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Allah: A Christian Response Hardcover – February 15, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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From the Back Cover
Three 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.
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Miroslav is the son of a Pentecostal Christian pastor who would never abide anything negative being said about any other person -- including Muslims. He writes from an experienced history to seek a better way that is true to the God whom Christians worship.
In the introduction to Allah: A Christian Response, Volf, who now teaches at Yale University, declares, "A deep chasm of misunderstanding, dislike, and even hatred separates many Christians and Muslims." His interest, he says, "is the proper Christian stance toward the God of the Qur'an and what that stance means for Christians' and Muslims' ability to live together well in a single and endangered world." And that sets the goal of this book: "to explore how Christian and Muslim convictions about God bear on their ability to live together well in a single world." He also says, "This entire book is about what Christians should think about the issue, not what Muslims should think." On the other hand he hopes that Muslims who read this book will find it treats their religion fairly and that they will be helped in their understanding about Christians. As he says, "I am offering a Christian suggestion to Muslims about how Muslims and Christians might think about the one God we understand and worship in partly different ways and about how to live in the one world and share in light of our convictions about God."
His central thesis is that "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." He rejects "the idea that Muslims worship a different God than do Jews and Christians."
The first three parts of the book -- chapters one through nine -- present a tightly but clearly argued review of history, scripture and theology -- both Catholic and Protestant.
By Chapter 10 in Part IV Volf concludes, "Muslims and Christians have a common God and partly overlapping understandings of God and God's commandments -- above all that God is one and that God is benevolent and commands us to love God with our whole being and our neighbours as ourselves."
The remainder of the book then seeks to explore how it might be possible for Muslims and Christians to live at peace in a threatened world.
One of Volf's important conclusions is that, "the claim that Christians and Muslims, notwithstanding their important and ineradicable differences, have a common and similarly understood God (1) delegitimizes religious motivation to violence between them and (2) supplies motivation for care for others to engage in a vigorous and sustained debate about what constitutes the common good in the one world we share."
The book does not shy away from tough questions such as the threat that Muslims perceive in Christian mission activity, nor the problems that Christians read in the Muslim refusal under their apostasy laws to allow for Muslims to convert to another religion.
This is an optimistic, but also realistic exploration of the problems, pitfalls and challenges that await those Christians who want to reach out to "normative" Islam. It is also a deep challenge to those Christians who want to emphasise the divide between religions. The question always and ever remains whether we embrace or exclude the neighbour who is different.
Allah: A Christian Response is, in my view, an invaluable resource that, I hope, will gain a very wide readership.
Most recent customer reviews
In Arabic, the Qur'an and Sharia, Almighty God is Ilah and Allah is ‘the god’ in English.Read more