Clinton Bennett

Clinton Bennett (born 7 October 1955) is a British-American scholar of religions and participant in interfaith dialogue specialising in the study of Islam and Muslim-non-Muslim encounter. An ordained Baptist minister, he was a missionary in Bangladesh before serving as the second director of interfaith relations at the British Council of Churches in succession to Kenneth Cracknell. Bennett has also taken part in the dialogue activities of the World Council of Churches. A graduate of Manchester, Birmingham and Oxford Universities he has held several academic appointments in the United Kingdom and in the United States, where he now lives. He currently writes for various publications and teaches part-time at the State University of New York at New Paltz and at Marist College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, of the Royal Anthropological Institute and of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He has authored books, chapters in books, journal articles and Encyclopedia entries. He can be considered to have made a significant contribution toward developing a Christian appreciation of Islam and of Muhammad. Ahmad Shafaat writes, 'Bennett's approach allows him to treat Islamic traditions and their Muslim interpretations with sensitivity and respect, not often found among Christian writings on Islam.'[1] Bennett became a US citizen during 2012.

Clinton Bennett



Bennett was born in Tettenhall then an Urban District in Staffordshire, England. In 1966, he migrated to Australia with his parents, Howard Bennett (1922–1997) and Joan Bennett (1922–2007) and his two siblings. He completed his final year of primary education in Australia then attended Maclean High School, Maclean, New South Wales. He was a member of the School Debating Team taking part in inter-school competitions, a member of the Radio Club, Student Leader of the Inter-School Christian Fellowship chapter and represented his class for a year on the Student Representative Council. He won prizes for acting and for History. After gaining his School Certificate, he worked in Sydney as an officer in the state civil service 1972–1973.[2] Originally an Anglican, Bennett was baptised into membership of the Lower Clarence Baptist Church in 1969. He was active in the Christian Endeavor movement and as a youth camp leader.


Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham where Bennett obtained his MA and PhD.

Bennett returned to England to train for ordination at Northern Baptist College, Manchester while also taking a BA in Theology at the University of Manchester where he developed his interest in world religions. His initial focus was on the religions of India. To matriculate, Bennett spent his first year obtaining a Certificate in Biblical Knowledge from the University and two 'A levels' (in Religious Studies and British Constitution and Politics) from the Joint Matriculation Board (JMB). At University Bennett was politically active through the Liberal Society. He was Treasurer of the Baptist-United Reformed Church Society, served on the Chaplaincy committee and as Secretary of the Theological Society. In this capacity, he invited such theologians as Maurice Wiles, I. Howard Marshall, Morna Hooker and others to address the Society, whose members included Faculty alongside students. For the last six months of his final year he was Baptist Student Leader at the College (where Methodists were also training for ministry). He graduated in July 1978 and was ordained as a minister of the Baptist Union of Great Britain the same month. Accepted for service with the Baptist Missionary Society, Bennett spent an academic year at the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham where he undertook missionary orientation. He was most influenced by Lesslie Newbigin, who taught missiology.[3] In July 1979, Bennett obtained a Certificate in the Study of Islam from the University of Birmingham through the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations before proceeding to Bangladesh, where he remained until 1982 engaged in pastoral care and distance education teaching as a tutor for the College of Christian Theology Bangladesh (CCTB). He passed the Junior and Senior level Bengali examinations of the Bangladesh Language Examination Board. Although he completed several units of a master's degree by distance learning from Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA he was unable to complete the residential component because of the cost. When the BMS chose not to support his plan to enroll for an MA at a College in Bangladesh, he returned to Birmingham, graduating MA in 1985 and PhD in 1990. Both research degrees were in Islamic Studies under the supervision of David Kerr and Christian W. Troll, SJ. His external examiners were Jan Slomp and Clifford Edmund Bosworth. Bennett's doctoral thesis was subsequently published as Victorian Images of Islam (1992) (in the CSIC Studies on Islam and Christianity series). In 1985, Bennett also passed the Bengali 'O Level' (London) achieving an 'A' grade. In 1996, Bennett graduated from the University of Oxford with the MEd through Westminster College, Oxford where he was teaching at the time. In 1994 he had completed the Certificate of Professional Studies in Education from the University's Delegacy of Local Examinations also through Westminster.[4]


While researching at Birmingham University for his doctorate, Bennett was employed by the Birmingham Ethnic Education and Advisory Service Trust [1] as a community tutor and development worker. During 1986–7 he was Free Church Chaplain at Aston University.

Main Building, Aston University where Bennett was Free Church Chaplain 1986-7

From 1985 until 1992 he was associate pastor at Highgate Baptist Church, Birmingham. In September 1987 he succeeded Kenneth Cracknell as director of inter-religious relations at what was then the British Council of Churches, where he remained until 1992. Bishop Jim Thompson as moderator of Bennett's committee led his service of induction into office. During his tenure, Bennett encouraged member churches to adopt the four principles of dialogue,[5] travelled widely speaking and lecturing to promote these principles but he often found himself especially concerned with Christian-Muslim relations. He issued joint press statements with Zaki Badawi, Chair of the Imams and Mosques Council in response to the Salman Rushdie affair and to the first Gulf War. In 1992, having helped to establish the Churches Commission for Interfaith Relations within the new ecumenical structures for Britain and Ireland,[6] he left the Council to take up appointment as Lecturer in Religious Studies at Westminster College, Oxford. From 1996 he was Senior Lecturer. Bennett lived on campus as a Resident Tutor and Assistant Chaplain. In his teaching at Westminster, Bennett was asked to focus on anthropology alongside colleagues whose specialisms were psychology, sociology and phenomenology of religion. He was Leader of the Religions in Contemporary Society Cluster for the BTh Final Year and RS Subject Leader for Part One (Years One and Two) of the BEd program. While at Westminster, Bennett also taught part-time on a Masters in spirituality at what is now the University of Winchester. In 1998, he moved to Baylor University, Waco, Texas with the rank of associate professor of religion. He was cross-listed as Asia Studies faculty and also taught on the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. He was a full member of Graduate Faculty. After leaving Baylor in 2001, Bennett has tutored part-time for The Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge (mainly Distance Learning). He has also taught for Cambridge University's Institute of Continuing Education. 2006–2007 he was on the full-time faculty of the Unification Theological Seminary, Barrytown, NY where he was Associate Professor of Ministry and Living Traditions and Director of Field Education. He was part-time at UTS during 2005. Bennett has also had honorary status as a Visiting Research Fellow at Birmingham University. 2005 to 1008 he wrote and edited for the on-line New World Encyclopedia. Since Fall 2008 he has taught Religious Studies part-time at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Since 2012 he has served as section editor for North Europe with the Birmingham University based project Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History and is currently also Western Europe Team Leader. The volumes are published by Brill Publishers.


Bennett has taught undergraduate level courses on BEd, BA and B.Th. degrees in Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Methodology, Ethics (Moral Dilemmas and Matters of Justice), Islamic Theology and philosophy, Islamic Art and Architecture, Religious Exclusivism and the Issue of Uniqueness, Area Studies (Asia and the Americas) and World Cultures. At graduate level, he has taught M.Th, MA, M.Div, M.R.E. and PhD courses in Religious Pluralism, Spirituality, Ministry, Islam, Religions of India, China and Japan, Pastoral Theology, Pastoral Care and Counseling, Paths of Faith (World Religions), Islam, Christian-Muslim Relations, The Theory and Practice of Ecumenism, the United Nations and Global Peace and Church Growth. He has successfully supervised MTh, MA and MEd dissertations in a range of subject areas. At Westminster, he was a member of the BEd and MTh Examination Boards and External Examiner in Religious Studies for New College, Southampton. He also served as external examiner for a University of Leeds M.Phil. At Baylor, he participated in the oral examination of PhD and MA students. He has both supervised and examined MA theses for the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge. Bennett uses literature, especially post-colonial literature and film to help explore religious themes in his teaching.

Involvement in the World Council of ChurchesEdit

Bennett was a Consultant at the Baar Meeting of the WCC's Dialogue Sub Unit (1988) and a member of the Sub Unit's Working Party that drafted Issues in Christian Muslim Relations: Ecumenical Considerations (1991).[7] 1992 until 1998 he was a member of the World Council of Churches' Consultation on the Church and the Jewish People (CCJP) representing the Baptist Union of Great Britain, attending meetings in Geneva (1992) and Budapest (1994).

Voluntary ServiceEdit

Bennett served as member, Vice Chair and Chair of Chandos Primary School Governing Body (1986–1992) and as a Governor of Yew Tree Community School (1984–88). Both schools are in Birmingham, UK. He was a member of Birmingham Community Relations Council (1985–92) and Chair of the Birmingham Affairs Committee of Birmingham Churches Together (then the Birmingham Council of Christian Churches) also serving on the executive and Free Church committees (1987–92). Also in Birmingham, he was Secretary of what is now called the Birmingham Council of Faiths (1985–92), Secretary of Small Heath Advice Centre (1985–89), Chair of Oldknow Bengali Association (1984–1992) and a member of the Highgate Advice Centre Management Committee (1985–1992). In these capacities, he engaged in advocacy, fund raising, recruited staff and liaised with the Charity Commission, City Council and Government Departments. He organised play schemes, supplementary schools and excursions. Bennett assisted several Birmingham Mosques with obtaining charitable status and funds for community activities. He did so while serving as a Birmingham delegate on the General Committee of the West Midland Baptist Association[8] the regional body of his own denomination. At national level during his period with the British Council of Churches he served on the executive committees of The Interfaith Network for the UK, The Council of Christians and Jews and the World Congress of Faiths. He was also a member of the Religious Studies committee of what was previously called the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority of the UK Department of Education. For several years an associate member of the Iona Community Bennett has also visited the Taizé Community. He has led student groups at both communities over Easter (1986 and 1997 respectively). In 2005 he attended the Centenary Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.

He is a member of the International Advisory Board of FOREF-Europe (Forum for Religious Freedom).[9] Between 1979 and 2011 he was an accredited minister of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. During 2012 he became a recognised minister of the Alliance of Baptists which he represents on the Convening Table for Interreligious Relations and Collaboration on Topics of Mutual Concern of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. He is a Past President of the Lifetime Learning Institute of SUNY New Paltz, having served as President 2014 to 2015.

Links with the Indian subcontinent and the Muslim worldEdit

Clinton Bennett outside a mosque in Bangladesh researching for his book on Muhammad. A. H. Mathias Zahniser describes Bennett's In Search of Muhammad (1998) as "a very personal narrative. Bennett takes us to mosques and coffee shops where he lays bare the depth of the Muslim experience of Muhammad".[10]

Bennett has maintained close ties with India and Bangladesh. He has visited and toured India several times as well as teaching at summer schools for the Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad and on Westminster College's former M.Th. extension program in India. In 1996 and 1997 he did field work in Bangladesh interviewing for his book on Muhammad. He has travelled to a number of other Muslim countries including Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and Morocco and has explored the Moorish architectural legacy in Spain.


Bennett has advised Continuum, Routledge, Oxford University Press and Ashgate on the publication of mss. Between 1987 and 1992 he was an adviser to the Roman Catholic National Council for Lay Associations (NCLA), also advising at meetings of the European Forum of National Laity Committees in Vienna (1990) and Antwerp (1992). 2005–2007 he was a member of the Global Council of the Universal Peace Federation. During 2006, Bennett led seminars and workshops on Bangladeshi culture for Hudson School District, Hudson, NY. During 2007 he was an accredited representative of the UPF at the United Nations in NY.

Publications and scholarly workEdit

Bennett says that his published work reflects interest in a number of theoretical issues in religious studies as well as in teaching and learning. These include the insider-outsider problematic, the relationship between theology, religious studies and the study of culture, the issue of objectivity, how colonial and neo-colonial attitudes influence the study of religions and post-modern approaches to textual interpretation. He acknowledges the influence of Edward Said, Clifford Geertz and Wilfred Cantwell Smith as well as Bishop Kenneth Cragg, among others. According to Ahmad Schaffat, Bennett "repeatedly shows concerns about how conclusions are influenced by our assumptions and backgrounds and gives some thought to the ways of avoiding this influence". Bennett "defines his approach in terms of Edward Said's criticism of Orientalism and Cantwell Smith's way of avoiding that type of criticism" so that even when he "describes at length some very hostile views of Christian writers on Islam and its prophet he either counters them by Muslim understanding or his own more favorable opinion."[11]

Victorian Images of IslamEdit

Bennett's Victorian Images of Islam (1992) has been widely cited. For example, by Kate Zebiri (1997),[12] Rollin Armour (2003)[13] Hugh Goddard (2000)[14] and Dana L. Robert (2008).[15] Armour refers to the work of Bennett and of such scholars as Bernard Lewis and John Esposito as lying "behind almost every page that follows" (2003: xiv). David Thomas described the book as an "illuminating study into an overlooked corner of Victorian religious history". In particular, it showed that more diversity of approach existed among earlier contributors but that more often than not it is a priori premises rather than encounter that determine attitude[16] Bennett described contributors as confrontational or conciliatory, analysing the work of three scholars in each category. The three conciliators were Charles Forster, Frederick Denison Maurice and Reginald Bosworth Smith and the three confrontationalists were William Muir, William St. Clair Tisdall and John Drew Bate. Conciliators were those "Western writers who questioned the prevailing attitude of cultural and religious superiority that led to a belittling of everything non-European"[17] Confrontationalists perpetuated traditional anti-Muslim polemic. Bennett later commented that while "actual meetings between Christians and Muslims may result in a change of heart and mind ... more often than not ... it confirms our prejudices, which it has to be said is one of the biggest problems involved in Christian-Muslim encounter."[18] He stresses, though, that the story of Christian-Muslim encounter includes examples of harmonious co-existence as well as of hostility. By remembering these experiences we can ensure that future relations are not solely defined by a negative historical memory. Ahmad Gunney called the book "a valuable contribution to the debate on the important question of Islam and the West" and said that "the Baptist minister" had to a "certain extent" complemented "the work of three Muslim writers, M. A. Anees, Syed Z. Abedin and Z. Sardar" whose book had been published by the same publisher as Bennett's. Like Thomas, Gunney remarked that Bennett's research showed that even when people are "technically well equipped" and spend "extensive periods of residence in the countries of the world of Islam" this does "not necessarily lead to objective judgements, especially if one starts off, as in the case of the three confrontational writers with a priori assumptions about Islam."[19] Andrews, a Shi'a Muslim, suggested that the book's study by Muslim Imams-in-training might "go some way towards breaking down barriers and misconceptions" and observed that "through his own enlightened position" Bennett "has done a lot to undermine at least one Muslim's preconceptions about Christian missionaries, and about Baptist missionaries in particular".[20]

"In Search of" booksEdit

Francis of Assisi before the Sultan. Bennett writes, "St. Francis' ... willingness to negotiate peace with the Sultan of Egypt, and his rubric that while his Friars could pursue 'disputes and controversy', another method was to 'preach the word of God', qualify him as a conciliator."[21]

In 1996, Bennett wrote the first of five books with 'In Search of' in their title, In Search of the Sacred: Anthropology and the Study of Religion, in which he called for a combination of historical, textual and participant observation research to shed light on how religion is lived as well as on its history and official dogmas. He argued that no researcher is neutral and that we all need to engage in reflexivity to guard against bias and the imposition of a priori presuppositions, so that, as a reviewer commented, "suddenly the act of observation becomes the subject of observation" and "for a teacher like Bennett, his own experience as an ordained minister and missionary, his own experience with the give and take of ecumenical teaching becomes the data of religious thought". "Bennett", Dening continued, "is not independent of all the observations made through centuries of thought", so "there is convergence: library and field, intellect and emotion, thought and experience in the end come together". The book, said this reviewer, helped "to make the exposition of more than a hundred years of thought on the study of religions lucid and memorable".[22] Alan Race, in another review, described the book as cutting "through a dense thicket, yielding a clear, highly readable survey of how" anthropology and Religious Studies "have interacted and failed to interact", although remarking that it mainly discussed European history.[23][24] Bennett followed this in 1998 with In Search of Muhammad and in 2001 with In Search of Jesus: Insider and Outsider Images. A. G Noorani describes In Search of Muhammad as "an earnest effort by a devout Christian to understand Muhammad, and places" Bennett "in the ranks of others whose services Minou Reeves [25] acknowledges in her survey of Western writing on Muhammad." [26] Commenting on Bennett's discussion of the sources available for the life of Muhammad, Hugh Goddard says that while he is "not as negative" as "some modern Western scholars", neither "is he uncritical of them", suggesting that "some traditions, particularly concerning Muhammad's miracles and the role of women, should be judged as unreliable." Referring to Bennett's attempt to suggest how "Christ and Muhammad might be viewed as somehow complementary, rather than as rivals" he called this a "brave attempt" even though "there are no easy answers to such a significant question." [27] Citations include Gerard Rixhon, who says that he makes "words of Bennett's" his "own "when he wrote his searching book on Muhammad" and aimed "to hear Muslim voices."[28]Timothy Johnson, ABC News chief medical correspondent, who is also an ordained minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church, refers to Bennett as "a fine scholar and student of world religions", and recommends In Search of Jesus as "an amazing compendium of the many attempts to capture the story of Jesus by both insiders (those who claim to be Christians) and outsiders (those of other religious traditions)." "You can", he continues, "look up almost any writer on the subject of Jesus and find a brief but fair summary of the person's writing and point of view ... It is a great one stop source of quick summary information."[29] The fourth 'In Search of' book, In Search of Solutions: The Problem of Religion and Conflict appeared in 2008 as part of a series edited by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Lisa Isherwood. The fifth, In Search of Understanding: Reflections on Christian Engagement with Muslims after Four Decades, published in 2019, reprises some of Bennett's earlier writing and attempts to offer some suggestions on how congregations might rethink their ideas about Muslims and cooperate with them in peace and justice advocacy, and social and community development. Ataullah Siddiqui, who wrote the Foreword, comments, "Bennett’s treatment of the subject is never dull and is always rewarding. His handling of the issues central to Christian-Muslim relations reveals a reflective mind that is not satisfied with the soporific effects of ‘relaxed’ dialogue. He enquires, investigates, and challenges where necessary, and proposes new avenues in order to explore future relations.”[30]

Other writingEdit

Other books include Muslims and Modernity (2005) and Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations (2008). Research for Muslims and Modernity was supported with a grant from the Spalding Trust.[31] Bennett has also co-written Researching Teaching Methods in College and Universities, explaining that this drew on his use of "small-scale, qualitative research" undertaken because he "wanted more exposure to social research methodology".[32] Chapters in edited volumes include four contributions to the 1994 Pinter series Themes in Religious Studies (edited by Jean Holm with John Bowker), which have been used by the Open University and to Jesus and the Cross: Reflections of Christians from Islamic Contexts (2008) edited by David Emmanuel Singh. Various articles reflect his interest in alterity, citizenship, identity and belonging in multi-cultural contexts and in the "clash of civilizations" thesis and its criticism. He edited the Journal Discernment from 1990 until 1998 and guest edited an edition of World Faiths Insight (1991, New series No 28) marking Marcus Braybrooke's retirement as editor, and Vol 24 No 2 (2001) of Westminster Studies in Education commemorating the 150th anniversary of Westminster College's foundation. He is editor of a series on Studying Religion for Continuum International. Contributors include David Ananda Hart and William Brackney.

Missionary concernEdit

His missionary background is reflected in contributions to such publications as the International Bulletin of Missionary Research including three articles in the mission legacies series, the Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (1998) (edited by Gerald H Anderson) and by reviews in the journal Missiology: An International Review.

Contribution to a Christian Appreciation of Islam and of MuhammadEdit

In his attempt to resolve disputed issues on the agenda of Christian-Muslim encounter, Bennett has focused on the Trinity, the crucifixion and on problem scriptures, among other issues.


Bennett suggests that if Christians and Muslims accept that their formulations about the nature of God are wholly true but do not express the whole truth about God, they might both say something important about God. "Paradox", he says, such as that God is One but also a Trinity, "could be … essential to the nature of God, who is at one and the same time transcendent and immanent, just and merciful, simple yet complex, singular yet possessing plural attributes, distinct from creation yet intimately involved in, and even present within, creation."[33] Thus, God might speak differently though different religions not "because God is playing a game or authoring confusion but to remind us that we cannot, while remaining human, grasp the totality of who God is."[34] Bennett refers to what he calls his "flirtation with Unitarianism" although states that "over the years" his "faith has become firmly Trinitarian."[35]


Bennett discusses this is his 1998, 2001 and 2008 books and in his 2008 chapter on the Cross. He suggests that while almost all Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the Cross (although some argue that Q5: 157 is an ambiguous verse) and while Christians believe that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, there might be a way to argue that "Jesus was and yet was not killed on the cross." Referring again to paradox, he argues that what the Qur'an denies is not so much the fact that Jesus died but that he was killed by the Jews. Indeed, says Bennett, Jesus was not killed by the Jews but by human sin. Christian conviction that Jesus' death was absolutely necessary for human salvation makes nonsense of blaming any particular human agencies for his execution. Bennett does not deny Jesus' death but says that "the Qur'an's apparent although not unambiguous denial of the Cross challenges Christian over-emphasis on Jesus' death."[36] Bennett sees the cross as a "metaphor of resisting evil and oppression" but is not "convinced that his salvation … derives from the cross". Rather, he says, "my sanctification stems from the fact that Jesus lived" and by living "sanctified the whole of human life."[37] He regards Jesus' life as a paradigm of "being in relationship with God". Jesus life represents "the paradigm of the life of love and action lived in tune with God's will". Explicit faith in Jesus is not a precondition of salvation, since "God saves whomsoever he wills".[38] A life that reflects Jesus' life of service of others is a precondition. As a Christian, he can honour Muhammad as someone through whom God spoke and whose legacy "can be interpreted as complementary" to Christ's.[39]


In Understanding Christian Muslim Relations he discusses extensively texts that Christians and Muslims cite from both of their scriptures to justify their views of the other. He examines texts that support positive, or conciliatory and negative, or confrontational, views. In examining such Qur'anic texts at 9: 5 (cited to justify unprovoked aggression against non-Muslims including acts of terror such as 9/11) and verses cited to justify the oppression of women in Islam (such as Q4: 34-5) Bennett refers to Muslim opinion that interprets the Qur'an's message as permitting only self-defense and as one of gender equality.[40] He suggests that while some Muslims used (and some still use) the Qur'an to justify violence or gender inequality, Muslim voices offering alternative ways to interpret these verses exist and have a right to be heard. Even if the majority of Muslims understand a text in a certain way, this does not necessarily mean that they are right. Noorani's comments on Bennett were in the context of discussion of Q9: 5. Noorani agrees with Bennett's interpretation that this refers to permission to re-engage after a religious truce in the context of an existing defensive war and does not constitute blanket permission for Muslims to attack non-Muslims at any time.[41]

Bennett compares the incarnation with the process by which in Islamic understanding God's word became a book:

... somehow God made God's word enter Muhammad, and pass through him into what became a physical, material object, a book. The actual process of incarnation and of bookification can be regarded as mysteries while their reality or truthfulness can be affirmed ...[42]

He says that he can affirm that Jesus was God "without being able to explain how":

I do not know whether Jesus was ontologically God, or whether he was so intimate with God that the distinction between who he was and who God is became blurred, which Muslims describe as a harmony of Jesus with God's will.[43]

Critical responseEdit

Several writers comment on Bennett's openness about his Christian identity and aim of responding sympathetically as a Christian to the challenge of Islam. Noorani refers to him as a "devout Christian" [44] Armour describes Bennett as a "confessing Christian" [45] while Zahniser comments that Bennett's "search for Muhammad" is also a "struggle for interpretation." Bennett "combines a Christian struggle to find Muhammad with a textbook-like tour of Islam itself." [46] Shafaat's review is a 26-page detailed analysis of Bennett on Muhammad and on Jesus. On the one hand, he praises Bennett for listening to Muslim voices. On the other, he suggests that Bennett is hampered by his loyalty to Jesus and by his need to "fit Islam into his Christian outlook", which results in his inability to "properly assess evidence about the Prophet Muhammad when it calls into question what we 'know of God in Christ'". On a positive note, Bennett "is aware that his attempt to fit Islam into his world-view 'is not unproblematical'." Theology gets in the way of history, so Bennett fails to allow the "historical Muhammad to speak for himself". Shafaat also thinks that Bennett may have "felt some pressure from his peers to downgrade his estimate of Muhammad". Bennett's Jesus "departs from the traditional Christian view."[47] Jay Smith's review implies that Bennett is a dangerous guide for Christians because – in his opinion – Bennett reduces the religious life to social work and denies the need for Jesus' redeeming death.[48] Smith is not convinced that Bennett remains Trinitarian, saying that according to Bennett, Christians "must abandon our convictions (i.e. the trinity), become unitarian ..."

Involvement in the Unification movementEdit

Bennett is one of a number of academics who have attended conferences sponsored by the Unification movement and worked for its US based seminary, which has employed and continues to employ non-Unification faculty. Attendance at Unification sponsored meetings has taken Bennett as far a field as San Francisco for the Second Assembly of the World's Religions ( 15 to 21 August 1990), Istanbul for a Christian-Muslim colloquium (September 1991), Berlin for a conference on religious freedom ( 29–31 May 1998 ), Israel (December 2003) and South Korea on several occasions. At times he has been accompanied by his wife or son. He has consistently expressed the view that religious freedom is indivisible and that unless proven guilty of breaches in law, Unificationists and their founder have an absolute right to practice their religion.[49] He has argued that working with the movement no more implies agreement with their beliefs than his work with Roman Catholics implies that he agrees with theirs.[50] Bennett writes that "as a life long participant in Christian-Muslim dialogue, I have met through Rev. Moon's movement some of the most influential Muslim thinkers in the world. This is because Rev. Moon has funded inter-religious dialogue when most church bodies concerned with inter-religious relations remain strapped for cash."[51]

Selected publicationsEdit


  • 1992, Victorian Images of Islam, London: Grey Seal, pp 204 (ISBN 1-85640-028-X); republished 2009, Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press (ISBN 9781607246732)
  • 1996, In Search of the Sacred: Anthropology and the Study of Religions London: Cassell Academic (ISBN 0304 336815 hb; 0304 336823 pb) pp 218
  • 1996, with Foreman-Peck, Lorraine and Higgins, Chris, Researching Into Teaching Methods in Colleges and Universities, London: Kogan Page (ISBN 0-7494-1768-4) pp 136, republished 2013 by Routledge
  • 1998, In Search of Muhammad, London: Cassell Academic (ISBN 0-304-70401-6) pp 276.
  • 2001, In Search of Jesus: Insider – Outsider Images London: Continuum (ISBN 0826449166) pp 364
  • 2005, Muslims and Modernity: An Introduction to the Issues and Debates, London: Continuum (ISBN 082645481X) pp 286
  • 2008, Understanding Christian Muslim Relations Past and Present, London: Continuum (ISBN 9780826487834)
  • 2008, In Search of Solutions: the problem of religion and conflict, London: Equinox (ISBN 978-1845532390), republished 2014 by Routledge
  • 2009, Interpreting the Qur'an: A Guide for the Uninitiated, London: Continuum (ISBN 9780826499448)
  • 2010, Studying Islam: The Critical Issues, London: Continuum (ISBN 978-0-82649550-1)
  • 2010, Muslim Women of Power: Gender, Politics and Culture in Islam, London: Continuum (ISBN 9780826400871)
  • 2012, South Asian Sufis: Devotion, Deviation and Destiny, edited with Charles M. Ramsey, London: Continuum (ISBN 9781441151278)
  • 2013, Bloomsbury Companion to Islamic Studies, (editor) London: Bloomsbury (ISBN 9781441127884)
  • 2017, Sufism, Pluralism and Democracy, edited with Sarwar Alam, Equinox, Sheffield (ISBN 9781781792216)
  • 2019, In Search of Understanding: Reflections on Christian Engagement with Muslims after Four Decades, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock (ISBN 9781532646553)


  • 1994, "Islam", pp 95 – 122, in J Holm with J Bowker (ed) Making Moral Decisions, London: Pinter (ISBN 1 85567 096 8).
  • 1994, "Islam", pp 113 – 141, in J Holm with J Bowker (ed), Picturing God, London: Pinter (ISBN 1-85567-101-8).
  • 1994, "Islam", pp 88 –114, in J Holm with J Bowker, Sacred Place, London: Pinter (ISBN 1-85567-104-2).
  • 1994, "Islam", pp 90 – 112, in J Holm with J Bowker (ed), Rites of Passage, London: Pinter (ISBN 1 85567 103 4).
  • 1997, "Islam and Muhammad Iqbal," pp 127 – 143 in Modern Spiritualities: An Inquiry, ed Brown, Laurence, Farr, Bernard C and Hoffmann, Joseph R, Amherst, NY, Prometheous (ISBN 1-57392-112-2).
  • 2008, "A Christian response to the Absence of the Cross in Islam", 171–179, in David Emmanuel Singh (ed) Jesus and the Cross: Reflections of Christians from Islamic Contexts, Oxford; Carlisle, Cumbria and Waynesboro, GA: Regnum/Paternoster (ISBN 978-1-870345-65-1).
  • 2009, "W. R. W. Stephens, Christianity and Islam", xxxiii – xxvii, in W. R. W Stephens and Clinton Bennett, Christianity and Islam: The Bible and the Koran, NY: Gorgias Press (ISBN 9781607244127).
  • 2010, "Subdivisions in Islam," pp 129–147 and "Mystical Islam," pp 148–150 in Marshall Cavendish Reference, Islamic beliefs, practices, and cultures, Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Reference. (ISBN 9780761479260).
  • 2011, "States, Politics and Political Groups," 144–163, "Focus on Al-Qaeda," 164–167, "Islamism in the 21st Century," 192–215, in Marshall Cavendish Reference, Modern Muslim Societies, Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Reference (ISBN 978-0-7614-7927-7).
  • 2011, "Saints, Incarnation and Christian-Muslim Relations: Reflections inspired by encountering Bangladeshi Islam", 99–111, in David Emmanuel Singh (ed)Jesus and the Incarnation: Reflections of Christians from Islamic Contexts. Oxford: Regnum Books (ISBN 978-1-870345-90-3).
  • 2013, "Muslim Ideas about the 'Resurrection,'"155-162, in David Emmanuel Singh (ed) Jesus and the Resurrection: Reflections of Christians from Islamic Contexts, Oxford: Regnum Books (ISBN 978-1-908355-58-4)
  • 2014, "Empires and Religions: Colonialism, Postcolonialism, and Orientalism," in Paul Hedges (ed), Controversies in Contemporary Religion: Education, Law, Politics, Society and Spirituality, Volume 1, 273-302, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO (ISBN 9781440803420)
  • 2015, "Christian-Muslim Relations in the USA: A Postmodern Analysis after 9/11," 151-166 in Paul Hedges (ed) Contemporary Muslim-Christian Encounters: Developments, Diversity and Dialogue, London: Bloomsbury (ISBN 9781472588531)
  • 2017, "Christians and Muḥammad," pp. 296-303, and "Christian Minorities in Islamic Contexts," pp. 349-357, in Routledge Handbook on Christian-Muslim Relations, ed. David Thomas, London, Routledge (ISBN 978-1-138-81871-2)
  • 2017, "Anabaptist Promotion of Church State Separation," 757-759, "Emancipation of Jews in France," 823-824, "Emancipation of Jews in Germany," 862-863 in F. Curta, Great events in religion: An encyclopedia of pivotal events in religious history, Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO (ISBN 9781610695657)
  • 2018, "Education of Religious Minorities in Muslim Countries," pp. 377-387 in Handbook on Islamic Education, ed. Holger Daun and Reza Arjmand, Springer: Dordrecht (ISBN 9783319646824)
  • 2019, "Syncretistic Sufi Gnosticism in South and South East Asia," pp. 595-602 in The Gnostic World, ed. Garry W Trompf, Gunner B. Mikklesten, and Jay Johnston, London: Routledge (ISBN 978-1-138-67393-9)
  • 2019, “Promoting Social and Religious Harmony: Bāul’s origin and migration West and Roji Sarker’s performance in the British Bangladeshi Diaspora,” pp. 72-92 in Cultural Fusion of Sufi Islam: Alternative Paths to Mystical Faith ed. Sarwar Alam, Abingdon: Routledge (ISBN 9781138615038)
  • 2019, “William Brackney – Linking Baptist Genetics, Human Rights, and Openness to the Salvation of All,” pp 56-72, in Crossing Baptist Boundaries: a Festschrift in Honor of William Henry Brackney, ed. Erich Geldback, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press (ISBN 9780881466942)


  • 1992, "The Legacy of Henry Martyn" pp 10–15, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol 16 No 1.
  • 1993, "The Legacy of Lewis Bevan Jones" pp 126–129, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol 17 No 3.
  • 1996, "The Legacy of Karl Gottlieb Pfander" pp 76 – 81, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol 20 No 2


  1. ^ Shafaat, Ahmad "A Review of Clinton Bennett, In Search of Muhammad and In Search of Jesus", Islamic Perspectives, May 2002 A Review of Clinton Bennett, In Search of Muhammad and In Search of Jesus.
  2. ^ "Bennett, Clinton", Contemporary Authors, Volume 157 (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997 ISBN 0-7876-1183-2) page 20.
  3. ^ Bennett was to work with Newbigin on various committees of the Birmingham Council of Christian Churches between 1983 and 1992. Newbigin was a Vice-President.
  4. ^ This information is taken from Contemporary Authors, Vol. 157-page 20 and from Bennett's from Clinton Bennett's Curriculum Vitae at Biodata.
  5. ^ The four principles were developed by Kenneth Cracknell, who redacted them from the 13 contained in the WCC's Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies (1979). They are: Dialogue begins when people meet each other; dialogue depends on mutual trust and mutual understanding; dialogue makes it possible to share in service to the community and dialogue becomes the medium of authentic witness. Several member churches had already officially endorsed these and several more did so while Bennett was in office.
  6. ^ With an enlarged membership, including the Roman Catholic Bishops Conferences.
  7. ^ available at Issues in Christian Muslim Relations.
  8. ^ Now the Heart of England Baptist Association.
  9. ^ See FOREF-Europe International Advisory Board. Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine FOREF-Europe. Accessed 12 January 2009.
  10. ^ Zahnister, A. H. Mathias, "In Search of Muhammad by Clinton Bennett", 89, Missiology: An International Review, XXIX: 1, January 2001 ISSN 0091-8296.
  11. ^ Shafaat, Ahmad op cit
  12. ^ Zebiri, Kate Muslims and Christians Face to Face, Oxford: Oneworld, 1997 ISBN 978-1-85168-133-4. She refers to Victorian Images pages 226 and 237 and to Bennett's "Legacy of Lewis Bevan Jones" (1993) pages 130 and 245.
  13. ^ Armour, Rollin, Islam, Christianity and the West: A Troubled History, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2003 ISBN 1-57075-407-1. References Victorian Images pages 136, 137, 139 and In Search of Muhammad pages 19, 134, 145 and 183 where he comments on Bennett's "sensitivity to the religious aspects of Islam".
  14. ^ Goddard, Hugh A History of Christian-Muslim Encounter, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000 ISBN 978-0-585-44320-1 pages 151 and 171.
  15. ^ Robert, Dana Lee. 2008. Converting colonialism: visions and realities in mission history, 1706–1914. Studies in the history of Christian missions. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0-8028-1763-1 . pages 83 and 267.
  16. ^ Thomas, David "Victorian Images of Islam – Clinton Bennett". 217-9, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, V5 1994.
  17. ^ Contemporary Authors.
  18. ^ Bennett, Clinton Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations (2008) page 9.
  19. ^ Gunney, Ahmad "Victorian Images of Islam by Clinton Bennett", 292–294, Journal of Islamic Studies, 5: 2 July 1994. See Sarder, Ziauddin et al., Christian-Muslim Relations: yesterday, today, tomorrow, London: Grey Seal, 1991 ISBN 978-1-85640-021-3.
  20. ^ Andrews, Ahmed Y "Victorian Images of Islam by Clinton Bennett", 50–53, Discernment new series 4: 2, 1994.
  21. ^ Understanding, p 105.
  22. ^ Dening, Greg "Clinton Bennett, In Search of the Sacred", 245–246, The Journal of Religious History, 21: 2 June 1997.
  23. ^ Race, Alan "Bennett, Clinton, In Search of the Sacred", 55, Theological Book Review, 9: 1 October 1996.
  24. ^ In Search of the Sacred is referenced in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (2005), edited by John R Hinnells (London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-33310-8) pages 146, 158 and 150.
  25. ^ Reeves, Minou Muhammad in Europe: A thousand Years of Western Myth-making, NY: New York University Press, 2000 ISBN 0-8147-7533-0.
  26. ^ Noorani, A. G Islam and Jihad London, Zed Books, p 2002 ISBN 978-1-84277-271-3 p 53.
  27. ^ Goddard, Hugh "In Search of Muhammad", Clinton Bennett", 305-6 Theology, July–August 1999.
  28. ^ Rixhon, Gerard. 2005. "Muslim Voices: An Introduction to Islam's Oral Dimension." 117- 162 Asian Cooperation: problems and challenges in the new century. Yu-Jose, Lydia N (ed). Quezon City: Ateneo Center for Asian Studies. ISBN 978-971-92296-8-1. page 120.
  29. ^ Johnson, Timothy. 2004. Finding God in the Questions: A Personal Journey. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press ISBN 0-8308-3214-9 p 206. In their Jesus and the Gospels (2006) Clive Marsh and Steve Moyise describe the book as a "useful survey of interpretations of Jesus." T & T Clark approaches to biblical studies. London: T&T Clark International. ISBN 978-0-567-04073-2. page 117.
  30. ^ In Search of Understanding, p. viii
  31. ^ Bennett, Clinton Muslims and Modernity (2005) page xi. See Spalding Trust.
  32. ^ Contemporary Authors.
  33. ^ Understanding, page 216-7.
  34. ^ ibid, p 216
  35. ^ Bennett, 1998 page 234 and 241
  36. ^ Understanding, p 221
  37. ^ Understanding, p 220
  38. ^ Jesus life can be understood, says Bennett, as "the first human to complete the process of theosis, of divinization", Understanding p 96.
  39. ^ Bennett, 1998 p 236.
  40. ^ See Understanding, p 228N4 and extensive discussion in Bennett (2005). On jihad and interpretation of Qur'anic texts on war and peace, see also Bennett, Clinton and Kunkel, Geros (2004), "The Concept of Violence, War and Jihad in Islam", pp 31 – 51, Dialogue and Alliance, Vol.18, No 1 (ISSN 0891-5881) available at The Concept of War, Violence and Jihad in Islam.
  41. ^ Noorani, op cit p 52.
  42. ^ Understanding, p 215.
  43. ^ ibid; see also 1998 p 234. "For me", says Bennett, "there was a merging of the human with the divine, and vice versa, in Christ, which means that it makes sense for me to call him 'God'; whether Jesus was always God, or was 'adopted', or 'became God' through his own God-consciousness, or exactly how his identification with God happened I do not know."
  44. ^ Noorani, op cit
  45. ^ Armour, page 134N3
  46. ^ Zahniser, op cit.
  47. ^ Shafaat, op cit.
  48. ^ Smith, Jay "In Search of Muhammad by Clinton Bennett", Review of In Search of Muhammad Archived 27 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. ^ Arweck notes "Clinton Bennett spoke at the 'Interfaith Thanksgiving' on 21st February, 1988 at the UC's headquarters, after the case against the UC's charitable status had been withdrawn" (page 47) and references his address, "Victory for Religious Freedom" (1988) (page 389). Arweck, Elisabeth Researching New Religious Movements: responses and redefinitions, London: Routledge, 2006 ISBN 0-415-27755-8.
  50. ^ see Bennett, Clinton (2007) "Know Them By Their Fruits", 339–344, in Balcomb, Michael, et al. (eds) Peace King: essays on the life and work of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2007 ISBN 978-1-930549-45-6 p 343. This widely circulated article was also published in 2006, 'By their fruits you shall know them', 24–25, Unification News, Vol 25 No 4 April and is available at By their fruits at
  51. ^ Bennett, Clinton (2007), in Balcomb et al. page 344.


  • Anderson, Gerald H (ed) (1998) Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, NY, Simon & Schuster Macmillan (ISBN 0-02-864604-5)
  • Contemporary Authors (1997) "Bennett, Clinton" Vol. 157, p 20, Detroit, MI: Gale Research, ISBN 0-7876-1183-2
  • New World Encyclopedia: Selected Articles (2008) "Project Contributors: Clinton Bennett", p 462, 2008 (editor-in-chief Frank Kaufmann), St. Paul, MN: Paragon House (ISBN 978-1930549494) available at Clinton Bennett
  • Gellner, David (1996) "Review of Clinton Bennett's In Search of the Sacred", 46-7, Discernment, new series 3: 2 (ISSN 0958-5532)
  • Riddell, Peter G (2006) "Review of Clinton Bennett's Muslims and Modernity with Islam in Britain (Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity) and Bill Musk's Kissing Cousins? Christians and Muslims face to face", Church Times, 2 June

External linksEdit