Last weekend the LA Times had a review of Miroslav Volf’s upcoming book on Christian and Muslim theological concerns. It is well worth your 5 minutes to read. Volf is a renowned Christian thinker and is supremely well respected in my circles. For him to be addressing this topic is noteworthy in itself – regardless of what he says about it. But when one hears what he says about it… it is truly noteworthy.
For Miroslav Volf, an Episcopalian professor of theology at Yale’s Divinity School, (the name of God) is a direct route over the “chasm of misunderstanding” and hatred that has separated Christians and Muslims for centuries… In his thought-provoking new book, “Allah: A Christian Response,” Volf attempts to explain how the God of Christianity and the God of Islam are, essentially, one and the same.
Here are three things, from a uniquely Christian perspective, that I would like to see addressed:
- The name of god – Is Allah the same as Jehovah and is that the one Jesus called “Abba”?
- If so – are these 3 legitimate covenants with the same God? (1 with Issac, 1 with Ismael and 1 with Yeshua)
- Can we figure out how to stop A) converting each other and B) killing each other
This past week I had the opportunity to sit in a meeting with a U.N. delegation from North Africa that was visiting the States in order to talk about future relations between The US and the Islamic world. The main focus was education and since part of my degree is in Religious Education, I was thrilled to be able to sit in.
We are not talking about creating one single super religion. That is not the point. In fact, that would be unhelpful, confusing, and dishonoring. We are talking about an exchange of mutuality and co-operation that is both edifying and honoring of the traditions we represent. This will involve listening to each other, asking tough questions, challenging each other and learning from each other.
Just about one year ago I was in Hawaii and as I sat beside the freshwater mountain stream where it emptied into the saltwater ocean of the Pacific – I wrote this for the Everyday Theology podcast :
The final section of the stream is reinforced with lava boulders on both sides. It’s about 500 yards long and ends in the Pacific Ocean.
At high tide the water comes in from the ocean and fills up the canal. The interesting thing is that the stream flowing down the middle actually creates a current that flows out to the ocean. The salt water comes in to fill up the canal, but it is the fresh water that creates the current flowing out.
That for me is the perfect picture of the world that we live in and the time that we live in.
The current of culture is meeting the tide of history.
I am looking forward to reading Volf’s book (if you are looking for a good read until then, I would suggest “God is not One” by Stephan Prothero.)
I am intrigued by the things happening in Northern Africa and the rest of the Islamic world. I wonder how grassroots democracy, global capitalism and Islamic culture look 50 years from.
I am thrilled to be a part of the University Project at Claremont School of Theology. I am anxious to see how it will actually look when the ‘rubber meets the road’ and we are training Imams, Rabbis and Christian Ministers in such close quarters.
I keep thinking back to that stream in Hawaii as it met the Pacific… and it seems clear to me that where we meet is a great example of “the fringe”. It is the place where the future is made.
100 years from now things will be nearly unrecognizable from the way they were 100 years ago. It is my sincere hope that Abraham’s children can discover and model how to live in peace together and be a blessing to the nations of the earth. The cynic will say that it is impossible – that there is too much water under the bridge or that the very idea goes against human nature. I don’ believe that.
First, we can’t keep doing what we have been doing. The stakes are too high and the world has gotten too small. Second, The God of Abraham is in it. Now, to someone else that may not mean a whole lot, but to me – it means the world.