Last week a Professor at Wheaton College tweeted, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book”, and “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
The College has since suspended Dr. Larycia Hawkins. News of the suspension has caused a bush fire of controversy among American Christians, and the debate has also spilled over into Australia.
Islam and Christianity share with Judaism a heritage from Abraham, and all three are monotheistic religions, but the similarities don’t extend much beyond.
Dr Hawkins is rightly seeking to express Christian love toward Muslim people. At this troubled time in world history, it is vital and godly for Christians to show love, grace, and hospitality to our Muslim neighbours and friends, including welcoming Muslim Refugees from Syria. But stretching commonalities in theology doesn’t help anyone, let alone glorifying God.
Miroslav Volf is a notable Christian scholar whom I’ve benefited from in my own thinking on other issues. He has weighed in on this debate in a significant way, arguing while Muslims and Christians hold different views of God, ultimately the same God is worshiped. That doesn’t mean there is not crucial disagreement about God, however. It is worth reading Volf with his own words.
As I read an update of this story this morning, I was reminded of the Creeds. The historic creeds give articulation to the Christian understanding of God, as is found in the Bible. Do they help us in grappling with this question as to whether Muslims and Christians believe in the same God? How would a Muslim respond, for example, to the Nicene Creed?
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of Sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
My point is simple, we mustn’t neglect the Creeds as we consider God.
It’s an opportune time of the year to consider who is God, for at Christmas the invisible God took on flesh, in order to take and die for our sins.
This Christmas we will sing, among other carols, ‘O Come all ye Faithful’ which has these words remarkable words about the incarnation of the eternal God, God the Son,
“True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten not created;”
Ed Stetzer has also weighed in on the controversy. As usual he makes a lot of sense. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/december/my-daughter-wheaton-college-protests-and-why-we-are-more-in.html
Al Mohler has written this importance response to the issue – http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/12/18/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god/
Kevin De Young has written a useful piece on The Gospel Coalition website