Friday, December 18, 2015

Do they worship the same God with an as it pertains to America's Founding Political Theology?

Let us begin by quoting the militant unitarian John Adams, 2nd President of the United States and one of America's key Founders:
"It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world."

-- John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.
Check out John Fea's post on the controversy. Bottom line, Wheaton, an evangelical Christian college, is formally disciplining a professor for suggesting they do. Check out Francis Beckwith's outstanding post which Fea links to. And also the Washington Post article by Miroslav Volf.

My beef with Wheaton isn't the notion that Christians and Muslims worship different gods; I think evangelicals or other kinds of Christians are entitled in good faith to hold that position. But as Volf, Beckwith and others demonstrate, one could also be a devout orthodox Christian and believe they do worship the same God, the God of Abraham.

Wheaton should respect that intellectual diversity. That's my issue with them. The "key Founders" like John Adams were on the side of believing Jews, Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God. Hence the above quotation by John Adams.

There is one issue I have with some of the orthodox Christians who believe Christians and Muslims worship different gods that gets discussed in the linked articles. I don't like specially plead hypocritical arguments and assertions and this is one of them: That Jews and Christians worship the same God, Muslims a different one.

Almost all of the arguments that can be made on behalf of the case that Christians and Muslims worship different gods can also be used to prove Christians and Jews worship different gods.

For instance, orthodox Christians worship a Triune God, Muslims a unitary One. Jews worship a unitary God as well. The Muslim's God doesn't have an only begotten Son (Jesus). Well Jews reject Jesus as God's only begotten Son and that He is Messiah.

They either all worship the same God or different gods. You can't have it both ways. Dr. Gregg Frazer, by the way is consistent here. He not only believes they all worship different gods, but that "Christians" who reject the Trinity worship a different God as well.

Likewise one of the articles intimates, wrongly in my opinion, that orthodox Christians don't dare suggest that Jews and Christians worship different gods. I think plenty still do. And in the past, when Antisemitism was more acceptable, I'm sure many notable theologians endorsed the notion that since rejecting Jesus as Messiah, Jews no longer worship the same God Christians do. 

25 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...


Wheaton should respect that intellectual diversity.


The question for religious colleges is are they first religious institutions, or are they "intellectual" ones. A look at most Catholic colleges, say Notre Dame and Georgetown, indicates they have chosen the latter, but many Catholic critics ask, why bother if you're to be no different from the secular ones.


That's my issue with them. The "key Founders" like John Adams were on the side of believing Jews, Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God. Hence the above quotation by John Adams.

John Adams was a theological dilettante and a bit of a ninny, whose own religious beliefs were idiosyncratic. His opinions are not probative.

Indeed, my problem is with "intellectuals" who--often for their own ideological purposes--try to exploit the unitarian controversy to suggest that certain "key" founders weren't Christians. When it suits their multicultural purpose, they slag on the religious types like the Wheatons for their theological opinion that Islam's God is not the Christian one [FTR, I disagree], and expect them to employ secular standards.

This is a category error. Wheaton, at least, has clearly decided it's foremost a religious institution, and therefore the First Amendment applies not in the non-establishment of religion but in its free exercise.

What Wheaton does in this matter is nobody's damn business.

[Indeed Gregg Frazer is the one who improperly mixes his religious opinion into what should be a secular endeavor, the study of history. To any non-Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Martian, the unitarians were discernibly Christian. Same God, same Bible. Yet I have no problem noting that certain Christians argued unitarianism isn't Christianity atall. But that's all inside baseball, and the secular observer isn't bound by the conservatives' standards.]

Anonymous said...

"What Wheaton does in this matter is nobody's damn business."

OOC, is what Yale does with Erika Christakis also none of our business? I ask because I very much agree with you about Wheaton. But I confess I am more than a little surprised to hear you say that whatever legal reasons a private college hire or fire someone is none yours or my bee's wax. I'd have thought you'd have very, very strong opinions on what secular colleges and universities should be doing/hiring/firing, even private ones.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

Anonymous said...
"What Wheaton does in this matter is nobody's damn business."

OOC, is what Yale does with Erika Christakis also none of our business?


Yale was founded as a Christian college, you know, yes, Brother Anonymous? Then over the years it became anything but

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_and_Man_at_Yale

I'd have thought you'd have very, very strong opinions on what secular colleges and universities should be doing/hiring/firing, even private ones.

Dag, I thought I made that quite clear. I don't give a spit about "secular" colleges. I just hope that Wheaton holds the line and doesn't become Notre Dame.

Dr. Mark Noll, author of

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scandal_of_the_Evangelical_Mind

left Wheaton for Notre Dame. Let's discuss. ;-)

As for the Christakis matter, that has become the norm in the secular world. I'm appalled, but again, it's a private institution so it's none of my business either.

Thx for your very astute comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response! Most appreciated.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cheers. Look out below.

Court Rules Christian School Has to Hire Married Gay Man

Tom Van Dyke said...

Likewise one of the articles intimates, wrongly in my opinion, that orthodox Christians don't dare suggest that Jews and Christians worship different gods. I think plenty still do. And in the past, when Antisemitism was more acceptable, I'm sure many notable theologians endorsed the notion that since rejecting Jesus as Messiah, Jews no longer worship the same God Christians do.

And as a rhetorical note, you get it right in your second attempt,"worship the same God,' AS OPPOSED TO THE FIRST, "Jews and Christians worship different gods."

In monotheism, "God" is capitalized; in polytheism, "gods" may be uncapitalized with no offense intended or taken.

So let us note here that when those [militant secularists] who are plainly hostile to the Christian faith write "god" instead of "God," offense is clearly intended, and should be taken.

They're not fooling anybody. Geez.


Jonathan Rowe said...

Let's say for the sake of argument the Christian God is the real one, the Muslim god is a different one. How would we write "they worship different gods" when one is God and the other is a false god. If they are both God, then we write "they worship the same God."

Tom Van Dyke said...

To speak of "the Muslim god"

a) makes a judgment--inappropriate for a presumably neutral scholar
b) is insulting to any Muslim who might be reading.

You could do the same with "the Mormon god"--many Christians believe there's a problem there

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/06/geach-on-worshipping-right-god.html

but I think it's unnecessarily provocative, if not blatantly hostile to belittle their God by withholding the capital letter. [Militant atheists pull this stunt all the time.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

When I speak of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Unitarian or Deist "God" I always capitalize the G. The issue is for folks who believe they worship different gods where one (or more, but not all) of them is God.

Then we say they worship different gods. I don't capitalize "gods," plural. Perhaps I should?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Small "g" always implies polytheism to me. If you're lumping monotheistic Gods together, God is more a proper name than a descriptive noun. IOW

The Christian God
the Jewish God
The Muslim God
the Mormon God
the Deist God

are all capital "G" so I don't see why when lumping them together, they all get demoted to a lower-case "g."


I'd say scare quotes probably get the job done--to say they all worship different "Gods" conveys the idea quite effectively, I think.

The Rational Right said...

Maybe its a problem of ambiguity. Isn't "God" a proper noun in the English speaking world used by those who believe? In contrast, isn't "god" a common noun for any supreme being that may or may not exist? Consequently, you can write "they worship different gods." You cannot write, however, "if they are both God," because one is named God and the other is called Allah. But you can write, "they worship the same god" if the proper nouns God and Allah refer to the same being.

Would deity or supreme being work better? I don't know.

The original question, "Do the monotheistic religions worship the same God?" seems to presume the existence of such a being. That provides the means to assess the truth claims contained in their dogmatic theology. But that being, if he exists, is not now showing his hand. So here we are, ever blogging, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.(2Tim 3:7)

Tom Van Dyke said...

The original question, "Do the monotheistic religions worship the same God?" seems to presume the existence of such a being.

I don't think so. To say someone worships Zeus or Mithras or Baal or Satan is not to say they exist. And to use a small "g" for the monotheistic God is both a denial of his existence AND a veiled insult to the believer. To call Allah a "god" is a blatant slap in the face.

The Rational Right said...

@ To say someone worships Zeus or Mithras or Baal or Satan is not to say they exist.

These entities are not part of the monotheistic tradition (referring to the original question). When Christians, Muslims, and Jews debate the original question, regardless of how they answer, THEY assume the existence of a supreme being.


@And to use a small "g" for the monotheistic God is both a denial of his existence AND a veiled insult to the believer. To call Allah a "god" is a blatant slap in the face.

Is "deity" or "supreme being" or "theoretical construct" or "supernatural entity" preferable?



If we aim to ask this question and not assume the existence of a supreme being, should we ask instead, "How are their concepts of a supreme being similar or dissimilar?



jimmiraybob said...

”To call Allah a "god" is a blatant slap in the face.”

But what of calling God Allah?


“The term Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh) is the standard Arabic word for God and is most likely derived from a contraction of the Arabic article al- and ilāh, which means "deity or god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God." There is another theory that traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alāhā.

“Today's Arabic speakers from all religious backgrounds (Muslims, Christians and Jews) use the word Allah to mean God. In pre-Islamic Arabia, pagan Meccans used Allah as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity.”

Source: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44453-should-christians-use-the-word-allah

Tom Van Dyke said...

Anonymous jimmiraybob said...
”To call Allah a "god" is a blatant slap in the face.”

But what of calling God Allah?


“The term Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh) is the standard Arabic word for God and is most likely derived from a contraction of the Arabic article al- and ilāh, which means "deity or god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God." There is another theory that traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alāhā.

“Today's Arabic speakers from all religious backgrounds (Muslims, Christians and Jews) use the word Allah to mean God. In pre-Islamic Arabia, pagan Meccans used Allah as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity.”


Did Malaysia make it illegal to equate Allah with the Christian god/God?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger The Rational Right said...
@TVD "To say someone worships Zeus or Mithras or Baal or Satan is not to say they exist."

RR: These entities are not part of the monotheistic tradition (referring to the original question). When Christians, Muslims, and Jews debate the original question, regardless of how they answer, THEY assume the existence of a supreme being.


Then capitalize Supreme Being. I don't see the problem here. Don't be a dick. If anybody merits capital letters, it's the Supreme Being.

love, tom

jimmiraybob said...

"Did Malaysia make it illegal to equate Allah with the Christian god/God?"

If so, too bad. They should have had a wall of separation to protect the right of conscience of all citizens. And some people say our old white flawed forefathers don't matter any more.

The Rational Right said...

Tom writes: RR: These entities are not part of the monotheistic tradition (referring to the original question). When Christians, Muslims, and Jews debate the original question, regardless of how they answer, THEY assume the existence of a supreme being.

Then capitalize Supreme Being. I don't see the problem here. Don't be a dick. If anybody merits capital letters, it's the Supreme Being.

Lee writes: These entities are not part of the monotheistic tradition (referring to the original question). When Christians, Muslims, and Jews debate the original question, regardless of how they answer, THEY assume the existence of a Supreme Being.

There. I capitalized it for you. And to provide additional proof that I am not some trolling tubesteak but a sincere inquirer into truth, I will even help make your argument.

If I were Tom, I would say "Yes Lee, God is a proper noun used by Christian believers. But it refers to a unique object that does not belong to any class of objects. In contrast, Zeus or Mithras or Baal are proper names for members of the class of pagan deities from different polytheistic cultures. Because the God of the monotheistic religions is not a member of any class you should capitalize whatever name you used, regardless of whether or not you include yourself as a worshiper."

How's that?





The Rational Right said...

Now that were are friends again, a link to a Christian who thinks differently about it . . .

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-same-god/




Tom Van Dyke said...

If I were Tom, I would say "Yes Lee, God is a proper noun used by Christian believers. But it refers to a unique object that does not belong to any class of objects. In contrast, Zeus or Mithras or Baal are proper names for members of the class of pagan deities from different polytheistic cultures. Because the God of the monotheistic religions is not a member of any class you should capitalize whatever name you used, regardless of whether or not you include yourself as a worshiper."

How's that?


If you were Tom, Tom would be much smarter and less of a dick. ;-)

Jews and Christians DO use "God" as the name for God, though the Muslims don't. Still, I think calling Allah a "god" seems like an intentional insult, and again carries an overtone of polytheism and/or paganism that clouds instead of clarifies.

Jonathan Rowe said...

-- Jews and Christians DO use "God" as the name for God, though the Muslims don't. --

"Allah" just means God in Arabic. Arabic Christians, if I'm not mistaken call God "Allah."

The Rational Right said...

Maybe the question of God vs. god is too important to be left to theologians and bloggers. Perhaps we should appeal to the ultimate authority . . .

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html

Tom Van Dyke said...

Or cleverly dodge the issue, and avoid using the plural when discussing monotheism. "Christians and Muslims each worship a different God."

Brian Tubbs said...

If I, as a pastor, may weigh in....

What makes this discussion so difficult is of course you have layers of meaning with terms like "God" and all kinds of emotion thrown into the mix.

One can make a very strong argument, based on science and philosophy, that a Supreme Being exists. The universe hasn't always been here, and whatever begins to exist must have a cause....ergo, Nature (i.e., the universe) has (by definition) a supernatural cause. That cause can be understood as superior to time, space, matter, and energy. That gives you a timeless (eternal), spaceless Being capable of creating matter and energy. It's quite reasonable to describe that entity as "God." That's basic monotheism, and there's considerable support for that belief without having to resort to specific religious texts (the Bible, Koran, etc, etc). In this very philosophical sense, one can say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

However...when you get into the Bible and the Koran (or Quran), you see that the Supreme Being (God or Allah) described is very different. As but one example, the Christian God is a Trinitarian God. Not so with Allah. And thus, in Christian theology, Jesus is God. Not so with the Muslim faith which sees Jesus as a mere prophet. These aren't minor differences. They are significant, and they speak to the very identity of God.

From a theological standpoint then, Professor Hawkins is wrong. The Muslim Allah and the God of the Bible are NOT the same. And Wheaton, as Tom has said, has every right to define itself first and foremost as a religious institution and NOT allow teachings that contradict its core theological principles.

Happy New Year to everyone.