"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Allah: A Christian Response

In my classes on Eastern Christianity and the Encounter with Islam, I am regularly asked how a Christian ought to view Allah. Is the God of the New Testament the same as the God of the Quran? Are they completely and irreconcilably different figures? Are there similarities between them? And is it more important to understand the similarities or emphasize the differences? Too much of the emphasis, for obvious political reasons, has been lately on emphasizing similarities, almost invariably at a cost of being completely truthful and faithful to both Christian and Islamic theological sources. Following Stephen Prothero, in his fascinating new book, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World I take a dim view of efforts to conjure connections or suggest similarities solely to make people feel good while holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Those who do that either do not know what they are talking about or are being deliberately obscurantist in their approach, or both. The responsible approach, it seems to me, is to allow both Christian and Islamic traditions to speak for themselves without forcing them together artificially--but equally without polemically blasting them apart into two solitudes. 

These are questions that animate a new book by Myroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response (HarperOne, 2011), 336pp.

About this book, the publisher says:
Three and a half billion people—the majority of the world’s population—profess Christianity or Islam. Renowned scholar Miroslav Volf’s controversial proposal is that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God—the only God. As Volf reveals, warriors in the “clash of civilizations” have used “religions”—each with its own god and worn as a badge of identity—to divide and oppose, failing to recognize the one God whom Muslims and Christians understand in partly different ways.

Writing from a Christian perspective, and in dialogue with leading Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, Volf reveals surprising points of intersection and overlap between these two faith traditions:
• What the Qur’an denies about God as the Holy Trinity has been denied by every great teacher of the church in the past and ought to be denied by Christians today.

• A person can be both a practicing Muslim and 100 percent Christian without denying core convictions of belief and practice.

• How two faiths, worshiping the same God, can work toward the common good under a single government.

Volf explains the hidden agendas behind today’s news stories as he thoughtfully considers the words of religious leaders and parses the crucial passages from the Bible and the Qur’an that continue to ignite passion. Allah offers a constructive way forward by reversing the “our God vs. their God” premise that destroys bridges between neighbors and nations, magnifies fears, and creates strife.
I've already started reading it, and will have more to say about it on here later.

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