Professor Brian J. Auten has posted a very helpful explanation of Salafi Islam, as well as its peculiar jihadist manifestation. Towards the end, he even gives a “translation” guide, offering loose Christian analogues for Salafi principles to aid the reader. One ought to sharply distinguish between traditional Islam and extremist Salafism, but Dr. Auten’s map is helpful for Christian civic discourse because, while it is true that Islam in any of its forms is a rival religion, incompatible with orthodox Christianity, its core feature of making public truth claims is not, though often so misconceived, in itself intellectually ridiculous or absurd. For Christians to fall into this misconception usually requires them to accept a number of secularist premises which undermine traditional Christian social ethics as well.
Of course, this observation cuts both ways. Modern secularism is as opposed to orthodox Christianity as it is to Islam, and in the present circumstances Christians can be tempted to develop perverse responses to secularism which are uncomfortably similar in certain respects to Salafi extremism; a point secularists themselves are quick to make. It is all too easy, in the name of opposing secularism, to be tempted to throw out evangelical secularity, to immanentize the eschaton, to fall into apocalyptic dualisms, or into the delusion of reformation by coercion. Dr. Auten’s analysis here offers not only an insight into a growing geopolitical problem, but also a sobering mirror for Christians who wish to avoid fatal pitfalls in the project of civic instauration.