An Open Thread:  Apologetics—How do you approach inter-faith debate

Posted by The_Elves

The Get Religion post by Terry Mattingly immediately below this entry asserts that many journalists, religious leaders and others too quickly try to dismiss the differences between various faiths and claim all religions are alike. Obviously readers who follow this blog are aware of the story of the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding who claims she can be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim. We've seen the desire to try and minimize the differences between religions firsthand recently.

However, rather than just wring our hands in despair at this tendency, let's compile some resources we can use to strengthen our skills in apologetics. What resources are out there: books, websites, etc. that you have found helpful in inter-faith dialogue and witnessing to those of different faiths, or, in answering those who wonder whether there really any differences among religions?

Enquiring Elves want to know...!

For instance, if you had the chance to sit down one-on-one with Ann Holmes Redding, what might you say to her? Or what will you say (or have you said) to friends who ask you about this story during coffee hour at church? With a growing trend towards multiculturalism and pluralism, this elf is convinced we need to be better equipped to share the distinctive truths of Christianity and answer specific objections and questions raised by adherents of other faiths as to how on earth we could be so "judgmental" and "exclusive" to believe that Christianity makes absolute truth claims.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMulticulturalism, pluralism* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Resources & Links* TheologyApologetics

18 Comments
Posted July 3, 2007 at 9:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Jeff Thimsen wrote:

The title , I think, is “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (something like that) by Peter Kreeft.

July 3, 10:12 am | [comment link]
2. Stan W wrote:

I have found the writings of Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig to be very helpful in adressing the issues of religious pluralism. Both have lectured and debated the subject at leading unniversities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and Princeton. Craig earned a doctorate in philosophy under renowned religious pluralist John Hick at the University of Birmingham and then in 1984 was awarded a doctorate in theology under Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich. Distinguished New Testament scholar D. A. Carson wrote a helpful work “The Gagging of God” which adderesses the subject well. Craig’s website address is: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/

Ravi Zacharias’ web adress is:
http://www.rzim.org/

July 3, 10:36 am | [comment link]
3. William Scott wrote:

Have a look at ‘Time for Truth’ on the vidio list bellow.  It is a lecture by Os Guinness.  It deals with relativism in general.  It and many of the other videos on this list are very useful.

http://www.theapologiaproject.org/video_library.htm

July 3, 10:53 am | [comment link]
4. ElaineF. wrote:

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.  Colssians 4:5, 6 [NKJV]

As a relatively new Christian [and a social worker]...I share my faith with love and respect, and sometimes with humor, but with as much clarity and quiet confidence as I can.  Our Lord prepares us through Scripture to understand that we must arm ourselves and then, stand fast, with grace.  I see portions of the church which think that by confirming to the world they will attract adherents.  I think they are wrong because people in despair want a secure foothold.

At first I was intimidated by not having memorized the “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” by Kreeft and Tacelli, but then I came to understand that “faith is an oasis in the heart which the caravan of thinking can never reach.”  [K. Gibran]  Now I speak out when the occasion presents itself, hoping to plant a seed which the Lord will make grow.

July 3, 11:02 am | [comment link]
5. Philip Snyder wrote:

When discussing religion or faith with members of other religions, I try to approach it from a “mutual learning” aspect.  I want to know how they (predominatly Muslim and Jewish) understand God and then I share how Christianity understands God.  I do this with pastoral and human relationships in mind.  I generally have these discussions with friends.

When I am working to present the Gospel so that people will accept Jesus, I try to use my understanding of their faith to lead them to Jesus as the fullness of the revelation of God.  For example, I’ve had several discussions with Muslims in prison where we discuss the remedy for sin in Islam (there isn’t one) and the remedy for sin and sinful nature in Christianity.  I will ask them what the penalty for sin is (death) and then say that someone (Jesus) has to die.  I ask them how God can share heaven with sinners and indicate that they need new life before they can inhabit heaven.  While I have not been successful at getting the muslims to make a decision of Jesus Christ, that isn’t my job.  Conversion is the job of “management” (e.g. theHoly Spirit).  I just work in “sales”.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

July 3, 11:57 am | [comment link]
6. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Any discussion about religious differences and similarities should not begin with religion.  It must begin with a discussion of certain assumptions.  Assumption such as there is no absolute truth,  that tolerance is the greatest virtue and that the question is always more important than the answer. 
Without an understanding of Truth how can one be introduced to our belief in Jesus Christ who is the cornerstone of all Truth?” 

As for the confused episcoislamist I think her ears are so stopped up with heresy any words would be useless.  Just pray and pray some more.

July 3, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
7. Karen B. wrote:

I can offer three links that may be specifically helpful for interacting with Muslims and understanding their beliefs:

1) The Answering Islam website
http://www.answering-islam.org/

2) A blog by a fellow T19 reader and occasional commenter: 
Islam & Christianity
http://islamdom.blogspot.com/

see especially The Gospel According to Muhammed and
The Islam series: http://islamdom.blogspot.com/2007/06/previous-parts-of-islam-series-by-abu.html

3) The Yale center for faith and reconciliation
http://www.yale.edu/faith/reconciliation/index.htm

see especially the issues page:
http://www.yale.edu/faith/reconciliation/issues.htm

Don’t let the fact that this is being run out of Yale University fool you.  The folks who are running this initiative are committed orthodox Christians. It’s a very exciting program with huge potential!

July 3, 1:45 pm | [comment link]
8. vulcanhammer wrote:

#7: To all those I would add
http://www.muhammadanism.org/

I have done a reasonable amount of dialogue with Muslims, as I document in
http://www.vulcanhammer.org/?p=14

The only way I can characterise the Ann Holmes Redding situation is bizzare.  Any Christian who has talked with an orthodox Muslim quickly realises that both of you have a different religion, and that he (or she) knows it too.  However, in an environment where the Qur’an has a higher opinion of Jesus than, say, opinion makers such as John Shelby Spong, such an attempt at syncretism was inevitable.

July 3, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
9. Scott Gilbreath wrote:

I second the previous recommendations of Peter Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

I also recommend two websites that I have found very useful.

Apologetics Index contains information, not only on major religions, but also a plethora of cults and Christian heresies.  I haven’t read every entry, so I can’t vouch for all the content, but the breadth of coverage is amazing.  Apologetics Index generally assumes a conservative Christian perspective.

On the more liberal side, there’s Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.

Both sites are well-documented with links to other internet sources of information.

As for Anne Holmes Redding, I’d try pointing out that Islam rejects the view that Christianity and Islam are compatible, much less a claim to have embraced both at once.  In Muslim countries, she could be ostracised, if not attacked—-a stark contrast to the bemused acceptance she has received in the West.  One hopes she’d wonder why that might be.

July 3, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
10. FrankV wrote:

I would recommend reading the following book to appreciate the full scope of Islam’s hatred of Jews and Christians and the bloody way in which Islam achieved its ascendency:
The Life And Religion of Mohammed, The Prophet of Arabia,  by Rev. J. L. Menezes, ISBN 1-929291-68-X. .
This will give you a better understanding (which will horrify you) of Islam than 99.9% of the Muslims and their Imams have.
Redding is obviously a confused person caught up in a pink cloud of gooey feel-good “spiritual” orgasm similar to an LSD trip.  I wonder if someone is spiking her communion wine?

July 3, 3:08 pm | [comment link]
11. Stan W wrote:

May I add to the wonderful resourses already presented the following scholar and his websites:
impactapologetis.com
http://www.normgeisler.com/

July 3, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
12. Fr. Greg wrote:

Handbook of Christian Apologetics is an excellent resource.  I would also add an old standby, Mere Christianity.  I have just begun reading the blog “Islam and Christianity” mentioned above, and have learned a great deal.  Of particular interest is a post which discusses the things that attract Muslims to Christianity.

My question for Ms. Redding would be, “How is it that you WANT to take Jesus out of your relationship with God?”  Jesus, precisely as God-made-human, is the guarantor that God is, in fact, not simply Almighty, etc., but that God is GOOD, that God is LOVE, that God really cares about ME.  All of this was radically questioned in the Garden and humanity remains haunted by nagging doubts as to whether or not God is good, etc.

Second, and relatedly, I wonder how she (or Islam as a whole for that matter) can deny original sin.  There is a saying which is usually attributed to Martin E. Marty to the effect that “original sin is the only Christian dogma which is empirically verifiable.”  I fail to see how anyone a)could be aware of the history of the 20th century and yet deny OS and b)be reasonably in touch with one’s own inner life and still deny OS.  But for all that, not to mention my own personal sinfulness, because of Jesus, we can yet know ourselves to be loved,  forgiven, and on the road to becoming something better, to being “conformed to the image of Christ”.

Which brings me to my last point:  as evangelists/apologists, we are fundamentally simply beggars telling other hungry beggars where they can find food and drink.  Therefore, we need to be aware of our own stories:  that is, why we are Christians, how we became Christians, and why we remain Christians.  Coming to understand myself in this way will not only make me a more effective evangelizer/apologist, but will also enhance my own relationship with Christ.

July 3, 4:02 pm | [comment link]
13. John A. wrote:

#10 Frank, sadly there is plenty of blood on both sides.  Muslim hatred toward Christians and Jews is not as uniform as you suggest.  Most Muslims view Christians favorably but there is tremendous animosity toward the state of Israel.  The more fundamental problem is that the goal of Islam is to implement Sharia law wherever possible and it is an open question whether Islam can be compatible with unrestricted democracy.

I would happily ignore Redding but the problem is that she represents the mission field in the US.  We cannot dismiss her views but we must pray and plan how to share the Gospel with people who have a similar view.

July 3, 11:40 pm | [comment link]
14. FrankV wrote:

I feel very sorry for Ms. Redding, I really do.  I think she is a very confused person.  The greater tragedy is the one above her, the Bishop, who does not address the problem. 
Most Muslims? I’m not so sure about that.  Don’t tell that to the Christian remnant in Iraq, Iran, Egypt and even parts of Turkey today.

July 4, 12:01 am | [comment link]
15. Tikvah wrote:

Ravi Zacharias. Try his book, “Jesus Among Other Gods.” He was raised Hindu, in India. He has been called the C.S. Lewis of our day.
T

July 4, 1:27 am | [comment link]
16. Lutheran-MS wrote:

The God of Christians is not same god of Muslims or any other religion. Jesus said no one can come to the Father except through Him.

July 4, 3:04 am | [comment link]
17. Larry Morse wrote:

I wold not be so nice to Redding. I would tell her that she is like poison ivy: of no danger to herself but a real danger to anyone else who touches her.
LM

July 4, 9:06 am | [comment link]
18. John A. wrote:

Some of the books I have found to be very helpful include:

How-To Books:
“Seeker Small Groups” by Gary Poole
“Becoming a Contagious Christian” by Bill Hybels, Mark Mittelberg
“Searching Issues” by Nicky Gumbel

A Different Perspective:
“Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller

Sharing in a small group is a lot of fun and it give people a safe place to try out their questions.  Of course Alpha is built on this model.

Regarding my comment about “most Muslims”, ‘most’ is going too far (please see http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?PageID=831).

July 4, 11:30 pm | [comment link]
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