20 October 2016

This blog’s policy on Islam

… is quite simple. Follow the Fathers. Full stop.

When Islam first arose, the Church Fathers were not silent on the matter, and they did not leave us without guidance. Orthodox Christians should not by any means shy away from making the same critiques of Islam that Holy Father John of Damascus made – namely: that the Koran is a dubious, private revelation; that it continues both the heresy of Arius that Christ was only a man, and the heresy of the Docetists that Christ did not die; and that it posits a false (or, as Saint John would say, ‘mutilated’) understanding of the God of Abraham.

On the other hand, we are not to go beyond what the Fathers in their wisdom and in the examples of their lives have laid out for us. This pertains especially to those of us living in America many generations and thousands of miles removed from first-hand contact with Muslim societies. We are not to regard Muslim people as irrational, inherently violent or sub-human (because even ideologies and heresies do not completely damage the icon of God in the person). We are to eschew praying together with Muslims (though, even then, there are certain noteworthy and honourable exceptions); we are not to eschew working with them or living alongside them, as many of us have had to do for centuries (Saint John’s father Sergius, and possibly Saint John himself, served as administrators in Muslim governments). We can and should counter any propaganda by which certain Muslim governments and polities deliberately misrepresent themselves (and, of course, defend ourselves when we have been attacked), but we are not to spread canards about Muslims that are not demonstrably true or that Muslims do not speak or show of themselves. It goes without saying that we are not to support bombing them for ‘democracy-‘n’-human-rights’ or some other such equally-ideological nonsense.

In short, we should be realists. We should be measured, calm, truthful and reasonable to and about Muslims, but we shouldn’t be blind to, or naïve about, the ways in which Islam attempts to conceal certain political and theological truths about itself. And we should look first, always, to our own intentions and passions and iniquities, and make sure we are not giving vent to those when we speak about others.


  1. A very good policy. I am so ashamed of all the hate and prejudice towards Islam that some Christians spout.

  2. True, and regrettably so. Also, part of being a realist is taking account of context. A lot of the anti-Islamic rhetoric that gets thrown about has been so heavily decontextualised as to be meaningless.

  3. Two thoughts:

    1) I paid attention to the debate over whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The fever-pitch of the debate on some of the same-God advocates made it seem that tolerance was impossible if this was not true. Thus, if they were wrong, the Evangelical America-worshipers were right to drone strike and invade their countries. Muslims may be idolaters, just like a Pagan, or might be, in some forms, iconoclasts, like Atheists, but neither entitles a Christian to treat them as anything else but Human. Christians ought to be the last to be tribalists.

    2) I think St. John Damascene is a great model, especially if had worked for the Caliph. His criticism derived from his faith, and not a political understanding. He was not a 5th column Byzantine, but merely belonged to the Body of Christ. That's something Christians struggle with, sadly.

    2 cents,