By Fred Farrokh
Christian missiologists are split over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. In response to the firestorm over this topic which recently engulfed Wheaton College,1 23 missiologists contributed short essays on this question. These responses were published in January 2016 by the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) in its Occasional Bulletin.2 A reading of this bulletin indicates there was no consensus among the contributors regarding the basic “Same God Question” (SGQ).
This article seeks to address the SGQ in greater detail, particularly from the perspective of Muslims. The introduction to this article considers the relational issues between Christians and Muslims that have set the backdrop for the interfaith theological discourse. My thesis states that Muslim scholars are not moving toward Christian scholars regarding the SGQ; indeed, they are theologically restricted from doing so.
Two recent interfaith efforts initiated by Muslims themselves—the 2007 “A Common Word between Us and You,” and the 2016 “Marrakesh Declaration”—provide excellent data points for assessing Muslim sentiments regarding contemporary interfaith dialogue, in general, and the SGQ, in particular. These data points indicate that Muhammad’s own non-inclusive, non-tolerant view toward other religions continues to influence his followers today. However, Christian scholars seem slow to appreciate the rigidity of the theological constraints upon their Muslim counterparts. The article concludes with encouraging news that the Triune God is drawing Muslims by the Holy Spirit, in order that they might believe in the Son of God, and hence become children of a Heavenly Father they have not previously known.
1. Can Theological Reconciliation Foster Relational Reconciliation?
The theological movement of Christian scholars toward the Muslim position may not be fully and consciously based on theology, but on a desire for improved relations. Due to the centuries of hostility between Christians and Muslims, many peace-loving Christians would gladly trade much for peaceful co-existence—that elusive biblical shalom. This desire is not wrong. Yet this desire, even if it is subconscious, cannot be realized through theological acquiescence.
Even the SGQ itself is rendered in a manner that elevates the human element of things: Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? This only breeds more questions, some of which were addressed by missiologists in the EMS Occasional Bulletin. Which Muslims? Which Christians? What is meant by worship? The EMS query constitutes an anthropocentric version of the SGQ. It could be better rendered theologically: Is the God presented in the Qur’an the same as the God presented in the Bible?
In the EMS Occasional Bulletin, I argued that an important question underlies the SGQ, and ultimately requires a negative answer to the SGQ. This underlying question posits: “Since the Bible teaches that Jesus is God and since Islam teaches that Jesus is not God, then how is it possible that Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”3
Having given this enhanced rendering of the SGQ, this article turns to an evaluation of the SGQ from an Islamic perspective.
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