Paul Knitter on Supersessionism in Islam and Christianity

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
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Paul F. Knitter, the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in  New York explains Islamic supersessionism:

“Now I am not a Muslim theologian or expert, so I stand ready to be corrected, but I believe that a case can be made that Islam has made the very same supersessionist move as has Christianity.

“Certainly, Islam recognizes and lifts high the value of the prophets of Israel and of the prophet Jesus. Islam also asserts that the truths that God has revealed through these prophets were either incomplete or have been corrupted or lost in the history of Judaism and Christianity—and that the revelation give to Muhammad and contained in the holy Qur’an is meant to be the fulfillment of what went before…

“The ideal, which Muslims believe is God’s ideal, is that Christians and Jews would find the fullness and the finality of God’s revelation by embracing, and so being fulfilled by, Islam.

“And so we have the essence of what I am calling sibling rivalry contained in claims to supersede, to replace: first Christians claiming to supersede Israel, then Muslims claiming to supersede both Christians and Jews…

“Theological supersessionism + political-economic rivalry = conflict…

“If we believe that it is God’s preferred religion whose existence is being jeopardized, then we must use every means possible to defend it. Everything and anything can be deployed to defend God’s truth. And in the case of both of our religions, which both have theories of just war or just jihad, religious fervor has become military fervor. When military armies or liberation fighters believe they are fighting in God’s name and defending God’s truth and God’s religion, they will be not only braver; they can also be more brutal. Supersessionist beliefs do not necessarily lead to violence. But they can so easily be used to justify and to intensify violence.

“I sincerely believe that today, for any religion to make such supersessionist claims—to believe that it is meant to be the final religion intended by God to replace all other religions—this is to expose religion to the danger of being used as an instrument of tension and conflict rather than of peace and cooperation. President Obama seemed to agree when in his Cairo address he stated: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it.”

Knitter, P. F. (2009), Islam and Christianity Sibling Rivalries and Sibling Possibilities. CrossCurrents, 59: 554–570. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3881.2009.00099.x


Thoughtful Ross Douthat Post on Supersessionism

Posted by dianamuir on October 10, 2012
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In part,

“I suspect that the Christian decision to swallow the Hebrew Bible whole into its scripture – and to preserve, rather than elide, Jesus’ own obvious self-understanding as a Jew – ultimately creates deeper grounds for dialogue than does Islam’s insistence that the narrative of the Hebrew scriptures was deliberately corrupted and required correction from Muhammed.

“Put another way, Christian tradition seems to have more respect for the essential integrity and God-givenness of pre-Christian Judaism than does Islamic tradition. This makes it difficult to imagine a Muslim version of the sort of rethinking of what, precisely, supersessionism means than we’ve seen from Evangelicals and Catholics in this century – a rethinking that’s been crucial for the development of Judeo-Christian dialogue. And by the same token, there’s no equivalent in the foundational narrative of Islam to the striking Jewishness of Jesus, a quality which would seem to make Jewish engagement with the Gospel narratives – and Christian engagement with that engagement – more plausible and intellectually fruitful in the long run than Jewish engagement with the figure of Muhammed.”