Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God

It was via a blog entry by Dr. Joel McDurman at Gary DeMar's American Vision (LINK) way back in June 2013 that I first came across what struck me as a very intriguing dialogue/discussion that was taking place within Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a conservative, Reformed denomination.

Dr. McDurman begins his blog entry with the following:

I remember when I joined the PCA, my pastor told me an anecdote. He said when his church was first being built in northwest Arkansas, he phoned a local Baptist pastor to ask some advice on a matter. The Baptist pastor cut him off: “Presbyterian, huh? You’ll be liberal in 20 years!” And he abruptly hung up on my pastor.

A bit later, he provides the following selection from a thread written by Lane Keister (published at two separate blogs: link 1 and link 2):

Debate was rather heated in the PCA General Assembly this year over a motion to include a statement to the effect of saying that the Muslims and the Christians worship the same God. It is usually felt by people who believe this that such a statement can be an effective bridge for evangelism to Muslims. They will also usually state the obvious, that the Arabic word for God is Allah, and so Arabic translations have the word “Allah” in the Bible. Therefore they have the same God that we do.

There are a number of serious problems with this line of reasoning. Firstly, the implication of such a statement is that the Trinity is not central to the Christian idea of God, but is an optional add-on. Folks, are we really willing to say that about the Trinity? That it is optional? I would think Athanasius would be rolling in his grave at the suggestion.

This "rather heated", "[d]ebate", "in the PCA General Assembly", was precipitated by a 'report' prepared for the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, with the full title:  "THEOLOGY, GOSPEL MISSIONS, AND INSIDER MOVEMENTS - A PARTIAL REPORT (PART TWO OF TWO PARTS) OF THE AD INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON INSIDER MOVEMENTS TO THE FORTY-FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA MARCH 20, 2013 [PDF copy of this report available online: HERE].

Dr. McDurman's opening paragraph 'set's the tone' for the rest of his contribution, which depicts the PCA as a denomination headed for full-blown liberalism.

However, this post is not about Dr. McDurman's reflections on future of the PCA, but rather, it concerns whether or not, "the Muslims and the Christians worship the same God." This question, raised in the PCA report, created a flood of comments on a number blogs, the majority of which answered the question with a resounding NO. Though a few of the negative reponses exhibited some deeper reflection/s, most appeared to me to be emotionally based, with little consideration of the broader issues that are inextricably linked to the question.

More often than not, the negative reponses revolved around the premise that if one rejects "the" doctrine of the Trinity, then one worships a different God; and since Muslims reject "the" doctrine of the Trinity, then by default, they worship a different God. But, I am firmly convinced that the above premise is severely flawed; and this, because of two very important issues. First, if the above premise were true, then Jesus and the Jews of his day worshipped a different God; and second, the vast majority of Christians (all ???) prior to Augustine worshipped a different God.

I suspect that those who are not familiar with this blog will view the above two ascertions as utterly false, but in a number of my posts over the last three years under the lablels Monarchy of God the Father and Trinity, I have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that my reflections rest on a solid foundation. Jesus and the Jews of his day did not worship a God that was "one what and three who's" (a favorite construct employed by a number of Christian apologists), but rather they worshipped the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", the God the New Testament presents to us as "God the Father".  This "God the Father", is "the one God" of the Bible, early Church Fathers, and the Nicene Creed.

So, if the rejection of one form of "the" doctrine of the Trinity (i.e. the Augustinian/Latin construct) does not by default place one into the category of one who worships a different God, can one say that Muslims and Christians (and, of course, Jews) worship the same God ? I shall attempt to answer this question in an upcoming post (the Lord willing).

Grace and peace,