Opportunity Lost

Earlier this year, I attended an interfaith dialog between Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College and Zeki Saritoprak, Director of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies, John Carroll University. Every time I attend one of these forums, I return disappointed and discouraged. Typically the Muslim speaker does a wonderful job of explaining Islam to an audience that has no context or background to test whether or not what they are being told is accurate. The Christian speaker then dances around the gospel in an attempt not to offend anyone in the audience.

“This one will be different”, I told myself. As a prolific author of 55 books, including such titles as The Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Faith and Reason, and Back to Virtue, surely Kreeft would handle the tough issues delicately but unwaveringly. My hopes were vastly misplaced.

Both scholars were given ten minutes to summarize their respective religions. Saritoprak gave a capable and ordered overview of the five pillars of Islam and its six articles of faith. Kreeft began first by stating that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. He did then speak of the incarnation briefly, but then went adrift by spending the rest of his short time discussing areas of commonality between Islam and Christianity.

This blog will delve deeply into the issue of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God in later articles. Whatever your personal view, at the very minimum it cannot be denied that Kreeft made a huge assumption. Moreover, starting your speech summarizing Christianity by introducing such a controversial point seems rather odd to me. Is this really a profitable way to begin discussing the Christian faith, by equating Allah and YHWH?

What was even more distressing to me was that in this introduction, and indeed throughout the entire 1 hour and 40 minute dialogue, not once did Dr. Kreeft mention either the cross or the resurrection! How does a Christian apologist have a dialogue with a Muslim and never once mention the cornerstone of Christian doctrine? What power does Jesus have without His crucifixion and subsequent triumph over death?

During the discussion Kreeft also commented that the Qur’an contains a great deal of truth, and therefore cannot have come from sinister sources. The Qur’an does contain some accounts that are similar to the Bible, such as the account of the parting of the Red Sea, or Jesus’ virgin birth. I don’t follow the logic though that since the Qur’an has elements of truth, it cannot be demonically inspired. Any skilled liar knows that the best lies are those encapsulated by truths. If I tell you that I flew to the moon yesterday, you can discard my statement as ridiculous immediately. If I suppress a lie instead inside a number of truths, it will be harder for you to spot. A meal of pure arsenic is much less effective as a poison than a beautiful and tasty dinner sprinkled with just enough arsenic to be deadly. An enemy that masquerades as an angel of light is much more effective than an enemy that makes his deadly presence blatantly known. (2 Corinthians 11:14)

I am not advocating debate for the sake of trying to score points. I am not suggesting we engage in name calling, nor being purposely offensive. Neither am I a proponent of yelling, belittling, or ridiculing those who disagree. What I am suggesting is that when in interfaith dialogue, we not back down from the great truths Jesus gave to us. His message is an outrageous one, and Jesus Himself said it will be divisive. (Matthew 10:34-36) The cross is a stumbling block, foolishness to some and offensive to others (1 Corinthians 1:23). Christianity is not about watering down eternal truths. It is about God coming to earth as a human, living a sinless life, dying as an atonement for our sins, and being raised from the dead as a witness to the veracity of His claims. How does ignoring these truths in order to have a more friendly discussion serve anyone?

Someone of Kreeft’s stature has the responsibility to do better (Luke 12:48). I would have preferred to share this with Dr. Kreeft privately and personally before publishing this critique, but due to his popularity, he understandably is not able to accept personal emails.

I would hope that Christians in interfaith dialogue would not engage in unfruitful or combative debate, but would have profitable discussions. Yet such dialogue should not begin by assuming Christians and Muslims worship the same God. It should include the pinnacle of Jesus’ efforts here on earth, the cross and resurrection. It should cater to the possibility that the Qur’an may have diabolical origins. It must stand firm in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, even though the gospel may be a stumbling block and an offense.

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