Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 9, 2007
Islam - Christianity bond with God differs
Faiths share common points, but also differ in many crucial areas
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"They are having children and we are not."
- Peter Kreeft
The Boston College philosophy professor said that while Muslims have a much better grasp of the fear of the Lord, which is a good starting point, they do not have the end point, which is the love of God.
Muslims consider Allah to be a Person, and believe Allah is merciful, he said. But they do not believe in original sin or the concept of a covenant relationship with God that could be broken by sin.
The covenant relationship is like a marriage, and sin breaks that sense of personal intimacy, he said.
Many Christians are fearful toward Muslims because of terrorism, he said. The question he posed was whether terrorists are good Muslims.
A good Christian is someone who is like Christ. However, there is no equivalent for Islam. Mohammed is not the equivalent of Christ for Muslims, the Koran is, he said.
The Koran states "there must be no compulsion in religion," he noted.
Christians and Muslims differ on the relationship between Church or mosque and state, though most Muslims in North America believe in some separation. Most Muslims worldwide, however, believe that civil order should be under Shariah law.
Another difference is the relationship of faith and reason, one of the questions posed in Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech that provoked a violent response around the world.
"The pope put his finger on a central issue," he said. "It is - how rational is Islam?"
"Do reason and morality go all the way up to God?" or "is Allah arbitrary?" Kreeft asked, noting that there are two schools of thought in Islam on this issue. In Christianity goodness and God are identical. "Do Muslims believe it? The jury is very much out on that question."
Kreeft also pointed out that Muslims are growing "because they are having children and we are not."
Even if they fail to convert Christians, they will out-populate us, he said.
He also noted that God is blessing Muslims - despite the terrorist fringe - because God blesses those who obey his laws. He noted that so-called Christian countries "are murdering one third of our children" through abortion, while no Muslim country would allow that.
The West has lost a sense of the sacred and the fear of God that Muslims still have, he said.
He told of a Muslim friend who challenged him on how deeply he believes Christ is present in the Eucharist. The man told him that if he believed that Jesus was Allah himself and present in a piece of bread on the altar, he not only would prostrate himself before him, he said, "I cannot imagine myself ever getting up again."
Kreeft also pointed out that Muslims are not impressed by how readily Christians allow their public symbols to be removed, something Muslims would never allow to happen to their symbols.
For example, all 21 Jesuit schools in the U.S. took down their crucifixes in order to receive federal funds. Respectful, ecumenical dialogue does not mean Christians should be so nice as to remove all their symbols.
Kreeft said the West should not expect good Muslims to "buy into secularism." But he urged gentle persuasion to get Muslims to respect universal human rights, such as freedom of religion and equality for women.
Mohammed is a "great reformer" and the angel Gabriel may really have revealed the good material in the Koran, he said.
Mohammed was wrong about Jesus and the Trinity, however. Even though Muslims believe he was sinless and born of the Virgin Mary, they deny he is the Son of God.
Muslims wrongly criticize the doctrine of the Trinity as a form of polytheism or worship of three gods, but when their views of whether Allah has a Logos or Word are probed, their views are more similar to those of Christians, Kreeft said.
"The centre of their faith is not a person, it's a book," he said.
"I think their violence is their biggest weakness. Their sanctity is their strength," he said. Islam challenges Christians in the West because of a lack of toughness. "I think we're just too rich and pampered."
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