Todays first lecture by Miroslav Volf was on whether or not the Christians and Muslims worship the same God. He never answers the question himself but he definitely implied certain views on the topic. I am going to keep my notes minimalistic as possible, but if you have any questions ask me and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.
Both Christians and Muslims are both monotheist. Then logically if one of them are right then the other is necessarily idolatrous. Is this necessarily true? He doesn’t think so.
There are four points to consider in this issue: Linguistic, Reference, Description, and Worship.
Linguistically it shouldn’t be a problem because two words can have the same object of reference. It is important to know though that God is not an object because He is the creator of all objects, but in truth He can have different names that apply to Him. Allah is Arabic for God. In the Arabic bibles God is always translated Allah and goes back before Islam existed.
a) Biblical Argument> Christians have historically believed that they worship the same God as the Jewish people. We see this tension in the Gospel of John, between the current Christian communities and the Jewish communities. It assumes they worship the same God. John 5 the women at the well is an example of this. In the OT, 2 Kings 17 shows how the Samaritans were taught to worship the Lord.
Essentially, his argument here is about the Jews relationship to God and not whether it is the Same God. He then states that this could be the case for Muslims.
b) Theological Argument> Both Christians and Muslims claim only one God. They are Monotheists. God is not an object that can be pointed at. But theoretically if you could point to Him then both Muslims and Christians necessarily would have to point at the same thing.
The problem becomes does our view of God and their view share enough of the same characteristics with each other. How does one approach gathering the character of God.
Examples of characteristics: Is it that the actor is the same but he plays different characters. Like Anthony Hopkins being Hannibal Lecture in Silence of the Lambs and him playing a totally different character in another movie. No we can’t say that.
Is it like Charlie Chaplin playing different roles in different roles in different movies but being the same character in both. Maybe a little closer but No.
Well maybe then it is if it comes from the same line of tradition. For example, in Christianity different Christians have found different characteristics of God but they are from the same tradition. We would say our God is same as Augustine’s even though we have different views then him.
But can you depart from the Tradition?
Example: Schleirmacher is reformed theologian but can we say that his God is the same as ours. That is extremely iffy.
Do the Muslims conception of God share enough characteristics to say it is the same God?
Similarites: One God, Sole Creator, Judge, Merciful, He gives revelation.
Differences: Trinity, Divine Christ, His very being is Love.
Are these commonalities sufficient?
Where does the place of Christ and the self revelation of God through him fit?
On one hand if you do not understand Jesus then you don’t understand God. You do not know God unless you know Jesus.
On the other hand, we see God-Fearers in the OT and NT. An example of this is Cornelius praying to God and it being acceptable to Him without the knowledge of Jesus. Maybe they do not need to know God through Jesus, but must worship according to the characteristics found in Him.
Historically the Church has believed in Natural Grace and Special Grace. Maybe by the grace of God Muslims are worshiping the true God found in Christ, apart from Him. This is nothing new in relation to Church history.
Can you say true things about God and not truly worship Him?
1) It is not possible to rightly worship the wrong god. Idol worship is wrong worship.
2) The True God is rightly worship. Rev 11 points to this when all of creation is sanctified and worshiping in truth.
3) The True God is wrongly worshiped. Examples: In Kings Jeroboam set up a false cult but still worshiped the true God. In the NT, “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord,…” Right God, wrong worship.
God fearers like Cornelius partly knew God, partly worshiped God. More needed to happen so that he could fully worship, but he worshiped none the less.
We are no better then Cornelius. We don’t know God fully and we don’t worship purely. If you say that you do then you are probably idolatrous. So what is it say that Muslims can not know partly and and worship partly the True God.
Interesting thoughts. I thought this was the best lecture so far. I want to know what you guys think about this.
(Disclaimer: these views are not necessarily my views or RTS- Orlando’s)