Good for Rick Warren

Good for Rick Warren.

The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

The effort, informally dubbed King’s Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. Warren has broken Ramadan fasts at a Mission Viejo mosque, met Muslim leaders abroad and addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C.

Saddleback worshippers have invited Muslims to Christmas dinner and played interfaith soccer at a picnic in Irvine attended by more than 300 people. (The game pitted pastors and imams against teens from both faiths. The teens won.)

The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback’s congregation.

At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King’s Way as “a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.”

The men presented a document they co-authored outlining points of agreement between Islam and Christianity. The document affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in “one God” and share two central commandments: “love of God” and “love of neighbor.” The document also commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects. The document quotes side-by-side verses from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate its claims….

The “rumor [about pluralism and Chrislam] is 100 percent false,” Warren wrote at, a website he founded that provides practical advice to church leaders. “My life and ministry are built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.”…

When Barakat discovered who Warren was, he invited his neighbor to learn more about Islam. “I was talking to him over the fence,” Barakat said. “I said, ‘Rick, why don’t you go to Syria with me? He said, ‘Sure, let’s talk about it. Let’s do it.’ ”

Warren traveled with Barakat to Syria in 2006, and Warren and his wife, Kay, began attending Iftar meals at the Mission Viejo mosque. Iftar is the evening meal Muslims eat after fasting all day during the holy month of Ramadan. Invitations followed to address Muslim conferences in Long Beach, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

“We understand that to some people in the religious community these events may be difficult to swallow,” said Yassir Fazaga, imam at the Mission Viejo mosque. “But I believe that we have to begin somewhere and just begin to reach out and be accessible to people when they ask about who we are.”




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  • Good grief. Please tell me you are kidding, Dr. McKnight. Christians and Muslims certainly do not worship the *same* God.

  • phil_style

    This is an good step. Sooner or later the media are going to find out that Islam’s war is not with Christianity, but with poverty and its perceived roots in (historical and present day) western imperialism.

  • Oops. Sorry. I just realized that you (probably) weren’t praising Warren for “acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God” but rather for saying that the “rumor [about pluralism and Chrislam] is 100 percent false.”

    Sorry for the hasty comment. I thought that was an odd position for you to be taking. ; )

  • phil_style

    @Joe, arguably they do worship the *same* God. Both are connected to the same historical religious lineage.

    It’s more a matter of how they describe that God.

    For example, one allows the “nature” of God to be manifest in Jesus, the other allows only for the “message” of God to be manifest in Jesus. To the outside observer, these God’s look like pretty much the same thing, just with some doctrinal tweaks here and there.

  • “O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: they will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: what their hearts conceal is far worse. . . . ” (Surah 3:118)

    “From those, too, who call themselves Christians, we did take a Covenant, but they forgot a good part of the Message that was sent them: so We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.” (Surah 5:14)

    “And fight them [unbelievers in Islam] on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, Allah doth see all that they do.” (Surah 8:39)

    The same God … right. Our God is Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Islam’s god is not. But we allegedly worship the same God.

    I am utterly ashamed at “Christians” who continue to insist that we worship the same God as any other group from any other faith.

  • scotmcknight


    1. Do you have evidence that Rick Warren said “same” God?
    2. Do you know what he means by “same”?
    3. Is his view of “same” the one used by Miroslav Volf?

    I did an extensive series on the widely-neglected book by Volf, and I’m not entirely in agreement with Volf on “same,” but he has convinced me that this word is of use in this discussion. My major congratulations to Warren, though, is his over efforts to work with Muslims and to love them.

  • scotmcknight

    William have you read Volf’s book?

  • Scot –

    I read Volf’s book and reviewed it on my blog. A good book to help dialogue amongst Christians and Muslims, and it links nicely into a project my friend undertakes in the UK known as The Awareness Foundation & Awareness Sunday.

  • DRT

    The problems in the Middle East and around the world will not be solved until Muslims and Christians can cooperate. The problems are not primarily national, they are religious.

    Good for Rick Warren.

    Some pundit once said we will know that we are serious about solving the problems when we start to solve the religious rift. I guess it must be religious people who do that.

  • phil_style

    @William, you’re notes appear to be context-free quote-mining to me eyes. How many Imam’s or Islamic scholars have you approached for discussion on these textual items? How many Muslim friends do you have with whom you can converse about these verses and what they mean/ how they are interpreted?

    You might find that Surah 5 actually appeals to Christian/Islamic brotherhood – take 5:44 for example which clearly identifies the Torah as the word of God!

  • Phil Davisson

    Joe C., if you’re willing to explore the Christian-Muslim ‘same God’ question, the recent book by Miroslav Volf, “Allah: A Christian Response.”

  • phil_style

    Another “quote” from the Quran “And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.”

    See, we can all play “quotes from the Quran” game to support almost any position we wish to take.

  • SFG

    Do Christians worship the same God as Jews? I would say yes, even though Judaism does not believe in a triune God.

    In the Indonesian language Bible, Allah is the word used for God. Does this make Indonesian Christians heretics? I would say no.

    I believe that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God, but each have a different understanding of God and what it means to know God. To say we worship the same God is not to deny the strong differences in belief systems, but to acknowledge the agreement in a monotheistic, all knowing and all powerful God who can be known by humans.

  • ***1. Do you have evidence that Rick Warren said “same” God?***

    No, I don’t. I doubt Warren would be that careless in his usage.

    ***2. Do you know what he means by “same”?***

    “Same” means identical. Individuals who use a word in public should use its publicly established denotation.

    ***3. Is his view of “same” the one used by Miroslav Volf?***

    I doubt it. Volf attempts to subvert the meaning of “same” for utilitarian purposes. I don’t think Warren would do that.

    ***My major congratulations to Warren, though, is his over efforts to work with Muslims and to love them.***

    If Warren (or any other Christian) loves Muslims, he will show them the true God as revealed in Jesus. You don’t show love to people by ignoring the fact that they are engaging in idolatry.

  • scotmcknight

    Joe, You need to read Volf’s book because his whole point is that “same” is not the same as “identical.” I now see you interpret Volf’s book as utilitarian, which appears to me to be an insult to or a dismissal of Volf’s work … have you done an extensive review of Volf’s book?

  • scotmcknight

    Joe, one more. I see the word “same” as the editor’s comment, not Warren’s — I have not seen Warren say that, but I would like to know if he does use the word “same.”

    I’m not sure it is fair for you to think you know what Warren means by “love” nor that he is ignoring what they believe. I’d want some evidence here.

  • TJJ

    Working positively with Muslims and loving them is a very good thing. Another good example coming out of Saddleback.

    I think the author of the above news story got it wrong when he wrote there waqs agreement that Christians and Muslms worship the “same God”. The docment referenced in the piece does not say that, according to friends/associates I know at Saddleback. Nor has Saddleback Church or Staff made such a statement, including rick Warren.

  • Joe Canner

    The “same God” argument has a very post-modern feel to it: as if our beliefs about God effectively bring into existence unique instantiations of God which can be classified as “same” or “different”. If Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all monotheistic, and if monotheism is true, then there can only be one God, with each of us having a varying degree of accuracy regarding our beliefs of God and related practices.

  • Kenton

    Yea, Rick!

    Thanks for sharing this, Scot. Sorry it wasn’t unanimously received with my enthusiasm.

  • Percival

    Joe Carter,
    How many gods do you think exist? I only know of one, but I don’t know any human who knows Him perfectly. Must our awareness of Him be complete or perfect before we can be said to be worshiping the same god?

    Jesus’ words from the 4th gospel account are instructive here.

    4:22 You worship that which you don’t know. We worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. 4:23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Notice that Jesus acknowledged that both Jews and Samaritans worshiped the same god but that their knowledge and experience of Him was faulty. For example, neither were aware that God was triune nor did they recognize that Jesus was God in the flesh. However, the real issue is not whether it is the same god but whether what they were doing could be called true worship.

    Scot pointed out that this same debate has been hashed out rather thoroughly here at Jesus Creed during the discussion of Volf’s book. It might be good for those who are concerned, but who missed that discussion, to go back for a quick review. You will also notice that Scot is wary of the ‘same god’ rhetoric, although I hope some of us were able to persuade him a bit. 🙂

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    There is a “yes” and a “no” to this issue but I suspect people will just take sides and end up talking past each other. Sigh!

  • All this rancor against finding common cause flows from fear. Identify an enemy, prove that the enemy has nothing in common with you, proceed to demonize the enemy (and anyone else who chooses not to designate some one as an enemy) and Voila!–a contest and conflict is formed.

    Forget about the Christian ethic of reconciliation; for after all, they are fighting the righteous fight and God is certainly with them. What kind of God do these people actually know??? When I hear someone declare there is absolutely nothing in common with other human beings (religious warts included), I ask myself whether that kind of God looks like the one Jesus displayed. Would he seek alienation or reconciliation, demonization or redemption?

    I don’t want to be unkind but this is not the God Jesus portrayed in our Scriptures. Rick Warren’s efforts here look a lot more like the engagement of Jesus and the apostles with outsider than that these e theological fear-mongers. The question isn’t really whether God is on my side; rather it’s whether I’m on God’s side.

  • No, I have not read Volfs’ book.

    “Same”: identical; not different; unchanged: of an identical type. (Oxford American College Dictionary) Are so postmodern now that we have to have a specialized definition (redefinition) for each and every word we use?

    Islam’s god is not “identical” or “unchanged” from the Triune God of Christianity. The word “same” already has a definition. If people mean something other than the already-established definition of this word, then they need to use or find another word. I can’t believe we’re going to have a dialogue of semantics over the word “same.”

    How many Imam’s or Islamic scholars have you approached for discussion on these textual items? How many Muslim friends do you have with whom you can converse about these verses and what they mean/ how they are interpreted?

    Really? I now need to contact Islamic scholars as to what those words mean, as if there is a proper context which would give us a completely different view or conclusion of the texts in question (and many, many more of them) than what appears from first sight?

    “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 NASB) Should I contact seminary professors and Christian scholars so that they can enlighten us as to the real, contextual meaning of this statement made by Jesus?

  • David

    Regarding whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the “same” God, I would recommend reading Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, “Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology”, in particular Chapter 2, entitled, “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad.”

    This work is accessible, irenic, erudite and experientially written from the perspective of a scholar who has worked on both sides of this discussion. Ultimately, Dr. Tennent’s answer is no, yet he highlights the distinctives and similarities between the faiths in a non-polemical manner.

    For anyone who is interested, this work is an excellent primer for grace-filled, biblically faithful engagement with Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. Blessings!

  • Percival

    William Birch,

    Actually, since you read those words of the Bible in English, in a translation done by scholars, is a different time and culture, originally spoken in Aramaic but adapted and edited by a gospel author, I’d have to say, yes. You have already been enlightened by professors and scholars. Also, the words you quoted were spoken in a context to real people.

    If you are going to play word games with dictionary entries, you should at least acknowledge that words have more than one meaning and the context determines the meaning. Do you and I have the ‘same’ religion? Do you sometimes eat the ‘same’ food you had yesterday? Do you have the ‘same’ body you had 20 years ago?

    Maybe you shouldn’t read Volf’s book. The message you read will probably not be the ‘same’ one as the one he intended.

    I need to stop now. I’m feeling too irritated right now by Christians who make my job of being a witness to Muslims harder than it needs to be! Peace out. I’m going to bed.

  • Jeremy

    Engaging with someone who utilizes contempt as their primary rhetorical device is usually a waste of time.

    That said, good on Rick Warren for reaching across the gap. We need more major people within the American Evangelical world to start treating Muslims as people rather than an enemy to be feared. Between the demand to call them onto the carpet for false religion by some and the terrorism fears amongst many, alienation of not only muslims, but Arabs in general, is a significant problem.

  • DLS

    You believe there’s no grounds for those fears, Jeremy?

    Do you know what would happen to Warren is he said the exact same thing in many Islamic countries?

    Reaching out does not require us to ignore facts.

  • Jim

    I want to try to turn this dialogue on its head. We are so quick to villify others but what about looking in the mirror?

    We ask the question, “Are God and Allah the same?” But what if we asked, “Do Christians worship the same God as other Christians?”

    I am asking this because if you ask a congregation to describe who God is, you will get as many answers as people. While some descriptions may be similar, there will likely NOT be any two exactly the same.

    Even in the Bible, we don’t find authors always talking about God the same. Look at how David describes Him in the Psalms to how Isaiah describes Him. Look at how Paul describes Him and then at how John describes Him.

    My question is this;”If we describe God differently, is God different?” Looking at the discussion, I can also ask; “Is God made in man’s image because we only have man’s accounts (though inspired) of who He is?” Or another question is, “Does the Bible communicate the entirety of God’s character to us?

    If we want to take this to a larger and denominational level, is the God of Catholicism the same as the God of Pentecostalism? Is the God of Evangelicalism the same as the God of Greek Orthodoxy? All these claim Christianity; are all these God (s) the same?

    My point is simple. If as people who (hopefully) study Scripture, we can’t identify our own God properly, than how can we engage another’s god?

    Before taking this a step further, I am eager to hear everyone’s ideas. Please chime in!

  • David Hull

    @ Jim You are right to note that there are diverse interpretations of Scripture as well as theological distinctives between Pentecostals, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants.

    I think that this is the importance of creedal Christianity, in terms of focusing on an ecumenical middle…. there is much that we embrace in common with one another.

    I think that the crucial central truth that we all embrace is that the fullness of God’s self-revelation is in Jesus Christ. Whereas we may wrestle with one another on peripheral issues, this central truth we affirm.

    Thus, the rejection of this central revelation, which is present in Islam is the core divide between Christianity and Islam. In Jesus Christ, our understanding of who God is has been irrevocably transformed, he and the Father are one, and if we have seen Christ, we have seen the Father. To see the words and deeds of Christ are to behold the words and deeds of God perfectly represented, though this does not diminish his humanity.

    Thus the rejection of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ is in essence a rejection of God, and Jesus intimates this in the Gospels, i.e. He who denies me denies the one that sends me.

    Jesus is the key/lens through which we understand the story of Israel, the fulfillment of God’s promises to His covenant people, the breaking in of the kingdom of God, the forgiveness of sins, and many other core truths that are central to the Christian faith.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

  • DRT

    Jim#27, you should probably look at the discussion Scot and others have referenced. I was surprised at the diverse range of views by people on this blog, including Scot. I am a proponent for a wide net, I would say the god is the same, but that is far from unanimous.

    William Birch, as far as I can tell you have not commented on what you think of Rick’s efforts other than your shame toward scare quoted Christians who do feel it is the same. Is Rick doing good?

  • Susan N.

    Hi DRT (#9) – “The problems are not primarily national, they are religious.”

    I am reading a book, ‘The Tenth Parallel’ (Eliza Griswold), which essentially makes the case that scarcity of resources due to pronounced effects of global warming, colonization and imperialism are the root causes of conflict between Christians and Muslims in these regions. Further, that religious extremism on both sides (coercive/aggressive efforts to prosyletize) ends up being more about a battle to control the wealth and political power. Polarizing religious “otherness” by demonizing and scapegoating plays on fear of literal death (war, starvation). By magnifying the threat of losing one’s own religious way of life, or worse yet, basic resources for survival, missionaries who have not been careful of their rhetorical language (Franklin Graham – Samaritan’s Purse, one example cited) have exacerbated the conflict. Whether intentionally or not. But the scarcity of resources (drought, land, etc.) is the real root of the power struggle. It’s an interesting book…

    The Jewish, Muslim, and Christian God are one and the same. Even our sacred text, the Bible, tells us that. Heck, as I understand it, the Quran confirms the same! (Though both sacred texts are prone to misinterpretation by radical extremists on both sides, aren’t they?)

    The question of course is the centrality of Jesus Christ to each. That Rick Warren is seeking common ground on which to build with those of other religions is a positive sign, if you ask me. “Ecumenical” (to the tune of the Ziplock commercial jingle, “Economical”) — sing it; such a beautiful word. Truly, I love the pure sound of the word “ecumenical” let alone the beautiful meaning of it in practice!

    ~Peace~ (I’ve missed meeting you in discussions recently, DRT. 🙂 )

  • Brenden

    Thanks for the post, Scot! Rick seems to get beat up often over things he has written in the past, but I for one am encouraged by his journey. This thread of comments alone suggests there are things we could yet learn from him, particularly in regards to peaceful dialogue.

  • Jeremy

    David – This is the crux of the argument, of course. The best way to approach it then is to ask whether or not Christians worship the same God as the Jews? They reject Christ utterly as a false Messiah (Far more than Muslims really, who at least allow that he was a prophet). However, I’m pretty certain that if you said “no” to any of the apostles, their reaction would be interesting at best. So where do we draw the distinction between “different” and “incorrect understanding”?

  • David D

    I don’t plan to read thru all the comments but I will say this…outlining theological principles that say we worship the same God absolutely crosses the line. No Muslim will acknowledge that Jesus is God, and to do so is the spirit of Antichrist according to the Apostle John himself in his letters. Actually, it is also an affront to all Muslims to equate Jesus with God.

    Notice also he says we worship the same God, not that Jesus IS God. So my question is…who is Rick Warren’s God??? In fact, this kind of embracing to “try to get along” won’t work when Jesus said “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. No offense, but I’m so disturbed that there would be support for this on this blog. I truly hope this is a joke or that you are trying to provoke conversation.

    Not evangelize Muslims? It is not loving them to NOT evangelize them. If Rick Warren wants to love a Muslim then he needs to point them to the one true God who shed his blood for their sins. That is the good news and THAT is love! To not do so is to not love them. To accept the above principles, that Jesus and Allah are the same is apostasy and, if I may say, would damn the soul. It matters what you believe.

  • David D

    I am the way, the truth, and the life…

    There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus…

    There is no other name under heaven given to man whereby we might be saved…

    If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father…

    The Word made flesh dwelt among us…

    One last thing, even the Apostle Paul thought it inconceivable not to evangelize…the Jews! I don’t read about Paul getting into civic projects. What I DO see Paul doing is statements like…”I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”.

  • Andie Piehl

    Thanks for sharing, Scot. I think it’s wonderful to see Christians and Muslims in dialog . . . seems much better than the alternative we’ve seen around the world in the recent past. I pray more Christians and Muslims will peacefully reach out to one another in love and try to understand each other.

  • David Hull

    @ Jeremy I think that the question that you ask is a good one. I think perhaps that doing a survey of what the biblical language used is when people reject Jesus Christ. Paul addresses the issue of Israel’s relationship to God in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ in Romans 9-11 for example.

    I think that a distinction needs to be made between Jews and Muslims, which has bearing on your turning the question into, “whether or not Christians worship the same God as the Jews?” Israel was chosen by God of His own volition, not because of their righteousness, and Romans intimates the place of honor that they have before God, and that the ‘calling of God is irrevocable’. I would again refer back to Paul’s treatment of this issue in Romans 9-11 for further reading.

    This sovereign choosing is not applicable to Muslims or any of the rest of us Gentiles. We are grafted into the promises and covenants of Israel through Jesus Christ, into a story that is ongoing. The dividing line between Jew and Gentile has been removed and the true Israel now includes both Jew and Gentile united in Christ.

    The apostolic mission throughout the book of Acts was to “Jew first” seeking to articulate the kingdom of God and Jesus’ Messiahship through the OT Scriptures, and God’s heart is still for His people. Rom. 9-11 speaks of a hardening of the Jews that the fullness of the Gentiles might enter into the kingdom, yet also articulates a renewing and restoring of many Jews upon the return of Christ on the basis of YHWH’s covenant faithfulness.

    Again, this is not the case for Muslims. As ambassadors for Christ, through whom God makes his appeal, we are called to reach out in grace with the message of reconciliation of all things unto God through Jesus Christ. Often times we are worried about offending other people by intimating that they are worshipping God in error.

    Ultimately that is what will happen when we present Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life… and the only name under heaven through which men might be saved. This is an offensive truth. We need to be gracious and loving in dialogue with those of other faiths and seek to remove every stumbling block except that of the cross.

    Hopefully that is helpful, I would love some more feedback and dialogue!

  • Kenton

    William #23-

    “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 NASB) Should I contact seminary professors and Christian scholars so that they can enlighten us as to the real, contextual meaning of this statement made by Jesus?

    Maybe you should. The verse actually starts “Jesus answered”. The question Jesus was answering wasn’t “Hey, what about those that identify with a different religion?” No, the context was that the disciples were upset that the messiah they had hoped would liberate Judea from the Romans was lowering himself to washing the disciples feet at the very moment He could have rallied the people to overthrow their oppressors. It was so perplexing that Thomas asked, “We don’t the way You’re going, Jesus. What the hell are you up to?”

    It sounds like the Muslims RW is talking to get that “the way” is not the way of exclusion in conflict that the disciples wanted, but the way of serving in peace that Jesus modeled.

  • Kenton

    That should read “We don’t *like” the way you’re going…”

  • Tanya

    Wow, would the people who are upset about this be just as upset if you were meeting with Jews? Would they concede it is “the same God?”

    How about Mormons, the Amish, Presbyterians (or Baptists.)
    Can’t we concede that those who claim the God of Abraham worship the same God — albeit they may go different directions from there?

    Why are we Christians so ignorant?

  • K

    When I worship with my Arabic-speaking Christian brothers and sisters here in my adopted country, we worship “Allah”. Our Muslim neighbours worship Allah, the God of Abraham and Moses. They do not accept that Jesus is God, but then neither do the Jews, as Jeremy @33 points out. Is the God of the Old Testament different from the Christian God, because his worshippers did not recognise his triune nature?
    My Christian brothers who used to follow the way of Islam but now follow Jesus tell me that then they knew Allah dimly, as through smoke, but now they see him clearly in Jesus.

  • cw

    The old adage “no one really cares what you know until they know you really care” might be of some pertinence here. I think Rick Warren deserves being given some credit for knowing what distance there is theology-wise between the deity worshiped by those of Islamic faith and the God and Father of Jesus Christ. If what he (and other church members) are doing earns the Body of Christ an opportunity to show His love to those who don’t know Him then they’re following Jesus’ instructions. How in the world are unbelievers going to see Gospel Redemption “in situ” if we don’t live it out among them?

  • Sooo….. Are we taking the statement that there is one mediator between God and man and using that as a dividing posture or a mediating posture between man and man? In Christ, that Christian and Muslim are alike; apart from him, they are estranged and alienated.

    And about evangelism… let’s define when that begins and what it might include. Is it possible that it involves building trust and respectful interaction that opens a door of opportunity to invite others into the Kingdom that Jesus is building. How do you get a chance to invite someone to Christ unless you actually engage in life with them?

    Rick Warren’s version in this matter looks more like the breaking down of the walls of division than the other versions I’m reading. I’ve personally never yet seen a Christian attract another Christian to consider Christ by using Christ as a hatchet of some sort.

  • Jeremy

    David, thanks for the response. I think you headed off in another direction. I’m not sure anyone is arguing that Muslims are “members of the Elect” or anything of the sort. It really boils down to a semantics and historical issue. Are they the same god historically? Yes. I don’t think Warren or Volf, when pushing for ecumenical common ground, would remove Jesus from the equation.

    I think the big issue really is that, yes, the truth can be offensive, but we’ve gotten this impression that this fact gives us a blank check on offending. It doesn’t work, it never has, and it never will. “Offensive” truths need to be shared when the Spirit says “go,” and not a moment before.

    I find it odd that so many have a street preacher mentality and very few, if any, are actually out there doing it. Do they actually talk that way to unbelievers? and if so, in the famous words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?”

  • Dave Leigh

    I applaud Warren for identifying one of the world’s greatest problems/needs and not leaving it to be dealt with by political or militaristic solutions. This is the church’s battle and dialogue is the only Christian way to combat ignorance and hatred with the gospel of peace. We need more of this.

  • David Hull

    @ Jeremy. Thanks for the clarification!

    I suppose I have a question. You asked the question, “are they the same God historically?”, to which your response is a “yes”. How does the historical fact of the Incarnation affect the response to that question? If we are going to talk about God historically, yet avoid a pivotal historical event in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (historical to the point that our calendars have been shaped by his birth- even if they are off by a couple of years :)), can we make the claim that historically they are the same?

    I think the issue is not merely a historical one, it is also ontological. Christians believe in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… that this is the very nature of God from eternity. Though the language of the Trinity was not articulated until Tertullian and worked out by the early church fathers for the first couple hundred years of the church, this doctrine is incipient in the pages of the NT. To reject Christ is to reject God as he has chosen to reveal himself to humanity. Thus when God is worshipped while intentionally rejecting the Son….Scripture is very clear that if you deny the Son that you do not have the Father (1 John 2:23 ). If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, that this is the very breath of God illuminating truth through his apostles… this would appear to be God’s position on the issue.

    It would appear that Scripture indicates that Muslims, in the rejection of the Son, do not have the Father, therefore they are not worshipping or praying to the same God as Christians are. This does not mean that they are outside of the grace of God.

    I totally agree with you about Spirit led discernment in sharing “offensive” truths, and that we should not seek to be offensive for its own sake. The offense should not come from idiocy, but rather from the truths of Scripture itself.

    I have found in doing street evangelism, particularly when talking to Muslims, that it is important to come in a spirit of grace, love, and humility and to begin from common points, and to build the conversation to the point of talking about Jesus. We meet people where they are.

    Thanks again for the dialogue, I appreciate your insights!

  • An excellent resource on Muslim/Christian interaction is Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book by Mateen Elass, a Muslim convert to Christianity. I learned so much reading that short book.

  • JohnM

    “Warren wrote…My life and ministry are built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.”…

    If that is so, what exactly does Rick Warren desire to be the ultimate result of his outreach to Muslims? Do the Muslims know that? Seems to me the very doctrine on which Rick Warren’s life and ministry are built is major source of “..the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians”. Who does Rev. Warren really think doesn’t understand? Would the Imams agree with him on that?

  • LexCro

    I’m curious about something here. I worked in college campus ministry for nine years, and for six of those years I had the pleasure of debating and dialoguing with Muslims (most of whom belonged to the campus-based Muslim Student Association). We built great friendships on and off campus, and we were able to maintain those friendships despite trenchant differences with respect to God, our respective holy books, and theology. We even used to acknowledge overtly that we were trying to evangelize/convert one another. In all my friendships with and evangelism to Muslims (both of which go beyond my campus ministry) I never met any orthodox Muslims who thought that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Every now and then I ran into a few nominal Muslims (who openly acknowledged their nominalism) who believed this, but absolutely no orthodox Muslims who thought this way. Why is it that many Westerners usually assume that (1) Muslims and Christian worship the same god and (2) that it is Christians (not Muslims) who just need to get with the program and acknowledge this? I must also add this: Those Muslim countries that persecute Christians and former Muslims who convert to Christ have also failed to note that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

    Second, Jesus seems to have missed the news that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I mean, I have had occasion to actually meet former Muslims who became Christians due (in large part) to miraculous encounters with Christ and/or the power of Christ (the latter referring mostly to miracles unaccompanied by visions). All of them followed Christ at great personal cost. This phenomena is well-known among Christians who are working with Muslims. There is such uniformity to many of the visionary experiences that former Muslims refer to Christ as Isa the Man in White.

    So if Muslims and Christians worship the same God, it seems like Christ Himself didn’t get the memo.

  • scotmcknight

    I’m a bit amazed at how many folks jump on this word “same” — they are not Rick Warren words, they are from the journalist.

    If Rick said “same God,” I want to see what he said in context and ask what he meant, but until then I see no reason to discuss what Rick Warren believes about “same God” until someone produces a quote from him. Then we can talk.

  • Merv Olsen

    Well said, LexCro! I agree wholeheartedly with all you have written.

  • Kyle


    The sheer length of this thread has me thinking it’s likely I’ve missed something, but you champion Warren through the author in the original post but in at least two of your rejoinders to readers make a point to explain that evidence is required before concluding (1) whether Warren rather than merely the author used the term “same” or (2) what precisely Warren means by “love”. The article is bankrupt these distinctions behind the distinctions, but you applaud Warren through the author while nonetheless asking others to flesh out these terms using outside sources. Are we to assume, then, that the article and your endorsement of Warren can’t be taken at face value but need context you have? Again, maybe I’m missing something! I’m grateful for the post, the thought-provoking responses collected here, and the opportunity to respond and contribute in even just a minor way.


  • JohnM

    Scot, there’s no reason for you to be amazed considering the first paragraph of an original post titled “Good for Rick Warren”. Perhaps your reminder/explanation should have been up front.

  • DRT

    Susan N.#31, that is exactly what I meant about religious. Some here may hate me for the following, but it is what I feel is really going on.

    I was, largely, not in tune with the world stage until 9/11. As most will recall, Bush was asked why they hate us and he responded by saying that they hate us for our freedoms. This really took me by…shock…and I started to research why they hate us. Of course it is a long story, but in the end they hate us because we come out of our side of the world, dominate their sphere of influence, take their natural resources, and, the most important point, inhabit their holy grounds. We are, quite clearly and unambiguously in their minds, proud arrogant bullies who don’t care about them, their wealth or their culture. In short, we take advantage of them.

    Until we realize that the faith of that area runs deep, and are able to adequately value the religious worth of the area, land, people, way or life, history, autonomy, etc., we will not be able to make peace.

    Now clearly we value the area too, we have investments, trade agreements, Israel. But those things are not the same. They have owned that region of the world longer than we can lay claim to our might.

    We are bullies. Plain and simple. We don’t intend to be, but we are in relation to the Muslim world. We need to acknowledge that.

    Unfortunately my time on the blog comes in spurts, when I feel up to doing more than sitting…

  • scotmcknight


    I applaud Rick Warren’s efforts to build bridges, to reach out in love, to set all of this in the context of discipling the nations (read his Peace Plan orientation), etc. He’s seeking to love the neighbor, the Muslim neighbor. There is a theological dispute about the meaning of “same,” and anyone who thinks he or she knows what Rick Warren means by “same,” if he said that, ought to quote him in context and show what he means. Volf has now make that term very clear in discussion — “same but not identical” — and anyone who wants to bang that drum needs to use terms with similar care.

  • Kyle


    Thank you for the clarification. I suppose I was sensing ambiguity with regard to what this “love” might mean (in truth, the ambiguity was mostly connected to the debate about “same” and how that could affect an important aspect of evangelism), but you’ve placed your emphasis in a manner that leaves little room for confusion.

  • MWK

    Hey Scot, Rick has some clarifications on Ed Stetzer’s blog. Don’t have the link, sorry.

  • Matt

    Here is the link to Warren’s clarifications on Stetzer’s blog:

  • Bob Smallman

    Warren responds to all this in Ed Stetzer’s blog as MWK noted. You can find it at It is, as they say, “must reading” before assuming what Warren believes.

  • EricW

    @LexCro 49.

    We heard many such stories from a missionary to Muslims in France (where he lives) who spoke last year at a house gathering while he was back in the U.S.

  • Percival

    I’ve had a good night’s rest and now feel I am ready to continue in a civil manner. I apologize for my sharp words yesterday.

    LexCro #49,

    Yes, Muslims these days will often say that we do not worship the same god. This ‘admission’ is not some kind of concession on their part. It is an attack on the basis of Christianity as a monotheistic religion. They are accusing Christians of the greatest sin – shirk/polytheism. If we say we have different gods, we are in essence agreeing that we are not monotheists. This is not some kind of victory of getting down to what both sides really believe. It is an admission of a false belief and we are agreeing with fundamentalist Muslims, like those who run MSA campus organizations, are right in calling us polytheists. Truly Orthodox Muslims put Christians in the category of People of the Book as monotheists who worship the one true God.

  • Georges Boujakly

    Kudos for Rick Warren for bridging into Islam.

    Growing up in the Middle East there is no confusion on the street that the God of Islam is not the same as the God the Christians worship. A Muslim would never worship the Christian God. Neither will the the Christian worship the Muslim God. I know Warren is not advocating an equality of worship.

    We can make all the distinctions in the term “same” we want, the crux of the matter is that our Jesus God will never be recognized as God for Muslims. (Scot, I think you made that point in the discussion with Volf). I also know that Warren, in keeping with his evangelical theology, would have to advocate for the worship of Jesus at some point in the dialogue.

    There is rapprochment to be had in joint endeavors, such as feeding the poor, protecting the unborn, preserving modesty, and a plethora of other issues. Perhaps we should focus here.

  • I’m very glad to hear of Warren’s efforts. I’ve appreciated the thoughtful engagement of Volf in his book, Allah, and that of friends involved in the Christian-Muslim relations. I recall Volf indicating that we need to focus on loving God & neighbor, here, rather than on the differences of understanding Godself & reconciliation/ relationship/ salvation w/ God. It’s so hard for us to live in the present, when we want to solve yesterday’s & tomorrow’s problems w/law & not grace. That said, in the comments above that I skimmed, someone mentioned the Bible as affirming “same God” with Muslims. Given that Mohammed didn’t live until the 6th-7th century AD, that’s certainly an historically inaccurate statement. Wm Birch seems not to have read the Qu’ran well, since it’s generally very approving of the People of the Book – i.e., Christians & Jews, as well as seeing “Issa” as sinless (Jesus).

  • Susan N.

    Excerpt from the book ‘The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, a Jew — Three Women Search for Understanding’:

    ‘Things to Know About Islam: What We Call God’

    “Allah is the Arabic word for God. It is used by Arab Christians as well as Muslims. For Muslims, God was not created and there is no other being like him. Muslims believe that one of God’s most important qualities is his ‘Oneness.’ According to Muslims, if God is one, then there cannot be different or rival Gods, such as a God for the Jews, a God for the Christians, and a God for the polytheists. God is believed to have 99 beautiful names. These are descriptive adjectives given throughout the Quran, including All Powerful Creator of the Cosmos, The Compassionate, The Merciful, The Guardian, The Loving, The Patient, and The Ever Forgiving. Muslims traditionally repeat these descriptive names with the help of a rosary known as a misbah. This rosary has 100 beads. Ninety-nine represent God’s qualities, while one larger bead symbolizes God.” (p. 371)

    ‘Things to Know About Christianity: What We Call God’

    “Christians have three names for God. Each name refers to one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. The first is God the Father, which refers to the all-powerful Creator. The second is God the Son, who is Jesus, who is both God and man. He is one person in whom both the divine and human natures are consistently present. The third Christian name for God is the Holy Spirit. This is the term Christians use when referring to the manifestations of God’s power on earth, as in the miracles at Jesus’ baptism and Pentecost.” (p.367)

    Muhammad is the prophet of Islam, like Moses or John the Baptist. To my understanding, Muslims view Jesus as a prophet on equal footing with Muhammad. Which is where the theological digression is situated, imho. Ishmael is Abraham’s son, too, isn’t that right?

    It seems to me that Jesus himself spoke of the danger of thinking that just because someone says, “Lord, Lord..,” doesn’t mean they really know him. Sobering? Humbling?

  • CGC

    Thanks Bob #59 on the Stetzer interview. Maybe the supreme irony in all this is here is Warren who says they are not the same God but is tryng to build bridges and show the love of God towards Muslims whereas others may be arguing intellectually for the same God approach but are not doing anything when it comes to Christians and Muslim relations. Despite how people come down on this issue intellectually, its love towards others that is the highest apologetic of all.

  • Jim

    A few years ago, I spent a summer in Israel working alongside Jewish doctors at various hospitals with a Christian organization whose goal was to bring Muslim children with life-threatening heart problems the care that they could not get in their home areas (mainly Iraq, West Bank, Gaza Strip, though some other countries were also helped such as Jordan and Morocco).

    One thing I remembered was how often people were critical of offering care to future “terrorists.” The sad point was brought home by a friend who said, “Some people would rather revel in their hatred than join in the compassionate triumph that is Jesus Christ.”

    What people failed to see was that in this merciful and beautiful ministry, often we would get questions from the Muslim parents, their children and even the Jewish doctors.

    “Why would you help people who you do not know?”
    “Why would you come all the way from America?”
    “Why would you live in a place that doesn’t accept who you are?”
    “Why? Why? Why?”

    In these questions, we often had the opportunity to share that Jesus’ Kingdom is much more than what this world offers. It is about healing (offering the children care). It is about reconciliation (bringing people who despise each other together). It is about mercy and humility and love.

    I also can recount two various times that I was able to communicate the Gospel in ways that people could understand. The first was by looking at Islam’s 99 names of God and revealing that Jesus (through Scripture) meets those names just as much as Allah of the Qu’ran. The other way was by taking Jesus (Isa) from the Qu’ran and showing that He is superior to anyone before and after Him (including Muhammad). My proficiency in Arabic from living overseas before that endeavor was greatly beneficial in this.

    My point is that whether or not Allah and YHWH are the same should not deter us from the fact that Jesus wants us to include people (no matter who) in His Kingdom. This includes the most militant terrorist, the poorest beggar, the most moderate peacemaker and the richest mogul.

  • Tim

    Thanks, Jim@#67 for your post.

    Thanks, Rick Warren, for risk-taking-Christ-like love.

    Thanks, JesusCreed, for the reminder to love God 100% and to love all our neighbors as we love ourselves.

  • Susan N.

    Jim (#67) – What Tim (#68) said.

    You rocked the message home!

    I especially appreciate the personal testimony that you shared. Powerful truth. ~Peace~

  • This reminds me of how much Rick Warren loves homosexuals. He loves them, but they can’t be accepted by God the way the are and believe now. Warren’s mind is made up on that, and nothing you or I or scripture or God has said will change the way we judges gays and Muslims — and probably me, if he’d bother to think about it. Personally, when I have a dialog with someone whose convictions about grace exclude me, it doesn’t go very well, because my convictions are, by definition, dismissed.

  • CGC

    To J, and all,
    Take out homosexual behavior or violent Muslim behavior and put in pedaphile behavior or rapist behavior or whatever? If we exclude anything we believe is wrong (behavior), that means the person is automatically being dismissed? If that is the case, I don’t know how we could have a moral conversation and say anything is wrong when there are people who make up that group or believe a certain behavior is perfectly fine. There is a large group of slave-traffickers around the world that thinks there is nothing wrong in enslaving whole groups of people for money and profit. Nor do I preclude that Rick or anyone can change their mind on a moral issue (unless our track record is our whole life, we have not changed our views on anything . . . If that is the case, then all bets are off :–)

  • OK… I guess you really can’t believe what you read on the Internet, including clarifications by Warren.

    Fighting for the Faith
    “Angels on Special Assignment?”
    March 8th, 2012

    47 min in start of setup
    1hr 01min in for start of story

    Looks like Warren has engaged in this kind of covering of his tracks in the past… so I wouldn’t doubt there is more to this story than meets the eye as well.