about my column on whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God
(the column appears just a few lines down)
Thanks to those who raised questions about the column.
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify and to provide additional information.
Thanks to those who wrote praising the column, too! All I can say to you is "Thanks."
My critics' words are in red. My words are in blue.
1. The column
2. Exchange with Ron
3. Exchange with Derek
4. Exchange with Rick
5. Exchange with Rich
6. Comment on Darrell L Bock's Kansas City Star essay 2003 June 21
March 6, 2002 Column
Last year Franklin Graham and others began saying that the God of Jews and Muslims is not the same God worshipped by Christians. Several readers have tried to convince me Graham is right. Here are three reasons which suggest Graham may be mistaken.
1. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all teach there is one God, the Creator. If there is only one God, how could the Christian God be a God other than the God of the Jews or the Muslims?
2. While most Christians believe Jesus is God, not all do. Jews and Muslims do not believe any human can be God. Certainly Jews, Muslims and Christians understand God in different ways, and Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Baptists and Quakers also understand God differently. But different conceptions of God does not mean there are different Gods.
3. All three religions are ``Abrahamic''--they all claim Abraham as a primary prophet of faith. (Muslims also include Jesus as one of the five great prophets.)
Christians may wish to examine their scriptures on this point. Many passages indicate that the God of Abraham (identified with the Jewish tradition) is the God of Christians, including Acts 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; look especially at Hebrews 11:8-16. The New Testament seems to teach that the God seen by Christians in Jesus is the very same God worshipped by Abraham.
It may be unseemly for Christians to tell Muslims what Muslims believe or to describe the nature of the Jewish faith for Jews. We should not assume similarities out of discomfort with diversity, but neither should we invent differences where there are none. It is our duty to our own faiths and to the faiths of others to be fair and accurate as we seek to describe how various traditions deal with matters truly beyond full human comprehension.
2. EXCHANGES WITH RON
Mr. (Rev.) Barnet, I respectfully disagree with your logic on the above subject. I drive a Prizm, my neighbor drives a Lincoln, and my daughter drives a BMW. It seems to me that your logic would indicate that we all drive the same vehicle since technically a car is a car. Also your statement about unseemly Christians is in my opinion flawed. "It may be unseemly for Christians to tell Muslims......" Is it not also unseemly in the reverse??? The Christian definition of God is not accepted by either the Muslim or the Jew. Their concept is one God and only one - indivisible. And as you are aware the Christian believes in the triune nature of God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who are distinct but one in essence. The Muslim will be very emphatic that Allah is the only god and Mohammed is his messenger. As you also know the Jew does not accept the Christian concept. Since all three differ in their concept, are the three equally unseemly?? How can you be so unseemly as to tell us three what we believe! How can you be soo unseemly as to designate Franklin Graham and Christians in general of being pesumptuous? Why not a global discredit????
I don't think you understood. If there is only one car in the universe, then your neighbor, your daughter, and yourself must drive the same car. How many gods do you believe there are? If you believe there are several, then my argument fails. If you believe there is only one, then it seems that Jews, Muslims and Christians must be worshipping the same God, even though they understand him in different ways. I agree with you that it is unseemly for Muslims to tell Christians what Christians believe. I have not often heard Muslims do so, however. It seems to be more of a problem with Christians. I can't remember ever hearing a Jewish person do this. You may believe what you wish. I celebrate your right to do so. But I draw you attention to the scriptures I have cited. Do you believe in the Bible? If so, then it would seem to me that you have a problem if you do not worship the God of Abraham. It is my experience that very few Christians are presumptuous to tell others what the others believe. Franklin Graham, however, is an exception, alas. I have given three reasons why I doubt him on the point we have been discussing.
Thanks for reading -- and for writing! Let me know if my comments help.
RON REPLIED AND MY RESPONSES ARE EMBEDDED:
First let me apologize for not referring to you as Rev. Barnet in my first reply.
No apology needed. But thanks anyway. I answer to Vern, Mr, Dr, Professor, Dad, and Hey You.
I think that we can go round and round and not arrive at the meeting of the minds. I respectfully still disagree. I think your argument is an exercise in technicalities. Your position would be such that anyone who worships a god has to be worshiping the same god?
Only if you say there is only one God, the Creator. If there is only one God, and someone else worships the Creator as well, then even if you call Him by different names (God, Yahweh, Allah) in different languages and even if you conceive of him differently, you still are worshipping the same God if there is only one Creator.
Technically, we all drive a (by definition) car even though we express it differently.
No! We drive different cars.
By any stretch of the imagination they can not be considered to be the same. Again, Islam does not accept the Christian God as theirs. You stated that the Muslims and the Jews do not worship Jesus as God, but Christians DO worship Jesus as God as does Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Baptists. I can’t comment on Quakers.
But Orthodox Christians do not view the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son. Does that mean they worship a different God? Catholics believe that the vicar of Christ is the Pope, who serves as God's regent on earth. Protestants do not. Does that mean they worship different Gods?
I would agree that Jews do not normally aggressively attempt to expand their faith; however, I think even you would agree that this could not be said for the Muslims. In fact, don’t they even attempt to aggressively push their views within their own general grouping? Case in point the executions and beatings recently seen on TV.
Surely you don't accept the exceptions on the media as the norm. History provides many examples of the protection Jews and Christians have received from Muslims. Without a doubt Christians have been far more violent and vigorous in their conversion attempts. Actually the stuff I have seen on TV are not attempts to convert but arises from political disputes.
I don’t think that Christians are attempting to define what Jews or Muslims believe. Christians are defining what they believe and how it differs from the others.
God can’t be three different things if He is the One True God. If we disagree on the definition then something must be in error.
Are you denying the Trinity? Normative Christianity teaches that God is three different "things" in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I also believe that the scriptures in total would suggest only one definition of God not three.
I do not believe God can be defined. He is Infinite. Words are too fragile and limiting. He may be named (in many ways) but He cannot be defined. To define is to limit.
Thank you for your response and DO NOT interoperate any of my comments as disrespectful to you.
And please do not interpret my comments as disrespectful of you. I appreciate your willingness to discuss this important issue. Let me know if any of my comments make any sense!
With every good wish,
Good to hear from you again.
I do hope our argument is more substantial than semantic, but I'm not yet sure. I'll do my best to respond point by point. Then you can give me your opinion if we are hung up on terms or on differences about reality.
1. I stated: “God can’t be three different things if He is the One True God. If we disagree on the definition then something must be in error.”
You said: “Are you denying the Trinity? Normative Christianity teaches that God is three different "things" in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Vern, Did you miss the fact that we were discussing the Jewish, Islamic, and the Christian concept of the one God - not the three natures of the God of Christianity?
RESPONSE: No, I remember we are discussing the three faiths. But I am challenging your rule that God can't be three different things. You seem to accept the mystery of the Trinity, which teaches God is three persons. This seems to violate your rule which you used to show that the God of the three faiths could not be different. I'm just pointing out a logical problem with your argument, turning your own rule against your own position.
2. You stated: “I do not believe God can be defined. He is Infinite. Words are too fragile and limiting. He may be named (in many ways) but He cannot be defined. To define is to limit.”
I believe that the Bible gives insight into the nature of God and the Koran defines Allah in very definite terms. You are correct in saying that God is infinite and it is agreed, we can’t define Him in TOTAL, but we can know who he is and what his nature is and what is expected of us.
RESPONSE: Islam does provide 99 names for God: The most merciful, compassionate, etc. But these "names" are metaphorical descriptions, not definitions of God. Islam, like Judaism is also clear in its classical prohibition of images. All three faiths agree that we can in some way know who God is, something about God's nature, and what is expected of us. That is one of the characteristics of the monotheistic faiths: a moral/legal accent.
3. You stated: “But Orthodox Christians do not view the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son. Does that mean they worship a different God?”
NO! I’m not sure how you can come to that. From their statement of faith: And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets. This does not indicate a different God. The Orthodox Christian has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and follows the ideals and beliefs of both the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. The Triune God is their God.
RESPONSE: Here I refer to the famous "filioque" controversy, which is one reason given for the split between the Latin and the Greek churches. It is interesting to note that of late, some Western Christians are returning to the original Nicene creed and the Eastern formulation, instead of the double procession added in Spain around the 7th Century and generally accepted by Western Christians by the 11th.
You stated: “Catholics believe that the vicar of Christ is the Pope, who serves as God's regent on earth. Protestants do not. Does that mean they worship different Gods? “
NO! This is a doctrinal difference between the Roman Catholic church and most other Christians, including the Orthodox Catholic church. It does not however, imply that we are worshiping any other God than the God of the Old and New Testament – the Triune God. Under the umbrella of Christianity there can be many organizational differences and also in the approach to worship. There are basic truths that must be accepted(?), but there is a freedom of expression inherent in other things.
But, as in the situation with three different and opposing definitions of the One God and His representative – somebody is mistaken! Christianity teaches that there is the possibility of error creeping into the faith and that each must be weary and on guard. Even Paul admonished the followers to try what he said by the scriptures to verify that they were correct. Each one is responsible for his eternal soul
RESPONSE: What I don't understand, Ron, is how you can say that the different doctrinal differences or understandings of God do not mean that Christians worship different Gods, but that the different doctrinal positions of Muslims do mean that Muslims worship a different God.
If you say the difference regarding the nature of Jesus is so great that the Christians and Muslims must worship a different God, then you have the problem of New Testament passages I cited which clearly indicate that the God of the Christians is the same as the God of the Jews, who also reject the notion of the divinity of Christ.
4. It would seem to me that there has to be some point where we make an intelligent decision. The questions to me would be: Is God so whimsical that He would have revealed himself in an infinite number of ways; can I hang any concept on Him and it would be correct?
RESPONSE: Well, I'm not sure "whimsical" is a term I would use, but if God created the giraffe, it sure looks like some whimsy is part of it. Look, Ron, you appear to me to be overreaching here. Remember theology is not engineering; it is more like poetry. Three-year old Sue can describe a zebra as a white animal with black stripes; three-year old Tom may call it a black animal with white stripes; I may call it an otherwise invisible animal with black and white stripes. We can all be referring to the same beast. Many ordinary objects and concepts can be defined in different ways. Think of a checkerboard. Think how differently Republicans describe Democrats and vice versa, not to mention the various independents. What is the Constitution? People dispute what it is and says and will do so until we have a tyranny. To think that there is one and only one correct way of describing the Infinite to me approaches either thoughtlessness or blasphemy.
Further, it makes sense to me that an Infinite God would reveal Himself in a myriad of ways. Why should He confine himself to one way? I reveal myself very differently to my beloved than I do to my readers or my students or my acquaintances or my senators. Should not God speak in the languages, the metaphors, the images of the people to whom He reveals himself? The Bible speaks of God as a father, a shepherd, living water, a lamb, etc, etc. Where does your rule come from that God can be described in only one way?
5. If I am a Satan worshiper and I believe that he is the one true god, would that make him the same God as the God of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths?
RESPONSE: Ah, Satan is a very difficult problem for the monotheistic religions because on one hand they wish to say God created everything, and on the other they don't want God to be responsible for evil. I cannot get into the problems of theodicy here, but you have opened a very profound area of concern.
But for the present, I would need to know if your "Satan" is the Creator of the universe before I could answer.
6. I think I am beginning to see (not agree) where you are coming from.
7. Since you say that He can’t be defined in any way – only named – then He is anything to anyone who cares to put a name on Him?
RESPONSE: I've agreed that God can be poetically described. Certainly God and gods are thought of many different ways, but here we are limiting ourselves to the three monotheistic religions which all assert there is only one God, the Creator, the God worshipped by Abraham.
I look forward to the next round of discussion.
I am enjoying our discussion. I must admit, you have made look at things from a little different perspective and required some more in-depth thought.
I believe that you may be correct; we seem to be differing semantically as well as conceptually!
Correct me if you think that I am wrong – and I know that you will!!!
It is your contention that those who state that they believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, and the Creator of the universe, are worshiping the same god – regardless of who and/or what they believe him to be. Therefore, if I state that I believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, and the Creator of the universe and I assign to him all the attributes of Satan, then I am worshiping the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well. Under that condition, you are correct; we are all worshiping the same god, but only in an academic sense.
RESPONSE: This may be so hypothetically, but Judaism, Christianity, and Islam understand their God as the beneficent Creator of the universe, not as Satanic. So there is no need to consider the hypothetical situation you propose. Here are six characteristics of the three monotheistic faiths and subsequent developments:1. The classical monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are concerned with historical events and processes. These religions are sometimes called “Hebraic” or eschatological traditions, and some scholars include Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, American Civil Religion, Baha’i, and Marxism in this family because of their similar interest in the social manifestation of the “scared,” that on which our lives depend. Monotheism claims that one single supreme power governs or intervenes in history and human community.Also, with the comment about religion being more poetic than scientific, I don’t see much hope of us reaching any meeting of the minds here. While I admit, scientific may not be totally accurate; however, I do feel that there must be some amount of logic and provability to any affirmation. Otherwise it is just words.
2. Their prophets present understandings of the meaning of history. The Hebraic faiths claim to be monotheistic: one single supreme Power governs or intervenes in history. This God is revealed through historical processes, and especially in singular events of a people (the Passover, the Resurrection, the Hijra, etc). This contrasts sharply with the ancient Egyptians who found importance not in historical events by rather in the permanence, regularity, and order displayed in the realm of nature, and with the Asian religions which locate the sacred through the domain of consciousness.
3. While their neighbors conceived of the gods as natural powers, the Hebrews (with personhood as the highest metaphor for divinity) focused on the interpersonal and the social (including the political) as the realm for divine activity If harmony is a key to the Egyptian view, the Hebraic passion for meaning went to the heart of the profound disharmony between God’s will and thee existing social order. God’s creation is good, and should be enjoyed; evil (sin = missing the mark) must be protested in order that those goods be shared more equally. These traditions seek to understand the nature of the divine through historical events of moral significance.
4. They are sometimes referred to as “religions of the Book” because of the centrality given their Scriptures: the Torah, the Bible, the Qur’an, Das Kapital. There is a tendency toward doctrinal concerns seldom found in non-Hebraic faiths. Because of the strong role of the scriptures, emphasis is often found on mediated rather than immediate revelation (with Zen being a strong contrast).
5. Beginning with the Hebrew notion of a covenant between God and his people, the notion of a human community in special relation to God has been central, while ideas of individuality developed later. The Chosen People, the Church, and the Umma (like the Party and the Khalsa), are all understood as the vehicle through which God’s will (or Justice) is accomplished in history.
6. With Zoroastrianism, the Hebraic traditions can be called “eschatological” because of the emphasis on understanding time moving from the beginning toward an End, often with a final overthrow and destruction of evil in a Last Judgment. Zoroastrianism has had an enormous impact on Hebraic faiths. For example, Satan was reinterpreted to be a cosmic being, a personification of evil, a leader of rebel spirit. The Zoroastrian teaching of bodily resurrection also influenced subsequent religious developments. Its missionary style has sometimes been imitated by the Hebraic religions. The avowedly monotheistic religions are sometimes in the danger of moral self-righteousness and dualistic thought (good is totally separate from evil — a striking contrast to Taoism, for example).
RESPONSE: How do you defend the frequent use of parable by Jesus, and metaphor and poetry throughout the Bible? It seems to me that such poetic devices point to truths that are greater than mere theological formulations. Again, how to you assess the truth or falsity of this statement: "Jesus is the lamb of God." What does that mean? It certainly cannot be literally true, can it? If a theological formulation is so important, why does the Bible speak of God as a father, a shepherd, living water, a lamb, and so forth, when none of these can be true literally? Are these "just words" and if so why would God waste "just words" in sacred text?
My belief is that just because you Say, Claim, Affirm that you worship the One True God, the God of Abraham, and the Creator of the universe does not necessarily make it so. There must be no contradictions between us as to what and who HE really is, if the three faiths do in fact worship same (god) God. We may not know all there is to know about Him, but what we do know should not conflict. He should not be uniquely One God (Koran) and a Triune God (Bible) at the same time. The Koran denounces both Judaism and Christianity as apostate and Islam denounces the Bible as corrupted.
Does it really seem reasonable that the One True God, the God of Abraham, and the Creator of the universe would contradict Himself and denounce His only Son, Jesus? He cannot say one thing in the Bible and contradict it in the Koran - can He??
As to infinite revelation, Yes, He can reveal His True Self in an infinite number of ways: Stars, wonders of nature, and other events of this type. Of course that would not be the complete list. I doubt that revealing in an infinite number of ways can mean revealing an infinite number of traits that are contradictory. Does it make sense that I as a Christian would be required to believe in Jesus for salvation, the Jew can reject Him, and the Islamic can reduce Him to the status of only a Messenger?
RESPONSE: I have no problem with apparently contradictory statements in human language. There are many statements which may be true but their opposites are also true. For example: we are all alike; we are all different.
If we are describing the Infinite, our poor language is bound to be contradictory. The Bible is full of such contradictions. For example, Prov 3:13 says that a wise man is happy, while Eccles 1:18 says wisdom causes grief and sorrow. James 1:13 says God tempts no man while Gen 22:1 says God tempted Abraham. Rom 3:20 and Gal 2:16 say we are justified by faith alone; James 2:20 denies that we are justified by faith without works. It is important to see that what appear as contradictions can be part of a larger truth which can only partly be expressed in discursive language. This is why poetry (and music) are so important.
You still have not dealt with the scriptures I cite: Acts 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; look especially at Hebrews 11:8-16. Would you please tell me how you understand them?
Since you used the Bible to verify a point, I feel that I can avail myself of that privilege also. NKJ version. Matt. 3:17 …”this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” John 5:22, 23 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him Koran Sura 005.075 “ The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!” Messenger is much less than the Son of God.
As an aside, since Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world and Islam refutes that vigorously also claiming that He is only a messenger, doesn’t that make Jesus a liar or crazy person in the eyes of Islam. Is at least one of Islam’s prophets a liar and/or crazy?
I have only read excerpts from the Koran, but I get the feeling that Allah will do what He wants anytime He wants for whatever reason He desires. Is this the justification for the contradiction? Is this the same God as the Christian God that is the same yesterday today and tomorrow? Consistency!
It seems undisputable to me that the Messianic Jew and the Christian worship the same God; however, the non-Messianic Jew from my Christian point of view, is rejecting Messiah. This rejection causes me to wonder if in fact they are truly worshiping the One True God or rejecting Him. On the other hand, I see very little similarity between the God of the Bible and that of the Koran – unless we are reverting to the first paragraph!
Concerning my rejection of the Trinity. Because I reject multiple contradictory definitions of the ONE GOD, it should not follow that I cannot accept the mystery of the Trinity, which, as you know, describes the One God of Christianity. Your application sounds very close to the Islamic misunderstanding of the Trinity, which (Trinity) by the way, Islam considers to be blasphemy. Again, it is the confliction that is the problem!!!
Concerning doctrinal differences. I should define what I mean by doctrinal. Doctrine would be a principle accepted by a body of believers. This is in opposition to Dogma, a truth beyond dispute or a Tenant that implies acceptance and belief. The "filioque" is not a requirement for salvation and not universally accepted as such. However, the Koran, sura 005.075, is a direct contradiction of the Christian dogma of the characteristic of God and that contradiction would seem to be a dogma not doctrine of Islam.
RESPONSE: Ron, please reread our previous discussion about the Trinity. I was responding to your statement that God could not be three different things as your way of arguing that God could not be conceived of differently by the three different faiths.
There are other explanations than the alternative you propose above to whether Jesus is telling the truth about himself or is a liar, but I cannot see how this is directly relevant to our discussion. In my view the passages you provide from the Qur’an also deserve comment that is beyond the scope of the main point of our exchange.
Since this discussion is already pretty complicated, I am not willing to extend it at this time to the question of salvation, which you discuss in your final paragraph above. I would like to keep the discussion to one question: Do Jews, Christian, and Muslims worship the same God? For the three reasons I set forth, I believe they do, although they conceive of God differently. You have yet to produce any material which undermines the three reasons I set forth in the column which originated this friendly exchange. I have tried to respond to your concerns faithfully, and will continue to do so on this subject, but I simply cannot expand the discussion beyond because of the other responsibilities I carry.
Therefore, would you please answer these questions:
1. How many Gods are there? One or more?
2. How many conceptions of God are there?
3. Is the God of Abraham the God of Christians? (See Acts 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; look especially at Hebrews 11:8-16.)
Depending on your answers to these questions, we may be able to find common ground to continue. In any event, I would enjoy hearing from you again.
3. EXCHANGE WITH DEREK
My RESPONSES are embedded in your email.
My name is Derek . . . and I am a follower of Christ. You listed three rebuttals for certain Christian claims that the God of Christianity is different than the God of Judaism or Islam. Please allow me to refute your claims and to present an additional argument.
RESPONSE: Congratulations on your faith.
First, if the religions are all descended from Abraham, how could the Christian God be different? Many lies contain a shred of truth. In fact, most deceptions are based upon truthful origins, but they effectively warp those truths into a shadow of their original self. For instance, we know of the deceptive tale of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and then telling his father the truth. Did the event actually occur? Probably not. It was probable based upon his personality as an honest man. If the story is not true even though it is based upon the character of Washington, is it still a lie? Of course. If a lie is based on a truth, it is still a lie.
RESPONSE: I did not write all religions are descended from Abraham. (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and others make no such claim.) However Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha'i all claim their roots in Abraham. If you believe the Bible, how do you say that Christianity is not an Abrahamic faith when the New TEstament clearly identities the God Christians see in Jesus with the God of Abraham? My column gives many citations from the New Testament. Have you read them? Do you believe the Bible? Even if you do not, can you understand that those who do believe the Bible have the right to claim that their God is the God of Abraham on the basis of the Biblical texts I have cited?
Second, do different conceptions of God mean that there are no different gods, just differing views of one God? Let me give you a comparative example. If a Klu Klux Klansman states that all blacks are good for nothing and should be exterminated, yet another man states that all blacks are the same as any other man, proven by their actions, not the color of their skin, can both conceptions, or opinions of all blacks be true? Or, for an even simpler example, if you call a rock "a rock", and I call the same rock "a squirrel", can we both be correct? If opinions or conceptions directly oppose each other concerning the truth of the focal object, then one of the conceptions must be false if one is true, otherwise both are incorrect. If I say that something is all black and you say that the something is all white, it has to be one or the other or both of us are wrong. To assign an object the characteristics of both black and white, we have made a paradoxical inconsistency in our characterizations.
RESPONSE: I really don't follow your argument. Of course I can call a rock "rock," and a French person can call it "roche," a Spaniard "pena." I see no problem here. I would not even be terribly upset if what you called a "rock" I called a "stone." We could be referring to the same thing. A Christian can call Jesus "the Son of God" and another Christian can call Jesus "the Lamb of God" and I see no contradiction. My son can call me "father," my students can call me "professor," my congressman can call me "citizen." Again, I see no contradiction. Please do not be confused by language. Further, not every statement can be identified as true or false. To give one simple example: THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE. Is the capitalized statement true or false? When we are discussing religious language (which deals with mysteries far deeper than can be captured by the limited instrument of language), it is often more useful to see language as pointing toward a truth rather than a statement of it. Do not confuse the finger pointing toward the moon with the moon. Do not confuse the map with the city it presents. Do not confuse the actor with the character he portrays -- if I look at the movie THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, I can say in the context of the story: "That is Moses." But I can also say "That is Charleton Heston." Both are correct. It is not clear from what you have written that you understand the many layers of reality involved with religious issues.
Thirdly, the Bible firmly states that Jesus considered Himself as an equal to God when He stated, "Before Moses was, I am", and in the statement, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father". By describing Himself as "I am" he was assuming the mantle and description presented to Moses by God as God spoke through the burning bush. When Moses asked for a response if Pharaoh asked Moses who sent him, God told Moses to say, "I am sent you". Jesus assumes the name of God in His statement, thereby assuming equality with God. Any Christian that does not believe that Jesus at least claimed to be God is denying either the accuracy of Jesus’ statement or the Bible. And, if you are denying the accuracy of the Bible, why even believe in Christ at all?
RESPONSE: I don't understand how this point relates to the question whether Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship the same God. It seems simply to affirm that Christians believe Jesus was God. I agree with this.
Finally, it is true that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all monotheistic. However, just because they share one similar characteristic does not mean that they all spring from the same well of truth and it does not imply that they are worshipping the same God. I was born and raised in the same house as my brother, but we do not believe the same things. We even share some of the same characteristics, but we are nowhere close to being identical.
RESPONSE: Exactly. Jews, Muslims, and Christians were all "born in the same house," ie, fathered by Abraham, but they do not believe the same about many things. You have made the point I am making very well.
Using your logic, we should not invent differences where there are none, neither should we assume similarities in an attempt to justify our views. Allow me to present a difference in religions that deals with the most crucial element of this debate: Salvation, Afterlife, How to get to Heaven. The end result defines the pursuit, otherwise the pursuit is in vain. True Christianity states that the only way to Heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ and all other religions state that the way to Heaven is through some other means, then either Christianity is wrong or the other religions are. You can not get to Heaven only through Jesus and through other means, because the "only" supersedes, or cancels out, the "and". An absolute, by its nature, cannot permit an opposing absolute to be true as well. An absolute is true in and of itself. Any addition or deletion to an absolute changes its makeup. Basically, its like math. Two plus two will always equal four. Any other answer is wrong. In similarity, Christianity claims that the only way to Heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. If you claim that is true, but other views are also true, then you are either wrong or you are claiming that Christianity is false. The God of Christianity cannot be the god of Judaism and Islam, because the God of Christianity's claims directly oppose claims of the other faiths. He would be either a liar or a lunatic. And, if either, at the least He would not be worthy of worship.
RESPONSE: I am not arguing whether the Christian view of salvation is correct or superior to the views of Muslims or Christians. I am simply reporting that these three faiths claim the same God. I understand your point is very important to you, but it is a separate issue from what I wrote about.
In conclusion, the most overwhelming evidence I can provide is that I once thought the way you do. I believed that since the religions sprang from the God of Abraham, then we must be worshipping the same God. However, its somewhat like two trees growing next to each other. They may have started from the same sort of seeds, received the same sunlight, and the same amount of water, but one tree is straight, reaching to the sky, while the other has bent down and broken. It took a little looking, but I finally found the tree that was straight.
RESPONSE: I assume you believe there is but one God. If so, then how can Muslims and Jews worship a different God? If they worshipped a different God, then there would have to be more than one God. If there is only one God, then Christians, Jews, and Muslims must understand the nature of God in different ways. Please check the Bible verses I cited and write me again after you have a chance to read them and pray about them.
Thanks for your time,
RESPONSE: You have not convinced me of any error in the column. I hope I have explained why I see things as I do. I appreciate the fervor with which you write and congratulate you on the beauty of your faith. I hope it will be possible for you to see how others might disagree with you, especially on the basis of what appears in the New Testament writings I have cited.
Thank you for reading my column. Let me know if these responses help.
With every good wish,
DEREK REPONDED AND MY REPLIES ARE EMBEDDED
Dear Mr. Barnet,
Please call me Vern.
Thank you for responding so quickly. I appreciate the time it took for you to formulate your responses. I hope to clarify some points. First, I apologize if I quoted you as saying that all religions descended from Abraham. That was a typing error. I neglected to proof my document carefully before sending it to you.
No apologies necessary -- but I appreciate these clarifications!
I certainly do believe that Christianity finds its origins through Abraham. In fact, there would be no Christianity, if it were not for Judaism and the Mosaic Law. I can agree as well that the God of Christianity is the same God of Judaism, the difference comes not in the aspect of God, but in the interpretation of the scriptures. While Jews find their fulfillment with obedience to the Mosaic Law as well as the tradition-based law, Christians find fulfillment of the Law through Jesus Christ. I apologize if this seems like a radical change from my previous e-mail. I simply did not expound in that direction as I didn't feel it was necessary. I know of Abraham's significance in Christianity as well as Judaism and Islam. However, while I agree on the claims of all three to find similar patronage in Abraham, I find fault and dis-unity in the separate faith's perception of God. The unity the faiths share in Abraham cannot overshadow their distinct differences in relation to their separate definitions of the character of God. It's like three stories that start with "It was a dark and stormy night". They may all start the same, but where they end up can be entirely different destinations. In fact, to take that analogy even further, there have been many authors who utilize the same characters. But, just because a book has the same characters, does not mean that the book was written by the same author.
But sometimes one author writes many books. For example, Shakespeare wrote many plays. The similarities among the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qur'an are quite remarkable. This does not mean that they were not produced by many different hands, but it is certainly possible to say that there are more commonalties among them than say with the Bhagavad Gita and the Hwa Yen Sutra. Of course Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are distinct faiths with distinct (if sometimes overlapping) histories. But this does not mean that they worship different Gods. As I point out, all teach that there is but one God. So the only way you can say they worship different Gods is if you believe there is more than one God. Of course they can have different understandings of God, just as the people in the dark around an elephant in the Hindu story you tell below can have different understandings of God. But just as in the story there is but one elephant, so in the faiths we are discussing, there is but one God.
Judaism and Christianity were written by the same author. However, the Jews read the book up to a certain point and remained content with the information they had up to that point. Christians are basing their faith on the entire book. Muslims on the other hand have an entirely different author. Their story may have started the same as the Christian and Jews, but at the point of Abraham a different author took over.
This simply is not true. I would recommend you learn about how the Tanak was composed, how the New Testament was composed and the canon created, the changes brought to what was included in the "Bible" by the Reformation (not the entire book!), and the composition of the Qur'an, which is in the 7th Century AFTER Christ, or more than 2500 AFTER Abraham.
How do I know that? I know that the Muslims have a different author because their author says things and makes laws that are inconsistent with the sayings and laws of the author of the Bible. If the same God wrote the Koran as well as the Bible, wouldn't that God possess the same characteristics, laws, and teachings, and wouldn't the teachings agree with each other?
But how do you know that the version in the Qur'an is not the more correct version? And actually, the Bible nowhere teaches the Trinity. The word never appears in the New Testament. It was a doctrine not widely agreed upon until the 4th Century after Christ. The phrase "Son of man" and "Son of God" and in fact "son" can be understood metaphorically, just as when we say "Jesus is the lamb of God" we don't expect to hear Jesus going "baa-baa." Language can be very confusing, especially as texts go through translations.
On the rock analogy, certainly God has different names. But I was not referring to our perception of God, but to His actual being. If I call a rock a "squirrel", I am classifying the rock with an incorrect definition. A rock is a rock, it can not be a squirrel or a cat or a dog. If Jesus Christ is God, He can not be only a prophet. That characteristic is not available if we have already agreed that He is God. By asserting that Jesus Christ is only a prophet, we are also asserting that He is not God. And, if I state that He is God, and you state that He is not God, one of us must be wrong.
Yes, Muslims consider it "shirk," a terrible sin to place anyone or anything on the same level as God. That is why Jesus -- and Muhammad -- are considered men, not divine. I agree with you that Muslims and Christians differ in their understanding of God. But that does not mean they do not worship the same God. If I point to a squirrel and think it is 1 year old, and you point to a squirrel and say it is two years old, one of us may be right and the other wrong, or we both may be wrong, but that does not mean we are not talking about the same squirrel.
Perhaps you should check your dictionary. Mine defines God as "the creator and ruler of the universe and the source of all moral authority; the supreme being." My second dictionary gives this definition: "A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions." Is is as if you restrict the meaning of "squirrel" to "an agile tree-dwelling rodent with a bushy tail, typically feeding on nuts and seeds found only in the state of Kansas." You simply cannot restrict the use of the one and only "God" to Christians and Jews. He is the same God as the God of the Muslims. If you are now willing to say Jews worship the same God as Christians, even though they do not consider Christ to be God, why are you also not willing to say that Muslims worship the same God?
Another example of miss-classifying would be if you asked me to describe an orange. If I started by saying that an orange is square and red, I would not be describing an orange. Every thing has basic characteristics that define it and separate it. For example, God must have a stance on abortion. If one group of people state that God is pro-abortion and another group of people state that God is anti-abortion, one group must be wrong because God cannot be both for and against something at the same time. The two stances would cancel each other out. The different characteristics that these groups attach to God are based upon their interpretation of what they know about God's character. Because these different opinions are opposing they cannot exist in truth at the sametime or they would cancel each other out. The opinion that is wrong is the opinion that does not fully understand God's character, or bases their understanding of God's character off of limited knowledge.
I don't know anyone who is pro-Abortion. Do you? Maybe you mean people who find abortion in cases where a woman would die if she brought the fetus to full term (or other unfortunate circumstances) to be the lesser of two evils and choose abortion rather than letting her die (or other difficult futures). Are you saying that if you oppose abortion in all cases, for example, and I want my wife to have one because if she brings the baby to full term she will die and leave my other children motherless, that we are worshipping a different God?
Someone once gave me an analogy of God. he said that God was a big elephant in a room with no light. The different religions were people in the room, grasping at what was near them and attempting to describe God with their limited knowledge. One man grasped the trunk and said that God is long, kind of sweaty, and breathes out two nostrils. Another man, grasping the tail, said that no, God was skinny and hairy at the end. I don't believe either man in the above illustration is correct. God is the elephant. If I worship the tail, then I am not worshipping God. I am worshipping just a facet of God or my perception of God. I am worshipping less than God. It's somewhat like worshipping the creation instead of the creator. If I say that God is a man, then I am defining God by my own perceptions, or creating my own God. Likewise, if I worship anything less than the full God, I am not worshipping God, I am worshipping a God of my own creation.
This is a wonderful story from India. The sages tell it to remind us that we are all in the dark. We understand a tiny bit from our limited experience. This is why I like studying world religions. I get to feel more than just the ear. I recommend it to you, as well. God is very large, Infinite. To think that any one of us has the whole deal is terribly arrogant.
I hope I don't sound antagonistic, because that was not my goal. I have prayed and constantly do pray over my faith and I believe that I am worshipping the one, true God. If someone else states that their God is also God, I can not agree unless their God has the same characteristics as the God of the Bible. And, if I allowed that person to go on believing that His God provides another way to Heaven, I would be essentially condemning that man to Hell because Christianity states that the only way to Heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. I like to use the old Christian in a coliseum analogy. A man is in a circular room that has twenty doors and only one door leads to freedom. The other doors lead to instant death. If I knew which door lead to freedom and I did not tell that man the truth, I would be guilty of that man's death.
I admire your concern for others, and hope you do not find my replies to be disrespectful. However, to use your analogy, others have their very good reasons, on which they stake their lives, to choose different doors. Since their life is at stake, you must respect their beliefs as they must respect yours. What a terrible thing it would be if you had been given the wrong information and passed it on to others. Think about your responsibility.
Jesus presents a definition of God that is inconsistent with Judaism and Islam.
I am unaware that Jesus ever attempted to define God. Can you please tell me where I can find this definition?
If I believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then I cannot believe that the God of Christianity is the same God of Judaism and Islam, because neither Judaism nor Islam claim the same. How can the God of Christianity state that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and yet also state in Judaism and Islam that there are other ways to Heaven? He would be guilty of perjury in any court in this country.
I am afraid you are confusing beliefs about the paths to heaven with God. I can believe that New York can be reached by air travel, and you may believe it can be reached by rail. Because we have different ways of getting there does not mean we might not meet in New York.
Well, I'm here if you would like to reply to this e-mail. I do pray constantly and I have read the scriptures that you referenced. I cannot acknowledge that other religions have truth as that acknowledgement would make a liar out of Jesus, who stated "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And why would I worship a liar? Also, I would be guilty of not loving my fellow man if I allowed that man to believe in something that I knew would be sending him straight to hell.
Do you agree when Buddhists say "Act with compassion?" Do you agree with Hindus who work for peace? Do you agree with Sikhs who aid the poor? What do you mean that you "cannot acknowledge that other religions have truth"? How would this make a liar out of Jesus? To me Jesus is the spirit of perfect love. If anyone acts in that spirit, what more could one ask? Why must particular names, words, and images be used by those who have other words, images, and stories that direct them to the same perfect love? Why must you take the words of Jesus out of their historical context and treat them as if they were legal statements instead of words of invitation, great poetry?
Again, thanks for writing back. I really dislike proofreading, so I hope I don't mess up again. I hope God gives you everything that He knows is best for you. He's blessed me more than I could ever ask for.
In my opinion, you have confused the simple question, "Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God?" with interesting material which does not bear on the question. Nothing you have said raises the slightest doubt in my mind about whether the answer to the question is Yes. I have studied religion in school, through travels, and through a ministry of over 30 years. I hope you will find that my opinions are considered, even if you do not agree with them.
Please don't worry about proof-reading -- it only becomes an issue if typos make us misunderstand each other. I appreciate your good spirit and wish many blessings for you.
ADDITIONAL EXCHANGE WITH DEREK
I am sorry that it took so long to respond to your last message. I have had a toothache and, of course, my mind has been otherwise occupied. Hope you and your family are well. Okay, I've taken some time and authored a lengthy reply. I hope you have the time to read this.
RESPONSE: Thank you for your polite and thoughtful letter, and for your good wishes. Many of the issues you raise I have dealt with in detail with others who have written, and I hope you might find those exchanges of interest, located at http://www.cres.org/god -- where this will also find itself.
The biggest difference, that I note, in our views is that you appear to view ultimate truth (as illustrated in the divine) as relative, or dependent upon individual interpretation, while I believe that truth is absolute, that there can be only one true definition of God. Any deviance from the one, true definition of God results in a description of something other than God, a created god. Man's definition or perception of God does not shape God. God is, was, and will be exactly the same. God created man, man did not create God.
RESPONSE: When we talk about the Infinite, all words fail. But assuming that ultimate truth is absolute does nothing to resolve our problem. We may agree that ultimate truth is absolute, but we understand it differently. Suppose there is an ultimate and absolute truth about me. Yet you will understand it very differently than my son will; in fact each friend will have a somewhat different picture of me.
Further, I am curious about what the one true definition of God you would give, and how you explain that other people, just as certain as you, might give different definitions. I refuse to define God because to define is to limit. Relative descriptions, or better, pointers, to the Infinite might be made, but they can come only from our human experience, which utterly fails to comprehend that which is beyond comprehension.
I believe that the Bible is God's autobiography. In the pages of that book lie descriptions of God's rules, His likes and dislikes, and it culminates with a living example of God as a human being. When Jesus stated that anyone who has seen Him has seen the father, He was indicating that His life, words and deeds were a direct description of God. How could I possibly see Jesus' words simply as poetry when they were, in fact, the very utterances of God? To see God, we would need only to see Jesus and observe the way He lived His life. In fact, by describing Jesus' words as merely poetic, aren't we undermining His position as God? Jesus clamed to be God. If He is not acknowledged as God by all, does that make Him any less God? If I see the mayor of Kansas City, and I say, "She is not my mayor", does that make her any less a mayor? In the past, men worshipped bronze idols as gods, but the act of worship does not make a god. I can worship a stick, but that does not make a god of my stick. A schizophrenic can claim to be Napoleon, but that does not make him Napoleon.
RESPONSE: I don't see how this relates to the discussion of whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God.
I am really sorry you have such low esteem for poetry. In my view, poetry, parable, metaphor are far more powerful ways of showing us the truth than creedal statements. Jesus told stories, he used poetry, spoke in metaphor; he did not do theology. But when he is called the "Lamb of God," do I expect to hear him bleat? No, poetry is much better at pointing toward the ineffable than are ordinary words. Now you use the word "father" above, but surely that is a poetic use of the term as applies to God. He did not have Intercourse with my mother, so how can He be my Father? He can be -- poetically. If you confuse the poetry with ordinary language, you may miss the great richness of religious writings.
When we define God, or pick and choose from definitions, we create a definition of God. In essence, we create our own God, instead of submitting to a definition that God has already ascribed to Himself. However, in a relative truth world, there can be no room for fundamentalist thought, because fundamentalists think in terms of absolutes, and absolutes tend to alienate. But under relative truths, don't fundamentalists have a right to their opinions as well? And, if fundamentalists do not believe in relative truth, how can the fundamentalists be correct as well as the relatives?
RESPONSE: Again, I don't see how this relates to our discussion.
If there is no absolute truth, then why do the majority of human beings consider it wrong to kill another human being? If there is no absolute truth, how can we condemn someone who kills someone else? After all, that man's version or perception of truth is just different from the majority's. And what about Jim Jones and the Heaven's Gate cult? Is their perspective of God equal to the Christian or Muslim perspective of God? Was David Koresh really Jesus Christ incarnate simply because he claimed to be and his followers believed him?
RESPONSE: Again, I don't see how this relates to our discussion.
My defense that the gods of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are not the same gods is this: How can the same God say that Jesus is divine and also say that Jesus was not divine? Obviously, with relative truth it would be easy to state that Jesus is divine for Christians and regarded as a prophet to Muslims. But what sort of prophet claims to be God? He would not be too reliable a prophet if He went around spouting lies. But, to one who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, there can be no God other than the God described in the Bible. As to the accuracy of the Bible, I suggest reading "Evidence That Demands A Verdict" by Josh McDowell. That book presents sufficient evidence as to the accuracy of the Bible. And, if the Bible is accurate, no other book that presents a differing view of God can be accurate as Jesus can not be divine and not divine. I am not simply referring to different names attributed to someone, but I am referring to His very nature.
RESPONSE: Since you are using the Bible as your authority, have you consulted the passages I cited in my column, which clearly indicate that the God of the Jews is the God Christians see in Christ? And if it is not necessary for the Jews to believe that Jesus is God to worship the one and only God, then Muslims must also be entitled to worship this one and only God.
If I admit that other faiths have the same right to truth, I would be admitting that Jesus may not be divine, as other faiths claim. And, if I admit that Jesus may not be divine, or that He may not have raised Himself from the dead in three days, I would be acknowledging that my faith is potentially flawed. And, if my faith is potentially flawed, it would be ridiculous for me to continue to pursue such faith as it may be incorrect. But, the truth is that I have complete faith that Jesus is divine and that He was resurrected on the third day. And, as such, no matter how good or plausible another faith might sound, if it does not admit the deity of Christ, it is wrong. That statement is also true of those who call themselves Christians and yet only believe the Bible in partiality. The Bible is not a buffet line where you can choose the truths you want and discard the rest. Regardless of what people believe concerning the cannon of the New Testament, I believe that my God is strong enough to keep it intact for 2000, 3000, or 10000 years. No amount of tampering on the part of man can warp the Bible ideals and truths.
RESPONSE: I am not in the business of telling you your faith is flawed. I am simply presenting reasons why Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, the one and only God, the Creator. How many Gods do you believe in? If you say Muslims worship a different God, then are you saying there are two Gods? This would be unusual for a Christian to say. If there is one and only one God, then you may understand that God as revealed through Jesus, and a Muslim may understand that God, as Jews do, without that particular revelation. All three faiths call the one God the Creator.
Religion attempts to answer the two most soul-searching questions that man has ever contemplated. Why am I here? and Is there life after death? Any two religions that do not possess similar answers to the following questions can not possibly be written by the same God. After all, would you follow a religion that presented you with rules and guidelines for this life, but had no clue as to what happens when you die? If a religion does not have the answers, it is not much of a dispenser of truth. Why would the same God tell the Christians that the way to Heaven is through Jesus, and tell the other religions that the way to Heaven is not through Jesus? If this is the same God, and God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, why does He have such a problem with presenting consistent information regarding life's purpose and the road to the afterlife? Does God present different standards for different religious groups? Does God play favorites? Or, maybe, it's because that there is only one, true God, and all other gods, even those that claim to be the one, true God, are created gods, created by false teachers to mislead men from the ultimate truth. Maybe.
RESPONSE: Look, I'm not in the business of saying what God said. I am in the business of saying what Christians, Jews, and Muslims report God said.
Another milestone difference between Christianity and all other religions is that salvation is gained through faith alone and not through any works of man. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast". Again, on a subject as monumental as where we will spend all of eternity, wouldn't an all powerful God align His teachings within His supposed three separate religions?
RESPONSE: On this point, I really don't see much difference between these faiths. They are all eschatological religions and differ markedly from Asian and primal faiths.
Why is Christianity alone in its teachings that all men are born in sin and damned to hell, but offered salvation as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ? by the way, that Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, and 10:9. Why is Christian's road to salvation so inherently different if it was devised by the same God as the Muslims and the Jews? For that matter, I do not see where Jews would admit that their God is the same as the Muslims or the Christians.
RESPONSE: Again, consult the New Testament passages I cited in my column. That will make it pretty clear.
I do not know if I would call absolutism or exclusivity in religious truth arrogant. Your level of faith dictates your assurity in your religious truth. The greater the faith I have in Jesus' words and the Bible's accuracy, the more assurity I will have that Christianity presents the only real truth. So, am I arrogant if I proclaim that any path other than faith in Jesus Christ will result in hell? Or, do I just have complete faith in the accuracy and truthfulness of Jesus' words?
By the way, my dictionary defines truth as "the act of conforming to a standard or pattern". The three faiths do not conform to each other, therefore there can not be truth in saying that the same God devised all three religions.
RESPONSE: Did I say that the same God devised all three religions? No. I simply said all three religions worship the same God. Of course it is logically possible for the same God to devise three different religions, just as a parent might devise three different diets for children with different nutritional needs. Or it is possible that God created one religion and the other religions were developed by human response to the Infinite, doing the best they could to understand. Or it is possible that there is no God at all and all three religions are fabrications to make sense of human experience. But this is not sticking to our subject.
I look forward to hearing your response. Thanks again for your time, Vern. You are really helping me to hone my faith. I appreciate all you have done.
RESPONSE: You are very kind to write me at such length. Because I am pressed for time right now, I hope you will study the debate on the web page -- and please let me know which of the three arguments I present in the column you disagree with. You have certainly made it clear you disagree, but you have not shown any of the three arguments I presented to be defective.
I am glad if our discussion helps you be clear about your faith and how to express it, and I would welcome additional exchanges with you. Hope that tooth is no longer a problem!
4. EXCHANGE WITH RICK
I would like to bring to your attention an error in your article, you stated that Franklin Graham and others saying the God of the Jews and Muslims is not the same God worshipped by Christians, this is a very misleading statement, for I would atrtest to you that Franklin Graham, worshipps the God of the Jew's. He has stated that the god of Islam is not the God of the Jew's or the Christians. Although the Muslims claim to monotheistic, their god comes from a panthion of 360 gods, with Allah being chosen by Mohammed to be worshipped. The Jesus the Muslims recognize is not the Jesus of the Bible, since the Jesus of the Bible is GOD. Islam recognizes Abraham as the Father of Ishmael, they esteem Ismael, not Isaac the child of promise according to the Bible. No Muslim would say Jesus is GOD, for they believe that God does not beget nor is He Begotten.To qouto you " It is our duty to our faiths and to the faiths of others to be fair and accurateas we seek to describe how various traditions deal with matters truely beyond full human comprehension." I sir would agree, you can base your statements on fact, not opinion.The fact is that Franklin Graham do not mention the God of the Jew's in the same context as the god of Islam. The fact is that no Islamic would ever call Jesus God. I would close with " if you know the truth the truth would set you free.
Franklin Graham quotePreacher Franklin Graham calls Islam 'wicked, violent' On the first day of Ramadan, Franklin Graham's comments last month about the Muslim faith are causing problems for the Bush administration. By Jim Avila NBC NEWS November. 16 - The Bush administration continues to be careful about what it says concerning the religion of Osama bin Laden. However, it turns out that one of Bush's close friends in the American religious establishment has had some very harsh words for the Muslim faith. There is fallout from such remarks made last month by Franklin Graham. FRANKLIN GRAHAM is one of America's most powerful Christian leaders. He delivered the benediction at George W. Bush's inauguration. His father, Billy, counseled a long list of presidents. But now Franklin is in trouble with political friends for comments made recently, calling the entire Islamic religion "wicked, violent and not of the same God." "I don't believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion," said Graham. "When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim." Asked by NBC News to clarify his statement, Graham repeated his charge that Islam, as a whole, is evil. "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn't Lutherans," said Graham. "It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."
Thank you for taking the trouble to write. My information about Franklin Graham comes from an earlier fuss, not the incident which you cite below. You are correct that Muslims would not call Jesus "God." Do you believe the God of the Jewish people is also the God of the Christians? If you do, then you should know that Jews as a people do not agree with Christians that Jesus was God. In this regard, their position is the same as Muslims.
As I understand it, you are correct to mention that in the time of Mohammed there were many gods worshipped. When Muhammad declared there was but one, he got in a whole lot of trouble with the towns people who did not agree with him. Allah had been considered one of the gods, but Muhammad discerned that there could only be one God. The word Allah simply means "God" or "the God." It is etymologically unique, as I understand the Arabic language. That should resolve your concern on this point. The crucial "genealogical" point is not Ishmael but Abraham, claimed as a prophet by all three religions.
If you wish to investigate this further, I recommend your visiting with several of the Muslim Americans who have lived as part of Kansas City for decades about their faith, or perhaps consult an authoritative reference such as you may find in the library. Below is an example of the first paragraphs of an interesting article from the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Religion.
Thank you for reading my column and please let me know if I can be of further help.
God in Islam
Encyclopedia of Religion, God in Islam, Vol.6, p.26
"There is no god other than God." This is the essence of the Muslim profession of faith (shahadah). Pronouncement of the Islamic creed, the Shahadah, is the supreme religious act. Its mere recitation suffices for entry into the "community of the believers." In addition to this affirmation of the existence of God and his unicity, its full form contains an immediate corollary on the mission of the Prophet ("and Muhammad is the messenger of God"), for the Muslim profession of faith would not be valid without reference to the preaching of the Qur'an. Is this preaching not, first of all—essentially and historically—the rejection of polytheism, the destruction of idols, in and by the witness given to the one and unique God, the lord and creator of all that exists?
This witnessing through which the Muslim faith defines itself is both a renewal and an explanation of the mithaq, the pact made by God with the human race in preeternity (surah 7:172), recalled by earlier prophets and validated and ratified by the pre-Islamic monotheistic believers acknowledged in the Qur'an. Abraham, the "friend of God" (4:125), stands out in this context. He is describeds being "just and a prophet" (19:41), "a true believer [hanif], having surrendered himself [muslim] to God" without compromise with the mushrikun, or polytheists, those who associate others with God (3:67).
### RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
I also thank you for your quick response, your information is factual as taken from the encyclopedia, and yes a Jew will not recognize Jesus yet. the difference that I find interesting is that a Jewish person sees the Christian study about the God of Israel in Torah and Old testament writings. Whereas the Muslim's god can't be studied, because he is unknown to man.
MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
Of course none of us can, at least in this life, truly know the fullness of God. However, an extensive literature exists within Islam about God, beginning with the Qur'an, then the Hadith, and the subsequent writings, many of which have inspired thinkers of Christianity. For example, St Thomas Aquinas argued (in distinction with Christian writers before him) that God's nature can be rationally demonstrated. He received this idea through the work of the Muslim theologians like Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes) responding to Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna) who argued that there cannot be a contradiction between faith and reason, a position that has changed the course of Christian theology ever since. It was through the Muslim transmission that Aquinas articulated the famous five arguments for the existence of God. Many other examples could be given since Islam has considered the nature of God perhaps with greater passion than any other of the three Abrahamic faiths, but this alone is enough to explain why I disagree with your view as you express it below. It is also important to note that Muslims accept the Torah and the New Testament, though in their view the Christians have a text faulty in some places.
### RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
Then the key would be the inspiration behind the text, the Bible claiming to be God inspired, in both the Old and New Testament, with the stand point that GOD can be known, this a foreign concept in Islam, for allah can not be personally known by man. So one can only rely on what has been relayed in the various muslim writings. Beyond which the Holy Spirit in the Christian, is the teacher and a revealer of truth leading to that perosnel relationship with God, not standing on the outside looking in.
MY REJOINDER TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
But Muslims believe the Qur'an is the very word of God, revealed by the angel Gabriel, and that Muhammad was his messenger. So God, according to the Muslim view, has told us how to live our lives. You say that Islam is incomplete because Muslims don't have the Holy Spirit; the Muslims might say how incomplete Christianity is because it does not have the Hadith.
Frankly, it looks to me like you are changing the subject. I really don't want to debate the religions. Since you no longer assert that the Muslim God is a different God than the one worshipped by Christians, I take it you have come to agree that Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship the same God, even though they understand him differently. This was the subject of my column about which you originally wrote.
Again, best wishes and blessings.
### RICK'S ANSWER TO MY REJOINDER TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
No I catagorically disgaree that Muslims were worship the same God as Christians worship, they worship a moon god, My God is the God is the God of the Bible who no muslim can worship and still be a muslim.
Where are you getting your information? I know hundreds of Muslims personally. I have traveled in many countries with Muslim populations. I have been to mosques all over the world -- India, Egypt, Washington DC, Kansas City, etc. Muslims no more worship the moon god than you do. Do you actually believe there is a moon god? If so, since Christians believe in only one God, how can you be a Christian? Please, I am happy to have exchanges with you, but you must admit Muslims know more about who they worship than you do.
With best wishes,
### RICK'S REBUTTAL TO MY COMMENT ON RICK'S ANSWER TO MY REJOINDER TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
I would suggest that you do a little digging into who the god of Islam really is. I might suggest Robert Morey "the Islamic Invasion" chapter 4 page 47. You will find complete documentation in his work. I might also suggest Dave Hunt at the Berean Call (the bereancall.org). Of course not many people know these things because they are not taught. Not many mormons realize that Joseph Smith said the moon was inhabited by 12 men dressed like Quakers or that Brigam Young said that men lived on the sun but they did. Truth brings out the error- allah is the pagan moon god of Medina, that Mohammed choose to be the diety, as his vision told him to.One last thing if the god of Islam is the God of the Bible why in the hadith does it say on the last day the muslim will kill the Jew and the Christian?
You have asked me to do a little digging into who the god of Islam really is. The Qur'an speaks repeatedly about God as the Creator of the universe, the merciful, the just, the gracious. On my wall near my door hangs Al Fatihah. I believe I have far more contact, study, experience and thus qualification to affirm that Muslims believe in the Creator as their God than consulting a website. If you choose to believe what you read on a disreputable website over the reports of scholars, my own personal testimony based on decades of study, travel around the world, friendship with people of all faiths, the direct statements of Muslims about who they worship, and the Qur'an, which makes it clear the God to be worshipped is the Creator of the universe, I just don't know what else I can say.
Thanks for telling me where you get your information. I have visited http://www.thebereancall.org/newsletters/oct01.htm and find it to mix truth with falsehood very slickly. Do you worship the Creator of the universe? If you do, you are worshipping the same God as the Muslims worship. I wish you could have been with me this afternoon with Christians, Jews, and Muslims together praying for peace. I am very sorry that there apparently are those who take advantage of others with little experience to spread misinformation about a faith which have been far less violent than Christianity over history. I am very sorry that in a world of uncertainties, fear sometimes becomes more important than love, and ignorance more comfortable than truth. I just don't know where to go from here in our conversation except to wish you the pleasure of getting to know some of the wonderful Muslims in Kansas City yourself so you can learn first hand that you and they worship the same Creator, the one and only God.
With every good wish,
### RICK'S RETORT TO MY RETURN TO RICK'S REBUTTAL TO MY COMMENT ON RICK'S ANSWER TO MY REJOINDER TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
Dear Vern, Sorry my quest for the truth ahs made you a litle tense, I know that the scholarship invested not by a website but by men like Dr Morey, is not only valuable but truth. Do I worship
the creator, Yes I do, but I don't worship a man contrived deity, who contradicts every precept of the bible, which the god of the koran does.You as I will stand before God. and give account, for you to assume lact of scholarship on my part, reveals to me the nature of your heart. Yes, I can agree that there is no reason to contiue this dialogue. But you have been told the truth, and will
be held accountable for it. One last thing, on Augustine, your dates were all messed up since he lived in the 400's and the teaching of mohammed came at a much later time 600 -If
Aughustine looked into the system you are saying he did it was pre- mphammed and He was worshipping the moongod that Mohammed would later make the diety of the 306 gods of the
Know the truth.
I can find no reference in our correspondence to my citation of Augustine (354-430 CE) [of Hippo]. [The other Augustine, of Canterbury, lived died around 604 CE.] I did refer to Aquinas
(1225-74 CE). Can you tell me where in our correspondence I wrote about Augustine? And what did I say? I try to be accurate about dates, and if I have erred, I would like you to point it out so I can correct it.
Our conversation has been about the question, "Do Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship the same God?"
Let's try this one step at a time.
1. You have just responded that you worship the Creator.
2. My next question is, How many Creators are there?
### RICK'S GLOSS ON MY TO MY SCRUTINY OF RICK'S RETORT TO MY RETURN TO RICK'S REBUTTAL TO MY COMMENT ON RICK'S ANSWER TO MY REJOINDER TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE TO RICK'S REPLY TO MY RESPONSE
My sincere apology, it was Aquinas, that you quoted.
Semantics over who is who, is the Creator recognized in islam the same as the creator in the Bible? If so then the muslims do worship the God of the Bible, for it states in Col.1:15-20. Now would any muslim say that Jesus is the creator? When you look at the Character of God described in the Bible, there is a great difference in who HE is than allah. Just in the view of escatology there is a vast difference in the view. I worship the Creator, in the Bible. Who is not the Creator in the koran.
Good, Rick, maybe we are making progress.
I accept your apologies about Aquinas. I try to be careful about what I am writing.
Let me summarize -- and you please tell me where you still have a problem:
1. There is only one God, the Creator of the Universe. Agreed?
2. Jews believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
3. Christians believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
Therefore Jews and Christians must believe in the same God (even though they have different
understandings about God). Agreed?
4. Muslims believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
5. Therefore Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in the same God (even though they have
different understandings about God). Agreed?
Where can you not see the logic or where do you need additional factual information?
### OK FOLKS, I'm RUNNING OUT OF SYNONYMS FOR "REPLY"--
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It totally depends on the nature of that God, my contention to you is that even though they believe in one god it is not the same God, according to the character and nature of that GOD. The Character of YHWH is totally different to allah just because they believe in one God He's not the same. I don't understand how this is so hard to understand given the character of both worshipped. IF they were the same at the time of the writing, the scholarship of the Jews would have recognized it, they did. Both knew they were diametrically opposed. Ford creates cars, GMC creates cars, they are both cars but they are different. you quoted the Hadith, what about in the Hadith where the trees and stones, say there is a Jew hiding behind me come and kill him. How could the same God demand that muslims would kill the Jews.
Rick, let's stay on the subject. Let me ask again, how many Gods do YOU beleive in? One or more than one?
From my point of view, you NOW seem to be saying that there are different Gods. My contention is that Jews, Muslims, and Christians all believe in ONE God, the Creator. They have different UNDERSTANDINGS of the one God. Just because my son calls me Dad, my students call me Professor, my readers call me Columnist does not mean I am different. The car analogy doesn't work because in the monotheistic religions there is only ONE creator, not different manufacturers of the universe.
Some people think George W. Bush is great. Others point to different things he does and says and find him objectionable. This does not mean there are two beings named George W Bush who are president.
Let me ask again -- please tell me where you still have a problem. At what point in this sequence do you disagree?
1. There is only one God, the Creator of the Universe. Agreed?
2. Jews believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
3. Christians believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
4. Therefore Jews and Christians must believe in the same God (even though they have different understandings about God). Agreed?
5. Muslims believe in only one God, the Creator. Agreed?
6. Therefore Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in the same God (even though they have different understandings about God). Agreed?
Where can you not see the logic or where do you need additional factual information?
Continuing best wises,
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Wrong its not the same God sticking to the subject is who that God is the god of the koran is not the God of the Bible. Yes, factual information is necessary. Colossians 1:5 Jesus God of
creation, not to islam. Again you might say not to the Jews either. Revelation chapter 7: 144,000 Jesus loving Jews go out and witness, to the world and a multitude as the sand on the
sea are saved, even those in islam when the confess the GOD of the Bible and turn form the god of the Koran.
Please check out the history of the Islam,even pre-islamic history, to get a broader scope. I think will clear up your confusion, again Dr. Robert Morey's book
Again a study of the character of God (in the Bible) vs the study of the character of allah show the complete differences of the two. This is my point. Somebody is not being truthful about who
their creator is. To believe it does not make it true, It just means you believe it. So you believe that God and allah are the same. I do not. I believe God in the Bible is the Creator. Allah is a
pagan deception. to a muslim, the idea that allah is a person or a spirit is blasphemous because this would
demean the exalted one. But the concept that God is a spirit is one of the cornerstones of the
biblical nature of God as taught by Jesus Christ himself in John 4:24.
Not to be insulting, this is an honest question have you ever studied the Bible and the Character and nature of God?
Have I studied the Bible? Yes, I spent five academic years of graduate school and have a doctorate from a theological school. I have traveled widely. I know many Muslims. I have continued my education by additional experiences. I try to keep up with things because I now teach. I have written for several publications on related subjects. Yes, I believe I know what I am talking about. You have not shown me that you are acquainted with Islam -- you are acquainted what seem to be the prejudicial writings of some who claim to know about Islam.
You have not provided answers to my questions -- how many Gods do you beleive there are? Until you and I can agree on step 1, and then we can try for step 2, I'm not sure we will get very far.
Quite frankly, Rick, I must ask you is there any evidence or argument I could present to you that would change your mind? If there is nothing I can say because your mind is made up, then is the purpose of your writing to get me to change my mind? If so, here's what you'd have to do: Answer each question I have posed previously, Yes or No, 1 through 6. When I can see where we disagree, then I will tell you specifically the proof I will need in order to change my view.
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Well I agree with all of the first 5 questions and do not agree with the 6 . Jews and Christians
and Muslims do nto believe in the same God. I also believe I have an understanding of the
differences in the three systems. But where we don't seem to agree is that experience qualifies
the truth. I rather see truth qualifing the experience. You seem to avoid the aspect of the
charcter and nature of God vs allah there again is a vast difference in the two.
Logically, if you agree with 1-5, you must agree with 6.
#1 says you believe there is only one God. #2 says Muslims believe there is only one God. Therefore you and the Muslims agree there is only one God. If there is only one God, then you and the Muslims must worship the same God.
I am not avoiding the character and nature of God. I insist that Christians and Muslims and Jews understand the character and nature of God differently. But there is only one God they are all talking about; they understand the one God differently. If there were two Gods, then we could say one God is green and the other God is purple. But if there is only one God, then we have to argue about whether the one God is green or if he is purple. We might be able to explain why people have different views of the same God by pointing out that they have different colored glasses when viewing this colorful God.
I hope this helps. Do you see, now?
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No Vern, I don't, and I defer back to my statement about the cars. You said "From my point of view, you NOW seem to be saying that there are different Gods. My contention is that Jews,
Muslims, and Christians all believe in ONE God, the Creator. They have different UNDERSTANDINGS of the one God.
Just because my son calls me Dad, my students call me Professor, my readers call me Columnist does not mean I am different. The car analogy doesn't work because in the
monotheistic religions there is only ONE creator, not different manufacturers of the universe."
You are still the same person under different titles or character traits. God and allah are not the same in that in character and nature they are different. I can believe that I created the world,
that doesn't make it so. Logically if they are the same God then they would show the same character and nature, they don't.
You have stated that I wander from the point my point again is this.
God and allah are not the same.
For if they are then - the god of mormonism is god
gods of the hindus are god
god of the sioux is god
navaho god is god
jehovahs witness god is god.
and many roads lead to him,
1Cor 2:14-16 the things of God are spiritually discerned
Proverbs 14:12, 16:25 there is a way that seems(logically) right to a man
Matt 24: 4-5.
Vern you said you attended a Theological school, do you have a personel relationship with God? If you truly do then you understand that as God is with you, and indwells in you, you can't
logically say that God is allah for allah would never die for you sins, indwell your heart, or call you to be with Him for all eternity. He wouldn't come to earth as a man. or show you mercy. The
koran and the hadith both testify to that fact.
Many shall come in my name, Jesus said.
This dialog really can't on any more, I am sure you are wrong. I will continue to pray that your eyes and heart are open to the truth, as I also continue that muslims world over come to a
knowledge of the truth in GOD, the GOD of the Bible and not the contrived god of mohammed
yes this is narrow minded but narrow is the road that leads to eternal life, broad is the road that leads to destruction. Jesus said I AM the way. so be it
I am sorry you feel you must end the conversation. I have provided logic, cited authorities, presented my personal experience, and suggested opportunites for you to become better acquainted with the Muslim faith. If there is anything more I can do for you in the future, please let me know.
Best wishes to you,
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I have done some further looking into our discussion of God and allah and found again how they are not the same. Definition of terms and words used is a must here. Is allah defined as the God of the Bible? Is Jesus God? Is Allah the creator described in the Bible. Is allah a god of peace, Does his nature and Character line up with God in the Bible. Is the Jesus described by mohammed, the Jesus of the bible. If the verses below describe allah, then can he be the God of the Bible? Is the God of the Bilbe the God of islam, couldn't let it drop
I am returning to you the paragraph above from your email. The other material you sent appears to be from another source, including the quotations and comments on the Qur'an. About that I will simply say: It is easy to find similar verses in the Christian Bible and take them out of context. The Qur'an addressed different historical situations which must be respected for the quotations you site to be properly appreciated.
Regarding your questions in the paragraph above: I don't think people worship definitions; they worship God. Perhaps this is the source of our disagreement. God cannot be defined, though certainly descriptions of God can be offered. The most important identification of God is probably that of Creator. How many Creators do you believe there are? If there is one, and all three faiths worship the one Creator God, then it seems to me that whether one group thinks God is purple and other thinks God lives in heaven and a third group thinks he is hairy -- though they may have different understandings of God, they worship the same God because that's all there is -- one God! A child who says her prayers may not understand the Trinity but may still pray to the one and only God. Instead of quoting from the Qur'an, please look at your own scriptures: Act 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; look especially at Hebrews 11:8-16. The New Testament seems to teach that the God seen by Christians in Jesus is the very same God worshipped by Abraham.
I have pointed out that even within Christianity, there is quite a variation in the understanding of God, but that does not mean there are different Gods, only different understandings of God. If you believe that people must have the same understanding of God (what you call definitions or character) to be worshipping the same God, then are you saying that Allah is a different God? If so, then you must believe there are two Gods, which is a very unusual thing for a Christian to believe.
I'm glad you wrote back, and I do hope what I have said has been helpful. If you write back again, please tell me:
1. Whether you accept Act 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; look especially at Hebrews 11:8-16.
2. How many Gods you think there are.
3. Whether it is possible for people to understand God in different ways: ie, he has been called Father, Shepherd, Living Water, Lamb of God, Rock of Ages, etc etc etc. Is only one way or one set of ways correct?--
4. If there is only one God, how is it possible for Christians and Jews and Muslims to worship different Gods?
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I"m now sorry that I did write back, My source was the koran. you ask questions of me that I have answered, but you fail to respond to my inquirey. In you pantheon on god, my definition would not fit. Experience tells you that you are correct. To me experience is qualified by truth.You don't think people worship definitions, you are.
The way you have help me is to show me, how deception as seen in 2 Thess 2 is now come.You and people like you are described in the Bible especially in the last days.
Praying for you
I guess we're running out of possibilities for establishing common ground for a discussion that will lead either one of us to a better understanding of how the other sees things. This is problem, often, with religious arguments when language is used in so many different ways. I don't know what you mean by "pantheon," for example. It also appears that you contrast "experience" with "truth," while for me the two must be in harmony. I have tried to base this exchange on the Bible which I thought you respected, but I do not find any response to my citations of Act 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; and Hebrews 11:8-16. Perhaps it is ok for you to select the parts of the Bible you prefer, but none of the passages you have cited for me seems to apply to the subject of our discussion.
I appreciate your many efforts to explain how you view things. I hope you appreciate my efforts to present the overwhelming view of Jews, Christians, and Muslims who affirm that all three monotheistic faiths worship the same God, though their conceptions of God may differ.
With best wishes and gratitude for your writing,
And appreciation for your prayers,
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It is totally beyond Belief to me that, you would suggest that I take
the Word of God out of context, but you build your points on a scripture here and a scripture there. Acts 3:13 the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Acts 7:2 The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham. I know the pretext, do you understand the Context. Luke was writing and recording at this time the testimony to the Jewish believers, there were no muslims there, allah was not proclaimed. That is totally out of context. Experience does not qualify the truth. Col1:16 Is Jesus the Creator, is the Creator God, is then Jesus God. Can Islam except that Jesus is God the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I understand your opinion, don't don't agree with it
OK, Rick, maybe we are getting somewhere. If the Jewish people do not have to accept the divinity of Jesus in order to worship the same God as Christians worship, why cannot Muslims, who also do not accept the divinity of Jesus, worship this very same God, and who revere Abraham just as the Jews do?
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Yes we may be getting somewhere. In the bible in the book of Revelation, 144,000 Jews go out as messengers of Jesus Christ, does the koran ever give any testimony of muslims acknowledging Jesus Christ as God and savior.
Rick, I am familiar with Rev 7:4, but what does that have to do with the question we are discussing? Granted, Islam does not teach Jesus is divine. Neither does Judaism. The text you cite is NOT JEWISH--it is CHRISTIAN! You cannot use it as proof that Jews accept Jesus as Savior because -- ask any mainstream Jew -- they do not. That is why so-called "Messianic Jews" are not considered practicing the Jewish faith by the Jewish community.
I repeat: If you believe there is only one God, how could Jews and Christians and Muslims possibly be worshipping different Gods? That would mean there are three Gods, not one; but Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe there is only one God. Do you actually believe the God of the Muslims exists as a separate and distinct Deity? Or do you just think they are mistaken in their view or understanding of the one and only God?
As always, best wishes,
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No I don't believe allah is a god at all.
Well, Rick, I think that ends the argument. I thought we were disputing whether Muslims and Christians worshipped the same God. Earlier--several times--you said Allah was a moon god. Now you tell me Allah is not a god at all. Perhaps you can understand why I have been a bit confused throughout this discussion.
If you don't believe Allah (which means "the God") is a god, then I'm not sure we needed to have this discussion at all. It is sort of like disputing whether the "Windy City" and "Chicago" are the same thing, and if you don't believe the "Windy City" is a city, then there is no point to discourse. Am I right?
As always, best wishes,
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Hope your resurection Sunday, is a blessing remember that it was Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead, as witnessed by hundreds, after He had died for my sins and yours.
Jesus is the way
On this holy day, which began in pre-Christian times in celebration of the Germanic goddess Eastre, and continues reshaped by the great Christian tradition, I wish this to be a blessed Easter for you and yours, and may we ever work for understanding, peace, justice, and love.
Yours from many paths,
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How did she play a role in atoning for your sins
Your from the narrow road
She didn't because, as I understand the tradition, the concern was more with health and fecundity than with sin, which is more a Christian focus.
Yours from many paths,
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She sounds like Diana of Eohesus, Astarte, and Asheroth funny how all those little goddeses found their way into the anamistic beliefs.
I guess we've changed the subject from whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. Animism and other pagan beliefs and practices certainly have much to commend them. I suppose that is why so many traces can be found in Christianity, from the Easter bunny to the use of the Sun's Day for worship to designating Dec 25 (the date of the solstice on the old calendar) for the birthday of Jesus.
Best wishes to you in your Christian faith, however you understand it,
5. EXCHANGE WITH RICH
I read your columns every week, and you can probably tell from the following question that I seldom agree with you. I hope you can enlighten me a little on something that I don't understand. I don't recall you ever addressing this in your column. I'm willing to accept a statement that Muslims and Christians worship (or at least attempt to worship) the same God. I definitely believe, however, that Muslims haven't found the right door to God. How do Muslims handle a verse like John 14:6 where Jesus says that He is the only Path to the Father? If He's telling the truth, then they have a problem getting to the Father (heaven). If He's lieing, then why would they believe He is a great prophet? Or do they just not believe that Jesus claimed to be this path? If not, do they totally disregard what the Bible says about Jesus. Even if you don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, just the historical statements in the Bible about Jesus (performing miracles, resurrection, ascension, claiming to be equal to the Father), which to the best of my knowledge Muslims do not deny, should tell Muslims that they have a conflict in their beliefs. If Jesus claimed to be God (and I believe He did), and He said He was the only Path to the Father, how can anyone believe He is only a great man or prophet (or rabbi or teacher)? It seems to me He has to be the only Door to heaven, a liar or nuts. Great prophet is not an option. A great prophet would not falsely claim to be God (or the only pathway to heaven).
You ask a very important question. Naturally the answer is difficult to put into a few words as it involves the way one sees the world, not just re-labeling objects within it. I recommend that you get Huston Smith's book THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS (I prefer the non-illustrated edition) and read both the chapter on Christianity and the chapter on Islam. If that does not help you understand both why your question is important and why it cannot be answered in the terms in which you have asked it, write me again. In the meantime, you might be interested in this interview: http://www.cres.org/ref/ref9901.htm
Thanks for reading . . . and writing!
6. Comment on Darrell L Bock's Kansas City Star essay 2003 June 21
The essay was pretty disappointing since the writer seemed to fuzz the issue, straddling the obvious and appearing to need not to offend those whose agenda is to divide us. No one appreciates religious differences more than I, but honorable differences should be used to enlighten, not berate.
It was curious that Bock, a research professor of New Testament studies, avoided citing scripture, even more remarkable since he is on the faculty of a school which describes itself as a "Seminary [which] stands unequivocally committed to the Scriptures, God's inerrant, infallible, authoritative written revelation."
The scriptures suggest that the Christian God and the Jewish God is the same God -- the God of Abraham is the God of Christians -- Acts 3:13, 7:2 and 7:32; Galatians 3:6 and 3:8; and Hebrews 11:8-16. Bock's neglect of Paul is especially disappointing since Paul's argument to the early churches that Gentiles as well as Jews can be Christians is that Abraham was a man of faith, and Abraham, often considered the father of the Jews, is a model of faith for those following Christ. It is strange that a Christian would write on this subject without ever citing Christian scripture, though he presents details from his partial understanding of Islam.
Bock is correct that Islam does not claim that humans are made in the image of God. But he fails to give the reason and thus is prejudicial, deepening a chasm instead of building a bridge. Similarly, he goes out of his way to be offensive in stating that "Islam" means submission and not peace, when in fact the Arabic is far more inclusive. To cite one authority, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions states (page 479), "The verbal noun ISLAM appears eight times in the QUR'AN: derived from the same Semitic root as Heb. SHALOM (peace), it means 'entering into a condition of peace and security with God through allegiance or surrender to him.'" There really is no excuse for Bock's misstatement. Surely he knows the related Arabic term, "Salam," peace, is part of the complex of meanings of Islam. He really should be ashamed of what appears to be a deliberate attempt at misleading the reader, or he is not qualified to write on this particular point.
But Bock's essay is shaky also in characterizing the understanding of God in Islam as totally transcendent (though such a characterization is not completely without merit in characterizing the theology of Calvin and Karl Barth, and Bock is bordering on irresponsibility in criticizing Islam for views that he does not acknowledge are part of the Christian tradition). And characterizing Islam's understanding of God as transcendent fails to recognize the rich and varied views of God within Islam, including the intensely personal relationships inspired by the verse in the Qur'an which states that God is closer to us than our juggler vein. Not to mention Sufism. He could argue that Jesus is personal in a way that the Muslim understanding of God is not, but he was imprecise. Though he may have meant this, the effect of his words is to misconstrue the possibilities within Islam of how God can be understood.
Bock never forthrightly says that the Christian God and the Muslim God are different Gods; he rightly notes that there are different UNDERSTANDINGS of God. But his language is so cloudy and his prejudice against Islam so evident that his essay appears to be more a political than a theological statement. This is especially apparent in his fudging the issue in sentences such as, "It is not the same name of God that counts, it is how the attributes of that God are seen and understood that determine whether the same person is being worshipped." This is as questionable as saying because my son sees different attributes in me than my colleague sees in me, they must be relating to different people. While in a metaphorical sense, this can be a useful statement, in this context it only obfuscates. It is as if Bock does not want to offend those whose allegiance is with Franklin Graham et al, but he also knows he cannot boldly repeat the position that the Christian and the Muslim worship different Gods.
Professor Bock's Response:
My reply is short as I am on my way to class. Anyone who does not sense the difference between the Christian view of the Trinity and the Jewish and Islamic views of God, which was the major point of the essay, has made the same move I suggest at the end of my essay, glossing over important differences. In addition, I would stand by my definition of Islam, as the Oxford dictionary makes the idea of surrender the key qualifying idea. Finally, my point was that how God is perceived does impact how he is responded to and how people live as a result. Nothing you have said changes that point either. I also at points spoke of radical Islam in an attempt within the word count to suggest differences within Islam. Thanks for the feedback.
Dear Professor Bock:
I appreciate the courtesy of your reply.
I thought the question was not "Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians have different conceptions of God?" but rather "Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" I thought the question was posed in the context of the remarks by Franklin Graham and others that Muslims worship a different God than Christians do, though as your essay suggests at the beginning, such a statement presents a logical puzzle. It is difficult to figure out if all agree there is but one God, how the faiths could be worshipping different Gods since that would imply there are more than one God.
No Muslim I have ever met would find the Trinity acceptable to his faith, and I can't think of any Christians who accept the Muslim view of God. Except for the "Messianic Jews," Jesus simply cannot be considered God. Everyone grants that is a big difference. No arguments. No one wants to gloss over such important distinctions. Who says otherwise? So what was your point, then -- that there are differences? I just don't hear any controversy on this point.
So, yes or no -- granting different CONCEPTIONS of God, "Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?"
You are busy and so am I, but if you want to discuss this further, you have my email address.
In any case, I wish you well with your teaching and am grateful that you took the time to let me hear from you personally.