If Jesus is really present in the bread and wine of communion, why does he hide himself?
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Monday, 6 April 2009
Do Christianity and Islam worship the same God? Can two entirely different kinds of religion be used to worship the same deity?
I think that this issue arises because of a confusion of two aspects of religion. 1. a recognition of what is true 2. the approach to incorporating this truth into our lives.
Monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity hold that there is one God. 'The Lord your God, the Lord is One' Deuteronomy 6.4
This also makes sense philosophically, since the omnipotence of God excludes anything that might limit God (so be more powerful). More than one god would limit each other (what one is, the other is not; where one is, the other is not etc...).
If there is only one God, by default, all worship offered to one God must be offered to the same one, even if we argue about who that God is, his revelation and so forth.
It is part of the Christian religion that there is only one God, so there is no possibility that Muslims are worshiping another one, unless of course that god is not God.
From a Christian point of view then, for Muslims to be worshiping God at all, they must be worshiping the only God there is, even if we think they are wrong about who he is and what he has said.
This is the second point. Religions (these religions at least) are not *used* for worship, but are the content of and response to God calling humanity to himself. Yet, this calling has not been universally understood in the same way. So the same God is the object of completely different and competing understandings.
Nevertheless, it might also be worth pointing out that the One God is traditionally called the God of Abraham and Islam considers Abraham to be its father in faith too, although, typically, with quite a different explanation of this truth.
In sum then, Christians and Muslims do worship the same God, but simply because there is only one God to worship. It is just that one of us is worshipping what we don't know (cf. John 4.19-24).
Christianity knows God has revealed himself as Trinity. This revelation is for our good and enables worship to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. In this way, God calls us to share in his divine life.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
What is original sin and why am I responsible for Adam and Eve's mistakes?
Original sin is a state of alienation from God, also described as a lack of original justice: that is, being friends with God. Because it is a privation of righteousness, it is not ‘a thing’ transmitted. It is rather an incapability to pass on original justice: you can’t pass on what you don’t have! (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 404) So, although you personally, are not morally responsible in the same way as criminal guilt; you share with all humanity the lack of justice, but this is not the personal guilt of a long-dead ancestor such as Adam and Eve. This justice is restored through Baptism through Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection (cf. Romans 6.3f).
God could have forgiven this selfishness and sin in any way he chose. But the way he chose to bring his forgiveness to us in the death of Jesus comes from his wisdom, and it deals with the whole situation of human sinfulness and selfishness, going right back to our remotest ancestors. When we act selfishly towards others, we distance ourselves from them, but we also distance ourselves from God too, who calls us to a life of self-giving love. In fact the whole human race is in a situation of being at a distance from God - from the very beginnings of the existence of each one of us, we are born into our race's situation of alienation from God. Death in itself is also our ultimate alienation from each other and from God. If the beginnings of the human race in our remotest ancestors had been different, God would have spared us death, and the inheritance of our race would have been entirely different. The fact that we all die follows from the fact that our race chose sin at its beginnings. Sin and death go together. We chose selfishness and sin, and we were not spared death, and we need to be forgiven and restored to life. But forgiveness is not simply a matter of saying someone is forgiven or deciding not to punish them. It means re-establishing the relationship and overcoming the distance and alienation between the two. So for God to forgive us means to come close to us once more, in our human lives and our human death, and to re-establish the relationship across the divide that we have put between ourselves and God. This even means that in Christ God even dies a human death - he comes so close to us in our worst moments - and then conquers that death by rising again. The resurrection then opens up new possibilities for human life - possibilities of selfless living, of death not as alienation from God but as a way of passing to a new life in God, made bodily at the resurrection. If we are moved to sorrow at Christ's death, this can move us to leave sin and death and selfishness behind and want to share in the new life of his resurrection.
Soon we shall be publishing a selection of questions that were put to us during 'corner a cleric' week and our answers. If you have further remarks or questions arising from our thoughts, please use the blog or email your question to the address in the side bar.
We look forward to hearing from you.