Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Islam and the Unitarians

It suddenly occurred to me that there might be a connection between the Unitarian Church and Islam, given the origins of the Church in Transylvania which was, at the time, on the border of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires. A 2004 paper by a Unitarian Universalist minister details the cross-cultural influences.

Anti-Socinian [anti-Unitarian] writers [...] were generally writing out of the alarmed conviction that Unitarianism might represent a stage towards conversion to Islam, a belief partially inherited from the early days of the magisterial reformation, when the spread of Islam was seen as both an extension of anti-Trinitarian heresies and as a consequence of divine wrath over such apostasy. After all, none other than Martin Luther himself had famously blamed the spread of Islam on the Unitarians in exactly this fashion, writing that “Arius’s punishment in hell becomes greater each day as long as this error lasts. For Mohammed came from this sect” (5:206). The ultimate concern about Unitarians was more than a concern with heresy: the ultimate worry was also political, with many Europeans fearing that Islamic-happy Unitarians might possibly sympathize with Ottoman ambitions, a concern that had more than an element of truth.

from Susan Ritchie: The Islamic Ottoman Influence on the Development of Religious Toleration in Reformation Transylvania

This is another example of the political sentiment: "My enemy's enemy is my friend." The Ottoman leaders would have exploited the Reformation divisions in order to gain religious and political influence among the Reformation Protestants. Likewise, Luther is exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment in order to argue against Unitarian theology.

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