Christianity, Islam, and Judaism cannot all be true because each of them is saying something profoundly different about the one indivisible God. Christopher Catherwood argues that Christianity is the one true faith, the faith that makes sense, and the path to salvation and eternal life. He does this by explaining the history of all three religions.
This high order task is done writing a short, easy to understand book. People of different faiths do not understand each other very well. Catherwood is in favor of interreligious peace and reconciliation and “lauds all efforts to produce it”. Jesus did not achieve his goals through military conquest and the early church (before Constantine) was serverely persecuted. One of the reasons I pre-ordered this book from Amazon is that I was hoping for an Evangelical Manifesto of how the endless war in Iraq does not serve God’s purposes – but Catherwood is more of a historian than a politician – and the brief history of these religions make it a must-read for Christians who want to understand the differences between these three religions.
Both Islam and Christianity have its roots in Judaism, honoring the Hebrew Scriptures, but with claims of being universal religions – applying to all people. The names of the religions tell us a lot about them – Judaism is about the Jews – an ethnic group and nation, Christianity is about Jesus Christ, Islam is about a theological idea – that people should submit to God.
Why is Christianity different than the other two? Not much is known about the birth of Abraham or the birth of Mohammed (Mohammed is barely even mentioned in the Koran) . We do know a lot about the birth of Christ because the Incarnation (“God with us”) is central to the Christian faith. The other faiths provide truths about God – but that is different than God coming to earth as a Man. In America – the celebration of Jesus’s birth is mainly a secular holiday to celebrate materialism and the giving of gifts, but to those with faith it is the celebration of God coming to earth as a Baby, and demonstrating how to love everyone, absolutely everyone, and finally how God so loved the world that He gave His Son up for it, so that we can now have a intimate friendship with Him. Islam is like Christianity without the Christ. It provides a God who demands obedience, but there is no Savior or peace.
There is an appendix on how modern science points us to faith that makes sense. For instance, genetic research points us all to a common ancestor – a common Eve.
The author dedicates this book to his small group at church. I could not help thinking how lucky those people were to be friends with Catherwood – this is a very informally written, friendly book written by a genuine scholar and teacher.