Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the difference between christianity and islam

My friend, confrère, and interlocutor, Drew, at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping has posted some very shrewd things about Islam and Christianity, spurred on by the Pope's recent insightfulness. The Shrine is here. MM pointed this out to me. Read more here. Read it all here.

It occurred to me the other day that the Christian God is not "Great." To say that God is Great ("Allahu Akbhar") is NOT, as it is in Islam, the central tenet of our religion. The Christian God is Good...and Goodness takes the form of Good Friday and a death on the Cross. The Crucifixion, and the theology and spirituality of the Cross, is what Islam so desperately needs. Because Allah is "Great" and can suffer no dishonor, no harm, Allah's prophets, likewise, can suffer no dishonor. This is why the Muslims are uber-sensitive about Mohammed. It is also why the Muslims abhor the idea that Jesus Christ was Crucified: they believe Jesus Christ existed as some manner of prophet, and because Christ was a prophet, could absolutely not have suffered the ignominy of the Cross.


texanglican said...

Father, when we daily join the BVM in saying "my souls magnifies the Lord," are we not literaly saying "My souls proclaims 'God is Great!"? The greatness of the Christian God seems a pretty big part of Scripture and liturgy to me, so I am not sure about the central premise of this note.

texanglican said...

Wow! Pardon the typos above. Too early in the morning.

Oh, and on the "honor of God" question, isn't this an important part of Anselmian atonement theology? Have we not impugned God's honor by our sin? Of course, in that case the God-man Himself meets the debt of honor on our behalf. The crucial difference between Islam and Christianity is that Islam requires the believer to honor God fully on his own, while we believe God graciously assists us Himself as we inevitably fall short of honoring Him as He is due. Or am I off base here?

father wb said...


Good point. I think, though, that for Christians God's greatness is constitutive of what Drew is calling his "goodness" -- his love and humility. In the Magnificat our Lady proclaims the greatness of the Lord because the strength he hath shown with his arm is the strength of profound humility: of consenting to take on flesh in the Virgin's womb. Thus God's greatness in the eyes of Christians is considerably different from his "greatness" in Islam -- which is more like an inaccessable, incomprehensibleness, etc. We affirm that, but we go much further. But for Moslems, that a great prophet should die on a cross is scandalous, that God himself should die on a cross is blasphemy. Thus they go to great, sophistical lengths to deny Christ's death. Because God is great, but not good (i.e. loving and profoundly humble).

DDX said...

Islamic values are power, honor and revenge. Allah and Muslims are dishonored whenever their (and thus Allah's) power is diminished. Only revenge and a regaining dominance can set things right. Death is the ultimate "submission", the actual meaning of "Islam". Every human is offered the choice to submit to Allah and help spread his power and domination, or die. Thus, what could be more "righteous" than to kill one's self in the act of killing those not submit to Allah?

Islam constitutes a polar reversal of the Jewish and Christian view of God and value of life. Jew's say "He who saves one life saves the whole world" including Gentiles and adversaries. Instead of power, honor and revenge, both Christians and Jews value love, humility and forgiveness.

Allah and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can not possibly be the same as some suggest. They are clearly polar opposites. Perhaps "Allah" is merely another alias along with Lucifer, Satan Beelzebub, etc. What do you think?

Drew said...


The full version of the post is a bit more specific:

"God is not "Great," however; not great in that solely transcendant, utterly inscrutible, and stainlessly reverenced manner of greatness which Islam claims for Allah."

Please note the conditional--not in that solely transcendant and stainlessly reverenced manner. God is not great in any way that compromises the Goodness of Good Friday: instead, God is great in that, as we see from Good Friday, God is the most good! The point is somewhat rhetorical, yet it contains within it the important distinction between Christian and Muslim viewpoints which Fr. WB pointed out.

I hope all is well with you, Fr.!

Anonymous said...

Whoa DDX! You tell it like it iz! Know these guys do you?