Cahiers Péguy


Interfaith Dialog with Muslims

Christ is in our midst!

Recently I've held an interesting discussion on Interfaith Dialog with Muslims. I am especially interested to find out your thoughts on the following questions:

1. What we should learn from Pope B16's Regensburg Address?

2. Do you agree with what Pope B16 is attempting to do with Muslims and how he's doing this? You can bring into that answer Card. Scola's initiative, Oasis, or the Cairo Meeting, etc.

3. Is the Holy Father correct when he claims “that today we are living in a completely different world, in which the battle lines are drawn differently. In this world, radical secularization stands on one side, and the question of God, in its various forms, stands on the other”?

4. If the Holy Father is correct in his claim above, shouldn’t this change our approach and perspective about Islam and Muslims?

5. Are Muslims capable of discovering truth, beauty and goodness?

Here’s a judgment about this topic from one dear friend of mine.


I’ve read a good chunk of your blog discussion and several of the articles you linked to. Your basic position seems to be that we should use bullets for Islamic radicals, who represent authentic Islam, and dialogue with moderates, following the example of BXVI. It seems reasonable. Given this position, however, I’m not sure why you say that secular humanism, not Islam, is our real enemy; there are many forms of antichrist abroad in the world (1 Jn 4:1-3).

We have lost Christendom, and I have no desire to resuscitate it or any other form of Christian triumphalism. Ours, I believe, should be a theology of the Cross, not of Glory and Exaltation, to use Luther and Kierkegaard’s terms. Consequently, it seems to me, some kind of secularism, if and insofar as it includes a principled defense of religious pluralism (not just the naive relativism of political correctness), would be the church’s best ally against the political religious monism of Islam. Perhaps the Arab revolutions we are seeing now will develop in that direction. I hope so.

As far as the inter-religious dialogue goes, I’m not clear yet on its aims. If the aim is fostering a mutual knowledge in the hope of articulating a shared foundation for mutual toleration, I accept it as a perhaps necessary application of Jesus’ example of the prudence of a king before setting out for war (Luke 14:31-32). But in the gospel such prudence is an ambiguous virtue set as it is within the context of Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. If our goal is to gain Muslim tolerance than we probably need to think of a way to cast ourselves as a kind of Islamic sect, like the Sufis maybe, because a return to the millet system is just a prolonged martyrdom. The Three-Peoples-One-Covenant approach might allow for such a development, especially if it were combined with the esotericism of Traditionalists like Guenon, Schuon, and Burckhardt. Unfortunately, I find such an Islamicized Christianity deeply repugnant. For me, the value of dialogue-toward-toleration lies only in keeping Christians from repeating the unchristian acts and attitudes that litter our past, not in securing a place of freedom and safety within the Muslim world.

When I consider the inner logic of historical Islam, I always come up against the question, How does one dialogue or negotiate with Antichrist? Any appeal to a common Abrahamic covenant, or a philosophical One based on reason, makes our differences with Jews and Muslims more irreconcilable not less. I am convinced we can come more easily to terms, for example, with the Chinese humanism of Confucius and Lao Tzu with its impersonal Tao, or even with Buddhism (but not with Hinduism), than with Muslim monotheism. If the Book of Revelation is to be believed, the church is humanly powerless before the dragon-beast-prophet in any of its avatars. Only the parousia of Christ will save her at the end.

To be honest, the whole problem of Islam frightens and depresses me when I consider it a problem to which I ought to propose a politico-theological solution. When I step back and ask what is actually required of me now, however, I find that that to which the measure of my faith is proportioned now is to hear and teach the Word of Christ faithfully so as to prepare myself and my children and perhaps my children’s children to live as Christians and, if need be, to die as martyrs of a truly Christian type. I hope it doesn’t come to martyrdom, though; so, I also gratefully support those civil authorities and their soldiers who are willing, for as long as they are able, to secure for me and my children the conditions necessary to lead a quiet, peaceable life (1 Tim 2:2) in discipleship to Christ. The evil of the day is sufficient thereto. If more is required of me in the future, I trust I will be given the grace to give more than I now can. Hence, I offer these thoughts to you personally because you asked for them; I don’t see that I have anything very constructive to add to the public discussion.

Your friend

Related Articles/Posts:

TRACES - "You Have Brightened Egypt"

TRACES - What Happened?

Interfaith Dialog with Muslims

Alliance of Civilizations or Clash of Civilizations?

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on Islam and Reform

What is the meaning of existence?

The Ground Zero Mosque And Religious Freedom (4 Parts)

Islam (Part One and Part Two)

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  1. “When I consider the inner logic of historical Islam, I always come up against the question, How does one dialogue or negotiate with Antichrist? Any appeal to a common Abrahamic covenant, or a philosophical One based on reason, makes our differences with Jews and Muslims more irreconcilable not less.”

    I don’t think Benedict expects to resolve through dialogue the theological tensions/conflicts with Islam any more than he does through Jewish-Christian dialogue. The disagreements are perpetual (at least until the eschaton, when all will be made known). With respect to Islam, I think the purpose of dialogue is to identify what we as Christians and Muslims have in common, and those areas of mutual concern where, as Benedict suggest, we ought to be allies against a greater foe — the culture which would confine God and religion to the private sphere, as entirely subjective, inconsequential and having no bearing on “real life.”

    Q: “What we should learn from Pope B16’s Regensburg Address?”

    I think it’s important to recognize

    1) that Islam was only a brief footnote in the Regensburg Address, which was by and large directed towards the “de-Hellenization” of Christianity (which Benedict himself believes would be an impoverishment of Christianity) and the reduction of reason in Western academia.

    2) nor can the Regensburg Address be taken, as one commentator unfortunately did on your post to The American Catholic, to be Benedict’s position on Islam. To grasp where Benedict is coming from you would have to take into account his various speeches to Muslim communities (such as the 2005 address in Cologne, Germany) and the numerous addresses he has made elsewhere (as in his apostolic journey to the Holy Land).

    Also, it is worth noting that even Benedict’s own assertions on Islam — the role of reason within Islam or the Muslim conception of God, etc., were challenged by Muslim scholars, and that this was in fact an opening to further dialogue and the launching of a formal avenue for Catholic-Islamic dialogue which is ongoing.

    (My thoughts on the other questions are addressed in our shared conversations on American Catholic and my own blog).

  2. Christopher,

    Christ is in our midst!

    First, thank you for your friendship. Hopefully someday we can finally meet… Maybe at the New York Encounter? I suspect though I will meet your brother first at Benedictine College.

    Second, I didn’t realize you that read and follow CAHIERS PÉGUY? That’s very cool. I am very happy that you do.

    Third, I agree with what you say above, but I would add that I agree with Fr. James V. Schall and others that the Regensburg Lecture will go down in history as a classic talk. Fr. Schall has written an entire book unpacking the depth of this lecture. It was not just an abstract academic paper with no relevance to real life. Peter Seewald in his newest full-length book interview begin his question about this lecture by assuming it was his first big mistake of his Pontificate or at least that is a common misperception when in fact it might go down as one of his greatest works.

    Fourth, I love how this Holy Father is the living embodiment of Ressourcement – Return to Tradition. He’s always returning to the thought of the Fathers and later saints on what the encounter with Christ means for humanity. How do we recognize the fullness of our humanity? What does it mean to be human? For me Pope B16 speaks directly to my heart…

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