Idolatry and Religious Faiths
The condemnation of idolatry is a common theme of Islam and Christianity and as such it may give us a lead towards some better understanding between these traditions. It cannot be denied, of course, that the theme has been generously used in each tradition to condemn the other traditions: each tradition can appear to the others as idolatrous. It might be thought then that this was hardly a fruitful theme to explore, since it only brought to light the negative aspects of our relations with one another and perhaps exaggerated the tendencies in each of us towards intolerance and insensitivity. It might be far better to encourage a positive appreciation of other people’s images and ideas, as happens, for example, in the liberal theologies of the recent past. But praiseworthy as this kind of liberalism might be, we have at some point to face the question of the truth and value of particular ways of representing God, and we need a criterion by which to assess them. I do not wish to suggest that we revert to the formal criteria of our respective traditions and say, for instance, that because an image or idea is Christian it is true, whereas another is non-Christian and therefore not true.
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