Seeking a deeper understanding of Islam
The number of Canadian citizens who identify as Muslim has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, with a large percentage living in and around Toronto. “If we don’t have a clear understanding of their beliefs and social lives, we are missing a major part of our society,” says Dr. Wafik Wahba, Associate Professor of Global Christianity at Tyndale Seminary. With both Christianity and Islam rapidly expanding worldwide, Dr. Wahba encourages Canadian Christians to seek to understand Muslims. He hopes that a deeper understanding will lead to better communication and relationships.
In his upcoming spring course, “Christianity and Islam: Theological Reflection,” Dr. Wahba will look at the history of Islam and the theological differences between it and Christianity. “People think that we worship the same God, that we have the same theology, but my argument is that this is not true,” he says. “We need to understand the differences and we need to understand why these two religions believe what they believe.”
The differences between Islam and Christianity begin in the very structure of each religion. Christianity understands that it has a clear revelation from God that was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Based on that, Christians believe that human beings are sinners and need a saviour. We need Christ, who Christians understand is divine and a part of the Trinity. “Islam works in the opposite way,” states Dr. Wahba. It starts with the idea that humans are essentially good and do not need a saviour. Muslims believe that we need a prophet and a manual with instructions on how to live our lives. “In Islam, there is no such thing as a saviour, the divinity of Christ, or the Trinity.”
He explains that the media will never talk about theology, which is the most important point that influences all other areas. “I hope people will make the distinction between what is presented in the media…and the real issues of how this whole system is interacting with politics and social life.”
Dr. Wahba’s goal for his class is to dig deeper into these issues so that his students will not have a superficial understanding of Islam. “We analyze the different types of Muslims – average, moderate, fundamentalist and militant – so that people do not confuse them,” he says. “The goal is to see how [Islam] influences peoples’ lives, their social interaction, decision-making and worldview.
“Right now we are talking about 1.6 billion Muslims and 2.2 billion Christians [worldwide]. Christianity and Islam will be shaping the world – life, politics, everything.”
The “Christianity and Islam: Theological Reflection” course will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 – 9:20 p.m. from June 16 to July 16, 2015. To find out more, visit tyndale.ca/summer.