Friday, 5 November 2010

Peter Kreeft and the soft-soaping of Islam

Peter Kreeft is a philosopher from Boston College whose writings on Christianity are often well worth a read.  His book on heaven for example, though I don't agree with all of it, is certainly the best modern treatment of the subject I've seen.

Now he's written a book on what Christians can learn from Islam, urging believers of both faiths to band together in the battle against sin and secularism.

Kreeft on non-Catholics

Professor Kreeft has always had an excessively soft spot for non-Catholic perspectives.  His Handbook on Christian Apologetics for example, completely omits any treatment of the Church, preferring instead to adopt a 'mere Christianity' approach.  And some years back he wrote a dialogue set in heaven in which firstly we supposedly find St Thomas Aquinas mostly agreeing with condemned heretic Luther and confirmed Anglican CS Lewis on the subject!

That's not to say that there isn't something in what he says in relation to Islam. 

America does need to take some responsibility for policies (such as the invasion of Iraq which failed to meet just war criteria on most people's assessments) that have encouraged rather than discouraged Islamic extremism and led to the forced emigration of more than half of Iraq's Christian population. 

And Muslims do at least superficially share some values and practices with Catholics, so there is something to the idea of finding common ground to stand against 'sin and secularism'.

How common are those common values really?

But here's the thing.  A lot of the seeing common ground is more apparent than real. 

Take modesty for example.  Christians will agree with Muslims that current dress standards in many cases are far too immodest.  Most Christians however (pseudo-Amish and Tony Abbott aside) will generally agree that firstly such standards of modesty need to apply to males and females alike, and secondly don't need to go to the extent of veiling (outside of church), let alone full face covering burkas!  They would certainly not accept the need for the recent religious edict from Saudi Arabia that women cannot even work as cashout checkers lest they come into contact with men!

More fundamentally, Kreeft apparently lauds the Islamic sense of the "sacredness of the family and children.” Oh yes?  You mean that sense that allows divorce at the mere pronouncement by the man of a formula of words?  That allows polygamy and concubines?  And that continues to justify paedophilia on the basis of the Prophet's marriage to a nine year old girl?

Islam vs secularism

Christians have been focusing on the threat of secularism for the last century, and it is easy to continue to keep on fighting the previous battle while not seeing the next looming.  Our society is certainly being seriously, perhaps fatally, weakened by those who want to contracept, abort and euthanise humanity out of existence.

But Christians should keep in mind the lessons of history.  The bishop of the Catholics martyred in Baghdad last week drew on the history of Iraq and pointed to the problematic nature of Islam in his remarks to the recent Middle East Synod, and his remarks are well worth a reread.

They also call to mind an earlier history of that region.  In the sixth century, the West was a sorry shadow of its former glory under the Empire.  The inability of the Empire to assimilate waves of barbarian migrants, combined with devastating plagues and famine, ushered in the so-called Dark Ages.  The West was largely abandoned by the Eastern Empire which itself nearly fell to the mighty Persian Empire.

In 627, an exhausted empire under Heraclius finally triumphantly defeated the Persians and reclaimed Jerusalem. 

But less than ten years later Islamic forces captured it as part of their seemingly inexorable expansion that was to encircle Europe for centuries, constantly threatening the existence of Western Europe itself.

You can read a critical review of Kreeft's new book here.

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