Pneumatological Considerations For Christian Muslim Peacebuilding Engagement

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PNEUMA 40 (2018) 326–344

Pneumatological Considerations

for Christian-Muslim Peacebuilding Engagement

Uchenna D. Anyanwu

Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California


This essay explores the understanding of the Holy Spirit in Islam and his role inmissio Dei from a Christian missiological perspective, and then argues for pneumatological considerations that Jesus’s followers can employ to promote Christian-Muslim peace- building engagement. It asserts that the task of reconciling all things belongs primarily to the domain of missio Deiand, consequently, that the Holy Spirit is the One who ini- tiates and creates occasions and circumstances that birth enduring, holistic, and true peace. Armed with such understanding, peacebuilding enthusiasts who follow Jesus can engage in christo-pneumatological peacebuilding that entails the practice of faith- ful presence—dwelling with the “other” as the temple of the Holy Spirit, who glorifies the Son and the Father through the human participant in themissio Dei.


Holy Spirit – pneumatology – peacebuilding – missio Dei – Christian-Muslim engage- ment – faithful presence

1 Introduction

The relationship between Christians and Muslims1has been fraught with con- flicts, wars, violence, and human suffering for centuries. Rollin Armour, Sr.,

1 ThetermMuslimsisusedinthisessayinagenericmannertorefertoMuslimpeoplesirrespec-

tive of affiliation (Sunni, Shiʾites, Sufis, etc.) or degree of practice (practicing, nonpracticing,

moderate, Islamists, etc.). This essay is intended to stimulate conversation on peacebuilding

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2018 | doi:10.1163/15700747-04003002


christian-muslim peacebuilding engagement


reflects this thought in the subtitle of his volume Islam, Christianity, and the West: ATroubled History.2A retrospective historical overview substantiates this assertion.The Muslim Arab invasion of North Africa in the seventh century, the Christian Crusades against Muslims, and contemporary globalized Islamist- driven acts of acute violence all attest to the painful broken relationships between the adherents of these two Abrahamic-cousin faiths. So, Christian- Muslim peacebuilding enthusiasts are compelled to pose certain questions. What could be done to mitigate this unpleasant phenomenon? What can arti- sans of peace in these two houses of faith do to install transformation that will engender enduring peace and interfaith hospitality? In this essay, we explore possible pneumatological considerations that can be applied from a Christian missiological perspective in a Christian-Muslim peacebuilding engagement.

2 Pneumatological Understanding in Islam

First, we explore the understanding of the Holy Spirit in Islam. The Islamic tradition holds to the doctrine of tanzil ( تنزيل ), the teaching that the Qurʾān descended from heaven, sent down word by word through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. Muhammad Abdel Haleem posits that for “the Prophet himself, the Qurʾan was ‘sent down’ and communicated to him by ‘the faithful Spirit,’ Gabriel, and it was categorically not his own speech.”3 This understanding is grounded on Qurʾān 85:22 and 3:7, which speak of the “Preserved Tablet” from which the Qurʾān was “sent down.” Although the Qurʾān “is a text that Muslim consensus, based upon the Qurʾānic text itself, regards as being of divine prove- nance, [yet] this is far from clear from the Qurʾān itself,” posits Aziz Al-Azmeh.4

William St. Clair-Tisdall tenders several proofs that the Qurʾān and most of Islamic traditions owe their origin to Arabian customs, Judaism and Jew- ish commentators, tales of heretical Christian sects and apocryphal Christian sources, ancient Zoroastrian and even Hindu writings, and “a few inquirers in

engagement between Jesus’s followers (particularly those who are passionate about partici-

pating with the triune God in his mission in the Muslim world) and Muslims (especially those

who are open to dialogue for peace).

2 Rollin Armour, Sr., Islam, Christianity, and the West: A Troubled History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis

Books, 2002). In my opinion, Armour’s work should have been better titledIslam, Christianity

and the Rest: A Troubled History. This “troubled history” is not limited to the West. 3 Muhammad Abdel Haleem,Understanding the Qurʾan: Themes and Style(New York: I.B. Tau-

ris, 2001), 3. See also John Renard,Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spiritu-

ality and Religious Life. (Berkeley,CA: University of California Press, 1998), 1.

4 Aziz Al-Azmeh, “Canon and Canonisation of the Qur Ān, in the Islamic Religious Sciences,”

in Encyclopaedia of Islam Three 2013–3, ed. Kate Fleet et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 59.

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Arabia, called the Hanefites,5 just before the time of Mohamet.”6 An attempt to grasp the theme of the Holy Spirit in Islam should not, therefore, neglect the context and sources that may have surrounded Muhammad. Muhammad’s understanding of the “concept of the spirit came … out of a religious environ- mentinfluencedalikebytheprimitivepagancultsof ArabiaandbyGnosticism, Judaism, and Christianity.”7 Understanding the context within which revela- tion was received is essential for any fair exegetical exercise of texts. The con- sideration of context is not restricted to the hermeneutics of sacred texts, but applies also to other texts, whether sacred or secular. It is necessary, therefore, to locate the period and context within which a particularsura(Qurʾānic chap- ter) and orʿayat (Qurʾānic verse) was received and proclaimed.

Thomas O’Shaughnessy identifies Qurʾānic verses wherein the Arabic word for spirit ( وح


ر rūḥ) “is used, with enough context to render them intelligible,”8 and he arranges their occurrences chronologically. O’Shaughnessy first clas- sifies the verses on the Spirit according to the period in which Muhammad received them. He identifies four periods, namely: (1) First Meccan Period:9 Qurʾān78:38;97:4and70:4;(2)SecondMeccanPeriod:Qurʾān26:193;15:29;19:17; 38:72 and 21:91; (3) Third Meccan Period: Qurʾān 32:8–9; 17:87; 16:2; 16:102; 40:15; and 42:51–52; and (4) Medina Period: Qurʾān 2:87; 2:253; 4:171; 58:22; 66:12; 5:113.

O’Shaughnessy further identifies four sense groups to which these Qurʾānic texts onrūḥ(spirit) belong.The three references within the first Meccan period fall within O’Shaughnessy’s Sense Group A. For example: “The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows, they will not speak except for one whom the Most Merciful permits, and he will say what is correct”10(Qurʾan 78:38).The meaning of spirit in Muhammad’s understanding was progressive from this




8 9


Orthography of transliterated Arabic words as it appears in any cited work is retained. Oth- erwise, the standard transliteration in accordance with theInternational Journal of Middle East Studies is maintained., accessed April 26, 2016.

WilliamSt. Clair-Tisdall,TheSourcesof Islam:APersianTreatise,trans.William Muir(Edin- burgh: T & T Clark, 1901), x.

Thomas J. O’Shaughnessy, The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran (Rome: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1953), 9–10.

O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 13.

Unless otherwise stated, all citations of the Qurʾān in this essay are taken fromSahih Inter- national,, accessed Feb. 8, 2018.

Qurʾān (hereafter Q.) In Arabic there are no upper/lower cases for words as there are in Anglo-Germanic languages. There is no distinction in Arabic orthography between Spirit (referring to the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God) and spirit (referring to lesser human or other spirits).The context of a Qurʾānic passage helps to determine if the Arabic word وح


ر rūḥrefers to the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God) or to a lesser spirit.

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first (Meccan) to the last (Medina) period. During the first Meccan period— corresponding to the first four years of Muhammad’s preaching—the sense of the wordrūḥ(spirit) is related to angels and the Spirit, personified, plays active role with angels. It is argued that during this epoch, Muhammad must have had contacts with Jews and Christians and thus acquired “some indirect knowledge through oral sources.”11Muhammad’s rendering of the Spirit and angels in this early period display no indication of supremacy of the Spirit over angels.

During the second Meccan period, the references to the Spirit are linked to revelation,12the breathing of God’s Spirit upon man on the occasion of the cre- ation of humans (Q. 15:28–30 and 38:71–73), and Mary’s virginal conception through the breathing of the divine Spirit upon her (Q. 19:16–17 and 21:91).13 There are reasons to believe that during this period, Muhammad started draw- ing more material from Christians, because some early Muslims had emi- grated from Mecca to Abyssinia, where they received protection from the Christians and their ruler, Negus, who showed great hospitality to the first Muslim immigrants.14 For the second-Meccan-period references, some Mus- lim commentators give various descriptions to the Spirit, which include: Allah’s Spirit described as something owned by Allah; something bearing a relation to divine presence—corresponding to the Judeo-Christian notion of theShek- inah; Allah’s Spirit described as some of Allah’s power; and “Allah’s life-giving breath which issued from his spirit, i.e., from Gabriel.”15

Muslim commentators such as Tabarī, Zamakhsharī, Rāzī, Baidāwī, and Al- Jalālayn associate the Spirit with the angel Gabriel.16 Al-Jalālayn’s commen- tary on Qurʾān 97:4 reads: “The angels and the Spirit, namely, Gabriel, descend

11 12



15 16

O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 17.

“192And indeed, the Qurʾan is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds.193The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down194Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] …”Q.26:192–194. Q.21:91“And [remember] her who guarded her chastity:We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.” Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qurʾan(Beltsville,MD.: Amana Publications, 2001), 21:91. “And [mention] the one who guarded her chastity, soWe blew into her [garment] through Our angel [Gabriel], and We made her and her son a sign for the worlds.” Whereas Yusuf Ali translates the Arabic expression “ وحِنَا

ُّر” “Our spirit,”Sahih Internationaltranslates the same expression as “Ourangel [Gabriel].”

ʿAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat rasūl Allāh(New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 148; O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 21. O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 32, TableII. G. C. Mylrea and Iskandur ʿAbduʾl-Masíḥ, The Holy Spirit in Qurʾán and Bible (London: Christian Literature Society for India, 1910), 9–10; O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran., 24, TableI.

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(tanazzalu) in it, on that night, by the leave of their Lord, by His command, with every command, that God has decreed from that year to the following one.”17 Al-Jalālayn places Gabriel in apposition to the Spirit, as Muhammad Abdel Haleem does, who, in his assertion that “[t]o the Prophet himself, the Qurʾan was ‘sent down’ and communicated to him by ‘the faithful Spirit,’ Gabriel,”18 equates Gabriel with “the faithful Spirit.”

For the third Meccan period, the evident meaning of

verses of that epoch is inspiration19

these verses is intricately connected to

meaning of




ر rūḥ (spirit) in the and the revelation of the command of


و waḥī (inspiration). The four Mus-

Allah. In the understanding of the majority of Muslim commentators, spirit in


lim commentators mentioned above connectQ.16:2 and 40:15 to this particular


و waḥī (inspiration). Tabarī, Zamakhsharī, and Rāzī also relate the spirit mentioned in Q. 17:85 to the angel Gabriel in addition to the idea of inspiration. The Qurʾān itself gives basis for such a link between inspiration, spirit, and Gabriel. InQ.2:97–98 this connection is inferred:

Q.2:97Say, “Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel—it is [none but] he who has brought the Qurʾan down upon your heart, [O Muhammad], by permis- sion of Allah, confirming that which was before it and as guidance and good tidings for the believers.” Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and His messengers and Gabriel and Michael—then indeed, Allah

is an enemy to the disbelievers.20

Muslim scholars consider Gabriel as the one who brought down the revelation to Muhammad, and consequently connect Gabriel to the Spirit, assuming the

former to be the same as the latter.

Besides inspiration and the angel Gabriel, the Qurʾān itself is another mean- ing some commentators connect to the Spirit inQ.40:15 and 42:52. Ibn ʿAbbas’ commentary on Q. 40:15 reads in part: “… the Creator of the heavens, Who has


18 19

Jalāl al-Dīn Al-Maḥallī and Jalāl al-Dīn Al-Suyūṭī, Tafsīr Al-Jalālayn, trans. Feras Hamza (Amman, Jordan: Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 2007), 757, http://www, accessed: Nov. 18, 2016.

Abdel Haleem,Understanding the Qurʾan, 3.

Yusuf Ali renders the clause “


مَ ْ



لَيْكَر ِ

حَيْنَاإ وَ

ْhave We, by Our Command, sent inspiration to thee …”

same word “



َSahih Internationaltranslates the

و” in Q. 42:52 as “And thus



ر” rūḥan is “a spirit.” Dr.


ُGhal’s translation gives a rendering much closer to the Arabic: “And thusWe have revealed

ر” as “an inspiration.” However, the word “

to you a Spirit of Our Command …,”‑98, accessed Feb. 8, 2018.

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raised you above everything, (the Lord of the Throne. He casteth the Spirit of His command) He sends down Gabriel with the Qurʾān …”21 Ibn ʿAbbas con- nects “the Spirit” not only to Gabriel, but also to the Qurʾān itself, giving it the sense that what was sent down—Qurʾān—is indeed the Spirit.

During the fourth period (the Medina Period) six occurrences22 are found in the Qurʾān. In these verses, the Spirit is given to Jesus to strengthen him and is breathed upon Mary. The term القُدُسِ




ر rūḥu al-qudus in these verses is sometimes translated “spirit of holiness.” Yusuf Ali’s translation renders it “holy spirit.” O’Shaughnessy postulates different sources from which Muham- mad may have drawn the idea of Jesus being strengthened with the spirit of holiness, because it was at Medina that Muhammad “learned the radical dis- tinctionbetweentheOldandNewTestaments.”23Jesusaloneisidentifiedinthe Qurʾan as being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and this gives Jesus a unique position vis-à-vis all the other prophets mentioned in the Qurʾān. Nonethe- less, Muslim commentators still connect the spirit in Q. 2:87; 2:253; 58:22; and 5:113 to Gabriel. The basis for this consistent connection lies in Q. 2:97 (quoted above). This probably explains Muslim commentators’ unanimous identifica- tion of Gabriel as the spirit in Q. 19:17,24 a verse where Yusuf Ali renders the word وحَنَا


رrūḥanā(our spirit) as “our angel.”25

Whereas O’Shaughnessy classifies the understanding of the Spirit in Islam from two angles (the periods of revelation and the senses of use), Amos Yong, on his part, gives “a rough categorization of ruh [based on] at least six asso- ciations.”26 In addition to O’Shaughnessy’s classification surveyed above, Yong adds, “None who haveruhdespair; rather, they are comforted and strengthened as believers in Allah.”27He avows that although his categorization into six cate- gories is “simplistic … [yet] likeruahin Jewish thought andpneumain Christian theology, no one reading of ruhhas been received in the Islamic tradition.”28

The emerging themes that Muslim commentators and scholars ascribe to the Holy Spirit include: Jesus as a Spirit from Allah, the angel Gabriel, the Spirit


22 23 24 25


27 28

Tafsir Ibn ʾAbbas, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, 2016 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan,, accessed Nov. 19, 2016.

Q.2:87; 2:253; 4:171; 58:22; 66:12; 5:113.

O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 42.

O’Shaughnessy,The Development of the Meaning of Spirit in the Koran, 57.

“We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.” Ali,The Mean- ing of the Holy Qurʾan,Q.19:17.

Amos Yong,The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology(Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 261.

Yong,The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, 261.

Yong,The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, 261.

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of revelation or inspiration, and by extension the Qurʾān itself.29With all these themes considered, we acknowledge that the Muslim understanding of Spirit still begs for elucidation both from historical perspectives and the contem- porary understanding of ordinary Muslims. In other words, how do Ahmed, Si-Muhammad, or Khadija (the devout ordinary nonerudite Muslims in Fez, Cairo, or Sumatra) understand Spirit وح


ر rūḥ in Islam? What are the connec- tions between jinns (spirits) and Spirit in Islam? Are there deviations in the understanding of Spirit between the various rooms in the house of Islam—the Sunnis, Shiʾites, Sufis, and others? These are themes beyond our present explo- ration.

3 The Holy Spirit’s Role in Missio Dei

Second, we explore the Holy Spirit’s role in missio Dei30 from a Christian missiological perspective. What role does the Holy Spirit play in Christian engagement with people of other faiths—particularly with Muslims? If mis- sion engagement is understood asmissio Dei, wherein “it is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfil in the world; [but rather] it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church,”31then the role of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission is, indeed, weighty.

The triune God’s ultimate purpose of sending the Son (his death and resur- rection) would have been defeated had the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son been aborted. Is it not in view of this that Jesus said: “… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go




For further discussion on these themes, see Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qurʾan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 67–69, modernist/Major_Themes_of_the_Quran.pdf, (accessed Feb. 8, 2018); Michael Sells, “Spirit,” in Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed., Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 114–117.

Missio Dei, in a very simplistic definition, is the mission of God. For further reading, see Georg F. Vicedom, The Mission of God: An Introduction to a Theology of Mission, trans. Gilbert A. Thiele (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1965); Johannes Verkuyl, Contemporary Missi- ology: An Introduction(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 3–5; David J. Bosch,Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 20th Anniversary Edition (Maryknoll,NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 398–402.

Jürgen Moltmann,The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesi- ology(New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 64; Bosch,Transforming Mission, 400; Mike Barnett and Robin Martin, Discovering the Mission of God: Best Missional Practices for the 21st Cen- tury (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 18–19,, accessed Nov. 21, 2016).

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away, the Advocate [ὁ παράκλητος ho paraklētos] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7)?32Jesus, knowing the key role the Holy Spirit plays in missio Dei, told his followers “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Luke adds: “While [Jesus was] staying with them he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). In the house of Christian theology, there is no debate about the identity of the Holy Spirit as the one Jesus referred to as “the promise of the Father” and “power from on high.” He was poured upon Jesus’s followers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Scholars in the house of Islam, however, in proof texting Johannine passages on ὁ παράκλητος ho paraklētos (the Advocate), misconstrue Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit to mean that Jesus was foretelling the coming of Muhammad. Nevertheless, a study of Jesus’s words concerning the Paraclete (ὁ παράκλητος ho paraklētos), historical events following Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost evidently show that such arguments are unfounded.33 Jesus identified “the Paraclete” as the Holy Spirit, who, he affirmed, will “be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14:16b–17). The Holy Spirit is the Promise of the Father sent down on the day of Pentecost ten days after Jesus’s ascension, and he remains on earth continuing the mission of God.

The Holy Spirit’s role inmissio Dei is so essential that Arthur T. Pierson calls the Lukan narrative in Acts of the Apostles “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.”34




Unless otherwise indicated, Bible quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

In Mona Siddiqui’s volume, for example, she footnotes: “In 1John 2:1 ‘Paraclete’ is used to describe the intercessory role of Jesus who pleads to the Father on our behalf. And in John 14:16 Jesus says ‘Another Paraclete’ will come to help his disciples, implying Jesus is the first and primary Paraclete. According to some Muslim commentators, the concept of ‘Another Paraclete’ in John 14:16 refers to Muhammad, though Christians do not recognise this.” Mona Siddiqui, Christians, Muslims and Jesus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 251. Siddiqui fails to mention John 14:26, where Jesus specifically identifies the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit. For further discussion, see Sean W. Anthony, “Muhammad, Menaahem, and the Paraclete: New Light on Ibn Ishāq’s (d. 150/767) Arabic Version of John 15:23–16:1,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies79, no. 2 (June 2006): 273–274. F.F. Bruce (1990), in his Article “Luke’s Presentation of the Spirit in Acts,” in Criswell The- ological Review 5, no. 1: 15–29, makes reference to Arthur T. Pierson, The Acts of the Holy Spirit: Being an Examination of the Active Mission and Ministry of the Spirit of God, the

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Pierson notes that Acts of the Apostles “traces our Lord’s unseen but actualcon- tinuance of his divine teaching and working; and secondly, … theactive ministry of the Holy Spirit35 as the abiding presence in the church.”36Without the com- ing of the Holy Spirit, the Church would not have been born and would not have been invited by the triune God to participate in his mission in the world. But with the Holy Spirit’s advent, he remains present in the world, continuing his work and playing his role in themissio Dei. The church, having been invited and sent by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to participate in this mis- sion, is not left to do so alone. Rather, the Holy Spirit is present and active in the life and community of Jesus’s followers continuing the work. In this regard, he must be understood as part of the Trinity continuing the task of missio Dei, and the church must see her own mission “with due humility—as participation in themissio Dei.”37

Concerning the role played by the Holy Spirit in engagement with people of other faiths, understanding mission as God’s own work is liberating for human participants inmissio Dei. It liberates one from accosting people of other faiths as if it were through one’s feeble and vacillating human schemes, strategies, strength, and sweat that others would be reconciled to God and be trans- formed. Jesus’s followers were aware that the invitation to participate with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit makes one only a simple follower, not the leader or an initiator. The knowledge that the work is God’s and that one has been graciously invited to participate serves as the basis for waiting on the Owner of the work to initiate and direct. Apparently, undergirding the con- flicts that often emerge in Christian engagement with other faiths may be the Christians’ overzealous attitude that forgets to recognize the Owner, Leader, and Author of missio Dei. Some may think they need to accomplish their mis- sion by every means possible and consequently dash ahead of the One whom the Father and the Son sent to lead the task of engaging the world.

We argue that in God’s mission, the triune God is ever more passionate and eager to reconcile people to himself than the human participants in themissio

35 36 37

Divine Paraclete, as Set Forth in the Acts of the Apostles (New York: F.H. Revell Co., 1895). Bruce also mentions A. Ehrhardt, who, following in the steps of Chrysostom’s Homilies on Acts, called it “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” Frederick Fyvie Bruce, “Luke’s Presentation of the Spirit in Acts,” Criswell Theological Review 5, no. 1 (September 1990): 18–19; Ju Hur, A Dynamic Reading of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts(London / New York: T & T Clark, 2001), 13.

Emphasis is Pierson’s.

Pierson,The Acts of the Holy Spirit, 8.

Bosch,Transforming Mission, 522.

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Dei. Inasmuch as it is important to find ways to keep dialogue open and ongoing in interfaith engagement, we posit that Christian participants in God’s mission must become acutely aware that God is the One who does his work and that Jesus’s followers are only privileged participants invited into God’s soteriologi- cal mission. In other words, the church cannot at any time be more eager and more zealous than the triune God, for God is more than able to do his work without humans. The invitation extended to Jesus’s followers to participate in God’s mission in the world is, in essence, a privilege and a manifestation of the Father’s desire to involve his children in his family business. It is not, in any way, a manifestation of the inability or incapacity of the Owner of the work to do it without human participation. Two biblical examples, one each from the Old and the New Testaments, suffice to illustrate this assertion.

In the OT account of the Philistines’ capture of the Ark of the Covenant (1Sam 5), there were no Israelite priests to look after the Ark of God. The Ark symbolized the presence of Yahweh in Israel. God’s appointed priests who could legitimately transport the Ark were not there while it was with the Philistines. Nonetheless, the presence of Yahweh inside Dagon’s Temple (man- ifest by the simple presence of the Ark) caused the Philistine god, Dagon, to fall facedown. Furthermore, the people of Ashdod were afflicted with tumors and plagues owing to the presence of the Ark in their territory. From the account in 1Sam 5:6–11, we can deduce that Yahweh needed no human help to defend himself. Now, the Yahweh of the Old Testament is the same God worshiped by Jesus’s followers, and he has not changed. We maintain, then, that any deity whom people pretend to worship, while the worshipers take it upon themselves to fight physically for that deity’s cause, is indeed powerless. If worshipers engage in physical combat with other humans for the cause of their god, then that god is degraded. “If he [Baal] is a god, let him contend for himself” (Judg 6:31). Shouldn’t this be the principle and pattern to follow in order to honor one’s god(s)?

In my mind the prevailing New Testament example is the event of Jesus’s resurrection. No human intervention was needed either to roll away the stone or to raise the crucified and entombed Jesus from the dead. The triune God embarked on that project all alone without human participation. Any argu- ment that posits that Yahweh will be incapacitated to accomplish his own projects will receive a similar question posed to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Tom Doyle acknowledges that “when he began hearing about Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus, [he] was quite a doubting Thomas.” He subsequently avows: “After a few years of working in the Middle East, I found out for myself that God doesn’t need me to tell Him what He can and cannot

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do in today’s world. Just because some people wrongly imagine dreams and visions does not mean that God can’t still use supernatural visitations today.”38 Grounded on these foregoing arguments, we assert that the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) continues to undertake hismissio Deithrough the actions of the Holy Spirit in the world. But can humans see how he is doing this?

In empirical terms, it is a prodigious task to pin down the Holy Spirit’s work on earth in observable ways. This is so because the Holy Spirit is invisi- ble to human eyes, microscopes, and telescopes, and human auricular senses can hardly capture his voice. We can, nonetheless, resort to the experiences of thousands of individuals who have had spectacular encounters similar to the narratives in Acts of the Apostles—read “Acts of the Holy Spirit” (in the words of Arthur Pierson)—and to the community of faith as well. Jürgen Molt- mann argues that beginning “with experience may sound subjective, arbitrary and fortuitous, but [he went on] to show that it is none of these things.”39 He posits that “experiences for their part point us toward the ideas and concepts with which we try to grasp them; for experiences which are not understood are like experiences that have never existed.”40On his part, Amos Yong argues that “what Christians experience as the Holy Spirit … can be understood in terms of a (perhaps ongoing) series of pneumatic encounters.”41He posits that “while the character of the legal, habitual and dispositional aspects of things may not be immediately apparent, careful attention to and prolonged engagement with them will be revelatory of their pneumatic nature and identity.”42 Thus, expe- riences should not be ignored.

After the close of the Christian canon, millions of people have had and con- tinue to have experiences similar to those of the believers who encountered the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit, of whom these were indeed his acts, did not resign or retire after Acts 28. He continues to play an indispensable role in the trinitarian dance of mis- sio Dei. We can actually say: Although Luke closed his own narrative accounts with Acts 28, yet the narratives of the Holy Spirit’s acts are not closed. There



40 41


Tom Doyle and Greg Webster, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 126–127.

Jürgen Moltmann,The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 17.

Moltmann,The Spirit of Life, 19.

Amos Yong, Spirit-Word-Community: Theological Hermeneutics in Trinitarian Perspective (Eugene,OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006), 7.

Yong,Spirit-Word-Community, 147.

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are ongoing Acts 29,43Acts 30, Actsnththat continue to be written of the Holy Spirit both in the lives of individuals and in the community of creation.

4 The Holy Spirit and Peacebuilding

Now what has the Holy Spirit to do with peacebuilding? Peacebuilding is the proactive, conscious, and structured efforts geared toward establishing the parameters that create a peace (“ שָׁלֽוֹם ”—shalom) culture and prevent con- flict, acute violence, or war. It is preventive, intentional, and is not a reaction or response to crisis that has already begun, which is the domain of peace- making. Peacebuilding does not wait for a context of conflict before it begins. There exists God’s intrinsic purpose within themissio Deito redeem, to restore, and to reinstate his creation into a shalom relationship with the triune God. This redemption and restoration into shalom is not only vertical (human- God shalom relationship), but also horizontal (human-human and humans- creation shalom relationships). James R. Krabill notes in this regard that it is God’s vision to reconcile all things and set them right.44The Holy Spirit, as the One sent by the Father through the Son, has been committed to this task of reconciliation grounded on Jesus’s finished work on the cross.

How, then, is the Holy Spirit the Spirit of peace? In his Letter to the Romans, Paul writes of “peace with God” and of “God’s love” poured into the believers’ hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:1, 5). He prays for the believers: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). Peace, joy, abounding in hope, growing in righteousness and the process of sanctification are all made possible in the life of a follower of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Rom 14:17). Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). Besides these scriptural pointers, there are metaphors that fortify the idea of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of peace.



There is a contemporary network of churches that call themselves “Acts 29 Network.” In their explanation of what Acts 29 means, they write: “It seems that the Book of Acts was left open-ended in Acts 28. It’s as if Luke believed that they were just finishing the end of the first phase of the expansion of the church.” They define Acts 29 simply as “a trans-denominational peer to peer network of missional church planting churches.”‑does‑acts‑29‑mean/, accessed Nov. 23, 2016.

James R. Krabill, “Biblical Approaches to Peace,” in (Un)Common Sounds: Songs of Peace and Reconciliation among Muslims and Christians, ed. Roberta Rose King and Sooi Ling Tan (Eugene,OR: Cascade Books, 2014), 88.

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Although Jürgen Moltmann fails to include the Spirit-dove metaphor in his treatment of “the metaphors with which the experiences of the Spirit have been described,”45Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen highlights it, but only in respect to the Spirit’s “work in creation … fluttering like a dove over her fledging chicks.”46The Spirit-dove metaphor takes additional meaning from the event of Jesus’s bap- tism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), when the Holy Spirit, descend- ing upon Jesus like a dove, rested upon him. It has been argued that Noah’s dove returning with the olive leaf on its beak may have given rise to the symbolism of the Holy Spirit’s work as the Spirit of peace.47Historically, the metaphor of a dove first mentioned in Gen 8:8–12 with an olive leaf to symbolize peace is said to have originated from the early Christians in Rome. Paintings and inscrip- tions of the symbol were made on tombstones in Roman catacombs and are said to be “allegorical symbols of hope, victory, and everlasting peace.”48 Gray- don F. Snyder affirms that “[l]ike the dove, the olive branch does appear in pre-Constantinian representations of Noah’s ark, but as a symbol it appears more often simply in the beak of the dove. Like the dove, it must be taken as an iconic expression of peace and shalom, as it derives from Judaism and contin- ues through early Christianity.”49

In a World Council of Churches (WCC) paper, the work of the Holy Spirit in peacebuilding is acknowledged.

The Holy Spirit helps us to live out Christ’s openness to others. The per- son of the Holy Spirit moved and still moves over the face of the earth, to create, nurture, sustain, to challenge, renew and transform … Our hope and expectancy are rooted in our belief that the “economy” of the Spirit relatestothewholecreation…Weseethenurturingpowerof theHolySpirit working within, inspiring human beings in their universal longing for, and seeking after, truth, peace and justice.50

45 46

47 48 49


Moltmann,The Spirit of Life, 269–285.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen,Spirit and Salvation, vol. 4, A Constructive ChristianTheology for the Pluralistic World (Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans, 2016), 128.

For further discussion, see Hur, A Dynamic Reading of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts, 158–159., accessed Nov. 25, 2016.

Graydon F. Snyder, “The Interaction of Jews with Non-Jews in Rome,” in JudaismandChris- tianity in First-Century Rome, ed. Karl P. Donfried and Peter Richardson (Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 83.

World Council of Churches, “Religious Plurality and Christian Self-Understanding,” Doc- ument, July 2005, Article IV, Clause 28, 32, documents/commissions/faith‑and‑order/ix‑other‑study‑processes/religious‑plurality ‑and‑christian‑self‑understanding, accessed Nov. 25, 2016. Emphasis is mine.

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It is reasonable, therefore, to assert that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace and that this concept must be recognized in pneumatological considerations in Christians’ peacebuilding engagements, whether with Muslims or with people of other faiths.

Just as we have established that Jesus’s followers need to be acutely aware that the task of missio Dei is primarily the work of the triune God, similarly, we must also recognize that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and the Son sent into the world, is ever more present working, nurturing, and prodding humans toward reconciliation. His work is far from limited to only the outworking of individual salvation. It extends (beyond reconciliation of individuals and com- munities) into the horizon of reconciliation of the entire cosmos. Individual and communal soteriological goals aren’t the only end-goals of the Holy Spirit’s work. Kärkkäinen rightly observes that the work of reconciling people to God does not have salvation alone as its ultimate goal. In agreement with Ross Lang- mead, he views51

reconciliation as the most inclusive soteriological concept, including “cosmic reconciliation, the Hebrew notion of shalom, the meaning of the cross, the psychological effects of conversion, the work of the Holy Spirit, the overcoming of barriers between Christians, the work of the church in the world, peacemaking, movements towards ethnic reconciliation and the renewal of ecological balances between humanity and its natural environment.”52

Kärkkäinen’s argument above resonates with and echoes Romans 8:19–25. The Holy Spirit’s soteriological work on earth extends to God’s entire creation. The goal is to redeem, restore, and reinstate all things into a shalom relationship with the triune God, in whom alone all creation can find enduring, holistic, and true peace.

The last question we now address is: How is the Holy Spirit engaging in peacebuilding in Christian-Muslim contexts weaved with religious treads?



Kärkkäinen makes reference to the late Australian missiologist Ross Langmead, who argues that a wide range of ideas undergirding reconciliation are indeed “facets of the mis- sion of God” (that is:missio Dei). Ross Langmead, “Transformed Relationships: Reconcili- ation as the Central Model for Mission,”Veränderte Beziehungen: Versöhnung als zentrales Modell für Mission25, no. 1 (April 2008): 6, Kärkkäinen,Spirit and Salvation, 4:407; Langmead, “Transformed Relationships,” 6.

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5 Pneumatological Considerations for Christian-Muslim

Peacebuilding Engagement

We have argued that reconciliation leading to peace with God is the work of the triune God. It is part of the ministry in themissio Dei. Since the Holy Spirit is the One sent by the Father and the Son and is working in the world, he is engaged in the work of reconciliation with the community of Jesus’s followers as invited participants in the missio Dei. Paul Alexander affirms that “a Pente- costal theology well grounded in the scriptures will prescribe peacemaking as a fundamental characteristic of Spirit-filled communities.”53This claim will cer- tainly appear ludicrous to some who advocate violence against violence. But recognizing that the task of peacebuilding in our broken world is the work of the triune God makes one surrender his or her human methods to let the Holy Spirit engage in his work with whoever will participate on God’s own terms. Alexander calls such peacebuilding engagement a “Jesus-shaped and Spirit- empowered peace”54 and posits that “violence and division, retaliation and enmity are not appropriate for those empowered by the Spirit of God.”55

From another perspective, Ross Langmead argues that conversion—that is, repentance or turning to God through faith in Jesus—should be viewed as rec- onciliation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit as well. Langmead writes: “Conver- sion is a work of the Holy Spirit, involving the mystery of divine initiative and human response at the same time. It is a restoration of relationship between us and God which involves a reordering of relationships with others.”56It is in line with the foregoing arguments that we weave our thesis: The task of reconciling all things primarily belongs to the domain of missio Dei, and consequently the Holy Spirit is the One who initiates and creates occasions and circumstances that birth enduring, holistic, and true peace. Few ways have been identified through which he is doing just that in Christian-Muslim peacebuilding engage- ment.

Paul Alexander posits that Christology should be “the source of Pentecostal peacemaking … [therefore] Pentecostals … should start and end with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faithfulness, who revealed to us the way of


54 55 56

Paul Alexander, “Jesus-Shaped and Spirit-Empowered Peace with Justice: Toward a Chris- tomorphic Pneumatology,” in Pentecostals and Nonviolence: Reclaiming a Heritage (Eu- gene,OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 192.

Alexander, “Jesus-Shaped and Spirit-Empowered Peace,” 192.

Alexander, “Jesus-Shaped and Spirit-Empowered Peace,” 53.

Langmead, “Transformed Relationships,” 10; Kärkkäinen,Spirit and Salvation, 4:266.

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God.”57 The same Jesus who reveals to those who now follow him continues to do so to people of other faiths through several means, of which dreams and visions are integral. From both Christian and Muslim scriptures, dreams and visions are valued as means of divine communication to humans. In Saḥiḥ al- Bukhari’s Hadith, the saying of Muhammad on dreams is attested. “The dream of a believer is a part of the forty-six parts of prophecy!”58 Nabeel Qureshi59 affirms the same, stating that “dreams are the only means [he] know[s] of by which the average Muslim expects to hear directly from God.”60

The Holy Spirit uses dreams and visions to encounter many people, Mus- lims and non-Muslims alike. This is a pneumatological consideration and may be considered as “pneumatic encounters” (in the words of Amos Yong). It is pneumatological because they are the work of the Spirit (see: Mat. 1:20; 2:13; Acts 9:10,12; 10:9–16, 30–32; 16:6–10). David Garrison writes of encounters of some Muslims who have made peace with God through faith in Jesus. He notes that “some of [the] encounters began with dreams, others through answered prayers and healings, but all of them involved a vital meeting with the living, transforming power of Jesus Christ.”61Tom Doyle similarly recounts some nar- ratives of Muslims’ encounters with Jesus through dreams and visions. On the transformation of former Muslim terrorists who are now followers of Jesus, Doyle writes: “The presence of the Holy Spirit is so strong in their lives, you would never suspect their shady pasts when you first meet them.”62Artisans of peacebuilding in Christian-Muslim engagement should, therefore, not neglect the Holy Spirit’s use of dreams and visions, because they are not humanly fabricated. They are acts of God and are pneumatological considerations for Christian-Muslim engagement. Peacebuilding enthusiasts can entreat God to grant many more dreams and visions to people—ones that ultimately birth peace with God, peace with neighbor, and peace with the creation.

57 58





Alexander, “Jesus-Shaped and Spirit-Empowered Peace,” 194.

My translation: Hadith Saḥiḥ al-Bukhari Vol. 9, Book 87:116. “ بَعِينَ رأَ


َ مِنْسِتَّةٍو


جُزْء ِ ؤْيَاالْمُؤْمِن





جُزْء ” https://sahih‑, accessed Dec. 5, 2016.

NabeelQureshi(1983–2017)wasaformerMuslim. Heearnedhis medicaldegreefromEast- ern Virginia Medical School, two MA degrees in Apologetics and Religion, respectively, from Biola and Duke Universities. Qureshi died of cancer on September 16, 2017. Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 2014), 63.

David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam: How God Is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ (Monument,CO: WIGTake Resources, 2014), 96.

Doyle and Webster, Dreams and Visions, 17.

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Another pneumatological consideration is what James D. Hunter describes as the “practice of faithful presence.”63 Followers of Jesus participating in mis- sio Dei are responsible for becoming involved in the lives and communities of Muslims. In the practice of faithful presence, we will walk along the road with Muslims—hear their stories, eat their foods, smell their smell, and live throughthewrecksof naturaldisastersintheirneighborhoods.J.DudleyWood- berry writes: “Any meaningful dialogue with Muslims needs to start by walking with them, listening to them, and asking them questions.”64Even though there abound more theological differences than similarities—not only in Christian- Muslim theologies, but also in other religions in our pluralistic world—yet, walking with the “other” through the practice of faithful presence weaved with incarnational living provides opportunities to display God’s glory through the Holy Spirit’s work. Such approach is pneumatologically informed for peace- building, and it should not be neglected in Christian-Muslim peacebuilding engagement.

There are other considerations that we can reckon as pneumatological for Christian-Muslim peacebuilding engagement. We mention two more— namely, technology and the arts.The Holy Spirit is using technology in our time. Satellite television, the Internet, social media, smartphones have all become means of engagement in various ways. Politicians, institutions, and marketers use them. Is it not God who gives wisdom and grants understanding to humans for all goodly discoveries? “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17). That said, we must underscore that the abuse of technology does not divest it of its original intended good- ness. The Holy Spirit is using those discoveries for the task of missio Dei. Thus, as trends of tech discoveries continue to heighten, one would expect greater opportunities for multicultural and multireligious engagement, and the fre- quency of such engagement will most likely be amplified between Christians and Muslims, seeing that they are the two largest world religions.



The practice of faithful presence is a model put forth by James D. Hunter in his work, wherein he posits “that Christians, at their best, will neither create a perfect world nor one that is altogether new; but by enacting shalom and seeking it on behalf of all others through the practice of faithful presence, it is possible, just possible, that they will help to make the world a little bit better.” James Davison Hunter,To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late ModernWorld(New York: Oxford Univer- sity Press, 2010), 286.

J. Dudley Woodberry, ed., Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road (Monrovia, CA: MARCPublications, 1989), xiii.

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On the use of arts, Roberta R. King and Robert K. Johnston, respectively, point us to how music and the arts could become pathways to peacebuilding. King reports on the Fes Annual Festival of Sacred Music and considers such fes- tivals (open to choirs, gospel bands, and musical orchestras from other faiths) as “gateways to peace and reconciliation.”65On his part, Johnston prods theolo- gians to reclaim experiences of the Spirit through the work of art and to move forward to develop a complex pneumatology that explores the Spirit in the arts. He posits that we also “must learn to hold in creative tension two competing, but biblically rooted models of the Holy Spirit—theRuachof Creation and the Paraclete of Christ, the Spirit in creation and the Spirit in redemption.”66 By developing such a complex pneumatology that explores the Spirit in the arts, we will also find pathways for peacebuilding engagement because the arts can create an arena for peacebuilding engagement between Christians and Mus- lims.

6 Conclusion

To harness Christian-Muslim pneumatological commonalities for peacebuild- ing, followers of Jesus need to practice faithful presence in Muslim communi- ties with an integrative incarnational living. Tele-peacebuilding—peacebuild- ing from a distance—will do no good. The tele-peacebuilding enthusiast does not live within the other’s context, knows nothing of the other’s failures, fears, joys, pains, shame, and sufferings. On the other hand, christo-pneumatological peacebuilding entails the practice of faithful presence—being with the other to let the Holy Spirit glorify the Son and the Father through the human partic- ipants in themissio Dei.

One of the Pauline metaphors for Jesus’s followers is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19). Thus, the human participant inmissio Dei, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, does not only live within the community, but also provides oppor- tunities for the Holy Spirit to create pneumatic encounters for the community. The Holy Spirit (through the one whom he indwells) displays the Son to the community.



Roberta Rose King, “Musical Gateways to Peace and Reconciliation: The Dynamics of Imagined Worlds of Spirituality at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music,” in (Un)Com- mon Sounds: Songs of Peace and Reconciliation Among Muslims and Christians, ed. Roberta Rose King and Sooi Ling Tan (Eugene,OR: Cascade Books, 2014), 135–157.

Robert K. Johnston, “Art and the Spiritual,” in Interdisciplinary and Religio-Cultural Dis- coursesonaSpirit-FilledWorld:LoosingtheSpirits,ed.Veli-MattiKärkkäinen,KirsteenKim, and Amos Yong (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 95.

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In Christian-Muslim peacebuilding engagement, the Spirit produces pa- tience in those who participate inmissio Dei. Dressed with love and incarnating Christ’s life through the power supplied by the Spirit of missio Dei, we argue that Christians could then patiently wait on the manifestations of the various pneumatological considerations we have explored. Waiting entails waiting in prayer, waiting for the Spirit to blow where he pleases. Waiting does not mean “Do nothing”! Instead, it implies engagement through social action, exploring Roberta King’s musical pathways, the Holy Spirit’s use of the arts, and the cre- ative use of opportunities that technology presents for peacebuilding engage- ment.

To sum up, Jesus’s followers engaging in peacebuilding should always remember that the task of reconciling all things belongs primarily to the domain of missio Dei, and that the Holy Spirit is the One who initiates and cre- ates occasions and circumstances that birth enduring, holistic, and true peace. This task remains the work of the triune God through the Holy Spirit in the world with the church in participation.


I am very thankful to my doctoral mentors—Professors Evelyne Reisacher, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and Amos Yong—who gave their scholarly feedback after their critical evaluation of the larger text from which the current essay was drawn, and encouraged me to seek avenues for publishing, at least, part of that larger writing.

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1 Comment

  • Reply September 1, 2022

    Dr. Khadim al Masih

    Throughout its history Islam has never promoted the concept of “the Spirit“ let alone “the Holy Spirit. We cannot allow Islam to subsume spirituality which is unique to Christianity in the hopes that they will suddenly ceased to cut peoples heads off. Jibril has never been associated with the Holy Spirit! We cannot allow the conflation of an angel (or a demon) with God himself!

    A believing person can never have access to the Holy Spirit unless they believe that Jesus Christ is God. For a Muslim to operate in the Holy Spirit they must repudiate Islam and except the tenets of Christianity with their whole heart. They can never enter through the back door!

    Peace can never be attained at the sacrifice of doctrinal truth and historical reality. Islam and Christianity can never see eye to eye, this is an historical fact. The only way Islam and Christianity can join is if one submits.

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