Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Where We Disagree: How Christian-Muslim Dialogue Might Teach Us To Pursue Christian Unity



Dr. Paul Louis Metzger wrote on Monday regarding the issues central to the mutual exclusivity of Islam and Christianity (i.e., You can be one or the other, but despite a Muslim leader’s claim that one who converts from Christianity to Islam “does not lose Jesus, but gains Muhammad,” you cannot do both. The “Jesus” that could be accommodated in Islam is something other than the historical/Biblical Jesus). My thoughts below were prompted by his post found here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2013/11/is-the-cross-the-crux-of-the-divide-between-christianity-and-islam/

I have recently been blessed by a couple of conversations with a Buddhist acquaintance in which we were able to clearly identify the crucial (pun intended) point of departure in our spiritual lives as being the nature of God and specifically the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. So, it resonated strongly with me when Dr. Paul Louis Metzger wrote regarding the primary point of departure between Muslims and Christians, “We need to be clear on what we mean by Jesus, Christian, and Muslim.”

But sadly, what also resonated is Dr. Metzger’s quote of the excellently clear and concise statement by Daniel W. Brown regarding this primary point of departure between Islam and Christianity: “whether the character of God is most clearly revealed in a perfect life culminating in redemptive death or in a perfect book giving rise to a perfect life.” What saddens me about such inspiring clarity? It is that this also describes the point of departure in the murky dissection of Christ’s body as cessationism is currently being championed so divisively. (“Cessationism” is the theological stance behind Dr. John McArthur’s recent attacks on fellow-Christians of the Charismatic persuasion)
 
As we engage those of other religions and cultures, perhaps we might learn better how to seek dialogue with the divisive in our own camps. To borrow from Dr. Metzger’s phrasing: “We need to be clear on what we mean by Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, as well as our own perfect book as His means of guiding us into becoming and being Christian.”

Could it be that patterns developed in multi-cultural engagement may best inform our engagement with one another as we seek to bring into clearer resolution our conflicts, and reconcile our relationships within the Church? Again, taking some liberties to quote Dr. Metzger again, this effort to discern the core issues of our disagreement is certainly “Easier said than done.” But it might be a worthy enterprise.

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