To my father, a Pentecostal minister who admired Muslims, and taught me as a boy that they worship the same God as we do.
Volf’s quest is to build a theological basis for peaceful co-existence and peaceful cooperation among Muslims and Christians, and his quest is to contend that the God of the Christians and the God of the Muslims is the “same” God. What he means by “same” is not “identical” but “sufficient similarity.”
In chp 9 Volf explores this question: “The Same God, the Same Religion?” and he seems to make some moves here that make me feel uncomfortable, but let’s get to what he says first.
First, he reiterates his argument: that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the “same” God (note how I nuanced this above). [I don’t agree with this contention of his because I think monotheism is one thing but worship and belief in the “same” God is significantly different because then content is spelled out — and the particularism of one’s God is all that matters when it comes to defining “God.” Hence, Incarnation, Trinity, and Cross are central for the Christian view of God while they are not for Islam’s.]
Second, he explores whether one’s view of God marks off one’s community, so that community and God are tied together. True, both Christianity and Islam believe in a God who transcends tribe and nation. “That’s why,” Volf says, “two communities can have a common God” (192).
Which raises a major question: If these have the same God, do they have the same religion?
He says Progressives want this to be true; Conservatives don’t want this to be true. Where is Volf? Is each faith a variant of the same thing? “It does not,” he says, and then says this: “It is possible to believe in the same God as another person and yet belong to another religion” (195).
He then touches on one of the more volatile issues in our day: Can a person be a Muslim and a Christian at the same time? Or, are these two confessions mutually exclusive? I say Yes, it appears to me that Volf says No. His case, besides the many Muslims who are secret converts, is Ann Redding, who I would look at differently than the secret converts. So looks at “Rules for Blending Religions”:
1. One has the “right” to combine two faiths (he speaks here at the level of basic human laws, not theology).
2. One can adopt various cultural forms — dress, food, language — associated with another faith.
3. One can absorb religious practices and spiritual insights from other religions. Thus, he says Christians could absorb Islam’s emphasis on “submission to God.”
4. One can acquire a new religious identity and discard an old one. Here he speaks of living one’s faith as more vital than the label one uses.
What matters is “people’s allegiance, practices and beliefs, all three taken together” (200). So, in the case of Redding, while she sees the issue in the same God, Volf says this: “Christian faith in its normative expression is about the right worship of God through Christ” (200). In blending, though, Volf says the Christian must ask these three questions:
1. Baptized in the name of the Trinity?
2. Confess Jesus Christ, in whom God dwelled in human flesh, is Lord?
3. Have you received the divine gift of new life given freely through Christ?
If you say Yes to these you are 100% Christian.
If you also fasted on Ramadan, prayed five times per day by saying Al Fatihah, and believe in Muhammad was a prophet, you could still be 100% Christian.
I believe the symbolic value of these practices cuts across the integrity of one’s confession of the above. What about you?
Volf sees hybrid religiosity as a good problem to have. “The most pressing problem among religions today is not the blurring of boundaries and mixing and matching; it’s the propensity to engage others with disrespect, hostility, and violence” (202). Next chp is on proselytism.