different neigbours, different love

The people at Barnabas have produced a detailed analysis of the document called ‘An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders,’ which was published around Ramadan this year:

I confess I didn’t read the Letter and Call at the time (it being addressed mainly to archbishops and patriarchs and whatnot) but the featured article at Barnabas makes some interesting points.

One of its key themes is basically that many of the terms used in the Letter and Call can be understood on two levels – and within a Christian context they’re likely to be significantly different from how some schools of Islam would read them. Many more people belong to the category of a Christian’s neighbour than a Muslim’s neighbour, for example, and the love which a Christian understands as belonging to God is different from what’s attributed to Allah.

More fundamentally of course, the reason why it’s completely wrong to say that ‘the basis for peace and understanding already exists’ (as claimed in the preliminaries of the Open Letter and Call) is because Christians and Muslims cannot agree on two utterly basic things – one, the nature of God (there is only one God, and there are three persons in the Godhead, the same in substance, equal and power and glory) and two, the person of Jesus (that he is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who became man, and so was, and continues to be, both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever).

It’s obviously better to dialogue with people than perpetrate violence against them, so in that sense the exchange of written documents is a good thing, but any unity between the world’s (loosely defined) Muslim and Christian communities which is based on ignoring these differences can’t really hope to succeed.

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WSW ridiculous

Hardly the most highbrow news source, but I’m listening to ClassicFM as I work and their news reporter has just been analysing Vince Cable’s suprisingly funny Mr Bean reference in the Commons today. The gist of his comments was that Gordon Brown better watch out, because things are getting serious now that they’ve started [rəˈdɪkjulɪŋ] him like this.

I’ve never heard main stress on the second syllable of ridiculing before. If he’d only said it once, it could have been a mix-up with ridiculous, [rəˈdɪkjuləs] but he then went on to say [rəˈdɪkjul] several times.

Does anyone else do this?

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PS – I’ve just looked up the OED (to confirm that the SWW pattern is the listed form) and notice that they provide a verb, ridiculize, marked ‘obs., rare’, with a citation from 1615 – ‘My heart still trembling lest the false alarms That words oft strike up should ridiculize me.’ Cool eh.

what price integrity

Looking at the BBC Have Your Say page is never a good way to brighten up anyone’s morning, but I have to say that all these calls for a General Election in the wake of the latest funding row seem pretty pointless.

Suppose a General Election was called next week – who could you reliably vote for, who would be any better?

Take David Cameron’s soundbite comment about how ‘there comes a time in the life of any government when it slips over from complacency into arrogance…’ – it allows him to quite rightly criticise the current government for their appalling indifference to the law, but at the same time it conveniently lets sleazy Tory governments of the past off the hook, by implying it’s simply inevitable that governments end up like this. Is he seriously suggesting that the solution to corrupt government is as easy as building in a mechanism for frequent regular changes of administration? I think not.

The problem is not with government per se, nor the length of time any particular party holds office, but with the character and calibre of the individual people in these positions. The obsession with presentation, style, spin, etc has always been an indication of a deeply disappointing superficiality, and this newly exposed cavalier attitude towards not just the electorate but also the law is just an alternative manifestation of the fundamental problem that for far too many of our politicians, where we should be able to expect principles and integrity and respectability there’s nothing but a great big vacuum.

Be interesting to see who wins the Lib Dem leadership election.

letter to my MP

Hopefully I’ll get this printed off and posted away tomorrow:

Dear MP,

In the light of the recent breach of security at HM Revenue and Customs, there is now a massive and serious piece of concrete evidence that the government cannot be trusted to keep the sensitive data belonging to individual citizens secure.

I have contacted you on a couple of occasions before now, expressing my concerns about the proposed ID card scheme and the associated national database. On these occasions I pointed out that the scheme as a whole represents a huge intrusion by the state into the lives of the citizens of this country, and I also mentioned the serious practical concerns about potential breakdowns and possible abuses of the system.

Clearly, although it seems that the argument from civil liberties continues to fall on deaf ears, it appears that the government has now demonstrated by its observable actions that the practical concerns may even be more serious than could have been feared. I would like to ask you therefore whether you believe that the government’s position in regard to the desirability of large centralised databases containing all manner of sensitive personal data pertaining to individual people is still tenable.

In view of the fact that the proposed national identity register scheme is intended to store many more categories of personal information about many more individuals than the 25 million who are directly affected by the current security breach, I would also like to ask you what level of confidence you realistically think that I or anyone else should have in the ability of the government to keep my details or my family members’ personal details secure and private under the current identity register proposals.

Yours sincerely

etc

You can also read a hard-hitting press release from No2ID here: “. . . it’s bad enough that HMRC can’t be trusted with basic financial details. But within five years the Home Office could be leaking or losing people’s complete identity records . . .” (emphasis added).

firm and indissoluble

In his classic book, Human Nature in its Fourfold State, eighteenth century minister Thomas Boston takes a verse from John 15 as the theme of one chapter – the Saviour saying, ‘I am the vine, ye are the branches.’

It’s in this chapter that he has his famous list of ‘strokes’, the various stages which can be identified (descriptively) in the journey that a person makes in their conversion – from the first worry that they have about their soul, through to being actually savingly united to Christ. (The idea he makes use of is the metaphor of a woodsman repeatedly hitting a branch with an axe until it falls off its original tree, and then of course it’s ready to be grafted onto another tree instead.)

Now that he has reached the point of discussing the actual union which exists between the saved soul and the Saviour, he adds a new series of thoughts, including the observation that the union between Christ and the believer is ‘firm and indissoluble’:

“Were it only so that the believer only apprehended Christ, but Christ apprehended him not, we could promise little as to the stability of such a union; it might be quickly dissolved; but as the believer apprehends Christ by faith, so he apprehends him by his Spirit, and none shall pluck him out of his hand. Did the child only keep hold of the nurse, it might at length grow weary, and let go its hold, and so fall away; but if she have her arms about the child, it is in no hazard of falling away, even though it be not actually holding by her. So, whatever sinful intermissions may happen in the exercise of faith, yet the union remains sure, by reason of the constant indwelling of the Spirit.”

It’s surely important to recognise that if the grace that saves a person in the first place is sovereign, it continues to be just as sovereign for the whole of the rest of that person’s career – the person is brought into a living, saving union with the Saviour for no reason in themselves, and that sets the tone for the rest of their life in this world: it’s no qualification of the believer’s that their continuance in a state of grace or their final and complete salvation depends on, but rather the power of Christ’s intercession, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the constant faithfulness of the Father. The believer’s hold of the Saviour is not so much the issue as the hold the Saviour has of the sinner – salvation is sure not on the basis of anything in or about or belonging to the person who is saved, but entirely on the basis of what their Saviour is and has done.

(This, incidentally, was the post held over from Saturday, which got an added boost following a sermon on John 15 the very next day, although I only mentioned the metaphor of the vine to place the quote in Boston’s wider train of thought.)

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Thomas Boston, Human Nature in its Fourfold State. First published 1720. Banner of Truth 1989 reprint, quote from p282.