I never quite understood why King Saul, Israel’s first king, was so erratic toward David, trying at times to spear him. My morning devotional reading guide has taken me to the book of I Kingdoms (I Samuel in the typical western Bible), and I’m reminded that his paranoia was fueled by a series of encounters with the prophet Samuel, ending with this unyielding conclusion:
The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.
I think that would put me a little bit on edge.
Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, home to super-pastor Rick Warren (Obama inauguration, Purpose Driven Life, etc.) has joined forces with Southern California mosques to adopt a three-step plan for ending enmity between evangelical Christians and Muslims.
All together now, 1, 2, 3: Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Imagine that! Trying to end enmity! What gall is that?! Don’t they know that Islam is violent extremism while Christianity is a religion of peace?
Exposingchrislam.com links in turn to a sister site, nowtheendbegins.com, which gets to the nub of the matter bye’n'bye:
The plan’s first step calls for Muslims and Christians to recognize they worship the same God.
Oh, the horror! I must tell my Arabic Christian friends to immediately cease referring to God as “Allah” (Arabic for – hold your hats now – “God“). They have led folk astray!
I have been hearing this sort of thing – that Muslims and Christians worship different Gods – for several years now. And I’ve been hearing it in places that make me wince, which is to say not just from the websites of dispensationalist heretics.
I am a very particular type of Christian: Orthodox (and cantankerous). If radically different understandings of God amount to “different gods,” then most professing Christians worship a different God than I do, including Fred Phelps, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, the folks at exposingchrislam.com and nowtheendbegins.com, and even Anselm of Canterbury (as I understand his view of God as a sort of medieval lord, extremely prickly and vindictive). I don’t think those folks and I even share an understanding of what Jesus meant by “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.“
This is not a theology blog and I’m not a qualified theologian of any sort (though there was a time not that long ago when I was under the illusion that I was a good lay theologian). But I thought it was really rather fundamental that there is only one God. Islam says it worships the God of Abraham. So, I thought, do Christians.
Muslims, however, believe that God is an absolute monad while Christians of virtually all sorts believe that one God exists as three persons while remaining one God. Christians further believe
in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all æons, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father … who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort?
And (we believe) that He exalted be the glory of our Lord hath taken neither wife nor son.
Those are no small differences. And if Rick Warren really thinks (as I doubt he does) that we can just syncretistically paper over them, joining in a rousing chorus of Kum-Bah-Ya, he’s on a fools errand.
But is it really outlandish to suggest that Muslims and Christians have radically differing dogmas about the same God? If so, then I guess I am outlandish.
I am aware of the danger of crying “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. As I say, the difference between Christianity and Islam is nothing trivial. And between some schools of Islam and the Western world, there exists a great enmity.
But I’m also aware of the danger of substituting for friendship with God ideological hatred of Communists, secular humanists, jihadists, or whoever the day’s designated demons may be.
If I must risk error – and I’m sure I must – I prefer erring on the side of peace rather than enmity. In this, too, I seem to worship a different God than some who also claim the name “Christian.”
* * * * *
“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)