Father Abraham Had Many Sons ... I Am One of Them and So Are You

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Remember the jingle: "Father Abraham had many sons ... had many sons ... I am one of them and so are you ...." Not many people today would say that song could be sung with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people all holding hands — albeit with the inclusion of daughters — and each affirming that what they are singing is true. In a fashion they are right, but shortly we will see how Dr. Mark Durie thinks differently. 

"Abrahamic faith" and its origins

A quick examination of the Hebrew Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an will show that each of them call Abraham a "friend of God." Thus 2 Chronicles 20:7,  Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23, along with Surah 4:125 of the Qur'an, all refer to him as such. Just because a common term is used, however, does not mean that the basis of this friendship is the same. In the Bible, this friendship is because of YAHWEH's unconditional choice to be Abraham's covenant-bound friend, and in Islam, it is because of Abraham's obedience in sacrificing his son. The same is true when one considers the phrase "Abraham as a model of the faith" or "father of the faithful."  Exactly what those phrases mean in the context of Islam, Judaism or Christianity is vital.

When you read the following statements (1) from Louis Massignon,  (2 a & b) from two large mission organizations, (3) from  the Abrahamic Alliance and (4), (5) and (6) from three respective Popes you might think that these statements all have a common connection. You are right. They all can be traced, as Mark Durie points out in his talk to the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors on January 21, 2014, to a Roman Catholic scholar named Massignon and his student Youakim Moubarak. This is an attempt, as Durie underscores, to have a rapprochement — as the French would say — or a bringing together of three faith traditions around the person of Abraham.

It is good to remember that it was Massignon who himself said that he was "'standing at the crossroads, on the terrain of spiritual contact between Christianity and Islam" — something that could be called "inter-religion" and he even signed his name as Brother Abraham at times.

Examples of "Abrahamic faith" talk:

[The following statements require careful scrutiny through a truly Biblical  Christian worldview. As the wise shopper knows 'caveat emptor' =buyer beware]

#1 

There in Jerusalem the Christians have Arab witness of their faith and the geographical convergence of the three Abrahamic faiths in one and the same Holy Land.

[Source: Louis Massignon,  The Three Prayers of Abraham, 1949];

The Muslim who believes in the original equality of the three Abrahamic religions, Israel, Christianity, Islam, knows that they refer to the same God of truth. 

[Source: Massignon, 1953]

#2

We are spiritually related to Muslims.  Muslims look to ‘Ibrahim’ (Abraham) as 'our forefather’ (Romans 4:1).  Since those who follow Jesus call Abraham ’the father of all who believe’ (Romans 4:11), we share our lineage.  Like us, Muslims believe in one true God, the Creator of all peoples.”  

[Source: Frontiers Mission]

#2b.

The Abraham Center is a unique place of study for service among the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. ... The Abraham Center is designed to provide training and research opportunities for students so that they can pursue scholarly, professional, and intercultural activities in Abrahamic faith communities. We invite you to come join us as we seek to build bridges between the peoples of the Abrahamic religions!

[Source: Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics & College of International Studies (GIAL) which is an SIL/Wycliffe venture.]

#3

Abrahamic Alliance International is a movement of faithful Jews, Christians and Muslims who are deeply committed to loving the God of our father Abraham with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

#4

Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) addressed the emir of Mauritania as his  "brother in Abraham" and a believer in one God, the creator. 

#5

We address this respectful greeting in a particular way to those who profess monotheism and with Us address our worship to the single true God, supreme and living, the God of  Abraham, the highest God. 

[Source: Pope Paul VI, “Messagio al Mondo” given in Bethlehem, January 6, 1964]

#6

“They [Muslims] have like you the faith of Abraham;” later in the speech he specifically identifies the “spiritual descendants of Abraham” as “Christians, Muslims, and Jews."

[Pope John Paul II, addressing Christians in Turkey, 1979]

On other occasions I have spoken of the religious patrimony of Islam and of its spiritual values. The Catholic Church takes into account that the element of adoration given to the one, living, self-subsistent, merciful and omnipotent Creator of the heavens and of the earth is common to Islam and to itself, and that this is a great link which unites all Christians and Muslims. With great satisfaction it notes also, among the other elements of Islam that are common [to us], the honor attributed to Jesus Christ and to the Virgin Mother. While the Catholic Church makes every effort to maintain religious dialogue with Islam on the basis of existing ties—upon which it seeks ever more to reflect—in the same way it extends this invitation [to engage in dialogue] in order that its own heritage be fully known, especially to those who are spiritually united to Abraham, and who profess monotheism. On my part I desire therefore to do everything possible to make a contribution toward developing spiritual ties between Christians and Muslims.

[Source: Pope John Paul II, “A Capi Musulmani Del Kenya,”  Nairobi, Kenya May 7, 1980]

Mark Durie on Abrahamic faiths:

Here is a brief introduction (and Youtube link) to his talk entitled "The Abrahamic Fallacy: Why Abraham is not a point of unity for Islam, Judaism, and Christianity"

Over the past fifty years the expression 'Abrahamic' has become widely used to refer collectively to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The key idea is that the three religions 'share' Abraham and find in him a point of unity.

The phrase 'Abrahamic religion' or 'faith of Abraham' was first promoted in ecumenical circles during the 1950's and 1960's by Lebanese Maronite priest, Youakim Moubarak, whose theological vision was political, of an 'egalitarian Palestine in which Jews, Christians and Muslims demonstrate together its abrahamic and ecumenical vocation'.

In reality, however, Abraham is a divisive figure: in Judaism he is the Torah-observant father of the Jewish nation; for Christians he is the apostle of salvation by faith alone; for Muslims he is the proto-typical Muslim, a forerunner and validator of Muhammad.

Moubarak took the phrase 'religion of Abraham' from the Koran and his promotion of it is a manifestation of dhimmi theology, a worldview constrained by existential fear, psychological accommodation and denial. In fact the 'Abrahamic vocation' inspired by the Koran leads to Islamization and sharia implementation. The current state of the Middle East offers eloquent testimony to the hollowness of this vision.

For further reflection:

1. Can you see the importance of defining a term from within the worldview of the speaker? According to Islam, Abraham is the proto-typical Muslim, exemplar of the prophets, and consummate monotheist. In Islam he is the "father of the faith" which according to Islam, clearly states  that Allah of Islam is greater, and Muhammad is the final messenger. Consider what one author said about the Islamic portrait of Abraham: ... [his] "Jewish and Christian portraits are quickly demolished."  

2. Consider this statement by Moubarac in 1958:

"The Koran did not claim Abraham for itself in order to make Islam independent of the Jews and Christians, but it detached itself in order to find in Abraham a perfect religious [proto] type who came before the Judeo-Christian revelation which would come to disfigure him.

[Original French]

Le Coran ne se reclame pas d'Abraham pur rendre l'Islam indepéndent des Juifs et des Chrétiens, mais il s'en désolidarise pour avoir découvert en Abraham un type religieux parfait antérieur à la révélation judeo-chretienne qui en sera venue à le difigurer.

3. Dr. Durie wrote the following about the Yale University Common Word Initiative that tried to bring Christians and Muslims together under "One God" and father Abraham. What do you think about the following comment?

It is concerning that the Yale Response appears to endorse the construct of ‘Abrahamic Faith’. The term ‘religion of Abraham’ is a Qur’anic expression which stands for the doctrine that Abraham and all the prophets were true Muslims, and not Christians or Jews. Despite its use in many recent interfaith discussions, this term stands in opposition to Christianity, not in harmony or cooperation with it:

They say: ‘Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).’ Say thou: ‘Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True [i.e. Islam], and he joined not gods with Allah.’ (Sura 2:135)

Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was a Muslim, and bowed his will to Allah's (Which is Islam), and he joined not gods with Allah. (Sura 3:67)

Click here to read more from Mark Durie.

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