A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah (Part III)

In part two of this series we examined early Christian responses to Islam.  We move the story now to America starting with America’s first theological superstar, Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards and His Missionary Disciples

 

islam-christianity

Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

            Luther’s paradoxical view of Islam as monotheistic and idolatrous; heretical and borderline Christian was echoed in the writings of other Protestant thinkers who followed in Luther’s wake, including America’s celebrated eighteenth century theologian, Jonathan Edwards.  Edwards’ primary focus and passion was revivalism with the belief that what was happening in America during what came to be known as the First Great Awakening would soon break forth in other parts of the world as a herald of the arrival of millennial glory.  This led Edwards to develop a deep interest in other religions in hopes of finding a way to extend revival fervor outside the boundaries of Christendom.

       Edwards read voraciously about other religions; he knew of, tried to get and perhaps         read, many of the travelogues, dictionaries, and encyclopedias of religion available at the        time.  The books included in his ‘catalogue’ include George Sale’s translation of the    Qur’an.[1]

Sale, whose eighteenth century English translation of the Qur’an was the best English rendition of the Arabic original, made no hesitation in promoting the idea that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.   He stated it clearly in his introduction.  “How much soever Muhammadans are to blame in other points,” he said, “they are far from being idolatrous, as some ignorant writers have pretended.”[2]  This sentiment is echoed in Sale’s extensive and relatively accurate (for the time) coverage of the origins and teachings of Islam in the preface to his translation. The assumption throughout is of a common Christian/Muslim deity.

The fact that this was one of Edward’s primary sources for information about Islam suggests that he had access to a far more accurate and thorough treatment of Islamic history and teaching than Luther did.  His interest in other religions also led him to develop his own formulation of the patristic concept of  prisca theologia which says that vestiges of true religion can be discerned in non-Christian religions.[3]  This would indicate that Edwards should have been more open to finding commonalities between Islam and Christianity than Luther had.  But Edwards, like Luther before him as well as many other orthodox Protestants of his era, read Islam primarily through an eschatological lens; the left arm to the Catholic right arm of the anti-Christ. “Edwards’ interest in Islam,” says historian Thomas S. Kidd, “had primarily to do with its place in eschatology, its inferiority to Christianity, and its role in the on-going debates with Deists.  He made Muslims prominent in his millennial theology, arguing that as the millennium approached they would be destroyed.”[4]

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

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A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah, Part II

islam-christianity

Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

Part II: Medieval &  Reformation Responses to Islam 

Early Christian Responses to the Advent of Islam

            When the armies fueled by Islamic expansionism swept out of the Arabian peninsula into the Eastern realms of the Christian Empire in the middle of the seventh century C.E. Christians in general (even the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox who in some cases welcomed the Arab armies as liberators from a century of deprivations visited on them by the Chalcedonians) reacted with what can best be described as incredulity.  Seventh century Christendom operated with a near monolithic mindset that assumed the triumph of the Christian faith. Islam came in this case as an invasion not only of armies, but ideology, offering an alternative religious vision that Christians found difficult to categorize, particularly those Christians in the western reaches of the Empire who were not in the path of the conquering armies. R.W. Southern labels this initial response of Western Christians to the rise of Islam an “ignorance of confined space.”

This is the kind of ignorance of a man in prison who hears rumors of outside events and attempts to give shape to what he hears, with the help of his preconceived ideas.  Western writers before 1100 were in this situation with regard to Islam.  They knew virtually nothing about Islam as a religion. For them, Islam was only one of a large number of enemies threatening Christendom from every direction, and they had no interest in distinguishing the primitive idolatries of Northmen, Slaves, and Magyars from the monotheism of Islam, or the Manichaean heresy from that of Mahomet.[1]

This remained the situation through much of the early part of the Middle Ages which gave Western Christians a creative license to indulge their fantasies about a religion and culture about which they knew next to nothing.  This was not the case in the East where Christians experienced Islam not only as the faith of an invading army, but within a relatively short span of time the dominant faith of an Empire that would subvert the Christendom paradigm and relegate its Christian residents to dhimmi status.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah, Part 1

islam-christianityby John Hubers

Part 1:  Setting the Parameters

This is the first part of a four part series exploring the question “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the same God?” in its historical context among evangelical Christians.  It will be presented as a series on this page. 

From the Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/)
meme    mēm     noun
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means

The Allah Meme

One of the memes that has recently rooted itself deeply in the consciousness of some American Christians, particularly those who come from the more conservative side of the evangelical tradition, is the confident assertion that Muslims worship a different god from the Christian God.  This is more than saying that we have different conceptions of God.  This is a blunt and often combative claim that we are, in fact, talking about two entirely different divine entities.  Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, who heads up the diaconal ministry Samaritan’s Purse, has been most strident in his public statements to this effect reaching back to the time just after 9/11.  He first did so in an address he gave at the dedication of a North Carolina church that was quoted by an NBC Nightly news segment (as well as nearly every news source in the Muslim majority world)  just two months after the 9/11 tragedy.

            The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo- Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it [Islam] is a very evil and wicked   religion.[1]

 Graham is not alone in this perception.  It has, in fact, become a kind of theological maxim among more conservative groups, particularly after 9/11.[2]

I discovered this in a personal way when I was approached about becoming full time pulpit supply at a conservative church in a Chicago suburb during the years I was doing my PhD studies.  I had first been invited to preach a sermon in this church about Christian-Muslim relations that was well received, enough so that the consistory decided to invite me to preach on a full time basis as they carried on a search for a permanent pastor.  But it wasn’t an open invitation. I was first asked to justify the assumption some heard in my sermon that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.  They were correct in what they heard as this has been an assumption of mine  since the onset of my years of missionary service in the Muslim majority world, just as it was the assumption made by every other missionary I have ever known in that part of the world, evangelical or otherwise.  But at this traditional Christian Reformed Church such a belief was considered suspect, perhaps even bordering on heresy.   So before I was given the invitation I was first required to write a paper giving justification to that assumption for the consistory to review.  I must have made a good case, as I got the invitation and it was never mentioned again.

What I discovered in this incident was the weight of this particular meme – strong enough that in certain circles it has become a kind of litmus test for evangelical orthodoxy.   And while it should be said at the outset that there is a legitimate theological discussion to be had around the question posed by this meme – “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God” – the challenge it poses is related less to the way it answers this question than to its operative force as a test of evangelical orthodoxy.  Simply put those who hold it are suspect of those who don’t. That is the nature of a meme – the confidence with which it perpetuates itself as a kind of foundational truism for those who become its proponents. In this case, however, more is at stake than personal opinion as the tenacity with which it is held can have the effect of endangering the sensitive incarnational witness those of us who teach missions are trying to inculcate in our students.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

Who is God? Answers from Christianity and Islam

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This is the third installment of my series on Faith and Families. These weekly videos are generally based on the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday and seek to find ways families can discuss passage, along with providing a family activity that relates to the message. This week we are going off lectionary to explore Christianity and Islam’s view of God.

Who is God?

Christianity and Islam have different, but not opposing, answers. In this video and in the text below, I explore the essence of their answers.

God in Christianity

There is a verse in the New Testament that claims “God is love.” It’s one of only two passages in the New Testament that define God. The other passage states, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Love is how Christianity defines God. For the New Testament, God’s love is universal. As Jesus says, it extends even to those we call our enemies.

God is defined as love in the New Testament, but how does the New Testament define love? If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve heard 1 Corinthians 13. It goes like this:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Who is the ‘we’ in ‘the God we serve’? Yale scholar takes up Christian-Muslim question

275168-Miroslav-VolfMiroslav Volf, founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, is visiting Oklahoma City as guest lecturer for the McGaw Lectures at Oklahoma  Christian University.

OC leaders said the Yale scholar’s presentation tonight, April 12, is free but people were required to request tickets for admittance and all of the tickets have been distributed.

Obviously, there’s widespread interest in Volf’s lecture, likely because his presentation is to be based on his 2011 book “Allah: A Christian Response.” In it, Volf, Yale’s Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology, addresses the question “Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?”

Volf took some time today to answer a few questions on this thought-provoking topic:

Q: Why did you decide to write your book “Allah: A Christian Response”?

A: The occasion for writing the book was a conference we had organized around the question of what binds Muslims and Christians together, if anything binds them together. That conference itself was the result of a very famous letter that 138 Muslim scholars had written addressed primarily to Pope Benedict XVI, but to all the Christians, called “A Common Word.” In this text, they claimed that what binds Muslims and Christians together is a command to love God and to love one’s neighbor. That was kind of a revolutionary document. I was an author of a Christian response with an equal number or even greater number of signatories from the Christian side. A result of that was that I started asking myself, OK, so let’s assume that that’s true, that what binds Muslims and Christians together, and Jews too, is love  of God, love of neighbor –- do we mean the same thing by “love”? Do we mean the same thing by “neighbor”? Who is my neighbor is the famous question from the New Testament. Then finally, do we mean the same thing by “God”? So when I have examined these three questions that I asked myself, I thought … where are some ways the One whom we worship can be said to be the same? That then became the question that I sought to explore — in a sense, to help first clarify what is the truth of the matter from a Christian standpoint and then help in mutual understanding among Muslims and Christians.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSOK

Steve Chalke: Some Muslim teaching is closer to Christ than some churches’

muslimSteve Chalke, pastor and founder of the Oasis charity, has told Christian Today he believes parts of Islamic theology better reflect God’s character than some Christian teaching.

In an interview to coincide with the release of his new book Radical, Chalke explained how he had come to the conclusion “Muslims and Christians worship the same God”.

Within Christianity there are vastly different interpretations of God, Chalke said, citing issues such as human sexuality, women bishops and speaking in tongues on which he disagrees with some other Christians.

“As individuals we all worship different shades of the same God,” he told Christian Today.

“There are Christians who worship a militant, violent God. There are Christians who worship a God who doesn’t want women in leadership. There are Christians who worship a God who says if you are gay you will burn in hell. There are Christians who worship a God who does not believe in global warming.”

He added: “I don’t separate from them even though they have a very different take on God’s character from me.”

He cited the theologian Miroslav Volf, who took a similar line in his book Allah: A Christian Response.

Chalke went on to describe certain elements of Islamic belief such as the theology of ummah or community, which he found “very attractive”.

“I know some emphases in Islamic teaching come closer to the teaching of Christ and the Bible than some teaching in Western churches,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Can Wheaton College survive its never-ending controversy over Muslim and Christian worship?

wheatonWhen Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins stands before a group of her peers next month for their judgment, at stake will be not only Hawkins but the future of evangelicalism.

Or that’s how it can feel these days on the campus of the Illinois college sometimes dubbed “the evangelical Harvard.” Evangelical debate has been intense about whether the hijab-wearing political science professor went too far in saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The debate has raised larger questions: How large is the evangelical tent, and who decides who is included?

There is no official hierarchy for one of the country’s largest faith communities, and the debate over whom can be labeled an evangelical is particularly relevant as presidential candidates clamor for the “evangelical vote.”

This week, Wheaton’s faculty council, which represents the college’s 211 faculty, unanimously voted to recommend the administration withdraw its efforts to fire Hawkins and to end her administrative leave, citing “grave concerns” about the process.

The dispute is splitting those affiliated with the college, the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham and considered one of the standard-bearers of U.S. evangelicalism. Alumni have flooded the college with letters and the evangelical magazine Christianity Today — without picking a side — warned that the issue “threatens to undo” the college.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST