Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shirk bad associations ! (John 17)

Well, I'm about 25% of the way through an English translation of the Koran. After all, since this book is venerated by more than a billion of the people I share these hours of life with, continuing ignorance on my part is not reasonable. I imagine, like any book, it has probably lost something in translation.[1]

Still, a message that comes through, time after time, is the heinous evil of "associating" anything with Allah. As a dear Muslim friend explained, this sin, in Arabic shirk, also means idolatry in general. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Mohammed, a travelling merchant, got around. He also paid attention. Apparently, he spent some time with Christians who belonged to an "adoptionist" sect. This heresy asserts that the man Jesus of Nazareth got promoted to some kind of associate deity -- and maybe, if I work at it hard enough, I can get promoted, too! Mohammed was sharp enough to recognize this notion as the arrant nonsense that it is -- although it does mesh with our tendency towards wishful thinking and self-deception.

But what did Jesus say about himself?
Joh 17:1 İsa bunları söyledikten sonra, gözlerini gökyüzüne kaldırıp şöyle dedi: "Baba, saat geldi. Oğlun'u yücelt ki, Oğul da seni yüceltsin.
Joh 17:2 Çünkü sen O'na bütün insanlık üzerinde yetki verdin. Öyle ki, O'na verdiklerinin hepsine sonsuz yaşam versin.
Joh 17:3 Sonsuz yaşam, tek gerçek Tanrı olan seni ve gönderdiğin İsa Mesih'i tanımalarıdır.
Joh 17:4 Yapmam için bana verdiğin işi tamamlamakla seni yeryüzünde yücelttim.
Joh 17:5 Baba, dünya var olmadan önce ben senin yanındayken sahip olduğum yücelikle şimdi beni yanında yücelt.
And, a few words:
  • Sonsuz yaşam, -- (this is) endless / life. son = end, sonsuz = endless.
  • tek gerçek Tanrı olan seni -- (the) only / true / God / to be / you
  • ve gönderdiğin İsa Mesih'i -- and / the one who was sent / Jesus Christ
  • tanımalarıdır -- that they must recognize
Christians understand that the Jesus of Nazareth actually existed before the world was created. That He can be regarded as a self-aware extension/projection/avatar of the Creator into the created universe. The doctrine of the Trinity asserts, paradoxically, that God is simultaneously One and Three. The One and the Many aspects of the created order have equal validity, equal weight. A choir singing Handel's Messiah is Trinitarian faith in action -- the different voices sing different parts, but there is harmony, not confusion.

As G. K. Chesterton said, if we can embrace one paradox, the whole universe falls into place and makes sense. This is of more than theoretical interest -- true life consists of knowing the Creator, and Jesus Christ, whom He sent. The One who came -- from somewhere esle -- is the One who returned -- to that other place -- and the One who is even now waiting to greet us at the hour of our exit from this life.

Yet this One also lives among us now.


[1] Another English idiom. When we say "It lost something in translation," we refer to the noise, the static, that gets into a message as it goes from person to person. The Turks have a neat way of dealing with this ambiguity, the -muş- (or -müş-, -mış-, -miş-) syllable variously knows as the dubitative or narrative past tense. Tuck that syllable into your verb to describe things you have no personal knowledge of. To translate it into English, use a construction like "I've heard..." or "They say ... " or "Rumor has it."

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