|St John of Damascus|
Those who engage in debates on a regular basis know that the argument itself can easily shape the points involved. This is another way of saying that some debates should be avoided entirely since merely getting involved in them can be the road to ruin. There are a number of Christian scholars (particularly among the Orthodox) who think that the classical debates between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages had just such disastrous results for Christian thinking.
Now when engaging in religious debates it is all too easy to agree to things that might make for later problems. It is possible, for example, to agree to a comparison of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament and the Book of the Quran. After all, Muslims have a holy book – Christians have a holy book. Why should we not debate whose holy book is better?
It is even possible to agree with the Muslim contention that Christians (and Jews) are “People of the Book.” Of course Muslims meant that Christians and Jews were people of an inferiorbook, but were somehow better than pagans. Again, it is possible, nevertheless, to let the matter ride and agree that Christians are “People of the Book.”
And it is also possible to give wide latitude to the Muslim claim that the most essential matter with regard to God is “Islam,” that is “submission.” After all, if God is the Lord of all creation, then how is submitting to Him, recognizing and accepting that He is God, not the most important thing?
But each of these proposals had disastrous results in the history of Christianity and may very well be the source of a number of modern distortions within the Christian faith.