Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 15:2 (Summer 2011)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Allah: A Christian Response. By Miroslav Volf. New York: HarperOne, 2010, 326 pp., $25.99.

“Do we worship the same God?” This hotly contested question is asked by many Christians about Islam. Influential theologian Miroslav Volf offers an answer in his latest book, Allah: A Christian Response. Volf comes to this question with three formative influences, and an agenda. His first influence is a long-standing engagement with the theology of reconciliation, out of which he wrote his acclaimed Exclusion and Embrace. Volf’s second formative influence is his intensive dialogue with Muslims in recent years, particularly through the Common Word initiative (http://www.acom ). His third influence is his admired father, to whom the book is dedicated, and who taught Volf that Christians and Muslims do indeed worship the same God. The agenda Volf pursues is one of political theology. He asks, “Can religious exclusivists, adherents of different religions [i.e., most Muslims and Christians], live comfortably with one another under the same political roof?” (220). Volf’s answer to this question is “yes,” on the basis of a shared belief in the one God.

A “hot and spicy” dish, as Volf calls it, Allah is jam-packed with interesting ideas and perspectives. Volf’s reflections on what Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther had to say about Islam are rich, as is his discussion of the Trinity, in which he argues that what Muslims deny when they reject the Trinity is also denied by orthodox Christianity, and “Christians affirm what Muslims affirm” about God’s oneness (143).

To fully appreciate Volf’s argument—and its limitations—one must take careful note of his “commonalities approach.” His rules of engagement with the other are: (l) “Concentrate on what is common,” and (2) “Keep an eye out for what is decisively different” (91). At the heart of Allah are a handful of claims about God that Volf contends are shared by “normative” Islam and “normative” Christianity (123). He argues from these shared convictions in favor of a political solution for how the two religions can live together in peace, united by faith in the same God. His six core beliefs of monotheism are: (l) there is only one God; (2) God created everything that is not God; (3) God is radically different from everything that is not God; (4) God is good; (5) God commands us to love God; and (6) God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also distinguishes between referring to and worshiping God, and proposes that “To the extent that Christians and Muslims strive to love God and neighbor, they worship the same true God...

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