Reflecting on Muslim Scholars and Jesus

I have often stated that one of the best ways for Christians, especially seminarians, to explore and better understand the doctrinal controversies of the Christian faith is to study Islam. In my experience, most students' eyes roll when faced with being forced to read 100 pages about the Trinitarian and Christological controviersies of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries. Yet, while such issues may be considered arcane by 21st century American society (and students), they are still very relevant when it comes to the Christian-Muslim encounter. The Qur'anic critique of the Christian claims of Jesus' divinity and God as the "third of three" (thalith thalathatin, Q 5:73) requires some thought and clarity regarding what we actually mean by our confession of faith.

Two very helpful works recently published by Muslim scholars continue the opportunity for Christian reflection on our own doctrines.

Reza Azlan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazerath (Random House, 2013) and Mona Siddiqui's Christians, Muslims and Jesus (Yale University Press, 2013) provide two very good and different perspectives on Jesus.

I would like to think that these works, which will undoubtedly become best sellers on Amazon, go to prove that we Christians might well utilize these contemporary views as an opportunity to help us actually re-engage the important issues surrounding what out faith tradition has held to be central theological concerns. We might be suprised that some Muslims actually have a better grasp than we of the important theological issues at stake in such propositions about Jesus and the Trinity. These Muslims might just be very good conversation partners.