Similar yet different

Recently the Student Islamic Association sponsored a panel discussion on three faiths which have a great deal in common: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Two of my Islamic students handed me fliers on the discussion and although I am a Christian, I was eager to attend. I thought the discussion would clarify exactly where the faiths converged and where they diverged. Instead, I left with the feeling that without having read the Bible, I would be ready to embrace Islam.

The Islamic representative did an exceptional job defending his faith. In no uncertain terms, he explained his beliefs. I was amazed at the similarities between his beliefs and mine as a Christian. The Islamic representative stuck to the basics. He did not mention all the different Islamic sects, nor did he mention “problems” with fundamentalists. He appeared to embrace fundamentalism. This provided an air of conviction surrounding his talk.

And yet I know many Christians and Jews with this same degree of conviction. I wish they could have been there to speak and defend their beliefs. My Jewish friends probably would have emphasized the accuracy and consistency of their Holy Book, the Torah, as did the Islamic representative. And certainly my Christian friends would have spoken of the accuracy and consistency found in the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible.

So where would the discussion have gone from there? It would have had to center on Jesus Christ. This is where the faiths diverge. The question is whether or not Jesus was just a carpenter and therefore a liar and magician, a divinely inspired prophet, or as I believe, God incarnate come to take punishment that we all deserve, and through belief in this, able to take away guilt, provide hope and instill the desire to follow God’s Commandments. Therefore, the evidence I have pointing to the deity of Jesus, is overwhelming and I remain firmly convicted in my Christian faith. I commend the Islamic representative who spoke with the similar conviction. May God bless You.

Joseph A. Newman

Assistant Professor