Monday, August 15, 2016

Difference between Islam and Christianity?

Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
Christianity Today

Since I am now a "brilliant theologian," I suppose I ought to look at some current theological issue, so let's focus on what Duane Litfin, a Pauline scholar and former president of Wheaton College, has written on "The Real Theological Issue Between Christians and Muslims" (Christianity Today, August 9, 2016), summarizing his point as, "It's not about a different God, it's about a different Jesus," though the different God question lurks throughout his article, as we can see below:
Last winter, the Internet was abuzz over the question "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" . . . . That question is not only unhelpful but perhaps worse than unhelpful . . . . The primary problem is that the dispute is focused on the wrong question . . . . If our goal is to compare these two religions we need to shift our focus to a much more illuminating question: How do Christianity and Islam differ? . . . Trinitarianism was often offered up as the core difference between Islam and Christianity . . . . But this observation, while accurate, does not automatically locate the decisive issue. Neither the Old Testament faithful nor even the earliest Christians could have articulated orthodox Trinitarianism as we understand it, which as a doctrine wasn't fully worked out by the church until the fourth century . . . . The decisive issue between Islam and Christianity is [the belief that] Jesus was the Son of God . . . . [through whom the] triune God has been working his Son-centered, Spirit-empowered plan of redemption . . . . It is this gospel that informs the gaping divide between Christianity and Islam . . . . God has not left the claim "We want you God, but we do not want your Son" available to us . . . . To repudiate God's gift of his Son is to repudiate God himself . . . . This is the decisive difference between these two faiths . . . . (1) Christianity's confession of God's eternal, Son-centered, Spirit-empowered plan of redemption as revealed in the Bible; (2) Islam's explicit rejection of that plan; and (3) Christ's verdict about the implications of such a rejection . . . . Thus it appears inescapable that in its repudiation of God's Son-centered gospel, Islam as a religion places itself under Christ's verdict.
Note how the "triune God" is crucial for the divine Son, or put otherwise, if Jesus is God's Son, then the Christian conception of God is very different from the Muslim conception. Did anybody doubt that Islam and Christianity differ on the status of Jesus? That status difference concerning Jesus has determined the difference between Muslim and Christian beliefs about God.

Still, I suppose picking up the stick from this end has its advantages if one wishes to begin immediately with a disagreement.



At 7:54 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

I am certainly not a theologian, but why not broaden this inquiry to all three Abrahamic religions?

It seems to me that Judaism and Christianity both differ from Islam, at the earliest point, in their respective ancestries: Judaism's and Christianity's ancestry being from Abraham's son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, respectively; and Islam's ancestry from Abraham's first son Ishmael.

And the earliest point of difference between Judaism and Christianity, I think, is that Jesus is considered the Messiah, the Son of God, by Christianity. Whereas Judaism, which considers Jesus to have been a great Prophet, is still awaiting the Messiah's arrival.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, TBH. Back in the day, back when I was looking into these things, I recall coming across a few old Jewish sources that referred to the Messiah as the "Son of God," but they meant it in a merely metaphorical manner - and for obvious reasons, such references in Jewish sources were dropped as Christians grew in number and "Son of God" became more than metaphor.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:23 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

I take it, HJH, you mean "became more than metaphor" for the Christians only?

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, that's right. At the time of my doctoral research, I was very interested in the Jewish sources of Christianity, so I was trying to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac (along with Greek and Coptic), but I was about as sought for by university search committees as a dead white male - I gave three well-received presentations at the 1999 AAR/SBL congress but got nary an interview. A few months later, I was in Korea trudging along dikes between rice paddies to teach English to mostly uninterested students. I'm afraid I wasn't very patient with the slackers.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:44 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

Did you learn enough Aramaic to enable you to read portions of the Talmud?

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No, but I'd hoped to attain that skill one day, back in those days when there were still years remaining for that hope, but learning, like art, is long, and life is short.

If only I were a bowhead whale, I could live more than 200 years and get more things done . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:25 PM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

So much to do; so little time ...

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Greenland sharks can live 500 years or longer . . . but they have little to think about, I suspect.

Jeffery Hodges

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