Archive for March, 2005

Too Much?

March 31st, 2005 No comments

I am wondering if anyone actually reads the majority of my entries. Are they too involved to actually enage with? Would shorter entries be better? Or should I just keep doing the same thing? Or should I just not care what you think at all? heh

Also, most of my blog entries (if you want to read more of my stuff) can be found in my MattJonesBlog Archive as they are not posted here. You can go there and see the categories and do searches.

[UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Blogging Tags:

The Resurrection

March 27th, 2005 No comments

Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that - pierced - died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

The Gospel of Luke records the last words of Jesus as “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He was quoting a Psalm of David:

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your names sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth. (Psalms 31.1-5, NASB)

Our sins can only be forgiven by God but paid for by man. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. But the story didn’t end there. Jesus was then raised from the dead, not just in spirit or in some sort of new-agey feel good sort of way:

As they [the Marys] entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him (Mark 16.5-6, NRSV).

He was not in the tomb, the physical Jesus, pierced hands and feet and side and all, was not there. Jesus truly is alive and with the Father. He was such an unexpected fulfillment of Israel’s hopes, so much so that many of them were blind to what the prophets foretold. Their desire to see the nation of Israel restored kept them from seeing that Jesus is the new Israel, the Temple was destroyed and then raised, only Yahweh could have done that and did do it for us.

Thanks be to God! Happy Easter!
Η χάρις του κυριου Ιησου μετα παντων. Αμην

[UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Religion, Theology Tags:

The Passion of Jesus Christ

March 26th, 2005 No comments

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried, our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. Were all like sheep who?ve wandered off and gotten lost. We?ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we?ve done wrong, on him, on him.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

Still, its what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he?d see life come from it life, life, and more life. And Gods plan will deeply prosper through him.

(Isaiah 53.4-6, 8, 10, The Message)

Tonight we celebrate this pain that was planned. I think everyone knows the story. But do you really know the story?

Israel was waiting for their Messiah. The book of Isaiah awaits leaves the Hebrews waiting for their Exodus. The True Exodus that can only come with the redeemer.

God, King of Israel, your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: I?m first, I?m last, and everything in between. I?m the only God there is. (Isaiah 44.6, The Message)

What was their Messiah supposed to look like? The Triumphal entry and the story of the Passion of Jesus is ironic. It is not what they expected. Jesus claimed to be that redeemer, but he was a lowly man, son of a carpenter, not the King right? The Gospel of Mark tells us:

Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?

And Jesus said, I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.

Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you? And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.(14.61, NAS)

The Greek “Έγω είμι” is emphatic, make no mistake, Jesus was claiming to be יהוה the God of everything, the high priest tearing his clothes attests to that. This is why Jesus was killed this night. The Jews misunderstood Isaiah, they thought Jesus was a blasphemer. If Jesus was God and said he would destroy the temple and raise it again in three days, how could he be bloodied on the cross?

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Mark 15.37, NRSV)

The curtain, or veil, is what divided the temple between the normal grounds and the “Holy of Holies”, God’s dwelling place. It being torn in two would be filled with meaning to any Jewish person. Jesus is the new Temple, not the building. He was broken. I guess we will have to wait till Sunday to see if the temple will be raised again.

John in his Revelation sees heaven

And the one who was seated on the throne said, See, I am making all things new. … Then he said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.(Revelation 21.5, NRSV)

There is much that can be discussed in this narrative. But I think I will leave it at that for now. Remember to go back and read these events in the Gospels, especially trying to pick up the different themes each author brings forward (like Jesus as the white lamb to be slaughtered for Passover in John). I pray that your evening was hopeful and thoughtful.

Τετέλεσται … until Sunday …

[UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Religion, Theology Tags:

Another Iraq Post

March 25th, 2005 No comments

It has been a while since I have written about politics or world events. Partly because I have been busy and partly because everybody else writes about politics and world events. I have been reading a few things about Iraq that I want to point out, especially since the election. I am mainly drawing on a few Iraqi bloggers but will also cite a few US bloggers. Here it goes. Its a lot of reading, can you handle it?

I believe Iraq is going better than what most of the media would have us beleive. Yes, there are still tragedies occuring, but much less often than before. Critics of the war and Bush just want things to end. I understand that, war is bad, murder is bad, killers are bad. Instability can be worse though. With things looking better in Iraq and democracy spreading in the Middle East, some have even suggested that, yes thats right, Bush may have been right!

Check out Carnival of the Liberated - a good roundup of recent posts from Iraqi bloggers. Also, Chrenkoff’s Good news from Iraq, Part 23 is a good place to see some of the good things coming out of Iraq that don’t get too much airtime in the mainstream media. Here are a few snippets from that page:

On the international front, Iraq’s northern neighbor is now onboard: “Turkey has officially accepted the establishment of a federal structure in Iraq. Officials including Turkey’s Special Envoy to Iraq, the General Staff, National Intelligence Branch and representatives Foreign Affairs Ministry have accepted the federalism article, the most important article in the Iraqi Temporary Administrative Law that until today had not officially been accepted. An official statement released today says: ‘We respect the decisions of the Iraqis. We will not object if the majority of Iraqis demand federalism’.”


In health, the Ministry of Health has now submitted its development plan for 2005, which is worth 60 billion dinars ($41 million) and includes projects as diverse as establishing a new 200-bed hospital in the province of Maisan; the construction of a burns unit, a consultation clinic, and an emergency unit in Bakuba Hospital; the construction of the Medical City in Baghdad province, and developing Ibn El-Nefees Cardiology and Blood Vessels Hospital in Baghdad province. The authorities are also importing 600 new ambulances from Canada and Saudi Arabia. The first of its kind center for disability in Iraq is getting new equipment at a cost of $5 million; the center will among other things assist 4,000 quadriplegic children. A new center for cancer research and treatment is also being currently planned.

and in education:

USAID is continuing to assist on the primary school level (link in PDF): “198,540 Secondary School Student Kits providing basic supplies for learning have arrived at Directorate of Education (DOE) warehouses in 12 governorates. Iraq has 21 Directorates of Education, including four in Baghdad and one in every other governorate… The remaining 326,460 student kits are currently in storage at Umm Qasr seaport and will soon be delivered to DOE warehouses. A USAID partner is facilitating the distribution as part of the second year of programming for the improvement of basic education in Iraq. By the end of the program, more than 525,000 students in 2,014 schools will receive kits.” In other school news, environmental awareness education will now be part of Iraqi school curriculum.

He has MUCH to offer in that one post (and there are 22 others like it), check them out if you want to see what is going on in Iraq.
This site offers:

Under Saddam Hussein, women in Iraq enjoyed freedoms denied in other parts of the Middle East. Some took high office. Others, mainly in Baghdad, embraced western fashion, shunning the headscarf.


“Sixty percent of voters were women. They were courageous enough to choose their leaders. And then there is the power in the upcoming assembly, 31 percent is women. Now the challenge is how to activate this power,” said Nasreen Mustapha Berwari, minister for public works. “Women in the assembly and also of NGOs outside the assembly must advocate for women’s rights and fight for them in the constitution drafting, which is going to be a very important battle, not only for Iraqi women but all Iraqi society.”

So we can start to see some good things going on and change happening. Hammorabi (an Iraqi blogger) offers this:

When the idol of the Iraqi tyrant regime falls these dictators looked to their chairs to see whether they are still safe to recline or not! They sensed the real danger. Some of them surrendered and gave up early however not to its won suppressed people but to the enemy that he created or the enemy himself created! … The calls for democracy and freedom in Iraq which had its first free election two months ago was the magic button which switched on many other buttons at one time. The Middle East dictators tried and trying their best to convince their people that the democracy is not working in Iraq.

They pushed their dogs to kill the Iraqis under the cover of Jihad and resistance against the infidels. On the same time they told their people; look to the American democracy in Iraq it brought none but chaos and Abo-Ghraeb scandal. They used the Mullahs and their Fatwa to enhance this. They tried all their resources and their intelligent services to kill the Iraqi election. In stead the hammer falls on their heads when the Iraqis challenged their terrors and showed the world that in spite of long years of suppression they did it in a civilized way…

There are some hopes for many of these states [still with dictators] to get freedom and democracy so as to join the world in its moving forward. This is the best way to cut off terrorism and to make peace in the region.

Now that freedom is on the move in the Middle East and especially in Iraq, Healing Iraq (from Baghdad) wants the Next Step, National Reconciliation:

Apart from a minority that would rather burn down the country than see someone else in power, I am confident that most Iraqis are weary of all the violence, chaos and bloodshed. It is therefore the utmost duty of Iraqi politicians, the occupation authority and the international community to seize upon the moment and to quit beating around bushes.

Friends of Democracy (a group of Iraqi bloggers) have offered many insights in what is going on inside of their country. Shortly after the elections they offered One Election does not Achieve Democracy:

The recent Iraqi elections are more than a symbolic proof of Iraqi people’s will in playing the main role writing their constitution. The elections were as a chance to demonstrate rich political varieties that confused the ones who bet that Iraq is on the edge of a cultic civil war. The elections proved the policy, not religion nor race, is an essential factor in understanding the balance of the new established authority in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam’s Hussein regime.


What happened last Sunday is a main step towards having an accurate and reliable assessment of the political powers in Iraq and this serves creating the suitable moderate political environment; something that is essential for the success of the new born democratic process.

And then also discussed The Elections and the importance of Change:

All these events, and the Iraqi people observes and waits, every time a group takes over the regime and started a new series of injustice and crucifying, the Iraqi’s waited for a more stronger group to eliminate the one ruling, by this the people became with no will waiting for someone to save them without any efforts from their side in saving themselves. The Baath government have enrooted this feeling inside Iraqis when all the rumbustious government joints is under control by the government like industry, trade, agriculture and other country fortunes, by then the government started feeding, clothing, learning and thinking, and all what the people should do is to receive what the government provides, so the people eat what the regime tastes, wear what the regime likes, learn, study and think only what this group provides, reaching as a result that people are not capable of changing a single official employee in spite his deviances because the government is complacent on him, that’s why the citizen have to go back to the same waiting maelstrom, so in order to change a corrupted official the citizen have to wait for this official to annoy who is higher than him and change him so he can take a breath.

And more recently, discussed the results of the election and Iraqis Who Didn’t Vote where Iraqi people offer some of their thoughts on why some didn’t vote. Then one of their contributors, Al-Witwiti, presents a Letter To The Next Iraqi President. Here are a few snippets, but read the entire letter:

Your Excellency. We don’t want to see you more than one minute per day. Respect our private lives, houses, and holidays. Don’t hang your portrait on the wall. Don’t put your statues in the squares. We don’t want to see you wearing a headcord or some other thing whenever we turn around. We don’t want to listen to your news on TV welcoming someone, saying farewell to someone else, holding a meeting, or anything else that reminds us you exist. We don’t want any of this, Your Excellency.

We want to feel you in our children’s health, or while sleeping deeply in peace. We want to feel you in the bread filling our dishes, in the pure water that we drink every day, and in electricity that doesn’t switch off every two hours.

Let your slogan be Iraq is for the Iraqis. Iraqis should always be first, not second or tenth or last. And when I say “Iraqis” I mean Kurds, Arabs, Azoreans, Armenians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, and Jews.

Remember that people have given you their confidence. You won’t stay long if you betray them, not even if you stuff them in jails. Don’t ever think you are above the law. You are a citizen.

In our new Iraq we don’t want to see a Kurdish child freezing out in the cold, or his family shacking in caves. We don’t want to see the children of Basra wearing worn clothes and shoes. If this happens, consider yourself overthrown because you will not have fulfilled your duty.

Salaam for he who loves his people and gives them dignity.

In order for the new democracy to solidify, the fighting needs to end. Once the insurgents a removed, the Iraqi people will be in a much better position. Their attacks have been horrible, but they are weakening now. The Belmont Club offers two posts asking Is the Iraqi Insurgency Dying? I think it is pretty reasonable to assume his answer is “yes”:

…He [Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, head of the First Marine Expeditionary Force] said that several hundred hard-core jihadists and former members of Saddam Hussein’s government and security services were still operating in Anbar Province, but that the declining frequency of the attacks indicated that the rebels’ influence was waning.

“They’re way down on their attempts, and even more on their effectiveness,” General Sattler said.

Which is great…

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. … Last month, an Iraqi brigade with two battalions garrisoned along Haifa Street became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq. The two battalions can muster more than 2,000 soldiers, twice the size of the American cavalry battalion that has led most fighting along the street. …


The rebuilding of the Iraqi armed forces proceeded in parallel, with the same stops and starts, with the much more celebrated task of rebuilding its civil government as exemplified by the elections held last January. That the elements came together was less accidental than the culmination of long effort. The US armed forces had also been adapting to the methods of the insurgents with moves of their own.

Iraqi people are tired of the fighting and want to start living in their free country. The NY Times notes that
Ordinary Iraqis Wage a Successful Battle Against Insurgents

“We attacked them before they attacked us,” Dhia, 35, [a carpenter] his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. “We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them.” … The battle was the latest sign that Iraqis may be willing to start standing up against the attacks that leave dozens of people dead here nearly every week.

So this seems to be the current state of affairs in Iraq. Before you go out to protest US involvement in Iraq, maybe you should really see what is going on over there. Iraqis want freedom and they are in the process of taking it. As soon as they are stable on their own, we will leave. To keep updated on events, keep checking the many sites I have linked to (as well as many more - especially The Command Post’s Iraq page.) You should definitely be reading the Iraqi blogger pages as they are in the middle of it.

As a final note, there was an interesting poll taken in Iraq and presented (on March 21) in one of their newspapers, Iraquna, Chrenkoff reports. I am really not a big fan of polls (a la Neil Postman), but it was interesting none the less. 970 residents of Baghdad were asked “Are you in favor of implementing Islamic Sharia and an Islamic government?” and responded thusly: Yes - 12.5% No - 83.9% Don’t Know - 3.6%. If you know anything about the history of Islam in Arabian / Middle Eastern governments, you would find this VERY surprising. Can anyone offer reasons for this drastic change / when this shift occurred?

I hope you didn’t fall asleep through all of this! It really is quite interesting to see some of the things Iraq is going through. Iraqis have hope for their country and new found freedom, we should support that.


[UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Around the World, Politics Tags:

I’m going, are you?

March 23rd, 2005 No comments

Regent College is having a conference in May (the 21st) entitled Regent Tradition Conference: Saints, Wisdom, Money…and Other Ordinary Stuff. This weekend event will offer teaching and discussion with Eugene Peterson and Bruce Waltke both who hold the title of Emeritus faculty here at Regent. Peterson you may know from his translation of the Bible, The Message as well as his numerous other books, sermons, and pastor resources. Waltke is an Old Testament scholar who has written many things including the “New International Commentary on the Old Testament” commentaries on Proverbs as well as being on the translation committee for the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

Here is some brief information on what Peterson and Waltke will be teaching on:

Eugene Peterson will focus attention on the long, patient, intricate work given to becoming mature, and growing up to the stature of Christ. In the hurry and impatience endemic to our culture that has seeped into the evangelical church, Dr. Peterson offers hope for recovering the practice of holiness in the ordinary, among ordinary Christians.


Wise Advice About Smart Money
Bruce Waltke will explore what God’s inspired sages have to say about money. Drawing on the wisdom of the book of Proverbs, Dr. Waltke addresses dangers and limitations of money, as well as its benefits and how to get it.

Good stuff eh? These are two of the brightest minds in scholarship as well as ministry and I highly recommend taking advantage of this event if you are able!

Please see this page for registration information. The cost is $75 or only $40 for a full time student (if you register before April 22nd)!


Categories: Regent College Tags:

Lippman’s “Understanding Islam”

March 21st, 2005 1 comment

I just finished Thomas Lippman’s Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World for my INDS 530 - World Religions class for professor John Stackhouse. If you would like to read my review of the book (the long version) please click here (PDF format). This version is just over 2000 words and I (unfortunately) had to bring it down to 1500 words, that was difficult. Feel free to check it out and comment!


I have also posted the text into the blog for those without Adobe Acrobat Reader (but I recommend getting it as it is much easier to read the paper in that format, also there are no footnotes in this version).

Regent College

Matt Jones

March 21st, 2005
INDS 530: World Religions
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 2012

Book Review
Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World
Thomas W. Lippman

Lippman, Thomas W. Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World, Second Revised Edition. New York: Penguin, 1995.

In his short introduction to Islam, Lippman has attempted to give a brief account of who the Muslims are, what their faith teaches, and what their world is like. The title Understanding Islam needs the subtitle, An Introduction to the Muslim World, as it would be nearly impossible to exposit all of Islam in a single book, Lippman has limited his book to a brief introduction that aims to give reader a broader understanding of what it means to live in the Muslim world and follow the religion of Islam. Lippman seems to be writing over and against the common view in the West that often sees Islam as a violent religion characterized by jihad (which is often under-translated ). Lippman aims to provide a broader understanding that the surface level lacks. While he cant go too deep into specifics in this introduction, a broader knowledge of Muslim belief, practice, history, foundation, and culture is a good place to start.

This introduction is setup to cover the broadest themes possible (in seven chapters) with subsections that give more detail in certain areas. Since many dont understand Islam at all, a good place for Lippman to start is with a chapter on the main beliefs and practices of Islam. There are five main ideas that govern Muslim faith: the five Pillars. Lippman gives a brief subsection to each one. The shahada is the first and is probably most standardized pillar . The shahada is the profession of faith that There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God. Islam is a strict monotheism and worshiping anyone or anything other than Allah is an unforgivable sin. Judaism and Christianity are looked at as being related (while misguided) in faith and are called the People of the Book. While Muhammad is not given special status, he is held with high regard as the founder of Islam. Islam teaches that Muhammads mission was twofold: to bring knowledge of the one God and His book of truth to the Arabians, a pagan people who had no scripture and hence no knowledge of divine truth, and to correct the errors and falsehoods into which earlier people of the book Jews and Christians had fallen. The second pillar is ritual prayer. Prayers are standardized: what to say (including the shahada), which direction to face (towards the Kaaba), and which positions to hold are quite specific. This section also talks about the mosques where formal prayers are held. The third pillar is the zakat or alms-tax which is a mandatory donation to help the needy. The fourth pillar is a month long fast (Ramadan). During Ramadan, between sunrise and, Muslims are to fast from food, drink, and sexual intercourse and are encouraged to pray at the mosque. The final pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj. This is a command that Muslims are obliged to fulfill once in their lifetime. There is much ceremony and ritual associated with this pilgrimage that commemorates Abrahams obedience to Gods command to sacrifice his son Ishmael, Gods compassion in sparing Ishmael, the expulsion of both Hagar and Ishmael from the community of the Hebrews and Gods mercy in caring for them in their exile. The hajj has many social implications for the individual as well as the community: it is a unifying force within a very diverse religion. Lippman goes on to say that the five pillars of the faithencompass the fundamental beliefs and practices common to all Muslims, but they do not represent a comprehensive list of the spiritual duties, standards of conduct, beliefs, and attitudes that are required of a good Muslim.

In order to flesh out what else is required of a good Muslim, Lippman discusses the Prophet Muhammad as Muhammad is the example by which Muslims try to live their lives by. As the shahada suggests, Muhammad is not to be worshipped, but he should be followed (and many believe that he was nearly perfect). The Koran says that Muhammad was illiterate which supports the claim that the Koran contains the words of God, and not Muhammad. Lippman talks about Muhammads migration to Medina in order to form a stable base of followers and stated that Islam was the source of temporal as well as spiritual authority, and that faith, rather than tribe, should be the bond that regulates the affairs of men. Lippman also discusses early political and military motivations for Muhammad as well as his character.

The third chapter follows from the discussion of Muhammad to the book that was transmitted through him, the Koran. The Koran purports to be the successor and continuation of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, incorporating their teachings in a new revelation that gave the people of Arabia an enlightenment previously accorded only to the Jews and Christians. The text itself was not compiled in Muhammads life but rather brought together through oral tradition and completed in the mid 7th century. The book is arranged not chronologically, but by length of the chapter or sura. There are commentaries that are considered to be secondary sources compared to the Koran itself but offer wisdom as the first commentator is said to have been the Prophet himself.

With the basic tenants and foundation of Islam stated, Lippman then discusses law and government that arise out of that context. Muslims do not see any distinction between church and state. Belief is what governs the laws that are written. Sharia is the code of law based on religious principles that regulates the conduct of all Muslims, a code that covers social, commercial, domestic, criminal, and political affairs as well as devotional practices. The content and amount of a governments code that is based upon sharia will vary from country to country. There are other sources of law but they are secondary. Lippman also discusses how sharia influences culture and contemporary society. The role of the Caliph was also used to help govern the society.

With a basis for forming law established, the advancement of Islam naturally followed. Islam spread rapidly from North Africa to Mesopotamia to Central Asia. It was spread through conquest as well as cultural assimilation. There were a number of different Caliphs with a range of success. Jihad was also a concept that helped spread Islam. It is also interesting to note that the conquered peoples grew restive not because they were forced to accept Islam but because the Arab Muslims were slow to accept into the faith those who wanted to join and because when they had embraced Islam, the Arabs still looked down on them. The conversion didnt usually come by force (as is often assumed). There were also many changes in power from the Umayyad caliphs, to the Abbasids, to the loss of power with the Mongol invasion: turmoil and power struggles were common.

The power struggles internal to Islam brought about different sects. Lippman discusses the main divisions. The majority of Muslims are Sunni from sunna, the path or way of the Prophet and followed the rule of the caliphate. The largest sect is the Shiites who follow authority through the line of Muhammads cousin and son-in-law. There are also more profound differences in how a Sunni or Shiite will practice their religion. The other largest sects that Lippman address are the Sufis (mystics who espouse a personal relationship with God based on love, in contrast to the submission based on fear and prohibition that characterizes the official religion. ), Wahhabis (an Islamic form of Puritanism which makes up much of Saudi Arabia), the Druze (reclusives that believe Darazi, a Caliph of Egypt, was the last incarnation of the Deity), the Alawites (an obscure sect that rule Syria ), and the Muslim Brotherhood (which seems to be more of a political organization than a religions group ).

Lippmans final section turns to the Islamic community today as culmination of all he has discussed to this point. For individual Muslims, the challenge of contemporary life has been to balance the demands of their faith with the inevitability of material and social change. The diversity of the Muslim people creates conflict in many areas of life, but there is always the faith behind them. All Muslims have had to deal with modernization. Each country makes different decisions about what forms of development and social change are acceptable, the decisions must be seen as justifiable in Islam if they are to win popular acceptance. The thing that holds the differences together is their faith.

Overall Lippman was able to do what he aimed to do. He covered all the basics very well and did open up the Islamic world. After reading the book it would be difficult to portray Islam as any one particular belief. Lippman showed how rich the faith was and what it was founded on. There are also many things that were left out. That is not necessarily a negative point but could just be a reflection on the nature of an introductory book. Lippman did a good job of showing good and bad things about certain specific aspects (like the different sects and the spread of Islam) but didnt seem to offer much comment on how Muslims have dealt with apologetical challenges to their faith (such as issues surrounding the compilation of the Koran and its divine status). That being said, Lippmans introduction summarized Islamic belief and the Muslim world quite well.

One thing that impressed me positively was Lippmans desire to broaden the Wests view of Islam. Especially after 9/11, the need for this is important. It is easy to want to characterize Muslims as violent people only interested in jihad. Lippmans personal experiences, both good and bad, with Muslims around the globe offer a diverse picture of what it means to live as a Muslim.

A second that impressed me positively was his discussion about jihad. To know that Muslims want to do what Allah has asked of them in everything they do is important. It made it more personal when Lippman said Getting out of bed for dawn prayer, he [Khalil Abdel Alim] said, is jihad. This helped bring ground level faith and an unknown world closer to what I might profess in my own faith.

One thing that impressed me negatively was the lack of negative criticism relating to Islam as a whole. Whenever critiquing a people or group I think it is important to see both the good and bad things about them, it is what makes them human. Lippman does offer some negative critique about the individual sects, but not about the group as a whole. To me, not addressing issues that Muslim people deal with regarding negative aspects of their religion is either being nave or biased.

A second thing that impressed me negatively was Lippmans lack of discussion about how modern Muslims deal with such a diversity of views and political powers and struggles. If the Koran is fact and Muhammad was the example by which to live, it doesnt seem like there would be so much division as the Koran says there shouldnt be. Modern scholars and theologians must address this issue, but Lippman doesnt discuss it at all.

Categories: Regent College, Religion, Writings Tags: