Do Catholics Believe That Muslims Worship the True God?

Thanks to Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales (cantuar.blogspot.com) for notifying me of this interesting article he wrote. I have read the section of the Catholic Catechism that he discusses here. Following his short article is the response I left at his blog.

Do Catholics Believe That Muslims Worship the True God?
by Taylor Marshall

Some Protestant readers have alleged that the Catholic Church teaches a certain form of universalism or relativism and they quote paragraph #841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to prove it:

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

A few observations. The plan of salvation includes Muslims. This is common sense. God desires all men (including Muslims) to be saved. This does not mean that all Muslims are saved by virtue of their being Muslims. This passage should be read in context of the entire Catechism which teaches that salvation is received through Christ alone through the means of grace provided through the Church of Jesus Christ. One cannot wrench this paragraph from the catechism and let it stand alone.

One could easily take certain passages out of the writings of St. Paul and make false assumptions that Paul was a universalist. For example: St Paul teaches universalism because he wrote:

"Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (Rom 5:18)

This is a misguided argument because one must read the verse above in light of all the writings of St. Paul. In the same way, one cannot isolate paragraph 841 from the rest of the Catechism.

The Church recognizes that the object of worship is Islam is the God of Abraham and thus the one true God. Thus, we might say that Muslims worship the true God wrongly. They attempt to find access to God in a means that is not sacrificial, and worse, not Christological. It is like men trying to hunt deer with a slingshot. They are technically "hunting deer" but their method is never going to put venison on the table.

The Catholic Church also honors the conscience of men and leaves judgment to God. If God seeks to justify a non-Christian Arab through Jesus Christ in some way, who are we to object to it? Yet the Church remains firm that salvation is through Christ alone. I believe the Church does not presume to limit how God can and must save human beings. The Church does believe that God has definitively revealed through Christ that salvation is through Christ alone. That is not negotiable. The question remains, can someone be saved through Christ and not know it? The answer is clearly: Yes.

A baby can be saved through Christ without a "saving knowledge of Christ" or without a knowledge of the mechanics of salvation. A person who is mentally handicapped can be also be saved in a way that does not require a formal intellectual understanding of Christ and redemption. Perhaps this can also be the case for certain Muslims. The qualifier is "perhaps". The Church does not teach that this is the case, but it does not rule out the possibility.

The reason I wanted to post on this subject, because there are some Catholics who are embarrassed or unnerved by Paragraph #841. The Catholic should not blush with embarrassment when someone cites #841 as an example of the Catholic Church's "liberalism" or "relativism".

Abu Daoud's Response:

Hi Taylor,

Thanks for leaving this link over at my blog, islamdom.blogspot.com.

If there is anything deficient in the Catechism it is that it tries to be very nice and does not address the fundamental deficiencies in Islam.

Now I understand that the Catechism is not a book about Islam or world religions or whatnot, but what it does communicate, though it may be, strictly speaking, not false, is done so in a way and manner that, as a missionary to Muslims, I find decisively unhelpful and awkward.

No mention of the fact that the religion is very much based on the rejection of the doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity? So what do you end up with? God as Creator and Sender of prophets.

And also, the phrase "the plan of salvation includes Muslims," is very weak. I like, "God desires the salvation of Muslims and in his grace grants it to all who turn to Jesus Christ: 'Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me' (Jn 6:45)."

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