There has been much ado (mainly in certain American Christian circles) since the French Paris Terror attacks about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Before I continue on my blog series on comparative religion, I suppose I should put down up front where I am on that issue. I personally have issue with saying Muslims worship another God because if you posit that they worship another God solely on the fact that they don't have an understanding of the Trinity, then you logically have to say that Jews worshiped another God too. If you go there, it's Marcionism all over again. I just can't go there personally.
Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham. Scientific tests of genetics have concluded that modern Jews and Arabs do have a common ancestor. To me, it is not my place to tell God who is or is not in the "Children of Abraham" club; that is for God and God alone to sort out. Any child of Abraham, no matter how much I may disagree with them about the nature of God, deserves respect.
This is not to say that I engage in indifferentism, or that all religions are all somehow equally valid or on a pathway to God so it does not matter what you believe. I do not hold this at all. I firmly believe in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe in the Incarnation, and that Jesus was fully God and fully man. That having been said, how God deals with all the Children of Abraham is none of my business. All I can be is the icon pointing toward Christ and the revelation of the Cross and Resurrection. God does the saving and forgiving. All I can do is point to the revelation I have been given. It's up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
I could go into a long discourse at this point as to why I believe what I do, but largely my points have already been made for me on this blog here. The author there does it quite eloquently and well from a solid Catholic understanding of theology and history. There are a few minor points in that article I might quibble with, but they are so minor that I feel no need to re-invent the wheel. In coming days, I am sure I will touch on some of the points that article makes, but I am largely in substantive agreement with his line of thinking.
I would only add that I feel that my tact in dealing with our Muslim brothers and sisters is simply more productive in terms of being a good Christian witness. Coming out with guns blazing that someone is going straight to hell for their deeply held religious belief seldom, if ever, is conducive to making friends or sharing of serious faith matters. I find it not in showing of charity, and not in keeping with the model of the Apostle Paul.
In Acts 17, Paul preaches one of his most famous sermons to the Aeropagus,to the altar to the unknown god.
" 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." (ESV)
Note what Paul does here. He does NOT try to tear down the altar and call it a worshiping of another god. He does not start well, "Y'all are going to hell cause you don't believe in Jesus!" What does he do? He compliments them for the faith and finds common ground. He continues to reveal the revelation that God had already started, even within the confines of Greco-Roman paganism. He meets people where they are at in their belief and then proceeds to point them toward Jesus from within their own religious context.
I think that is crucial. Fire and brimstone does not make anyone want to listen to you, regardless of whether or not you are right. Charity, love, and mutual sharing is much more productive to having meaning conversations about religion than condemnation and polemics.
So, that is where I am coming from on the relation of Muslims and Christians. There are profound ideas and theologies that separate us, but I find it not helpful to alienate people before the conversation has even yet begun.