What Is Convergence Thinking and How Does It Affect One's Approach to Muslims?

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In than five years after Vatican II, a Roman Catholic committee called the "Secretariat for Non-Christians" issued a booklet called their Guidelines for Dialogue. In the quote below you will see that it advocates for a meeting of the minds of Roman Catholics and Muslims, something which it calls 'convergence.' This convergence idea was diagrammed by a former Muslim in a picture below. He suggests that many Protestants are trying to bring what he calls the Biblical Christ line, closer to the Islamic Christ line. The practical result of this thinking is that there are Christians who suggest that the Islamic Jesus is very close to the Biblical Jesus. In this short treatment we will see that this convergence kind of thinking is very problematic to yet another former Muslim.

The report of the Secretariat

The Secretariat for Non-Christians was set in motion by Pope Paul VI in 1964 in an effort to display  ‘the effort the Church is making to come closer to the members of other religions" whereby none "‘will any longer be a complete stranger to this Rome." In a fashion this was a noble venture, to replace hostility with hospitality. Yet the statement of the Secretariat in 1969 foreshadowed a troubling dynamic with a statement about the 'oneness' of believers who could be Christians or Muslims. It read as follows:                

We must try to discover with our Muslim friends the lines of convergence, which will lead us to become more united in heart and mind, with a deep respect for each other's main fundamental trends of thought and belief. Of course, we cannot yet see how our separate ways will ever meet. But what we can already see is that the aspirations of us all are growing ever closer. It is precisely this convergence that a spirituality for Muslim Christian dialogue will do its best to encourage, as a manner of sharing in a Mystery which is greater than us all, in anticipation of that day when all believers will be One.

From:  Secretariat for Non-Christians, Guidelines for a Dialogue Between
Muslims and Christians
(Rome: Edizion Ancora, 1969), p. 141.

Fast forward to 2015:

In 2015, Fred Farrokh, a former Muslim of Iranian background  published an article in Global Missiology  entitled, "Indigenous Perspective on Muslim Identity and Insider Movements" (January 2015).

In that article, Farrokh details the effects of convergence thinking on missions to Muslims and says that some zealous, but unknowledgeable Christians have done damage to effective outreach by trying to re-interpret Islamic data on Muhammad, the Muslim Jesus and the Qur'an all to make them much more Christian than they ever were designed to be. He shows this by means of a diagram which shows two parallel lines, which in his view were never designed to be close to each other, or to intersect in any away as there is a 'chasm' between them. See page 5 on the link above. In his view,  this tarnishes the honor of the Biblical Jesus and by Christianizing the Qur'an, the potency of the Gospel message, which is unique only to the Bible is enfeebled.

Examples of convergent thinking: 

...a flyer distributed in a major city in Canada reads, "We Muslims love Jesus.".This sounds good on first flush, but the question must be asked, "Which one?"

...a participant at a seminar talks about the honor given to the Muslim Jesus in the Qur'an and about his return. What is not said, however,  is that the honor given to the Muslim Jesus is consistently eclipsed by that of Muhammad as seen in the biography of Muhammad, in the songs and poems written for him and in the Islamic celebrations of the birth of Muhammad, his night journey and the prayers on his behalf. Also, what is not said about the return of the Muslim Jesus is that most Muslims believe the following:

   "The one eyed antichrist, accompanied by seventy thousand Jews, will be killed by Isa [the Muslim Jesus] , at the place called Lod. The Jews will be badly defeated. Isa will break the crosses, annihilate swine and will end all wars and jizya (poll tax). His position will be like that of a judge. During this period there will be an abundance of all sorts of goods. Muslims will dominate the world and there will be an end of all religions except Islam (Mawdudi, A.A, Finality of Prophet hood, pp. 58-61). 

And almost the same on the Muslim Jesus [=Isa]

On his return, Isa… will live for forty years during which he will marry, have children, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage). After his death, he will be buried beside the grave of the Prophet Muhammad (Wali ad-Din, Miskat Al-Masabih, (tr. James Robson), Vol.II, p.1159; Sahih Muslim, Vol.1, p.92).

What these two examples show is that convergent thinking is highly selective of its data and fails to present the entire picture. It is this type of selective data that caused another former Muslim to write the following description of the Muslim Jesus:

  • Islamic Jesus was created and not eternal. Sūra 3:59
  • Islamic Jesus is not the Lamb of God who was slain. Sūra 4.157
  • Islamic Jesus who will not return until Judgment Day. Sūra 43:61
  • Islamic Jesus prophesied (but did not send) the coming of Mohammed (Islamic Jesus did not send the Holy Spirit). [al-Saff 61:6]
  • Islam, which says Salvation, is found only in the Five Pillars of Islam, not Isa. Sūra 9:20
  • Islamic Jesus was never crucified and therefore was not resurrected. Sūra 4:157-158
  • Islamic Jesus is not the God in the flesh as the Messiah. Sūra 5:72-73
  • Islamic Jesus is NOT the Son of God. Sūra 19:34-38
  • Islamic Jesus is simply another prophet. Sūra 2.136, 2.84
  • Islamic Jesus who returns will not be pierced. They killed him not nor crucified him, (Sūra 4.157)

So what?

In his paper, Fred Farrokh lists a few problems with convergent thinking due to the chasm between the truth of the Biblical Jesus and the picture of the Muslim Jesus.

...It is unclear whether the movements being described by IM advocates are moving toward
the biblical Jesus, toward the Qur’anic Jesus—who is a mere prophet shorn of his saving
power—or hovering between the two positions.

...Christian efforts to bend the biblical Christology down toward the Islamic Christology
threaten to undermine the uniqueness of the biblical Lord Jesus Christ.

The list from the Qur'an above, as well, suggests that the Muslim Jesus falls into the category of "another Jesus" to quote the Apostle Paul:

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. [2 Corinthians 11:4]

Conclusion:

Convergence thinking effectively says, "It is possible and positive to blend together the best of any and all religions in order to come to the truth of a super-religion." In the case we have been looking at it says that "it is possible and positive to blend together the best of Islam and Christianity and to come to a better understanding of truth." Consider what this says about the uniqueness of the Biblical Jesus, the uniqueness of the Bible, and the fact that Jesus Christ is the unique, last and only revealer of the True and Living God. Consider the ramifications of teaching and preaching "another Jesus." Sometimes divergent is better than convergent.

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  • Muslim Ministry
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Participant

Very interesting article. Thanks for the link to the original paper. 

Makes me think of the value of our Confessions. If we use the confessions properly, they will continue to drive us to Scripture to see the unique place of Jesus as the Savior and Son of God – both titles and works which cannot be syncretized with Islam.

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