Evangelicals and Muslims in Dialogue and Co-operation

Here below is a link to an article by one of my former students at Asbury,  Ben DeVan  who recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post based on his ThM work at Harvard on Evangelicals and Muslims.    See what you think—-   BW3

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-devan/evangelicals-and-muslims-_b_825242.html

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Do you believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi Marilyn:

    You could ask the same question about Christians and Jews. Jews do not worship the Trinity. They worship the first person of the Trinity. The same can be said about Muslims, who by the way believe the Bible is inerrant. It is false to say Muslims worship some moon god from Saudi Arabia.

    Ben W.

  • http://www.faithandworld.blogspot.com Fred Smith

    Unfortunately DeVan does not make his case. 1) He cites Duke and Yale scholars as examples. However, these are not evangelical schools and would be rather surprised to be described as examples of evangelicals embracing Muslims (or as evangelicals doing anything). Often they characterize evangelicals as evil, narrowminded, almost cultic–they even call us “fundamentalists” which only further muddies the water. There are always evangelicals studying at those schools and some of their faculty are more irenic and more knowledgeable about evangelicals than others. I cite here only the general trend/tendency there.

    2) Citing Rosenberg and Saada is a case of false analogy. A former Jew who became a Christian cooperating with a former Muslim who apparetly became a Christian (it is a little ambiguous) is not an example of Christian/Muslim cooperation. It IS an example of how Jesus Christ changes hearts and lives.

    The idea that Christians would protect Muslims is not far-fetched at all. Baptists have a long tradition of “liberty of conscience” the idea that everyone should be free to worship as they choose, whom they choose, and Baptists have defended religious liberty for centuries and convinced most other Christian groups of the rightness of it. This is proper, but is not the same thing as “cooperation” nor is it saying that we worship the same God. Baptist defend religious freedom, recognizing that only God can convince a lost soul to embrace Christ as savior, and because only in an atmosphere of religious freedom can we share the gospel freely and openly with expectation that people will make a responsible and genuine decision to trust Christ (or not).

    Many of the things DeVan describes here are good things–they just are not examples of Evangelical/Muslim cooperation, nor do they establish that we all worship the same God, nor that we should not seek to point Muslims to Jesus Christ as their only hope, just as we point all mankind everywhere to Christ as their only hope. All of humanity shares a common problem/need–sin separates us from God. He has given all humanity a common solution–the cross, where reconciliation between us and God takes place. Everyone–Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Hindus (and Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, and Liberals-all alike), must come to God through repentance of sin and faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. It is our only hope–for all of us.

  • http://nestheology.org Pennoyer

    “Even if Muslims and Evangelicals differ in some understandings of Jesus” – this is a bit of an understatement, don’t you think? And can we really unite over Jesus’ teaching? Jesus’ teaching is of course profound, but it is not his teaching but the IDENTITY of the teacher and his overall sacrificial mission that matters most (see the whole tenor of the scene of Peter’s confession).

    In Islam Jesus is only human and God’s #2 prophet. And when you have a #1 prophet, who takes seriously the #2 man? Especially when the myth is ingrained that Christians have corrupted their own New Testament scriptures. And Muslims deny that Jesus’ death had any sacrificial importance (indeed, against an avalanche of data the Qur’an seems to even deny that Jesus was even crucified).

    Yes, Christians must be gracious. Yes, we can find ways to build bridges and dialogue – both person to person and in the rarefied air of the academy. But Christians currently enjoying religious freedom must not voluntarily fritter away their distinctive affirmations. We have brothers and sisters around the world suffering right now because of their faithfulness to those affirmations.

  • http://www.dekalbnaz.com Pastor Todd Holden

    It seems clear, to me, that from a Wesleyan perspective, we do certainly need to be open to dialogue with the world. Wesley famously said that the world was his parish.

    I have found many times that talking with people who do not profess Christ is much easier than talking with Christians about Jesus. The key for me has been that I do not talk as if I am a know-it-all. I talk with others with an attitude similar to John Newton’s (I am a great sinner, saved by a great Savior).

    As far as the argument about whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same god, I believe it is the wrong place to start. Each side could argue that they are right into eternity. BUT all that would get us is just that, “sides”. Dialogue is not about sides. Dialogue is about the conversation. Jesus was the master at conversation. He talked with anyone and everyone.

    We do need to keep in mind that we do have distinctives that we cannot surrender, but we need not fight over them either. We would do well to remember Peter cutting off poor Malchus’ ear, thinking that he was saving Jesus.

    In the end, we would do well to remember Jesus’ command to His church, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Christians are to be known for the love of God flowing in them and through them not for arguing that we are right.

  • Dave

    On the whole, I think this is a very good thing. Peacful interaction is the only way the Gospel will spread.

    I just hope that such statements like “…sought to reorient his life around the teachings of Jesus.” actually lead to saving faith, not just mental assent to Jesus as a “wise man” but nothing more.

  • Steve

    Regarding the question whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews, I was helped by a comment from Charles Kimball, the well-known Christian Islamist, who said, “Probably the best that can be said is that they certainly INTEND to worship the same God.” A better question, then, is whether they can–apart from faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior–worship the one God authentically and savingly.

  • Dan

    “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16

    I think it could be in one sense argued that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, as Dr. Witherington pointed out, they claim to worship the God of Abraham. Yet as this verse points out, when they reject Jesus, they also reject the very God they claim to worship. And so from the Christian view, because they rejected Jesus, they rejected the God of Abraham – so they must be worshiping some other God.

  • http://www.faithandworld.blogspot.com Fred Smith

    Yes, while they may “intend” to worship the same God, if they reject Jesus, they reject the only true God. God is not divisible–there is one God who has revealed himself. Any other “god” is an idol–a creation of human mind and intention.

    We must confess, with scripture that “he that does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.” We live in a time when we are encouraged to “affirm everyone” and “exclude no one.” This is all wrapped up in our minds with the sins of the past (Jim Crow laws, destructive and internecine denominational in-fighting and all of that). Let us repudiate the sins of the past, including our own narrow minded-ness, but let us not, as a result, turn to foolishness on matters of truth. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ has no hope of being in right relationship with God. We may love this person, dialogue with this person, and eat with this person–Jesus ate with sinners–but we cannot say that this person is right with God, only that he or she NEEDS to be. We cannot hide behind vague words about “our mutual spiritual journeys” or “our differing experiences of the divine.” That is all foolishness. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” and “he has given us the ministry of reconcilliation” which means we must “go and make disciples of all nations” not “go and affirm everyone where they are at in their spiritual journey.”

    Let’s all get busy–love the world’s peoples; point them to Jesus Christ; never compromise the truth as presented in the Bible.

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Dear Ben,
    Why did you answer my question with a statement about a moon god? Wouldn’t you call that a red herring?
    As for worshiping the same God as the Jews, our United Methodist minister told us in a Bible study class that we do not worship the same God.
    Honestly, I expected a better answer from you! You have dodged the question which is disappointing to me.
    Fred Smith – thank you!
    Just thinking about the treatment of women in the Muslim world makes my skin crawl. It is reprehensible. It is also in line with the way their god has revealed himself to them in the Koran.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Marilyn:

    I answered that way because nine out of ten people who ask me that question think they do worship a moon god from Saudi Arabia. Including people like Pat Robertson. So obviously I misunderstood the drift of your all too brief question. I think Kimbrall is right— most of them believe they are worshiping the same God as Jews and Christians, and that is their intent, namely the God of the Bible. And if your UM pastor suggested Jews don’t worship Yahweh the person of the Godhead most clearly revealed in the OT— shame on him. As for the stuff that makes your skin crawl, I agree with you about that, but that doesn’t come from Muslim interpretation or use of the Bible.

    Blessings

    Ben W.

  • http://www.phorgiven.com Simon

    Acts 19:37 is a good verse in helping us understand how we deal with world religions. Here Paul had been preaching in Ephesus and a crowd had been stirred up against him. When the city clerk heard the case all he could say was that Paul had not blasphemed the local religion.

    In other words he had dealt with those not believing in Christ with grace and respect.

    I think we need to preach Christ in this way. Yes we should talk. We should debate. We must no be derrogatory or insulting.

    I do not believe that Allah is the same as Yaweh. My understanding from Bible college lectures is that Allah was a local god of war who was adopted by Mohammed.

    My belief here does not affect how I interact with Muslims. I have a few Muslim friends and any sort of spoken evangelism is off limits but I can show Christ in the way I care and love others. Even those who fundamentally disagree with my views.

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Dear Ben,
    What I asked was “Do YOU believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” So far, you have dodged that question. Also, I did not say that our UM pastor said that Jews do not worship Yaweh. He said that we don’t worship the same God. There is no shame for our pastor in this. The Trinity makes a huge difference, don’t you agree? Also, the Muslim abuse of women does not come from their interpretation or use of the Bible as you seem to think that I implied. It comes from their interpretation and use of the Koran!

    After attending you seminar a few years ago on the DaVinci Code, I expected a more straightforward reply. You can do better than this.
    Marilyn

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Marilyn I have not dodged your question. The answer is largely yes. I certainly believe the Trinity makes a difference, however Abraham did not believe in the Trinity and he is set up as the great example of faith in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. My point is simple. Jews and Muslims do believe in the God of the Bible, but inadequately and incompletely. They are not guilty of having no faith in the Biblical God. Of course the Koran makes a difference. But that is not the basis for dialogue with Muslims, as it is not a sacred text we share in common.

    Blessings

    Ben

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Dear Simon,
    That is just my worry — how my grandchildren may someday have to “interact” with Muslims who have gained control over our laws. We do not share the Koran as a sacred text. Sharia law will take us back to the Middle Ages. It is a chilling thought.
    Marilyn

  • http://www.stateofformation.org/author/ben-devan/ Ben DeVan

    To Ben W and others, thanks for the conversation and critique so far surrounding my piece. Perhaps some of you would like to repost your comments directly at Huffington Post? A few brief points:

    @Fred Smith: Among the Christians I cited and quoted in the article, so far as I know, only one might disavow the Evangelical (or Evangelistically minded by any other name) label: Ellen F. Davis of Duke University. My judgment call at the time was that her potential disavowal would unnecessarily complicate the article, maybe I could have been more nuanced in her case. Also, one can be critical of Evangelicals and still be Evangelical.

    2) Whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God is a compelling question, but I think my article is more about relationships with each other in the name of Jesus, following the ethics of Jesus, and seeing Jesus as a touching point for common ground. None of this implies that exploring questions about the nature of God is unimportant, and I certainly do not mean to imply that there are any other (True) saviors besides Jesus, or that all understandings of Jesus are equally accurate. This does not mean Muslims and Evangelicals cannot come together on the love of God and neighbor, cooperate for the common good and have some agreement about Jesus, all the better if that agreement appeals to the Gospels.

    3) In Islamic tradition, there is debate about whether the Bible is reliable. In my work, I emphasize the traditions that it is fully reliable or “inerrant” as opposed to traditions that the Bible is “corrupted.” If the Bible as the word of God can be “corrupted,” from a Muslim perspective, is the Qur’an then not also vulnerable to corruption if God didn’t protect his word the first few times around? Traditions arguing for the reliability of the Bible interpret Qur’anic verses about “corruption” as referring to Jews and Christians misrepresenting the Bible in conversations with Muslims rather than the Bible itself being corrupt.

    My .02 for now.

    In Christ,

    Ben DeVan

  • Thorn

    Marilyn,
    Where are you getting your information about Sharia law taking over our country?

  • michael gonyea

    Monotheists agree that there is only one God. But the Christian version of the One and the Muslim version of the One are far from one and the same…and the two have been fighting about whose version is the one true since the time of Muhammad.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/7748640/islam_101.html

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Thorn,
    There is a lot of information about the effort to install Sharia law in the U.S. Here is one article:
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/02/the_abas_jihad.html

    There is also a follow up to this article in a later post. The Bloomburg group is putting it into practice in the financial world. That, too, is available on the internet.

    It is good to read Huffington along with conservative sites for information. David Horowitz/s Frontpage also keeps track of Jihad.
    M.

  • Marilyn Rozelle

    Thorn,
    Here is another disturbing article about Governor Christie’ appointment of a judge:

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0111/emerson012011.php3

    Christie is admired by many conservatives, but not by me!
    Marilyn

  • davey

    (11 Ben re Marilyn)

    Romans 10: 1 & 2 seems to say Jews need saving, as though they ‘intend’ to worship the same God as Christians, they aren’t managing to do it properly.


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