Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
It seems simple. Muslims view Allah as the Creator, the One who called Abraham, who gave the Ten Commandments at Sinai. And there is only one God. So of course Muslims and Christians speak of the same God.
Ask Larycia Hawkins if it’s simple! On Dec 10 she posted on Facebook that she, as a Christian, was going to wear a headscarf (the hijab) during Advent as an expression of compassion and solidarity with Muslims. She invited other women to do the same out of a shared humanity and shared theology: “we worship the same God.”
Wheaton College, where she teaches, immediately suspended her.
There are strong reasons to say that Muslims and Christians do not speak of the same God:
● Christians hold to a Triune God and worship Jesus as God, while Muslims categorically disagree that Jesus is God, rejecting the Trinity.
● If God is not different from Allah, then it was the one true God who spoke to Muhammad, and the Quran contains new revelations from God.
Yet there are also strong reasons to say that Christians and Muslims do speak of the same Creator God:
● Christian Bibles in Muslim areas of the world use Allah as a translation for God. When Christians there read Scripture with Muslims, God is Allah.
● It is easier for Christians to reach out to Muslims when the common ground is emphasized. In Acts 17:23 Paul referred to the Athenians’ altar to an unknown god and said, “What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you.” Paul was seeking common ground with the Athenians rather than focusing on differences. As differences between Islam and Christianity are sharpened, the barrier to conversion grows. Most of those with experience in mission work to Muslims are calling on Wheaton to not discipline Hawkins (as long as she holds Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life”). Robert Priest, a mission and anthropology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, wrote that if Hawkins is dismissed, “Muslims will learn the idea that faith in Jesus requires a repudiation of Allah” and “this will pose an enormous barrier to consideration of the truth and goodness of the gospel.”
So it’s not helpful for Wheaton or any of us to try to pin down whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
A better question: Do our Muslim neighbors have the fullest available understanding of God? The answer: We learn the tender Fatherhood of God and see the gracious mercy of God most fully in Christ!
Update: On Saturday, February 6, Wheaton provost Stanton Jones announced that he had revoked the termination process. In an email to the Wheaton faculty, Jones wrote that he had “asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College” and that he had “apologized for my lack of wisdom and collegiality as I initially approached Dr. Hawkins, and for imposing an administrative leave more precipitously than was necessary.”
Nonetheless, in a joint press release, Wheaton and Hawkins, after complimenting each other and stating they “wish the best for each other in their ongoing work,” announced that they will part ways.