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sible; thus, the Quran serves as the primary means by which a Muslim knows Allah. Father Daniel was introduced to Christianity as a young man in Indonesia. He received a revelation of Jesus Christ in 1974, leading to his conversion. Unfamiliar with Orthodox Christianity, he looked into various Protestant groups in his area. He first heard of the Orthodox Church in 1983, when he came across the book The Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. His interest in the Eastern Church culminated in his conversion to Orthodoxy soon thereafter. Through his studies in Orthodox theology, first at the University of Athens, and then at Holy Cross Seminary in Massachusetts, Father Daniel formulated an approach to Orthodoxy that he could present to Muslims in order for them to understand the ancient Christian faith. The crux of Father Daniel’s approach is the concept of “word.” Muslims believe that the Quran is the divine word of Allah, recorded as a text, and that Muhammad is the recipient and communicator of this divine word to humanity. Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, assert that the Word of God is a person—the Son of God—who assumed human nature as Jesus Christ. Despite the obvious differences in theology, both Muslims and Christians believe that God is the source of the divine word; and Muslim theologians even concede that Allah’s word must be “uncreated,” a teaching fundamental to Orthodox Christianity. Thus, the belief in a divine word becomes the

bridge between Islam and Orthodoxy, opening a way for Orthodox Christians to introduce their faith to Muslims. In Father Daniel’s theology, the concept of a divine word is the best way for Muslims to understand the Incarnation—a central teaching in Orthodoxy. The content of the revelation given to Muhammad is said to be preserved on a divine tablet in Heaven (Quran 85:21-22). But the Quran as a recitation in human idiom, the created language of Arabic, ceases to be solely uncreated as such. Likewise, the Quran as a printed text, whether handwritten by a calligrapher or manufactured in a publishing house, is no longer the uncreated tablet preserved within Allah. Whether transmitted orally or in writing, the Quran must be “incarnated” in order for it to reach other Muslims. Although its content is believed to be uncreated, its contextualization for humanity is considered to be a union of uncreated and created. Islamic theologians consider this to be an act of Allah’s condescension to humanity. The first Christian theologian to realize the import of the Muslim teaching concerning the Quran as divine word was St. John Damascene. Having thoroughly studied the Quran and compared it to Orthodox Christian theology, he detected a contradiction in Islamic teaching. He found in the Quran concerning Christ the following verse: “Isa [Jesus] son of Mariam is only a messenger of Allah and his word which he communicated to Mariam, and he is a spirit from Allah” (Quran 4:171). Unlike

Muhammad, who is referred to as both messenger and seal of the prophets, Jesus is spoken of here as Allah’s word, conveyed to Mary by the spirit of Allah through a virginal conception (Quran 66:12). Although this verse was meant to be a polemic against Christianity, it actually elevates the status of Christ high above that of Muhammad. But what is more important is that Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of Allah, and thus uncreated; and if Jesus is referred to as the Word of God in the Quran, then by Islamic reasoning Christ is likewise uncreated. In short, the Quran supports the Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God, even if Muslims do not make this connection. Just as Jesus Christ is considered to be the way to salvation for Christians, it has been argued by Muslim scholars that the Quran is the way to salvation in Islam. This means that the communication of the Quran to humanity must have been completely unsullied by human error. In this regard the virginal birth of Christ finds another parallel in Islamic thought. Father Daniel points out that, according to the Islamic tradition, Muhammad was completely illiterate, and thus unable to reproduce such an eloquent prophecy on his own. The illiterate mind of Muhammad is seen as pure, or stated in another way, virginal. In similar fashion, God chose Mary, a true virgin and pure in heart, to bear God the Word. In both Orthodoxy and Islam, the purity of the recipient of the Word or message is vital to its veracity.

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Profile for St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary

2010 Tikhonaire  

The Tikhonaire from 2010

2010 Tikhonaire  

The Tikhonaire from 2010

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