Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Again, yes, #Christianity and #Islam DO worship the same God

The question about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God got hashed out pretty well a year or two ago, and I gave my opinion that, whatever their differences (and there are crucial ones), Christians and Muslims do worship the same God.

But I notice Alan Schlemon at Stand to Reason has another post in which he gives another argument against this position. Stand to Reason appears to be a blog engaged in popular apologetics. It says it "trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith." If that is the case, then, on this issue, at least, it seems to have fallen below its own self-stated standards.

It seems to me that there has been enough intelligent Christian defense of the position that, in fact, Christians and Muslims do worship the same God in any meaningful sense that a popular apologetics blog should by now, if not have acknowledged this itself, at least have come to terms with the arguments made by people like Edward Feser, Frank Beckwith, and James Chastek. The second problem is that his arguments on the other side of this issue just aren't very good.

In an earlier post Schlemon says,

Do Christians worship Jesus as God? Yes. Do Muslims worship Jesus as God? No. Therefore, Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God because they don’t both worship Jesus.

The first problem with this is logical. Here are the two premises:

All Christians worship Jesus as God
No Muslim worships Jesus as God

But logically the only thing you can conclude from this is that "No Muslim is a Christian." The conclusion "Therefore, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God" quite literally is not an option.

The second problem is that, on the same grounds you would conclude (illogically) from these premises that Muslims don't worship the same God, you would also have to conclude that Jews do not worship the same God as Christians. I don't know if Schlemon believes that, but his logic here would demand it. This was one of Beckwith's telling points. Are we to believe that the God Abraham worshiped is not the God of the New Testament? 

Shlemon then argues on the basis of his distinction between the use of the term "God" as a title and as a person:

It’s helpful to think of it as a public office. The president, for example, is the title of a position, but a unique person occupies that office and fulfills its duties.

In the same way, God is the title of the position or office. Both Christians and Muslims believe in the same what – a God whose duties include things like creating, receiving worship, and judging. They differ on who they believe is the person who occupies that position. Muslims believe that person is Allah and Christians believe it is Yahweh.

Again, this seems to me entirely unconvincing. It is, in fact, a distinction without a difference--at least for purposes of this issue. There can be no separation between the person and the office when you are talking about God. They are one and the same--there is no God (office) who is distinct from God (the person) and vice-versa. The only usefulness of that distinction is within the nature of God himself (the Trinity). For this issue, however, it can serve no purpose.

Asking whether Muslims and Christians believe in the same God is the same as asking whether geocentrism and heliocentrism are descriptions of the same universe.

... If you’re asking whether contrary theories to explain the same fact are about the same fact, then the answer is (analytically) yes.

In an interesting way, the denial that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is a denial of the denial that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, since, if in the statement "Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God," the term "God" does not refer to the same thing, then Christians and Muslims could not differ in their worship of Him.

If you do not agree on what you disagree about, then you can't disagree about it.

And, again, Schlemon's argument would implicate the Jewish God at the same stroke.

These arguments are from an earlier post. His new post adds this argument:

Claiming that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is an expression of Islamic theology, not Christian theology. But why affirm an Islamic teaching? It’s the Qur’an that claims that the God of Islam is the same God in Christianity (Surah 2:139, 29:46). That means you affirm the Qur’an is correct when you claim Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

If Nazis brush their teeth, should we knock ours out? The assumption here is that whatever Muslims affirm the Christian must deny. That assumption is mistaken on the face of it. But let's also see where it would lead us:

That God is omnipresent is a thing Muslims affirm
All things Muslims affirm Christians must deny
Therefore, All Christians must deny that God is omnipresent

It also assumes that if we affirm anything the Qur'an affirms, we ipso facto affirm the Qur'an. But we affirm many things the Qur'an affirms (God's omnipresence among them). Even Schlemon wouldn't assert that it's wrong at every single point

This seems to me to be rather sloppy reasoning all around.

Again, Islam is a Christian heresy. A heresy is a system of believe which deviates from orthodoxy by deducing certain beliefs from it. Islam has deduced the concept of the Trinity from the concept of God. That does not make for a system of belief that is entirely contradictory to Christian, just one that deviates from it in important respects.

In regard to its concept of God, the result is not an entirely different God, just a very flawed one.

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