A scholarly analysis of the deeply shared common ground of two faiths.
Messier (co-author: The Last Civilized Place, 2015, etc.), a professor emeritus of history at Middle Tennessee State University, meticulously investigates the points of intersection between the Christian and Islamic traditions. He chooses Jesus, a prominent figure in both faiths, to demonstrate that profound spiritual affinities outweigh scriptural variations between the two. First, Messier tackles the thorny question of whether the Bible and the Quran are competing scriptures that convey mutually exclusive teachings. This involves a philosophically searching reflection on what it means for any scripture to be canonical and “revealed.” Then the author carefully compares the treatment of Jesus in both religions, assessing his public ministry, the different accounts of his birth, and variable understandings of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. Messier also uses the figure of Jesus to contrast the faiths’ doctrines on the nature of sin and atonement. Although the author certainly acknowledges disagreement between the two religions’ teachings, he continually uncovers points of harmony. In fact, he contends that even the differences are ultimately more complementary than contradictory. He offers a provocative but exegetically rigorous examination of the role of human interpretation, emphasizing its potential fallibility in distinguishing the canonical from the heretical. Although a scholarly work, the book clearly desires to replace endless debate with fruitful conversation: “Praying together would carry with it a willingness to dialogue, to dialogue with self, to dialogue with the other, and possibly to dialogue with the Spirit of God.” Messier’s writing will be impressively accessible to the layperson and tries to illuminate a theologically defensible path to détente between two rival faiths. (This second edition helpfully includes more material on Judaism, as well.)
A thoughtful, temperate call for Muslims and Christians to recognize their overlapping religious heritages.