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Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus

Archive for the ‘John of Damascus’ Category

December 29th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Christians, Muslims, heresies, and “the same God”

st john damascene and the same God

An icon of St. John Damascene holding an Icon of Jesus Christ #meta

St. John of Damascus, or the Damascene, would be my patron saint, if, as a Protestant in the Anglo-Catholic tradition was allowed to have one. Otherwise, we can just say he is my…wait for it…. homeboy.

There has been a recent discussion on whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Many, mainly, evangelicals disagree. However, others (usually the theologically bereft, unitarians, liberals, progressives and atheists who still pretend to believe…oh, and the Pope) say “yes.”

I admit I am torn. I point to the nature of God Christians hold to. We believe God is a Trinity, that there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This nature is one of Love. I can point to other things as well, but each of them are a direct counter to the Islamic Allah. I can draw a line pointing to the Truth of Christian doctrine and the falseness of Islamic thought.

However, to be honest, I struggle with saying I worship the same God as people like Westboro, John Calvin, and the modalists.

But, if I turn to my patron saint, I learn how the Pope could suggest we worship the same deity. It is not moral relativism. It is not some theory of relativity. It is not the same as saying that all deities are essentially the same. Rather, we can affirm we worship the same God as Islam but do so in such a way as to stand with our forefathers in the faith while acknowledging the truthfulness and absoluteness of the Christianity creeds, and the more so, those who had to live under Islamic rule.

St. John, in his chapter on the “superstition of the Ishmaelites” doesn’t treat Islam as a separate and new religion, but as a heresy descending from Arianism and Nestorianism. It is a corruption upon corruption. Yet, Islam still holds to the same God, even if wrongly — even if in grave error. While he mocks their errors, he plainly sees the Muslims as a sect of Christian heretics.

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

So I guess I have to agree with St. John. We do worship the same God. They just get it wrong. Islam is a Christianity heresy.

Also, let me recommend to those who know everything there is that Google can provide on Islam but still appear rather silly on Facebook this book.


Check out this post by Dr. T. Marshall.

February 12th, 2015 by Joel Watts

St. John of Damascus on contemplation

I am writing a post on this, but views of the tree of knowledge of good and evil are often complicated and not really reaching to (what I feel is) the proper understanding. Yet, St. John comes pretty close to it.

English: Genesis : God the Father forbids Eve ...

English: Genesis : God the Father forbids Eve to pick the fruit from the tree of good and evil; marble bas-relief on the left pier of the façade of the cathedral; Orvieto, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tree of knowledge of good and evil is the power of discernment by multidimensional vision. This is the complete knowing of one’s own nature. Of itself it manifests the magnificence of the Creator, and it is good for them that are fullgrown and have walked in the contemplation of God—for them that have no fear of changing, because in the course of time they have acquired a certain habit of such contemplation. It is not good, however, for such as are still young and are more greedy in their appetites, who, because of the uncertainty of their perseverance in the true good and because of their not yet being solidly established in their application to the only good, are naturally inclined to be drawn away and distracted by their solicitude for their own bodies. Orthodox Faith 2.11.1

What does it mean to be self-knowing, to practice contemplation? I think this gets to the heart of the human experience.

  1.  Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, eds., Genesis 1–11 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 62–63.
January 14th, 2015 by Joel Watts

What do we do at the end of Christendom?


We live at the so-called end of Christendom. For most of the Western church’s history, its identity has been inseparable from the social, cultural and political institutions of wider society. But now the church’s identity is being slowly and painfully separated from secular society. The result is an identity crisis for the church. We have some vague notion that we are a community called by God to do God’s will, but we seem to lack a compelling description of what exactly that entails.

via Ministry Matters™ | What are theologians for?.

Anytime there is a discussion about the end of Christendom, one person springs to mind — St. John of Damascus (the Damascene). Why? Because when the Eastern empire came to a crashing, and crushing, halt, he survived to give theological aid to Christians living in a world hostile to them. In the end of his Christendom, he could a way to delve deeply into theological controversies in order to strengthen the ship and to aid the Church in ensuring its survival against the Islamic onslaught. He produced solid defenses of Christian doctrine, without backtracking or forgetting anything, finding a way to establish the goodness of God in everything.

Perhaps, as the end of Christendom comes, we should look East to see what role the Church played, what role theology played, and how theologians were shaped.

The dominant narrative of the West is no longer Christian and that is a good thing.

December 27th, 2014 by Joel Watts

St. John of Damascus on the Cross as icon

John of Damascus Greek icon.

John of Damascus Greek icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, then, this same truly precious and august tree, on which Christ hath offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sakes, is to be worshipped as sanctified by contact with His holy body and blood; likewise the nails, the spear, the clothes, His sacred tabernacles which are the manger, the cave, Golgotha, which bringeth salvation, the tomb which giveth life, Sion, the chief stronghold of the churches and the like, are to be worshipped. In the words of David, the father of God, We shall go into His tabernacles, we shall worship at the place where His feet stood. And that it is the Cross that is meant is made clear by what follows, Arise, O Lord, into Thy Rest. For the resurrection comes after the Cross. For if of those things which we love, house and couch and garment, are to be longed after, how much the rather should we long after that which belonged to God, our Saviour, by means of which we are in truth saved….Moreover we worship even the image of the precious and life-giving Cross, although made of another tree, not honouring the tree (God forbid) but the image as a symbol of Christ….1

A few notes (for myself). St. John’s language on the sacrifice is one of free-will. Again, St. John allows (demands?) the use of icons, not as a stand-in for worshiping God, but to draw our attention to God.

Further, I think there is something else there. For St. John, what Christ has touched has been made clean — divine?

  1.  John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. S. D. F. Salmond; vol. 9b; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 9b80.
November 5th, 2014 by Joel Watts

St. John Damascene on… “if you’re using part of Christianity, use the rest or dump it all” #holyimages

Generic Parchment Quote

Ironically enough, one of the greatest medieval Christian theologians lived under a Caliphate. What have we done with our freedom?

Is not the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life? Are not the gold and silver matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the veneration and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit.

John Damascene, On Holy Images (trans. Mary H. Allies; London: Thomas Baker, 1898), 16–17.

Maybe he didn’t really say the headline, although I would argue that it is a strong paraphrase.

For me, I’m not ready to take that hardline. I suspect it would be tempered by the iconoclastic controversy, wherein Christians who venerated the Bread and Wine fought to destroy the ancient icons. I mean, there is a bit of a hypocrisy there, right?

There some often times something of a hypocrisy in our religious affections. We proclaim love, but to what extent? Does all really mean all? Do we have the freedom to think but still remain orthodox?


And where do we get the authority to stop people from practicing Christianity how they see fit?


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