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THE INCARNATION: MUSLIM OBJECTIONS AND THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE ROBERT L. FASTIGGI St. Edward's University Austin, Texas Introduction: Christian-Muslim Dialogue and the Incarnation THE TWO largest religions in the world, Christianity and Islam cannot help but encounter each other. In the last two decades, several important steps have been made by Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians to engage in meaningful dialogue with members of the Islamic faith.1 While sincerity, mutual respect and good will are all in evidence in these efforts to dialogue, it also is clear that an authentic theological discussion between Christians and Muslims cannot help but arouse a certain degree of tension over the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. In my own experience in dialogue with Muslims ,2 there seems to emerge a point in which discussion of Jesus the prophet vs. Jesus the Incarnate Word of God will inevitably take place. Such discussions can prove to be stimulating and educational . However, they tend to go best when there is an honest and open acknowledgement of the differences that exist between 1 A good summary of Catholic and Protestant efforts can be found in John Renard, " Christian-Muslim Dialogue: A Review of Six Post-Vatican II, Church-Related Documents," Journal of Ecunmenical Studies 23 :1, Winter, 1986: 69-89. On the Orthodox Christian dialogue with Muslims, see Orthodox Christians and Muslims, ed. N. M. Vaporis (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986). 2 I have visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as a Joseph J. Malone Fellow with the National Council of U.S.-Arab Relations, and I was a member of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Commission of the Austin Metropolitan Ministries in Austin, Texas. 457 458 ROBERT L. FASTIGGI the two traditions. As Georges Anawati, a Catholic Islamicist; notes : " As a starting point, dialogue requires respect for the identity of the other. It does not ignore obvious differences ... for to do so would be of no use for ·either friendship or truth." 3 A Muslim scholar, Professor Mohammed Taibi of the University of Tunis, likewise remarks that " the more one is firm about the classical aspects of divergence, the better the contacts between Christians and Muslims." 4 At issue in the Christian-Muslim discussion of the Incarnation is the unique character of each faith. In Islam, there is the absolute affirmation of divine unity (tawhid) which necessarily condemns any attempt to associate something other than God with God (shirk). Christianity, though, has as one of its central tenets the affirmation that the uncreated Word of God (ho logos) became flesh (sarx) in Jesus (John 1 :14) . Islam, therefore, presents a unique challenge to the Christian theologian. Is it possible to formulate a Christology which can affirm the Islamic principle of tawhid and evade the accusation of shirk without compromising the core of the Christian message? This is the question this article hopes to address. One suggestion for Christians in dialogue with Muslims is given by Hans Kiing in his book Christianity and the World Religions.5 Kiing believes that Christians would do best to go back to the mindset of the original Jewish Christians who possessed an understanding of Jesus which is much more compatible with the Qur'anic view of Jesus as the "servant of God." 6 While Kiing's suggestion is helpful for Christians who are looking for an analogy to the Islamic view of Jesus, I find it problematical for several reasons. Kiing seems to suggest that the Jesus of history (as s Georges Anawati, 0.P., "An Assessment of the Christian-Islamic Dialogue ," in The Vatican, Islam and the Middle East, ed. Kail Ellis, O.S.A. (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1987), p. 59. 4 Ibid., p. 65. 5 Hans Kung, Christi"anity and the World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, trans. Peter Heinegg (New York: Doubleday, 1986), pp. 109-130. a Ibid., p. 122. MUSLIM OBJECTIONS & CHRISTIAN RESPONSE 459 well as the Jesus of the New Testament) is quite separate from the Christ of the ecumenical councils. Such an assertion, though, does not find support from many Christian theologians and biblical scholars (not to mention church authorities).1 Moreover, Kiing appears to have an...


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