Feb 10, 2014

Book Review: Between Allah and Jesus

By Kristen Adams
It’s not often that you come across a small title on a dusty bookshelf in the back corner of a library that really speaks to you. Yet those infrequent times that this does happen are really golden moments in one’s education. I recently had the opportunity to find a book about interfaith dialogue called “Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians can Learn from Muslims.” Written by Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter J. Kreeft, the book is small, light in the hand, and despite the title that may startle some, full of wisdom.

Kreeft is a Christian, and he writes from the perspective of a Christian. His subtitle can be, at first glance, offensive to some right-wing Christians, who don’t think they can learn anything from anyone, let alone Muslims. But as Kreeft explains in the introduction of his book, there is much Christians can learn about faith, and today the best people to teach this to us seem to be Muslims. The book is a series of fictional conversations among students and faculty Boston College; the topics range from theological issues such as spirituality, prayer and connection to God to more practical, current matters such as terrorism and abortion. In each conversation, the protagonist Isa – a Muslim student – has much to say about Islam, Christianity and the world around us. He says everything in a way that really makes his listeners think, to re-evaluate their positions.

Throughout the book, Kreeft attempts to explain that elusive quality which he feels Christians have now lost, and which can be gained through understanding Muslims. This quality is strength of will, or spiritual toughness, as Kreeft defines it. The book also discusses the problems that both Christianity and Islam face in the world today – a “culture war against a common enemy: sin”.

Plus, states Kreeft, today stereotypes of Muslims are commonplace, and it leads all of us away from the reality of this religion’s true teachings. The book encourages us to set aside our differences, look at people as human beings and reject media interpretations. Rather than fight with each other, or try to convince the other of our religious superiority, it is perhaps better in Kreeft’s opinion to learn from each other, to make each other strong, and to fight together in a united front.

One reviewer of the book, Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbour, explains its value to Christians who may be skeptical in the following words:
Take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about the moral and values of Muslims. Through the moral, intelligent and open-minded Muslim young man Isa, you will learn not only about Islam, but you’ll come to a greater understanding and security in your own Christian faith.
What this book creates is a type of interfaith dialogue that goes beyond the typical dialogue. It teaches readers about a new kind of conversation to have with our neighbors and friends. Rather than talk only about similarities or work on social projects that bring us closer as human beings, interfaith dialogue can alternatively be a discussion of how we are different, yet how those differences bring us closer together as well. Instead of discussing theologies, we can discuss how our differing theological viewpoints merge together into similar goals. Here’s a small part of the conversation between Isa and his teacher that strikes at the heart of the topic:
Father Heerema: “… That confirms my suspicion that we are not spiritual aliens but spiritual brothers; that our religions are very close even though our theologies are far apart.”

Isa: “Perhaps Muslims and Christians should talk to each other more about how they experience God rather than just about their theologies.

Father Heerema: “Perhaps if they did that, they would understand their theologies better.”

Sounds interesting? Search for the book Between Allah and Jesus in the corner of your local library or online. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Kristen Adams is a freelance writer and a student of all religions. She lives in Katy, a suburb of Texas. The views expressed in this post are her own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.

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