Saturday, February 13, 2016

A "Same God" Miscellany

I felt sort of lonely back in December when I voiced my agreement with former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins's claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God (see this post). Since then many others have stepped forward to defend the same position. Here is a sampling:

(1) For starters, Peter Walhout, a chemistry professor at Wheaton College, observed:
"[M]many Christian missionaries to Muslims have the working assumption that the Allah of Islam is, to some degree, the Jewish and Christian God of Abraham. ... Obviously any Christian is going to affirm the Trinitarian nature of God and the divinity of Jesus, contra Islam, but that does not mean the missionaries are necessarily wrong in making the assertion that the Muslim Allah still refers in some limited sense to the Christian God .... It also clearly does not mean that these Christian missionaries think Islam is an equally valid path to God and salvation–why on earth would they be risking their lives as missionaries to Muslims if they thought that?" (italics added; read the rest of Peter's excellent post here)
(2) In his post, Walhout links to another blog essay by Edward Feser, who makes the philosophical case much better and more thoroughly than I did. An excerpt:
"Similarly, it is perfectly coherent to say that Muslims are “importantly” and “crucially” wrong precisely because they are referring to the very same thing Christians are when they use the word “God,” and that they go on to make erroneous claims about this referent. That the errors are “important” or “crucial” is not by itself sufficient to prevent successful reference. And since Muslims worship the referent in question, it follows that it also is not by itself sufficient to prevent them from worshipping the same God as Christians."
If you still have questions on this issue, take a look at Feser's (very long) post here.

(3) Robert J. Priest, Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, comments:
"[F]or most evangelicals in America, our encounter with people who are Muslim is relatively recent, relatively superficial, and all-too-often inflected by American culture-war impulses. The one category of American evangelical that has long nurtured close relationships with people who are Muslim is missionaries and mission professors .... However, these individuals, who represent the heart of evangelical gospel concern, and who represent a unique mix of professional expertise and accumulated wisdom acquired over decades of study and ministry experience, do not appear to have been adequately consulted (if consulted at all).
"I've also been struck by the idea that many American evangelical missionaries and missiologists, and perhaps the Apostle Paul himself, would be in danger of dismissal if they taught at Wheaton College, since many of us arguably have been guilty of the very thing Wheaton College is sanctioning.
 "I fear that evangelicals who wish lovingly, creatively, and entrepreneurially to establish relationships of positive witness with Muslims and others will be overly inhibited and held back by fear of fellow Christians and how they might react. ... I fear that Muslims will learn the idea that faith in Jesus requires a repudiation of Allah as evil, and that this will pose an enormous barrier to consideration of the truth and goodness of the Gospel. Many missionaries with extensive first-hand experience guiding Muslims to faith in Jesus testify that this is a missiologically problematic message to send, counter-productive to gospel witness. ..." (Quotations from pp. 1, 2-3, 31 of this pdf; HT: CT)

As for Wheaton College where this all began, the conflict with Larycia Hawkins has ended with an apparent apology by the provost who placed her under investigation, an internal acknowledgement by a faculty committee that racial discrimination may have influenced the way her case was handled, and a "mutual place of resolution" that culminated in Hawkins's departure from the school.

The Wheaton College provost, I should note, appears to hold to a position on the controversy similar to my own:
"Ontologically all monotheists affirm that there can only be one divine being, and it seems logical to me that there must be some referential overlap or similarity in the divine being that each is referring to in each of the monotheistic religions." - Stanton Jones
So what was all the fuss about?

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