Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Allah" is just Arabic for "God"

Having praised Stephen Bainbridge on occasion, I have to react to the stupidity of one of his most recent posts. Bainbridge denounces Dutch bishops for suggesting that "Allah" be used to denote God in Catholic services. He suggests this proposal is heretical.

"Allah" is, in fact, just the Arabic word for God. It has been used by Arab Christians and Jews since before Islam existed. A couple of Bainbridge's commenters note this fact. Naturally, the rest ignore them, preferring their own identity politics.

It is also Catholic doctrine that Muslims worship the same God as Christians: see Lumen Gentium, para. 16.

Update: In the comments, Fred S. raises Benedict's Regensburg's Address, claiming that it represents a repudiation of the position in Lumen Gentium. I don't think so. The paragraph in Lumen Gentium is cited in the Catechism Ratzinger was instrumental in putting together.

Clearly, at Regensburg, Benedict disagrees with what he takes to be the Muslim conception of God. But he also links that conception with the medieval nominalist and Protestant one. He is not saying that the God that the conceptions point to are different.

David Cheifetz raises the difficult question of how it is consistent to make claims about the nature of God while acknowledging that He/She/It infinitely transcends possible human understanding. I imagine Benedict would have an answer. Any Catholics wishing to make a go of it in the comments box are invited to do so.

Further Update: Daniel Larison, having recently completed an intensive course in Arabic, confirms that the Dutch churches are making a purely linguistic concession. However, he further notes that this is one of those wet gestures right-thinking people of all confessions should despise. The Pithlord is partial to such an ecumenism of crankiness.

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