Vol 19, No 1, 2012

Towards a More Positive Appreciation of the Faith of Muslims: Theological Resolution of Vatican Ambivalence

Patrick J McInerney


Dominus Iesus argues for a distinction between faith and belief in other religions. From a literal reading one would then conclude that Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Zoroastrians do not have faith, but only beliefs. Witnessing the devout lives of many Muslims through their prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage and service to others (and the similar devotion of many believers from other religions), such a negative assessment is untenable. Moreover, it comes across as mean-spirited and lacking in openness to the presence and action of the Spirit and the Word in the other, both of which are clearly upheld in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent magisterium. I will show that the distinction between faith as "a personal adherence to God" and faith as "free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed" is best expressed in the now commonly accepted distinction between faith and beliefs. This enables a positive appreciation of the faith status of believers from other religions that is both solidly grounded in the Christian theological tradition without compromising doctrinal integrity and is at the same time open and receptive to the religious other.