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Muslim God, Christian God

By now you will have heard about Wheaton College’s suspension of a professor over a theological matter. An excerpt from the Evangelical college’s statement: [1]

On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam. In the interim, College leadership has listened to the concerns of its students expressed through social media, a peaceful demonstration and one-on-one meetings with the administration.

As a Christian liberal arts institution, Wheaton College embodies a distinctive Protestant evangelical identity, represented in our Statement of Faith, which guides the leadership, faculty and students of Wheaton at the core of our institution’s identity. Upon entering into a contractual employment agreement, each of our faculty and staff members voluntarily commits to accept and model the Statement of Faith [2] with integrity, compassion and theological clarity.

Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, and is in no way related to her race, gender or commitment to wear a hijab during Advent.

Wheaton College believes the freedom to express one’s religion and live out one’s faith is vital to maintaining a pluralistic society and is central to the very reason our nation was founded, enabling us to live together despite our deepest differences. Equally important is the freedom of religious organizations to embody their deeply held -convictions.

Wheaton College rejects religious prejudice and unequivocally condemns acts of aggression and intimidation against anyone. Our Community Covenant [3] upholds our obligations as Christ-followers to treat and speak about our neighbors with love and respect, as Jesus commanded us to do. But our compassion must be infused with theological clarity.

The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.

Two things from me:

1) I am hardly in a position to say, but it seems to me that the conflict between the professor’s statement and the colleges Statement of Faith is not crystal-clear, nor is the absence of conflict. It’s important to note that the college is not passing definitive judgment, only saying that it is suspending Prof. Hawkins until that determination can be made. I support Wheaton’s action here — not because I think Prof. Hawkins is wrong in her theological pronouncement (though she may well be), but because it shows that Wheaton is serious about safeguarding its Evangelical identity. One reason so many Catholic colleges and universities are Catholic In Name Only is because they don’t do this.

I’m quite sure I would draw the theological lines in different places than where Wheaton has, on a lot of things. The point is that I applaud the college for being willing to take a hard, unpopular stand on doctrine — even if I do not necessarily agree with the teaching it is trying to defend.

2. To be honest, I’ve never thought at all about whether Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that they do, and that was my belief when I was a Catholic, though I never gave it a minute’s thought. I don’t know what I believe now, to be honest. We know that Muslims do not pray to the Holy Trinity — but this is also true of Jews. Don’t Christians (most Christians) believe that Jews pray to the one true God, even if they have an imperfect understanding of His nature? If this is true for Jews, why not also for Muslims, who clearly adhere to an Abrahamic religion? This is why my tendency is to assume that Muslims do pray to the one true God, even though they have a radically impaired view of Him.

But how far do we go with that? Mormons, for example, are not Trinitarian, which by most orthodox Christian standards put them outside the Christian fold, despite their profession of faith in Jesus. From an orthodox Christian point of view, do they pray to the one true God? Do all non-Trinitarian believers in Jesus Christ? Are they not in the same position as Jews: believers in the one true God, though in possession of a deficient understanding of who He is — which is a very important distinction, but is it meaningful enough to declare that the God to whom they pray is false (as distinct from the same God, seen with impaired vision)?

I’m not sure what I think. I mean, I assume, in charity, that people who intend their prayers to be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are praying to the true God, whatever they lack in theological understanding. But again, I’ve not given this much thought. How about you? Please, no trolling, and keep your griping about “bigotry” to yourself. This is not about Islamophobia, or headscarves. This is an important theological question, which is why I respect Wheaton for treating it as such.

223 Comments (Open | Close)

223 Comments To "Muslim God, Christian God"

#1 Comment By Austin On December 19, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

Interesting enough, David French recently commented on this: [4]

#2 Comment By ELS On December 19, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

1 John 4 New King James Version (NKJV)

“4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

Who is Jesus Christ?

1 John 4 continues:

“9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Islam is a religion started by a false prophet that denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Per Scripture, the founder of Islam was an Antichrist and Islam as a religion is the fruit of the Spirit of Antichrist.

#3 Comment By Michael Heraklios On December 19, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

If it’s not too late at this point, I’d like to chip in my two cents:

First off, the Qur’an makes it clear that the God of the Jews and Christians is the God of the Qur’an – the God of Abraham and of Noah and of Adam.

Now, before we get to this riff raff about the Qur’an’s God being a different God from the one that is conceived of by Christians, I am reminded of one of Jesus’s encounters with the Pharisees:

When Jesus is casting out demons, he is accused of being possessed by the Evil One (presumably Satan). Jesus provides a very logical response to these claims.

How could he be casting out demons and evil spirits if he himself is of Satan? A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, so how can Satan cast out Satan? There is no logic whatsoever in such a scenario.

Now let’s look at some of the claims of Islam:

– Muhammad is claimed to be a descendant of Abraham through Ishmael, and this is a claim that not even his enemies ever disputed. So the connection to Abraham is there.
– The Angel Gabriel appears and has a prominent role. Some Evangelical preachers try to skirt this issue by saying that the Angel’s name is Jibreel – I’m sorry, but Jibreel is Arabic for Gabriel. Nice try.

Other prominent angels from the biblical tradition also show up in the Quran (Michael, Raphael, Azrael, etc). This is also not to mention the many prophets and figures from the Bible that also show up.

So if Islam is of the devil, you’re basically saying to me that the real God allowed Satan to impersonate one of His own Archangels and send down a revelation that has duped a very large chunk of mankind?

If that’s the case, then your god is wholly incompetent.

And let’s not forget to mention that our prayers contain constant supplications to God to protect us from Satan, his minions, and Satanic whisperings (the idea of Satanic whisperings also shows up heavily in East Orthodox Christianity). Most of the time, before we say , “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”, we begin with “I seek refuge in God from Satan, the Accursed”.

The claim that Islam is of the devil or that the God of the Quran is not the God of Christianity actually, IMO, actually dodges the issue and brings up far more disturbing questions for Christians that it does for anyone else.

The Qur’an also makes it clear that Satan DOES not have the power to provide authentic revelation in the manner God can.

So I ask my Christian brethren once again:

How can Satan cast out Satan?

Now, let’s go on to part 2:

The “Mecca” and “Medina” verses of the Qur’an, I believe, are an artificial construction that was placed onto the Qur’anic edifice later by Muslim jurists and scholars. The text, within itself, does not make this distinction, and I believe all verses of the Quran should be seen within the context of the whole text, which is why I found the abrogation theory to be problematic and completely unfounded.

As for Jesus, I will concede that there is definitely something unique about him. The Qur’an describes him in ways that it does not do for any other prophet or messenger. He is called the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and yet, he is still not God (and yes, Islam says that it will be him who will return in the Last Days to usher in the End of Time, and no one else). Muslims claim that the Qur’an is the Word of God as well, but we don’t say that the Quran is God itself. The God of Islam utterly unique, Supremely Absolute, and there is nothing that can be compared to Him.

You can make the argument that God of the Qur’an does not match the God of the Nicene Creed, but I can respond by saying that I believe the Qur’an to be God’s revelation, while the Nicene Creed was devised by the minds of fallible men, who were simply interpreting, in their own way, the teaching passed down to them.

Now, I think it’s fully possible (and highly likely) that Jesus used the terms Father and Son when discussing his relationship to the Supreme Being in his time, but what did he really mean when he said these things? You have to remember, he had to speak in ways that the people of that time and place could understand and relate in order to comprehend the message. The same is true for any other of God’s appointed spokesmen.

If, as the Qur’an says, Jesus was the Word of God and Spirit of God in human form, then I can see why some people in his time took him to be God incarnate. It wouldn’t have been that difficult to have fallen into confusion. And I do believe that the notion of “Jesus as God” came about through confusion (albeit sincere, if not benign), not through any malice or ill intent.

I’ve already brought up in another post what I believe is a legitimate point against Trinitarian Christianity, which is the minimization of James the Just, and the legacy left behind by the Ebionites and other Jewish-Christians groups, many of whom found their vindication in Islam.

I won’t go into the whole “how do we reconcile the Old Testament God with that of the NT” except to say this:

Can our notions of “good” and “evil” really apply to the Absolute, especially if He Himself created the very idea of good and the very idea of evil?

“Allahu Akbar” doesn’t just mean “God is great/greatest”; it also means “God is greater”, meaning He is far greater than anything our minds can conceive or imagine. This is why idol worship is not restricted to worshiping just physical things – our ideas and conceptions of what God is or what we think He should be can also turn into idols, so we have to be careful.

If Christians want to say that Islam is a Christian heresy, I have absolutely no problem with that, but to say that it is not the same God, frankly to me, is quite annoying.

But then again feel free to disagree. (And Rod, the email you see with my post, feel free to provide to anyone who would like to talk about these issues further).

#4 Comment By Michael Heraklios On December 19, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

ELS:
“Islam is a religion started by a false prophet that denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

We deny that Jesus is the literal son of God, but we don’t deny that he was the Christ, the Messiah. We affirm that he was the Messiah promised to the Jews, but just interpret it differently.

#5 Comment By Turmarion On December 19, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

Austin: For Christians, the chief arbiter must be the Bible.

For Protestant Christians. For Catholics and the Orthodox, it’s the Bible as understood by and alongside of Tradition. I don’t expect a Protestant to accept the idea of Tradition and the Magisterium; but it’s good to make explicit that what you’re describing doesn’t apply to all Christians.

[5] from the many things linked here that at least in the case of the Catholic Church, the teaching–not just post-Vatican II, but going far back, the Scholastics and before–is that the god worshiped by Muslims is the same as that worshiped by Christians, albeit in a misunderstood and incorrect way. There’s no conciliar or ex cathedra statement; but the teaching seems to be pretty consistent and to have been so for many centuries.

For Catholics, at any rate, it seems then to be an open-and-shut case. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same god? Yes–simple as that. I wouldn’t necessarily expect non-Catholics to accept that; but it seems very clear from the Catholic side, at least.

#6 Comment By Michael Guarino On December 19, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

Aristotle and Copernicus both claimed the uniqueness of the sun of which they spoke. Their claims were inconsistent. There is no single entity which both does and doesn’t revolve around the earth.

Therefore, Aristotle and Copernicus must NOT have been talking about the same sun, right?

This is the exact “logic” you are employing vis-a-vis Islam and Christianity.

Again, the problem is that “talking about” reveals equivocations in meaning and reference, in part due to the fact that we assume that we will incorrectly describe things most of the time. And it technically works in the inverse. Evening Star and Morning Star are both Venus, but they are not interchangeable terms, so you can’t say you are talking about the Evening Star when you are talking about the Morning Star. Similarly, whether you are talking about something implies nothing in terms of that entity’s properties. But if you insist on identifying entities holding contradictory properties based on indirection like that, then there is a fundamental logical mistake.

And so, the important question is not whether a Muslim and Christian are talking about the same thing, this is the wrong level of abstraction. It is whether the claims are consistent, which they are not. No one thinks that saying Aristotle and Copernicus are speaking of the same thing is important, and in fact insisting upon that point would have been obfuscation. What was important was who had a correct view of the Sun, and that both could not be correct.

#7 Comment By Bernie On December 19, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

I need to correct a previous comment in which I stated that Islam is deeply heretical. The term *heresy* doesn’t technically apply to Islam in regard to Christian belief. Rather, it is what St. Pope John Paul II acknowledged: “…the truth [is] that Muslims get it right when they profess faith in one God. Then, and only then, does he point out they have it as wrong as wrong can be when it comes to what God has revealed to us in Scripture about who he is, and, I would add, what he asks of his people by way of his commandments.”

[6]

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 19, 2015 @ 11:42 pm

So, are there two or three gods hanging out somewhere in the cosmos, one who did incarnate and one who did not and maybe some other one who is none of the above? Are the three of them duking it out cosmically while cheering on their respective acolytes on earth? Or, is there one God who created all that is, seen and unseen?

#9 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On December 20, 2015 @ 12:07 am

Michael Heraklios,

Thank you for your thoughtful post. While I disagree with most of what you say, I think you do lay out the issues really well, and help underscore exactly what’s at stake. In fact, you lay out pretty clearly exactly how my conception of God (I can only speak for myself here) and yours are utterly at odds.

Let’s start with this:

Can our notions of “good” and “evil” really apply to the Absolute, especially if He Himself created the very idea of good and the very idea of evil?

I dislike terms like ‘the absolute’, largely because I find them meaningless, but I will say that, yes, the notion of ‘good and evil’ or more exactly the notion of ‘good’, absolutely does apply to God: He is a perfectly good being, after all. And therefore I flatly reject the idea that God ‘creates’ the idea of good and evil. In other words, if you set up the syllogism here, I’m entirely on the ‘moral realist’ side, and flatly reject the ‘voluntarist’ side.

[7]

A God who is in any sense beyond, or outside of, good and evil, is not a god who is worthy of worship. I think I agree with Grotius when he said that moral law “would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him..” The view you’re taking is more similar to the Calvinist one, I think. My view of course represents a certain limitation on God’s sovereignty, which I’m fine with (I’ve never understood why this bothered the Calvinists so much).

So if Islam is of the devil, you’re basically saying to me that the real God allowed Satan to impersonate one of His own Archangels and send down a revelation that has duped a very large chunk of mankind?
If that’s the case, then your god is wholly incompetent

With due respect, we both believe that God allowed the devil to dupe about half of mankind at the present day (the Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, and so forth), and to dupe just about all of mankind before the coming of Christ. And we both agree that God allows all manner of evil to go on today, including murders, robberies, etc.. I’m not sure why God doesn’t intervene, but he clearly chooses not to, at least part of the time, so the idea that God would allow false revelations to happen is not that surprising given the Problem of Evil to begin with. For the record, I don’t know if the devil spoke to Muhammed: I just know that if Muhammed faithfully recorded what he thought he received, then that revelation wasn’t from God, or from any of his agents.

I’ve already brought up in another post what I believe is a legitimate point against Trinitarian Christianity, which is the minimization of James the Just, and the legacy left behind by the Ebionites and other Jewish-Christians groups,

That’s cool and all, and I recognize that you believe as a matter of theology that James was a proto-Ebionite, that he taught something very different than the Trinity, and that Ebionites represent the earliest Christian tradition. I can’t disprove that, but I can say that there is no external evidence for it (outside of Islam). We have evidence that Jesus was recognized as divine from, at the very least, John and Paul, and I’d say Matthew as well. The only Ebionite sources we have are from quite a bit later, and none of the writings attributed to James say anything one way or the other about the divinity of Jesus.

And let’s not forget to mention that our prayers contain constant supplications to God to protect us from Satan, his minions, and Satanic

This certainly demonstrates that Muslims are (or can be) good people, and that they don’t worship the devil. It doesn’t really tell us anything about Muhammad himself though, or about the Muslim deity. It might be that the Muslim deity simply doesn’t exist.

The Qur’an also makes it clear that Satan DOES not have the power to provide authentic revelation in the manner God can

Contrariwise: the Book of Revelation makes clear that the devil has the power to do miracles, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to provide ‘revelation’ as well.

#10 Comment By Franklin Evans On December 20, 2015 @ 11:45 am

Conversations with Lucifer

Sitting at my favorite bar, a private club operated by one of our local theaters, I was surprised by a familiar tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Lucifer eyeing the bartender appreciatively, a veteran actress and a woman of distinctive beauty. “I consider her to be one of my proudest accomplishments,” he said.

I took several moments to gather myself. First came a serious effort to control my chivalrous response; no woman in my proximity will ever have to face unwanted attention if I can help it… not that my friend needed it, knowing what I know about her physical skills. Then came a deeply motivated pressure to just lose my temper at him; how dare he rob this beloved friend of mine of her years of training, discipline and refinement of her craft on the stage? Finally, my shoulders relaxed, and I just looked at him. “I must warn you. You are very unlikely to succeed in justifying that to me.”

Lucifer shrugged. “Humans spend their lifetimes justifying themselves daily, sometimes hourly. Most of them aren’t aware of that, to be fair, but those who are aware do it even more emphatically and strenuously. Look,” he continued, and I was surprised by his expression of sympathy, “you are witnessing right now one of those periodic ramp-ups towards religious war. Your Protestant dictatorship is waning, Christians in general are taking on paranoia like a second skin — not without cause, I must admit — and their last-ditch efforts to regain their power are ridiculously obvious in their dragging Islam out as the scapegoat to end all scapegoats.”

His silence stretched. I took a long sip to finish my beer, and asked the bartender for two doubles of Bulleit rye. I sipped mine, and once again marveled at how letting silence complete a statement can lead to eloquence.

I watched the bartender tease and laugh with another person. I thought about her accomplishments, her setbacks and recoveries. I especially thought about those long conversations with her, on both sides of the bar, when few others were around, where we explored the mysteries of life together in words and silence.

I raised my glass. Lucifer clinked his glass to mine. “Here’s to that rare person who knows where she has been, where she is, and where she is going. She knows herself, and makes no effort to hide or dissemble. She lives life, and that is the sum of it.”

We drained our shots, and I motioned my friend to pour another round. “One thing, Lucifer,” I said. “If you also claim responsibility for humans having egos, I will not rest until you’ve paid for it a thousand times over.”

He laughed so hard, the rest of the people there began to laugh as well. “If you ever catch me doing that,” he said between chuckles, “I’ll hold still for it and ask for more.”

#11 Comment By Michael Guarino On December 20, 2015 @ 11:54 am

It seems extremely clear from the many things linked here that at least in the case of the Catholic Church, the teaching–not just post-Vatican II, but going far back, the Scholastics and before–is that the god worshiped by Muslims is the same as that worshiped by Christians, albeit in a misunderstood and incorrect way. There’s no conciliar or ex cathedra statement; but the teaching seems to be pretty consistent and to have been so for many centuries.

None of the quotes there explicitly identify the God of Islam and Christianity. They just point out meaningful similarities, and also argue that there are elements of divine inspiration in Muslim worship (which does not strike me as terribly far-fetched). But the fact remains that there is a really trivial reductio ad absurdum to any attempt to strictly identify anything bearing the god-claims of Christianity and Islam.

#12 Comment By Jake V On December 20, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We Christians see Jesus in a mirror dimly.

Jews see Him in a mirror that is far more dim that the mirror we see through. They see something but do not see Him clearly enough to know that He is Jesus.

Muslims see the mirror, and do not even see Him dimly. They may sense His presence, but because of their theology they cannot see that He is a person and that His name is Jesus.

All pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We Christians know God as he has revealed Himself – as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jews miss the fact that He has come and still anticipate Him.

Muslims have the whole thing muddled. They do not know or understand the God they pray to.

All worship the same God. He remains the same God even though people do not understand that He is He-Who-Is.

[Having said this and firmly believing it, I admire Wheaton for its conviction in sticking to their doctrine. I wish Catholics and other Christians would stand up for their beliefs.]

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 20, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

The best answer I’ve ever read to the question, did God create evil, or the analogous, why does God allow evil, is attributed to Albert Einstein. There is no such thing as darkness, it is merely the absence of what we call light. There is no such thing as cold, it is merely the absence of what we call heat. (E.g., what we perceive as heat is an increased level of certain vibrations at the atomic level, and what we perceive as cold is a decrease in those vibrations, not an independent and counter-vailing force). What we call evil is merely the absence of God. OR, as C.S. Lewis wrote (although Lewis gave as one of his opinions that there is such a thing as fallen angels who tempt mankind), “Nothing can be very strong indeed.”

But is it a bit odd to read in the comments here the assertion that Christianity attributes greater power to the Devil than does Islam.

#14 Comment By Gene Callahan On December 20, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

@Michael Guarino: “And so, the important question is not whether a Muslim and Christian are talking about the same thing, this is the wrong level of abstraction. It is whether the claims are consistent, which they are not. No one thinks that saying Aristotle and Copernicus are speaking of the same thing is important, and in fact insisting upon that point would have been obfuscation. What was important was who had a correct view of the Sun, and that both could not be correct.”

OK, now you have:
1) Admitted you are talking about a completely different question than the one Rod asked, which was, ARE they talking about the same thing?
2) Said something ridiculous about Aristotle and Copernicus: OF COURSE it mattered whether or not they were talking about the same thing! If they were NOT doing so, their claims wouldn’t have even been contradictory! Aristotle was talking about something, who knows what, that circles the earth, and Copernicus was talking about something, who knows what, that the earth circles.

#15 Comment By Gene Callahan On December 20, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

@Michael Guarino: “But the fact remains that there is a really trivial reductio ad absurdum to any attempt to strictly identify anything bearing the god-claims of Christianity and Islam.”

No, you are just terribly confused: the sun-claims of Aristotle and Copernicus were incompatible. But we most certainly CAN “strictly identify” the thing they were making their claims about. You just keep shifting back and forth between whether:
1) The claims about God are compatible; and
2) They are claims about one entity, even if some of them are wrong.

By your “standard”, we can also say that even Orthodx Christians and Western Christians are talking about “different Gods”! The “Eastern God” comprises a Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father alone. The “Western God” comprises a Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father AND the Son. No Y can both proceed from X and not proceed from X.

Therefore, different Gods!

Of course, that argument is complete rubbish. Just like the analogous argument between the “Gods” of Islam and Christianity.

#16 Comment By Gene Callahan On December 20, 2015 @ 11:32 pm

I want to post a final comment, just in case anyone thinks what MIchael Guarino is saying makes any sense. I have no hope of convincing him of anything, as at this point he is just squirting philosophical squid ink into the water to cover his tracks:

“Again, the problem is that “talking about” reveals equivocations in meaning and reference,”

Well, only if your goal is to create confusion. Aristotle and Copernicus clearly WERE talking about the same sun, no equivocation.

” in part due to the fact that we assume that we will incorrectly describe things most of the time.”

I can believe Michael incorrectly describes things most of the time! But human language would utterly fail if this were generally true: see Wittgenstein.

“And it technically works in the inverse.”

Who knows what “it” is here? Or what “works in the inverse” means about “it”? Squid ink!

“Evening Star and Morning Star are both Venus, but they are not interchangeable terms, ”

“Interchangeable terms”: complete irrelevancy introduced. Squid ink.

“so you can’t say you are talking about the Evening Star when you are talking about the Morning Star.”

But in both cases you ARE talking about the single planet Venus.

“Similarly, whether you are talking about something implies nothing in terms of that entity’s properties.”

This is introduced as if contradicting me, whereas it is exactly what I have been pointing out! Aristotle and Copernicus can be talking about the same sun, even while disagreeing on its properties.

“But if you insist on identifying entities holding contradictory properties based on indirection like that, then there is a fundamental logical mistake.”

If ONE PERSON said that the sun both never circles the earth and doesn’t circle the earth, that is a “fundamental logical mistake.” But if one person thinks it circles the earth, and another that it does not, there is no logical error in oting that they are talking about the same entity, even though one of them must be mistaken about it.

“And so, the important question is not whether a Muslim and Christian are talking about the same thing”

Well, except that is the question being asked in the original post!

” this is the wrong level of abstraction.”

There’s no “level of abstraction”! Squid ink.

“It is whether the claims are consistent, which they are not. ”

Everyone but everyone but everyone who has ever looked at this issue for five minutes KNOWS that the claims of Islam about God and the claims of Christianity about God are inconsistent! Just as were the claims of Aristotle and Copernicus about the sun.

“No one thinks that saying Aristotle and Copernicus are speaking of the same thing is important, and in fact insisting upon that point would have been obfuscation.”

No: because if they were not talking about the same thing, there is nothing to adjudicate. If Aristotle was not speaking of the SAME sun as Copernicus, but instead the moon, his claim would have been correct: the moon DOES circle the earth.

“What was important was who had a correct view of the Sun, and that both could not be correct.”

Again, everybody but everybody but everybody knows that Christianity and Islam cannot both be correct about the triune or non-triune nature of God! The ONLY question anyone has ever seriously entertained is precisely the one you are dismissing: “Despite these contradictory claims, are the two religions nevertheless talking about the same entity?”

#17 Comment By Michael Guarino On December 21, 2015 @ 2:14 am

2) Said something ridiculous about Aristotle and Copernicus: OF COURSE it mattered whether or not they were talking about the same thing! If they were NOT doing so, their claims wouldn’t have even been contradictory! Aristotle was talking about something, who knows what, that circles the earth, and Copernicus was talking about something, who knows what, that the earth circles.

You see, that is not true. It does not matter what Copernicus or Aristotle were talking about for you to determine that heliocentrism and geocentrism are contradictory, or that heliocentrism was correct. You can just deduce that with rather trivial mathematics, and the correctness with some ultimately nontrivial astronomical observations. What they were talking about is just history of science.

Okay, so let’s be very simple. My point has always been about identity in the strictest sense, as in what is seen in mathematics or formal logic. In other words, whether they are, or can be, in fact, the same. That is, an entity a satisfies the god-claims of the Quran, b satisfies the god-claims of the Bible, and a=b. There is a simple reductio demonstrating that is impossible. Anyone with decent logical intuitions can get that.

That means that any identity between them is only made by discussing the dialectic between the two religions, viz, you are talking about what the religions are arguing about; in which case you aren’t even talking about God at all, but rather positions in debates about God. This is wholly unnecessary (as we already know what they are claiming, and thus can reason with it), and in fact gives no possible information about the actual referent of any of their god-claims.

And the reason why this is important is because the original topic was not just what the religions talk about, but what they worship and pray to. If you simply use the same logic you have been using, a Christian is burdened with claiming that Muslims pray to the same God as Christians do, but that what the prayers are actually directed to does not exist. I cannot be the only person who thinks this is a dishonest way to approach that topic. People assume that what they talk about does not always track the truth of the matter, because we are likely wrong more often than not, but they are much more fastidious about what they pray to, because prayer has no meaning if it is given to a being that does not exist.

#18 Comment By Bernie On December 21, 2015 @ 8:23 am

Jake V,

Thank you for your comment. As a Christian, and bearing no ill-will toward Jews or Muslims, your remarks hit the nail on the head for me in this discussion.

#19 Comment By Turmarion On December 22, 2015 @ 10:17 am

Looking at the colloquy between Michael Guarino and Gene Callahan (with the latter of whom I pretty much agree), it appears that the semantic arguments (what do “worship”, “God”, and “same” mean?) are intractable, and there will never be agreement as to whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Thus, it’s not really about semantics but motivation. Why is it (suddenly) important whether they do or not? Our next-door neighbor for many years was a Hindu. One of my daughter’s better friends is Hindu. Another of her friends is Buddhist. No one questions that Hindus worship different gods from the God of Abraham; and Buddhists don’t exactly worship gods at all (that’s a complexity I don’t want to get into here). Nevertheless, we’ve never treated the people in question one iota different from the way we’d treat other Catholics, or Baptists, or Presbyterians, etc. So who cares who or what they worship? Unfortunately, I realize that this is an issue for all too many people.

Ditto Muslims. The bad behavior of Muslim extremists, and the question of whether this results from something intrinsic to Islam are questions that are separable from the issue of who or what Allah is with respect to YHWH and/or the Holy Trinity. It seems to me that the arguments that the Muslim and Christian gods differ is part of a campaign to paint Muslims as such–not just the problematic ones–as negatively as possible. Otherwise, why the bother?

It’s like when I encountered anti-Catholic protesters at the papal visit in Colorado twenty-two years ago, or when friends of mine encountered similar protesters in Philly this year. Among other things, the protesters handed out pamphlets that, in a Jack Chick-esque way, argued that Catholics didn’t worship the same God as Protestants. Obviously, the point was not to make an abstract theological point; the idea was to say, “Catholics are EVIL IDOLATORS!!!” I think something similar is going on in the discourse on the god of the Muslims (not necessarily referring to the commenters here). The issue isn’t to explore theology, but to paint Muslims as evil worshipers of a false god who are thus not to be trusted no matter HOW moderate they may be. It’s Know-Nothingism all over again.

#20 Comment By Larry On January 29, 2016 @ 9:46 pm

A strong case can be made the the God allah of islam is NOT the same as the God of Christians and Jews. If for no other reason that allah has none of the characteristics of the Judeo-Christian God.

In addition, it also can be strongly argued that “allah” is based on the Arabic goddess of the Ka’aba in Mecca, “al lat”, a female goddess who was one of 360 gods of the Kaaba!

#21 Comment By Luigi Valentino On January 30, 2016 @ 10:51 am

Muslims living in the United States insist Islam is a “religion of peace.” They try to compare Christianity to Islam. It’s like comparing apples to jalapeño peppers. The Qur’an is a recipe for evil. You might argue that the Bible says terrible things too. Yes, however there was something called the Enlightenment, the Reformation and the New Testament. (Jesus loves you, love thy neighbor, etc.) To the best of my knowledge, Islam has never been reformed.

The difference between Christianity and Islam lies in the difference between Jesus and Muhammad. This is the difference between apples and jalapeño peppers. Jesus was the embodiment of goodness and Muhammad was the incarnation of everything that is abhorrent and evil.

How is the Islam you practice different from that of Muhammad?
Can Islam be reformed? No, it can’t! To reform Islam you have to first get rid of Muhammad and second get rid of the Qur’an. You have to take out a great portion of that book which is violent. The rest is nonsense and absurdity. But this you can’t do, because you have no authority to do such a thing. Muhammad said that he has perfected his religion (Qur’an 5:3). How can you improve something, which is perfect? You can’t change the Qur’an. You can’t reform it. All you can do is to reinterpret and, for example pretend, “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” means something else.

[NFR: Islam has undergone reformations. Wahhabism, for example, was a reformation within Sunni Islam. Also, don’t you understand the contradiction of what you’re saying here? All “reform” is reinterpretation. That’s what the Reformation *was*. That’s what the Counter Reformation was. That’s what Vatican II was. And so forth. — RD]

#22 Comment By Cromulent On January 30, 2016 @ 9:34 pm

Tired of “Islamophobia” accusations flung this way and that. I’m an Islamophobe. You know how I got that way?

I read Islamic texts. Two Qurans, ~65-70% of Bukhari, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Ishaq, Umdat al-Salik and more.

#23 Comment By Othello On June 12, 2016 @ 10:49 am

The Jews, Muslims and Unitarian Christians who pray to the One God, the God of Abraham, the God of the Biblical Prophets, are also praying as Jesus prayed. Jesus did not pray to The Holy Ghost or to himself, neither did he ever tell anyone to pray to him.