According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Worship the Same God? (Two Articles)




http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/12/here-we-go-again-an-evangelical-controversy-over-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god/

by Roger Olson
December 17, 2015

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? It’s not as simple a question as it appears and therefore no simple, straightforward answer should be given. The question itself begs analysis—before any answer can be given. I worry that people who jump to answer “yes” may be motivated more by political correctness and/or fear of persecution (of Muslims) than by clear thinking about the theological differences between Islam and Christianity. I also worry that people who jump to answer “no” may be motivated more by Christian fundamentalism and/or fear of terrorists than by clear thinking about the historical-theological roots of Islam in Jewish and Christian monotheism.

So, let’s analyze the question “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”

First, both Christianity and Islam are diverse religions. Do all Christians worship the same God? What all is being included in “Christians” in the question? What all is being included in “Muslims” in the question? Which Muslims? Which Christians? I know enough about the diversity of Islam to wonder if they all worship the same God. And I seriously doubt that all who claim to be Christians worship the same God. Does a liberal Christian who denies the deity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity worship the same God as an orthodox Christian who affirms them?

Second, the question could be interpreted as asking whether Muslims and Christians are thinking of God sufficiently alike to be worshiping the same God. Then my answer would tend to be “no”—they are not worshiping the same God. For orthodox Christianity “God” includes Jesus which is heresy if not blasphemy to most orthodox Muslims.

Third, the question could be interpreted as asking whether God accepts sincere Muslim worship of Allah as worship of himself. That is a very different question from whether Muslims and Christians are thinking sufficiently alike about God to be worshiping the same God. That latter question (discussed in the paragraph above) is an epistemological question with a more or less empirically (or at least sociologically and philosophically) determined answer. That is not to say equally astute scholars won’t disagree; it is only to say it can be researched. The question whether God accepts Muslim worship of Allah as worship of himself is very different and much more difficult to answer because answering it presumes knowing the mind of God.

Of course, some Christians will answer “no”—God does not accept worship of Allah as worship of himself—based on Jesus’s saying in John 14:6 that no one comes to the Father except through him. But, a problem with that, as I have pointed out before here, is that most of the same people who quote that verse to claim that God never accepts non-Christian worship as worship of himself admit that even when Jesus said it (sometime around 33 AD) there were Jews whose worship of God without Jesus was accepted by God as true worship of him. The question then becomes when God “cut off” all worship not centered around Jesus? When Jesus died on the cross? Then did the cross “unsave” thousands, if not millions, of Jews and God-fearing gentiles? Did God suddenly turn a deaf ear to them just because they did not know of Jesus? (Most Jews and gentile God-fearers lived outside of Palestine during Jesus’s earthly life, death and resurrection.) To say that God “grandfathered them in,” as one fundamentalist pastor said, is absurd. What about their sons and daughters who also never heard of Jesus before dying? When did God stop accepting worship by people with Abrahamic faith in God’s promises? So simply quoting John 14:6 does not settle the question whether God has ever accepted worship that does not include faith in Jesus Christ as worship of himself.

I do not think we can answer the question of what worship God accepts as worship of himself with any degree of certainty. To be sure, there are some “worships” that we can say with certainty God does not accept as worship of himself (such as worship of Satan). I admit that I am uncomfortable even with C. S. Lewis’s scenario of God accepting Emeth’s worship of Tash as worship of himself in The Chronicles of Narnia. That’s partly, however, because of the way Tash is described in the stories. Still, and nevertheless, I do not think we can say with assurance that God does not accept any Muslim’s worship of Allah as worship of himself.

On the other hand, I tend to think the theological differences between Allah in orthodox Islam (both Shia and Sunni versions to say nothing of Amadiyyah) and orthodox Christianity (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) are strong enough to doubt that, in most cases, Muslims and Christians are thinking of the same God when they worship Yahweh and Allah.

Having said that, however, let me also say that, as a Christian theologian, my main concern is whether all Christians are thinking of the same God when they worship. But that’s a subject for another post.


* * * * * * * * *

ADDENDUM


Amazon link
Book Description
Often the differences between the three Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - seem more obvious than their commonalities, leading to the question "Do we worship the same God?" Can the answer be "yes" without denying our differences?

This volume brings Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers and theologians together to answer this question, offering rare insight into how representatives of each religion view the other monotheistic faiths. Each of their contributions uniquely approaches the primary question from a philosophical perspective that is informed by the practice of worship and prayer. Concepts covered include "sameness" and "oneness," the nature of God, epistemology, and the Trinity. Do We Worship the Same God? models serious-minded, honest, and respectful inter-religious dialogue and gives us new ways to address an ongoing question.




* * * * * * * * * *


Do Christians Worship
a Different God than the Jews?


by R.E. Slater
December 20, 2015

Miroslav Volf says that the Jews will answer "yes" while Christians will answer "no." That according to the Jewish man or woman their God is the God of the Old Testament Yahweh but does not include the Jesus of the New Testament. But to the Christian man or woman Jesus' God was that of the Old Testament as well who incarnated Himself through the personage of Jesus to finish/complete/begin the final work of salvation He must do "within the world" and not simply "outside of the world."

But what about the Muslim man or woman? Do they worship the same God as the Jew or the Christian? To some, Muslims and Jews worship the same God but not Muslims and Christians. That the Muslim and the Jew are blood brothers (Esau and Jacob) separated by geography at first and then by worship later.

However, what's missing from this debate is not how we identify with God, but how God identifies with us. Jesus says His disciples are known by their "love for one another" and when thinking about the "enlarged brotherhood" of God's disciples should we not then include this statement as a further description to the "spiritual brotherhood" of God which binds men and women? Men and women who worship a monotheistic God?

In answer, it really depends on which religious persuasion you come from. Pervasively, all Muslims, Jews, and Christians can recognize this statement but on another level it breaks down into its many religious parts according to that religious group's persuasions of who their God is or isn't. One group might show conservative intolerance whereas another group, say liberals, might misunderstand diversity for sameness.

Another way to re-parse this statement is to say that Muslims and Jews worship God incorrectly (from the Christian perspective) but you cannot say Muslims, Jews, and Christians aren't all worshipping the same God. It's the Abrahamic God. That's historical fact. You could critique each group's perception of how to worship the same God correctly - how that each religion approaches God with a different set of doctrines and dogmas - but is this God the same God or not?

Assuredly, some Christians will say this God is not the God who revealed Himself in Jesus. That He must be worshipped as the apostles of Christ taught. That Jesus is the gateway to God. Than there are other faith groups, like the Muslim and Jew, who will say we do not recognize this great prophet of God, Jesus, whom He sent to us. But we do recognize the God whom Jesus served and prayed to who is the same God who we worship and serve.

However, is this enough for God? Which presupposes we understand God's mind or would limit His grace to only those who enter into His temples through Jesus, the pinnacle of the Christian faith? Or, as others might say, God doesn't care about your religious tribe as much as He does your heart. That circumstantially, a person may be bound to be a Muslim or a Jew and unable to come to Jesus based upon experiences, backgrounds, traditions, or events.

And yet, in a larger way, in a way that is large enough for the Almighty God of the universe to admit diverse faiths into His fellowship, can this God be in some sense the same God a non-Christian believer might be able to worship? One who acknowledges the difference between good and evil? Who submits to live a life of grace, mercy, and forgiveness towards his or her's enemies? Who subscribes to the knowledge that there is one God over all who rules both by day and by night? Who wishes to live peaceably with all men?

Is this kind of God good enough to be worshipped as the same God of all Muslims, Jews, and Christians? Can it be so simply a matter of the heart's attitude towards one another and how we might live with one another? That the God of all grace is this same God of grace all His follows wish to honor by living their lives according to these grace-filled convictions no matter their religion (or morality)? Men and women who bear a conscience pricked by the convictions of service, sacrifice, and solidarity with all other men and women who bear this same Cross? The Cross of their faith, their God, their heart's convictions to live rightly with one another?

---

Another question to ask is that while this question is warranted for whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God can this be so with Jews and Christians? Jews and Christians share a mutual revelation and tradition. The Jews worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as do Christians. But the Jews do not recognize the fullness of the God they worship as Christians do who recognize Jesus as God's fulfillment of His promises.

Furthermore, time (history) is part of the issue, namely the Jews stop worshipping the God of promises-fulfilled when it was shown to be through Jesus. More poignantly, the Muslim's view of God is not revealed through the same means as the God of the Bible whom Christians worship and is thus a different God altogether, which in the vernacular sense of religion is true. Each faith has its differences with the other based upon tradition, time, culture, or theology.

But let us return to the original question, "Do Christians worship a different God than the Jews?" Volf says that Orthodox Jews have made that argument about Christians, but not all Jews would make this same distinction. And if anything is clear from the New Testament literature it is that Christians worship the same God as the Jews. That, the New Testament in itself is an apologia for precisely why the "God of the Christian" is the same "God of the Old Testament" and "God of the orthodox Jew."

Then there is Jesus' speech to the Pharisaical Jew (Jewish orthodoxy hadn't formed yet) of hardness to the God of the Old Testament, let alone to the God revealed in Christ Jesus. Jesus says to them,

John 8.39-47 (ESV) [sic, Jeremiah 29]

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.”



They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”


42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Jesus said these things to those who believed that they more correctly worshipped Yaweh of the Old Testament (the OT is part of Christianity's bible and later collated with their New Testament in Jesus) than He did. Succinctly, Jesus queries that "If they worshipped God, they would find and believe in Him because "He and God are one." To which statement the Pharisees scoffed and rejected Jesus' incarnate presence of the divine God before them refusing to recognize their God come as Jesus and were rebuked by Jesus for their unbelief.

Importantly, Christian missionaries report frequently when witnessing of Jesus to both Muslim and Jew that those men and women who are genuinely seeking God will find Jesus because they do worship the "same/real" God of the Old Testament or Koran. That this God is revealing Himself to them in a variety of ways - some by dreams and visions, some by the simple witness of service and labors of love. Which is why Christians must go and speak of who Jesus is so the Muslim or Jewish man or woman may know who they are worshipping. Many have visions of Jesus because they truly worship God of the Bible. That is why they discover Jesus and become Christian, leaving the Muslim or Jewish God behind.

And lastly, the question for Volf is not whether we all agree on the nature of God, or believe that other non-Christian religious men and women can be saved by some other means, or that we are of the same religious faith, but whether the object of our worship, God, is the same God that is the object of each other's worship. So much of the New Testament is written to say that the God of the Old Testament is the same God that is revealed in Jesus. Jews disagree with Christians as to whether Jesus is the Messiah or whether Jesus is God incarnate, but that does not change the fact that the God we worship is the Yahweh of the Jewish Scriptures and possibly the Allah of the Koran, if - full of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and service to those around them.

R.E. Slater
December 20, 2015


Book Description
Amazon link


In this award winning, four-session small group Bible study, Carl Medearis, an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations, provides background info on Islam and tools for sharing Christ with their Muslim neighbors.

Muslims, Christians and Jesus, is the recipient of the prestigious Outreach Magazine Resources of the Year for 2012.

According to Medearis, how Americans respond to Islam and how Christians think of Muslims could be one of the most significant issues of our time. Throughout the study, Medearis helps you understand the basics of Islam, the difference between “moderate” Muslims and radical terrorists, the Muslim view of Jesus, and how we should interact with our Muslim neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

From the Ground Zero mosque to whether we believe in the same God, Medearis also addresses key questions and responses to the current Muslim/Christian tensions facing our society.

This Participant Guide features video notes, group discussion questions, informative sidebars and quotes, and ideas for personal application. It’s designed to be used with the Muslims, Christians and Jesus DVD (sold separately).

Sessions include:
  1. What is Islam? Exploring Our Fears
  2. Understanding What Muslims Believe
  3. Jesus: The Bridge to Muslims
  4. Building Bridges through Relationship 
  5. Bonus session: 10 Myths about Muslims

* * * * * * * * * *


SUPPLEMENTAL SECTION
February 10, 2016

Adinliu ChWhat do you think about the article? Do you believe we Christian worship same god of Muslim?

---

Russ Slater - Actually I wrote the second part in it. Depending on how specific you make the question a Christian could answer both yes and no. The first article by Roger Olson shares the more narrow meaning. What I then try to explain is the wider possibilities of this conundrum by throwing the Jewish consideration into the question.

So here's a few approaches... "yes" the Muslim (M), Jew (J), and Christian (C) worship the same God if it is the God of Abraham (Yahweh). But if we ask if they worship Jesus as the NT incarnation of God, then "no" to both the M and the J.

From an inter-faith dialogue - which wishes to pursue the broadest form of the answer in hopes of creating a kind of unity - then "yes". Each religion ( M, J, C) has the idea of a ruling, Sovereign God who wishes peace, goodwill, and love for both friend and enemy. But because Islam is a lot like Protestant Christianity (partitioned into its many sectarian beliefs), there can be as many "no's" to this question as yes's".

From a systematic theological perspective if one considers God to be able to consume hell for all His enemies upon His Holy personage, then "yes", every sinner - no matter how heinous the sin - will be saved (or, redeemed)... if not in this life than somewhere in death (depending on the kind of hell one's religion imagines). Meaning that the soul's transfer from "death" to "eternal life" might be immediate, or longish (in a purgatorial way), or never. This view is known as universalism. It envisions the possibility of redemption for lost souls who have died unredeemed.

My former pastor, Rob Bell, carried this belief. However, myself, I believe that though Jesus paid for all sin, sin must still carry both a penalty, a sentence, and a payment. But unlike the Catholic purgatorial view of a possible redemption (which is similar to universalism and is more probably the origin for universalism), 
or the Baptist view of eternal torment in hell, I like the annihilation view. In it, hell begins in this life as much as heaven does, when we commit sin or chose to submit to God and gain a "spirit-filled life". If choosing to refuse God, the difficulty of escaping sin grows stronger-and-stronger making it nearly impossible to leave evil's reign in an individual as both heart and soul become further-and-further removed from God and enmeshed in sin. Regardless of the degree of sin, in all cases the only way out is through Jesus. So that, at death, eternity for that unremitting soul may be either short or long.... That is, the dead soul continues on the path of death until finally extinguished into nothingness. So that in effect, the soul simply passes away from all memory or reality in its dimishment to its relationship with (1) the Creator-Redeemer God, (2) to God's image within itself, (3) to others, and (4) to the external world (thus, there are 4 relational bonds that are dissolved either one by one, or altogether, immediately. But importantly, this process begins in life rather than in death, while in death the soul is either slowly, or immediately, annihilated in its own kind of personal hell. If the longish view than at every step God gives that dead soul a chance to repent. If the shortist view (which I prefer), that soul's consequences are sealed and any chance of redemption is nullified because of its disobedience to God while living. Though theoretically this view might allow redemption after death, its construction places full accountability in this life, not the next.

In review, there are then 4 basic views of hell - (1) one that might be overcome by Jesus' redemption (the universalist view), (2) by sufficient retraining and learning in death (purgatory), (3) none at all as the soul is consumed in hell forever (the Baptist view), or (4) consumed in this life for its sin with physical death completing a life's end (annihilation) as it is hardened and seared, unable to repent, confess, or obey God through Jesus. I might add, though they many be personal reasons a believer or disbeliever prefers one or the other view, or none at all, we must acknowledge that in whatever view, or in all views, God has given humanity the greatest amount of opportunity to repent and be saved; to reform and do good; to change from one's evil life to a life full of bounty and healing nourishment to others. That God gives us His Spirit to help us to these "Cross" points; that He moves time and event in a way that He doesn't interfere with it but allows our greatest amount of illumination and enlightenment; that He brings into our lives opportunities for reform - sickness, suffering, death of a loved one, personal hardship, godly people, etc and etc. (Please note, all these examples come from God's creation in its present state of life and death, and not directly from God Himself. I do not wish to accuse God as One who brings evil into our lives, but One who is present with us when evil comes into our life).

The reason I entertain annihilation is because I think sin needs to be accounted for in this life, not later when it has no affect upon the living. Furthermore, it makes obedience to God in this life to be immediately important and relevant, by rewarding the obedient soul by helping conquer sin's heavy, deceptive chains of bondage. Also, rather than making Jesus a convenient escape route from dastardly, horrific deeds, it shows the immediate quagmire that sin really is. That sin and evil are to be eschewed in all areas of life and at all times. But for the obedient one to Jesus there is found a fuller, deeper walk into the promises of heaven into this life now. It makes doing the right thing important now rather than living an uneventful life spiritually while "waiting for heaven to arrive" at death. As such, actively living the Spirit-filled life may cause immediate spiritual resolutions and consequences in the world so that God's kingdom may "become" - both here and now in this present life - rather than waiting for it to "become" later when its no longer impactful upon living souls.


Thus I lean towards annihilation beginning in this life; can allow for a purgatorial or universalistic theoretical view but don't like how either system avoids the immediacy of obedience to God or its redemptive impact in this life now; and reject any version of a monstrous hell (the Baptist view) because my God loves at all times and will not torture souls in an endless future. So that, if hell exists in the after-life than not all things have been submitted to Him so He may be "All in All." So I tend to see hell in this life but not the next; whereas I see heaven beginning in this life and extending into the next for the redeemed one.

And finally, I am told, but have not confirmed, that Islam does not believe in sin (which I think they mean by this "original sin") but do believe in some kind of heaven and hell. Thus, the Islamic faith may consider a human birth free of sin but full of potentiality for evil or good. Whereas the Jews do teach original sin as Christianity does. But they emphasize the potentiality of a new life much more than Christianity would in its view of "total depravity". Myself, I like the Jewish view more and the Reformed/Calvinistic/Baptist view far less. Why? Because one must acknowledge the image of God in a life that is filled with potentiality, goodness, and light. I would rather emphasize the positive than the negative, without denying sin's imprint on us in someway, somehow... whether imputed, learned, or acquired (if constructed in "psycho-analytical" terms). And so, here is another similarity and/or difference between Muslims, Jews, and Christians when discussing "heaven," "hell," or "sin" v. "goodness".

So my apologies for the long answer. I tend to think in elaborate matrices or layers of complexity. Thus I write to help distill to Christians the many possible outcomes of their faith. A faith which must be here, now, and as much as godly -minded as possible. If our faith doesn't result in pragmatic ways of living than it is a waste of time, energy, and life. Which, I suppose, could be yet another point of contact between the M, J, and C.

As always it is good to hear from you. Blessings always. - res, February 10, 2015

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Adinliu Ch - Well said, it would be nice if you update this article in a brief way. Thanks for the interesting discussion.


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