Here is a fine review of my book Not Peace But A Sword (which you can get here) from the Institute on Religion & Democracy: “Cutting through Theological Confusion: Robert Spencer’s Not Peace but a Sword Distinctly Divides Christianity from Islam,” by Andrew E. Harrod for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, July 27:
Any student of the world’s largest monotheistic religions must read the Bible, the Koran, and Not Peace but a Sword:Â The Great Chasm between Christianity and Islam by Robert Spencer.Â Spencer’s comprehensive understanding of his Christian faith and Islam along with lucidly insightful writing give lie to his international notoriety as a bigoted “Islamophobe,” most recently manifested in his denial of entry into the United Kingdom.Â Not Peace but a Sword masterfully validates the title-giving verse in Matthew 10:34 with Jesus” indication that His message will bring not a politically correct, multicultural theological universalism, but division.
“It is a peculiar, albeit common, misconception of our age,” Spencer initially observes, “to think that dispensing with the truth can be an act of charity.”Â Indeed, “one of the oddities of contemporary “˜interfaith dialogue” is that all too often, out of overzealous irenicism, it glosses over, or ignores altogether, the disagreements between religious traditions.”Â This “may make for a pleasant afternoon coffee, but as a basis for lasting cooperation or partnership it is fraught with hazards.”
Modern political struggles sometimes encourage such outlooks among Spencer’s fellow Catholics (and other Christians, it should be added to his focus on Catholicism).Â These American and European Catholics call for “common cause on life issues, and other areas of apparently shared moral concern, with Muslims” in what the leading Catholic thinker and Spencer debate partner Peter Kreeft calls an “ecumenical jihad.”Â “After all,” Spencer writes, “both Catholics and Muslims face the same radical secularist foe; it’s time, or so the contention goes, for a common front of believers to defend the theistic worldview against ever more intrusive, arrogant, and assertive unbelievers.”Â Yet Spencer dashes such hopes, writing that the “impulse to wage a new war of all religions united against secularism is coming largely from Christians, without significant interest from” Muslims.Â Rather, an “escalating global Islamic jihad against Christians” gives “much more evidence of Muslim hatred and contempt for Christians” than “Muslim interest in a common front.”
Study of Muslim teachings about Christians shows why.Â Spencer quotes the Qur’an’s first chapter or sura (1:6-7), the Fatihah:Â “Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou has blest, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.”Â Islam’s “most mainstream and widely understood understanding” of this “most frequently repeated prayer in Islamic tradition and day-to-day piety” views Islam as the “straight path,” the Jews as “those against whom Thou art wrathful,” and Christians as “those who are astray.”
While the Qur’an has an “attitude towards Jews that would bring a blush to the cheeks of the most hardened anti-Semite,” Islam treats Christianity as a “deliberately twisted version of the original message of their prophet Jesus.”Â Thus Muslims view Christians “as at best ignorant, at worst deliberately rebellious” in accord with the Qur’an’s (98:6) condemnation of nonbelievers as the “vilest of creatures.”Â Muslims should not even be friendly with non-Muslim family members (Qur’an 9:23–24) or even pray for them (9:113).Â While “individual Muslims may accord Christians”¦respect”¦it is respect that springs from their common humanity, not from the teachings of Islam.”
In fact, the “extreme religious chauvinism of Muslims makes genuine dialogue as equals essentially impossible.”Â Rather, “virtually all attempts at Muslim outreach to Christian are actually thinly veiled invitations to accept Islam.”Â The international 2007 Common Word dialogue proposed by Muslim leaders to Christians, for example, entails in its invocation of Qur’an 3:64 that Christians deny their understanding of a triune God and “essentially become Muslims.”…
In the end, soothing, often popular conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam sharing roots in a common patriarch Abraham leave Spencer cold.Â “Although it is clear that Islam emerges from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition,” Spencer determines, “it so radically recasts that tradition as to render the value of any common-ground appeals dubious at best.”Â Although Spencer does not reject dialogue and cooperation with Muslims, he tells his fellow Catholics in particular that “we must do so with our eyes open.”…