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Allah A Christian Response

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Clay Walden

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Transcript of Allah A Christian Response

Part I Disputes, Present and Past Chapter 1 Benedict XVI that, at least since the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Catholic Church has affirmed that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. It quotes the words of the late pope John Paul II, “for whom many Muslims had great regard and esteem”: We Christians joyfully recognize the religious values we have in common with Islam. Today I would like to repeat what I said to young Muslims some years ago in Casablanca: “We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.”

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 26-27). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. The Pope and the Prince: God, the Great Chasm,
and the Building of Bridges If it is true that the dual command of love is the common ground of the two faiths, the consequences are momentous. We no longer have to say, “The deeper your faith, the more you will be at odds with others!” To the contrary, we must say, “The deeper your faith, the more you will live in harmony with others!” A deep faith no longer leads to clashes; it fosters peaceful coexistence.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 31). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. commitment to the properly understood love of God and neighbor makes deeply religious persons, because they are deeply religious, into dedicated social pluralists (see chapter 12).

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 32). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Big DEAL! To be precise, the issue is not: Do Muslims and Christians have exactly the same beliefs about the one God they worship? Clearly, the answer is no. Nobody disputes this. Even among themselves Christians disagree—how would they then not disagree with Muslims? The same is true of Muslims as well. Muslim and Christian beliefs about God significantly diverge at points. The issue is, rather, this: Is the object of Christians’ and Muslims’ faith and love the same?

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 33). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 2 A Catholic Cardinal and the
One God of All Nicholas Argument
1. In response to the Muslim denial that there are three divine “Persons,” Nicholas tries to show that Christians are not affirming what Muslims are denying (namely, that there are many gods).

2. In response to the uncompromising Muslim affirmation of God’s unity, Nicholas tries to show that what Muslims say about the one God presupposes the kinds of beliefs Christians affirm about the Trinity.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 49-50). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. (Pius II and Nicholas of Cusa response) Pius II did not mince words. He argued for the truth and superiority of the Christian faith and against the falsehood of Islam. Islam, he wrote, is “not supported by arguments or reasons,” but is instead “founded on pleasure and maintained by the sword.”18

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 45). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Nicholas also believes that numbers, such as “one” and “three,” do not strictly apply to God either! Numbers are for creatures. God is not a creature. Therefore God is beyond number—beyond the number one as much as beyond the number three. Nicholas writes: “When you begin to count the Trinity you depart from the truth.”50

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. We will zero in specifically on Nicholas’s ideas about God’s oneness and God’s triunity. 1. Oneness is prior to all plurality and is a source of all plurality.52 2. The “three” that comprise the Trinity are not three discrete entities; in Nicholas’s words: “The Trinity in God is no composite or plural or numerical, but is most simple oneness.”53 3. In God there is no opposition between “self” and “other”; in Nicholas’s words: “‘not-other’ is not ‘same’” and “‘not-same’ is not ‘other.’”54 4. God is “one” in the sense of “absolute unity” rather than in the sense of a number; God is not first in a series or the only one in a set.55

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 1. The Qur’an: “To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: ‘Be,’ and it is” (Al Baqarah, 2:117). Nicholas: (a) If God creates through word, then God’s Word is “eternal and uncreated,” an “inward, intellectual word,” a “conception begotten of the intellect.”67 (b) “If it is true that God has a Word, then it is true that the Word is God. For having does not properly befit God, because He is all things [that He has], so that in Him having is being.”68 (c) Therefore God is the Word with which God creates.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 55). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 2. The Qur’an: “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which he bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him” (Al Nisa’, 4:171). Nicholas: If Christ was God’s Word, then he was God, not a second God, but the one true God.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 55). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Some Arguments when it comes to truth about God, we have to affirm that God is beyond the comprehension of any human being. Even our true statements about God—for instance, that God is good or that God is one—manifest as much ignorance as they do knowledge.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 58). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 3 A Protestant Reformer and the God of the Turks All who are outside this Christian people, whether heathens, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites—even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God—nevertheless they do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing, and therefore they remain in eternal wrath and condemnation.10

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 62). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. After all, Luther was known for seeing the world in sharp contrasts, dividing people into two camps, those with him on the side of God and the gospel and those gathered against him under the banner of Satan. The latter camp included above all the “Anti-Christ” pope11 as well as “blind, venomous Jews”12 and Muslims, whom he claimed were “all . . . possessed by the Devil.”13 And yet Luther’s answer was neither a simple yes nor a simple no. Instead, he believed that monotheistic non-Christians and wayward Christians do believe in the one true God, but know that God mistakenly and therefore do not worship the “right God.”

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 62-63). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. And yet, perhaps surprisingly, Luther thought that Muslims followed the precepts of God’s law more closely than most Christians of his time did.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 66). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. In Luther’s view, Muslims worship the one true God, the wise and just creator of heaven and earth, and they often display enviable moral qualities. His claim that Muslims undermine religion, government, and economy notwithstanding, he was aware that these qualities provided religious and moral underpinnings to a highly successful Muslim civilization. His primary concern, however, was not with “civilization,” but with the salvation of the human soul. And for that, Muslim convictions about God and their spirituality were, in his opinion, utterly inadequate. They were good for this life, but not for the life of the world to come.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 67). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. When it comes to faith and reason, Muslims have it easier, according to Luther. Reason halts before the central and defining claims of the Christian faith—that the indivisibly one God exists as three “Persons”;

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 69). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. know. All others—heathens, Jews, Muslims, even “false” Christians—are like Samaritans: they worship that same true God whom they do not know.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 70). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Part II Two God's or one? Chapter 4 How do we Decide And we dispute not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury); But say, “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is One: and to Him we bow (in Islam).” (Al ‘Ankabut, 29:46)1

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 79). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Pat Robertson, believe that Muslims worship a completely different deity (see the introduction). Others, like the erudite and ecumenically minded Pope John Paul II, unambiguously affirm that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (see chapter 1).

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 80). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Word Allah Obama is “Obama” (transliterated) in all languages. We translate descriptive terms; “president” is predsjednik in Croatian. “God” is “Allah” in Arabic, and “Allah” is “the God” in English.5

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 82). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. “Arab Christians and Arabic-speaking Jews since long before the time of Muhammad have used the name ‘Allah’ to refer to God. . . . Thus all Arabic Christian Bible translations of John 3:16 say, ‘For Allah so loved the world . . .’”6 Today, all Arabic-speaking Christians use “Allah” for God.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 82). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. There is only one single God. So the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is about whether they refer, with the word “God” or “Allah,” to the same, numerically identical “object.”

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 84). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. SAME? the word “same.” An annoyed woman at a party might whisper to her companion about another woman, “She is wearing the same dress I am!” “Same” in this example means that the two dresses are almost identical, not that somehow both women have squeezed into one and the same dress. Consider a different situation. Surprised, a woman might say to her companion, “Two years ago, in Cairo, I was at a dinner party with that same woman.” Now “same” designates a single thing—one and the same woman; it is used in the sense of “numerical identity.”

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 83-84). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. one way Greek philosophers entertained themselves while puzzling over the problem of “sameness” was by trying to figure out whether the famous ship of Theseus, whose decayed planks were gradually replaced by new ones, had remained the same ship through the process.10 The question they were pondering was, roughly, this: How many properties does an object need to retain in order to remain the same?

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 84). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 84). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Christians worship the one God, creator of all that is seen and unseen. I believe that Muslims have that same object in mind when they worship God. But how can we show that? There are three plausible ways to approach the issue.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 85). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. General Knowledge of God?

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 85). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Common Scripture?

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 87). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Sufficient Similarity

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 89). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Calvinists and Arminians, who thought the issue was sufficiently important to debate it vigorously for centuries, that they were not debating about the nature and purposes of the same God.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 90). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 5 Consider the following three beliefs together, all central to Muslims and Christians alike:




Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 97-98). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 1. There is only one God, the one and only divine being. Bible: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Mark 12:29) Qur’an: “Know, therefore, that there is no god but God.” (Muhammad, 47:19) 2. God created everything that is not God. Bible: “In the beginning . . . God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) Qur’an: “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth.” (Al Shura, 42:11) 3. God is different from everything that is not God.5 Bible: God “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (1 Tim. 6:16) Qur’an: “No vision can grasp Him. But His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet He is acquainted with all things.” (Al An‘am, 6:103)

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 98). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 4. God is good. Bible: “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) Qur’an: “And He is Oft-Forgiving, full of loving-kindness.” (Al Buruj, 85:14)

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 101). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. We can quickly deal here with the first and greatest commandment—the commandment to love God with our total being. Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree on this: 1. God commands us to love God with our whole being. Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37, citing Deut. 6:5) Qur’an: “God, One and Only.” (Al Zimar, 39:45)10

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 104). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. A Common God and the Matter of Beliefs Edition. 1. Bible: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod. 20:3) Qur’an: “Thy Lord has decreed That ye worship none but Him.” (Al Isra’, 17:23)

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 106). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 2. Bible: “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” (Exod. 20:4) Qur’an: “Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: ‘Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.’” (Al An‘am, 6:74)

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 106). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 3. Bible: “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.” (Exod. 20:7) Qur’an: “And make not God’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for God is one who heareth and knoweth all things.” (Al Baqarah, 2:224)

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 106). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. And allot more In sum, Muslims and Christians agree on the following six claims about God: 1. There is only one God, the one and only divine being. 2. God created everything that is not God. 3. God is radically different from everything that is not God. 4. God is good. 5. God commands that we love God with our whole being. 6. God commands that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 110). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 6 Allot of the same kind of stuff a Muslim terrorist blowing himself up to kill and maim the innocent and spread uncertainty and fear. Are the Crusaders and the terrorist worshipping the same God? A Crusader shouts Christus dominus (“Christ is the Lord”) while cleaving the head of an infidel. A terrorist shouts Allahu Akhbar (“God is the greatest”) as he pulls the fuse of the bomb strapped around his waist. They are naming God very differently, and yet they are, alas, worshipping the same god—a bloodthirsty god of power, not the God of justice and mercy of the normative Christian and Muslim religious traditions. When it comes to practices, the fundamental issue is not whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. It is whether they both worship the true God.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 119). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. A Common God and the Matter of Practices Chapter Seven The One God and the Holy Trinity Part III Muslims are not alone in doubting the legitimacy of Christian monotheism. Many Jews also hold a similar view. To take one prominent example, Maimonides (1138–1204), the profoundly influential medieval Jewish thinker, seems to have considered Christians idolaters and their affirmation of the three Persons of the Trinity a form of polytheism, for they “declare unity,” but “assume plurality.” Judaism and Islam more or less agree in considering the Christian claim to monotheism spurious.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 132). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Basic Idea of this chapter: What Quran has issue with, Normative Christian theology calls heresy. Now, there is a difference—sometimes even a great difference—between tenets of normative religion and the actual beliefs of ordinary people. All religions are beset by such discrepancies, and Christianity is no exception. The beliefs of some Christians can be contrary to what Christian creeds and the great Christian teachers advocate.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 136). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. All words we use of God—such as “sustainer” and “master” or “gracious” and “merciful” (Al Fatihah, 1:1–4)—are inadequate. Why? Augustine explains: “Because the total transcendence of the godhead quite surpasses the capacity of ordinary speech.”23

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 139-140). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter eight God’s Mercy With regard to God’s love, Muslims and Christians share the following three convictions:
1. God loves.
2. God is just.
3. God’s love encompasses God’s justice.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 158). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. So we can add a fourth point of agreement between Muslims and Christians to the three above: 4. Human beings should love their neighbors as themselves.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 159). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter Nine Eternal and Unconditional Love
Chapter Ten The Same God, the Same Religion? God’s rejection of ungodliness is a given for both traditions. Does it follow that God doesn’t love the people who engage in ungodliness, “the ungodly”? For Christians, it most definitely does not. God loves even the ungodly. The most famous verse in the Bible, to which I keep returning in these reflections on God’s love, says: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16)—the “whole world” and each and every person in it (see 1 John 2:2).

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 170-171). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Some Christians, the so-called hyper-Calvinists, contest that God’s saving love is universal. Building their case on biblical passages like Romans 9:13—“I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau” (quoting Mal. 1:2–3)—they contend that God loves only the elect. But the hyper-Calvinists are a small minority even among Protestants. The great majority of Christians believe that, as creator and redeemer, God loves all with preserving and redeeming love—the good and the evil, the godly and the ungodly, Christians and non-Christians.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 171). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. . A casual reading of the Qur’an gives a picture of a world divided in two—those whom God loves and those whom God doesn’t love.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 173). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 1. God loves creatures in a compassionate, gift-giving sort of way. 2. God is just. 3. God’s justice is an aspect of God’s love for—or mercy toward—creatures. 4. Human beings are called to love all neighbors as they love themselves.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 181-182). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Part IV Many Christians and Muslims are keenly concerned with the question of eternal salvation. They might wonder whether having a common God means having a common eternal destiny. A quick and inadequate answer is, “Not necessarily.” But for the time being, I have to leave it at that. Important as this issue is, this book is not about eternal salvation, whether in a city that “is pure gold” (Rev. 21:18) or in “gardens beneath which rivers flow” (Al Baqarah, 2:25). My concern here is more mundane, the earthly coexistence of Christians and Muslims.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 187). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. difference between two banknotes, one of them is false; and you know that it’s false..... The reason is simple: the infinitely rich God is very much unlike a banknote. It is enough, I argued there, that our beliefs about God and practices in obedience to God be sufficiently similar to be assured that we have a common God.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 188). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 100 percent Muslim and 100 percent Christian—or so Ibrahim would claim.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 196). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. believe that Muhammad was a prophet (not “the Seal of the Prophets,” but a prophet in the way in which we might designate Martin Luther King Jr. “a prophet”). If your answers are still yes to the three questions above, you would still be 100 percent Christian.25

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 199). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 11 Prejudices, Proselytism, and Partnership Globalization is but the continuation of colonialism, many of them believe.... Western soldiers kill Muslims’ bodies with their sophisticated weapons; Christian missionaries kill Muslims’ souls with their sleek evangelism techniques and material inducements, he insisted. To strip Muslims of religious identity is to kill them as Muslims. Christian mission is war. Mission, colonialism, and globalization feed off each other to the detriment of Muslims.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 209). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Christians have their own set of complaints against Muslims. Just ask African Christians,

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 209). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Two basic rules for witness in word and deed follow: 1. Witness to others only if you are prepared to let them witness to you. 2. Witness to others in the way you think others should witness to you.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 211). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Two Faiths, Common God, Single Government Chapter 12 Though monotheism is inclusive, it is inclusive on its own terms. You are “in” if you embrace the one true God, creator of the world, and if you accept God’s commands as binding for all. But you are out if you don't.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 224). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Two essential features of monotheism in fact favor pluralism as a political project.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 227). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. In sum, many Christians and Muslims are committed to the following three propositions: 1. The one benevolent God relates to all people on equal terms. 2. Love of neighbor demands that we grant the same freedoms to others that we claim for ourselves. 3. There should be no coercion in matters of faith.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 231). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Chapter 13 The Fear of God and the Common Good I argued earlier that when religion is understood as a marker of identity and enters the realm of politics, it separates people of different religions and deepens their conflicts (see chapter 10). It is different with the “fear of God”—the common God and the similarly understood God of Christians and Muslims....Take the idea of having a common God and add the fear of that God, and you’ll have Muslims and Christians pushed to pursue the common good. That’s my thesis in this chapter.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 246). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

True faith, Barth insisted, is not a servant of a “culture” or of an “ethnic identity”; its essence is not mere morality or an elevated feeling of awe before the great Mystery. At the heart of faith is the “fear of the Lord.”28 The Bible has only one all-encompassing interest, and that is the “interest in God himself.”29 God is God, and therefore demands our “entire obedience.” God, Barth insisted, “cannot be grasped, brought under management, and put to use; he cannot serve.

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (pp. 252-253). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. Pat Robertson, the whole conflict between “Islam and the West” is a contest to determine whether “the moon God of Mecca known as Allah is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is supreme.”33

Volf, Miroslav (2011-02-08). Allah: A Christian Response (p. 253). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
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