attempted to frustrate his plan by doing away with his messenger. But we also see in a single short sentence a denial of the crucifixion, and so of the atonement. It is not easy to see how Christians might accept Muslims as fellow travellers on the path towards complete communion with God.
The stark disparities between Christianity and Islam over their portrayals of Jesus and their accounts of how God has dealt with the world have been firmly at the centre of relations between the two faiths for all their fourteen hundred years of shared existence. And few have seen beyond these to the striking similarities in attitude, which the two faiths share in other aspects of their belief and action. Among these latter are the insistence that God has created the world and cares for it, has shown humankind the path to sanctification and truth, has given human life a moral charge, and intends his creatures to find their fulfilment on earth in relationship with him and in the hereafter in enjoyment of his rewards. There are huge moral and ethical overlaps between the two faiths, and Muslims and Christians can find themselves curiously close in their perception of how the individual interacts with society, and their solutions for social malaise.
A clergy friend who sits on a school governing body has more than once remarked on how well he gets on with the Muslim chair of governors. They happily co-operate to maintain an explicitly religious atmosphere in this church school, which currently admits all its pupils from Muslim homes. Such examples make it less difficult to see how Christians might be able to travel at least some of the road with Muslims.
So we see there are aspects of Islam that decidedly distance Christians, and aspects that hold some promise of shared understanding and co-operation. The same can probably be said about Christianity and any faith. And it explains how on the one hand there must be some sense of distance from believers who either do not share cherished beliefs or openly reject them, and yet how on the other there may be some inclusivity towards those with common values who may join in projects that enrich society and enhance communal growth. I may not be able to pass the peace to my Muslim friends, but I can hope to build peace with their help and support.
But if I cannot pass the peace, because that implies accepting a Muslim into the body of Christ, can I get beyond the point of rejecting his beliefs and condemning them as either misunderstood borrowings from Christianity (St John of Damascus) or demonic (Luther)? With the help of a fundamental insight from the Gospel of John, this may be possible.
In the outline of the quranic teaching about God given above there are many elements that Christians might recognise as familiar. Indeed, many elements of the quranic teaching about Jesus are also remarkably similar to the Gospels. If these are only slavish copies of Christian doctrines intentionally though incorrectly taken over by Muhammad, as St John of Damascus judges, then we must condemn Muhammad as a cheat. But if he was sincere and truthful in claiming they were not his conscious composition, we must attribute them to another source, which can only be inspiration. What form this inspiration took requires careful understanding, whether it was the direct inspiration that replaced Muhammad's human speech with divine (as Muslims believe), or the poetic inspiration that enabled him to mould experiences and heard teachings into unforgettable expressions.
However we explain the Qur'an, if we allow it to be the authentic utterances of a sincere man then we have to concede the possibility of divine involvement, and to acknowledge that the Qur'an might be