Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ins and outs

When I was doing my doctoral research, I was assigned a historical study on Martin Luther's attitude toward Islam, which was contained in his writings on the Turks, who, as the principal agents of  The Religion of Peace were again invading Europe. In the 1500's he interpreted the Muslims' religion as a form of Arian heresy, based on its teaching that Christ was a creature and not the eternally begotten Word of God.*

He did not consider Islam as a "non-Christian religion" because he had no category for that. In his time, religions were Christian (orthodox or heretical), Jewish, or pagan. That was it. Since the Muslims were monotheists, had a scripture that tried to relate itself to the Bible, and had a doctrine of Christ, however deformed, they could not be pagans. So they were heretics.

Which reminded me of St John of Damascus, the first Christian to write a polemic against new-born Islam, which he knew intimately and personally. As the Religion of Peace rolled its conquering armies through the Christian Middle East, it took Damascus by siege in 634, a mere two years after Muhammad's death. John was born 40 years later, into a Christian family that served the Caliphate as it had served the Byzantine Emperor. John listed Islam as "the heresy of the Ishmaelites" who, as Luther later would write, held unorthodox "Arian" views of Christ as a creature.

As one of the subjects of my doctorate, John Macquarrie, learned from the Germans, you cannot underestimate the effect on thinking which derives from which questions you ask (Fragestellung) and what kinds of categories you have to create your answers (Begrifflichkeit).

Back in the day, unlike now, it could not have become a question whether Mormons were Christians or not. Different Begrifflichkeit, different Fragestellung. But that assumption, that they were, would have been made almost mute by the far more important and damning judgment that they were, like the Muslims and the Cathars, heretics.

*Unlike a pious and angry lady who once broke down in tears when --in a classroom setting, I must add-- I corrected her statement that in the Gospel of John, "Jesus created the world", the orthodox tradition differentiates between the Person of Christ as the Second of the Trinity and his human nature, his human body and human soul, intellect and will, created and born in time of the Virgin Mary.


Anonymous said...

A random autodidact cannot lightly hope to be correct in these things, yet I suppose worth noting that the orthodox doctrine sees in God's creation of Jesus an astonishing creature, namely a »human body and human soul, intellect and will« but definitively without a prosopon or hypostasis, that is, without a person in some sense.

What an essentially evasive child for the BVM to have to raise! ... Or is every anthropos ultimately persona-less, and Jesus was merely honest enough to at least not pretend to have a persona, and so see if anyone noticed? Sartre's "good faith" person seems to state he is a real mask or only a mask who exists for no essential purpose -- ingenuinely authentic, in Heidegger's sense.

The divine hypostasis of the Second Person seems in some sense added on: "Woman, what have you to do with me?" (John 2:4) (I don't have an ego for the I and thou relationship that educates obedient will-to-power? Or I have only a non-ego? Or my negated developing "me" is only for a non-ego?) ... For the Johannine Community, the cleansing of the Temple of the presencing of the mere money-changers is not the preparation for Jesus' leaving the world through the Passion (as in the Synoptic tradition, if I recall aright) but the beginning of his mission into the world.

As a writer in the recentest "Books and Culture" has it of the Eastern Orthodox screen »the iconostasis serves not just as a metaphor for history where the real is always both masked and enlivened by a screen or words and perspectives but as a site where the very process of of history con-tinues as people are drawn to it in prayer and out of ritual.« p. 27

In any case, stuff has consequences, as ex cathedra has always said. If the Word that makes the world is not divine but human (sc no presencing in a prosopon), the 'rich mystery' etc etc that pervades the environment according to the American Indian worldviews that educated-class whites suppose they love is an evasiveness. Blake seeks to make a home in imagination and intellect, not in sensory experience. ...

Is Islam somewhere between? The world is made by a human Word that is evasive, but the Quran is made by divine Word? The Quran, then, is worth incomparably more than the Amazon, Redwood forests, Uluru rock, etc etc. You must understand that this conclusion dismays me as a scion of the educated class, but I simply see no way to avoid this dismaying conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Or is it that Islam in the divine Quran agrees that the Word is divine, and the world is thus constituted divinely, but the pure mediator or prophet Muhammad isn't exactly united to the divinity? ... Contra Nietzsche, then, Islam claims to be generated without the generativity or sexuality of the Prophet and his mullahs, imams? (Beyond Good and Evil ¶¶6, 75)
cc. Homo tambourinus

Anonymous said...

P.S. Do you mean »In the 1500's he interpreted the Muslims' religion as a form of Arian heresy, based on its teaching that Christ was a creature and not the begotten Word of God.« ?

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