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Dialogue between Christ and a Muslim Print E-mail
By Robert Reilly   
Saturday, 05 January 2013

Scene: Before the heavenly Throne.

 
Muslim (upon seeing Christ): “Is this a dream?”
 
Christ: “No. Something much better.”
 
Muslim: “I didnt expect to see you here far above everyone. I thought you were coming back at the end of time to break the Cross, as we Muslims believe.”
 
Christ: “No, Im not coming back to break the Cross. Rather, I was broken on the Cross, which is why youre able to appear before me today.”
 
Muslim: “But we believe that the all-powerful God would not allow one of his prophets to be treated that way. That is why we refuse to believe you were crucified. It was some other man, or a shadow.”
 
Christ: “But I am not simply one of the prophets. I am God. I chose to allow myself to be treated this way to fulfill what the prophets foretold of the Suffering Servant.”
 
Muslim: “But God can’t do that! He can’t suffer and die.”
 
Christ: “Who are you to limit what God can do?”
 
Muslim: “But we are the true defenders of God’s absolute omnipotence. God is whoever is all powerful."
 
Christ: “So, right is the rule of the stronger?”
 
Muslim: “Yes. God decides because He is the strongest.”
 
Christ: “And He can decide anything?”
 
Muslim: “Yes, anything, and whatever He decides is just.”
 
Christ: “He is not bound even by His own word?”
 
Muslim: “No, not by anything.”
 
Christ: “But I am the Word. I am true to Myself. Pure will and power are arbitrary, tyrannical. I would be a despot.”
 
Muslim: “But we were taught that God cannot be confined by our human ideas of justice.”
 
Christ: “From where did you think you got those ideas of justice in the first place, if not from Me?”
 
Muslim: “I don’t know. Islam tells us to submit without questioning. The great al-Ghazali taught us that, ‘the mind. . .once it testifies to the truthfulness of the prophet, must cease to act.’”
 

Christ the Redeemer by Andrea Mantegna, 1493
 
Christ: “That it is a betrayal of Me. I seek rational consent, not cowering subjection. Tell me: can the all-powerful God enter his creation?”
 
Muslim: “Yes, but only through his word to his prophets to give us his commands.”
 
Christ: “But, as I said, I am the Word.”
 
Muslim: “But you are flesh.”
 
Christ: “Yes, the Word made flesh, because God is also Love and wishes to save you. Though I am the strongest, I made myself the weakest out of love for you.”
 
Muslim: “We are taught that God can only favor us (if we obey Him) because He is complete in Himself, and loving us would indicate some lack in Him. So, this kind of love cannot be. It is a forbidden thought.”
 
Christ: “You cannot forbid Me. I suffer no lack from this love. I do not need to complete myself, but to complete you. You have a hole in your soul. Only I can fill it. I became man for this purpose.”
 
Muslim: “Yes, we thought you were a man, certainly not the son of God. That would be blasphemy.”
 
Christ: “I know. You have a false idea of Me from the Qur’an, just as it mistakenly tells you that the Trinity is composed of Father, Son, and Mary. Neither did you believe that God is your Father, but some infinitely distant, unknowable Being, who could not possibly be in relation to you, except as a master to a slave.”
 
Muslim: “Yes, that is my name – Abdullah, ‘slave of God.’”
 
Christ: “But I am the Son of God, who made you my brother. I became human, so you could become divine. That’s how you became children of God. You have no idea how dear you are to me.”
 
Muslim: “But I can’t possibly be a child of God! God is infinitely above me.”
 
Christ: “But We made you in our own image and likeness.”
 
Muslim: “We say in Islam, ‘bila kayfa wala tashbih’ – which is: ‘without asking how and without comparing.’ It is forbidden for us to compare anything to God, much less ourselves. So, I find all this inconceivable.”
 
Christ: “I know. In fact, it required Conception – my Incarnation. But I am not telling you anything against your reason.”
 
Muslim: “We abandoned reason and submitted ourselves to the text of the Qur’an.”
 
Christ: “In doing that, you abandoned me, for I am Logos. I am Reason. That is why my pope, Benedict XVI, proclaimed that, ‘not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature.’ This is why so many of you have behaved unreasonably, and why you could not find Me.”
 
Muslim: “Since we do not believe any of these things, how did I get here then?”
 
Christ: “You got here by the merits of the very things you deny, my Sonship and my sacrifice, because you had no chance to accept them. You knew nothing but Islam. And yet you lived a good and decent life by the lights you were given. I love you none the less for that. I died for you, too.”
 
Muslim: “I thought there would be only Muslims here, and that the Christians would be in Hell. But now that I see what the Christians said is true, why am I not in Hell?”
 
Christ: “I only send to Hell those who choose it. In fact, they send themselves.”
 
Muslim: “How can you forgive me for being so blind?”
 
Christ: “You knew not what you were doing.”
 
Muslim (falling on his knees, forehead to the ground): “My Lord and my God, how can I adore you now?”
 
Christ: “By loving me back. Now that you see me as I Am, you can do this. Welcome. One of my priests martyred in Algeria in 1998, Fr. Christian, prayed before his death that he ‘could contemplate with the Father his children of Islam as He sees them.’ He is with my Father doing that now. You may join him and see for your self. Then pray for your fellow Muslims that they, too, may see. I want them all for Myself.”
 
Robert Reilly is a former director of the Voice of America. He has taught at the National Defense University and served in the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His most recent book is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist.
 
 
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Comments (47)Add Comment
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written by Br. David, January 05, 2013
+PAX
Most beautiful! Thank you! You touch on a delicate subject of love, which I find quite important. Loving someone does not indicate at all a lack in oneself,. Absolutely not. Loving in this mindset appears to be nothing more than a warped egoism. Love is most certainly care for another... Just because. How beautiful!
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written by Andrew M. Greenwell, January 05, 2013
This is a lovely piece about a Muslim, who died in invincible ignorance of the truths of Christ, and his encounter with Christ the Lord. It straddles the divide between the objective truths of Christianity and reason and the errors of the Qur'an and Asharite Islam and the subjective reality of conscience and God's merciful love who forgives those who do not know what they do, which, unfortunately, are still too many in the world. It, of course, is always better for one not to be ignorant of the truth in this world, but, in a world where ignorance reigns, yet a merciful and all-knowing God reigns about the ignorant world, Deus supplet.
I have been writing a series on catholic online on Muhammad, critical on his life, his doctrine, touching upon some of the aspects of your imagined dialog, and for this reason I particularly enjoyed your imaginative presentation. I have also read your excellent book, which I recommend to anyone who wants to understand more deeply this article.
God bless!

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written by Clement Williams, January 05, 2013
I have long suspected that there has been and continuing sibling rivalry between the children of God, i.e. the eldest - the descendants of Abraham - the Jews through Isaac; the Muslims through Ishmael and the Christians through Jesus. I further suspect that the sibling rivalry continued through at least four generations in each sibling!

But, as Mr. Reilly has posited, in the end, ALL will see the saving power of GOD through Jesus Christ
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, January 05, 2013
Wonderful! Almost Socratic in style...but it works very effectively. A dialogic approach that ought to be used on all topics of faith - especially where dissent is flagrant.
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written by Grump, January 05, 2013
Nice, but how did the Muslim get to Heaven if he rejected Christ in his earthly life? This implies that if you don't believe during your life in Christ (there is no under name under Heaven to be saved), then you get a second chance after death. Not biblical.
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written by Howard Kainz, January 05, 2013
The dialogue implies that anyone who lives "a good and decent life" can be saved. This may be true, but what is meant by a "good and decent life"? Grump's question, above, is relevant. There are direct and indirect ways of accepting or rejecting Christ (e.g., "whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren"), but shouldn't at least an indirect way be brought into the equation?
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written by Dave, January 05, 2013
@grump -- two thoughts come to mind in response to your post. The first is that Holy Scripture says that each will be judged for his good deeds and his bad deeds. The second involves the doctrines regarding invincible ignorance, which, in brief, say that God does not judge us for what we do not know, but rather for what we do/don't do; its corollary is that mere intellectual apprehension of a truth claim or proposition is not the same as knowing. Finally, recall 2 Peter 3:9: "...he is not willing that any should perish..." A priest friend of mine and I were just speaking earlier this week about the themes of final salvation and he reminded me of Pope Benedict XVI's Spe Salvi. It's not so much that you get a second chance after death as it is that the encounter with Christ after death is both justice and grace: liberation and cleansing from all sin and ignorance for those who have sought after God throughout their lives -- and condemnation for those who obdurately rejected God, Christ, goodness -- whatever they were able to see as right and good. I'm sure that others will be able to go more deeply into these themes (even correcting what I have written). In the meantime, I thank Bob Reilly for his important contribution.
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written by Robert Reilly, January 05, 2013
Dear Grump,

I think the answer to your objection is in this part of the dialogue, when Christ says to the Muslim: "you had no chance to accept them [Christ's truths]. You knew nothing but Islam." Therefore, he did not reject Christianity; he did not know it.
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written by ib, January 05, 2013
"Christ: “I only send to Hell those who choose it. In fact, they send themselves.”"

This is a bit of literary license that conceals some major theological sophistry. In fact, no one chooses Hell. Human persons choose to sin. A person is sent to Hell as the consequence of unrepented, hence unforgiven, sin. But the sending to Hell is a result of divine judgment. It wasn't the choice of the sinner. It is God's just act.

If Mr. Reilly wants to avoid sophistry he will need to do some deeper thinking and writing in this area. At least consult the Catechism (§§839-848) which lays out a much more nuanced theology of divine judgment than this (it's online at the USCCB website). Then follow up the footnoted references in those sections to get a more knowledgable perspective from which to write a literary work such as this dialogue.

Materially, the presented case for poor Adullah's salvation is weak. In almost every place and time in the Muslim world, there have been ways available to know the Gospel of Christ or his Church. He almost certainly would have been exposed to these ways. They may have been dangerous for him to enter into, but would the fact that Christian faith would be a risk for him fall within what the Roman Catholic Church teaches on this -- i.e., that only if it is "through no fault of their own" does this constitute a chance for salvation? If it was possible for Abdullah to have known the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but he chose not to do it because it was risky, how is that "through no fault of his own"? After all, Christians throughout history have faced persecution and death in order to come to know the Gospel of Christ or his Church. And in Muslim lands to boot!

Mr. Reilly could have strengthened his dialogue if his interlocutor was a muslim woman, rather than a muslim man. Women are much more restricted in what they encounter in muslim lands, and a woman may never have had the liberty to know the Gospel of Christ or his Church. It would indeed be through "through no fault of her own."

As it stands this post is among the shabbiest theological thinking I've ever read at the Catholic Thing.
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written by Manfred, January 05, 2013
I consider this column blasphemous. Even Pope Benedict at Regensburg on 9/13/06 cited a dialogue between an erudite Byzantine emperor, Manual II Paleologus, and an educated Persian. He would NEVER presume to make up bogus statements from Christ. The whole point of this Speech, which was titled: "The Best of Greek Thought is an integral part of Christian Faith", was to respond to requests for the dehellenization of Christianity. Islam was only tangential to the Pope's point. The emperor's quote which Pope cited which caused the reaction was citing Mohammed's "command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached." The Speech was intended for an academic audience and it never should have been seen by the tabloid world.
"Judge not, lest you be judged." This quote is from Christ in Sacred Scripture and I did not construct it. The same should certainly apply to writers of fictitious "Muslims".
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written by Sam, January 05, 2013
This piece is wrong from beginning to end. The Church definitively teaches that Supernatural Faith is needed to be saved. Supernatural Faith involves believing in God and His word. This Muslim could not have had Supernatural Faith because He rejected God's word.
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written by TeaPot562, January 05, 2013
As to Abdullah's "invincible ignorance": It may be that no one whose life-style was credible (in serving God) tried to testify concerning Christ to Abdullah. Many of us who claim Christianity are NOT credible witnesses. If we do not live according to our professed values, would a muslim believe us?
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written by Dave, January 05, 2013
@ib: consider this point from the Catechism, which you cite:

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

What needs to be defined is "what does it mean to know Christ and his Church"? Your assumption, and Grump's is that intellectual knowledge of the Church's claims about Jesus Christ means that one knows Christ and His Church. Put another way, "do not know Christ and His Church" is not the same as "have no knowledge about Christ and His Church."

Bob Reilly put the answer much more succinctly in his reply to Grump: not knowing is not the same as rejecting.

Or is it that people are really hoping that people go to hell?
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written by Sam, January 05, 2013
@Dave

Does the Church teach that supernatural Faith is needed for salvation? If so, how can the Muslim have had supernatural Faith? What is Supernatural Faith?
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written by Dave, January 05, 2013
Indeed she does. The question as to Abdullah's supernatural faith and his participation in Christ -- no one gains entrance to Heaven unless in a state of grace -- is as to the mode of participation: Bob Reilly is using a literary device to illustrate baptism by implicit desire and his device is meant to show through fiction how the definitive encounter with Christ may occur for someone who was invincibly ignorant. As an additional point, someone who does possess supernatural faith but dies in a state of mortal sin will not gain entrance: one must possess all three theological virtues, and supernatural faith is not lost through mortal sin -- hope and charity are.

No one has yet addressed the issue as to whether knowledge about Christ and His Church is the same as knowledge of Christ and His Church. Bob Reilly is positing how they are not the same, as he offers hope for those who through no fault of their own never knew -- encountered, may I say -- Christ and His Church, even if they possessed notions.
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written by Sam, January 05, 2013
@Dave

What is Supernatural Faith, then? How do you define it? Can someone have sanctifying grace without supernatural Faith?
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written by ib, January 05, 2013
@Dave

In your zeal to defend Mr. Reilly, you impute assumptions to me that I never use in any of my arguments and then have the temerity to assert that these assumptions is what I am advancing. Frankly, you have misread my comment and have jumped to the conclusions that must preoccupy your mind, rather than what I actually wrote.

I do not assume that knowledge "about" the Gospel of Christ or his Church is the same as knowledge "of" these things (as an aside, I do think you need to clarify what you think the difference is between the English prepositions "about" and "of"; checking through several thesauri - including the OED historical thesaurus - in most cases they can be used interchangeably with helping verbs). Lets be clear about this: in now why does my argument rely on such an assumption and it is not to be found in my comment.

My own idea of what constitutes "the Gospel of Christ or his Church" is the paragraph 14 of Lumen Gentium which states that “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who—by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion—are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’”

Also, to correct your misreading of my comment, realize that the main point I was making did not concern poor Abdullah's chancy salvation at all. It was the words that Mr. Reilly put into the mouth of Jesus asserting that Jesus did not send sinners to Hell, but that they went there of their own free choice. Taken baldly at face value this is heretical. But since Mr. Reilly wrote it as part of his literary trompe d'oil, it can be considered merely a faux pas. But it is NOT what is in the Nicene Creed and is NOT what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.

As for leading people to hell, is it better to tell people that they're okay, God loves them, and so he doesn't care if they "repent and believe in the Gospel" as the Lenten formula has it, or to tell them as Christ said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." (Matt. 7:13)
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written by Maggie-Louise, January 05, 2013
May I ask, is there such a thing as "the law written on the heart"? Are there things that we cannot NOT know? If so, what part of the answers to such questions play in this discussion?

Did Abdullah meet his Maker in the last 60 years or did his encounter with Christ take place before the invention of newspapers, television, or the internet? In which case, he may not have heard of atrocities committed by Muslims against so called infidels. But surely, he cannot have avoided such knowledge in our time. (And, surely, he must have learned in school about the glorious conquests by the sword of all the Mediterranean world.) If so, what was his reaction? What did he do about it? What did he think or feel about it?

Did he try to convince authorities or at least his local imam, on the basis of the law written on his heart, that suicide bombers detonating on school buses or air liners crashing into sky scrapers are not nice things to do? If he cannot not know that such things are wrong and did nothing, however small or even symbolic, to speak out against them, he cannot be said to have a lived a good life.

Having heard of such atrocities, having seen them on television, having seen what was don in the name of the faith that he espouses and presumably loves and would give his life for, did he say, "I'm outta here? This is an affront to the law that I feel in my heart and the reason that I contemplate in my head."?

If he in convinced that the Koran encourages or supports such actions in the cause of the bloody advance of Islam (for the universal good of all peoples), then he has denied the very reason that God gave him, Abdullah, an individual human person with a heart and mind created by the one true God whose name is Lord.
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written by Michael St. Joseph, January 05, 2013
I sincerely hope and fervently pray that all may be saved. However our Lord tells us diferently many times in the Gospels (ie Mattew 22:14.)

This idea that modern Muslims have not heard of Christ and his Gospel and are thus considered invincibly or perfectly ignorant and thus not accountable for their sins is, I think wishfull thinking. I would submit that most Muslims have heard the Good News and have rejected it in favor of Mohammed and the Koran.

Ths concept of justification in spite of ignorance of the Gospel pertains to those who have lived and died in actual ignorance of it and yet sincerely strove for the good, guided by conscience. For example, pre-Columbian American Indians or Aborigines in Australia who have not been evangelized or catechized. I doubt it refers to those who have heard the Holy Name and have chosen to reject it.

That being said, I do pray for the souls of all men (myself included) for we all require Grace for our salvation.
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written by scott w, January 05, 2013
It is time to retire the modern chestnut that the damned "send themselves to hell"... It sounds right, but once you push on the idea and refer to scripture and tradition it falls apart. The Gospels are clear that God separates the sheep from the goats and casts out the accursed. People do not throw themselves into hell as Christ looks at them with loving doe eyes.
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written by Dave, January 05, 2013
@ib -- To your point about evangelization, nothing in Mr. Reilly's piece or in my remarks suggests that the Church and her members no longer have a duty to evangelize. The section of the Catechism after the sections you cited and to which I referred continue with the Church's permanent missionary mandate, which I almost cited and am sorry I did not, for I do believe that the Church needs to announce the Good News and that her members, including me, need to live that news and be its heralds. I'm sorry for the confusion on that point. His article is addressing the possibility that someone who truly didn't know Christ or the Church but followed the law inscribed in his heart would be admitted by Christ into Heaven rather than being condemned for something he didn't know.

I think the difference between knowing about something and knowing something can be illustrated by knowing something about, say, New York City, (because, say, I read about it in a book or visited it once) and knowing New York City (because I lived or live there): there's a difference. Or it could like knowing about Bobby Orr and actually knowing Bobby Orr.

I wonder if the apparent difference in positions or opinions is the difference between a focus on Our Lord's words that "he who is not with me is against me" and "he who is not against me is with me." Our Lord uttered both of those sentences; they are both true, but in different ways. I take Mr. Reilly's fictional account as an illustration of the latter sentence. I think he, and I know I, would agree with the teaching of the Church (and with you) that to know the truth about Jesus Christ and to reject that Truth is to condemn oneself, which would be an application of the first sentence.

You raise an interesting point about the Nicene Creed. It does tell us that "he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." I look at various passages of Holy Scripture and see that we are called to believe in Christ; and that we are called to do good works; and that (see Mt. 25) there will be surprises at the end when people see that their positive decisions not to do something or their simple omission (through carelessness) have eternal consequences. Is it heretical to think that at the particular judgement, Christ ratifies the choice/s we have made throughout our life, whether for him or against him, as shown in the works we have performed? Judgement then becomes the announcement or the revelation to each as to the gate each entered and the way on which each persevered.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." These are Our Lord's words -- which occur in the same Sermon about the narrow and wide gates. I think there are two aspects of being merciful: the one is to live and to announce the Good News (and its demands) throughout the course of one's life, and the other is to hope that those who did not know Christ and His Church are not culpable for their ignorance. I take Mr. Reilly's piece as a fictional meditation on the latter possibility, and I am surprised at the controversy it has generated.
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written by Greg, January 05, 2013
I’d like to address and hopefully bring some clarification to some matters which may have escaped commenters’ attention, so that they seem to be talking past each other.
Different personality types
Different types of people exercise whatever intellectual faculties they have in different ways. Again, different questions or issues arise in peoples’ hearts and minds through the accidents of life experience. It is not meaningful to impute guilt to persons, including Muslims, who have not yet had occasion to consider questions which would eventually lead them into the Church. If John Henry Newman had been killed in a traffic accident shortly after founding the Oxford Movement, he would have died convinced that the Roman Catholic Church had fallen from grace, and would reject outright any proposition that he must join it for salvation. He nonetheless republished his sermons from this period after he had become Catholic, because there was nothing in those sermons inconsistent with Faith or reason. May we not suppose something similar about our Abdullah? I’m not referring here to his obvious theological errors, but to his dispositions, his rationale for choosing as he did.
CCC
“Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing….” References to CCC and quoting V II address catechumens and those already in the Church, not those in pagan or anti-Christian culture. It is addressing those who have already heard the gospel and have already responded by beginning the process of Christian initiation. If their response is no more than one of faith, or if they subsequently discontinue their active pursuit of the life of grace, then the Church does not disown them, and they remain “indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’” This passage does not address itself to those whose lives have not yet brought them to pursue Christian initiation.
Ivory Tower Wishful Thinking
Let’s be careful. I think detractors have missed the point of the article. To give credit where credit is due, and recognizing the legitimate concerns of detractors, it is true that we have much about which to give thanks in Western Society, and much to defend and restore. Detractors also rightly recognise that fallen human nature readily seeks justification for its favourite vices, such as abandoning the hardships associated with evangelization. Nonetheless what this article is about is holding up a mirror to us who too readily limit God. This article was addressed to us about our cultural pride or fear, not to distant evangelists about the value of their mission in pagan lands. The only fully authentic motivation for evangelization is charity, that is, the infused love of God above all else for His own sake, and the love of all things, including all living human pagans, for His sake. This would include the desire for His greater glory coming from the lips of those who know of Him only through our witness. It would also include, but only secondarily, the desire that such converts enjoy the fullness of grace available only through conversion. While it is certainly true that many evangelists abandoned their mission in the wake of V II on the grounds of a supposed implicit Christianity of their mission addressees, we who have the occasion to read and comment on such articles as this must rather beware our pride and complacency in knowing we have the truth that the way is hard and narrow. This knowledge should rather prompt us to fear for our salvation if we do not care to evangelize our next-door neighbour than to judge the author who writes on God’s mercy and grace.

God bless you,
Greg
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written by Michael Jaffray King, January 06, 2013
Brilliant... I am meeting Muslims every day. We are inundated with them here in Germany. Many of them are really nice good people. Many of them even offer to help in my Missionary outreach. Like the Jews, they are blind and I believe that our Holy Mother has them fixed in her sites and will help to bring them into the Kingdom. The events at Zeitoun near Cairo in 1968 to 1970 shows that this is possible.
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written by Emina Melonic, January 06, 2013
It seems that the comments are trying to cover so many different topics. So, I wanted to ask Mr. Reilly what was the intention of the piece? Was it to distinguish Christianity and Islam? Was it to affirm the Catholic faith? Possibly convert Muslims?
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written by MSgirl, January 06, 2013
@ Clement Williams: We must be very careful to differentiate between Islam and the Muslim. There is no Revelation in Islam, nor is there any connection between it and Abraham. Salvation History is shredded by the Qur'an's claim that Abraham was a "hanif," or proto-Muslim, who possessed a set of "scriptures" that were little more than a partial version of the Qur'an.
Only Islam connects itself with the faith of Abraham because only Islam claims that he was a Muslim, not a Jew. Noah, David, Solomon, St. John the Baptist and Jesus, among others, were Muslims according to the Qur'an, all of whom proclaimed the coming of Muhammad - Rasul Allah - The Messenger of God.
It would be nice if we could reduce the catastrophic break in Salvation History to "sibling rivalry," but that would require a common origin - Abraham - which does not exist.
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written by Sam, January 06, 2013
@dave

still waiting for your definition of supernatural faith?
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written by Brad Miner, January 06, 2013
@Sam: Definitions of Catholic terminology are available in places other than the comboxes at The Catholic Thing.
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written by Robert Reilly, January 06, 2013
To Emina Melonic: The purpose of the dialogue was to distinguish between Christianity and Asha’rite Sunni Islam (the majority) and to guess at God's mercy and providence, which enfolds us all.

May I take this occasion to say how much I appreciated your review of my book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind?
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written by ib, January 06, 2013
@dave

A few short remarks on your last post:

1) You changed your terms between your posts. In your earlier post you made a distinction between knowing "about" and knowing "of". In this last post you change to "knowing about" and "knowing". It seems you are unclear as to the distinctions you are advancing in your remarks. If I simply reply to the last distinction you made, the act of knowing anything proceeds gradually, so that what you term "knowing about" is an intrinsic grade of "knowing". They cannot really be separated in a simple-minded way. To "know about" is part of the act of "knowing". Coming to know anything involves knowing about it as well. This is a theme of Basic Thomism 101.

In relation to Christ and his Church, historically in Muslim lands, Abdullah would encounter Christ and his Church through the continued presence of dhimmi-Christians in the midst of Muslim rule. Thus would begin the process of "knowing" through the initial step of "knowing about." However, rejection at any point in the process would be tout court. Have you ever studied any Roman Catholic philosophy? I recommend Maritain's "The Degrees of Knowledge". It will help you through these philosophical issues.

I also recommend following the Catholic Near East Welfare Association website (a Pontifical agency) to come to know the rich presence of Christians throughout the centuries in most of the Middle East.

2) I never mentioned evanglisation in my comments. My point in quoting from the Gospel According to St. Matthew was to remind us of the authentic words of Jesus, which are conspicuously stern, in contrast with the rather mealy-mouthed words Mr. Reilly put into the Saviour's mouth. But I was gladdened to read that you favor evangelisation. Good for you.

3) Is it heretical to obstinately hold that Christ does not send unrepentant sinners to Hell in the last judgment? Clearly, from the Nicene Creed, the teaching of the Magisterium, and from the basic rule of faith, YES. Mr. Reilly doesn't do this in this defective dialogue, he just makes an error for the sake of the literary effect. But if someone (yourself, for instance) were to come to believe that Jesus Christ in final judgment, merely ratifies a sinner's free choice to go to Hell, and obstinately denied the true teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, he would be in heresy. Take a look at Canons 747-755 for more background on this.

To use a heimlich example, a child does not choose punishment when it breaks a parental rule, nor does a criminal choose prison when flouting the law. Punishment and prison are the consequences enacted by the parent or court upon the child or criminal. Just so, Hell is not the choice of the sinner, it is the consequence of unforgiven sin enacted through God's just judgment. You might find that a helpful start would be to read some orthodox Roman Catholic moral theology (I recommend starting with Benedict Ashley's "Living the Truth in Love: A Biblical Introduction to Moral Theology").

@Greg
Yes, it is possible for Muslims to be saved through the way of "through no fault of his own". My point was that a careful look at the actual facts of history (which Mr. Reilly knows well) make it plain that this would be extremely rare. I suggest you read a few histories of Islam, and perhaps Mr. Reilly's book on Islam, which has a good reputation. Also see 1) above in my response to Dave.

You could also read my comment with more care and compare the surrounding text of Lumen Gentium to paragraph 14. It is defining everyone who can be counted as part of the Roman Catholic Church. Note well that I was not applying it to those "through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church." What I was responding to was Dave's question concerning the meaning of the phrase "the Gospel of Christ or his Church". My response was that, in order to know the Roman Catholic Church in its deepest sense one must live as Lumen Gentium paragraph 14 describes. From your off-topic remarks, I can only say that you have completely misread my earlier comment.
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written by Emina Melonic, January 06, 2013
Thanks for the response, Mr. Reilly. And yes, I have enjoyed your book very much. It involved, obviously, a lot of hard work and research. I would most certainly like to say more, particularly probing the questions, which are inherent in your book. We face such difficulties when it comes to average encounters with others, let alone when there might be possibility of an inter-religious dialogue. I know that people have this conference and that conference on dialogue and peace and unity and such things. Yes, all good, no question about it. But I have always wondered do such outlets really do anything? I guess anything is possible, but I think that the truth and the expression of dialogue is revealed in an encounter with the Other. But let me stop here. I feel that I might be steering away from the discussion of your column.
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written by Sam, January 06, 2013
@Brad and Dave

I know what Faith is, but I don't see how Dave, or anyone else for that matter, could make the claim that the Muslim above, or any Muslim, could be said to possess supernatural Faith, and thus, not be condemned to Hell at judgment. Since Dave and others make this claim, it leads to me believe that they do not know what supernatural faith is. I challenge Dave or anyone else to show how someone like the Muslim above could be said to possess supernatural faith. Can you dos so, Brad? Dave? Anyone?
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written by Dave, January 06, 2013
Ib, I must be brief and compressed, and thank you for the dialogue:
(1) "knowing about" and "knowing of" contain no essential difference in what I write, as my thinking is along the lines not of philosophy but of moral theology: of gravity of matter, full knowledge, and full consent -- the three conditions necessary for mortal sin. Since the Church distinguishes between full knowledge and partial knowledge in matters of imputable sin (of which rejection of Christ has to head the list), we can, too -- and we ought to, since she does. Mr Reilly's article, and my endorsement of it, is based on a premise of invincible ignorance and obedience to conscience. If one is impeded for reasons beyond one's control from coming to full knowledge, one of the essential conditions is not meant and we may hope for mercy (as, indeed, charity compels us to). [I love CNEWA and have read the bulletins for years.]

(2) You didn't mention evangelization, it is true: I mention it because it is imperative lest we do fall into a false irenicism and indifferentism. The Church is obliged to preach the Gospel, we are obliged to accept it, live it, and show it forth; otherwise we would relieve ourselves of duties of which we have no right to relieve ourselves and enter into (culpable) false hope for those might otherwise have come to the Gospel and salvation. All of us deceive ourselves all of the time, and God can neither deceive nor be deceived.

(3) I've looked at the canons you cite. I am no canonist so I hesitate to comment upon them. I think the larger issue at stake is the understanding of "extra ecclesiam nulla salva." As there is much expert commentary available, I defer to it. Regarding the Nicene Creed and the canons you cite, neither say explicitly that Christ condemns to hell; indeed, the word "hell" doesn't appear in either text. I refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 679, which says, "Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgement on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He "acquired" this right by his cross. the Father has given "all judgement to the Son". Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love." If my sense of Christ's ratification of one's choice is incorrect, I withdraw it: but I stand by what the Church teaches in her Catechism, and in what she teaches in this point. Certainly the Four Last Things are de fide and I accept them. Also, since what we have been discussing is of the most serious matter, I willingly submit all that I have written to the judgement of the Church.

I offer my thanks to the editors of TCT, to you, and to those who have been reading.
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written by Manfred, January 06, 2013
@Sam: The word you are looking for is supernatural GRACE. When we say someone is in the "state of grace" we mean that person has received the Sacraments, and their soul is free from the effects of mortal sin. The Sacrament of Penance, if properly understood, can remove the "stain" of mortal sin and allow us to receive those special graces from God which makes us eligible to receive salvation. These graces also assist us on this earth and we strive to be worthy to receive them by prayer and penances.
Actual grace is what all of us have as necessary for our very existence. Unbaptized people, e.g., Muslims, Jews, Hindus et al still have throughout their lives the effects of Original Sin. All graces flow from God and are gifts from God alone, including the gift of life. That is why no one can will himself into existence. I hope this is helpful.
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written by Ib, January 06, 2013
Your last post is your best. You do a fine job summarizing your thoughts. I also have tried to make clear what Mr. Reilly had written that was in error. It is really a small, but important, error. Dragging in the dogma of "extra ecclesiam nulla salva" addresses an issue that you are indeed interested in, but which I never brought up in any of my comments. As to knowing which particular human persons are to be saved, paragraph 679 of the CRCC which you cite, makes it clear that that belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. That has always been my position as well. But do unrepentant sinners freely choose to go to Hell, as Mr. Reilly has written, or are they sent there by God as punishment for their unrepented sins?

I will write two things more then stop commenting on this post for good and all:

1) Moral theology always involves some philosophy in an important manner. For example, the traditional distinction you mention of the three-fold nature of the moral act has its roots in Aristotle. This was one of the reasons that when some Catholic moral theologians in the 1960s shifted their approach to a Kantian basis, traditional moral theology became seriously deformed. It took two decades before it began to recover under Pope John Paul II.

2) Whenever theological discussion turns to close reading of texts, the hermeneutical spiral rears its troublesome head. In this case I would suggest that paragraphs 678-679 of the CRCC must be read in the context of the fuller discussion of these doctrines in paragraphs 1033-41. There it becomes clearer that Christ will "send his angels and they will gather ... all evil-doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire." In my way of reading these paragraphs together, it seems eminently clear that unrepentant sinners will be sent by Christ to Hell. But you may interpret these texts differently. Ah, Peri Hermeneias!
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written by Rick DeLano, January 07, 2013
How very much we modern Catholics wish to invent a religion better than the True Faith, one in which repentance is possible after death.

The author of this piece of sacrilege will be praised, glorified, applauded, tears will be shed in passionate expressions of the sentimental beauty of his fable......

But the fable is heretical.

It involves an explicit denial of an infallible Truth of the Catholic Faith, infallibly defined ex cathedra:

"The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ (Mt. 25:41)unless before death they are joined with her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds, and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they remain within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” (Florence, Cantate Domino,1443)"

In the fable-religion of the author, it is not so important to become Catholic, since after all one can always accept Christ after death.

This is a lie from the deepest pit of Hell, and a blasphemy.

Since it is so widely believed just now, we see that heresy has spread throughout the Church, thanks to the Nouvelle Theologie which continues to devastate the vineyard throughout the world.
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written by k C Thomas, January 07, 2013
What a wonderful God , our God. He looks into the heart and judges us. If we are reasonable, we may approach him through the light shown by his Church, the Catholic Church.When it is not due to one's own fault that he could not meet Jesus he is saved by the grace of Eternal loving God.
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written by Robert Reilly, January 08, 2013
From the Second Vatican Council: “The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church.”
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written by Sam, January 08, 2013
@ R. Reilly

Are you disagreeing, then, with the greatest theologians of the Church that taught that explicit faith in the Trinity and Christ and His sacrifice are needed for salvation? How does your understanding of the Muslim being saved distinguish between natural knowledge of God and supernatural Faith? I assume you recognize this distinction and agree that a natural knowledge of God and following of conscience is not enough for salvation. Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council, in my mind, is not a good source for theology because of its nature. The Popes said repeatedly, before, during, and after the council, that Vatican II is not a doctrinal council but is only a pastoral council. This, to me, indicates that if this teaching is not found in the Church prior to V2, then it is not authoritative. Can you provide evidence of this teaching prior to V2?

ps. I know all of the arguments about the Holy Spirit protecting the Church from error and that Councils are an act of the Magisterium, but V2 is not a Council in the sense of the previous Councils. V2 was only meant to be pastoral, not doctrinal, whereas the Authoritative Councils before V2 were all doctrinal, ie., meant to teach truth. Therefore, there is a strong argument that the documents of V2 are not authoritiative.
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written by Robert Reilly, January 08, 2013
I highly recommend the late Avery Cardinal Dulles's "Who Can Be Saved?" at First Things.

He writes: "We may conclude with certitude that God makes it possible for the unevangelized to attain the goal of their searching. How that happens is known to God alone, as Vatican II twice declares. We know only that their search is not in vain. “Seek, and you will find,” says the Lord (Matt. 7:7). If non-Christians are praying to an unknown God, it may be for us to help them find the one they worship in ignorance. God wants everyone to come to the truth.Perhaps some will reach the goal of their searching only at the moment of death. Who knows what transpires secretly in their consciousness at that solemn moment? We have no evidence that death is a moment of revelation, but it could be, especially for those in pursuit of the truth of God."

My little imaginary dialogue is a speculation on such a moment.
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written by Rick DeLano, January 09, 2013
"My little imaginary dialogue is a speculation on such a moment."

>> No, it isn't.

Your speculation involves an heresy; specifically, the heresy that one can repent after death and receive salvation.

This is heresy.

It involves the explicit denial of a dogmatic definition of the Catholic Faith:

"...they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ (Mt. 25:41) unless *before death* they are joined with her.

The heresy has nothing to do with whether God might act in ways unknown to us to join some pagan, heretic, schismatic, Muslim, or Jew to the Catholic Church- this is theologically bulletproof, although we could never know, by definition, of any such thing actually occurring.

Your heresy is different.

Your heresy involves the contradiction of a defined dogma, and no Catholic would ever believe it.
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written by Paul, January 10, 2013
Hi,

I used to be a committed Roman Catholic but I embraced Islam a few years ago. I do not recognise the Muslim in the invented dialogue above. Jesus did not claim to God - the Qur'an as the final Revelation of God tells you and I the truth about Jesus.

Read it and see...
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written by MSgirl, January 14, 2013
@ Paul: I'd be interested to know your definition of "a committed Roman Catholic." From that to Islam is quite a leap.
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written by MJ, May 03, 2013
@DeLano,

The story does not involve salvation attained after death, as you say. Salvation is gained by the Muslim prior to death, and by virtue of the fact that he actively seeks God. Here are the words of Christ (in the story):

“You got here by the merits of the very things you deny, my Sonship and my sacrifice, because you had no chance to accept them. You knew nothing but Islam. And yet you lived a good and decent life by the lights you were given. I love you none the less for that. I died for you, too.”

Thus, he had attained heaven before death, not after.
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written by robert reilly, July 08, 2013
From Redemptoris Missio (JPII): "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

For this reason the Council, after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that 'this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.'"
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written by cabdixakim, November 16, 2013
The best way to analyse a religion is not to look and find out what the followers of that religion do but rather is to look what the authentic sources of that religion say about it.

Islam is the only non-christian faith which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus christ(pbuh).No muslim is a muslim if he does not believe in jesus christ(pbuh)

the coming of prophet muhammad was prophesised in all of the previous books including the Bible.

the christians,the Jews and the muslims are like three men who are employed by a man one after the other.The man promises to give all the wedges at the end of the day.The first employer completes the job half day and resigns and after along denial of the words of his master,the second employer comes and he does the job third of the day and he withdraws too after conflicting with his master,the third one comes he completes the job for the whole day and takes the wedges of his and that of those preceeded him.
(the first man was a Jew,he believed in all the previous prophets but refused to believe in Jesus christ(bpuh)and called him(..........).The second was the christian,he believed in all the previous prophets including Jesus christ (pbuh)but he denied prophet muhammad(pbuh)and lebelled Jesus christ(pbuh)as god.The third wasthe muslim,he believed in all the prophets including prophet muhammad(pbuh)and claimed the rewards of his lord.

I am not trying to make one religion be superior to another,but I believe that there was only one religion sent by ALLAH(God the almighty)but it is we human beings who misinterpreted it with the help of Satan for our own worldly affairs.

(this might be a useful post I request " not to be deleted")
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written by Brad Miner, November 16, 2013
@cabdixakim: The trouble is this: the "Jesus" of the Koran is not the Jesus in whom Christians believe. We believe Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; i.e., He IS God. Muslims don't believe Jesus rose from the dead. He did rise from the dead.
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written by cabdixakim, November 24, 2013
with hopeful respect@Brad Miner,where in the Bible did Jesus christ(pbuh)say I am god or where he said worship me?
the word trinity is no where in the Bible but it is there in the Quran.
The trouble is my brother in humanity followers of religions never bother to read their books they just blindly follow what their priests preach.

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