Heirs of Abraham: The Future of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Relations

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Heirs of Abraham: The Future of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Relations, edited by Bradford R. Hinze and Irfan A. Omar. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005. 158 pp. $20.00.

The essays in Heirs of Abraham were written after 9/11 with the realization that conflicts among the children of Abraham, that is, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, are the most threatening conflicts in the twenty-first century. The aim of professors Hinze and Omar, the editors of this important work, is to advance respect and friendship among the Abrahamic faiths. The editors believe that the aim of the three monotheistic religions, who view Abraham as a model of faith, is to repair the world, not to cause hate and war. Now more than ever the time has arrived for authentic dialogue among the children of Abraham.

The book is based on a lecture series entitled "The Collaboration of Civilizations: The Future of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Relations presented at Marquette University in 2004. The major part of this work consists of essays by three of the outstanding contemporary scholars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The participants also respond to each others talks followed by a response from the presenter. What makes this work unique is that the presenters are also experts in each others' traditions.

In the first essay, "A Problem with Monotheism: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Dialogue and Dissent," Rabbi Reuven Firestone helps us understand why the Abrahamic faiths have so often been a force for violence rather than for love. He argues that the emphasis within monotheism on right belief and on the notion of an afterlife in heaven or hell are major factors that have contributed to the violence. In reading his essay and his responses to the others, it becomes clear that Rabbi Firestone is committed to Judaism not because Judaism is superior to Christianity or Islam but because Judaism is his path. He believes that the Abrahamic faiths must now move beyond the "exclusivist form of monotheism" to an inclusivist form. He writes,

We rightly strive for a postpolemical age when we can agree to disagree without feeling so threatened that we lash out in violence. Peace and fullness are and should be our grand aspiration, but these will never be achieved by attempting to reduce our particularities. The end of religious diversity is neither desirable nor possible, for it is a part of our createdness. (37-38)

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald's essay "Relations among the Abrahamic Religions: A Catholic Point of View" presents clearly the official Catholic view on Judaism and Islam. For Archbishop Fitzgerald clarity is essential to genuine dialogue because he is convinced that we must make our view clear to our dialogue partners, that in spite of our differences we can live and work together to heal the world. …