The new book of Prof. Christian W. Troll SJ
Dialogue and Difference.
Clarity in Christian-Muslim Relations
An accessible introduction to basic issues in Christian-Muslim relations by one of the world's veteran experts.
According to Father Troll, "If Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' is to be avoided, there is no alternative to an honest, open - and at the same time critical - dialogue of religions and cultures between Christians and Muslims, who together constitute more than half the world's population."
A participant in Muslim-Christian conversations for decades, Troll knows intimately the practical problems and shortcomings of both traditions. Learning to distinguish carefully in order to clarify what is at stake, Troll says, is necessary, "if the witness of faith is to meet open hearts and minds, with both sides honestly trying to solve the many Problems both traditions have," utilizing the many resources each brings to a suffering world.
"Clarity is the key...Troll says that Christians and Muslims must listen attentively and respond truthfully to one another. When differences are respected, and pluralism genuinely accepted, a wide field is open for dialogue and cooperation allowing Christians and Muslims to meet as witnesses to their respective understanding of God and humanity." Bishop Michael L Fitzgerald
You can order the book by:
Alban Books, 14 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3BL, UK
Tel: 0131 226 2217 Fax: 0131 225 5999
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.albanbooks.com
You can also order the book in U.S.A. by:
Orbis Books, Box 302 Maryknoll, NY 10545-0302
Customer Service: (914) 941-7636, Ext. 2576 or 2477 Fax Orders: (914) 941-7005
Muslims Ask, Christians Answer (U.S.A.-Edition)
Christian W. Troll, S.J.
translated by David Marshall
Price: $ 13.15 (Ebook: $ 7,99)
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: New City Press; First edition (February 10, 2012)
Review by David Burrell
Let faith speak unto faith
by David Burrell
Christian Troll has done it again. This little work exhibits his theological sophistication as a mature student of Islam in simple, superbly organised prose. Seasoned by years of study and engagement in conversation and friendship with Muslims from varied walks of life, and imbued with cultural perspectives as diverse as south and west Asia, Troll illuminates Muslim and Christian sources and traditions with exquisite fairness. A transparent structure lets him expound the traditions parallel with each other: Muslim questions followed by Muslim perspectives; Christian perspectives by Christian answers.
In a short compass, he canvasses five key doctrinal issues: Scripture and the Word of God; the divinity of Jesus and the Incarnation; the Cross, sin and redemption; Muhammad and Christian faith; and God, the Three in One. He then nicely melds these topics into practice: the Church, the Holy Eucharist; prayer, religion and the world; celibacy as a religious vocation, religious pluralism and freedom of religion. And he ends with “The Heart of Christianity”. No neuralgic issue is left unaddressed, yet both Muslim and Christian readers will also come to learn their own traditions as well, since each of these topics may be disputed within the traditions themselves.
Mutual illumination is the exciting fruit of dialogue, usually working both ways. So Christians seeking to learn more about Islam will take surprisingly fresh measure of their own tradition, and vice versa – another testimony to the simplicity and sophistication of this probing enquiry. Consider two signal neuralgic issues: the Christian Triune God and the crucified Jesus. We are reminded that “Trinity” did not come all at once; it was in fact an arduous achievement spanning four centuries of the fledgling community of those who confessed that Jesus is “Saviour and Lord”. Yet God cannot but be one, as Deuteronomy 6:6 insists. Recall the Acts of
the Apostles insisting that Saul (later Paul) concurred in the stoning of Stephen for his confession that he saw “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”. Yet that is precisely how Muslims see our confession of Jesus’ divinity: a being alongside of God, idolatry both to Jews and Muslims. So early Christians reached for Hellenic philosophy to help them reconcile Jesus’ divinity with the unity of God. Yet while many Christians can still find that assertion problematic, Troll shows how it can bring God’s unity into sharper focus. So the “answers” which Troll helps Christians give to Muslims’ queries will be refined in that very dialogue: for Christians have no “answers” up their sleeve, though Muslim questions can help refine the centuries-long process of clarifying the Scriptures given to Christians.
Similarly for the other neuralgic issue: the Crucifixion of Jesus. It is unclear whether the Qur’an in fact denies that Jesus was killed on the Cross, but it is quite clear that Christians' view of Jesus’ death has been muddled by various theories, often unaccountably identified with the inscrutable will of God. Yet as Troll reminds us quite simply, “the violent death of Jesus was the inevitable consequence of all that he had set in motion in his life”. The Resurrection “makes Jesus present to the life of all people at all times”, “making it possible for [us] to enter into the life of the Son of God”. Here we find dramatised the effective parallel which Troll identifies between the Qur’an and Jesus, whose very person offers Christians a way, a “straight path” of discipleship. For as Christians came to realise that Jesus is the Word of God made human, Islam has ever affirmed the Qur’an to be the Word of God made Arabic, where the palpable parallel punctuated by starkly different conclusions dramatises the similarity-cum-difference which sparks dialogue.
Yet practical matters tend to cloud mutual understanding in our day, as Westerners cannot help but ask, with many Muslims, when Islam will come to recognise the need to separate religious from political realms, often regarded as the great achievement of the Enlightenment. Since our histories are quite different, this is a complex question, yet Troll judiciously reminds Christians how the ideal of “Christendom” held sway for 16 centuries – from the fourth to the twentieth – eliciting Kierkegaard’s pithy regret that while it was a shame that America was named after the Italian explorer who discovered it, it was a far worse shame that Christendom was named after Christ. Or as Troll drily remarks: “in the New Testament there is nowhere any basis for the idea of a ‘Christian state’.” So in fact, Christian-Muslim dialogue had to wait until both sides renounced empire as a means of furthering God’s plan; little wonder that for centuries any exchange between Islam and Christianity took the form of military encounter. Again, Christians who spontaneously tend to criticise current Islam need to be reminded of their complicity in a distorted arrangement just as much at odds with their own revelation.
The clear way in which Christian Troll’s clarifications are presented can certainly help to undermine settled distortions, but nothing can substitute for actual dialogue between believing Christians and Muslims, which this fine study calls for. We will be better able to fulfil that responsibility – in the office or our neighbourhood – after learning from these pressing issues so superbly canvassed here.
Catholicism and Islam
Christian W. Troll, S.J.
Paulines Publications Africa
P.O. Box 49026
00100 Nairobi GPO (Kenya)
The history of religions has come under the influence, not only of the Holy Spirit, but also of human sinfulness. It has suffered from a partial or even sometimes a total rejection by the adherents of religion, of the call to wholeness an holiness.
The Catholic Church believes that part of the missionary task of the Church, guided by its teaching office, is to engage with Muslims in a spirit of critical discrimination by asking critical questions regarding certain ways in which Islam is taught and practices.
The author presents the common as well as the opposing elements of Christianity an Islam to help the reader discern the core belief of both religions and especially what each religion teaches about God. It is hoped that understanding Islamic beliefs, the Christian reader will be lead to a sharper and deeper apprehension of his/her own Christian beliefs.
The book has been also published by Paulines Publications Africa
Copies of the book may be ordered from:
Paulines Publications Africa
Daughters of St. Paul
00100 Nairobi GPO (Kenya)