Jesus a Muslim? Fail

Epigraph:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him. And his mother was a truthful woman. They both used to eat food. See how We explain the Signs for their good, and see how they are turned away.  (Al Quran 5:76)

These billboards went up in the state of Ohio

These billboards went up in the state of Ohio

Source: The Huffington Post

By Kerry Walters, William Bittinger Professor of Philosophy and Peace and Justice Studies, Gettysburg College

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner got himself in beaucoup trouble with his notion of the “anonymous Christian.” His intentions were pure. But he was dead wrong, and he deserved the censure he received.

Rahner argued that anyone who exhibits a Christ-like spirit of faith, hope, and love but hasn’t explicitly identified with Christianity is nonetheless a de facto “anonymous Christian” — that is, a Christian without knowing it. What he intended to say is that folks can be filled with the spirit of Christ without necessarily belonging to the Christian faith. But what he wound up doing is gravely insulting members of other faith traditions, not to mention folks who repudiate all faith, by claiming them willy-nilly for Christ.

He didn’t mean it to be so, but Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” doctrine was a subtle form of forced baptism. Faith traditions have their own identities, and those identities need to be respected rather than appropriated. Failing to do so isn’t just insensitive or disrespectful. It’s also a species of spiritual colonization.

I bring up this theological debate from a generation ago because of a recent billboard, put up by Ask-a-Muslim.com, that proclaims “Jesus is a Muslim.” I’m happy to assume that the motive behind the billboard is as pure as Rahner’s was when he defended his notion of “anonymous Christian.” But it’s also just as wrong-minded, and equally deserving of censure.

Perhaps the intent behind the billboard was to assert that there’s only one God, and that the world’s various faith traditions are bound by their common longing for God. True enough. But it’s quite a leap to infer from this shared goal that there are no real and fundamental differences between faith traditions when it comes to envisioning what God is or what God expects from us. There are, actually, huge differences, and to deny them is both to dishonor and to distort the faiths of the world. To deny them, in fact, is to nip in the bud any possibility of meaningful interfaith dialogue.

Perhaps Ask-a-Muslim’s billboard is intended to point out that Jesus (or Isa, as the Qur’an calls him) is accepted by Muslims as a prophet. Fair enough. But calling Jesus a Muslim entails that Jesus embraces doctrines in both the Quran and Muslim oral tradition which are antithetical to what he preached in the Gospels — for example, his unconditional condemnation of violence. This isn’t just saying “As a Muslim, I admire Jesus as a prophet.” This is a forced appropriation, turning Jesus into something other than what he’s portrayed as being in the New Testament, the book venerated by Christians. In terms of shock value, it’s tantamount to a Christian who admires Muhammad baldly asserting “Muhammad is a Christian,” rather than “I think Muhammad was a great man who has something to teach Christians.” In a culture as deeply sensitive to the importance of respecting cultural diversity as ours is, this kind of spiritual colonization is shocking — or at least ought to be.

Finally, calling Jesus a Muslim is a clear denial of his divinity, since the Quran unequivocally states as much, and this of course suggests, whether or not Ask-a-Muslim intended it, that the Christian understanding of Jesus is foolishly false. In what possible world would this not be insensitive?

So, sorry. The Dalai Lama, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, and Richard Dawkins aren’t “anonymous Christians.” Rahner was wrong about that.

And by the same token, Jesus isn’t a Muslim, anonymous or otherwise.

Reference

Additional Reading

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

7 replies

  1. Jesus, may peace be on him, is a Muslim, because that is how he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, to God the Father, by prostrating to the ground.

    Jesus is a Muslim as just like them he considered himself to be a prophet of God and a Jewish prophet of God to be more precise.

    Jesus is a Muslim, because just like them he cannot understand Trinity and believes in one God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, God the Father.

    Understanding the Nature of Jesus is Always a Heresy

    • I recall the very ‘shocked’ reaction of Christian during a joint Muslim-Christian meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, (a long time ago), when the then Imam of the Mahmud Mosque mentioned that we consider Jesus to have been a Muslim. The reaction was ‘Oh No, He is Ours!’

  2. Bismilahirahmanirrahiim

    Based on Al Quran;

    1.Jesus, Moses, Ibrahiim all of them are Muslim or Islam.

    2.The book of Taurat, zabur, injil and Al Quran are Islmic teaching came from the same God.

    3.Those who love Prophet Muhammad (saw) should also love all prophet above. do not discriminate among them

    4. Those who believe Muhammad (saw)should believe also others prophet and their teaching too

    5. by believing God’s books, Muslim have to practicing all Gods laws.

    6. Injil came down to Jesus do not to destroy previous God’s books but to fulfill it. also the same as Al Quran, Al Quran do Not to destroy the previous book of God (Bible), but to fulfill it.

    7. Those who follows the Jesus teaching (Injil) God will fill his heart with love,compassion,mercy, guidance and light.
    Muhammad’s followers must practicing Jesus teaching (injil)to be more perfect.

    8. Those who do not practicing Jesus teaching ( Bible ) his heart filled with hate toward others, hate stir up trouble, conflict, and then murder.

    9. God created His books for His people on earth, God also will guard all His Books from forgery for ever.

    10.Those who accuse God;s book have been altered by human,or contains Satan’s verses, God will condemn them.

    Herewith, I strongly encourage Muslim consider reading Bible as well as Christian read Al Quran.
    As Rasulullah(saw) believed and practiced some of Jesus teaching and loved all prophets.QS 3;3.

    Jesus came to the earth NOT to destroy Taurat, but to fulfill it.
    Muhammad (saw) came to the earth NOT to destroy Taurat and Injil, but to fulfill it. Taurat, Zabur, Injil and Al Quran are Islamic book from Allah.

    May God guide us all to the truth of Islamic teaching. Ameen

    All love

  3. Christian Brother: Remember Sulman Rushdi & freedom of speech.
    PS: I do not agree with the wording of billboard.

  4. Unfortunately Prophet Jusus (peace be upon him) is not here to tell us how he would like to be labeled – Jewish Rabbi, Messiah, Muslim, etc. but extremists among us (this time they are Muslims) are trying to create controversy where none existed.

    Let us respect feelings of the society that we live in; what does one gain by hurting others’ feelings. Do we have to stoop to the level of Christian extremists?

    Let’s show some love and reduce hatred. Take down the offensive billboard, for God’s sake.

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