Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God - Part II

That's the title of my most recent contribution to The Catholic Thing (TCT), which was published online this morning. It is a follow-up to my December 17, 2015 TCT piece,"Do Muslims and Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?"  The occasion for writing the original essay was the controversy surrounding Wheaton College (IL) professor, Larycia Hawkins, who put on administrative leave for publicly claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Earlier this week Wheaton began termination proceedings against the professor. 

This is how today's piece begins
On December 17 on this page I addressed the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. I gave the same answer given by Vatican II, and by the
Catholic Church since the Council: yes. Muslims and Christians do worship the same God, even though Islam holds an imperfect understanding of the divine, since it denies Christ’s divinity and thus, by implication, God’s triune nature. 
As the Church declared in Nostra Aetate (1965): “[Muslims] adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. . . .Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.” 
This argument prompted several critical replies, almost exclusively from non-Catholic Christians, including distinguished thinkers such as Albert Mohler, Andrew Walker, Matthew Cochran, and Peter Leithart. (To say nothing of a raft of outrage from TCT readers.) Each, with differing emphases, correctly documents what Christians believe are the inadequacies of Muslim theology given how God has progressively revealed himself through history as taught in Scripture. I do not dispute this point; it is actually consistent with my argument. Let me explain. 
The Church’s view rests on the distinction between “general” and “special” revelation. The former concerns those truths about God that can be known through unaided human reason; the latter, those truths about God known only through Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and/or the Holy Spirit speaking through the magisterium. (Many Protestants also accept this distinction, though they only include Scripture under the category of special revelation). 
In order to better grasp this distinction, let’s consider an argument for the existence of a Creator God offered by the Persian Muslim philosopher, Al-Ghazali (1058-1111 AD): the “Kalam Cosmological Argument.” It figures prominently in the work of Evangelical philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig. He summarizes the argument in this way:


Nathan Cline said...

Doesn't worship require perfect trust? So that if a group or person denies what God has revealed (through general or special revelation) that person is not showing trust and therefore not worshiping the one true God?

erick said...

Dr Beckwith, it is more than inperfect. Ultimately, those who deny the Son do not know the Father. Knowledge of God , the proper reference to the Father, is given by the revelation of the Son. Lastly, those who deny the Son have not life.

hcat said...

So you put them in the same category as the Jews. A lot of people are trying to draw a circle that includes Jews and excludes Muslims; that way they can also include the less orthodox of the Founding Fathers. I for one am willing to let God decide this for Himself.

Alan Grey said...

Thanks for continuing this important discussion.

To summarize my previous view,
1) A person can be wrong about which being they worship (Muslims and Christians worship different beings), or
2) A person can be wrong about the attributes of the being they worship (Muslims and Christians worship the same God)

1) seems more likely if the person was being intentionally deceived, 2) seems more likely if things are merely unclear (through a glass darkly)

I would argue that (1) is a more warranted belief, as Muhammed claimed he received special revelation from Allah, not just arguing from a general revelation.

In reviewing your latest article, you comment that the essential attributes of God are (from your example of the general revelation argument of the Kalam Cosmological argument)
"uncaused, perfect, unchanging, self-subsistent, eternal Creator and sustainer of all that which receives its being from another"

So my question is this....
I would assume perfect would mean 'omnibenevolent' which would include 'all loving', yet according to the Koran, Allah is not all loving (He doesn't love anyone who doesn't do what he wants)

If this is an essential attribute from general revelation then how can they be worshipping the same God?

I do think your argument has some merit, but the history of the believer you give is surely not universal of all Muslims? At most I think you have given cause to warrant belief that some Muslims worship the same God as Christians.