Some reflections on Muslims and Christians meditating and praying together. John R Dupuche, 2014
The most basic point is the meaning of the word ‘God”. In the Gospel of St John 1.1 the word ‘God’ is used in two senses, one of them, written in Greek as ‘ho theos’, refers to God the Father. The other written in Greek as ‘theos’, means ‘that which is divine’ in the fullest sense, of
the same nature. It refers to the identity of nature but not the identity of persons. Thus the Word, Jesus, is ‘theos’, he is not ‘ho theos’.
The difference between ‘ho theos’ and ‘theos’ is crucial to any understanding of Christianity. This difference is often ignored and has led to great confusion.
This distinction forms the essence of my presentation last year at ACU in a commentary on John 1.1-18.
Following on the well-known Hindu phrase, ‘only Siva can worship Siva’, we can say that only the one who is ‘theos’ can worship God adequately. Only ‘theos’ can know ‘ho theos’ fully. Only the worship of ‘ho theos’ by ‘theos’ is sufficient and fitting. Equally, ‘theos’ must be sacrificed to God. Only ‘theos’ can fully reveal God. The fullest submission is achieved only by ‘theos’. The fullest obedience to ‘ho theos’ is can be done only by one who is ‘theos’.
This has implications. It means that, if the human is to adequately worship God, the human must be divinised. The person who wishes to submit to God in the fullest way, who wishes to praise God and know God fully, must achieve divinisation ‘theosis’.
This ‘theosis’ is central to Christian understanding. It is achieved by Christian faith where the Christian becomes one with the Christ and therefore has the same being as Christ, and therefore is ‘theos’. This is the meaning of faith: we identify with the Christ.
When it comes to prayer, therefore, the Christian will seek to submit to ‘ho theos’ fully, for obedience is the first of the virtues. ‘At the head of the scroll it is written: “I have come to do your will’. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayers “thy will be done. In Hebrews the writer speaks of Jesus ‘learning to obey through suffering’.
The phrase ‘through Christ our Lord’ must not be understood geographically or in feudal terms when the servant could approach the master only through some higher person in the court. It means that we can come to God only through the fullness of revelation which is Christ Jesus.
The Christian and the Muslim will both in their prayer seek to submit themselves to ‘ho theos’. This is where they can join in prayer. The submission without words is the greatest submission for words are always a limitation.
It means also that the Christian is capable, because of Jesus Christ’s revelation, to submit most fully and most perfectly. The Christian does what the Muslim does but with, in and through Christ is able to do so completely.
The revelation given in Christianity, that is in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, is the fullest revelation. It is the fullest revelation because it tackles the essential and fundamental question of life and death, being and non-being, which applies everywhere in the cosmos and is not tied to any particular culture.
But this superiority is not one of arrogance. It is done with humility, for we do not bring ourselves to this state. It is entirely the work of God. It shows that we are nothing. It involves taking up the cross, ‘becoming humbler yet’. The ego is completely removed.
We will submit to the grace in the Muslim as we submit to the person of ‘ho theos’. We submit to each other’s grace because we submit to the grace of God.
The words of our prayers are only the springboard to wordless prayer. We become Christ in his submission to God. We become truly Muslim.