Patheos.com has proven itself again and again to be a breeding ground for those most opposed to the Biblical faith. Its self-professed “Christian” contributors think that they are protecting the honorable name of Christianity from loony fundies and rabid Calvinists, when they only succeed in calmly propagating theological falsehoods and irrational claims. A week ago, Benjamin L. Corey gave us another article demonstrating this, called “Yes, Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God (But Here’s What That Means & Doesn’t)”. In this post I will respond to his article. My response will be in regular text while content from his article will be in bold and quotation marks.
What inspired his article were comments made by Professor Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor of Wheaton College in Illinois, which is a Christian college. He quotes Hawkins as saying,
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
If Hawkins wants to be considered an evangelical Christian, there are numerous problems with her statement:
(1) The only way an individual can stand in religious solidarity with another is by sharing the same religion. Standing in religious solidarity is either meaningless or explicitly states that she shares a common religion with Muslims, which would make her Muslim and not Christian.
(2) Hawkins claims that her religious identification with Muslims is not due to sharing a common Islamic faith, but sharing a common book. Her statement stems from the fact that the Qur’an often refers to Jews and Christians as the “people of the book”, asserting that Jews and Christians, like Muslims now, had once received divine revelation. However, Muslims and Christians do not actually share a common book. Muslims reject the Bible because they believe that, although it was once divine revelation, it has since been corrupted and the original lost. Likewise, Christians reject that the Qur’an is divine revelation. Hawkins, by making this statement, demonstrates that she submits to Islamic assumptions that Christians explicitly reject, namely, that Christianity and Islam share a sacred text and a common divine origin. Since Hawkins implicitly accepts these premises, she affirms the truth of the Islamic faith. If she denies this logic, then her statement is meaningless. Hence, her religious solidarity with Muslims is either meaningless or an acceptance of Islam.
(3) The pope is not a religious authority to evangelical Christians. One of the theological battle cries of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Scriptura, that scripture alone is our ultimate authority. This tenet of protestantism was supported in opposition to the pope and the Roman corruption of Christianity. The fact that Hawkins quotes the pope as a relevant religious authority demonstrates her disdain for the entire history of protestantism, upon which Wheaton College is still somewhat based.
(4) This 4th point should go without saying. Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. Since this issue comprises the rest of Corey’s article, let’s look at what he has to say.
“For the crime of saying, ‘we worship the same God’ Hawkins was suspended from school. Once news of this broke, the Evangelical Machine™ went into over-drive to celebrate the decision. Bloggers quickly weighed in with approval, and it certainly caught the eye of my brother-from-a-TOTALLY-different-mother, Franklin Graham, who said ‘shame on her!’ for wearing a hijab (as if a head covering is some mortal sin), and continued to say she was ‘absolutely wrong’ that we worshipped the same God.”
The issue is not that she wore a head covering. The issue is that a self-professed Christian professor who teaches at a Christian college made statements proving she is not a Christian. For one, she submits to an Islamic assumption that Islam shares a divine origin with Christianity. As we will see, Corey shares this same assumption with Hawkins and virtually his entire rationale for believing Muslims and Christians serve the same God is based upon this premise.
“Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Is God and Allah one-in-the-same? In the most primitive way, yes. Let me explain:
In ancient times there was a man named Abraham who is revered in three of the world’s great religions. Abraham, of course, is considered the father of the Jewish people as well as Arabs and then Muslims. Essentially, Abraham somewhat founded a religion that went into three different streams: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Here’s the important part: all three of these religions are Abrahamic religions, trying to worship Abraham’s God.”
The most important thing to note about Corey’s assessment is that he tells it from an Islamic perspective and not from a Christian perspective. He presents an Islamic narrative about Islam’s origins, but Christians reject the Islamic narrative in the first place.
What I mean is that, according to Christians, Islam is not an Abrahamic religion. Sure Muslims can claim that Islam can be traced back to Abraham, but Christians deny this. To Christians, Islam is merely a conglomerate of demonic lies. The Qur’an is the production of an author that was ignorant of the Biblical narrative, it absurdly presents stories from Gnostic Gospels as authentic accounts of Jesus’ life, and only serves to justify Muhammad’s megalomaniacal goals as a warlord. Corey, by assuming the truth of Islam’s own narrative about itself, begs the question, and demands that Christians accept a narrative about Islam that only Muslims can believe.
Let me give an analogy. Suppose I wake up tomorrow and decide to make up a religion. I claim to be a prophet of god and that my religion can be traced back to Abraham just like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, even though my religion shares this divine origin with Islam, my religious doctrines contradict Islam. Muhammad is no longer an Arab prophet, but a Chinese philosopher. Tawheed, the oneness of Allah, is no longer true, but instead god is an impersonal duality of good and evil. Oh and by the way, the Qur’an, even though it was once revelation from god, it has since been hopelessly corrupted; that is why the Qur’an is filled with statements affirming Tawheed and countless other doctrines that continuously contradict my religion.
Imagine then, once more, that there were liberal Muslims who claimed that my religion’s god was the same god Muslims worshipped. Even though my religion teaches divine duality and Islam teaches divine oneness and so on, my religion is nevertheless Abrahamic as well, and therefore we share a common origin, even though we have almost no essential doctrinal similarities.
Hopefully you begin to see the picture. Clearly according to an Islamic perspective, my religion shares no common origin with Islam, is not Abrahamic and is an irrelevant counterfeit. To say that Allah is the same as the god of my religion because the two share a common divine origin is to accept my religion’s narrative from the start and ipso facto reject Islam. It becomes all the more ridiculous when liberal “Muslims” demand real Muslims to accept the fact that Allah and this god are the same object yet with different attributes. They are the same object by merit of their common origin with Abraham, but merely described in hopelessly contradictory ways. These liberal Muslims somehow do not realize that Islam denies the truth of this new religion, denies its common divine and Abrahamic origin, and denies that Muslims can simultaneously be Muslim and accept a religious narrative that denies the Islamic faith.
Likewise, Corey demands that Christians, as Christians, accept the idea that Islam shares a common divine and Abrahamic origin with Christianity. In reality, Christians deny that Islam stems from either of these. Instead, Christians affirm that Islam was made up by an otherwise insignificant Arab warlord who was ignorant of Christianity and ignorant of the very scriptures referenced so often in the Qur’an.
Corey’s entire article is predicated upon an assumption that can only be affirmed by those who believe in the Islamic narrative to begin with. But since Christians repudiate this Islamic narrative, we have no theological obligation to affirm Muslims and Christians share the same object of worship, namely, the God of Abraham. To the contrary, Christians, in order to be Christians, reject that Islam can truly be traced back to the biblical Abraham, and therefore deny that the Christian God and the Islamic Allah are the same in any sense. Keep this in mind as we examine more of Corey’s article.
“And this is where we can say all three religions do in fact worship the same God, as all three religions are pointing to, offering worship, and attempting to describe, the same object…Here’s where we’re at: all three religions are offering worship the same object, and that is Abraham’s God– though they might use different terminology…”
Corey assumes that this object that the three religions worship is “the God of Abraham.” However, Corey fails to realize that what Christians call “Abraham” is different from what Muslims call “Abraham”. Not only does Corey equivocate each religion’s deity, but he equivocates what is meant by “Abraham” in order to support the thesis. Not only is Corey’s thesis false but his supporting evidence is also false.
Here is a basic lesson on how words work. Words refer to things. These things that words refer to are called referents. So, when we use the word “dogs”, it refers to things in the world, namely, dogs, and these dogs are the word’s referent. (There are entire philosophical theories on the nature of reference that you can read about here that I cannot address in this post.) When Christians use the word “Abraham” we are referring to the historical figure described to us in the Biblical narrative. When Muslims use the word “Abraham” they are referring to the man described in the Qur’an. When we compare these referents, we discover that they are very different from one another; they are not the same. Therefore, to say that Islam is an “Abrahamic” religion is not the same thing as saying that Christianity is an “Abrahamic” religion, because both religions have a different understanding of who Abraham was. Therefore to say that Islam and Christianity are Abrahamic religions in the same sense is to commit the fallacy of equivocation.
Let’s examine another analogy. What if I claim my made-up religion previously mentioned is Abrahamic just like Islam. But instead, my religion teaches Abraham was an unmarried Japanese woman, not an Arab prophet responsible for building the Kaaba and fathering sons. To say that both religions are “Abrahamic” would be nonsense; this would equivocate two completely different meanings of the same word. Likewise, to say that Christianity and Islam are both “Abrahamic” is an equivocation. The Islamic Abraham, according to Christians, is no more the real Abraham than a Japanese woman is.
Since we cannot even ascribe the same Abraham to both religions, it is beyond outrageous to say that we can ascribe the same deity to both religions. So, here is a summary of what we have learned:
(1) To assert Islam originates from Abraham or genuinely shares a common divine origin with Christianity contradicts Christianity and affirms the truth of Islam. Therefore, Christians, by definition, deny that Islam shares a common origin with Christianity.
(2) The only sense in which we can say that Christians and Muslims strive to worship the same deity is by asserting they all strive to worship “the God of Abraham”. However, Muslims and Christians do not refer to the same Abraham.
(3) Because the Christian notion of who Abraham is and the Muslim notion of who Abraham is is equivocal, to say that Muslims and Christians both worship “the God of Abraham” is likewise equivocal. Therefore, Muslims and Christians do not strive to worship the same object. They do not worship the same God.
Though this is sufficient to refute Corey’s thesis that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I want to respond to some of his other comments.
Corey repeatedly argues that ascribing different attributes to the same object does not mean that they are two different objects. He makes the object “the God of Abraham” whereas Tawheed and the Trinity are mere attributes of this object. Here, Corey considers the Islamic conception of Tawheed and the Christian conception of the Trinity similar to how we would regard hair length. In the same way that I am the same person regardless of whether or not I have short or long hair, “the God of Abraham” is the same object regardless of whether or not he is Tawheed or a Trinity.
However, these are not petty attributes of a higher conception of God. The Islamic conception of God cannot be separated from Tawheed, neither can the Christian conception of God be separated from the Trinity. These are not mere attributes describing a common object, but are mutually exclusive divine characteristics defining the essence of each religion’s conception of God.
Just think with me for a moment. If the Trinity is a mere attribute of the same God Muslims believe in, then that means that Jesus Christ Himself is a mere attribute of a higher conception of God. This means that, according to Corey, Jesus Christ himself is not essential to our Christian understanding of God.
In opposition to Corey, 1 John 5:20 says Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:15 teach that Jesus Christ is the very image and likeness of God. All that it means to be God is found in the person of Christ. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is creator. Jesus is God.
Islam, on the other hand, says the exact opposite. Jesus is not what it means to be God. Jesus is not Lord. Jesus is not the creator. Jesus was merely a prophet.
Christians say that Jesus Christ is God. Muslims say Jesus is not God. Christians and Muslims do not merely ascribe different attributes to the same object, rather, the identity of each group’s object of worship is completely different. Jesus is not a part nor a mere attribute of the God of Abraham, Jesus is the God of Abraham. Since Muslims deny that Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.
I recognize that I still have not dealt with all of Corey’s challenges and claims, like his false claim that there are 40,000 versions of Christianity or that Christians and religious Jews worship the same God. I am happy to deal with these questions later if anyone asks, but for now, I have proven beyond doubt that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. It astounds me that this needs to be explained to some people. Yet here we are. Corey’s blog post proves yet again that theological liberalism, or what Patheos calls “progressive Christianity,” is a mess of disinformation and fallacious argumentation. It is not Christianity at all.