September 15, 2009 9:31:00 AM
Bert Montgomery wrote ("Singing ''Father Abraham''", Sept. 14, 2009) of a gathering he attended on Sept. 10 at Mississippi State''s campus, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews met to discuss their respective faiths. He wrote that he was thankful that the night was peaceful and the participants were respectful of one another.
While I too am thankful that such discussion is possible in our religiously tolerant nation, I fear Rev. Montgomery misrepresented the degree of differences between the faiths. The tone of the article suggested that the differences between the three faiths amounted to little more than personal tastes, such as the kind of musical tastes which would incline one to choose Lawrence Welk over KISS, or political preferences which would inform votes for McGovern instead of Nixon in 1972''s presidential election.
Informed followers of the three faiths know that their teachings are irreconcilable with one another, for what separates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not a matter of personal preference. To begin with, each has a radically different understanding of who God is. Islam teaches that God is completely transcendent and rejects the notion that one can know, in a personal way, God. Judaism teaches that God, while personal and knowable, would never stoop to become a man - the whole idea of an incarnate deity is ridiculous in Judaism. Christianity teaches that God indeed became a man and that the fullest revelation of God is seen in Jesus Christ. "Anyone who has seen me," Jesus said, "has seen the Father."
The differences between these faiths don''t end there, and of course holding to one by definition means you think the others are wrong on many things, but that does not mean that adherents of these faiths cannot dialogue peacefully.
However, we must dialogue in an intellectually honest way rather than try and paper over these differences in the hope of achieving a feel-good sense of what really amounts to a false unity. Far better, I would argue, to build a solid foundation of understanding between the faiths and respecting one another enough to be clear what our theological differences are, and then having a meaningful conversation from an enlightened, not ignorant, position.
The writer is the pastor of Adaton Baptist Church