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Matthew Kaemingk: Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear

How should Western Christians respond to their new Muslim neighbors?

The methodology of Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear is to study the encounter between Christianity and Islam in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, and then to apply lessons learned as appropriate implications for American Evangelicals and Islam. He chose the Netherlands partly due to their history with Christian-Muslim relations and partly due to his own interest as a Reformed theologian in the influence of Abraham Kuyper on the rise of Christian pluralism. For Kaemingk, Kuyper provides a resource for combating hegemony and uniformity while constructing a theology of pluralism nevertheless remaining faithfully Christocentric, even Evangelical.

I will offer three observations. First, this is a very Reformed book. That’s not meant as a criticism, merely a description. It will be both a plus and a minus for readers. For Reformed folks this is an excellent model of a constructive, positive approach for theological underpinnings to Christian-Muslim relations. For non-Reformed folks (such as me) a lot of the categories and constructs can seem kind of strange (e.g. “spatial sovereignty” or “sphere sovereignty”). Yet most of us can recognize it as a valiant attempt within its own tradition to accomplish a much-needed task. And all of us can learn from it.

Are there limits to religious freedom and tolerance?

Second, as a Pentecostal believer I find the pneumatological lacunae lamentable. True enough, Kaemingk acknowledges that any effectiveness in achieving combating hegemony and accomplishing interfaith cooperation will be ultimately due to “the gracious work of the Holy Spirit” (p. 150). But that is a rare remark. Sadly, the rich potential of the dramatic diversity of Pentecost is missing. Rather, the work of the Holy Spirit is only briefly presented through the lens of the Reformed doctrine of “common grace” which, despite Kaemingk’s efforts, is not energetic or robust.

Are both of these wrong? The far left’s unqualified concessions to Muslims and the far right’s reflexive aggressions.

Third, I fear Kaemingk’s vigorous effort to retrieve the category of pluralism for an Evangelical audience may be doomed from the start. Although I am sympathetic to his objective, and have even occasionally employed it myself, the language is probably so negatively loaded emotively that few will feel comfortable with it. Hospitality is a better term. It has positive associations and can carry the load biblically and theologically. Yet Kaemingk, though using it, and even including it in the main title of the book, in practice employs Christian pluralism much more than Christian hospitality. This is probably because of his reliance on Kuyper. More importantly, I get a sense that he would have us understand hospitality and pluralism, at least of the type he espouses, as close cousins—if not actually synonymous. If so, that’s not a bad idea. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the unsuccessful attempt of early church father Clement of Alexandria to retrieve the notorious category and terminology of Gnosticism, which, in his opinion, had been hijacked by heretics, by carefully defining and qualifying it in accordance with orthodoxy. In any case, Kaemingk’s strident theological and ethical arguments against hegemony and uniformity, which are really at the heart of this work, are insightful and to be taken seriously. They sound a warning worth hearing well.

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2018

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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