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Islam and Christianity

Islam and Christianity: Theological Themes in Comparative Perspective

John Renard
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Islam and Christianity
    Book Description:

    In light of the widespread public perception of incompatibility between Islam and Christianity, this book provides a much-needed straightforward comparison of these two great faith traditions from a broad theological perspective. Award-winning scholar John Renard illuminates the similarities as well as the differences between Islam and Christianity through a clear exploration of four major dimensions—historical, creedal, institutional, and ethical and spiritual. Throughout, the book features comparisons between concrete elements such as creedal statements, prayer texts, and writings from major theologians and mystics. It also includes a glossary of technical theological terms. For western readers in particular, this balanced, authoritative work overturns some common stereotypes about Islam, especially those that have emerged in the decade since September 11, 2001.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94833-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Prologue: Christian-Muslim Theological Dialogue in Retrospect
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    Four historical models of Christian theological engagement with Islam represent a broad spectrum across which Christian theologians have accounted for the church’s relationships with Islamic thought as they have perceived it. The four are the polemical, the Scholastic, the Christianinclusivist, and the dialogical.

    John of Damascus (c. 655–750), sometimes called the last of the classical church fathers, is a fine example of a polemical model. His message to Muslims is that he hears what they are saying and finds that he must take serious account of their rationale, if largely in self-defense and in reaction against a hostile claim....

  5. Introduction: Theological Themes and Subdisciplines
    (pp. 1-24)

    Islamic and Christian theologies developed over vast expanses of time and space, were rooted in a host of cultural and linguistic contexts, and have generated enormous libraries of works in dozens of languages and employing numerous methodologies. We are approaching here an immense and complex subject, but before delving into some of the more specific “dimensions” of this involved story, an overview of the major contours of the topic will be helpful. Here I will organize the material in two main sections, each dedicated to one of the two major traditions. In chapters 1–9, I will, by contrast, offer...

  6. PART ONE. Historical Dimensions:: Interpreting God’s Communication and Divine Engagement in Time and Space

    • [PART I. Introduction]
      (pp. 25-26)

      In the field of religious studies, the term “history” can embrace a wide variety of topics and themes. In the following two chapters, an exploration of five features of the vast histories of Islam and Christianity will bring to the fore the diversity of “Islams” and “Christianities.” First, at the heart of both communities we find not only bedrock figures who embody the “tradition,” but foundational texts as well. These “sacred scriptures” have been the object of intense scrutiny and interpretation, or exegesis (from the Greekex-hegeomai,“to lead or draw out”), since the earliest generations. The varieties and concerns...

    • CHAPTER 1 Sacred Sources and Community Origins
      (pp. 27-48)

      Two major theological themes occupy this chapter. First, at the heart of the formation, reception, and history of interpretation of their sacred texts, the Christian and Muslim traditions exhibit several noteworthy similarities as well as important differences. Though both came eventually to revolve around a unique sacred text, the Muslim community grew even as the scripture was being revealed. For the Christians, the multiauthored New Testament was relatively delayed, by contrast, in its formation as a unified canon. Second, the earliest communities of Christians and Muslims bore very different relationships to their sacred sources but also showed some intriguing analogies...

    • CHAPTER 2 Development and Spread
      (pp. 49-68)

      Chapter 1 traced two large formative themes in the histories of Islam and Christianity. In their respective histories of exegesis, the traditions exhibit the immense richness and variety of ways in which Christians and Muslims have approached their sacred sources. Narratives enshrining persons and events regarded as essential foundations of the traditions represent their earliest implicitly theological constructions. The present chapter moves beyond the foundational texts and early history to examine the gradual internal differentiation and external expansion that have made Islam and Christianity truly global faith communities.

      Diversity in interpretation of sacred texts is only one of many types...

  7. PART TWO. Creedal Dimensions:: Faith and the Development of Theology as a Religious Discipline

    • [PART II. Introduction]
      (pp. 69-70)

      Very early in their respective community histories, Christians and Muslims began preserving their core beliefs in narratives that enshrined signature characteristics of God’s dealings with them as a unique community. Sayings and deeds of their foundational figures as exemplars of the ideal response to the divine initiative formed a second essential theme in these stories.These accounts represent the origins of “narrative theology” in the two traditions, the first major theme in chapter 3. But with the passage of generations and the growth of the communities, the pristine narratives of faith were no longer suitable for encompassing the increasing complexities introduced...

    • CHAPTER 3 From Story to Creed
      (pp. 71-88)

      Elements of the content of belief play important roles in both Christianity and Islam, though they have functioned differently in the two traditions. It is not necessarily a question of ceding priority to what people think about their faith—over, say, how they feel or what they do about what they believe. But the histories of both traditions give ample evidence that Christians and Muslims have devoted a great deal of attention and energy to conceptualizing and communicating the details and mechanics of belief. Here I will explore several of the more important ways in which influential sources and interpreters...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Emergence of Theological Disciplines
      (pp. 89-110)

      As narrative has morphed into creed, creedal formulations have historically often given impetus to developments in systematic theology as an intellectual religious discipline. They have evolved in complexity and sophistication through the early and middle periods of the two traditions’ histories. In the story of both Christian and Islamic thought, systematic thinking became an essential vehicle for theological content as the faith communities expanded into new cultural, social, intellectual, and linguistic contexts and adapted accordingly the language and logic in which they communicated their creeds. In the section that follows, I will briefly discuss a few of the many major...

  8. PART THREE. Institutional Dimensions:: The Structures of Theologically Grounded Community

    • [PART III. Introduction]
      (pp. 111-112)

      Both Christian and Islamic traditions have developed extensive institutional manifestations of their respective belief systems. An investigation of these institutional dimensions encompasses historical studies above all, including research into the documentary sources of both traditions. These include, for example, historical chronicles and archives on individual institutions (such as cathedrals, monasteries, mosques, and schools) and on community leaders most responsible for their foundation and maintenance. But in order to appreciate how the visible structures we so readily associate with religious traditions have evolved and functioned historically, we need some understanding of their nonmaterial infrastructures—the invisible, conceptual underpinnings of the brick...

    • CHAPTER 5 Beneath the Brick and Mortar
      (pp. 113-134)

      Religious institutions have taken a wide variety of forms in the histories of Christianity and Islam. Here I will focus on the origins of underlying invisible structures of authority, the further articulation of religious law, and the evolution of Christian and Muslim theologies of power.

      Initial institutional developments in both traditions took the form of a division of labor, identification of levels and grades of authority, and eventually formal structures of governance and the implementation of community canons of behavior—what one might loosely call religious law. Early Christians, for example, identified the roles of apostles, teachers, prophets, presbyters, deacons,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Institutions in Action
      (pp. 135-156)

      Against the backdrop of internal structural and theoretical developments, the present chapter explores outward expressions of divinely sanctioned authority and power. After a look at the institutional connections between theology and politics, I will discuss religiously sponsored education and intentional religious communities. Theological implications of the architecture of religious institutions will conclude the chapter.

      In the histories of both Christianity and Islam, the relationships among theology and politics, spiritual and temporal authority, faith community and civil spheres, have been enormously complex and varied. Many people today—Christian and Muslim alike—take it for granted that Christianity has generally maintained a...

  9. PART FOUR. Ethical And Spiritual Dimensions:: Mapping Outward and Inward journeys of Faith

    • [PART IV. Introduction]
      (pp. 157-158)

      As always, recourse to scripture and exegesis, as well as to other early sources of tradition, leads the list for investigations into Christianity and Islam’s ethical and spiritual dimensions. Also in the forefront of essential theological disciplines in this context are the study of religious law and the related institutions discussed in chapters 5 and 6. To this list we add a subdiscipline only briefly referenced in prior chapters, namely, the study of paradigmatic lives and “sacred biography,” of the sort enshrined in shorter, anecdotal forms in Islam’s Hadith literature and on a larger scale in the hagiographies of both...

    • CHAPTER 7 Sources, Methods, and Social Values in Theological Ethics
      (pp. 159-182)

      In chapters 5 and 6, I discussed major institutional aspects of the development of religious law systems; here we turn to larger implications of those systems. We begin with the scriptural foundations of both traditions of ethics, survey the history of theoretical developments in the discipline of theological ethics, and conclude with a nod in the direction of the scores of problems and themes that Muslim and Christian ethicists have addressed over the centuries.

      Sacred texts often include at least general guidelines for the kind of comportment expected of believers. Some, including the Bible and the Qur’ān, provide fairly detailed...

    • CHAPTER 8 Sources and Models in Traditions of Spirituality
      (pp. 183-201)

      Behind the often intimidating public facades of their institutional manifestations, Christians and Muslims have cultivated less imposing, more inviting private gardens of inspiration, repose, and refreshment. A wide range of literary genres in both traditions maps out a variety of paths to deeper insight through personal reflection, discipline, and devotion. Neither the Bible nor the Qur’ān was intended to be read as a manual of spirituality, but over the centuries Muslim and Christian spiritual guides have elaborated on their scriptures’ allusions to the most important aspects of the divine-human relationship. After a look at some of those key scriptural images...

    • CHAPTER 9 Themes in Prayer and Mystical Theology
      (pp. 202-222)

      Both the Christian and Islamic traditions have historically expanded upon the foundational sources and models of spiritual inspiration in a variety of ways. I begin here with personal prayer and the individual believer’s relationship to God, providing samples of striking outpourings penned by some of the most celebrated spiritual poets of both traditions. After developing several theological aspects of the divine-human connection, I will provide an overview of both traditions’ literatures of the rarified reaches of mystical theology.

      Traditions of personal prayer in both Christian and Islamic traditions afford essential but often overlooked theological insights. Extensive bodies of devotional literature...

  10. Epilogue: Reflections on the Prospects for Christian-Muslim Theological Dialogue
    (pp. 223-232)

    Once upon a time an itinerant grammarian came to a body of water and enlisted the services of a boatman to ferry him across. As they made their way, the grammarian asked the boatman, “Do you know the science of grammar?” The humble boatman thought for a moment and admitted somewhat dejectedly that he did not. Issuing his definitive conclusion, the grammarian declared, “You’ve wasted half your life.” Not much later, a storm began to blow up on the sea so that the small vessel was in peril of capsizing. The boatman asked the grammarian, “Do you know the science...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 233-264)
  12. Theological Glossary
    (pp. 265-270)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 271-290)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 291-302)
  15. Index of Names, Individuals, and Groups
    (pp. 303-310)
  16. Index of Scriptural Citations
    (pp. 311-314)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)