How a day of treachery brought an end to the lives of many Christians
By the end of the eighth century Arab rule was well entrenched in the city of Cordova. But in its process of establishing military rule, it had created very hard feelings among many of the Spanish people. Naturally, those who objected most to Moslem rule were the Christians, but they were not the only Spaniards who wished to remove the Arab influence.
The animosity between the two groups was high. The Moslems exacted a high price. Constantine had established the right of the monarch to summons the church bishops to Council, but now in Spain that authority passed to the Arab Sultans. The Sultans used their power to wreak havoc on the church. When Councils were called, if a bishop was vacant his position was given to Jews or Moslems. While Christians lived under a treaty which allowed them, as one of the conditions, to keep their cathedral, they were eventually forced to sell half of it to be turned into a Mosque for the use of the influx of Arabs moving into the region.
… in any case apostasy from Islam was death.”
Often, under torture or under threat, Spanish Christians ‘converted’ to Islam, and once they did they were caught in a steel trap. These were called the ‘Renegades’ because they had apostatized. A minority of them remained “secret Christians.”
Moslem rule brought out of some people the worst of human character traits. The Christians were known to evade, where possible, taxes imposed upon them. But with the help of the local Bishop, who went around the parishes making up a “prayer list” of the Christians and their relatives, then promptly handed it to the Moslem leadership, tax avoidance and evasion was stamped out. This, in itself, was the result of the Muslims selling the office of Bishop to the highest bidder who now had a vested interest in keeping in good with ‘management’. Treaties with Christians were abandoned at will, and under pressure from the Moslem theologians, the Government was encouraged to ‘show its zeal for Islam’ by increasing taxes on the Christians. Many were sent into poverty.
What is the issue that Christians and Muslims have in Common?
A friend, Bob, spent a few years with his wife in the hardest of all mission fields, Islam! I hope’s he reads this blog and makes some comments.
Our neighbors when we lived in East Lansing, Michigan, were Muslims; Pakistanis, now US citizens. My wife, in her zeal, naturally brings up the topic of religion to see these folk converted and walks herself into more than a small dilemma. She does not know how to respond to their assertions and allegations.
The Bible has been changed over the centuries, they claim. Ishmael is the true son and heir, they assert, not Isaac. Behind that claim, are the words of Genesis 17:20: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
Now my wife has a problem. Has the Bible been changed? If so, by whom? These very lovely Muslim neighbors then ask her to recommend a book on Christianity they might read. And therein lies my wife’s dilemma. She doesn’t know which book to give them. Maybe something that explains Jesus is the Messiah. If only they would accept this, that would solve everything, she thinks.
In case you haven’t noticed however, the issue our Muslim friends raise is over the Old Testament. Christians and Muslims agree on one central point: The Old Testament has been changed, upgraded, replaced, superseded, or some combination of these ideas. See an explanation of the issue here: Unequal Testaments: The Source of New Testament Authority.
Here’s the heart of my wife’s dilemma. She thinks the book of Hebrews changes the Old Testament. So the Muslims are right after all? The Bible has been changed?
What is noticeable, however, is that the Muslims, the Christians, the Mormons, and the Jehovah’s witnesses all come to this issue armed with the same argument. Our religious leaders—Mohammed, Paul, Smith or Russell—all provide the correct reinterpretative framework for understanding the Old Testament.
Only the Jews remain devoted to the idea of unchanging Law and the Prophets. And they don’t do a very good job of that, as I suggest in this article. Donkey Exegesis: What You Can Learn From the Messiah’s Confrontation with the Pharisees.
So, my wife’s dilemma is that she is now left opposing the words of St. Paul to the words of Mohammed.
Maybe it’s time someone picked up the unchangeable word of God has given to us in the Pentateuch (Torah), the Psalms and the Proverbs—the undisputed Word of God—and use these to bring down all vain imaginings, and all other false teachings that attempt to undermine and destroy the God who changes not.
But the idea that Christians and Muslims agree the authority of the Old Testament must be interpreted by other writings and not by the Old Testament itself, makes you wonder how Christianity defeated Islam in the past.
Have a great week. And if you have any advice for my wife on how to speak to the Muslims, she needs every bit of help she can get. At least her heart is in the right place, though. (It’s her husband and some of his views, that are her real worry, she says.)
This perplexing question is answered in a book by former Michigan Congressman, Mark Siljander. It’s an interesting proposition.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Siljander in 1991, when he attempted a new run at Congress from the state of Virginia. He was not successful. But he has been successful in the diplomatic front in some interesting ways.
Now, in a book entitled A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman’s Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide, Siljander tells us of his own theological journey. He started with the idea that Islam was the antithesis to Christianity, but has ended with the idea that the Muslim’s Allah is the same as the Christian’s Jehovah, and it is merely that our understanding of God is different, but we’re all referring to the same Person.