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KangarooColorado 57M
18 posts
1/26/2016 3:15 am
Do the three Abrahamic faiths really believe in the same God and what does it mean if they don't?


One God for Christians, Muslims and Jews?
This article from an Australian newspaper borrows from the Washington Post and although it was published here before Christmas, I feel the issues are worth talking about. Besides, it's a good article and I often about things like this.
Albin

Do the three Abrahamic faiths really believe in the same God and what does it mean if they don't?
by Noah Feldman

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God, as Pope Francis and suspended Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins affirm? Or are Allah and the Christian
deity two different things, as the private evangelical Christian Wheaton College administration believes after it suspended the tenured political science
professor for saying so?

The debate is a throwback to the days when evangelical Protestants and Catholics were deeply at odds on a range of theological questions. It seems surprising
only because in the United States, the Roe v Wade case decriminalising abortion began a process of political rapprochement between American evangelicals
and Catholics that makes them appear closer than they really are.

But the debate is also a big issue for Jewish-Christian relations. If Christians and Muslims don't worship the same God, then neither do Christians and
Jews.

The fascinating philosophical-theological question at stake here is worth understanding, if not answering. It depends on what we mean by the word "same".
Pope Francis obviously believes that the teachings of Christianity are true, and he presumably doesn't believe the Koran is the word of God – otherwise
he'd be a Muslim.

ENOUGH IN COMMON

What Francis probably believes when he says Christians and Muslims worship the same God is that the conceptions of God in both faiths have enough in common
to refer to the same being. That makes plenty of sense, because Christians and Muslims (and Jews, too) tend to believe in a single creator who is all-powerful
and all-knowing.

After all, Francis hasn't said that Hindus, say, worship the same God – probably because Hinduism, which could be characterised as a monotheistic commitment
to a common truth, can also plausibly be described as pantheistic (God is in everything) or polytheistic (many gods).

What the administration of Wheaton College believes is that the distinctive features of the Christian God – in particular, the mystery of the Trinity and
the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ – are so different from the Islamic conception of God as to make the two no longer the same. 

This, too, is a perfectly logical view, if logic is the right word to discuss such matters of faith. Islam affirms God's radical unity. Tawhid, the Arabic
word for that affirmation, is at the core of Islamic theology. The Koran treats Jesus as a servant of God, but not God's , and certainly not as an element
of the Godhead.

So if you think that the triune nature and incarnation are essential elements of the Christian God, you could easily conclude that Allah and the Christian
deity are not the same. If you can feel the pull of that argument, then you should be able to understand what the Wheaton College administration is thinking.

Your answer to this question should also probably determine whether you think Christians and Jews worship the same God. Judaism doesn't accept the divinity
of Christ or the Trinity any more than Islam does, and doesn't even consider Jesus a prophet like Islam.

MIGHT BE THE SAME

If you think the triune God is essential to the Christian conception, then the Jewish God might be the same as the Muslim God, but can't be the same God
as the one worshiped by Christians. This, in fact, was the view of some medieval Jewish authorities, especially those who lived in the Muslim world, who
considered Islam monotheistic but thought Christianity was potentially idolatrous because of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Presumably it would be a problem for US evangelical-Jewish relations if evangelical leaders openly stated that Jews don't worship the same God they do.
The political ties between evangelicals and American Zionists are pretty strong, so this theological disagreement might have practical consequences.

So why don't evangelicals walk around saying they don't worship the same God as the Jews, the same way they're insisting on saying it about Muslims? Here's
the kicker: Evangelicals do believe they're worshiping the God of the Old Testament – they just think Jews have failed to understand his essence as revealed
in the New Testament.

In evangelical theology, God revealed himself to the Hebrews without expressly making his triune nature known. The incarnation changed all that, and created
the possibility of Christian salvation. The Jews failed to get the message. All along, they were worshiping the triune God. They just never knew it, and
still don't.

Hence, to an evangelical Christian it would make no sense to say Jews worship a different God – even though to the Jews that God isn't theologically very
different from the God of the Muslims. To bring this full circle, note that Pope Francis might believe the same thing. The difference is that he believes
Muslims, too, are worshiping the God of the Hebrews. Given that the prophet Muhammad believed that the God of the Jews and of the Christians was the same
God he was serving, that view seems pretty convincing. The Pope's view would have the benefit of being consistent as among Jews and Muslims.

If all this makes you want to run to atheism, fair enough. Otherwise, Merry Christmas!

Noah Feldman is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard. 

The Washington Post

Urban_Hermit 68M
317 posts
1/27/2016 10:40 pm

The God of the Jews and Christians is the same God, the only difference is that most Jews have not recognised their Messiah yet.

Allah is not the god of the Bible. The Korans words are different, God doesnt change or contradict His Word. We are to love our neighbour, not blow him up etc. Easy to see the difference.

Judgement Day will be interesting.