Islamo-Christian civilization?

Some people are objecting to the notion that we have a “Judeo-Christian” civilization, arguing instead that what we have is an “Islamo-Christian” civilization.  See Does It Make Sense to Speak of Judeo-Christian Civilization? » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The reason we can speak of the former–even though the Jews were persecuted and marginalized– is that the formative text for Western civilization has been the BIBLE.  The Hebrew scriptures communicate a world view that, despite a whole array of religious differences, has become authoritative for Jews, Christians, and even (though they won’t admit it) secularists.

There is nothing like that commonality between Christians and Muslims.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    I’ll have to read the article, but arguments for this are made from the standpoint of this thought chain: Arabs preserved some of the writings of Greek philosophers, these writings made their way to Spain to places like Salamanca, thereby making those writings available through Spain to people like Francis Bacon, who then took them back to the rest of Europe, and the Renaissance happened. See? Islam is the causal factor in the rise of Europe!

  • SKPeterson

    I’ll have to read the article, but arguments for this are made from the standpoint of this thought chain: Arabs preserved some of the writings of Greek philosophers, these writings made their way to Spain to places like Salamanca, thereby making those writings available through Spain to people like Francis Bacon, who then took them back to the rest of Europe, and the Renaissance happened. See? Islam is the causal factor in the rise of Europe!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    We have no commonality with Islam. With Judaism, we can point to the roots of Christianity; with Islam we are looking at a false religion, plain and simple, with more in relation to Mormonism than with true Christianity.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    We have no commonality with Islam. With Judaism, we can point to the roots of Christianity; with Islam we are looking at a false religion, plain and simple, with more in relation to Mormonism than with true Christianity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The Hebrew scriptures communicate a world view that, despite a whole array of religious differences, has become authoritative for Jews, Christians, and even (though they won’t admit it) secularists.

    Yeah, I don’t see that. Hebrew scripture worldview is overtly and consistently one of Jewish ethnic supremacy. Christianity and Islam are universal. Each seeks the conversion of the whole world. Judaism promises prosperity to Jews and their continued existence.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The Hebrew scriptures communicate a world view that, despite a whole array of religious differences, has become authoritative for Jews, Christians, and even (though they won’t admit it) secularists.

    Yeah, I don’t see that. Hebrew scripture worldview is overtly and consistently one of Jewish ethnic supremacy. Christianity and Islam are universal. Each seeks the conversion of the whole world. Judaism promises prosperity to Jews and their continued existence.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    sg,
    I would sat that a perversion of the Hebrew Scripture worldview promotes Jewish ethnic supremacy, just like a potential perversion of the New Testament could do the same for Christians.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    sg,
    I would sat that a perversion of the Hebrew Scripture worldview promotes Jewish ethnic supremacy, just like a potential perversion of the New Testament could do the same for Christians.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @4 Oh, come on. The Old Testament is chock full of stuff just for Jews. That is just a plain face value reading of the Hebrew scripture and certainly what Jews believe.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @4 Oh, come on. The Old Testament is chock full of stuff just for Jews. That is just a plain face value reading of the Hebrew scripture and certainly what Jews believe.

  • trotk

    sg, are you purposefully ignoring the fact that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a nation in whom all the other nations would be blessed?

    The OT is explicit in the fact that God’s salvation is for all men, even though it comes through the Jews.

  • trotk

    sg, are you purposefully ignoring the fact that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a nation in whom all the other nations would be blessed?

    The OT is explicit in the fact that God’s salvation is for all men, even though it comes through the Jews.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @6 Can you point that out to me, please?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @6 Can you point that out to me, please?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    There is no “one” Christian worldview, Jewish Worldview, Islamic worldview. There are very broad ranges – and with each holder insisting that theirs is the only true consistent worldview.

    Are there legalistic, patriarchal, ultra-conservative worldviews with aggressive undertones in all three? Absolutely. Currently much more prevalent in Islam, but if you investigate, you’ll find the same tendencies in Ultra-orthodox Judaism, and certain strands of fundamentalistic Christianity. But those are not the only versions…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    There is no “one” Christian worldview, Jewish Worldview, Islamic worldview. There are very broad ranges – and with each holder insisting that theirs is the only true consistent worldview.

    Are there legalistic, patriarchal, ultra-conservative worldviews with aggressive undertones in all three? Absolutely. Currently much more prevalent in Islam, but if you investigate, you’ll find the same tendencies in Ultra-orthodox Judaism, and certain strands of fundamentalistic Christianity. But those are not the only versions…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sorry, should be “fundamentalist”, not “fundamentalistic” above.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sorry, should be “fundamentalist”, not “fundamentalistic” above.

  • fjsteve

    SKP, wouldn’t that mean we have a Greco-Christian culture? And if we’re pointing to the Renaissance as the budding of Western civilization, perhaps we should add Greco-Christian-Bubonic culture.

  • fjsteve

    SKP, wouldn’t that mean we have a Greco-Christian culture? And if we’re pointing to the Renaissance as the budding of Western civilization, perhaps we should add Greco-Christian-Bubonic culture.

  • trotk

    sg, point what out, specifically? I am not trying to be obnoxious, just wanting to know where you want clarification. I agree with you that Judaism “seeks the conversion of the whole world,” but disagree that about your point that the OT is only for Jews.

    The mechanics are, like temple worship, etc, but the essence isn’t. Paul goes to great pains to show that Abraham’s faith was prior to circumcision – ie, the part that was specifically for the Jews.

    The kingdom of priests is from Ex. 19:6. That all the world will be blessed in Israel is in Gen 12:3. The Jews were told to pray for the prosperity of other cities (Jer. 29:7), were sent for the redemption of other nations/peoples (Jonah, and other smaller examples). (I am sure these are things you know, and thus wonder if I am missing your point.)

    I may be missing your point, but I would phrase it as saying that the OT is for the Jews, that the revelation of God would be through the Jews to all people.

  • trotk

    sg, point what out, specifically? I am not trying to be obnoxious, just wanting to know where you want clarification. I agree with you that Judaism “seeks the conversion of the whole world,” but disagree that about your point that the OT is only for Jews.

    The mechanics are, like temple worship, etc, but the essence isn’t. Paul goes to great pains to show that Abraham’s faith was prior to circumcision – ie, the part that was specifically for the Jews.

    The kingdom of priests is from Ex. 19:6. That all the world will be blessed in Israel is in Gen 12:3. The Jews were told to pray for the prosperity of other cities (Jer. 29:7), were sent for the redemption of other nations/peoples (Jonah, and other smaller examples). (I am sure these are things you know, and thus wonder if I am missing your point.)

    I may be missing your point, but I would phrase it as saying that the OT is for the Jews, that the revelation of God would be through the Jews to all people.

  • dust

    seems to me the views expressed in 3 and 5 are similar to those that fueled a lot of the persecution the jews have endured over the years?

    no cheers for you :(

  • dust

    seems to me the views expressed in 3 and 5 are similar to those that fueled a lot of the persecution the jews have endured over the years?

    no cheers for you :(

  • rlewer

    It could be argued that teaching the Pharisees and the Moslems
    concerning the Law was/is quite similar.

    It is the Gospel that makes Christianity different and totally different from either Judaism or Islam or any other religion.

  • rlewer

    It could be argued that teaching the Pharisees and the Moslems
    concerning the Law was/is quite similar.

    It is the Gospel that makes Christianity different and totally different from either Judaism or Islam or any other religion.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @11 Central to Judaism is their ethnic supremacy.

    I mean, even your take on it, salvation of the whole world will come through the Jews, and they are chosen by the Master of the Universe to be the most specialist people ever, but they aren’t at the top or anything. I mean, seriously. The OT makes it clear that Jews are the most favored by God, not that it should be considered anything special, you know. Seriously. That is ethnic supremacy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @11 Central to Judaism is their ethnic supremacy.

    I mean, even your take on it, salvation of the whole world will come through the Jews, and they are chosen by the Master of the Universe to be the most specialist people ever, but they aren’t at the top or anything. I mean, seriously. The OT makes it clear that Jews are the most favored by God, not that it should be considered anything special, you know. Seriously. That is ethnic supremacy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think Veith’s summary of the article doesn’t do a very good job of actually, well, summarizing the article.

    But whatever. I almost always disagree with whatever point is being made if it employs the adjective “Judeo-Christian”. It is a flawed concept — if not in principle, then at least as it has been employed.

    For one thing, it is typically bandied about in an attempt to distinguish “Judeo-Christian” morals from some other moral system. This is almost universally done to show how superior these “Judeo-Christian” morals are. And, ipso facto, how superior “Judeo-Christians” are. Except that there exist no such things as “Judeo-Christians”. And to brag about Christianity’s superior system of morals is to well and truly miss the whole point about Christianity.

    Of course, these days, the point is usually being made about how horrible any and all Muslims are. They’re so barbaric, don’t you know, without the refined morals that we “Judeo-Christians” have. Except that, you know, the history of both Christians — and, if not exactly Jews, then certainly Israelites — does seem to possess more than a few instances of just that same sort of barbarity, somehow in spite of any “Judeo-Christianity”.

    Sure, Jews and Christians share a common text in the Old Testament. But their understandings about that text are obviously radically different. If we’re going to completely ignore those radically different approaches and lump them both together as one system or civilization, then on what ground can you say that “There is nothing like that commonality between Christians and Muslims”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think Veith’s summary of the article doesn’t do a very good job of actually, well, summarizing the article.

    But whatever. I almost always disagree with whatever point is being made if it employs the adjective “Judeo-Christian”. It is a flawed concept — if not in principle, then at least as it has been employed.

    For one thing, it is typically bandied about in an attempt to distinguish “Judeo-Christian” morals from some other moral system. This is almost universally done to show how superior these “Judeo-Christian” morals are. And, ipso facto, how superior “Judeo-Christians” are. Except that there exist no such things as “Judeo-Christians”. And to brag about Christianity’s superior system of morals is to well and truly miss the whole point about Christianity.

    Of course, these days, the point is usually being made about how horrible any and all Muslims are. They’re so barbaric, don’t you know, without the refined morals that we “Judeo-Christians” have. Except that, you know, the history of both Christians — and, if not exactly Jews, then certainly Israelites — does seem to possess more than a few instances of just that same sort of barbarity, somehow in spite of any “Judeo-Christianity”.

    Sure, Jews and Christians share a common text in the Old Testament. But their understandings about that text are obviously radically different. If we’re going to completely ignore those radically different approaches and lump them both together as one system or civilization, then on what ground can you say that “There is nothing like that commonality between Christians and Muslims”?

  • trotk

    sg, honestly, I find your take to be silly. Every ethnic group believes that it is superior to others, to my knowledge.

    The Old Testament actually chastises the people of Israel far more than puts them on a pedestal. God chose them before they were a people (hence before they merited anything), and they treated Him the way an unfaithful wife would treat her husband. And yet He pursued them. That’s the common theme.

    Sure, He had them destroy the unclean sinners around them, but He also had the unclean sinners destroy them. If you walk away from that and says the Old Testament is chock full of ethnic superiority, you are missing the major point.

    Romans 2 does make it clear that Jews thought that they were superior, but it was for one reason – they had been given the Law. You know, the same Law that Joshua told them they wouldn’t be able to keep and the same Law that all the prophets chastised them for not keeping. They might have felt superior, just as all people groups do, but the Old Testament reveals the opposite.

  • trotk

    sg, honestly, I find your take to be silly. Every ethnic group believes that it is superior to others, to my knowledge.

    The Old Testament actually chastises the people of Israel far more than puts them on a pedestal. God chose them before they were a people (hence before they merited anything), and they treated Him the way an unfaithful wife would treat her husband. And yet He pursued them. That’s the common theme.

    Sure, He had them destroy the unclean sinners around them, but He also had the unclean sinners destroy them. If you walk away from that and says the Old Testament is chock full of ethnic superiority, you are missing the major point.

    Romans 2 does make it clear that Jews thought that they were superior, but it was for one reason – they had been given the Law. You know, the same Law that Joshua told them they wouldn’t be able to keep and the same Law that all the prophets chastised them for not keeping. They might have felt superior, just as all people groups do, but the Old Testament reveals the opposite.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    So trotk, do you believe your ethnic group is superior?

    Does your ethnic group believe it is superior?

    If so, what evidence is there?

    Anyway, yes Jews had the Law. They were chosen before they existed so to speak. And do they still see themselves as superior because they have the Law? Is there any evidence?

    I am not saying that was the only aspect of Judaism, but it was an aspect.

    Anyway, compare them to the Romans or Greeks who just made up Gods, including themselves. They didn’t seem to see their religion as superior. Rather they were just the usual ethnocentric minus the inherent superiority part.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    So trotk, do you believe your ethnic group is superior?

    Does your ethnic group believe it is superior?

    If so, what evidence is there?

    Anyway, yes Jews had the Law. They were chosen before they existed so to speak. And do they still see themselves as superior because they have the Law? Is there any evidence?

    I am not saying that was the only aspect of Judaism, but it was an aspect.

    Anyway, compare them to the Romans or Greeks who just made up Gods, including themselves. They didn’t seem to see their religion as superior. Rather they were just the usual ethnocentric minus the inherent superiority part.

  • trotk

    sg, you are changing your argument. I don’t disagree with what you posted in 17, and I am not going to answer your question overtly, because I already included myself in my original statement.

    You originally stated that “Hebrew scripture worldview is overtly and consistently one of Jewish ethnic supremacy.” My only point is that while the Jewish people, like all of us, may view themselves as superior, this ISN’T the message of “Hebrew Scripture.” This ignores the fact that the Hebrew Scripture blatantly and repeatedly points out two things:

    1. Salvation is for all who will receive it. The Jews are merely mediators to the rest of the world of God’s word.
    2. The Jews failed at nearly every turn.

  • trotk

    sg, you are changing your argument. I don’t disagree with what you posted in 17, and I am not going to answer your question overtly, because I already included myself in my original statement.

    You originally stated that “Hebrew scripture worldview is overtly and consistently one of Jewish ethnic supremacy.” My only point is that while the Jewish people, like all of us, may view themselves as superior, this ISN’T the message of “Hebrew Scripture.” This ignores the fact that the Hebrew Scripture blatantly and repeatedly points out two things:

    1. Salvation is for all who will receive it. The Jews are merely mediators to the rest of the world of God’s word.
    2. The Jews failed at nearly every turn.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    1. Salvation is for all who will receive it. The Jews are merely mediators to the rest of the world of God’s word.
    2. The Jews failed at nearly every turn.

    How does that negate their supremacy? We all fail. So? They are still the ones God chose. Their religion is the only true religion. Their God is the biggest best God. That puts them at the top.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    1. Salvation is for all who will receive it. The Jews are merely mediators to the rest of the world of God’s word.
    2. The Jews failed at nearly every turn.

    How does that negate their supremacy? We all fail. So? They are still the ones God chose. Their religion is the only true religion. Their God is the biggest best God. That puts them at the top.

  • trotk

    Again sg, it is not about whether they are or aren’t. It is about your original contention that this is the consistent message of Hebrew scripture. Hebrew scripture, other than noting that the Jews were chosen, never claims that the were better, although they were called to be holy.

  • trotk

    Again sg, it is not about whether they are or aren’t. It is about your original contention that this is the consistent message of Hebrew scripture. Hebrew scripture, other than noting that the Jews were chosen, never claims that the were better, although they were called to be holy.

  • dust

    sg…”MERELY”? that helps explain a lot of your confusion…

    no cheers for you :(

  • dust

    sg…”MERELY”? that helps explain a lot of your confusion…

    no cheers for you :(

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    sg@5, I’m sorry but your assertion comes awfully close to making the O.T. a man-made book of racial superiority instead of the inspired Scriptures. That’s a dangerous stance to take, sir.

    And in light of the fact that Israel is often cast in a bad light in the O.T. by means of their repeated corporate disobedience to God, I think your assertion needs to be reconsidered.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    sg@5, I’m sorry but your assertion comes awfully close to making the O.T. a man-made book of racial superiority instead of the inspired Scriptures. That’s a dangerous stance to take, sir.

    And in light of the fact that Israel is often cast in a bad light in the O.T. by means of their repeated corporate disobedience to God, I think your assertion needs to be reconsidered.

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  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Hebrew scripture, other than noting that the Jews were chosen, never claims that the were better, although they were called to be holy.”

    Right and being holy is not better than well, not holy. Anyway, go back and look at my comments. You won’t find the word better in them. What does better mean to you in this context anyway? I said, superior, as in a hierarchy or specialness, and set apart, not to be mixing their people and religion with those unholy folks. Also, even under persecution, they were expected to revere their God above the king not just equal to the king as in the story of Daniel. Jewish loyalty to God trumps king’s orders. Also, the story of Esther. Jewish loyalty to Jews trumps loyalty to king.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Hebrew scripture, other than noting that the Jews were chosen, never claims that the were better, although they were called to be holy.”

    Right and being holy is not better than well, not holy. Anyway, go back and look at my comments. You won’t find the word better in them. What does better mean to you in this context anyway? I said, superior, as in a hierarchy or specialness, and set apart, not to be mixing their people and religion with those unholy folks. Also, even under persecution, they were expected to revere their God above the king not just equal to the king as in the story of Daniel. Jewish loyalty to God trumps king’s orders. Also, the story of Esther. Jewish loyalty to Jews trumps loyalty to king.

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