(Living Church) David Bertaina reviews Mona Siddiqui's new book "Christians, Muslims, and Jesus"

The most important goal in comparative theology is to create a symmetrical model, that is, a structure that compares the traditions of each faith without misrepresenting or idealizing one over the other. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to anyone who does comparative studies, and in this case there are some instances where more fruitful comparisons could have been made. One of the asymmetrical comparisons in this book comes from the use of sources. On the one hand, academic debates about Christology by pluralists (including non-Christians) are portrayed as if they were normative for Christianity. Yet their views are compared with traditional Islamic thinkers. In another instance, the book gives a detailed historical-critical assessment of Jesus but nothing about the historical Muhammad. Eliminating these skeptical analyses of Jesus, or adding them for Muhammad, would actually put the two figures in closer symmetry.

One value to Siddiqui’s book is its honest Islamic inquiry into the relationship of Islam to Christianity. We need more Muslims making honest attempts to understand Christianity. Reading Christian sources and taking them actually to mean what they say is an important step in entering dialogue. This attitude is taken for granted in Western cultures, but it needs to be taught at the popular level in the Islamic world, where polemics still pervade the mindset of religious communities. Finally, Siddiqui’s book is welcome because it encourages Muslims to read the Bible in order to understand the context of their own scripture. Siddiqui’s analysis of the Bible and what Christians believe is important, despite some analytical asymmetries. Instead of repeating polemical mantras of the past, Siddiqui has put forward a book demonstrating that Muslims and Christians are in dialogue. Books like this should be encouraged from academia and the wider Islamic community.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Christology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Other Faiths, Theology