The Same-God Question: Four Views

The Same-God Question: Four Views October 22, 2019

Many I bump into don’t care about this issue because for them all other Gods than the Christian God are non-gods, idolatries. Others, however, probe this question with far more interest, asking at times about overlaps and dissimilarities. I’m grateful to Zondervan’s industrious editors for yet one more volume in the Counterpoints series with this new volume:

Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God?

The editors are Ronnie P. Campbell and Christopher Gnanakan.

The contributors are Wm Andrew Schwartz and John B Cobb, Jr (religious pluralism view), Francis Beckwith (same God view), Gerald McDermott (Jews and Christians do, the shared revelation view), Jerry Walls (different conceptions view).

Ministry reflections are by Joseph Cumming and David Shenk, who focus on Christian Muslim relations.

Each delves into the following questions:

Jews, Christians, and Muslims all hold to monotheism, but is monotheism enough to claim that adherents of each religion worship “the same” God?

Does the doctrine of the Trinity matter in this debate? If so, to what extent?

Much of the current debate hinges on what one means by “the same.” What do we mean by “the same,” and how do we make sense of the differences underlying each religions understanding of God?

What is included in worship? Is worship necessary for salvation? Furthermore, what place does the worship (or reverence) of Jesus Christ have for understanding the sameness of the God of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and to what extent does this matter?

Does affirming sameness lead to inclusivism or pluralism with respect to salvation, or does denying sameness imply exclusivism?

I’m with Jerry Walls, and I will provide a summary by the editors of his view:

Dissenting from the previous three views, Jerry Walls takes the fourth and final position, that none worship the same God. Certainly, Christians, Jews, and Muslims share common beliefs about God, but Walls questions whether such shared beliefs are enough to maintain that the same God is in view. Drawing from recent studies in the philosophy of language, particularly the notion of “reference shifts,” he first argues that it is doubtful whether Muslims and Christians can even claim to refer to the same thing when they speak of God. But even if a reference shift has not occurred, it is still not clear that the conditions necessary for worship obtain. Walls then provides another argument grounded in New Testament revelation, which, if successful, would show that Christians, Jews, and Muslims have radically different conceptions of God. He distinguishes between the order of being and the order of knowing. According to the order of being, God has eternally been a triunity of persons. Yet with respect to the order of knowing, this is something that was not revealed until the incarnate Son rose from the dead—something Christians recognize as progressive revelation and is established by the New Testament. Jews and Muslims both reject these distinctive elements of God’s revelation to us, namely, the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus and the triunity of God. The thrust of Walls’s argument suggests that for those Muslims and Jews who have been properly informed of the incarnation and resurrection of the Son of God, and yet who reject this revelation given to us by God through the New Testament, are not worshiping the same God as properly informed Christians, since those who reject are denying something that is true about God.

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