Christology in Christian-Muslim dialogue: the hermeneutics of interreligious dialogue for the promotion of common values.
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Christology is one of the most contentious subjects in Christian-Muslim relations. While Jesus Christ is construed as the “Son of God and saviour of the world” in Christianity, Islam conceives him as a “prophet of Allah” without divine connotations. Whereas in the past Christianity viewed this Islamic image of Jesus as a “new form of heresy” which had to be sanitized by force, if need; Islam also rejected the Christology of the Christian Church as pure distortions and falsifications. In this context of “claim and counterclaim” is the identity and mission of Jesus Christ situated – common to both religions, yet divided between them. While some scholars think that Christian-Muslim dialogue on Christology is impossible because of the stark differences in their christological understandings, we argue that such dialogues are possible if they are organized against the backdrop of dialogue as an exercise in learning from and about the other. Dialogue as an exercise in learning negotiates the contentions that characterize the “claim and counterclaim” paradigms of Christian-Muslim relations by its emphasis on learning from and about what the other. We shall propose comparative theology and Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of the self as the theological approach and the hermeneutic framework which support this form of dialogue. Comparative theology is viewed here as the critical correlation of the theological themes, concepts and practices between two religious traditions with the view to deeply learn and understand them, and hence be enriched by this learning. It is a conversation with another tradition which eventually becomes a conversation with the home tradition. Hermeneutically, whereas we shall argue that these forms of conservation are best guided by Ricoeur’s concept of attestation, Ricoeur’s notion of narrative identity also shows how in narrating the story of our lives, we find that others contribute to our narratives and we theirs. We shall argue that these narrative intertwinements serve as the basis for the possibility of fruitful engagements between the self and the other in contexts where they are considered estranged. From this hermeneutic perspective, we shall demonstrate on the one hand, how Islam and Christianity possess symmetrical and dissymmetrical narrative discourses on Christology, and on the other, how these could serve as contexts for learning. Whereas this learning may lead to the profound knowledge of oneself, the authentic knowledge of the other and mutual interrelationships between Christians and Muslims, dialogue as an exercise in learning could also lead Christians and Muslims to the discovery and promotion of common values such as prayer and submission to God, peace and peaceful co-existence and solidarity with the poor and the marginalized. These values are considered common to them because they are inspired by the message, the life and mission of Jesus Christ the “prophet of Allah” and the “Son of God.” Key Words: Christology, Dialogue, Comparative Theology and Hermeneutics.