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Miroslav Volf: Allah

Still, Volf has written a courageous, important, and timely book. He cannot be accused of accommodating Christian orthodoxy in accomplishing his task, so all future counter-arguments will need to pay careful attention to Allah: A Christian Response. And even if some conservative Christians might resist the possibility of a conjoined Christian-Muslim religious identity, there are by now enough examples of how, due to the exigencies of history, Muslim disciples of Jesus have emerged in Islamic contexts so that like it or not, these are part of the realities of the pluralistic world of the twenty-first century rather than aberrations. I would go further to suggest that the arguments unfolded in this book have implications not only for Christian-Muslim relations but also for the Christian understanding of and encounter, dialogue, and engagement with those in other faiths as well—in particular Judaism (which parallels Volf appeals to repeatedly in these pages), not to mention Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, and even indigenous religious traditions.

To return to the significance of Volf’s book for Pentecostalism, however, its urgency cannot be under-accentuated. Elsewhere—especially in my book Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor (Orbis, 2008)—I have documented the expansion of Pentecostalism in the global South, in various regions across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where Islam is a majority religion. Pentecostal missionary and evangelistic zeal, often coupled with aggressiveness against those in other faiths, Islam as well, can combine with Muslim belligerence to produce a combustible socio-political mix. Some might be concerned that coming to agree with Volf (about their worshipping the same God as Muslims) might undermine the Pentecostal missionary impulse; this of course gets us to the heart of the soteriological matter—that Pentecostals might be unwilling to seriously entertain a theological proposal that they perceive as working against their practical commitments. But I would urge all Pentecostals to pause and consider whether their attitudes toward Islam and Muslims are driven by pragmatic motivations (i.e., a missionary impulse) or whether the latter should instead be the case: that good mission practices can and should emerge from out of solid theological foundations. In this latter case, perhaps a more viable, defensible, and productive common mission might indeed be forged with Muslim collaborators than in opposition to those for whom the God of Mohammed may not be radically different from the God of Jesus Christ. Miroslav Volf, a Pentecostal PK who grew up in the former “Yugoslavia” and endured wars and ethnic tensions between Christians and Muslims, would at least like us to consider this possibility, and has thus done us all in the Pentecostal community in particular and the Christian community at large a huge favor by writing this very accessible—yet for all that very deeply theological and yet intensely practical—book. There may not be a more important volume on the Christian encounter with Islam or on Christian theology in the pluralistic world of the twenty-first century currently on offer than this one.

Reviewed by Amos Yong

 

Notes
1 This review was based on the pre-release copy.

 

Publisher’s page, read a sample: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780061927089/allah

 

Further Reading:
Mark Galli interviews Miroslav Volf asking, “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?” www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/muslimschristianssamegod.html

 

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Category: Fall 2011, In Depth

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. fuller.edu/faculty/ayong/ amosyong@fuller.edu Facebook

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