Stephen Bedard reviews *Two Stories of Everything*

Stephen J. Bedard has an excellent blog, Hope’s Reason, and solid presence on Twitter (@sjbedard).

I’m happy to share with you his recent review of my book Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityHere’s one section:

There are a number of things that I appreciated about Miller’s book. One is that it is both a good introduction to Islam and also a nice summary of the Christian metanarrative. I also liked Miller’s honest and humble perspective. In his conclusion, Miller says, “I hope that I am as critical of Christianity as I am of Islam, and I see the umma doing a number of things correctly that I don’t see the Church, by and large, doing correctly” (p. 134). Two Stories of Everything is not a polemic against Islam, even though Miller is transparent about his own Christian faith. In addition, each chapter includes reflection questions and there is a handy glossary at the end of the book.

Go to his blog to read the whole review.

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La Señal de Jonás y el Missio ad Gentes

Jonah thrown into the Sea.jpg
Jonah being thrown into the sea. (Public Domain), Link


Me da gusto compartir que mi primera publicación para Escritorio Anglicano ya ha sido publicada. El artículo es un analysis de este pasaje:

Vinieron los fariseos y los saduceos para tentarle, y le pidieron que les mostrase señal del cielo. Mas él respondiendo, les dijo: Cuando anochece, decís: Buen tiempo; porque el cielo tiene arreboles.  Y por la mañana: Hoy habrá tempestad; porque tiene arreboles el cielo nublado. ¡Hipócritas! que sabéis distinguir el aspecto del cielo, ¡mas las señales de los tiempos no podéis!  La generación mala y adúltera demanda señal; pero señal no le será dada, sino la señal del profeta Jonás. Y dejándolos, se fue.

                                                                                 —Mateo 16:1-4 (RV60)

La referencia de Jesús al signo de Jonás a la vez cautiva nuestra atención porque Jonás parece ser un tipo relativamente menor para Cristo dado las alusiones más pronunciadas y frecuentes a los paralelos entre Jesús y David (un rey salvador) y Jesús y Moisés (a legislador). En este documento veremos el significado de esta frase y su relación al misso ad gentes.

Puede leer mas aquí.

Fred Farrokh’s review of *Two Stories of Everything*

Over at goodreads the Rev. Dr. Fred Farrokh has posted his review of Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity. Here it is:

How do people best learn? How, therefore, should we teach? Historically, Christians have emphasized communicating “propositional truths.” An example would be the famous tract, “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Now the pendulum has swung away from propositional truth teaching to “storytelling,” since much of the Global South communicates truth through stories, parables, humor, etc. Both paradigms can boast a biblical basis. Duane Miller encompasses and eclipses these paradigms by suggesting that the best way to understand and appreciate Islam and Christianity is through their respective “metanarratives.” I could not agree more.

Duane Miller has distilled hundreds of Bible, Qur’anic verses and Islamic hadith into coherent grand-narratives which feature similarities and differences. His experiences living in the United States, Europe and the Middle East provide abundant illustrations in an amazingly brief book. Dr. Miller gives the Church a “C” in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission; he grades the Islamic “Umma” with a “D” for fulfilling its respective obligation of advancing the Islamic narrative. It is an even-handed treatment of the world’s two largest faiths and their communities. He handles many hot potato questions, such as “Is Islam a religion of peace? And, “what is the future of Christianity in the West?” Truly this book is an educational treasure.

The kids in Spain

Or kids attend a school that Sharon and I really appreciate–Colegio el Porvenir. This school was founded by a German Protestant some 120 years ago when Protestant children in Spain had a very, very difficult time finding decent education. This is a recent class picture of our youngest daughter’s 2nd grade class going on a field trip here in Madrid.

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All of this to say we’re thankful for this trilingual school, the fruit of German missionary work here over a century ago.

PS: Our daughter is the blond one on the right leaning against her teacher.

Christian witness among Muslims and ‘encroachment ‘

Fred Farrokh has recently published an article titled “Contextualization and ‘Encroachment’ in Muslim Evangelism”. Farrokh is introducing a new, specialised meaning of the word encroachment:

This essay introduces the concept of encroachment as another important fine-line tension which has emerged in ministry to Muslims. Encroachment occurs when Christian messengers enlist and redefine sacred Islamic texts, persons, and identifiers in a way that usurps from the indigenous communities those texts, persons, and identifiers.

Farrokh goes on to explore some popular missiologists’ encroachments—Kevin Higgins and Kevin Greeson being key among them. He also does a fine job showing that re-envisioning the ‘prophethood’ of Muhammad and filling the word ‘Muslim’ with a new meaning are also encroachments. He also mentions how the sword cuts both ways and notes some Muslim encroachments on Christian terms and vocabulary.

The fine insight behind the introduction of this new technical definition—something that has been stirring in my mind for some time—is that communities are the arbiters of their own boundaries. It is for Muslims to decide the meaning of the word Muslim. It is for Muslims to decide the significance of Muhammad being the “seal of the prophets”. It is not for Christian thinkers or missionaries, regardless of their intentions.

One can hope for thoughtful responses to Farrokh’s irenic and well-researched paper.

 

Sin and Death in *Two Stories of Everything*

In Two Stories of Everything I take a more Eastern Orthodox approach to the Fall. I argue that the main enemy is death, that death entered the world through sin, that sin is a very real problem, but that redemption in Christ addresses more than just sin alone, and that sin is one symptom of death. A colleague and reader, George, asked about this. Here is his question and my answer (with some editing, of course):

Hi Duane,

So, to my first question about your book. I am certain I will have many questions, mostly about Islam, but my first question is actually about Christianity. In Chapter 4 you write that “Christianity proposes that the foundational problem is death.” This really caught my attention, because I have never actually seen it written that way before. You state that sin is a manifestation of death, and state that the problem of death is deeper than the problem of sin.

It is a very interesting way of looking at it. But to be completely honest, I really don’t agree with it. Now my purpose is not to start an argument. It is inevitable that friends will disagree on something. […] So I will be very interested to read why you believe that death is the foundational problem proposed in Christian theology.

Hi George,

Love the question. It is a very good one. Let me outline where I’m coming from with this. […] What I’m doing in emphasizing the problem of death is actually returning to an older, pre-Reformation vision. The emphasis on sin as the fundamental problem is largely a characteristic of the Reformation. And that makes sense in its historical context. The presenting issue for Luther was the sale of indulgences, and those were very specifically purposed to erase a very certain type of effect of very specific sins. So I don’t think I’m saying anything fundamentally at odds with the main gist of the Reformers, it’s just that they were focused in a very specific issue, and I’m focusing on a much larger stage–the entire metanarrative of Christianity.

I’m returning to an older, Eastern Orthodox approach to the problem. At Bible college you were given Bible verses that prioritized sin, and so you were taught that it is the fundamental problem.

However, note that in the Garden narrative there is no mention of the word sin though death is there. Also, note that at the eschaton the last enemy to be destroyed is not sin, but death. Note also that Paul is very concerned with certain principalities which keep the world in bondage. Those are Sin, Death and the Law. Paul hardly worries about Satan–he’s concerned with how Christ is victorious over these three principalities. Also, the great victory of Christ is Easter–Christ is victorious over death. In being victorious over death he can then grant us the forgiveness of sins, not the other way around.

Note also the central role of the word ‘life’ in John’s gospel. In him was the life…I am the way, the truth and the life…whosoever believes in him will have everlasting life…I am the resurrection and the life…and the list goes on. But your Bible college, I’m guessing, did not teach you soteriology from John, or Genesis, or Revelation. And when taught from the Pauline epistles the central concern of Paul with the principalities was rarely, if ever, mentioned. No worry, that is very common. Christians the world around focus on the texts that agree with them and don’t address the ones that leave them mystified.

In the book I use the phrase, more or less, ‘the entrance of death through sin,’ and that is most concise summary of how I view the issue. The fundamental problem is indeed death, but there is also a priority for sin in that the original distrust of God (i.e., the first sin) was the conduit for the corruption of the cosmos.

Another point: an ignorance of the problem of death can lead to a wan view of the redemptive nature of Christ’s work. Death means the child with cancer. Death means human trafficking. Death means the earthquake that kills thousands of people who have not committed any deliberate sin that would presumably warrant an earthquake.

Death does keep us separated from God. Death is the cancer infesting our souls and bodies. Death is the reason that we sometimes do not know right from wrong. Death is the reason that sometimes knowing right from wrong we choose that which is evil, destructive. Sin is giving in to death. Sin is saying no to life. But again, the fundamental problem is death. Killing the cancer–not just treating the most drastic symptom.

Peace and grace! I love these conversations. Hope you are well and send out Epiphany blessings to everyone there.

Duane