Monday, January 25, 2016

The same God or not?

Unless you don't keep up on news like this, you have probably heard a great deal about the dispute at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution of some repute.  It seems a professor there was suspended for saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.  You can read about it here.

I do not intend to rehash the facts of the case but the idea is one that Christians have wrestled with for a long time.  Some have come down on the side of the same God and others have insisted different Gods (or should I say a false god and a true God).  The arguments are not without substance on both sides and many believe that there are other overtones to the whole discussion (like Islamophobia).  I know it is difficult to distance the current political events and the war on terror from this discussion but the facts are that both groups worship one deity but the rest of the truth is the the deities are completely different and the revelation that discloses these deities is not only different but contradictory.  I do not see how it is at all possible to say that both Muslims and Christians worship the same God and I know that there are few, if any, observant Muslims who would admit this.

To say that Christians and Muslims worship a supreme being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and created the world, is merely to say that we both worship gods—that we worship the same kind of thing.  This is from a good article from The Federalist.  Written by Matthew Cochran, you can read it here.

On the other hand, an article by Benjamin Corey insists that Christians and Muslims do worship the same God.  You can read it here.   And this is the basic logic that’s wrong: “You describe the object differently than I do, therefore it is a different object.” Unfortunately, that logic would get us into all sorts of problems.  Corey insists that the descriptions of this might vary but the same God is being described.

“There’s a difference between worshiping the right God, and worshiping the right God rightly.
One can affirm we are worshiping the same God without it being an affirmation that one is worshiping the right God in the right way.  So, yes: Christians and Muslims do in fact worship the same God– but that doesn’t mean everything you’re assuming we mean when we say it. It’s not a confession of Unitarian Universalism. We’re not saying both religions are the same and equally true or correct.   All it means is we affirm that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all trying to worship the same entity: Abraham’s God.

My problem is with this statement:   All it means is we affirm that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all trying to worship the same entity: Abraham’s God.  Well, no, we are not all trying to worship the same entity.  Christians are worshiping the one, true, and eternal God as He has revealed Himself.  This is what we confess in the Athanasian Creed.  The catholic faith is this, that we worship one God who has made Himself known to us in the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


It would seem to me that at issue here is whether or not the Christian revelation is definitive.  In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old but now in these latter days He has spoken to us through His Son.  With these words the writer to the Hebrews does not allow competing revelation or conflicting truth.  There is one God who has revealed Himself definitively in Jesus Christ and apart from Him this God remains hidden, perhaps hinted at but not knowable for salvation.  St. Paul also supports this.  There is only one name under heaven and on earth by which any will be saved.  Or... Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Or another one... no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  These last being the very words of Jesus Himself.

The Muslim may, indeed, regard prophets of the OT and Jesus himself to be prophetic and in certain ways consistent with Mohammad and the teachings of the Quran but the Muslim does not claim Jesus as the full and final revelation of God or the only-begotten of the Father nor does the Muslim confess the Trinity.  If the Muslim refuses, does not this more than anywhere else that the Muslim does not consider the Triune God true but false and offensive to his own Allah.

In the end, I am not persuaded.  Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.  It may be a slap in the ecumenical face but I believe it is also dangerous to presume unity where there is none and to so easily disregard what is one of the prime confessions of our faith.  Unless one confesses this catholic faith in the Triune God, one cannot be saved.  That says it all.  We do not confess a partial knowledge of God but to know God fully as God has revealed Himself (as opposed to knowing the fullness of His Divine essence).  BTW I am not so quick to believe that everyone who claims to be Christian in one of the 40K versions of Christianity is orthodox or worshiping the same God that the Athanasian Creed (or Apostles and Nicene) confess.  It would seem to me that evangelicalism has substituted a personal relationship with Jesus for Scriptural integrity, dogmatic confidence, and confessional catholicity in such a way that it makes me about as nervous as those who insist Muslims and Christians worship the same deity.

You might want to peruse the words of another one who is deeply suspicious of the Christians who presume Muslims and Christians worship the same God and who believes that Jews also deserve to hear the Gospel and should not be omitted in the evangelistic endeavor of Christianity.

 

2 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

"BTW I am not so quick to believe that everyone who claims to be Christian in one of the 40K versions of Christianity is orthodox or worshiping the same God that the Athanasian Creed (or Apostles and Nicene) confess."

I am not so quick to believe that everyone who claims to be Christian in the Missouri Synod is orthodox or worshiping the same God that the Athanasian Creed (or Apostles and Nicene) confess, especially a Missouri Synod official who proclaims,

"The Muslim God is also the true God (there IS only ONE TRUE GOD, right?) but worshipping [worshipped] in an inadequate way. In other words, the Muslim is worshipping God but understanding God's LAW",

and then five and a half years later retracts only the first 28.46 percent of the first sentence, not because he recognized it as heresy, but because he regarded it as "theologically imprecise."

ErnestO said...

The same God or not?
I cannot dwell on aforementioned question as a Lutheran, without the feeling that the real answer for me lies within "the election of grace." This doctrine of the Holy Scripture is evident from Eph. 1:3-7; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Tim. 1:9; Matt. 24:22-24 (cp. Form. of Conc. Triglot, p. 1065, Paragraphs 5, 8, 23; M., p. 705).