more aware of my "preconceived suppositions" , thank you Christy :)

Kristin said...

Ok, so perhaps I'm not quite as philosophical as my fellow commenters, and have very little if anything to add to the Islam discussion... But I wanted to share something we discussed in my lit class.
You said that Christians became so obsessed with gaining knowledge that they forgot what it means to be a Christian, and this is only a slight understatement. For the sake of shortening this comment I won't give all the background info but... During the time period you're talking about Christians not only started focusing on science and knowledge, they intentionally turned from radical Christianity. Their goal was to have a quiet, lukewarm-cold faith that shied away from "enthusiasm." The extent of religion that they wanted was to go to church once a week and live a "good" peaceful life; their motto was to "live and let live," not to evangelize and not to be an enthusiast.

Alex said...

I must say I am impressed with this discussion. Shortly before I left for Peru I began reading the Quran (in English... not the "real"one) and I could agree with better than 90% of what it said. I think that America as a whole judge Islam by those who they see on the news... which, of course, are the radicals that are trying to "purify" the world of "those Christians" - the ones who eat pork, drink alcohol, and flood the world with Holleywood's movies. I have also heard of SDA's being accepted by Muslims as being much closer to Islam than their view of Christianity. As stated above we have a lot in common.

CJK said...

I remember when you told me that you were reading the Qur'an. I thought it was pretty cool. Lol.

You know, it's interesting, but my professor told us that probably 90% of the Qur'an is lost when we translate it from Arabic to English. She said that it's because Arabic is such a poetic language and the most compelling aspect about the Qur'an to Muslims is it's poetry. When they first heard it spoken, they were extremely moved by the beautiful language that was used. Anyway, that just struck me as extremely interesting because we, as English-speaking Americans, can never fully comprehend the Qur'an. Even those who have learned Arabic don't get the full picture because it is not their mother tongue. :)

Petraglyph said...

This discussion is perfectly timed in accordance with what's going on in my sector of the world right now: the girls in one of my weekly discussion groups have specifically asked to talk about Islam for awhile. After doing some research last week, I presented to them a comparison between what the Bible and the Qu'ran teach about the character of God. Startlingly, there weren't many major differences. The biggest contrast I encountered was that our God leans a little more toward mercy while Allah leans a little more toward justice. Although, we both beleive that our god has both of these attributes.

CJK said...

That is so neat Petra! You'll have to tell me what else you discuss!

Paul said...

another major difference is that Christ said "my kingdom is not of this world, or my servants would fight" while Islam is more permissive of violence.

CJK said...

Yes, that is true. But it is also true that Westerners take the concept of Jihad a little bit too far. We tend to just slap the definition "holy war" on the term, when the meaning is much more complex.

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