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Heresy and the Islamic view of Christianity

In this final post about 'Heresy, a history of defending the truth' by Alister McGrath we look at Chapter 10 which is about how the Islamic view of Christianity is influenced by Christian heresy. 
  • In the first post we saw that heresy is a form of belief that is ultimately found to be inadequate. 
  • In the second post we looked heresy's relationship to faith and belief. 
  • In the third post we saw that the term 'heresy' developed from the idea of a school of thought to later include the idea of a negative judgement about that thought.  We also saw that these schools of thought arose from within the church in response to their cultural settings and that it was often only over time that the weaknesses to those positions became evident.
  • In the fourth post we saw that Heresies could be grouped into Classic or Patristic heresies that emerged in the first five centuries of the Christian faith; and Medieval heresies.
  • In the fifth post there were some short summaries of these Classic heresies.

Here are some quotes:

Muslims and Christians have been alienated partly by the fact that both have misunderstood each other's faith by tryign to fit it into their own pattersn.  The most usual error is to suppose (on both sides) that the roles of jesus Christ in Christianity and of Muhammad in Islam are comparable...  If one is drawing paralleles in terms of the structure of the two religions, what corresponds in the Christian scheme to the Qur'an is not the bible but the person of Christ -  It is Christ who is for Christians the revelation (from) God.  (page 223)

The problematic Qur'anic representation of Christianity can be argued to reflect knowledge, whether direct or indirect, of heretical versions of Christianity that are know to have been present in this region... (page 224)

The Qur'anic representation of the doctrine of the Trinity ....the Qur'an appears to represent Christians as worshipping a trinity of three distinct persons - God, Jesus and Mary...   Why? ..... The Qur'anic view of the Trinity appears to show at least some degree of familiarity with a heretical school within Christianity that was known to have been influential in Arabia at that time.  The heresy in question is that of the Collyridian sect.....  One of its most distinctive characteristics is treating Mary as a goddess.  (page 225)

The Qur'anic depiction of Jesus of Nazareth makes sense when seen in the context of the intrintrinsic Docetism fo many Gnostic Christologies, which are known to have been influential in this region of Arabia around this time..... (page 226)

A fourth century Sethian Gnostic treaty -

refuses to accept that Jesus was crucified, offering an alternative account of the events of Good Friday...'And I did not die in reality but in appearance'  .....  This teaching bears remarkable similarity to Islamic teachings about Jesus of Nazareth which reflect a similar disinclination to accept that Jesus suffered and died upon the cross.   (page 227)

Since Christian heresies are forms of Christianity, no matter how defective, deformed or distorted, the recognition that the Qur'an know of, and criticizes, heretical forms of Christianity allows Muslims to affirm that what is being criticized is indeed a form of Christianity, and Christians to respond by pointing out that they are not authentic or representative forms of Christianity. (page 228)

David Wanstall, 25/11/2011