Friday, January 19, 2007

It should come as no surprise that I believe in miracles. Reading the Koran has gotten me interested specifically in the miracles of Jesus. Most Christians can discount the Koranic accounts of miracles of Jesus because they are not Biblical. I can't give myself that luxury. I believe that Jesus appeared to the Nephites shortly after his resurrection, and I believe that Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in upstate New York. It leaves my mind quite open to the question of what else Jesus did.

The Koran mentions three miracles of Jesus that are not found in the Bible or for that matter in the Book of Mormon.

1) "Jesus... remember... when thou createst out of clay, by My leave, as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it, and it is a bird..." (Surah 5:110 TKI)

This is the easiest of the three miracles for me to both comprehend and accept. It does not dramatically alter the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus if it is true, and even if the Koran is in error about it, it hardly seems a point worth arguing. I respect the Koran's interpretation of Jesus so I'll believe this account without further consideration.

2) "'I (Mary) have vowed to the All-merciful a fast, and today I will not speak to any man'... Mary pointed to the child then; but they (her folk) said, 'How shall we speak to one who is still in the cradle, a little child?' He (Jesus) said 'Lo, I am God's servant;...'" (Surah 19:25-30 TKI)

This second miracle is more difficult to reconcile with the Gospel accounts of Jesus' first days. I am left to wonder where is Joseph? Why did he not speak for Mary if she vowed a fast? While I can not completely discount the possibility that Jesus spoke shortly after his birth, it seems that such a miracle wouldn't be left out of the Gospel if it had occurred. I find myself unconvinced by the Koranic account this miracle.

3) "'We (unbelievers) slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God' -- yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them." (Surah 4:155 TKI)

This is perhaps one of the most difficult passages in the Koran for me to understand and accept. If another miracle occurred on the cross than the one I've been taught all my life to believe in then it is of monumental importance to grasp it. But the Koranic account is far more brief than the account of the Gospel so it is very unsatisfying. The claim that Jesus wasn't actually crucified needs further evidence which the Koran does not to my knowledge provide. Without the preconceived notion that the Koran is infallible which I of course do not adhere to, this last miracle is to my mind untenable. If I had to point to proof that the Koran was not perfect I would feel confident that this passage which utterly refutes the Gospel demonstrates a mistake made by Mohamed. I find some of the assertions that the Koran makes about Jesus thought provoking and believable but this one I simply do not.

My respect for the Koran has not been diminish by these inconsistancies, but my assertion that Scripture is an imperfect representation of the mind and will of God is strengthened by them. I guess I will just have to wait to meet Jesus to find out exactly what he did and didn't do.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

First of all happy new year everybody - lets hope 2007 is a good one.

This post will not be primarily spiritual as I try to make most of my blogging. There are a number of reasons for this. Among them are the fact that I haven't picked up my Koran since before Christmas and have only read a little in the Book of Mormon in the past few weeks. That has been primarily due to several presents that I have very much enjoyed but have taken up a lot of my time. I received the first two seasons of Stargate SG-1 which I have watched in there entirety (about 40 hours of material). I've also also been playing a new video game called Star Wars: Jedi Academy. So my mind has not been on God much of late, and I can only hope that He appreciates science fiction.

But another reason this is not a spiritual post is because I have been challenged by my wife to reveal five things you probably don't know about me. So here goes:

1) Of the Ten Commandments "Thou shalt not kill" is the only one I have never broken.

2) My favorite food is chocolate and if I ever get diabetes I would consider ending it all with Whitman's Samplers.

3) I am a fan of the Green Bay Packers (even in their off seasons) and for this reason have an irrational attachment to LDS general authority Boyd K. Packer. For me the phrase "Packer Backer" is double entendre.

4) I'm also a big "Weird" Al Yankovic fan. He is one of my friends on Myspace, and when I was a teenager I even performed one of his songs with a jazz band.

5) Again when I was young I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. I recently got a collection of first edition D&D books which I don't use but will probably retain as keepsakes.

So now you have some trivia about me. If you have enjoyed it go and do likewise.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas day has arrived again this year. Our family opened presents yesterday because my oldest son Brandon is spending today with his mother and her family. Everyone was happy with what they got so the secular part of our Christmas went without incident.

But Christmas really isn't about the presents it's about the birth of Jesus. As a kid I always went to Christmas services. The Episcopal church pulls out all the stops for the day (Easter is the same way). But now that I'm LDS I get to stay home with the family on Christmas day. Since I stay home most of the time anyway I'm wondering what I can do to make the day special. Sometimes (not often) I miss the religious pomp and circumstance that I knew growing up. Christmas is one of those times.

Today means a lot to me. I wouldn't be half the man that I am were it not for the effect of Christ in my life. Oh, I look to other teachers for lessons that didn't come through as clearly as I would have liked them, but Jesus is my first and last teacher. I still hope and pray for "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men." I still think Jesus is the best example for people to live in love and truth. And I still find the story of the manger convincing and compelling. What I don't do any more is show off to prove to the rest of the world that Christmas means as much to me as it did when I was five and played the second magi in a pageant. I've become a very quiet man, and perhaps that is for the best. Still, I want to do something for Christmas and more generally for Christ than I have been lately.

Christmas is a time of renewal. With the new year following close behind it is a time to reflect on the past and resolve to live better in the months ahead. It's a time to remember and work for peace and goodwill. I think that gets lost all to often in modern life. And the diversity in our society can blunt the message of Christmas all the more. Alex was part of a school pageant last week where they sang about a wish for a "magic song" that would bring world peace. But the pageant was empty of any reflection on Jesus. I just don't think the "song" works without him, and I hope I can make more people see that.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Koran Interpreted is divided into two volumes (roughly in half) and I've finished the first volume today. I am as usual deeply moved by its assertion that God is singular and no one and nothing else can compare. I really like the verse that says "If the sea were ink for the Words of my Lord, the sea would be spent before the Words of my Lord are spent, though We brought replenishment the like of it." (Surah 19:109) Though I suspect that most Muslims wouldn't take this to mean that canon is always open, I do. I got very depressed in my early twenties over the notion that God had given us the Bible and left us to fend for ourselves. When I first read the Koran it was not very comforting to find another book with people saying these were God's last words. So the LDS notion that God still speaks to us resonates with me. I need a personal living God not just a pile of old words that talks about God. Jesus said "Why callest though me good? none is good, save one, that is God." (Luke 18:19 KJV) I'm certain that the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon aren't God, which leads me to the conclusion that they aren't perfect. They only try to point to something that is. Sometimes they fail and sometimes people with the best intentions whether Christian, Muslim, or Mormon use the holy books to do unholy things. But reading the Koran is only convincing me more that I need to know what's in it. For all its imperfections I still consider it scripture, and I suspect that I will just have to be content that God alone can judge that idea.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

There is an interesting difference between Christianity and Islam with regard to a person's relationship to God. Christians use the term "children of God" and talk about God as a father. In Islam people are servants or slaves of God, and while the Koran talks about His mercy and compassion it forbids the notion of God having literal children. But a child can be more loving than a servant who should only be more obedient. I think it might be splitting hairs to argue one or the other view, but I'm partial to the notion that I am (as we all are) a child of God and not just His slave. Though I must point out that I don't mean a literal child which would imply the need for a heavenly Mother. I think God transcends gender, and so is a creator as much as a father or mother. Also, I recognize that I am a servant of God and that He demands obedience. It's not one or the other; it's both. I wonder how much of the conflict between Western culture and the Middle East revolves around this simple distinction. It reminds me of the Faith vs. Works arguments that are internal to Christianity (again not one or the other but both). People get so set in the dogma that they are unable to love each other and obey the other principles that come with faith in God. Can the Koran be reconciled to the Christian notion that we are all brothers and sisters because we are God's children? I doubt it very seriously, but with God all things are possible. Can a Christian learn a lesson in service by studying the Koranic principle of Surrender? I would certainly hope that every Christian would be willing though not many are. So there must be some authority that can be called upon to establish a balance and avoid senseless disagreement on small points. That leads me to the notion that what Islam really needs is the modern revelation to separate Surrender from the less pleasant aspects of a slave culture. The Koran and the Bible sometimes disagree. I see the Book of Mormon and a latter day prophet as the solution to that disagreement. But I'm still a long way off from standing up in Sacrament and saying I know this is true.


Monday, November 27, 2006

My reading of the Koran is going slowly but smoothly. I've been pondering a vexing question that relates to Koranic (Sharia) law. In countries that practice Sharia law it is illegal to proselytize Muslims and treason (punishable by death) for a Muslim to convert to another faith. As a mormon I firmly "believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law." (AoF 12) So the question arises: how can I magnify my priesthood to Muslims? I would hope that they might be interested in reading the Book of Mormon and be persuaded to a point of view closer to my own. But that hope seems vain and foolish if they would die for even trying to put Latter Day Saint principles into practice. The Koran is very strict about keeping people on the strait path and following the prophet (Mohammed). So I'm left to wonder how to convince Muslims that Gospel Principles are on that same straight path and that Gordon B. Hinkley is the living prophet that they should be following.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

I had a long talk with my wife a few days ago and am feeling less alone with my beliefs. She's less lazy then I am but also less of a mormon. We agree that if Jesus was God or a god at the time of crucifixion then his experience would be cheapened. In other words an immortal god could spend a day on the cross and it would be little more than a stubbed toe or a hang nail. Christ's suffering only means anything if he were fully human at the time. If he wasn't then how could he relate to us and our suffering. At this point she concedes that Jesus might have become God or a god after that as an exaltation but I disagree with that idea. There is no god but God in my humble opinion.

Which leads to my next book - The Koran Interpreted (A. J. Arberry). I finished Mere Christianity and found little comfort in Lewis' strict Trinitarianism. I took a short break from serious reading with a Piers Anthony book which I flew through, and I started reading the Koran yesterday. I tend to be on dangerous ground when reading Scripture (even someone else's scripture), because I've got so many ideas of my own that I tend to argue with even the best of it. That trait is the reason I've only read the Book of Mormon once so far. I get to about the end of King Benjamin's speech and I've had so many arguments that I put it down not feeling very spiritual.

For me the Koran is little different. I feel like I had better know what is in it. But the sense that it's important doesn't transfer to a faith that it's infallible. I have believed for a long time that Scripture is both useful and dangerous. There are people in every faith that work to live by the letter of the law, but forget the spirit of God that the law represents. One of my personal quests for instance is to play whatever part I can in ending the crusades. For nearly a thousand years Christians and Muslims have been killing each other, and I for one find that situation appalling. I'm certain that if more people understood the spirit of the Scripture instead of insisting on lockstep conformity to peculiar dogmas that the world would be a better place. Can my voice help stop the killing? I don't know and sometimes I despair of it.

My own part in this drama is small. I have neither great power nor great eloquence. Still I pray for a better, safer world where piety is the rule rather than the exception. May God bless you and keep you and bring us closer as the human family should be.