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.”
What about evangelism? mission? proselytism? How can we evangelize Muslims? Anyone have some wisdom from experience?
He begins by examining minarets in non-Muslim majority countries, which makes Christians nervous, and church steeples in majority Muslim countries, which makes Muslims nervous. They symbolize colonialism and dominance and persuasion and the presence of that which threatens. What can we do?
It begins by dispelling prejudice. Volf is at his best in discussing prejudice, as he is one of the world’s best scholars in this subject. Prejudices are born of ignorance, self-absorption, resentment and fear. His proposal is his famous one: we need “double vision.” The ability to see ourselves from the angle of others. But Volf develops this into seven people present in a conversation between Christians and Muslims. I and present, you are present, my view of myself and your view of yourself, my view of you and your view of me, and the One, True God.
This leads him to construct how Muslims — not all but many — see Western Christians:
They see it as war by another means. The fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 unleashed the end of the crusades, decolonization after WWII, support of secularizing leaders in Muslim countries, proppping up Israel, and globalization … all these are war by another means. Christian mission is therefore war.
Of course, the whole story can be reversed on how Christians perceive Muslims. I was talking to a man the other day, a businessman I bumped into when I was reading Volf’s book, and he said it, “They’re out to kill us.”
Volf proposes a Common Code of Conduct in missions:
1. Witness to others only if you are willing to be witnessed to by them.
2. Witness in a way you would want them to witness to you.
3. Coercion is always wrong.
4. Bribery and seduction are wrong.
5. Don’t compare our best with their worst. [This is what I tried to do with the man I met; he would have none of it. All Muslims were terrorists to him.]
His final section advocates collaboration in common projects to help the poor.