Wednesday, October 21, 2015

610 CE - Religion in decline - East vs. West

This is the continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first part here and the previous part here. This is also part of a longer series called "The Koran from a Christian Perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
In the fourth century, the Roman Empire was divided with competing Emperors in the east and the west. In 312 CE, Constantine prepared for battle against Maxentius to reunite the Roman Empire under his rule. He was preparing for battle when he received a vision. "He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, Conquer by this. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle." (Eusebius Pamphilus, The Life of The Blessed Emperor Constantine, Book 1, Chapter 28) After placing the sign of the cross on his army's shields, he was victorious and Christianity was propelled to the official religion of the Roman Empire. As such, its seat of power was Rome which coincided with the seat of Roman political and military power.

However, with the fall of Roam and the mas migration of the population east, the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople thus giving new impetus for the eastern church to exert their claim to ascendancy as the new head of the church universal. As time went on, conflict grew between the eastern and western churches until they were permanently divided one from the other.

Muhammad wrote in the Koran, "To God belong the East and the West; whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God; God is All-embracing [immense], All-knowing." (Koran 2:109) While the exact meaning of this verse is uncertain, this verse follows immediately after other verses that speak directly of the Christian church of his day. It is conceivable that he was denouncing the sharp division between these two churches. Each side denouncing the other and proclaiming anathema against the other. Muhammad rightly understand that it is the same God who presided over the church in the west as presided over the church in the east. While they were divided over doctrinal dogmas, God Himself was not divided.

Furthermore, Muhammad wrote of the violence that broken out in their hatred for one another. "And had God willed, those who came after him [Jesus] would not have fought one against the other after the clear signs had come to them; but they fell into variance [disputes], and some of them believed, and some disbelieved [were infidels]; and had God willed they would not have fought one against the other; but God does whatsoever He desires." (Koran 2:254) Muhammad saw their fighting and contention as God's judgment for their infidelity. "And with those who say 'We are Christians' We took compact [accepted the covenant]; and they have forgotten a portion of that they were reminded of [taught]. So We have stirred up among them enmity and hatred, till the Day of Resurrection; and God will assuredly tell them of the things they wrought." (Koran 5:17) Philip Schaff, in his history of the Christian church, confirms the state of affairs between the two churches. "The Pope and the Czar are the two most powerful rival-despots in Christendom. Where the two churches meet in closest proximity, over the traditional spots of the birth and tomb of our Saviour, at Bethlehem and Jerusalem, they hate each other most bitterly, and their ignorant and bigoted monks have to be kept from violent collision by Mohammedan soldiers. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 68. The Consensus and Dissensus between the Greek and Latin Churches) Mohammedan was the term used for the followers of Islam in his day .

Unfortunately, the Muslims of today have followed the Christians of the the seventh century and have turned on each other leaving an ever increasing body count. The Economist on June 29th 2013 reported that the sectarian civil war in Syria had already killed in excess of one hundred thousand Muslims on both sides. In fact, Jihad Watch (August 24, 2011)  and Front Page Magazine (September 24, 2013) have both reported that since 1948 over ten million Muslims have been killed by other Muslims. Recent reports have also reported that the primary target of Muslim terrorists are actually other Muslims. Muslim terror groups today kill far more Muslims that they do westerners or Europeans. Surly Muhammad's judgment some fourteen hundred years ago is just as appropriate for today's Muslims as it was for yesterday's Christians.

More to come...
David Robison

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