The first excerpt from the book, Between Allah and Jesus, is now posted at Beliefnet by the author (Peter Kreeft) and is a conversation between the muslim character ‘Isa and his evangelical Christian colleague Evan about whether and where Islam and Christianity overlap. Rather than excerpt it, I urge readers to read it in full for themselves, and will assume so from here.
The initial contention that ‘Isa makes is a little puzzling to me. It’s an element of Islamic faith that Jesus AS is a prophet of God preceding Mohammed SAW. So why would I expect Christians to accept the Qur’an and remain Christian? The muslim character is making an unreasonable (and somewhat naive) demand of his Christian colleague. Part of Christian identity in the post-Islam world is to reject the notion that Christianity was incomplete; there’s no intellectually honest way for a Christian to allow for Mohammed SAW to be a genuine prophet of God without abandoning Christianity outright, in much the same way that no muslim can accept that Jesus AS is one aspect of God in a literal sense without ceasing to be muslim (and straying into shirk).
I found the excerpt to be somewhat ham-handed, in essence, in that initial exchange because the nature of Prophethood is indeed a “chronological snobbery” as Evan accuses ‘Isa. Inexplicably, ‘Isa backs down from that charge – quite unusual, given how direct and forthright ‘Isa is about his belief in Islam regardless of potential insult or offense. Chronology matters here. Calling it snobbery is just petulance on Evan’s part.
The second part of the conversation is more convincing – ‘Isa does a superb job of demolishing the argument by Evan that the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible are different. The analogy to the Eastern Orthodox is brilliant. In fact, this ties back to the first issue. The entire reason that the issue of whether Allah = God comes up is to deny the chronological snobbery of Prophetic revelation. If Allah is not God, then Muhammad SAW may be safely ignored. That Evan accepts Allah is God, is remarkable, but also somewhat unconvincing. I suppose from Evan’s point of view, muslims are praying to Jesus when then pray to Allah, so it’s all okay.
Ultimately the key point of contention here is indeed as ‘Isa notes that the primary object of faith in Islam is the book, and in Christianity it is the man. In fact, by virtue of that object of faith being the target of our reverence, it must be made divine. Hence, for muslims the Qur’an is the Word of God – which is the same title afforded to Jesus AS by Christians. This is how I rationalize my understanding of the Nicene Creed as genuinely not polytheistic but a sympathetic attempt by Christians to find a route towards the One True God. It is tawhid via a twisted path.
I prefer the straight path, myself 🙂 But if we stay true to these paths and arrive at the same destination, then Allah knows best.
Remember, bookmark Robert Gelinas’ blog during this series, as he will be providing a Christian perspective (not the Christian perspective, any more than my opinions are the Muslim one) and we will be discussing these issues with each other via inter-blog dialogue.