- Allah: A Christian Response © 2011
- 326 pages
I want to believe him—I tried to believe him. In the end, Volf himself offered the argument (in order to refute it) that convinced me.
Let me rewind. My friend Brian Lachine pointed out that Volf always tells you precisely what he’s going to argue before he begins to write. This book is no different. In the introduction he laid out the main planks of his argument. Volf believes that although there are major differences in the way Christians and Muslims understand their monotheistic deity, there is sufficient overlap in their views to state that they worship the same God. This allows for a much healthier and respectful dialogue moving forward, especially as Muslims and Christians increasingly live together in the same countries.
Here are the areas of overlap between the Christian and Muslim views of God:
- There is only one God
- God created everything that exists
- God is good
- God calls us to love him
- God calls us to love our neighbours
In addition to these points of unity, Volf wrote in depth on divisive issues like the Trinity and the Christian claim that God is love. His broad argument here is that anything most Muslims would deny about the Trinity would also be denied by orthodox Christians. He goes to the Sufi masters to show how there is a strong movement within Islam to describe their deity as merciful, if not love personified.
Here’s my problem: the main points of overlap Volf describes are areas that Judaism and Islam have in common. To be sure, Christians worship the same God as the Jewish people, but none of what makes Christianity distinct is covered by the Muslim view of God.
Christianity is centred on Jesus the Messiah, who made God the Father visible. Jesus identified with his creation and died for them. All this—what I understand as more central to the faith than more abstract dogma—is anathema to Muslims.
I respect what Volf’s doing. In an era defined by suspicion and news-worthy religious extremism, we need to learn how to love each other and to live together in a civil society. Furthermore, I learned a tremendous amount of history and theology from his book. Unfortunately, I remain unconvinced that Christians worship the same God as Muslims by the criteria Volf himself sets: sufficient overlap of beliefs and practice.