December 23, 2009

In the Faith of Abraham

An email conversation with my mother regarding the upcoming birth of my Jewish nephew has got me thinking about the relationship of Christianity to non-Christians in the faith of Abraham. I know that there is magisterial teaching on these questions, but I'm just musing this morning.

Perhaps many Jews would object to this, but it seems to me that a Christian is a peculiar sort of Jew. After all, we do what Jews do: we follow the Law and worship at the Temple. For us this is not the historical law or the physical Temple. We keep the Law as it has been received in its prophetic interpretation down to and including the historical Jesus. We worship within the eschatological Temple that is the sacrificed and risen Body of Christ. Therefore, when I meet a Jew, I don't see someone from a different religion but someone of the same religion in a different concept of time. We are both Jews, one a member of the Israel of history, the other a member of the Israel of transcendent time, the end times, the ultimate horizon, the eschaton.

I believe that this is sound and demonstrable Biblical teaching deriving especially from the later prophets, St. John, St. Paul, and Revelation, and if it wasn't two days before Christmas for which three different Sunday-length homilies have to be given in three days, I might have time to point some of this out.

Islam is a lot harder for me, and I admit that I have an unresolved internal tension when I think about it. It seems to me that you have to face the question: Did the angel Gabriel reveal the Qur'an to Muhammad (peace be upon him) or not? If one consents to this proposition, then the only reasonable thing is to surrender to God and become a Muslim right now. If one denies that the Qur'an came from Gabriel, doesn't this invalidate Islam altogether and throw out the faith of nearly a quarter of the people on earth? Is there a way out of this seemingly binary problem?

Of course, if what I say about Christianity being an eschatological religion is accepted in a certain way, then the faith/fulness of Jesus Christ is still a more recent revelation of God than the Qur'an. After all, the Resurrection is the definitive and constitutive sign of the end times, and it has reached back into history and grabbed us.


Thom Curnutte, S.F.O. said...

The Qu'ran honors Mary and Jesus. Received with humility and love, it can lead people to peace, and a certain egalitarian "gospel" life. The earliest Muslims fled from Arabia and were given assylum by the Christian king of Ethiopia.

I leave them in the hands of a loving, merciful God.

Brother Charles said...

Now there's a disciple of our holy father Francis! A blessed Christmas to you, brother!

Thom Curnutte, S.F.O. said...

And to you, Father!

Hidden One said...

I like to say that Catholicism is Judaism 2.0.

Jeanne said...

Have you ever been to a Jewish, Friday night service? My friend too me once. His uncle sat next to me, explaining everything. He was surprised when I said, "This is almost exactly like the first part of a Catholic Mass." Even the presentation of the torah reminded me of the tabernacle. The similarities should bring us closer together...if you love Jesus, you should love the Jewish people too!

Brother Charles said...

Amen, Jeanne. That has been my experience too.

Warren said...

I'd like to agree with you Thom.
But I don't think the author o the Qu'ran would. Here's what it says about fighting with Jews and Christians.

First for the gentle seeking egalitarian "gospel" life:

Qur'an (2:216) - "Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

Secondly, on the plans of God for all polytheists, including Christians:

Qur'an (3:151) - "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority".

We Christians are considered by Muslims to be polytheists.

The christian doctrine of the Trinity is perhaps the most important reason why Christianity must be considered false, from a Muslim perspective. Christian belief in the Trinity is here called 'joining companions to Allah'.

I believe Francis found friendship with a Muslim sultan, and this can be a model for us. But to say that the Qu'ran can lead us to an Egalitarian, or "gospel" life?

No. The language of Islam about saints and martyrs makes them the ones wielding the weapons, pursuing the others (us) even while we flee. This is not a gospel life.


Thom Curnutte, S.F.O. said...

Warren, it would be a shame to define Christianity by prooftexting the OT, wouldn't it? :-)

I'm not saying we're on even ground here, but credit should be given where due.

Merry Christmas!

Mark in Spokane said...

Catholicism and rabbinic Judaism are both children of late second Temple Judaism, I think. We share the same roots. Catholicism, after all, spent a good deal of its early history as a component of second Temple Judaism. It was only after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 A.D. that Catholicism sheared away from the other surviving components of Judaism.

This is one of the reasons why anti-Semitism is so nonsensical from a Christian perspective. Not only is Jesus Jewish, but we ourselves can be understood as being Jews (of a sort). To hate the Jewish people is very much to hate ourselves and our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Brother Vito, OFMCap said...

I agree with Thom.

I've been able to develop my faith by seeing how others interact with the Divine. While their beliefs might differ from mine, their ability to interact with their God can provide ways for us as Catholic Christians to do the same.