You have to ask yourself: What makes an “expert”. Forget the old joke about drips under pressure, and have a look at this example.
Rev. Mark Durie has just published a book called “Revelation? Do we worship the same god?” Here’s the publisher’s flyer:
New Release for 2006
Do we worship the same god?
Guidance for the perplexed
Today many are asking do Muslims and
Christians worship the same god.
It may seem like a simple question, but it is not. Muslims will insist that they do worship the same god, and indeed the witness of the Quran demands that they believe this. In Revelation? Durie demonstrates that Christians have good reasons to challenge this Islamic position. Revelation? compares the LORD (YHWH) of the Bible with Allah of the Quran and clearly shows from careful study of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity that the LORD God of the Bible and Allah of the Quran are different in many respects. They have such different personalities and different capacities that they cannot be said to be the same.
Well, you get the idea. Now, I think the discussion is an important one, but I don’t know if Dr Durie’s discussion will really help us get very far beyond first base. It is my personal belief that—at the level on intention—Muslims seek to worship the same God as Christians. They name their God as the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Well, there’s only one of those, and that’s the same God that I worship.
It is a different question then to ask if they have the same concept or understanding of this God as we do, or if they do in fact worship him in a way in which he would find acceptable.
Indeed, we Christians claim to worship the same God as the Jews, but the Jews would contend that “YHWH” of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Triune God of the New Testament are “different in many respects.” Jews could even say that “they have such different personalities and different capacities that they cannot be said to be the same.”
A small example. Imagine that there was a great war hero who died in battle. Let’s call him “Captain Bob”. Well, the people back home make a statue of Captain Bob and then invite one of his old soldier mates to attend the dedication ceremony. This mate comes along and sits through long speeches about the valiant “Captain Bob” and all his qualities. When it comes to his turn to speak, the mate says: “Well, that’s not the Bob that I knew.” And proceeds to describe quite a different character from the one immortalised by the townsfolk. Was it or was it not the same “Captain Bob” they were talking about, and would “Captain Bob” have been happy with the new persona the townsfolk had given him?
So back to the question of experts. On the flyer, Dr Durie is described as:
Dr Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992. Dr Durie is one of the keynote speakers with the Australian Mosques & Miracles conference team who have toured nationally and internationally over the past 3 years.
A human rights activist I know in Melbourne said that his jaw dropped to hear Mark Durie described as such. Durie was a principal witness against the Islamic Council of Victoria in the Catch The Fire case last year. Here’s how the judge summed up our erstwhile “expert”:
“Dr Durie said he was a Minister at St Mary’s Church in Caulfield. He has not completed any independent formal study of the Arabic language. He cannot read Arabic. He could not read or understand classical Arabic. He has no formal qualifications in Islamic theology, but has studied it privately for three years. …in reality, he has done no more than read a large number of books and articles on Islam, and even then, only to follow a plain bias in thinking about Islam and Muslims. In this sense, Dr Durie is obviously an intelligent person who has pursued a particular interest…”
(Justice Michael Higgins, transcript of VCAT hearing CTF vs. ICV, Reference No. A392/2002)
Ah yes. You have to ask yourself.