Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Love of God

Do Muslims and Christians have a different perspective on God's love? Christianity Today reports on the first full day of the “Loving God and Neighbor” conference that is bringing together Christian, Muslim, and (a few) Jewish leaders on the campus of Yale University.

One of the Muslim speakers was Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia:

Dr. Ceric preached the value of forgiveness. Having witnessed the terror and brutality of the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, he has had much to forgive. He told the Yale gathering of Muslims and Christians that “the human being has the right to ‘an eye for an eye.’” But the right to revenge is balanced by Islamic teaching: “If you forgive, you will be forgiven in the world to come, and [here my notes are a bit shaky] it will be your propitiation.”

But Ceric startled several evangelical listeners when he suggested that not everyone was worthy of love all the time. While he talked about love for widows and orphans, for example, he named “the arrogant” as an example of those who should not be loved. This contrasts sharply with Christian notions of love, in which we are called to love unconditionally “because he first loved us.” And the difference between the two notions of love became a point of discussion.

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf made a point of explaining the Christian view of love in his panel presentation just before lunch. Contrasting with another Muslim cleric’s assertion that we cannot speak of love as being of the essence of God, but only of love as God’s actions, Volf read the locus classicus from 1 John 4:7-21, with its famous sentence, “God is love.” Because God loves (among the persons of the Trinity) before the world comes into existence, said Volf, God’s love is not reactive, but is of his essence.

Nothing to comment on, just an interesting point of difference.

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