Common Ground

Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Common Ground
    Book Description:

    Christian-Muslim interaction is a reality today in all corners of the globe, but while many celebrate the commonality of these traditions, significant differences remain. If these religions cannot be easily reconciled, can we perhaps view them through a single albeit refractive lens? This is the approach Paul Heck takes in Common Ground: To undertake a study of religious pluralism as a theological and social reality, and to approach the two religions in tandem as part of a broader discussion on the nature of the good society. Rather than compare Christianity and Islam as two species of faith, religious pluralism offers a prism through which a society as a whole-secular and religious alike-can consider its core beliefs and values. Christianity and Islam are not merely identities that designate particular communities, but reference points that all can comprehend and discuss knowledgeably. This analysis of how Islam and Christianity understand theology, ethics, and politics-specifically democracy and human rights-offers a way for that discussion to move forward.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-720-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 2007 a group of muslims presented the Christian world with a message titled “A Common Word between Us and You.” This message, an expression of interreligious solidarity at a time of religious tension, spoke of a shared Christian-Muslim commitment to love of God and love of neighbor. Since then a number of meetings have been convened to discuss the document, which has received encouragement at the highest levels of religious authority and political power. There has also been caution, including a call to recognize the basic differences as well as the commonalities.

    It is not surprising to find common...

    (pp. 7-42)

    Our story begins at the court of Rayy, a city not far from Tehran, where in the tenth century a famous debate about prophecy took place. Abu Hatim argued for the truth of prophecy and Abu Bakr denied it. Both were natives of Rayy and therefore shared the surname al-Razi. Abu Hatim al-Razi, an intellectual associated with the Isma‘ili branch of Islam, recorded the debate, so it is no surprise that he came out on top and that Abu Bakr al-Razi looked the fool.¹ Abu Bakr, referred to throughout as the atheist, was actually quite learned.² He held that the...

    (pp. 43-74)

    A 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in the United States noted the increasing importance of those with no religious membership, roughly 16 percent of the population. Interestingly, most of them, 12 percent of Americans, believe in God but do not identify with a particular religious community. It is common to hear people claim to be spiritual but not religious. Americans have long been independent when it comes to their personal beliefs. No outside authority—governmental, ecclesiastical, or intellectual—should determine one’s faith outlook. But, historically, Americans have identified with particular traditions. Why at this...

    (pp. 75-109)

    Heaven and hell have long featured in the Christian-Muslim imagination. Satan is no less real than God. However, although religious teachings are meant to guide one to a happy outcome in the hereafter, there are reservations about making final statements on the status of souls in the life to come. The church does on occasion declare someone a saint. In addition, some Christians maintain that they alone are saved, a matter that God has determined in advance. Some Muslims avow that Islam has a monopoly on salvation, leaving non-Muslims outside God’s mercy. In general, however, Christians and Muslims admit that...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR JIHAD: Is It Christian Too?
    (pp. 110-144)

    At different points in his letters, Saint Paul speaks of his struggle to announce the good news made manifest in Jesus Christ. The term to describe this struggle in the Arabic translation of the Bible is jihad. Although Paul admits his own weakness, he claims that his is not a human jihad (2 Cor. 10:3). His efforts to make the word of God known represent a great jihad (Phil. 1:29–30; Col. 1:29–2:1; 1 Thess. 2:2), one for which he would greatly suffer. Surely, Paul is not calling humanity to violence or even just defense of a political order....

  9. CHAPTER FIVE ISLAM: More or Less Democratic than Christianity?
    (pp. 145-184)

    In the qur’an, God delegates care of the world not to a single individual but to Adam and his progeny, making all people his representatives (caliphs) on earth. Is this a divine mandate for democracy? The Qur’an is not a political tract. The point, rather, is the human responsibility to live morally. Echoing this, a hadith stipulates obedience to rulers as long as they do not command disobedience to God. In other words, public life is to be governed according to ethical principles, not the law of the jungle where the powerful dominate the weak. At the very least, rulers...

  10. CHAPTER SIX GOD’S RIGHTS: A Threat to Human Rights?
    (pp. 185-217)

    Neither the bible nor the Qur’an decisively condemns slavery. In the past, most Christians and Muslims saw slavery as part of God’s order. Today, human trafficking is big business, but no credible religious authority backs it. It is considered an offense to the dignity and equality of all peoples. In contrast, although gender equality in public life is now the norm in many places, the largest branches of Christianity and Islam do not recognize women as leaders of formal prayer. Priest, preacher, and imam are religious offices. They are not bound, it is argued, by the same rules that apply...

  11. CONCLUSION ISLAM: Not a Separate Species
    (pp. 218-224)

    A muslim cannot partake in the Eucharist. A Christian cannot go on pilgrimage to Mecca. A Muslim will always question the cross. A Christian will ask why the need for another prophet. Muslims refer to themselves as God’s slaves, Christians as God’s children. Theological differences are significant, but various aspirations are shared, in particular the desire to live in the presence of the one God. Christianity and Islam have unique forms of religious expression. A church is not a mosque. But there is resonance. Christians and Muslims both seek to get to God: Christians through remembrance of a person, Muslims...

  12. Index
    (pp. 225-240)