Christian Missions to Muslims and the “Same God” Controversy

33 thoughts on “Christian Missions to Muslims and the “Same God” Controversy”

  1. Thank you for giving a different perspective on this issue, showing how it doesn’t only affect the academic freedom on campus, but Wheaton’s greater mission for Christ and His Kingdom.

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  2. Good point, Pete. In fact Christian missionaries have for a long time worked on the premise that the gods worshipped by other peoples–not only Muslims, but also believers in African religions, Hindus etc.–was in fact the same God of the Bible. That was the whole foundation of the Christian evangel in the 19th and 20th centuries. Missionary practice was grounded theologically on the example of Paul’s discourse at the Areopagus, which set the standard template for missionary-sponsored Bible translation projects (which used older names for God to relate New Testament revelations).

    That evangelicals would now insist that Allah–and presumably other conceptions of deity–in fact relate to an entirely different God is a departure from the long established practice.

    People interested in this point will find Heather Sharkey’s book American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire (2011) of interest, together with Barbara Cooper’s _Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel_. For sub-Saharan Africa my own book _Creative Writing_ is relevant.

    Yours,

    Derek Peterson

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    1. Thank you for the comments, Derek. I bow before your expertise! (Allow me to toot your horn for the benefit of other readers: former director of the Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University and current Professor of History and Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan)

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  3. Peter, I too am employed at Wheaton College. To my mind, this incident simply reflects Evangelicalism’s relentless slide into apostasy. In light of your observations, let me ask a question. Since Mormonism and Islam bear remarkable similarities (both are people of the book, both prophet-led, etc), what if we scratch out the word “Islam” from the Hawkins affair and insert the word “Mormonism.” In fact, Evangelicals hold more in common with Mormons than they do with Islam. Should we apply the same reasons for bridge-building with the Latter Day Saints?

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    1. Hi Keith. Wow, apostasy–have you read the article I linked to by Fesser? He deals directly with your question of Mormonism and how it does not work in the same way. I will copy the relevant paragraphs here (he is Roman Catholic):
      “Mormon conception of deity, then, makes of God something essentially creaturely and finite, something which lacks the absolute metaphysical ultimacy that is definitive of God in Catholic theology and in classical theism more generally. Even Arianism does not do that, despite its grave Trinitarian errors. To be sure, Arianism makes of the second Person of the Trinity a creature, but it does not confuse divinity as such with something creaturely. On the contrary, because it affirms the full divinity and non-creaturely nature of the Father, it mistakenly supposes that it must deny the full divinity of the Son. It gets the notion of divinity as such right, and merely applies it in a mistaken way. Mormons, by contrast, get divinity as such fundamentally wrong. Hence their usage of “God” is arguably merely verbally similar to that of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, et al. They can plausibly be held not really to be referring to the same thing as the latter, and thus not worshipping the same God as the latter.

      Now, say what you will about Islam, it does not make of God something essentially creaturely. That God is absolutely metaphysically ultimate, is that from which all else derives, that which not only does not have but could not in principle have had a cause of his own, etc. is something Muslim theology understands clearly. Hence from a Christian point of view Muslims clearly must be regarded as like Jews and Arians rather than like Mormons. They are in error about the Trinity, but not in error about divinity as such.”

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      1. That could be, Keith. According to my friend Derek above, though, missionaries for several centuries would work with common ground in any conception of God, including presumably the Mormon’s, without making charges of apostasy. 20th century American evangelicalism is fortunately not the fount of ALL Christian wisdom.

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      2. Having been involved in the Mormon-Evangelical dialogue for many years now, the paragraph detailing the LDS view of God is not as nuanced as it needs to be. Mormon theologians, such as Bob Millet, would take issue with some of the description.
        That said, it seems to me simply the case that Muslims, Christians, and Jews share a monotheistic understanding of a transcendent God and link this God to divine revelation given to Abraham. But they do not all agree that God’s definitive self-disclosure comes to us in Jesus of Nazreth as the incarnate second person of the Trinity (though, of course, Muslims do affirm Jesus was the penultimate prophet, but deny that Jesus died on the cross).
        Interestingly, orthodox Mormon theology (not popularized versions) teaches that we are saved by the atoning grace of God made possible by the death of Jesus and that Jesus is the Son of God, though not ontologically the same God as the father and Spirit as affirmed by the Nicene Creed.
        The most interesting question is this: If the Wheaton professor had said that Christians and Jews worship the same God, would that have been uncontested?

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      3. Thanks for the comment, Dennis! I remember many years ago when you were still at Wheaton asking you about the concept of Christophonies. I know next to nothing about Mormonism, so your comments are very welcome and interesting. I had an inkling that Feser’s characterization may have been a bit harsh but hadn’t pursued it.

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  4. Well said. I’ve spent my entire life in evangelicalism, although more on the pietist/holiness side of things. Even so, I’ve had a hard time seeing Hawkins’ statement as controversial. In fact, I was more surprised by the fact that there were evangelicals who disagreed with what she said. I guess I was an apostate and didn’t know it.

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  5. Hey Peter,

    Two comments and a question:

    1) Feser is with one ‘s’ (not relevant, but I regularly read his blog so the double ‘ss’ threw me off. 🙂 )

    2) If you liked Feser’s post, I would recommend reading Bill Vallicella’s response to Feser: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2016/01/edward-feser-on-christians-muslims-and-the-reference-of-god.html

    3) Throughout this whole thing I’ve been wondering what do Muslim’s think of being told that, despite their best intentions to worship Allah without Jesus and explicit doctrinal statements that Allah does not include Jesus, they actually *do* worship Jesus; they just have a deficient conception of who God is. That doesn’t seem like something that would open up avenues for missions. What do you think?

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    1. Thanks, Ryan! Boy, that’s embarrassing–I’ve fixed the typo in Feser’s name. Also, I’m no missionary or missiologist, but your 3rd point strikes me as still better than being told you’re worshiping a completely false God. I think the hardest thing either way, though, would be learning the truth about the Quran. I’ll take a look at that response to Feser, too.

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      1. I’m pretty sure that Muslims believe that Jesus was a true prophet, but not the Son of God. I don’t think they would have as much an issue as Ryan is asserting.

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      2. Peter, is my charge of apostasy reckless? Considering where Dr. Hawkins held her recent press conferences, and the affectionate commendation of the infamous activist standing behind her, one must wonder just a bit.

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      3. I realize I mistakenly directed my response to Erik, when I think I meant Keith. Re-reading Erik’s comment, I think I’d say that Muslims would object to the idea that they “worship” Jesus, but I agree with his larger point.

        I think that most evangelicals on both sides of this debate agree that there are both similarities and distinctive differences between the God worshiped by Muslims and the Triune God of Christianity. I think the real problems revealed in this situation have more to do with politics and fear of the “other”, than theology. Theologically, we are agreeing, but we start from different places. Some feel the need to start by pointing out the differences in the conception of God and diety of Jesus. I think that to outsiders, and particularly to Muslims who hear our internal debate, this sounds like an attack and at best puts us in a mode to debate the nature of God. I don’t think that most people are won over in debates where they feel attacked.

        I’d rather start the way that this article does, emphasizing the commonalities and areas of agreement. I think that Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of people to hear His Gospel, and it is not wrong for missionaries or college professors to use those commonalities or shared understandings of God, as a bridge to sharing the better news, the ultimate Good News of Christ.

        In the end, I don’t think most of the commentators I’ve heard on different sides are really that far apart. What seems to separate us is more about politics and societal issues than truly theological ones. I’d hope that we might start to seek common ground as Christians as well. This debate has been very public. Are we showing love of Christ to those watching us from the outside? We need to be more charitable to each other. Some of this firestorm would have been lessened, if both sides had more charity toward the other. If we really are the body of Christ, we should start acting like it, rather than eyeing each other with suspicion, or assuming the worst about our fellow believers. I’ll admit that I am guilty of that, even if only in my own heart.

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  6. Steve,

    I don’t follow. Muslim’s affirm Jesus as a prophet, but they do not worship him. They deny worshipping him because the only one to be worshipped is Allah. To say that they worship the same God as Christians is to say that they actually do worship Jesus, they just don’t know it. You don’t think they would have a problem being told they are actually worshipping Jesus when they explicitly say they are not? Maybe it’s just me. I have a pet peeve about people telling me what I actually think even when I explicitly tell them the opposite.

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    1. Hi Ryan,

      I think we may be talking past each other, and it’s probably my fault. From what I understand, Muslims believe that Christians and Jews worship the same God as them, but that we are mistaken about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I don’t think it is offensive to accept their claim, as I understand it, that we in one sense worship the same God, as a starting place of a dialogue. It’s like how Paul started with the altar to the unknown God. That wasn’t the end of the conversation, though. He ended his sermon with the resurrection, which was foolishness to most Greeks, so most of them called him crazy and left. However, some wanted to keep talking and some were converted.

      I respect your desire, and any Muslims’ desire to emphasize the differences between Christianity and Islam. However, I don’t think that is the best way to engage in relationships and dialogue. The Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of people to hear the Gospel. It seems to me that some of the points of connection between Islam and Christianity are one way that the Holy Spirit has prepared Muslims to hear the Good News. At least, I don’t begrudge missionaries and other believers the right to start there.

      I don’t think that anyone is saying that the Muslim conception of God is exactly the same as the Christian’s, or that it is acceptable to God for a Muslim to worship her conception of God, because it is close to ours. I am saying that it is a place of contact and mutual respect that can open a door to them hearing an undistorted Gospel and encountering the real Jesus.

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    2. Ryan, in your responses to me, you both put words in my mouth and in Muslim mouths and then claim to be offended for Muslims, because I said they worship Jesus, which I never said. It is my understanding that Muslims claim that we worship the same God, but that we are misled, so it seems like a red herring to claim that I am being somehow insensitive to begin a conversation at that place, like Jesus did with the woman at the well. I don’t think that means that we ignore differences or say that it doesn’t matter that they deny Jesus divinity. It does mean that we don’t need to be tearing each other apart over a way of doing evangelism that dates back to Paul, if not Jesus.

      I do have respect, though, for you and other fellow Christians who worry that comments taken out of context, or made in a haphazard way, might seem to diminish the distinctive claims of Christ. That is an important and welcome correction to those that might go too far in emphasizing the similarities and miss the point of the unique message of the Gospel and the revelation of God in Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Or for people who might think that there is no real difference in the worship of a person who converts from Islam to Christianity, or from any religion or lack of faith to faith in Christ. There is no bigger difference or change that can happen to a person, and we shouldn’t act like it is just another choice among related options.

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      1. Steve,

        You’re right. We are talking past each other. You seem to think I’m saying something I’m not. I’m not trying to defend the differences between Christianity and Islam. I’m not accusing anyone of anything. My point was about being honest about the practical implications of what necessarily follows from holding the position that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Namely, it means that the Christian has to believe that the Muslim has a deficient conception of God (note that the last quote in Peter’s post says this). I asked if Peter thought this would be insulting to Muslims and freely admitted in my response to you that 1) I would be insulted by it (being a pet peeve of mine), but 2) I don’t know what Muslim’s would think and I want to know what they think. Does that clear things up?

        One additional note: the example of Acts 17 is not analogous (I think) to Christianity and Islam. In Acts 17 there is an idol to an unknown God, which Paul fills in. Paul doesn’t take Zeus or Apollo and tell them that it’s actually the Christian God. He doesn’t take any of the other idols which had particular characteristics, stories, attributes and find common ground with particular beliefs the Greeks had about those gods. Instead he starts with an idol that was set up for a god that had no characteristics, no story, no known attributes. This probably isn’t a big deal, but I see Acts 17 come up often so I did want to say something about it.

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      2. Your explanation was helpful. I think the way you described how it requires the Christian to consider Muslim’s view of God deficient is, from what I’ve read and heard, exactly what many Muslims believe about Christians. However, like Christians, I am sure that there are many different traditions and personalities among Muslims and some might be upset as you suggested and some might find a place for common ground.

        You are right that Acts 17 isn’t a perfect comparison. I think that Jesus at the well has some of the aspects that are missing, though not all. I brought up Acts 17, because I think that Paul’s speech disarms the critique of those who claim that Christians using the phrase “the same God” believe that there are no differences, and that it doesn’t matter whether you worship Allah or Jesus, because they’re the same. Paul does start with a connection, but he finishes with the Gospel, including the resurrection, which specifically led many Greeks to think he was insane. He found a connection, provided by the Holy Spirit I’d argue, but he didn’t sacrifice the Gospel along the way.

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  7. There has been a great deal of heat from both sides of the current debate, with misunderstandings abounding all around. Dr. Hawkins’ comments are by no means as inflammatory as some have made them out to be, and it’s a shame that the controversy has obscured the valuable point at the center of her effort: Christians should be concerned about the mistreatment of nonChristians.

    However, Dr. Rick Brown, Frontiers, and Frontier Ventures may not be the best witnesses to call to demonstrate someone’s evangelical bona fides. All have been separately investigated by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Assemblies of God, and the Presbyterian Church in America in the last several years for promoting syncretistic “Muslim Idiom Translations” of the Bible which omit key theological concepts such as the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Jesus. Wycliffe Bible Translators invited the World Evangelical Alliance to review the teachings which their employee Dr. Brown was promoting, and the WEA agreed with the EPC, AoG, and PCA that some of his published articles compromised Christian truth and faithful missionary work.

    A summary article on the topic and Brown’s involvement: http://www.equip.org/article/the-son-of-god-and-muslim-idiom-translations/

    Full text of the WEA Report about Wycliffe: http://www.worldea.org/images/wimg/files/2013_0429-Final%20Report%20of%20the%20WEA%20Independent%20Bible%20Translation%20Review%20Panel.pdf

    PCA Report: http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/scim01_2012.pdf

    EPC Statment concerning Bible translation in Muslim cultures: http://www.epc.org/file/main-menu/ministries/world-outreach/other-documents/Contextualization-of-the-Gospel-in-Muslim-Cultures.pdf

    A news clipping about the AoG concern about this issue, and their satisfaction that Wycliffe was withdrawing from the objectionable path some of its associates were following: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2013/june/assemblies-of-god-wycliffe-resolve-bible-dispute/?mobile=false

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    1. Thank you so much for this response; being largely ignorant of missionary efforts to Muslims, I was hoping to get push back on the examples I had used. Your comments and references will surely be helpful to others as they think through this. I knew of the PCA controversy and almost included it specifically, but instead just referred at the end to the fact that “there are some missions organizations and many churches that would vehemently deny the ‘same God’ claims cited above.” As for demonstrating “evangelical bona fides” I would say that is at the heart of this controversy–she had already gone through the process of establishing those bona fides according to Wheaton standards (maybe not PCA standards) and been awarded tenure. This quick, rash action by the administration seems misfit to the issue, and also seems to violate standard tenure revocation procedures. Lastly, the more conservative denominations you cite are not at all fully representative of Wheaton College, where faculty and even trustees have always included PCUSA, Episcopalians, Mennonites, and many others. This denominational diversity is one of the real distinctives and blessings of Wheaton. (Student denominations are even broader, with Catholic students admitted, as well.) So, the gatekeeping of who fits in at Wheaton and who does not allows for more latitude than PCA, for instance. With this post I was merely demonstrating that it is not as open and shut a case in the evangelical world as one might suppose (and I do personally have a hard time calling into question the evangelical bona fides of any Christian missionary in a Muslim nation, but I’m Anglican and am used to a wider tent).

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      1. Your point is well taken that Wheaton’s tent is broader than the PCA’s tent. Also, at least based on publicly available information, Dr. Hawkins’ alleged violation of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith ought to have been demonstrated more rigorously than it has been so far, before pursuing punitive measures such as suspension, de-tenuring, and dismissal. It does seem that her beliefs are receiving an unusual level of scrutiny compared to those of other notables who are or have been associated with Wheaton.

        My intent was to sound a note of caution that the witnesses you were calling have been a cause of controversy on matters related to the current discussion. Readers can consider what Dr. Brown (for instance) has to say but should be aware of the existence of a substantial body of scholarship challenging his views, and not just invective from kneejerk xenophobes who just want to “do sumthin about them furriners” and haven’t thought carefully about the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. In brief, anyone being informed that Dr. Brown has made an argument worth answering, should also be informed that he has indeed been answered. He is one of many voices engaging these questions in the academy, not the definitive expert.

        Some of Brown’s related beliefs would give many Christians pause, such as the notion that, just as the early Church contained both Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, so too the Kingdom of God today contains both Christian and Muslim followers of Jesus. (http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/28_2_PDFs/IJFM_28_2-BrownPt2.pdf) In the paper linked here and others like it, Brown argues that Christianity is just a Western institution through which Westerners are accustomed to interact with God, and people in other parts of the world may have their own different but equally valid way. This sounds more syncretistic than any thing I have heard Dr. Hawkins say but does help contextualize the concerns and questions that arise when unqualified parallels are drawn between Islam and Christianity.

        I agree with your conclusion that the “same God” issue is not an open and shut case either way. Indeed, the PCA committee tasked to comment on the topic counseled caution with saying either “yes” or “no,” and urged charity on the matter:

        ‘All Christians should exercise humility and forbearance in discussing complex issues of culture and language, keeping in mind that none of these divine titles [e.g. either God or Allah, etc.] derive from the name which God revealed to his covenant people during his mighty work of deliverance from Egypt, the name which appears over 6,500 times in the Old Testament: “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD [Hebrew Yahweh]. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [Hebrew el shaddai], but by my name the LORD [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them.'”‘ (internal page 2263 of the report found here: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/AD-INTERIM-Rept-Minority-Rept-for-web-site.pdf)

        “Do they worship the same God?” is fine for starting a discussion on the points of contact and dissimilarity between Islamic and Christian theology. But it’s not a great frame for actually answering the underlying issue, in part because the meaning of “same” is at least contested as the meaning of “God.”

        All of this seems tangential to the social issue Dr. Hawkins was trying to raise in the first place. Whether or not Muslims (or Hindus, or Mormons, or animistic tribesmen, or Wiccans) worship “the same God” as Christians, we as Christians are called to fight injustice wherever we find it, no matter the sort of person on whom it’s being perpetrated.

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  8. Well-written post. However, this is at least the third time Dr. Hawkins has been asked to clarify her commitment to Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. She clearly has had difficulty adhering to the standards that Wheaton upholds and has even refused to discuss her beliefs with the administration. I’m thinking that her beliefs do not align with the Statement of Faith and Dr. Hawkins should pursue employment elsewhere.

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    1. Doug, according to the article that I saw, those other circumstances were related to whether she was a Marxist and the fact that she was in Chicago on the same day as the Gay Pride parade. What do those things have to do with the Statement of Faith? I don’t remember anywhere a statement of faith that addressed Marxism vs. Capitalism, or one that says you cannot be near sinners. In fact, Jesus ate with sinners (a Biblical euphemism for prostitutes), so by that standard he was closer to identifying with that than she was.

      All that is to say that Wheaton has reviewed her commitment to the Statement of Faith three times and each time decided to keep her, not to mention the fact that they chose to give her tenure! You are right that it is clear that they have had problems with some of her ideas and behavior in the past, but political views are not part of the Statement of Faith, but should be part of the academic freedom that characterizes a learning institution like Wheaton, unless the school is deciding to expand its Statement of Faith to include political issues, as if being Christian means you must belong to one party or another.

      That said it doesn’t explain why Professor Hawkins chose to make a theological argument to support a political point. Likewise it doesn’t explain why the college chose to put her on leave for a statement they privately called “probably innocuous”. It is sad to me that it has become so contentious. I feel like there is more common ground theologically than people are making it seem, on both sides.

      Politically and socially, our country as a whole, and the American Christians as part of that culture and society, are divided over what is the right thing to do about terrorism, refugees, religious freedom, etc. However, the Great Commission and Jesus command to love our enemies as ourselves should be the church’s first priority, in my opinion.

      As this article points out, this issue is not as one-sided as some suggest and it has an impact on the way that those who choose to risk their lives to bring the Gospel to the Muslim world, so we should be careful how strident we are in making our own points of view known, especially if the only reason we really care is to score political points, by getting rid of a Marxist, liberal, possible homosexual sympathizer fired.

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  9. Professor Walhout, I read your blog post and mr. Feser’s blog post. It is very well written I just have a strong sense of discord in my soul when I read both of these blog posts. It has to do with the idea that, “They are in error about the Trinity, but not in error about divinity as such.” The idea that you and Mr. Feser are establishing some common ground for Islam and Christianity in that they hold a common belief of the divinity of God in some sense of the word. And then you go on to discuss how evangelical groups use this common ground to witness.
    Professor Walhout, this grieves me deeply. I entreat you with a different view that Islam and Christianity have no common ground when it comes to their divinity or even how Muslims and Christians view those divinities. That Allah is nothing like Yaweh. And that the faith that Abraham had was never known by any muslim (or jew that was not part of the remnant). Please bear with my sentence structure and flow of thought. I am not very good at writing and I hope I don’t offend you by how I am laying out my argument. I imagine that most of what I am saying you already know (and I am sure you know much more than I will ever know seeing as you are a professor at wheaton), I just need to write everything out so I can get through the whole flow of my argument. So here we go,
    Abraham knew God intimately, and Abraham’s faith is the same faith that we Christians have in the new covenant. please see the following scripture:
    Galations 3:6 says, “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’” and then Galations 3:9 says, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” And Romans 4:16 says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”
    So that means, we as new covenant Christians have the same faith as Abraham did in the old covenant because Abraham knew the Trinitarian God of the bible in the Old Testament. Keeping this in mind, Jesus says in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” This means Abraham believed in Jesus because Jesus is God and therefore Jesus was around before Abraham existed.
    Jesus also says in John 8:19, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” So Muslims or Jews (that weren’t the remnant) could not know “the Father” because they did not know the true God which was Jesus. Abraham knew God, and Jesus is God. And Jesus is nothing like the idols the Jews followed. And Jesus is nothing like Allah.
    Here is a quote from the Qu’ran, Surah 4:117, “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.”
    So the Qu’ran completely contradicts the way the Christian God is portrayed in the old and new testament. The Qu’ran’s picture of God is the antithesis of the Christian God.
    Isaiah speaking about idols in Isaiah 41:29 says, “Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.” And in Isaiah 45:5, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me”
    Allah is so radically different from the God of Abraham, they bear no resemblance to each other. In fact Allah is just a delusion, an empty wind. Allah doesn’t exist so Allah cannot share the attribute of divinity, there is no other God. Again, I know you know this, I am just trying to get though my whole argument. I wrote this to you not to start an argument, but because I felt burdened about your blog. I have muslim friends and I want them desperately to find Christ. We have open discussions about Allah and Christ and I have felt that I have gained the most territory when the differences of Islam and Christianity were highlighted. My muslim friend Saad told me that he doesn’t know if he will be saved or not but he believes that he just has to try hard to do right things for Allah. This anectdote and from starting to read the Qu’ran myself, I have found Islam to be a very dark religion and Allah to be a scary task master that doen’t bear any resemblance to the sacrificially gracious and patient charater of my Lord and Savior. This huge difference just makes the light of Christ that much brighter. And I think for this reason, highlighting the differences is the more loving and helpful thing to do. Thank you for listening to me. God Bless you Professor Walhout.

    -Your brother in Christ
    Isaac Evans
    Chat Conversation End

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  10. Professor Walhout, I read your blog post and mr. Feser’s blog post. It is very well written I just have a strong sense of discord in my soul when I read both of these blog posts. It has to do with the idea that, “They are in error about the Trinity, but not in error about divinity as such.” The idea that you and Mr. Feser are establishing some common ground for Islam and Christianity in that they hold a common belief of the divinity of God in some sense of the word. And then you go on to discuss how evangelical groups use this common ground to witness.
    Professor Walhout, this grieves me deeply. I entreat you with a different view that Islam and Christianity have no common ground when it comes to their divinity or even how Muslims and Christians view those divinities. That Allah is nothing like Yaweh. And that the faith that Abraham had was never known by any muslim (or jew that was not part of the remnant). Please bear with my sentence structure and flow of thought. I am not very good at writing and I hope I don’t offend you by how I am laying out my argument. I imagine that most of what I am saying you already know (and I am sure you know much more than I will ever know seeing as you are a professor at wheaton), I just need to write everything out so I can get through the whole flow of my argument. So here we go,
    Abraham knew God intimately, and Abraham’s faith is the same faith that we Christians have in the new covenant. please see the following scripture:
    Galations 3:6 says, “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’” and then Galations 3:9 says, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” And Romans 4:16 says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”
    So that means, we as new covenant Christians have the same faith as Abraham did in the old covenant because Abraham knew the Trinitarian God of the bible in the Old Testament. Keeping this in mind, Jesus says in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” This means Abraham believed in Jesus because Jesus is God and therefore Jesus was around before Abraham existed.
    Jesus also says in John 8:19, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” So Muslims or Jews (that weren’t the remnant) could not know “the Father” because they did not know the true God which was Jesus. Abraham knew God, and Jesus is God. And Jesus is nothing like the idols the Jews followed. And Jesus is nothing like Allah.
    Here is a quote from the Qu’ran, Surah 4:117, “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.”
    So the Qu’ran completely contradicts the way the Christian God is portrayed in the old and new testament. The Qu’ran’s picture of God is the antithesis of the Christian God.
    Isaiah speaking about idols in Isaiah 41:29 says, “Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.” And in Isaiah 45:5, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me”
    Allah is so radically different from the God of Abraham, they bear no resemblance to each other. In fact Allah is just a delusion, an empty wind. Allah doesn’t exist so Allah cannot share the attribute of divinity, there is no other God. Again, I know you know this, I am just trying to get though my whole argument. I wrote this to you not to start an argument, but because I felt burdened about your blog. I have muslim friends and I want them desperately to find Christ. We have open discussions about Allah and Christ and I have felt that I have gained the most territory when the differences of Islam and Christianity were highlighted. My muslim friend Saad told me that he doesn’t know if he will be saved or not but he believes that he just has to try hard to do right things for Allah. This anectdote and from starting to read the Qu’ran myself, I have found Islam to be a very dark religion and Allah to be a scary task master that doen’t bear any resemblance to the sacrificially gracious and patient charater of my Lord and Savior. This huge difference just makes the light of Christ that much brighter. And I think for this reason, highlighting the differences is the more loving and helpful thing to do. Thank you for listening to me. God Bless you Professor Walhout.

    -Your brother in Christ, Isaac Evans

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    1. Isaac, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply and for your Christian humility. I hear all you say and agree with most of it. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I think that whether the differences between Allah and the Christian God are “important” enough and “sufficiently crucial” enough to not even call them in ANY sense the “same God” may depend on the context and the individuals involved. Maybe this reflects the beautiful ability of the Gospel to be translated to all languages and all cultures and all situations. Perhaps on a case-by-case basis, witnessing to Muslims may begin with the differences right away, but for some other situations a conversation might start with the similarities. I still think there is a small overlap in the concept of God, including the notion of one God, creator of the whole universe but not created, who cares to some extent about humanity, and who guided Abraham and Ishmael (Genesis 21:20 “God was with the boy [Ishmael] as he grew up”). I think Muslims believe that to be true about Allah, so I go to Acts 17:23 where Paul tells them “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.” I know there are other interpretations of this, and some don’t think it applies to Allah. I think there is some truth to it, though, and that some missionaries have been successful in their conversion efforts from starting with some common ground. I think the only reason that success happens is because there is some truth to it, but I also hear what you are saying and realize speaking that word of commonality may be harmful and unwise. I think at this point it’s best for me to leave it to the missionaries and people like you who are in constant contact with Muslims where there are real implications for how you decide to proceed. I only hoped for this post to shine light on a different perspective that folks maybe had not considered. Thank you for reading and engaging! May the Triune God bless you and your work.

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