Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is there a Christianity?

I teach a course at the university of Guelph/Humber called informatively 'Judaism, Christianity,Islam'. Recently I ended the component on Christianity rather unsatisfactorally. On the drive home that evening I thought about how I should and could have summarized my lectures on christian history. The thought occurred to me that there did not seem to be one religion, but rather many operating under a very loose label called Christianity.

Does anything tie the ultra Calvinist 'everyone but us is going to Hell' churches (plural even here), with the Anglican 'I will give communion to your dog' church?

I suppose a belief in Christ - but none of these many thousands of separate organizations seem to view, or understand Christ in the same way. There is an old saying among Jews that a room with seven Jews will produce eight opinions - but hard history has kept a sense of 'nation' alive in a real sense. Muslims have the Qur'an which is authoritative only in classical Arabic to centre their Ummah or sense of oneness in community. But Christians have thousands of translations of the Bible in thousands of languages. Christians of the main churches also venerate two thousand years of differing interpretations of the main language translations. Orthodox and Catholic Christians also venerate 'Holy Tradition' - the guidance of the third person of the Trinity.

I will leave this here as I certainly do not have the answer, but would love comments!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Concise history of the Middle East

I am in the process of listening to an audio book version of Arthur Goldschmidt Jr.'s A Concise History of the Middle East  [9th edition].  I won't get it finished as I borrowed it online from the Hamilton Public Library and I am not half way through yet.  But.. I found the 7th edition available as an eBook through the University of Guelph library - so I will either read the remainder, or borrow the audio version again later.

It is a good introduction to the history of Islam in the Middle East - and not as the title suggests, a history of the Middle East.  Generally it is excellent in terms of understanding Islam as it developed [though a bit too much towards political, rather than social or cultural history for  my taste].  The book suffers from the usual flaw in books by Americans on Islam - that is, a lot of time is spent making erroneous or just plain wrong comments about Christianity, or western Christian civilisation in comparison to that of Islam in the Middle East.  But, these flaws are few and far between.  For fun [!!!] I tried reading the Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding Islam - a dreadful book - the entire first section filled with errors of fact and misunderstandings of Christianity - which seems to be the whole thrust - very little talk about Islam until well into the book - mostly just half understood nonsense about Christianity and 'ra ra' cheering about the superiority of Islam.  As they say these days on the net... 'meh'