Thursday, August 16, 2007

CALLING GOD 'ALLAH': DOES IT MATTER?

A retiring Catholic bishop has a solution to the religious divide,everyone should call God 'Allah':
A proposal by a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands that people of all faiths refer to God as "Allah" is not sitting well with the Catholic community.

Tiny Muskens, an outgoing bishop who is retiring in a few weeks from the southern diocese of Breda, said God doesn't care what he is called.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem," Muskens told Dutch television.

If it doesn't matter, then why don't Muslims simply call God 'God' or 'Yahweh'? One suspects that in their mind it most certainly does matter, which Muskens understands very clearly, thus the suggestion. Not surprisingly, Muslims endorse the idea:
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.

"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper told FOXNews.com. "I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths."

...The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago supports the idea.

“I think it will open up doors,” said Janaan Hashim, a spokeswoman for the group representing more than 400,000 Muslim Americans in the Chicago area. “Language is a man-made limitation. I think what God cares about is how we fulfill our purpose in life.”

But Muslims don't really believe that language is a man-made limitation (well, neither do Jews or Christians--tower of Babel, anyone?). Muslims believe the Koran was revealed in Arabic and it can only be properly understood in Arabic.

Needless to say, not all Catholics support the notion:
"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest based in Rome. Morris, a news analyst for FOX News Channel, also called the idea impractical.

"Words and names mean things," Morris said. "Referring to God as Allah means something."

It certainly does. The Muslim conception of 'Allah' allows for no place for the Word, revealed to us as the Son, who is fully divine, fully God.

Muskens's proposal is simply another instance of Western Christianity looking Islam in the eye and then blinking without hesitation.

4 comments:

Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

There's a great response over at Power Line:

"Most Dutch Christians appear to have responded to the idea with dismay or ridicule. I'm not sure how many actual Christians are left in the Netherlands, however. With leadership like this, it's a wonder there are any."

Laying aside what their definition of "Christian" is, they have a point.

Drew Kizer said...

Didn't Mohammed derive the name "Allah" from one of the gods of the Arab pagans? That makes this name very different from "I AM," a name that denotes singleness and eternality.

The Hebrews considered a name to be more than a label for designation. When they spoke of "His Name," they meant the sum of all the divine attributes of God, the totality of His being. This, I think, should be considered when liberal theologians suggest we adopt the name of the Islamic god.

Let's just get the Muslims to adopt "Yahweh," since Christians and Jews still outnumber them. That will lead to peace, right?

Alan said...

Of course. That's why you see so many Muslim leaders lining up to suggest switching to 'Yahweh'! ;-)

Tertium Quid said...

Napoleon once told a French bishop: "I'm going to destroy the Church."

The bishop replied, "What can you do that's worse than what we have done to ourselves?"

The Church in the Netherlands has been in bad shape for decades. After Vatican II, its bishops led the way in abolishing traditions without providing for adequate catechesis.

This retiring bishop is a product of that kind of silliness, that 1960s mentality that words don't really matter. C.S. Lewis, pray for us!