different neigbours, different love

The people at Barnabas have produced a detailed analysis of the document called ‘An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders,’ which was published around Ramadan this year:

I confess I didn’t read the Letter and Call at the time (it being addressed mainly to archbishops and patriarchs and whatnot) but the featured article at Barnabas makes some interesting points.

One of its key themes is basically that many of the terms used in the Letter and Call can be understood on two levels – and within a Christian context they’re likely to be significantly different from how some schools of Islam would read them. Many more people belong to the category of a Christian’s neighbour than a Muslim’s neighbour, for example, and the love which a Christian understands as belonging to God is different from what’s attributed to Allah.

More fundamentally of course, the reason why it’s completely wrong to say that ‘the basis for peace and understanding already exists’ (as claimed in the preliminaries of the Open Letter and Call) is because Christians and Muslims cannot agree on two utterly basic things – one, the nature of God (there is only one God, and there are three persons in the Godhead, the same in substance, equal and power and glory) and two, the person of Jesus (that he is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who became man, and so was, and continues to be, both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever).

It’s obviously better to dialogue with people than perpetrate violence against them, so in that sense the exchange of written documents is a good thing, but any unity between the world’s (loosely defined) Muslim and Christian communities which is based on ignoring these differences can’t really hope to succeed.

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