Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Allah: A Christian Response; Introduction

SETTING THE STAGE

For my birthday, (thanks Noel) I was given a book by Miroslav Volf, a theologian from Yale who studied under Jurgen Moltmann (a personal hero of mine). The book is entitled "Allah: A Christian Response." Thanks mostly in part to Scot McKnight, I became intrigued by the notion put forth by Volf, in that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Volf does not claim to be a pluralist, and he appears to embrace the trinity in it's orthodox formation. In fact, based on his past, I see very little that doesn't fall under the label "evangelical," which I admit to me is a broad term.

So I cannot instantly dismiss the book, as it appears to be coming from a sharp and articulate evangelical scholar. One who has his pulse on world religions,conflict and reconciliation. Whether or not he is correct, I find that the books that challenge me the most are the one's I always love.

These books are "The Evangelical Universalist" by Robin Parry, "The Coming of God" by Jurgen Moltmann, and "The God of the Possible" by Gregory Boyd. The list is sure to expand. 

GENERAL STREAM OF THOUGHT

Allah came out around the same time as Rob Bell's Love Wins. Rob Bell flirted with Universalism and I do not think he embraced the doctrine. You can read my thoughts here. What I find interesting is that Rob Bell's book, which challenges an evangelical tennant, namely the "born again" experience, drew a firestorm. Volf's Allah didn't. And Volf's book challenges the very exclusive nature of the Christian faith, including the "born again" experience, but also the very concept of who God is and the truth about his revelation to us. This is powerful material and a true paradigm shift of the Christian faith is Volf is correct.

it could be the it is dangerous to talk/write about Islam, but as Bell showed us, tampering with much of anything beyond classic Christian restrictivism pretty much leads to a theological witch hunt.

"Will God save everybody?" is not the same as the question below.

"Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?"

That is the question posed on the back cover of Allah. Quite provocative. With endorsements from Brian McLaren and Mona Siddiqui, including some kind words from Scot McKnight (whose endorsement is not on the book, but he spoke highly of it in a lecture about Rob Bell's Love Wins).

THE ONE GOD AND THE GREAT CHASM; AN INTRODUCTION

"My interest here is the proper Christian stance toward the God of the Qu'ran and what that stance means for Christians' and Muslims' ability to live together well in a single and endangered world." (pg1).

To again quote Volf, "the stakes are high." For him, this is a universal problem. A cursory glance over the chapter titles includes references to extremism and reconciliation. Muslims and Christians combined constitute over one half of the earth's population, and if these two religions are involved in a war of escalations (so to speak) then we have a problem that involves everybody. Volf doesn't see much of the conflict, in it's current state, going away. Especially in regards to natural resources and population.

At this point, I don't necessarily disagree with anything Volf has written. One slight glance at a news channel or a headline will attest to the current instability of a majority of the world's regions. 

Volf's past is briefly visited. He was born in a country that "no longer exists." Yugoslavia. Though brief, this does set the stage for Volf's thinking, and he is writing primarily to a Christian audience.

CONCLUSION

I'm frankly not convinced by his thesis, but I am eager to see what Volf has in store for us. Quite well-written, and quite interested in reconciliation. If Volf is indeed right, that changes some very foundational aspects of orthodoxy.

We should probably listen and see what Volf says.

2 comments:

  1. Haven't read the book yet, but my suspicion is that Volf is trying a bit too hard here. Christians don't even worship the same God, if what the various Christian groups say about Him is to be believed!
    Still, it's probably worth a read, as it's likely to be thought-provoking if nothing else.

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    1. So far, it has been very thought-provoking.

      --Nick

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