Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

The Wheaton controversy on “Do we worship the same God?”

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Like all good questions, the answer is more complex than most want, but I am confident of my position: Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, but given the complexity of the matter we all ought to stop demonizing those who disagree with us.

 

On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College, a flagship of evangelical educational institutions, placed one of its professors on administrative leave for “theological statements that seemed inconsistent with [their] doctrinal convictions.” Five days prior, donning a hijab and staking her position on a variety of controversial matters, Larycia Hawkins had stated on Facebook, “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.”

Wheaton’s decision to give Dr. Hawkins “more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements” ignited a firestorm of controversy. One strong voice in the fray was that of the Chicago Tribune, which described Wheaton’s actions as “bigotry… disguised as theology.” This assessment was partially based on the input of Yale Professor Miroslav Volf, a theologian greatly respected for his contributions to Christian-Muslim dialogue, who said, “There isn’t any theological justification for Hawkins’s forced administrative leave. Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims.” Such dialogue-stifling judgmentalism is shocking from a highly acclaimed Ivy League scholar, but it serves to illustrate the enormous tensions in Christian-Muslim relations during this time when the nation is pulled between the poles of Muslim refugees pouring into Staten Island and Muslim terrorists massacring innocents in San Bernadino.

In the past week, I have received dozens of requests to provide my input on the matter, especially from those who are aware that I do not have “enmity toward Muslims.” As a former Muslim, I have many Muslim family members and friends that I spend time with regularly, and I often adjure Christians to consider gestures of solidarity with the hope that, somehow, this affection will trickle down to the Muslims I know and love. I have even recommended that Christian women consider wearing the hijab in certain circumstances, as well as counseled Christian men to consider fasting with their Muslim neighbors during the month of Ramadan, as long as it is clear these gestures are out of Christian love and not submission to Islam.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

With this desire for love in mind, I turn now to the question: Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Like all good questions, the answer is more complex than most want, but I am confident of my position: Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, but given the complexity of the matter we all ought to stop demonizing those who disagree with us.

I should start by saying this: for years after leaving Islam and accepting Jesus as Lord, I believed that Muslims worshiped the same God as Christians but that they were simply wrong about what He is like and what He has done. After all, I had been taught as a young Muslim to worship the God who created Adam and Eve, who rescued Noah from the flood, who promised Abraham a vast progeny, who helped Moses escape Egypt, who made the Virgin Mary great with child, who sent Jesus into the world, who helped the disciples overcome, and who is still sovereign today. Is that not the God of the Bible?

For that matter, the Quran asserts that the Torah and the Gospel are inspired scripture and that Jews and Christians are people of the Book. The Quran tells Muslims to say to them, “our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender” (29.46). If the Quran asserts that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians, does that not settle the matter?

For years I thought it did, but I no longer do. Now I believe that the phrase “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” is only true in a fairly uncontroversial sense: There is one Creator whom Muslims and Christians both attempt to worship. Apart from this banal observation, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. I do not condemn those that think they do, but the deeper I delve into the Christian faith, the more I realize that this assertion is not only untrue but also subverts Christian orthodoxy in favor of Islamic assertions.

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