Posted by: joels | March 4, 2008

Dr. Miroslav Volf Lectures on “A Common Word”

This past week, the RTS Orlando community was privileged to hear 4 lectures given by Dr. Miroslav Volf of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. His topic, broadly speaking, was the relationship of Christianity and Islam. More specifically, he discussed the issues surrounding the recent document drafted by 138 Muslim scholars called “A Common Word Between Us and You.” In this post, I would like to briefly summarize what ACW is, and provide links to the numerous responses and resources that have come out since ACW was released. In future posts I hope to look at ACW in more detail and also to examine some of the responses to ACW.

“A Common Word Between Us and You”

On October 13th, 2007, 138 of the most respected Muslim scholars in the world sent “an open letter and call” to “leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere.” “A Common Word” (hereafter known as ACW) is 16 pages long, and therefore offers numerous ideas concerning Muslim-Christian relations. Its main features are the following:

• Christians and Muslims compose so great a percentage of the world’s population that “peace and justice” between them are essential to peace and justice throughout the world.
• Two principles are foundational to both Christianity and Islam: love for the One God, and love for one’s neighbor.
• On the basis of these similar foundational principles, the Muslim leaders say, “we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us” in order to foster dialogue and promote peace. is the official website. You can find the full text of ACW in several languages there. I would encourage you to read through the entire letter to see exactly what has been said. One other note about ACW is that it represents Muslims from all across the world—from US Muslims, Moroccan, Jordanian, Saudi, Pakistani, and Indonesian (amongst many others).

Christian Responses

Dr. Miroslav Volf, along with his fellows at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, drafted the Christian response that has gained the most notoriety. Hundreds of Christian leaders and scholars have signed the Yale Response. The full text can be found here. Dr. Volf has carried on personal dialogue with several of the primary drafters of ACW, and thus the Yale Response requires a great deal of Christian attention.

John Piper, the well-known pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church released a video that is critical of the Yale Response. He wishes for a response that clearly articulates the gospel, rather than focusing purely on common ground. His video sparked a response from Rick Love, former International Director of Frontiers (a missions agency focused on Muslim lands). He argues for the Yale Response on a number of grounds, but perhaps most importantly on the ground that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Piper then responded to Love with “How Shall We Love Our Muslim Neighbor?” in which he emphatically denies that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Love responded once again, emphasizing apostolic practice as exemplified by Paul in Acts 17. Piper has not yet responded, but Justin Taylor, an associate at Desiring God Ministries, wrote a response to Love on his blog, Between Two Worlds.

The Barnabas Fund, an organization focused on relief for persecuted Christians, wrote a response to ACW. Its response is much longer than the Yale Response, and while it does encourage dialogue, it is much less positive about the intentions and ideas of ACW. I also just discovered that the Barnabas Fund has responded to the Yale Response. I have not yet had a chance to read it, but imagine that reading it will encourage further reflection on the key issues.

On the ACW website, you can also find close to 50 Christian responses from a broad range of denominations. However, none of them have as much significance for evangelicals as the responses mentioned above.

Two Possibilities

Clearly ACW and the Yale Response give us the opportunity for two things: greater peace and dialogue with Muslims and great disagreement within the Christian community. I would like to suggest that whether one accepts the Yale Response or not, Christians should engage Muslims in dialogue, and should charitably discuss the theological foundations behind the various responses to ACW. I hope to write more on this issue in the future after I have reflected on and studied some of the integral issues.



  1. I haven’t read AWC, but I read the Yale response. It would seem on the surface that they simply want to open up communication at this point, but I doubt their motives considering who they are.

    I definitely like it that there is such a public opportunity to try reconcile with Muslims and have a potentially less tense environment for witnessing.

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