Now, let us turn our attention to why Paul spoke up in Fair Havens, even though it was probably predictable that he would not have been likely to have been heard, and may even have been made to sound as if he were an idiot speaking out of turn.
Perhaps, a contemporary parallel will help us see why it is sometimes important -- and even commanded by God -- to speak the unwelcome truth, even if you "lose the argument" in the short term. [Remember, mere facts and logical reasoning are usually the LEAST persuasive form of argument.]
For instance, if you have been listening to the BBC or the like over the past day or so, you will have heard how Pope Benedict XVI has offended many Muslims and others, in a recent lecture at Regensburg, in which he quoted the C14 Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos, from a debate with a learned Persian.
As The Australian reports in a well-researched article:
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said. "He said, I quote: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."' [NB: Cf Q 9:29 & 5 below.]
Clearly aware of the sensitivity of the issue, Benedict added "I quote" twice before pronouncing the phrases on Islam and described them as "brusque", while neither explicitly agreeing with nor repudiating them.
"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable," Benedict said in the 32-minute lecture on the relationship between faith and reason. [You may wish to see my own notes on that here.]
"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul," he said, issuing an open invitation to dialogue among cultures.
Reiterating his concerns about a modern world "deaf" to God, he warned that other religious cultures saw the West's exclusion of God "as an attack on their most profound convictions".
"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures, " . . . .
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict used Emperor Manuel's views on Islam only to help explain the issue and not to condemn all of the Muslim religion as violent.
"We know that inside Islam there are many different positions, violent and non-violent," he said. "The Pope does not want to give an interpretation of Islam that is violent."
Many Islamic leaders have denounced Muslim radicals for using violence, saying this perverts their faith, but a minority of extremists say the Koran commands them to use it.
Last week, the Pope said no one had the right to use religion to justify terrorism.
At an open-air mass on Monday, Benedict told about 260,000 faithful that Christians believed in a loving God whose name could not be used to justify hatred and fanaticism.
Notice how the wider context of the West's need to open up its conception of reasoning, by no longer conflating reason and naturalistic rationalism, has been lost in much of the reporting.
Also largely lost -- cf. the response from a Muslim cleric below -- is the subtle point that the Pope is underscoring the Catholic Church's turning away from the grave errors and indefensible evils that stemmed from its unbiblical advocacy of the crusades in an earlier era -- a point that has in recent years been publicly underscored by Pope John Paul II's apologies and prayers of penitence during his visits to sites of the crusades. [In short, the Roman Catholic Church has first sought to publicly take the beam out of its own eye, before addressing others correctively, as Jesus required in Matt 7:1 - 5.]
Then, too, it is unsurprising that in a time when Islamist terrorism and jihad are major issues that are yet to be frankly and fully discussed in light of the unfortunate facts of the Quran -- cf 9:5, 29 - 31 -- and of the militancy of Islam's founding era, the international media picked up the outcry. A telling case in point is from the leading Muslim Cleric in Turkey, Ali Bardakoglu, which the Pope is due to visit later this year -- his first planned visit as pope to an Islamic country. As AP reports:
Bardakoglu said Thursday that he expected an apology from the pope and said it was Christianity, not Islam, that popularized conversion by the sword.
"The church and the Western public, because they saw Islam as the enemy, went on crusades. They occupied Istanbul, they killed thousands of people. Orthodox Christians and Jews were killed and tortured," he said . . .
AP astutely amplifies: Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, was the capital of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine Christian empires before being conquered by Ottoman Muslims in 1453. Of course, before it was so-renamed by the conquering Ottoman Turks, it had been known as Constantinople, who among other things turned the leading church in Constantinople, the wonderful Hagia Sophia, into a Mosque. [The Attaturk regime turned it into a Museum.] Not to mention, in fact, the first several centuries of the Christian era were marked by Christians who bore peaceful witness to an unwelcome gospel, even at the expense of their lives.
(Also, in a subtle distractor from the Pope's point, the Islamic cleric adverts to the occasion where Venetian-led crusaders, deflected from their more normal focus on recapturing the Holy Land from its Muslim conquerers, attacked Constantinople. Unaddressed: the prior hundreds of years of jihad wars that for instance from 62os to the 730's took the domain of Islam forward by the sword, from Medina to India in the East and France in the West. It is impossible to make the case that that vast arc of conquest that created today's Muslim heartland largely at the expense of precisely the Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire, was as a result of "defensive" actions.)
In short, part of the balancing context we should address - but which is of course missing from much of the news coverage, which instead has too often seemed to make the pope sound like an idiotic hypocrite -- is the unfortunate fact that Islam has in material part been spread by the sword, right from its founding era, and the further sad fact that that was justified by not only the example set by Mohammed and the four "rightly guided" Caliphs, as is encoded in the sharia law, but by Quranic passages such as:
9:29 Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued . . . .
9:5 But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. [This is the infamous Sword Verse.]
That these passages are often, and indeed historically have usually been, taken to mean just what they seem to say is an unfortunate fact of the current radical islamist movement. But also we can see it in the thought of a great many other more "moderate" muslims, e.g. the attitude of for instance Pakistan's Brigadier S. K. Malik, in the preface to his The Quranic Concept of War, as cited by Silas of answering-islam.org:
"But in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His Will and work against the every purpose of the creation of mankind."
"Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the above verses in the Quran to be able to contend that world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is a sufficient answer to make... that the defiance of God's authority by one who is His slaves exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and as such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law, is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity.... It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means, in order to save the rest of humanity."
There are of course simply no parallels to such a sentiment in the New Testament, the distinctively Christian Scriptures. Indeed, the specific "sword passage" in the NT, Rom 13:1 - 7, is in a context that immediately implies that the pagan Roman Emperor, Nero -- admittedly before he went quite insane -- was not only legitimate but God's Servant to do us good, in part by bearing the sword in defense of justice from evildoers!
But all of these nuances are liable to be lost in today's shouting, just as Paul's cautions were lost in the dismissive rhetoric of that fateful day in October 59: a prisoner arguing against the Ship's Owner and Pilot -- ridiculous!
So, then, why bother speak up when it is likely to be unwelcome? Should we not rather instead remember that while speech may be silver, silence is golden?
First and foremost, because if God tells us to speak up, and how, we should:
AM 3:7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
AM 3:8 The lion has roared--
who will not fear?
The Sovereign LORD has spoken--
who can but prophesy?
Second, such a prophetic caution is often a vital stage in the reformation to follow as the folly of rejecting godly wisdom soon enough manifests itself.
Then, there will be a dire need for a good man in the storm -- and having the courage to speak unwelcome truth and wisdom is often a qualification for such an important but thankless job. (Next time, we will see how that happened with Paul, and draw out lessons for our own situation.) END