Peter D. Beaulieu, author of Beyond Secularism and Jihad?: A Triangular Inquiry into the Mosque, the Manger, and Modernity (University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), sent the following note in response to my Dec. 30th blog post, “Fr. Samir, SJ, on the positive and the problematic in Pope Francis’ statements about Islam”:
Christian-Islamic dialogue is blurred from before the start for at least two reasons. First, Christianity is a faith as well as a religion, while Islam remains a natural religion (with borrowed and remolded Jewish and Christian trappings). “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens before us” (Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis, The Light of Faith, 2013).
Second, the two “religions” are therefore assymetrical in that the comparison to be made is not between the two scriptures, but rather between the Qur’an as the “word made book” and Christ as “the Word made flesh.” The Qur’an is Mohammed’s own report on his own experiences, while the Bible is witness testimony to the reality of an encounter with Christ, true God and true Man. In a limited sense, we do worship the same God since we profess monotheism, but it is this same God who has freely disclosed his inner life as Triune and himself as infinite and gratuitously accessible love.
In the early 20th century the Lebanese priest Niles Gaegae proposed that Islam still is not heretical, technically, precisely because Mohammed did not really hear orthodox teaching about the nature of Christ, but instead heard and rejected what he perceived as “tri-theism” which seemed not much different than the pagan polytheism of Mecca which he eradicated. He rejected the ambient heresies of the day (Nestorianism, Monophysitism, etc.) as well as paganism, but proceeded no farther. (See Lawrence T. Fares, trans., Mary of the Koran, New York: Philosophical Library, 1925/1984).
In any event, as a meager starting point, the interreligious (or rather, intercultural) intersection to be explored might be at the level of natural religion rather than real or alleged revelation–and hopefully the universal natural law (however much distorted) which is discovered directly within the individual witnesses to Christ and the individual followers of Islam–apart from its confirmation and fulfillment in the Incarnation as the “new life” or its conflation within an engulfing and dictated “way of life” under the writings of Shari’a.
Food for thought! Dr. Beaulieu, by the way, is a founding board member of the G. K. Chesterton Society of Seattle and a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.