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A Christian Explains His Faith to Muslims - Understanding Christianity

A Christian Explains His Faith to Muslims - Understanding Christianity



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Published by Dangelooo
An excellent explanation of what is the Christian faith





An excellent explanation of what is the Christian faith






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Published by: Dangelooo on Nov 16, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Christian explains his faith to Muslims
The purpose of this book
 This book has been written mainly for Muslim students who intend to study theChristian religion in the context of the “History of Religions” or “ComparativeReligion.” As a believing Christian, I hope to give an “inside view” of howChristians understand their own religion.Since the book is written from this starting point, its emphasis will be different fromthe many apologetic and polemical books which have been written by Christiansdown through the centuries. Some of the subjects which historically have beencentral to ChristianMuslim debates will receive relatively little attention here, simplybecause they are not at the heart of what Christian faith means to those who practiceit. Nevertheless, I will try to take into consideration the questions which Muslimshave asked me in the context of university courses or informally outside class andthose that have been raised in articles and books.Muslims are highly critical, with good reason, of many Orientalist writings on Islamwhich they feel give a distorted view of what Muslims actually believe and live.Often these Orientalist scholars are not consciously trying to give an unbalancedpresentation of Islam. More frequently, these nonMuslim writers on Islam areunconsciously bringing their own concerns, preconceptions, and emphases andapplying them to their study of Islam. The result, however, is that a Muslim whoreads such works may have difficulty recognizing his faith in what he reads.The same is the case with Christians. We often find that works written bynonChristians fail to express the same concerns that we Christians speak and prayabout and often debate heatedly among ourselves. I hope that through this book Muslim students will come to know better how Christians understand their ownfaith.In this work, I am not going to try to persuade anyone that Christianity is true andthat Islam or any other religion is in error. I should state at the beginning, however,that I am a believing Christian and, as such, I believe in what is taught by theChristian faith. Any truly religious person, Christian or Muslim, believes that his orher faith offers a comprehensive answer to the important questions of human life:where do we come from, where are we going, and how should we live during ourtime on this planet. It is natural that every believer believes that their path is the true
religious response to what God has revealed to us. If anyone believed that someother religion offered the final answers to life and the way to God in a way moreacceptable than one’s own, that person should properly change their religion andfollow that which he or she considers more convincing, more correct.In fact, history has shown that the number of sincere, conscientious Christians orMuslims who convert to another religion is very few. For reasons of marriage,professional advancement, cultural assimilation, or social pressure, individuals havein the past and even today occasionally change from one religion to another. Butamong those who believe deeply in their faith and follow its teachings carefully,there are not many who convert to another religion.The reason is obvious: when a person has encountered God and God’s messagethrough one’s religious practice, the person feels no need to begin to search for Godelsewhere. I have no doubt that God has touched the lives of millions of Muslimsand Christians precisely through the religious teachings, books, and rites of Islam orChristianity, and for such people God is to be found within the context of theirIslamic or Christian faith.I do not mean that Islam and Christianity are basically the same religion, or that thereare no real differences between the two. There
real differences, and Muslims andChristians must not minimize or ignore these differences when we encounter eachother. The differences are painful, because humanly we always want those whom welive with and care about to think and act the same way as ourselves. For religiousbelievers, the fact that others do not follow our path to God is especially painful,because we all consider our faith as “a treasure to be shared,” the greatest gift whichwe can offer to our immediate neighbors and even to the whole world.Studying together the differences between our two faiths can have positive results.We come to a renewed appreciation for what is
in our own religious path, andwe return to God grateful for the faith with which we have been blessed. We alsogrow in respect for the sincere convictions of others, even though those be differentfrom our own. We understand better why others act the way they do, how they viewlife and its problems, and we realize better something of our common humanitybefore God.On the other hand, we must not concentrate solely on the differences. I am convincedthat in many of the deepest, most important elements of our beliefs and religiousexperience, Muslims and Christians are one. When Christians and Muslims engagein a study of each other’s religion, they often experience a great sense of discoveryof how much they have in common.It is frequently the case that the different terminology used by each group can mask ideas about God and human life which are in fact quite similar. They can also havethe opposite experience. In learning more about the religion of the other, theChristian or Muslim sometimes discovers that similar or identical terms can refer tovery different concepts. One fruit of ChristianMuslim dialogue is learning todelineate more exactly the areas of convergence and divergence between the twofaiths.
This is the very limited purpose of this book: not conversion, not polemics, but asimply deeper understanding of what Christians believe and how our religion leadsus to live. I would consider my efforts successful if this book might inspire otherMuslims and Christians to write their own works and explain their faith to each otherin a spirit of friendship. I certainly do not consider this little book to be “the lastword” on Christian faith and I, along with many other Christians, would welcomethe opportunity to learn more about Islam from Muslim friends who are committedbelievers.An oft-repeated saying holds: “the more thoroughly we understand the faith of another, the better we come to understand our own.” In my own life, this hascertainly been the case. I consider it to have been a great blessing from God that forthe past 30 years, I have lived among Muslims, have had the opportunity to study theQur’an and the works of the Islamic tradition, and have been able to spend manyhours discussing with Muslims questions of Christian and Islamic faith.B.
Introducing the author
At this point, I should introduce myself. I am a Catholic priest, originally from St.Louis, Missouri, in the U.S.A. As a priest, I do not have a wife or children. Myparents died some years ago, but I have a brother and two sisters, who are marriedand have children and grandchildren.In order to become a priest, I studied philosophy for four years and then Catholictheology for four years. The theology studies included the Bible; dogmatic theology,which is a systematic presentation of Catholic faith; moral theology or Christianethics; history of the Christian church; patristics, which is the study of the earlyChristian thinkers; and spiritual theology or the practice of trying to follow JesusChrist perfectly.After working for two years as a parish priest in America, I went to Indonesia toteach English in a teachers’ college. Many of my students were Muslims, andthrough them I became interested in learning more about Islam. Some Muslimstudents suggested that I do Islamic studies, so that as a teacher I could serve as abridge between the Christian and Muslim communities, helping Christians to knowmore about the faith of Islam, and helping Muslims to come to a betterunderstanding of the Christian faith. Thus began the work I have been engaged in forthe past 30 years.In 1971, I went to Lebanon to study Arabic. After a year there, I entered theUniversity of Chicago in order to study under Professor Fazlur Rahman, whosewritings on Islam had greatly impressed me. In the course of my studies, I spent twoyears in Cairo deepening my knowledge of Arabic and attending lectures on Islamicthemes at universities in the city.I returned to the University of Chicago to work on the topic of my doctoraldissertation, which was Ibn Taymiyya’s great critique of the Christian religion,
 Al- jawab al-sahih li-man baddal din al-Masih
. This required extensive reading in themany writings of Ibn Taymiyya and other great Muslim thinkers. Having completedmy studies, I spent a year teaching Arabic language and Islamic philosophy atColumbia University in New York.

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What a treasure to share on Scribd! Thank you for publishing this reasoned and moderate attempt at Christian-Muslim dialogue. May God bless this work!
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