Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

UPDATE: Looks like these folk consider OUR GOD to be the same - GO here

NOTE: Because I've been much less than pleased to see how often the magazine "Christianity Today" has ducked major issues regarding war, torture and America's accountability to the rest of the world, I was surprised to see an interview recently with a major American theologian.

Here is one interviewer's question with an answer which is among his most powerful:

Q: The American Civil War, one of the bloodiest wars ever, was one in which people actually did believe in the same God and the same Scriptures. This did not encourage peacemaking. Yet you still think it's important to affirm that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Why?

A. That's true. Some of the worst violence in the world today between estranged religious and ethnic groups happens not on the battlefields. It happens smack in the middle of living rooms and between people who share a lot, who have a lot in common. So my argument is not that having common values will prevent all violence. My argument is that having common values will make it possible to negotiate differences. In the absence of those common values, we either have to live sequestered in our own spaces (which I think is impossible in the modern world) or resort to violence in order to settle disputes."

Of course the need to also understand other issues within and among major traditions which are not addressed in this interview yet as far as this one goes, it's a huge step toward peacemaking in my opinion. To read the entire interview GO here

You may also want to read the over 165 comments already posted here ( Note that since this is clearly a conservative Christian magazine, you may be a bit shocked at some of the answers and they don't necessarily represent all of Christendom, thank God. Yet some of these responses may relieve us all that there is an attempt at dialogue. Perhaps you will comment as well? )

Here is information on Volf's new book:

One 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, worshipping 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.

Author Bio: Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founding director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. “One of the most celebrated theologians of our time,” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury), Volf is a leading expert on religion and conflict. His recent books include Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, and Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation—winner of the 2002 Grawmeyer Award in Religion.

Recent disputes like the "ground zero" mosque controversy have their roots in historical conflicts, according to Yale professor and author Volf (Exclusion and Embrace). The author, who grew up in what was then Yugoslavia, explains that Christians' ability to live in community with Muslims depends on their answer to one question: is the God of the Qur'an the same as the God of the Bible? With a conversational tone and the backing of both sacred texts, the author argues that while beliefs about God may differ, the object of worship for both religions is the same (or at least the objects are "sufficiently similar"). Such "claims are spicy," but come after careful consideration. Volf provides a thorough examination of theology to show the complexity of what seems a simple question of terminology.

Perhaps the most stirring and involved debate concerns the comparison of the Christian Trinity to Allah. On such a heated topic, readers will appreciate Volf's sense of humor and optimism. Though the text may not convince those who fear religious pluralism, his timely call for Christian love toward Muslims should at least lead to further dialogue, if not increased social cooperation. This is an important book. (Mar.) The above comments - Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information for Publisher's Weekly.

You may also want to see more articles by Theologian Miroslav Volf such as this on the abuses of so-thought officials in misled approaches" - Beliefnet News here

Also see the article called "Body Counts" here

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