Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 29th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Christians, Muslims, heresies, and “the same God”

st john damascene and the same God

An icon of St. John Damascene holding an Icon of Jesus Christ #meta

St. John of Damascus, or the Damascene, would be my patron saint, if, as a Protestant in the Anglo-Catholic tradition was allowed to have one. Otherwise, we can just say he is my…wait for it…. homeboy.

There has been a recent discussion on whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Many, mainly, evangelicals disagree. However, others (usually the theologically bereft, unitarians, liberals, progressives and atheists who still pretend to believe…oh, and the Pope) say “yes.”

I admit I am torn. I point to the nature of God Christians hold to. We believe God is a Trinity, that there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This nature is one of Love. I can point to other things as well, but each of them are a direct counter to the Islamic Allah. I can draw a line pointing to the Truth of Christian doctrine and the falseness of Islamic thought.

However, to be honest, I struggle with saying I worship the same God as people like Westboro, John Calvin, and the modalists.

But, if I turn to my patron saint, I learn how the Pope could suggest we worship the same deity. It is not moral relativism. It is not some theory of relativity. It is not the same as saying that all deities are essentially the same. Rather, we can affirm we worship the same God as Islam but do so in such a way as to stand with our forefathers in the faith while acknowledging the truthfulness and absoluteness of the Christianity creeds, and the more so, those who had to live under Islamic rule.

St. John, in his chapter on the “superstition of the Ishmaelites” doesn’t treat Islam as a separate and new religion, but as a heresy descending from Arianism and Nestorianism. It is a corruption upon corruption. Yet, Islam still holds to the same God, even if wrongly — even if in grave error. While he mocks their errors, he plainly sees the Muslims as a sect of Christian heretics.

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

So I guess I have to agree with St. John. We do worship the same God. They just get it wrong. Islam is a Christianity heresy.

Also, let me recommend to those who know everything there is that Google can provide on Islam but still appear rather silly on Facebook this book.

Thoughts?

Check out this post by Dr. T. Marshall.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

23 Responses to “Christians, Muslims, heresies, and “the same God””
  1. OR, the other explanation – which makes the most sense to me – is that there are different gods because different men, in distinct regions of the world, made each of them up. Period.

  2. If you’d ask a Muslim who takes his faith seriously if he worships the God of Abraham, he’ll say yes. Do you?

    • I’m sorry, Doug, but I’m afraid that makes little sense.

      • Joel, I’ll simplify it for you (Doug’s question)

        Do YOU worship (the) god of Abraham – you know, Yahweh – like all Muslims do? (only they call him ‘Allah’) Yes or no. So Doug makes perfect sense, Joel.

        You just can’t see it.

        I’d assert that you don’t WANT to see it. But think about it a little; it’ll come to you. And once you DO think about it – as many of us have – you’ll realize that what I said in the first comment is the absolute truth.

        Like I said, “PERIOD”.

        • Carmen, I don’t think that is either Doug’s point. Rather, Doug seems to assert that a mild assertion makes it true. It doesn’t. For example, Young Earthers can assert they use science, but come on… do they really?

          The point of this post is to say that even without assertion, Muslims worship the same God because they are a Christian heresy.

          You seem to think that all gods are made up and thus the same. This is false as well, at least from the theistic standpoint. Your point is not absolutely true — because it cannot be proven and is a subjective statement. So, again, not period.

  3. Father Brown would probably say something like “the past is very similar to the present”.

    Since we seem to like Chesterton…
    from:
    http://www.chesterton.org/quotations-of-g-k-chesterton/

    “There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. It affirms, with no little sublimity, something that is not merely the singleness but rather the solitude of God. There is the same extreme simplification in the solitary figure of the Prophet; and yet this isolation perpetually reacts into its own opposite. A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets. Of these the mightiest in modern times were the man whose name was Ahmed, and whose more famous title was the Mahdi; and his more ferocious successor Abdullahi, who was generally known as the Khalifa. These great fanatics, or great creators of fanaticism, succeeded in making a militarism almost as famous and formidable as that of the Turkish Empire on whose frontiers it hovered, and in spreading a reign of terror such as can seldom be organised except by civilisation…”

  4. OH, and Joel – Christianity’s god is the god of love?? Really? Have you read the Bible?? Or do you do what many other Christians do – cherry-pick. A simple google will illustrate the misogynistic, promoter of rape, death and destruction, temper-tantrum-taking Yahweh; the being you think is the god of love. Please don’t try to convince discerning readers that Yahweh is the benevolent, peace-loving opposite of Allah.

    • Perhaps your definition of Love, Grace, et al is shaped more by the 21st century than, say, Scripture? As a scholar and a theologian, I don’t have to google search my answers.

      • Perhaps you should, Joel. 🙂

          • Ahhh… the old, “Google’s making us all stupid!” reply. . . big grin. Nice try, though! But it’s impossible to ignore how access to information (as opposed to being spoon-fed what pastors want us to know) chips away at ignorance. Could this fact alone be responsible for the increase in young people’s disaffection with religion?

          • wait.. you think think information only comes from pastors rather than, say, scholars? And if you were spoon fed, who is at fault here? Further, if you fail to choose better sources, you are still spoon fed!

            Given that religion is growing, worldwide, we should talk about disaffection here. There are solid reasons, may sociological. And yes, more than a few are directly related to the American Church. And they deserve it.

          • Joel, save your sputtering. I’m probably older than you and was probably religious longer than you have been. The reasons for religion are emotional, not sociological and Islam is the only religion that is growing.

            Oh, and the reason for my disaffection has to do with intellectual pursuits; I actually started researching/reading and applying critical thought to what I now see as a comfortable myth. Give yourself a few years – you’ll no doubt reach the same conclusion. Since the title of your blog is “Unsettled Christianity”, I’d guess you’re having a few doubts yourself.

            P.S. The word should probably be ‘Paulians’, not christians, as I’m sure you realize.

          • Carmen, you assume a lot for not knowing much about me.

            A few things… religion seems to be ingrained in the human experience — evolution proves this. Islam is not the only religion that is growing, although it may be here in the U.S. There is a bigger world than the United States.

            I too pursue things intellectually. Indeed, because I do this, I cannot be unreligious, as a true pursuit makes room for mystery and paradox. Which is why we find scientists are often very spiritual people.

            Conclusions are temporary, else we become fundamentalists, locked into our own little world.

            Anyone who reads the About page understands the title. Perhaps you should research it more.

            Yes, the ole diatribe of Paul v Jesus. Of course, this only holds court in 19th century biblical scholarship — not in reality.

  5. Ahhh. . . . then I’ll wait for your thinking to evolve into enlightenment, Joel, as has happened to many other intellectuals. 🙂

    • Carmen, sadly you miss the point. Intellectualism is not based on a view of religion. Further, many intellectuals are believers of some sort. It is a shame you have such strict categories for what you assume must be true. You know what this makes you, right?

    • Don’t say enlightenment. I might become a Buddhist. The older I get, the more I am tending to look for an escape clause from death. Although, reincarnation may not be the best for me. I’d hate to come back as a cockroach. Although I always did like Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

      • whoa now, Gary. I don’t think death is permanent. Indeed, I think this life is just a fraction of what we will become. I’m doing my best to lay some groundwork for this for a book later on. But, if matter and energy cannot be destroyed, and our soul is energy (presumably), then… we will become something.

        • I think you have more energy than I do. And my matter isn’t up to speed either. “Moldy Oldy” comes to mind.

  6. The problem with saying that Christians on the one hand, and Muslims and Jews on the other, do not worship the same God is that it is both heretical and blasphemous. It says, in effect, that God is a purely human constuct and is dependent on our theological thought for his existence.

    If Christians, Muslims and Jews claim to worship the God who revealed himself to Abraham, then i8f God is God he uis not dependent on human thought and human theology for his nature. There is one God. Muslims and Jews do not have different gods, but they have a defective theology of the one God.

    It is one thing to say that people have a defective theology, but to make God dependent on human constructs is to create a defective god, or three defective gods, if that’s what you really believe.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: