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Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Everlastingly Loving and Caring 

I was quite surprised when I read the news.

Tenured Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, was suspended because she claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God:

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In response, the College issued this statement explaining its actions:

Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith.

There is a common contention among many evangelical Christians that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. Yet, as the Professor said herself, this contention goes against a great deal of historical and religious evidence:

Whether or not you find this position [i.e., Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God], one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid…

The Qur’an itself says the same thing:

“O followers of earlier revelation [i.e., Jews and Christians]! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God.’ And if they turn away, then say: ‘Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves unto Him.’” (3:64)

Over the many centuries during which Islam and Christianity have co-existed, the theological debate was not that Muslims and Christians worship a different God, but that this very same deity has a different nature. Christians contend that God is triune in nature, with Jesus Christ belonging in this Godhood. Muslims, on the other hand, insist that God is only One, and Jesus is His messenger and servant, and not His begotten son. The contention that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God is quite new, relatively speaking.

The fact that most Muslims call God “Allah” stems from the fact that the scripture of Islam, the Qur’an, is in Arabic, and the Arabic name for “God” is “Allah.” Pick up an Arabic translation of the Bible, and the name for “God” is…”Allah.” Speak to an Arab Christian – like I have countless times – and he or she also calls “God” by the name “Allah.”

What’s more, if Jesus Christ himself were alive today, he would also call God by the name…”Allah.” How can this be so? The reason is that Jesus did not speak Greek, the language of the Gospels, but Aramaic. And the Aramaic name for God is “Alah” or “Alaha”:

ˀlh, ˀlhˀ   (ˀĕ/ălāh, ˀĕ/ălāhā)   n.m.  god

No, Muslims and Christians do not agree on the nature of God and Jesus Christ. But, we can agree on – and come together around – the fact that we both worship the very same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). Rather than seeking to divide the Children of Abraham – to which both Christians and Muslims belong – we should be looking for ways to come together and work for the common good of all on this earth. Wheaton College was wrong in its decision and should reinstate Professor Larycia Hawkins today.

 

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