Allah: A Christian Response
Miroslav Volf, HarperOne
There can be few people better placed than Miroslav Volf to write a Christian response to the Islamic understanding of God. Apart from holding professorships at Fuller and Yale, Volf grew up in a minority Christian denomination (Pentecostal) in Yugoslavia. His country included various strains of Christian as well as Muslim faith, and was also governed by an atheistic “semi-totalitarian” government. The tensions between the various groups pulled Yugoslavia apart once the communist regime collapsed.
Volf begins by laying out why it is important that Christians and Muslims learn to relate constructively with mutual respect for convictions — after all, three and a half billion humans participate in these faiths. He explicitly writes to Christians, although informed by dialogue with Muslim thinkers and aware that a Muslim readership will be listening in on the conversation. His work is grounded in history and experience showing how the events of the distant and recent past shape current attitudes, fears and behaviours.
The key arguments are around whether Christians and Muslims really worship the same God, whether the two groups understand that God in the same way and whether the different understandings allow for potential coexistence or even cooperation. Volf demonstrates that we do indeed worship the same God, explores the similarities and differences in perspective, and sees potential within both faiths to understand the One God very similarly — and work together for the common good.
This is an optimistic, but also realistic exploration of the problems, pitfalls, misunderstandings and challenges that await those of us within the broad church of Christianity who reach out to the broad mosque of Islam. Quoting both Bible and Qur’an he argues cogently for co-operation and mutual understanding while dismantling the common misunderstandings between the faiths.
Volf concludes by pointing out that to worship God by following Jesus can equally be achieved by someone calling themselves Christian or Muslim — a hard idea for many of us to get our head around.
This is a wonderful book, well organised and engaging, addressing central questions in a fair-minded and conversational way. It is an invaluable resource for anybody seeking to respectfully relate — and witness — to followers of Allah.