Apikorsus says we’re only occasionally about theology; she’s right. The funny thing is, when I got the group together it was because I felt the religion of Islam had gotten short-shrift in media coverage and I wanted to talk about the theology of Islam as I understood; it’s what my background is in at the master’s level. Events have clearly moved us into a need to be much more responsive than long, meandering posts on theology would allow us to be, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a few cooking. There is a theological issue we’d like people’s help in understanding.

Demi over at Pilgrim’s Progress posts, and comments, that she’s surprised how calm we can be (thank you for the blessing and may they be returned to you a thousand-fold).

Part of the ease lies in the fact that all of us are friends and we vent before we post. It helps sharpen our arguments (so you should be frightened as to how scatter-brained we actually are) and keeps the real anger from obscuring our ideas.

We also do discuss theology. SAM I AM, Ghost Dog, This is Me and I got together a few weeks ago to talk about the idea of intercession in Islam. In Shi’ah Islam, the Imam is the intercessor for the community. In Sunni Islam, the role has traditionally been fulfilled by the Prophet (PBUH). Sufi tariqahs, paths, have their shaykh/pir who may play that role.

SAM I AM did some leg work on Catholicism and I discovered John 3:17 (no, it’s not a typo). What we realized is that we don’t know a lot about how intercession is viewed both theologically in other faith traditions, and what it means to practitioners of the faith.

I would love to hear what other people have to contribute, and hopefully we’ll get something together to post. As I’m writing this I see SAM I AM has posted his outline on amâna, another topic he’s on right now. I’ve got one on the ethic of education in Islam that should be appearing soon.

2 thoughts on “Intercession

  1. Thanks for the link, but thank you even more, again, for being voices of calm in this storm. If you can be calm, maybe I can get calmer. Father Jake, my husband, encouraged me to visit your site and to link it. I have no doubt he’ll visit later today (he’s doing Priest Things right now). 🙂
    It sounds as though you’re opening the discussion to various understandings from different traditions of intercession. If I have misunderstood, my apologies.
    From what I understand, there are several ways to view the “redemption” or “intercession” in Christian thought. One is the “sacrificial lamb” idea, where the actual physical death of Jesus had a salvific effect on the world. Another is to see that form of intercession as a sacrifice that was made so that Jesus could get his message out to the world, to reform the heart and conscience, and lift us higher in terms of our evolution. One of our theologians has listed at least four different ways to understand the redemption in Christian thought. So, according to my own understanding of the tradition, Christians believe (mostly…mileage varies, of course) that Jesus is the intercessor between God and humans.
    However, as time went on, there were other martyrs “for the faith.” A common saying is “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” I’ve even heard it said that the doors of many churches are painted red to honor those sacrifices. In that sense, there are other lesser “intercessors”…in Roman Catholicism for instance, there are the saints and Mary, who are “asked to intercede” for us with God. Many Protestants would shudder and shrink back in horror at an idea like that (because Protestant theology tends more toward the “Jesus only” model of intercession) Mileage varies, depending on which branch of Christianity we’re looking at.
    We are Episcopalians, which means we have some Catholic features and some Protestant features. In both the Catholic and the Episcopal liturgies there is a part in the service where you turn to one another and say “Peace be with you.” It’s a sort of “pbuh” moment. 🙂
    Peace be with you. And thank you for being voices of peace and reason. I really *do* feel so much better when I read your posts.

  2. In the Hebrew scriptures, priests and prophets serve as intercessors between ordinary people and God. In Rabbinic tradition, this role is filled by righteous men. In contemporary Hasidic communities, the Rebbe serves as a bridge between human and divine. Some Jews pray at the graves of those thought to be righteous and holy in the hope that they will interecede with God on their behalf.
    For most contemporary Jews, though, there are no intercessors. Though Rabbinic writings are full of laments over the loss of the Temple and the priests, in part because of their role as interecessors, many Jews now say that one of the things they love about Judaism is that we have no such institution. Everyone has equal access to God, so to speak.
    In some respects, the community can act as an “intercessor” between the individual and the Divine. There is a sense that communal prayer is more powerful than individual prayer. So when someone is sick, for example, we have a prayer for them offered before a quorum of ten rather than simply praying for them on our own.
    Most contemporary Jews don’t like to admit this, but we also have a tradition that the “blood of the righteous atones.” In part, the idea developed as a substitute for the temple sacrifice. But I think it also served as a sort of psychological salve. Nobody wants to think that their righteous have died in vain. In times when Jews have been persecuted, we’ve used this idea to strengthen our morale. The category of “those who die for the sanctification of [God’s] Name” expanded from people who allowed themselves to be killed rather than violate Jewish law to anyone who died simply on account of being a Jew.
    For my own part, I like to think that the power of atonement is in our own hands as individuals and communities. Hopefully, we are inspired by righteous individuals and by communal prayer. Hopefully, when we witness tragedy, we turn it into an impetus for good. But it’s only by changing our behavior that we really accomplish anything.
    I hope this was at least somewhat interesting.

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