Road Signs: The Christian-Muslim Journey Together : Denials, Dangers and Challenges in the 21st Century Line

Dr. Kenneth Bailey

Forces of contemporary history tend to the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory of how Islam and Christianity will interact across the current century. But this is not the only alternative. Increasingly the adherents of these two religions find themselves thrown together all across our world. Is there a Christian Journey with Islam?Indeed there is. Demographic shifts in the Christian community worldwide make this journey all the more critical. Many are aware of political, cultural, economic and military forces involved. This paper will focus on the theological journey that awaits us. For such a journey road signs are critical if we are to find our way. The overlapping signs under consideration are ‘denials’, ‘dangers’ and ‘challenges’.

Islamophobia on the one hand and Christianophobia on the other hand are deep, often unrecognized forces influencing each of our communities. These long held views have deep roots. It is easy to point the finger at the other, and hard to scrutinize our own souls. Denials on both sides are often exhibited. Each community needs to overcome those denials if we are to journey forward. ‘You have hurt us!’ is easy to vocalize. ‘We have hurt you,’ is much harder to say. The guilt of an assumed innocence is no longer good enough. Each community needs desperately to take ownership for its own history. Numerous historical occasions of dangerous denials are readily available.

Finally come the challenges. The focus chosen is theological. Affirming that ‘we all agree’ is another form of denial. On the other hand to erect theological steel fences that shut out any common ground is also a form of denial. Christianity in the East was obliged, starting in the seventh century, to face a new community with a new sacred book that asked new questions. The centuries of discussion and debate that took place in Arabic in the Middle East remain largely unknown. Perhaps, built on New Testament texts, it is time to engage in a re-Semitization of Christian Theology for our day. Among the critical issues are Christology, the nature of the trinity, and the historicity and significance of the Cross. If we become friends, are there doors that can be gently and quietly opened?