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Christian and Muslims Worship the Same God
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, January 29, 2016
Alf Cengia

Do Christian and Muslims worship the same God? 

This question has been asked a lot lately because of the suspension of Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins who wore a hijab in support of her Muslim neighbors. She declared that:

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In the last book of C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, an ape (Shift) dresses up a donkey (Puzzle) in an old lion's skin. He then passes Puzzle off as Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia (a Christ figure). Shift concocts a clever and sinister scheme to change Narnia and get what he wants using the naive Puzzle.

Further into the story, Shift strikes a bargain with a ruthless leader from Calormen, a country south of Narnia. For the sake of their mutual benefit the god of the Calormenes (Tash) is now said to be same as Aslan. Tash and Aslan become the one Tashlan.

The problem for the Narnians is that this cruel Tashlan is nothing like the noble Lion they've come to love and worship. The unsympathetic ape tells the Narnians to grow up:

"Aslan says he's been far too soft with you before, do you see? Well, he isn't going to be soft any more. He's going to lick you into shape this time. He'll teach you to think he's a tame lion."

In reality, Aslan wasn't Tash at all, and he sorted everything out in the end. What makes this really interesting - at least to me - is that the Calormene society in the Narnian books obviously parallels Islamic culture.

So, do Christian and Muslims worship the same God? Several theologians and colleagues have come out in support of Larycia Hawkins. Wheaton College's Gary Burge told Time Magazine:

“I have seen no theological argument from the college that would deem her commitments unacceptable. [Hers] is a clear, compelling affirmation of what we believe in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith.”

One of Dr. Burge's friends (Stephen Sizer) approached the issue this way:

"Let me ask an even more controversial question. Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? Jews base their worship on the Hebrew Scriptures, but so do we. Orthodox Jews deny Jesus is the Messiah. Does that mean we worship the same God?"

He claims the more profound question is to ask, "What is acceptable worship to God?" Amos 5:21-24 and Romans 12:1 are offered as arguments that "justice and right living are more important than sacrifices and songs" - and that "holiness and service are true and proper worship".

In fact, the so-called "more controversial" question deftly evades the Muslim issue by inserting Jews into the equation. This is a tactic employed by those who prefer political, rather than biblical, correctness. It is also a subtle dig at Christian Zionism.

Sizer and Burge are known critics of Israel. Both have argued that Israel disqualifies itself from rights to the land because of its "human rights" failures, and its rejection of God. But these same observations may be made of Islam.

Dr. Mark Durie addressed similar Jewish-Muslim comparisons by Miroslav Volf who stated that: "...those who do not accept the ‘same God’ thesis must be motivated by enmity, not reason." It's not an either-or issue. Durie writes:

"It is a false step, in the name of love, to demand assent to the ‘same God’ thesis. Christians are commanded to love others whether they worship the same God or not. Our common human condition should be enough to motivate solidarity with others. After all, Jesus never said to only ‘love those who believe in the same God’."

As to the Jewish versus Muslim issue:

"First, Christians and Jews share scripture. Judaism bases its understanding of God on what was the Bible of Jesus, the Tanakh or Old Testament. This is not the case with Islam.  Muslims do not base their theology on any part of the Bible. Indeed mainstream Islam rejects the authority of the Bible, for reasons clearly stated in the Qur’an."

It isn't just that Islam rejects the incarnation of Jesus:

"Unlike the Old Testament, the Qur’an completely lacks a theology of the presence of God...in complete contrast to Judaism its scripture offers no basis for an incarnational theology."

James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries explored the question and ended up giving a “yes and no” answer. The "yes" applied to "the historical level." The response should have been an emphatic "no and no."

However, White also makes the important point that: "the question should force many Christians to consider well just how central the Trinity is to their worship!" Sadly, many popular theologians are leaving biblical theology behind. The doctrine of the Trinity is one casualty of this.

Despite White's "yes" based on alleged "historical" similarities, apologist Jay Smith has argued convincingly that Muhammad likely never had contact with any biblical texts. According to Smith, he derived material for his Qur'an from several indirect sources.

Regardless of Muhammad's sources, the question as to whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God shouldn't be that difficult to answer. The Bible is very explicit.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1John 2:22-23

The god of the Qur'an rejects the Trinity, Christ's divine nature, His relationship to the Father and His essential work on the cross for our salvation. The Qur'an is fundamentally anti-Christian. Therefore, Muslims and Christians cannot worship the same God. Tash is not Aslan!

The real question for Christians is:

Do we truly love Christ or do we bow to the god of political correctness?

About Alf Cengia

Last week: The Wakening of another Beast

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