Christianity and Islam, the theses of Miroslav Volf

I found myself recently reading the website of the Christian Democratic party and was appalled to come across a policy statement that called for “a moratorium on Islamic immigration into Australia.” Such policies are the equivalent of asserting that we need a moratorium on African-American immigration or Jewish immigration. It is a policy of hate and it does nothing to foster peace and reconciliation. It is one thing for Christians to abhor the violence of Islamic fundamentalism. But we don’t diminish that violence by responding in kind – by perpetuating negative stereotypes of Islamic people and publicly asserting our hate – attempting even to establish that hate in political policies.

In our recent book, Globalisation and the Mission of the Church (co-authored with Neil Ormerod), we argue that it is long past time for the church to “make friends” with those of another faith. If the mission of the Church entails the proclamation, in word and deed, of the values of the Kingdom of God, then the church needs to be an agent of peace. It needs to form friendships with other faiths. This is not to compromise our commitment to Christ. In fact, we betray Christ when we perpetuate the cycle of religious violence and hate that has come to frame Christian/Islamic relationships. In contrast, Inter-religious friendship are motivated by the exclusive claim of Christ upon the Christian to give of oneself in love and service to one’s neighbor – to be an agent of peace and reconciliation in the world.

In this light, I found myself recently reading Miroslav Volf’s Allah: a Christian Response. He commences the text with 10 controversial theses. You’ll have to read his book to determine whether or not you think his argument can be sustained, but to stimulate your interest, these include the following (pg 14-15):

  1. Christians and Muslims worship one and the same God, the only God. They understand God’s character partly differently, but the object of their worship is the same. I reject the idea that Muslims worship a different God then do Jews and Christians.
  2. 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 every orthodox Christian today. I reject the idea that Moslem monotheism is incompatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
  3. Both Muslims and Christians, in their normative traditions, described God as loving and just, even if there are differences in how they understand God’s love and justice. I reject the idea that the God of the Quran stands as a fierce and violent deity in opposition to the God of Jesus Christ, who is sheer love.
  4. The God Muslims worship and the God Christians worship – the one and only God – commands that we love our neighbours, even though it is true that the meaning of love of neighbour differs partly in Christianity and Islam. I reject the idea that Islam is a religion of life constricting laws, as Christianity is a religion of life affirming love.
  5. Because they worship the same and similarly understood God, Christians and Muslims have a sufficiently robust moral framework to pursue the common good together. I reject the idea that Moslem and Christian civilisations are bound to clash.

There are five more theses, but that is enough now. Volf notes that “the issues are hot on the claim spicy, but this is how I see things.” He invites the question, what about you? How do you see things?