Monday, May 26, 2008

Evangelising Muslims

A cat, in the form of evangelical Christian Paul Eddy, is loose among the pigeons of the Church of England. As the BBC reports, Eddy wants the Church to take seriously its duty to evangelise those of other faiths and none, specifically Muslims. The Alpha Course, which is the CofE's premier evangelism route (hated, of course, by many liberals) is aimed at lapsed Christians and sceptics - some might say white middle class lapsed Christians and sceptics.

There are two points I'd make here. First, Eddy's opponents are being pathetic. There is no question that Christians can and should engage with Islam with an eye on conversions. They should also take very seriously their duty of care towards Muslims who convert at great personal risk. Secondly, and in contrast, I do not think that active 'Jehovah's witness' style door stopping is anything but counter-productive. I evangelise. Bede's Library is intended specifically for that purpose. However, it is a passive medium that holds itself out to those who need it. I hope I never intrude where I am unwelcome (with the possible exception of the Internet Infidels discussion board).

Many atheists seem to imagine that all revelatory religions must, by necessity, be aggressively evangelising. Oliver Kamm certainly labours under this delusion. He seems to believe that theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr took their universalism from humane liberalism rather than from the Christian tradition. But of course, Jews do not evangelise and few Christians would accept the possibility of going beyond polite persuasion. It is beyond me how such behavior can be labelled 'destructive' by Kamm without his taking a profoundly illiberal stance.

Overall, I think Eddy deserves some support for his stand which is brave and bracing. I doubt he and I would see eye to eye on many aspects of Christian theology, but his motion at the Church of England's general synod seems little more than an assertion of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.


unkle e said...


I appreciated your post and the links, and I generally agree with you. I would be interested to ask you a couple of questions please .....

1. "I evangelise. Bede's Library is intended specifically for that purpose. After several years of Bede's Library, have you had much feedback on its effect on non-believers?

2. "I hope I never intrude where I am unwelcome (with the possible exception of the Internet Infidels discussion board)." I'm sure this was tongue in cheek, because I recall they published a discussion of yours on the design argument (if I remember rightly), but, based on your experience, do you think that discussion with committed atheists is useful, either for them or for you?

3. Have you any overall reflections on the suitability of the internet for evangelism?

For the record, having my own apologetic website, and having engaged in copious discussions with atheists on various forums, my tentative answers to my questions are - (1) Very little impact, (2) Almost useless for them, of some value for me, and (3) Not sure it is very suitable.

Thanks, and continued best wishes for your ear adventures!

Mark said...

I'm no liberal, but I'm also no fan of the Alpha course, whose main problem, for me, is that it seems to replace use of the intellect with sentiment. It suffers from the liberal fault that what we 'feel' is what is important. The trouble is, feelings are easily swayed and have less firm groundings than intellectual persuasion.

As for Kamm; I think he finds it hard to see anything resembling human truth from his position of self-regarding pomposity.

James said...

Hi Unkle E,

1. I have had very positve feedback from waverers and those having serious doubts about their faith. People don't read my site as atheists and come away as Christians, but quite a few say that they have found my work helpful for their spiritual journey.

2. I have found it useful to know the enemy. Not sure if it was useful to them. But remember, lurkers see the threads too, not just the people you are arguing with.

3. I think the internet can provide information that people need and provide support where the local church is not living up to its billing. It is not a substitute for people, though.

Best wishes


unkle e said...

James, I think I can agree with all that. I discussed on the "Why Won't God Heal Amputees" forum for almost 2 years (on and off), and eventually left out of frustration because of reasons I outlined in a previous comment. There seemed little point in discussing with people who tended to mock and disparage rather than argue. But I think you're right - the learning and the possible influence on "lurkers" make discussion more worthwhile than I thought then. I may yet return.

David Taussig said...

I have found blogs/websites like this one very helpful when i have been struggling with my faith.

It is encouraging to read articles by thinking people.

Steven Carr said...

It is really hard to argue on the 'Why God won't heal amputees' forum when your god won't help you in any way to win arguments with people who can see that there is no god active in the world.

Steven Carr said...

Web sites like Bede's are very useful for persuading waverers who have not gone as far as , say, reading Richard Dawkins.

They can read statements by Bede such as :-

'Dawkins says that if a statue of the virgin waved at you, it would be caused by the extremely unlikely natural movement of the atoms in her arm, not by a divine miracle...'

Dawkins claims that the odds against it being a 'natural' movement are so great that if you started at the beginning of the universe writing out the number of the odds against, you would still not be finished today , billions of years later.

But, of course, simply leaving out the context is enough for Bede to know that lurkers and waverers will get a totally distorted view.

So their faith can be saved!

Humphrey said...

Steven, you really should do the decent thing and stick a blog up so Bede and myself can do some retaliatory trolling. If the nescient rantings of Richard Dawkins really constitute the intellectual pinnacle of the atheist movement then you chaps really are in a lot of trouble.