I am very pleased to share that Bryan Rhodes' MA thesis at Liberty Graduate School was published in the April edition of St. Francis Magazine, an on-line journal that equips Christians to witness unto Christ in the Arab world. In the thesis, Bryan deals with one of the last church fathers, the Arab Christian John of Damascus (ca. 652-750) and how John responded to the rise of Islam and especially teachings that rivaled orthodox Christianity. John's work is significant because it represents one of the earliest articulated Christian responses to Islam.
The work is entitled, "JOHN DAMASCENE IN CONTEXT: An Examination of 'The Heresy of the Ishmaelites' with special consideration given to the Religious, Political, and Social Contexts during the Seventh and Eighth Century Arab Conquests," and the abstract (summary) is as follows:
John Damascene’s work concerning 'The Heresy of the Ishmaelites' confronts Islam—a heresy according to John—with respect to fundamental disagreements between Christians and Muslims concerning the deity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity and the authenticity of Muhammad’s prophethood and revelation. I argue that John’s work was prompted and influenced by his context in seventh-and eighth-century Byzantium. More specifically, my argument is that John’s firsthand understanding of Islam, the new rhetoric of a heavenward focus within what had been the Roman empire, the development of apologies and disputations concerning Islam, and the growing tensions in Christian-Arab relations in
eighth-century Byzantium all influenced “The Heresy of the Ishmaelites”—very likely the first polemic against Islam from the orthodox Christian community.
Bryan is presently working on a PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.