Losing Salvation in Islam

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Dervish has an interesting take on the Jollyblogger posts on Hebrews 6 that I highlighted in my last post. She knows a whole lot more about the history of Islam and Muslim theology than anyone I even know, and she presents a historical introduction to various Muslim positions on salvation. Muslim thought on salvation, the losing of it, and the grounds of it as there are in Christianity, and some of these positions are remarkably parallel to some in Christianity.

Her initial point was that this undermines one Christian apologetical argument, an argument that says that Christianity allows for assurance of salvation but Islam doesn't. I think what she says also undermines one common charge against Islam, that it's a works-based religion with no room for God's grace. That's an unfair portrait of Islam, because some Muslim views are somewhat like Reformation Christianity in that respect. On the other hand, I do think what she's saying undermines a common Muslim apologetic. It's commonly asserted by Muslim apologists that Christianity is fragmented and sectarian, while Islam is not. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have been schisms within the larger umbrella of Islam, one very major one, with some of them leading to as much violence as any of the schisms within the larger umbrella of Christianity. There also seems to be as much variation within Islam theologically as there is within Christianity, so the unity argument in favor of Islam is simply historically inaccurate.

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Her thoughts regarding Islam are interesting. I know little about Islam, but several thoughts came to my mind as I was reading this. It seems to be a fad these days to suggest that people are not legalists. So there is the NP/first century Judaism, the Roman Catholic Church, and now Islam. I am not sure what to make of all this, but it is interesting.

These leads to my second thought. How many actually adhere to the more "monergistic" reading of Islam? I am curious because the whole issue with the NP and Paul is that of course one can find grace oriented statements, but that does not prevent official theology from differing from how people lived in practice. Moreover, some grace oriented statements can get overshadowed by other elements and become syngeristic.

My final thought was whether a different sort of dynamic results because of the Christian emphasis on Christ crucified and risen as the prolepsis of the final day, so that the eschatological life has been brought forward now. Paul can exhort us to "be what you are" (this may not be the best way to put it but it will have to do) because in a real sense our salvation has already been achieved in Christ.

I am not sure what to make of these various thoughts, but I was just curious as to what other people think.

I don't know of any realized eschatology like that in Islam. There seems to be enough variety that I wouldn't assume any mindset is dominant without some data to support it. My interactions with Muslims in Central Asia led me to believe that in some parts of the world Muslims will simply believe folk traditions of that region in the guise of Islam, much as many medieval Catholics simply practiced pagan religion in the name of Catholicism.

I guess what I was trying to get at in some of my thoughts, is that to show the existence of some unlegalstic elements or views of Islam does not necessarily mean that the charge of being a works based religion will not stick. Plus, it seems to me that the apologetic argument she is undermining might still work for those strands that have a more legalistic perspective.

I guess what may be at issue is what constitutes a legalistic religion. I personally am hesitent about formulations that end up like the caricatured Puritans and so perhaps that is why I am more hesitent about declaring some religion to not be legalistic.

Again, I am not familiar with Muslim theology and so I am talking about the issues more broadly since I can't discuss the particulars.

She knows a whole lot more about the history of Islam and Muslim theology than anyone I even know.
I am sure this is not true, but I am rather chuffed you think so.
It's commonly asserted by Muslim apologists that Christianity is fragmented and sectarian, while Islam is not. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have been schisms within the larger umbrella of Islam, one very major one, with some of them leading to as much violence as any of the schisms within the larger umbrella of Christianity. There also seems to be as much variation within Islam theologically as there is within Christianity, so the unity argument in favor of Islam is simply historically inaccurate.
You are correct Jeremy, and I would put this sort of (Muslim) assertion in to the 'clanger' category.

I find it difficult to imagine that Muslims can get away with such an assertion given the Prophetic tradition that says the Jewish community split into 71 sects, the Christian community into 72 sects, but the Muslims will split into 73 sects but only one is saved (my paraphrase).

Of course, we might understand this hadith (the numbers are metaphorical btw.) as a post-Prophetic 'generated' tradition to explain the existence of schismatics within the community and to assert an orthodoxy/praxy with one group. Nevertheless, those who would invoke a purity of Islam must surely have to grapple with this tradition.

Muslims sometimes claim that diversity in Islam is more tolerated and Sunni Islam certainly became syncretistic. With some admitted historical exceptions, a Sunni and a Shi'i can pray together side-by-side in a mosque or at hajj with no sense of violating their essential beliefs or loyalties.

I guess what I was trying to get at in some of my thoughts, is that to show the existence of some unlegalstic elements or views of Islam does not necessarily mean that the charge of being a works based religion will not stick. Plus, it seems to me that the apologetic argument she is undermining might still work for those strands that have a more legalistic perspective.

I think it's like trying to characterise Christianity as a religion teaching salvation by faith-alone or by faith and works given the wide diversity of Catholic and Protestant views. It brings up the question of how do you define what is orthodox or what is historical. Certainly theology as a science is the product of Muslim creativity; the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not sit down and write a complex theological creed for Muslims to uniformly follow, any more than did Jesus (peace be upon him).

I think much of this becomes clearer when you realize that Islam is a Christian heresy.

Islam is not an offshoot of Christianity, so how could it be a Christian heresy? Its foundation has little to do with genuine Christianity and in fact denies the basis of Christianity.

That's a medieval perspective Don, but these days even the most orientalist of Orientalists rejects that assertion.

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