The headlines have been filled in recent days with a big story coming out of Wheaton College. A professor at this prestigious evangelical institution—the alma mater of evangelical notables such as Billy Graham—created quite a stir when she announced that she would be wearing a hijab over the advent season, and also that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”
Contrary to the many news outlets that got this story terribly wrong, it was actually the second statement—that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God”—that she was suspended from Wheaton for.
Many on Wheaton’s campus have come to the defense of the professor (which is worrisome), claiming that her statement in no way contradicts the historic, orthodox position of the church. This has caused many in evangelical circles and beyond to revisit this important question: Is the God of Christianity the god of Islam?
Which brings me to Francis Beckwith. Beckwith, an evangelical-turned-Catholic-during-his-tenure-as-president-of-ETS(!), is a first-rate thinker, and what he says has great influence over many in both evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism.
Just today, Beckwith wrote an article in defense of the Wheaton professor that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, which also happens to be the official position of the Roman Catholic Church.
In his argument, Beckwith uses two analogies to make his point. I have greatly simplified them below:
- Since two different names, such as Cashus Clay and Muhammad Ali, can refer to the same man, “Yahweh” and “Allah” can refer to the same god.
- There can be a question over whether or not a man is a father. One person can believe that a man is a father with illegitimate children, and another can believe the same man has no children. Whether or not “fathering” is a quality of the man, both persons can know and speak of the same man. It follows, then, that even though Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God, they can still speak of and worship Yahweh—albeit by a different name and with a different understanding of his attributes.
Again, read his article if these don’t make sense out of context.
But here’s the deal. Those are fundamentally philosophical syllogisms and analogies. This is my (and many other’s) concern with people who try to do systematic theology without biblical theology and exegesis.
Let’s try a biblical syllogism instead.
Jesus said in John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
Muslims neither have the Spirit nor know the truth about who God is (Muslims vehemently deny the triune nature of the Godhead revealed in biblical Christianity), and who his Son is (Muslims equally strongly deny that God has a Son).
Therefore, Muslims do not worship (and here it is important that we are defining “worship” biblically) the God whom Jesus spoke of, the God of Christianity.
Let’s dust off those Bibles before making sweeping claims. Otherwise, we might find ourselves saying the exact opposite thing that our Lord says.