Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beyond the Cross

The Cross is God's final word on revealing Who He Is, through His Son Jesus Christ. The limitless, infinite humility and radical, self-emptying love through which Jesus restores us to the Father, is the most eloquent word ever spoken... uttered in silence as He lays down His life for us.

During this week at the mid-point of Great Lent, during which the Cross is brought out into the middle of the Church for the faithful to venerate, it seemed right to share this article I originally posted a couple of years ago.

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For the Veneration of the Cross, I'd like to share a selection from my book, Facing Islam. This is taken from the conclusion of the chapter on Muhammad, 'Prophet Motives - Was Muhammad a Man of God?'.


Beyond the Cross




By far the most compelling, overarching point to emphasize as we close this chapter is the Person and Mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the absolute, incontestable finality and divine pre-eminence of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, through Whom God the Father has wrought salvation for mankind.

Fr. Thomas Hopko expresses the essence of the Christian message through the centrality of Christ and the Cross as follows:

Beyond the Cross there is nothing more God can do. Beyond the Cross there is nothing more God can say. Beyond the Cross there is nothing more to be revealed. (Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Word of the Cross, SVS Press, emphasis added.)

The working out of salvation in each of our lives through our cooperation (synergia) with the Holy Spirit is “just details” as Fr. Hopko succinctly puts it, but God’s Act of Salvation—the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ (and of course, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)—is without any doubt the central event in all of history.

Thus there is no need for a subsequent revelation after Christ, least of all one which seeks to enslave the world to a barbaric legalistic system of belief and practice (i.e. Islam and sharia law) after we have embraced and been embraced by the grace of God, “for [we] are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14).

In short, after Christ, Islam has no place, no relevance, no raison d’etre. If we stand firm on the rock of our confession, on Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (cf. Mt 16:16-18), then we will never be shaken by the assaults against our Faith...

The spiritual forces behind Islam know this, that Islam has no reason for its existence because of Christ and the Cross. It is the centrality of Jesus Christ and His Cross against which Islam wages its desperate war.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pop Quiz for Lent: What great Orthodox saint condemned Muhammad's actions as 'instigated by the devil'?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, or have my book, Facing Islam, you'll recall this was the bold statement of St Gregory Palamas, whom we commemorated last week on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.

Here is the full quote:

"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."  
(The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy, Holy Apostles Convent & Dormition Skete, Buena Vista CO, 1990, p. 352.)

It is not really a secret, yet I would suppose that most Orthodox Christians have no idea that St Gregory, during his later years as Archbishop of Thessalonica, was abducted by the Muslim Turks and held for ransom (an income generating crime still used by Muslims to this day, which observers of the Middle East will have to admit).

Suffering cruel hardships, deprivations, and beatings, and so weakened by the ordeal that he died a short time after being ransomed by the Serbs, the holy Gregory nonetheless boldly proclaimed the Orthodox Christian Gospel to his Muslim captors, even though he was putting his life at risk.