Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fr. Georges Massouh on Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Arabic original here.

The Necessity of Muslim-Christian Dialogue

It has come to be undeniable in contemporary Christian theology that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the Abrahamic monotheistic God, even if ways of expressing this faith differ according to different dogmatic systems in Christianity, Islam, and their various denominations. The followers of Christianity and of Islam know that "there is no god but God" alone, with no partner in divinity. When Christians believe in the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" they affirm that these three hypostases are only "one God."

Some Islamic scholars and authorities admit to the monotheism of the Christian faith, among them Sayyed Hussein Fadlallah, who says, "When the Qur'an says that the People of the Book are unbelievers, it does not mean an unbelief that separates them from faith in God and from monotheism. Rather, it means disbelief in the Prophet." And since it is "disbelief in the Prophet," according to his words, Christian disbelief in the mission of the prophet of Islam does not prevent them from meeting Muslims in affirming God's unity and believing in Him.

At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church declared that Muslims "worship with us the one God, the Munificent, the Merciful who judges humankind on the last day." This is the official position of the Catholic Church and is binding on on all its followers with the authority of an ecumenical council. "No going back from this is possible," as Juliette Haddad says  in her book, "Christian-Muslim Joint Statements." Although it has not  issued official pronouncements about this, most theologians of the Orthodox Church accept what was declared at the Vatican Council and we have in the writings of Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, Metropolitan Georges Khodr, and theologians of the Orthodox world confirmation of what we are saying.

On October 28, 1965 the Vatican Council issues a statement "on the Church's relationship to non-Christian religions" which said, "The Church also takes into account Muslims who worship the one God, the Living, the Eternal, the Ruler of all, Creator of heaven and earth, who speaks to humankind... and they also respect the moral life and perform worship to God, especially in prayer, almsgiving, and fasting."

This confession of the Vatican Council is not content with only dogmatic matters. It even proposes practical steps to make effective the encounter between members of the two religions and to work together for the good of humanity and the world. The statement itself calls for developing Christian-Muslim relations and for moving away from the wars and conflicts that have occurred throughout history. "If many conflicts and enmities have sprung up between Christians and Muslims over the centuries, the holy council exhorts all to forget the past and to sincerely move on to mutual understanding, together preserving and strengthening social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom, for the benefit of all people."

There is no doubt that forgetting the past and mutual understanding have become features that bring together many Christians and Muslims. Despite the emergence of some problems from time to time, this insistence on preserving Christian-Muslim relations from any harm that could occur continues. Christian-Muslim dialogue remains an absolute necessity in our world today. Rather than each side looking to score points on the other, let there be cooperation for the sake of realizing the good things that believers have been promised. In this way, let there be praiseworthy competition between believers in the one God.


Anonymous said...

I wish Fr George had started his message with the second paragraph.

The first paragraph manages to reduce the revelation of the Triune Godhead to differing "dogmatic systems" and to then bend the Christian understanding of God to Islamic formulae, i.e. "there is no God but God." and Him "with no partner in divinity."

No doubt Fr. George is trying mightily to use terms that are reassuring to Muslims, but I fear he throws out the baby with the bathwater.

Yes, let us dialogue with all people of good will, but agreeing that there is only one God is not the same thing as worshipping the same God.

Anonymous said...

....and I thought it was my imagination that F. George Massouh is on the verge of heresy.

Samn! said...


With the 'dogmatic systems' phrasing, allow for the indelicacy of translation. In terms of using Islamic phrasing, this is a habit used consistently by Fr. Georges and Met. Georges Khodr in their columns for an-Nahar. The later especially is fond of trying to make Christian points using Qur'anic quotations... I should point out that this article appeared as newspaper article with an audience intended to be broader than just Orthodox...

Samn! said...

As another note, Fr. Georges does in fact take part in lots of Christian-Muslim dialogue type activities, where he's rather more firm about the reality of the distinctions between Christianity and Islam than sometimes his interlocutors would prefer. A good example of this, unfortunately only in Arabic, is a conference on Ashoura he spoke at, available here--

Anonymous said...

That makes matters even worse because as priests they should stand as witnesses to the truth of the Orthodox Faith instead of watering it down to fit into Islamic criteria. And judging from what I have been reading from Fr. Georges Massouh, I feel sorry for his students at Balamand University.

Anonymous said...

First Anon to Second Anon: I rather like his essay on "Islamism and Human Rights"