Monday, August 29, 2016

St John the Baptist - Forerunner of those 'beheaded for their witness to Jesus Christ'

The prophetic significance of Muslim beheadings of Christians.

The Beheading of St John the Forerunner, commemorated August 29 in the Orthodox Church.

[Originally posted August 31, 2014]

John the Baptist’s rich and descriptive title in the Orthodox Church is, “The Holy, Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John.” He is much more than “John the Baptist.”  He is a sign, a mystery

As “The Forerunner” he is a clear sign of the First Coming of Christ, but also of the Second Coming; he is a mystery of the fulfillment of this age, and of its trials and woes.

Jesus Himself called John “the greatest born of woman” and “more than a prophet.” The Church considers him to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets, just as the Virgin Mary  — the Mother of God — is the fulfillment of righteousness through the Old Testament lineage in preparation for the Messiah. 

As the Messiah Himself spoke to the crowds after John’s disciples came and saw the signs He was doing:
Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John… “What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ [Malachi 3:1]
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”  (Matthew 11:7-12)

John is the Forerunner of Christ, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah coming to restore all things:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord…(Malachi 4:5-6)
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-15)

John the Forerunner was beheaded “for righteousness sake,” for warning and calling the corrupt and dissipated King Herod to repentance. Yet this is not some dark and dire event, but a radiant, joyous, shining witness (Greek: martyria) for us to emulate.

St. Justin Popovich teaches that St. John "had become the first of all the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament":

See how he suffered for God's truth in this world! He suffered joyously! In today's principal hymn and prayer to him it is said that he went to his death rejoicing, and that he suffered rejoicing[See John 3:29.]  Thus he became the first example and inspiration to all the Holy Martyrs in the New Testament, beginning with St. Stephen the Protomartyr and through today. 
All of the Holy Martyrs go to their death rejoicing...

As the first one beheaded for righteousness sake — that is, for his witness to Christ, for Christ is our righteousness — John is shown to be the Forerunner of the last great wave of martyrs for Jesus:
“Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God…” (Apocalypse 20:4)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Athens allows first mosque in 180 years

"The first official mosque is to be erected in the Greek capital, Athens, ending an almost two-century ban on building a Muslim worship place by the government."
"I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war." - Psalm 120:7

It remains to be seen what new demands and pressures will be exerted by Islamic supremacists following this historic capitulation by the Greek government, let alone the ever-present threat of Muslim terrorist attacks experienced throughout the Balkans, Europe, Russia... everywhere.

Athens allows first mosque in 180 years
Pravmir, August 22, 2016:

Photo: An annex of the Museum of Greek Folk Art, the Tzistarakis Mosque in the center of Athens, in use until the end of Ottoman rule in 1832.

This month, the government passed a bill to accelerate 10-year-old plans to build a mosque in the Athens neighbourhood of Votanikos.

No new mosque has been built in Athens since the Ottoman Empire’s rule ended over Greece in 1829.

Islam was the official religion of the old Ottoman Empire and up to one million Muslims are still believed to be living in Greece.

In Athens alone, approximately 200,000 Muslims are using an estimated 100 informal mosques, mostly in garages or converted basements, for prayer and other forms of worship.

With the recent arrival of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa this number has risen even further, intensifying the need for more mosques.

Athens is currently the only EU capital without one but that is now set to change.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Raymond Ibrahim: 'Can Quranism Save Islam?'

"Even if every single Muslim was to reject the Hadith and other “secondary books,” that wouldn’t change the fact that the Quran is saturated with violent and intolerant teachings that need little supplementation from secondary literature."

by Raymond Ibrahim, PJ MediaAugust 15, 2016:

Huffington Post recently published an article titled “The Source of Muslim Extremism” authored by Mike Ghouse (described as “a speaker, thinker, and a writer” who “offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day”).  He argues that all violence and intolerance committed “in the name of Islam is coming from a single source; the secondary books. The Quran is the only authentic book and we cannot go wrong with it.  Until we reject those other books, we don’t have a prayer.”

Among these “secondary books” Ghouse identifies the Hadith, which contains the words and deeds of Islam’s prophet Muhammad:  “As a first step towards fixing our problems, we need to rehabilitate the Hadith.”  By this he means that any hadith not “compatible with the statements that God is just and the Prophet is a mercy to the mankind” are to be expunged.

“Let’s stick to the Quran, we simply cannot go wrong,” concludes Ghouse.

What to make of this argument?

First, it should be noted that it is not original to Ghouse; this position belongs to a small sect of reformist/heretical (depending on who you ask) Muslims known as “Quranists.” Their movement, Quranism, goes back decades with echoes even earlier.  It holds “the Qur’an to be the only authentic source of Islamic faith. Quranists generally reject, therefore, the religious authority and authenticity of hadith, Sunnah, and reject traditional Sharia Law, with the assertion that they are false attributes to the Islamic Prophet Muhammed. This is in contrast to the Sunni, Shia and Ibadi doctrines, which consider hadith necessary for Islamic faith.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Islam and the Rewriting of Biblical History and Theology

"Is the Qur'an and the Bible telling the same story? Or has the Qur'an deliberately undermined the biblical story by removing the promise of the coming Savior, the Fall, the atonement, and God's redemptive work through Jesus Christ?"

by Tony Costa, Answering Muslims, August 8, 2016:

The novelist George Orwell once remarked that, "The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history." History is a collection and a record of the past. But if what if someone does not like a piece of history and wants to turn back time and change it? Since no one can go back in time and change the past as we see in science fiction movies and novels, one way is to rewrite the history of the past and with enough persistence people will believe the new version.

It has been done in the past. Adolf Hitler was able with enough rhetoric and repetition to convince many Germans that the Jews were responsible for all the world's ills. Hitler even created a school of his own academics who aimed to remove any and all Jewish elements from the Bible and Christianity. Some even advocated the view that Jesus was not a Jew, but rather an Aryan, the people group Hitler taught the German people were descended from. The apostle Paul was a Jew, but the Nazis taught that he had subverted the teachings of Jesus, much like many Muslim apologists claim today about Paul. Jesus, they taught, was an Aryan who sought and struggled to destroy Judaism and the Jews, but in the Nazi revised narrative, the Jews killed Jesus. Germans were now called upon to take up the cause of Jesus the Aryan and to carry on his fight and struggle by eliminating the Jews. For more on this see a summary of the book The Aryan Jesus by Susannah Heschel by going here.

This exercise in rewriting and revising history is very similar to the second century heretic Marcion who also wanted to eradicate the human and Jewish Jesus in place of a purely spiritual Jesus who had no body. Marcion did this by getting rid of the Old Testament, but he did't stop there. In his new version of the New Testament he kept only the gospel of Luke but not before removing the first two chapters because they were too "Jewish" and began his version of Luke with chapter 3. He also kept Paul's thirteen letters because he thought Paul was anti-Jewish which of course he was not as he was a Jew himself. Marcion discarded all the other New Testament books. The Church of course remained steadfast and maintained all of the inspired books in the canon including the Old Testament.

"The Qur'an rewrites and sabotages the biblical story... to show that Islam has been the religion of God from the beginning and that all the prophets were Muslims."

Now what does this all have to do with Islam? Quite a bit. When someone reads the Qur'an they are struck by the fact that many of the stories seem at first to resemble the biblical stories (the Flood, the exodus from Egypt, etc) but upon closer inspection we quickly see that the stories are quite different in many respects. They seem to be copied from other sources like the apocryphal gospels, the Jewish Talmud and Mishnah, Zoroastrian writings, etc. Certainly, if the author(s) of the Qur'an knew the Bible how could he / they have recorded all these stories incorrectly? First of all it seems clear that there was no Arabic Bible in Muhammad's day and he had no access to such a Bible. Even if he was illiterate which some scholars dispute, would he not have been able to remember these biblical stories if they were dictated orally?

When we look at the Qur'an as a whole, what we discover is that there is a carefully planned plot from the very beginning. The Qur'an rewrites the biblical story and actually sabotages it. For what purpose? To show that Islam has been the religion of God from the beginning and that all the prophets were Muslims.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Turkish Authorities Ban Christian Liturgy in Panagia Sumela Monastery

The doors of the Sumela Monastery reopened in June 2010, after 88 years. The Turkish government had given permission to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to have a patriarchal liturgy for the Feast of the Assumption every year. That permission has been suddenly revoked.

That the Greek Orthodox need special permission to celebrate divine services in any of their churches in what is now Turkey is a dark reminder of Islamic oppression of Eastern Christians from the mid-7th century, and especially from 1453 through the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

From my article, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Assassination Plot in Historical Context:

Ever since the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim armies in 1453, Christians in what is now Turkey have been reduced to second-class citizens (and persecuted nearly to extinction) through the institution of the dhimma, the contract of protection which subjugates Christians to Muslim rule under humiliating, demeaning terms. 
Under the dhimma, Christians have to pay the exorbitant jizya tax, cannot build new churches, cannot repair existing ones, cannot share their faith outside their church buildings, cannot convert Muslims, etc. One aspect of the dhimma most terrifying is the concept of "collective punishment." If one Christian violates the dhimma contract, Muslims may attack any or all Christians...
Important to keep in mind is the role played not only by the faithful Patriarch Martyrs, but by other clergy and even monastics in the eventual liberation of Greece... Eventually, the Serbs and Bulgarians threw off the Muslim yoke as well. 
It was this series of humiliating defeats during the nineteenth century, and losses in the Balkan Wars of the early twentieth century, which enraged the Turkish Muslims, who turned on the weakest elements of their Christian population, precipitating their infamous genocide against the Christians of Armenia, Greece, Pontus, and Syria, massacring over 3.6 million men, women and children (some dying from starvation, disease and the forced deportations) from 1894 to 1922. 
Sporadic persecutions against remaining Christians extended well into the 1950s, perhaps the worst example being the Istanbul Pogroms of 1955, which dealt a crushing blow to the Orthodox Christian community in Turkey. 
The Greek population of Turkey had already been reduced to about 120,000 in 1927 (following the main period of the Orthodox Christian Genocide); by 1978 it had collapsed to only 7,000. According to the Human Rights Watch, by 2006 there were only 2500 Greeks in Turkey.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Muslims screaming 'Allahu akbar!' through bullhorn terrorize Orthodox Church during Divine Liturgy

St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, California was openly, publicly threatened with an Islamic jihad terrorist attack by a group of three men in a drive-by incident this past April. 

Although multiple congregants heard the Arabic phrase "Allahu akbar" screamed at them, the official police report included no mention of it.

The priest at St Andew's, Fr. Josiah Trenham, is also the founder and principal behind the outstanding Orthodox Christian audio-video publishing company, Patristic Nectar. In late 2015, he gave an outstanding 2-part talk on Islam and Christianity titled The Cross and the Crescent.  In mid-2014, Fr. Josiah gave a talk at St Barbara Monastery in Santa Paula CA, Sharia Law in America - an Orthodox Christian Perspective.

In short, when it comes to Islam and Orthodoxy, Fr. Josiah is "on the map". Like few other Orthodox Christian priests in the United States,  Fr. Josiah has shown great bravery in openly teaching about Islam, coupled with a sincere evangelical love for Muslims, suggesting that we welcome Muslims to our communities with a copy of the New Testament! That is a warm, missions-minded touch that I think New Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev would strongly endorse.

If St Andrew's Church was targeted because of Fr Josiah's talks on Islam, that would be in full accordance with Sharia Law, the Dhimma Contract and the Pact of Omar, which forbid Christians and other infidels from teaching about Islam. Further, the Koran explicitly commands Muslims to terrorize and intimidate infidels who refuse to accept Islam:

“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may strike terror in the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know, whom Allah knows” (Koran 8:60)

Although the incident happened four months ago, it is apparently only now being reported via this well researched story by Hollie McKay at Fox News.

Pray for God's protection of Fr. Josiah Trenham and the parishioners of St Andrew's Orthodox Church, and that perhaps some Muslims may be awakened by this, and be led to saving faith in Jesus Christ!

Churches take new security measures in face of terror threats
by Hollie McKay, Fox News, August 9, 2016:

As Father Josiah Trenham prepared to read the Gospel, several parishioners discreetly scooped up their babies, retreated up the aisles of St. Andrew Orthodox Church and out into the spring air, so as not to allow the crying of little ones to disturb the divine liturgy.

The time-honored tradition was shattered when a car passed by the Riverside, Calif., church, slowing down as the front passenger leaned out of his window and bellowed menacingly through a bullhorn, according to witnesses.

“Allahu Akbar!” the unidentified man repeated several times as the unnerved parents drew their infants close and exchanged worried glances.

Witnesses were able to give Riverside police a description of the green Honda Civic, but not of the three occupants. Some told police they believed one or more of the men may have been taking photographs, according to Officer Ryan Railsback. 

"The situation remains 'tense and tenuous', and the church now has security officers on hand for all regular services."

Although Trenham insisted multiple congregants heard the Arabic phrase, Railsback noted no mention of it was in the police report.

[This is an ominous omission by the police. It means, in effect, that the authorities are not taking the Muslim jihad threat seriously, and are not going to be responsive to the church's need for safety in the face of a possibly immanent Islamic terrorist attack. God forgive the clueless police and all those hamstrung by political correctness.]

Whatever the case, no law was broken – even if an unmistakable message was sent and received.

“Be calm and to keep a special vigilance over the property and our children while we are at church,” Trenham wrote in an email to parishioners in which he recounted the disturbing event. “Pray that these provocative young men might repent of their intimidation and be saved.”

Trenham told last week the situation remains “tense and tenuous,” and said the church now has security officers on hand for all regular services.

“It is a deep sorrow to live this way in the ‘new America,’” he said.

The incident took place on April 12, some four months after a terror attack left 14 dead in nearby San Bernardino, and just over three months before a French priest was killed by ISIS-linked jihadists in his church. The events, whether far or near, underscore a grim new reality for pastors such as Trenham: Instead of offering sanctuary from evil, churches could in fact be attractive targets for terror….

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The 'Same God' Belief: a Fatal Heresy and a Theological Trojan Horse

Time again for an extended refutation of the "Same God" position.

The “Same God” belief is a "Theological Trojan Horse" for Christians, as it contains within it the seeds of apostasy, and predisposes its adherents to deny Jesus Christ.

I recently enjoyed a correspondence with a fellow who goes by the name of Giorgio, and who is quite a thoughtful theological writer. He asks:

Dear Zosimas, I was reading your blog and noticed in your featured post, you refer to the “Same God Heresy” – I assume by this you mean “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” is heretical. I was surprised to see this, since this seems contrary to what our saints have taught and also to reason (not that there is a difference, since the saints were very reasonable people). 
I argue this here, if you care to look... I would be interested in hearing your opinion about it. Sincerely, Giorgio

A couple of excerpts from Giorgio's article (do read the entire piece for his closely reasoned argument):

...whoever does not know God’s essence cannot love God, and it is clear that whoever does not love God cannot worship Him. But whoever does know God’s essence can, to at least a certain extent, love God and in this way be said to worship Him. 
By essence we mean that which makes God, God. But God is not God in virtue of being triune, or in virtue of being omnipotent, but by the fact that there is no distinction between His existence and His essence. For this reason, when Moses asks God who He is, God responds by saying: I am The One Who Is (Exodus 3:14, LXX). 
This is not to say that God being triune, His omnipotence, or His holiness are mere accidents, but rather properties which flow from His essence without being included in it, as St. John Damascene says in the fourth chapter of his exposition on the Orthodox faith: 
"All that we can affirm concerning God does not show forth God’s nature, but only the qualities of His nature. For when you speak of Him as good, and just, and wise, and so forth, you do not tell God’s nature but only the qualities of His nature. "
Now since Muslims generally acknowledge that God is He Who Is, they therefore grasp His essence and so can be said to know Him and worship Him. 
Like Muslims, the pagans were unaware of the Trinity, yet St. Paul did not say [in Acts 17:22-23] they worshipped a different God, but rather applauded them for worshipping God to the best of their abilities. The Apostle writes elsewhere: 
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made "(Romans 1:20). 
Here he clearly states that one may attain knowledge of God without revelation – therefore Muslims can be said to have some knowledge of God and worship Him. This is also clear from what St. John Damascene writes about knowledge of God’s existence and essence in the beginning of his exposition on the Orthodox faith, especially when he says in the eighth chapter that: We believe, then, in One God … believed in and ministered to by all rational creation.

First of all, it is not clear that in Islam there is any sense of "loving" God, hence some of the terminology used is wholly inappropriate to an honest discussion of Islam and Allah. In Islam, Allah is classically presented as being so "other", so utterly transcendent and beyond, that he is ultimately beyond the grasp of humans to know him, let alone love him. Islam calls man to be slaves of Allah, not to love him.

Secondly, there is no consistent, universal teaching of the saints in the Orthodox Church on the god of Islam being the same as the True God who sent His Only Begotten Son into the world for our salvation. In fact, a few quick quotes makes clear that several great Fathers of the Church seem to repudiate the "Same God" position:

"It is true that Muhammad started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from east to west. Nevertheless he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil." St. Gregory Palamas (14th c.)

"...the vengeful and God-hating Saracens, the abomination of desolation clearly foretold to us by the prophets, overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries... Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God." ~ St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

St John of Damascus writes very strongly against Islam and Muhammad at the start of his section on the new religion in his Fount of Knowledge, which leaves it open to debate as to whether or not he would agree with my description of the Same God position as a heresy. Indeed, in our time, it may need to be defined in Council as a heresy, due to the danger it poses to the faithful who carelessly adhere to it.:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Raymond Ibrahim: 'On Islamic Violence: Forget the Koran, Look to History'

"Regardless of what the Koran and other Islamic scriptures really 'mean', for roughly one millennium... Muslims waged unrelenting war on the West. And they did and continue doing so in the name of Islam."

by Raymond Ibrahim, August 4, 2016:

The debate around Muslim violence all too often centers around doctrine—around what the Koran and Hadith (words and deeds of Muhammad) really mean and say. Forgotten in this debate is that Islamic scriptures are unnecessary in determining whether Islam teaches violence and war against non-Muslims.

History suffices.

Consider some facts, attested to by both Muslim and non-Muslim primary historic sources: A mere decade after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, the jihad burst out of Arabia.  In just a few decades, Muslims had permanently conquered what was then two-thirds of the Christian world.  The heart of the Muslim world today—nations like Egypt, Syria, all of North Africa, Turkey and more—were, in the 7th century, the heart of Christendom.

Thereafter it was a continuous war on Christian Europe.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Raymond Ibrahim: ‘Mere Islam’ and the Munich Massacre

"Mere Islam—to borrow from C.S. Lewis’ famous book [Mere Christianity] is responsible for the ongoing terrorization of the West... Muslims of all sects, races, and sociopolitical circumstances are responsible for persecuting Christians in 41 of the 50 worst nations to be Christian in... The common denominator in all these nations is ISLAM—without qualifier."

by Raymond Ibrahim, July 24, 2016:

A German-born 18-year-old of Iranian descent named Ali Sonboly went on a shooting spree last Friday.  He reportedly targeted young children and murdered nine.

This incident is a reminder that the ongoing terrorization of the West is not limited to the Islamic State (ISIS), “extreme” Wahhabi or Salafi interpretations of Islam, or terrorists posing as refugees entering the West.

Ali Sonboly was none of those.  He was born and raised in Germany and, based on his name and Iranian heritage, was most likely of Shia background.

But he was a Muslim.  He screamed Islam’s ancient war cry “Allahu Akbar” during his rampage and, less significantly, launched his attack on the one day of the week that many calculated Islamic attacks on non-Muslims occur: Friday.[1]

And that is the grand lesson of the Munich massacre.  Mere Islam — to borrow from C.S. Lewis’ famous book about the many commonalities shared by most Christian denominations — is responsible for the ongoing terrorization of the West.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

William Kilpatrick: 'Blind Violence and Blind Guides'

"The bishops are not guilty of [Islamic jihad] atrocities. But they are guilty of grossly misunderstanding Islam and the threat it poses... They need to seriously consider whether Jesus’ warning about blind guides might apply to some of them. Their hearts, we must assume, are in the right place, but their heads are in the sand."

by William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine, July 18, 2016:

(Photo credit: Sasha Goldsmith via AP)

“Pope Francis condemns more ‘blind violence’ after Nice attack,” reads a headline from a Catholic news agency.

On behalf of the Holy Father, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram to the Bishop of Nice expressing the Pope’s sorrow:

As France was celebrating her national holiday, the country was again struck by blind violence, this time in Nice, claiming many victims, including children. Once again condemning such acts, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his profound sadness and his spiritual closeness to the French people.

With all due respect to the Pope and his Vatican advisers, it is they who are blind. They have shut their eyes to the role that Islam plays in motivating terrorist attacks like the one in Nice that left 84 dead and over 200 injured.