Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dr. George Bebawi Lectures on Islam

(photo used without permission)

Dr. George Bebawi gave a lecture last night on the Islamic faith and its relation to Christianity. Let me begin by saying that he provided a wealth of information and, even more importantly, inspired those in attendance to learn more about the topic.

In my last post about this lecture, an anonymous comment was left to inform us that Dr. George Bebawi has been excommunicated from the Coptic Orthodox Church. Before I address that, I have to say that in my limited understanding of the Orthodox faith, I heard nothing last night that contradicts any Orthodox views or doctrines. Also, I found the referenced Al-Ahram article, and thought I would share these excerpts:

Whereas the church clergy supported his expulsion on the grounds it would curb the spread of what one termed distorted thoughts, many secularist Coptic thinkers slammed the church decision as returning to the era of the inquisition.

Bebawi had told the press that the Synod's decision was illegitimate since he was not invited to a debate where he could discuss his views.

Zakher argued Bebawi was not given a chance to explain his views before being expelled, and wondered why he was expelled at this particular time when his teachings have been around since the 1970s.

So as far as his excommunication goes, I'm siding with Rab who said, "I don’t know all the details, but from what I’ve heard, it tells more about the heterodoxy of the Coptic patriarch than it does of Dr. George." That's all I have to say about that.

Hopefully we can get a copy of the lecture, because my thoughts on what he said are a jumbled mess and I'll never be able to adequately convey what he said. As far as lectures go, this was one of the best I've heard. The man knows how to speak (even with a thick accent). Add to it the fact that he is extremely educated on an interesting topic and you'll understand why it was such a great lecture.

I'm just going to throw out a few things that have stuck in my mind. Hopefully others who attended will write more and comment here and we can piece together what we learned.

Dr. George touched on some of the major differences between Islam and Christianity. One interesting point that he made is that Muslims follow the Law of God. They are told what is right and wrong and are rewarded for Good, and punished for Evil. Through this system, they will never come to know God. If you do good only for the sake of the reward, then your mind is always fixed on the reward and not on the actual good. Likewise, if you do good, only to avoid the punishment for evil, you learn nothing of goodness. I could go on for days trying to discuss this one, but I think that was the general idea.

Also, I should add that Dr. George emphatically stated that the English translation of the Qur'an cannot be trusted. Along those lines, he said that the phrase "God created man in his image and likeness" (loose translation) has been somehow removed from the Qur'an. This is huge, as it devalues humanity as a whole and each of us as individuals. It is also interesting to note that Christianity tells us to love our enemies. You won't find anything close to that in the Qur'an.

He also made mention of the 99 Names of God in the Qur'an, informing us that four of the names are actually demonic. I can't remember them all, but "The Accuser" and "The Avenger" come to mind. He also says that "Love" is not one of the names. Which is pretty much our definition of God.

One of the biggest differences that stood out to me was that we believe we will be made to be "like Christ." In essence, we will become like God. Saying that will probably get you killed in Islamic countries. This is so important to Christianity and to our belief in who we are and who God is. It is how we can love our neighbors as ourselves and do good for goodness sake. This is done for us through Christ, and not because we deserve it or earned it. I won't go into the obvious discussion that could be had here.

I wish I could have heard him speak more about the education of Islam. He pointed out five important aspects of education that Muslims are not allowed to do with their religion. I can't remember what they were, but it was very profound (somebody who was there help me out here). Basically, they have not learned to think for themselves and are not allowed to question the beliefs that have been passed down to them.

Near the end of the discussion, Dr. George touched on terrorism. I have a hunch that if he comes to speak to us again, this may be the focal point of the lecture. The interesting point that he made is that Muslims have no patriotism. They fight for religion, and a British Muslim has no less hatred for infidels than a Saudi Muslim.

There was so much more that was said and I wish I could remember it all. Hopefully he'll come to speak again; I have the feeling that he will.

DISCLAIMER: The above synopsis of the lecture comes from my memory, having taken no notes. Any misinformation provided is a result of my ignorance and should not be misconstrued with the actual information provided at the lecture by Dr. George. If any of the above is incorrect, please enlighten me.

Other posts about the lecture:

B: Dr. George Bebawi Speaks

A Whistling Train: Theosis and The Kingdom


Brian said...

I can't remember them all either, but a couple of the things, or "humanities", that Islam forbids are:

1) Philology
2) Religious Comparisons
3) Philosophy
4) Historical Studies
5) ...not sure... anyone else?

Joshua said...

Textual Criticisim?

Arthur said...

Yes! I think that's it. At least those all sound right to me. Does anyone know if that video that were taking is going to be available to the public?

Phil said...

Good job getting all 5 points. I could only remember 4 of them afterward. I thought that when he mentioned Philology, that he was going to start talking about the study of...well, me.
I think my favorite part was when he started talking about how Christ only mentions God twice: on the cross and...I can't remember the other one, but he always speaks of the Father. So, Christ came to reveal the Father; The Holy Spirit was sent to reveal Christ; and we (the Church) are here to reveal the Holy Spirit. I'd never heard that before, so I kinda liked it. Well, because I pretty much could have given the disortation on everything else that he said, right?

Arthur said...

Oh yeah! I forgot about that one. That was an interesting point he made as well. I never realized that Christ never mentions God. I definitely need to read more Bible. But that was a good point. Thanks Phil-ology.

Wish my name was a root word.

Sherry said...

Hi again. I wrote my comment regard Anonymous's concern on your previous post, Josh, but I thought you guys would be interested in knowing that Dr George is going to speak on June 9th, from 10-3 at St Nicholas. The subject will the Bible and the Divine Liturgy with Danielou's text of the same name as the suggested reading. You need to sign up ahead of time (cost is $25 and lunch - a huge lunch - is included). You can email me or Fr Stevan at Joy of All Who Sorrow for more info.

Ok, I'll stop the intrusion. ;) Sherry

Anonymous said...

Dr Bebawi is a highly engaging speaker, but also someone who is deeply mixed up as a human being... this colours much of what he says.

Anonymous said...

anonymous- Well, I have heard nothing that would convince me that he is "deeply mixed up." Not sure what you're talking about or why you remain anonymous. Next time, please provide reference to facts before discrediting someone.


Pie and Ear Blogging said...

Dr Bebawi was one of my tutors at college for 3 years. He's a wonderful and godly man - one of the most deeply spiritual men I have ever met, and one who has a most intimate relationship with Christ. His only problem is that he does not readily fit with the western culture because of his middle eastern ways, and he doesn't fit within the coptic setup because of his uncompromising outspokeness! Is he unorthodox in any theology? I would say absolutely not - he is classically orthodoc through to the middle!

Charles Read said...

George was my tutor at theological college too and I'd agree with all Pie and Ear says - George was a godly, supportive, profound and infuriating man! His teaching techniques were like no other and he left a profounf imopression on me!

Anonymous said...

Why Dr Bebawi was excommunicated:
In the late 1970s & early 1980z, there was lots of trouble in Egypt between Muslims & Christians (starting the trend that has persisted till now). On Easter 1981 (I don't remember the exact year so it's +\- a year) pope Shenouda III decided not to go public with Easter celebrations (gestures including inviting government officials to churches etc etc it's all politics), as a way to tell the government he was pissed off. The president took that as defiance, and he was this close to charging the pope with treason; so, the pope ended up almost deposed and replaced by the government. He did go into seclusion in a monastery, to avoid being actually escorted there by the government. Where does Dr Bebawi come in? He publicly criticized the pope's actions as political stupidity. That was it. Plus, Dr Bebawi is an avid student of Fr Matta the Poor (another genius also disliked by church authorities - but that's another story), which makes him like on the A list of church "enemies". My opinion? Dr Bebawi is almost a prophet!