Every time a Culture Warrior Rejects Nostra Aetate and CCC 841…

Every time a Culture Warrior Rejects Nostra Aetate and CCC 841… December 18, 2015

…to argue that “the God of Christianity and the God of Islam are two different Gods” what he is really saying is, “I am a polytheist.”

Time for a rethink, guys.

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  • Doyle

    …to argue that “the God of Christianity and the God of Islam are two different Gods” what he is really saying is, “I am a polytheist.”

    I think when someone says that they are implying one is false, like Zeus or Wonder Woman. But, yeah, the CCC is pretty clear on that point.

    • Scaevola

      His point, to make it clear, is this—

      Muslims and Christians worship God (the same one).
      But Muslims worship a “different God”.
      Ergo God is two.

  • iamlucky13

    What he is really saying is that the Islamic view of God, despite being monotheistic and at least to some degree benevolent, is still very significantly different from what we know. They flat out reject the Trinity and the idea of a God Who would accept death in ransom for our sins is a scandalous blasphemy to them.

    If I describe you by detailing characteristics I’ve assumed but that don’t apply to you, and another poster responds to me by saying, “You’re describing a different Mark Shea,” he’s not telling me that he is a poly-Sheaist who believes in another Mark Shea who fits that description. He’s sarcastically telling me I’m mistaken in my belief of who you are.

    Is sarcasm ecumenically (or whatever the appropriate word is for the same concept extended beyond Christianity) productive? Probably actually the opposite, but that’s a very different criticism from falsely supposing the person making the remark is a polytheist.

    This also is not a rejection of Nostra Aetate, which does not say much about Islam other than to highlight that we share a belief in monotheism and that Muslims display laudable zeal in their prayer, fasting, and charity. It does not command us not to make clear the differences, which would rather be covered in its urging “to work sincerely for mutual understanding.” Mutual understanding does not include pretending we share more in common than we really do.

    • Scaevola

      More than monotheism—it explicitly says they worship *the* one God.

  • Mark Martinson

    I think the claim is that there is only one God, but that the Islamic understanding of God is so far off that the God of Islam is not the same that Christians worship. Are you so dull Mark that you don’t understand this?

    • chezami

      No. Culture warriors are so dull that they do not grasp that in positing Allah as a “different God” they are affirming polytheism. It’s called “cutting off your nose to spite your face” and it is done in open defiance of the obvious and sensible teaching of Nostra Aetate, which recognizes that Christians, Jews and Muslims all profess faith in the God of Abraham. It’s a simple affirmation of the bare minimum we hold in common. But Culture Warriors prefer to foolish turn themselves into polytheists rather acknowledge even the slightest commonality with Muslims.

      • Mark Martinson

        Mark. Do you believe that every monotheist worships the same God as Christians?

        • Scaevola

          Only those who worship Self-Subsisting Being (as the Muslims in fact do)

      • Sue Korlan

        When someone tells me that God wants them to kill others, unless they are a legitimate police officer, soldier in a just war, or using the least amount of force necessary to defend themselves, then I know that what they think is God is really the devil. I dare say there are members of all 3 religions who suffer from that problem, and saying that those people aren’t worshipping the same God doesn’t mean I’m affirming polytheism, it means I’m acknowledging human frailty and the reality of the devil.

      • iamlucky13

        That’s really obtuse. You’re positing that said culture warriors believe in this separate “Allah,” despite the fact you know full well they don’t.

        You have a legitimate point to make. Don’t spoil it by pretending to be dumb.

      • Dave G.

        To that end, so did Arians, so do Mormons and so do Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s worth remembering in these debates. I don’t think most who say that mean there are two gods, and Muslims worship that one over there. In fact, based on those I’ve talked to, I know that’s not what they mean. See my first post below for what they mean. I’m sticking with what the priest I talked to today said (above). Sure, there are things in common. Just as a poodle and a crocodile have things in common. But boy, those differences are worth not forgetting. For that matter, Martin Luther King, Jr., has things in common with Stalin. But again, those differences make all the difference.

  • bob

    Muslims pretty explicitly reject the fact that God begets and is begotten. That’s their problem, not mine. Orthodox Christians as far as I am aware utterly reject what they worship as they do toward Orthodox Christians. They think I’m a polytheist. I have no obligation to define what their version of things is, but “Abrahamic” it ain’t. They wish it were, as they wish Jesus was another prophet, a nice fella who would point me toward their “prophet” who an Orthodox rejects as a false one.

    • chezami

      Jews reject that too. Wanna tell me Jews worship another God than the God of Israel? Good luck with that.

      • bob

        No, I take Jews seriously, Muslims are interlopers. They would like to ride the coattails of Jews and Christians for some credibility. That’s one reason they abhor both, they consider themselves superior to both and that both are conquered peoples. They are no more “Abrahamic” than Mormons who *are* polytheists. I feel a Muslim is a little like a modern Episcopalian who might have an icon or have a Catholic or Orthodox saint on their calendar though have never been in communion with them for a second. In fact they aren’t very “Abrahamic” either. Muslims are monotheists who made up a new one.

        • Marthe Lépine

          I would not say that Muslims in general are just riding the “coattails of Jews and Christians”. Instead, I would say that it is their founding prophet who did, and was believed by many people, and this spread from generation to generation thereafter, among people who grew up in that culture and don’t know any better.

      • bob

        WAIT. This just in; NPR has kindly provided clarification. It is now official: Muslims and Mormons DO worship the same god. I believe the proper response to this as with other theological pearls from NPR is as always “DOH!”.


        I certainly hope we will be treated to what is involved in a Christmas program at a Mormon church/temple/what have you. Please notice I did NOT say Mormons and Muslims have polygamy in common because that would be wrong.

  • Dave G.

    The best explanation I heard by one of those vile culture warrior types was that it is not the same God in the sense that if you were to say ‘I admire Rush Limbaugh because he is mild and polite and fair and objective and clearly of a moderate tendency while being willing to embrace the ideas of those he disagrees with’, one might be inclined to say ‘gee, that’s not the Rush Limbaugh I know.’ Same with Islam’s understanding of God versus the Christian view. And from my vantage point, you’d be right to question that version of Limbaugh. Same with Islam, especially for those Catholics I’ve heard that seem to think that except for a couple pesky doctrines, we could almost confess One, Holy, Catholic and Islamic Apostolic Church.

  • CCC 841: “these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

    I think the catechism makes a subtle distinction here. They “profess” to hold the faith Abraham, but they do not. However, they do ultimately worship the one true God although their understanding of that one true God is flawed. In fact, even some Christians in the Middle East refer to God as Allah. The same thing could be said of the Jewish faith. We just need to use precise terminology to recognize there is only one God without falling into syncretism.

    • Scaevola

      Nostra Aetate does speak with the clarity you seek: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.”

      The latter portion seems to fit with your distinction; however, the first portion is a declarative sentence—they do adore *the* one God, *living and subsisting in Himself* etc. That last one is especially pertinent, since the kind of Being which subsists in Itself cannot be quantified (there cannot be multiple self-subsistences).

    • Marthe Lépine

      I think that “Allah” actually means the one true God of Abraham in a number of languages. There was a legal fight in, I think, Indonesia, between Christians and Muslims because the Muslims objected to the Christians calling God “Allah”.

      • HornOrSilk

        Yes, there was, with the Christians the ones pushing back against radicals in Indonesia. But the radicals in the US would love to know they follow the same mentality as the radical Muslims. They are in agreement with each other. The irony is they are also in agreement with what that means (it’s ok to kill the other, since they are bad guys).

    • HornOrSilk

      The problem is you are reading the profess in English and ignoring how it is in Latin, which would be in subjunctive if intended as you read it. The Latin doesn’t allow the little trick you and others like you engage with the English, which is also why Popes quote it and continue on to explain how it is the one and same God. Oh, and also it goes along with the fathers of the church who found ways to explain unity with the pagans and Christians on God, too.

      • The Latin of CCC 841 says the following: “qui fidem Abrahae se tenere profitentes”. How is that saying something different than that they profess to hold the faith of Abraham? I’m not seeing the difference, but perhaps you can help me with the translation. The catechism says it is the one and the same God. I’m not arguing that point. I’m referring to their profession in the faith of Abraham. Islam believes that God’s promises flowed from Ishmael instead of Isaac. So they profess to hold the faith back to Abraham, but it is not fully accurate. Perhaps that’s why saints like St. John Damascene actually refer to Islam as a heresy because they do believe in the one true God, but they teach error.

        • HornOrSilk

          When you say what someone else says but do not believe them, you use it in subjunctive. This is basic Latin grammar. The text is saying they actually profess the same God –this equivocation in English is not in the Latin – it is indicative of what they are actually doing — just like we profess our faith. This is just the typical anti-Islam rhetoric used by some who try to wiggle out of the unity we have with Islam. They profess the God of Abraham. So do we! If as you say, they believe the same God and you have no problem, then they DO profess the God of Abraham. The problem is not in the profession — indeed, to profess the God of Abraham is to go further than the God of the philosophers (which we see is God) because it adds Abraham and his importance in the mix. Please, stop playing games. Yes, we all know people often misconstrue God — but it is still the same God, and the profession is not changed from it.

          • That works for me! I think we were ultimately on the same page, but I just wasn’t stating it as eloquently. We can talk about our agreements with Islam, but we should not de-emphasize our differences in the process. I know you were not doing that, but I’m just making a general observation. We should use our similarities as a starting point to help them come all the way home to the church (out of love for them not hatred for them). My intention was not to “play games” or be “anti-Islam” in my comments. However, if wanting to evangelize them makes me “anti-Islam”, then so be it. Throwing out words loosely like “anti-Islam” or “bigotry” when having civilized conversations about Islam can make some want to shy away from evangelizing efforts.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    The God of Christians has a Son. The “god” of Jews and Muslims doesn’t.

    • chezami

      Another more Catholic than the Church bigot heard from.

      • You are resorting to calling people bigots because they preach against Islam? Yes his terminology was incorrect, but i believe his intention was to say Catholics BELIEVE that God has a son while Islam does not BELIEVE that God has a son. Objectively speaking there is only one true God who has a son in Jesus Christ. I think this is pretty clear from his statement despite the imprecise terminology. There was nothing even resembling bigotry in his statement. I’m done with this blog and your ridiculous ad hominem attacks on people trying to have a conversation.

        • Artevelde

          On the other hand, I always imagined that anyone who carelessly places the name of the Creator of Heaven and Earth between quotation marks, should probably have larger worries than being the target of said M. Shea’s attacks, ad hominem or not.

          • Your point is well taken sir. I don’t agree with the use of “quotes” either. However, take away the quotes and it’s still a partially valid statement that I don’t think warranted such a negative response. We can accept the catechism/nostra aetate statement that Islam worships the one true God while simultaneously acknowledging that Islam has a distorted view of God. We could give the benefit of the doubt that someone is using quotes in that context to mean Islam’s distorted view on who God is, without jumping down their throat. No it’s not the best approach to use quotes and no he shouldn’t have used the quotes, but not everyone in comboxes is always theologically precise in making their arguments. Myself included! Something I need to work on admittedly. We can bend over backward all we want to prove that Islam worships the one true God which I think has been accomplished by some knowledgeable folks here, but it doesn’t change the conclusion that we are called to evangelize Muslims. For example, there is an awful lot of talk about the corporal works of mercy around Syrian refugees (which is good), but I don’t hear much about the spiritual works of mercy and evangelization to Muslims (or any other religion for that matter). Any attempt by well meaning Catholics to point out the errors of Islam (even when done in a theologically imprecise way) gets chastised by the snarky experts who think it is somehow more beneficial to show why other faiths like Islam worship the one true God, and then refer to the well meaning Catholics as bigots using anti-Islam rhetoric. What exactly does that accomplish in the grand scheme of things?

    • HornOrSilk

      The God of the Jews and Muslims has a Son. The Jews and Muslims just don’t realize it. Oh, and btw. It’s also the God of the Hindus.

    • IRVCath

      So the Jews don’t worship God?

  • Dave G.

    Best answer I heard from a priest. If you mean that Muslims, like Jews, are looking at the same God as us, then yeah. Like the Greeks and their unknown god were looking to God. Just as anyone who is worshiping anything ultimately is looking toward God. But Muslims, like Mormons (who I notice Catholics are far tougher on) follow a heretical take. For the Prophet came after the revelation of Christ and yet formulated a religion deliberately rejecting the Christ as proclaimed (though it could be argued by some that since Mohammed could have been exposed to heretical senses of the Faith himself, that could account for it). Nonetheless, a heresy it remains. So it can be right, in one sense, to say they profess to worship the same God. But they ultimately don’t, any more than a Wiccan who uses the English word for God – God – means the same thing as an orthodox Christian. Or a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness means the same for that matter. To try to make it say more, or act as if it doesn’t matter, is to take a step toward the great Heresy of our age (Opriahanity: all religions are the same so it doesn’t matter, they all get you there since one is as good as another). But so nuanced – and this is important – is the difference, it certainly wouldn’t be something worth trouncing a fellow believer over, unless they tried to embrace the heresy that one religion is as good as another and they’re all the same on their approach to God. That would require rebuking, albeit with love. Unless I hear a better one, that’s my go to answer.

  • Gunnar Thalweg

    The confusion is this. Islam and Christianity make specific claims about what God has done and said. Islam says Allah sent a prophet named Mohammed and had an angel dictate the Koran to him, and then charged him with a mission to convert everyone on earth. Christianity teaches that none of that is from God, and God became incarnate on earth, said different things, and gave a different mission.

    So the question is: Are these two religions talking about the same God, and one (or both) are incorrect in identifying what God said and did? Or are they talking about two different entities?

    I think the latter is a fair question. It’s like two people talking about a mutual friend, and they are so different in what they are saying, that one finally says, are we talking about the same Bob? Bob never did or said any of those things … and the answer is we are talking about the same Bob but disagree about all sorts of things he said and did.

    The Church says it’s the same God, but the Muslims get almost everything else wrong about God. OK, that was one of the choices.

    That still leaves plenty of room for the idea that the Koran is of demonic origin (and deeply creepy), that much of Islamic teaching is of demonic origin or based at best in a worldly wisdom, that the spiritual realm Muslims contact is mostly demonic, and that Muslims live out a distorted view of God, and thus sow violence, discord and confusion throughout the earth. These are people that when in charge, prevent the preaching of the gospel. You don’t get much more demonic than that. As the Bible says, Ishmael was a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him.

    And when you recognize that the Koran is demonic, then it’s clear that a lot of time when the Muslims are speaking of God, they are in fact speaking about the devil. So in that sense, Muslims are speaking about a different being.

    • HornOrSilk

      No, Muslims don’t get “most everything else wrong.” Anymore than Plato did, whose God was recognized by Paul on Mars Hill.

      Oh, and btw, it is an option that Muhammad was a prophet of God, whose message was later subverted by the Caliphs (he didn’t write the Koran, after all). There are many Christians through the centuries which have suggested variations on that theme (Paul of Antioch, Vladimir Solovyov, Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria, et al.). And even then, the Koran doesn’t have to be demonic in origin, and a lot could indeed be from God (since it would have been collected from all kinds of sources, including some from Muhammad). I would suggest you stop going to anti-Islam bigot sites, and study the diversity of Islamic thought instead of invoking demons all so quick.

      • Gunnar Thalweg

        So, your mileage varies.

        As far as your “anti-Islamic bigot sites” comments, you have no idea who I am, where I have traveled, my connection to Muslims, and my level of education. It is you who are pre-judging me, as in prejudice.

        Muhammad himself, by Islam’s own accounts, thought he was possessed. At times, by the Koran’s own accounts, Satan speaks through Muhammad. The fact that he was only able to tell the difference, when circumstances changed, is suspicious. Muhammad was a warlord, and committed war crimes. By their own accounts. He took multiple wives. By their own accounts. It denies Christ, saying Jesus is a prophet but Muhammad is a greater prophet

        New Testament teaching is that if spirit is of God, it admits Jesus is the Christ and was raised from the dead. Any other spiritual message is not of God, and either of the flesh or the evil one.

        Islam is God as master. He is a merciful master, but a master nonetheless. He is not the incarnate eternal logos.

        But you are welcome to say Muhammad didn’t say all those things and that the Koran was written later and was corrupted, but that’s not Islam as practiced. Islam teaches that the Koran was dictated to Muhammad, and scribes wrote it down and it was compiled later. During these utterances, Muhammad denied Jesus is the Christ, well, I think we know where they came from. It’s definitely fair comment that it’s the devil.

        • HornOrSilk

          You still confuse so many things, showing lack of understanding, just cherry picking the worst things while ignoring what was pointed out. First, that the Koran and later views of Muhammad were developed long after his death, and so questions have to be raised as to how accurate they are. But even if, as you say, there is tradition which suggests he had attacks from demons — guess what, even authentic saints and prophets said the same thing. So you would develop a way to attack saints of the church as your answer. Well done!

          Second, Scripture (NT and OT are both Scripture, but still in the NT) you will find Jesus is “Lord” and “Master.” Yes, MASTER. So if you want to say “God as Master” is evil, then you have to remove the Bible (and lots of medieval saints writings, to).

          Third, “how Islam is practiced” is cherry picked to your own little caricature. Nice. Same with Chick talking about how Catholicism is practiced, using similar quotes.

          And no, Muhammad did not deny Jesus is the Christ. He affirmed that very point. If you are so well learned, that basic point would be known. To say he denied Jesus is the Christ, therefore, proves my very point about your ignorance.

          • Gunnar Thalweg

            Nonsense. Demons’ harassment of saints is not the same as thinking you are possessed, or of having said — oh, that last little poet by dictated by the devil.

            I didn’t say Master is evil, only that it is not the friendship of God as explained by Jesus.

            You are twisting definitions here, too much sleight of hand, and so I’m done with you. I don’t know if you are a native speaker of English; you don’t sound like one, so maybe you struggle with reading in English.

            • HornOrSilk

              Actually, you do have a lot of saints who fight against demons who act like God, giving prophecy and the like. It’s quite common in their records.

              You said they talked about God as Master, and used it as some indication of some error. Sorry, it is part of the tradition. And you can find God as friend and lover in Islamic material, too. But all you want to do is denigrate . We get it.

              And twisting of definitions? Er, no. Islam teaches Jesus is the Christ. You said they don’t. It’s a basic teaching of Islam. When you can’t get the basics right, but keep spouting the kind of dribble I see coming from anti-Muslim websites, I know the source of your information and the lack of any proper study on Islam you have done. This is not “sleight of hand.” This is not “twisting of definitions.” This is basic. Muslims view Jesus as the Christ.

              Perhaps you should listen to the Church which says this kind of anti-Islamic polemics is to be done away with, no? That’s Church teaching: “Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have
              arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the
              past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as
              to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral
              welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” Why don’t you obey the Church and work for mutual understanding instead of promoting polemical nonsense?

              • Gunnar Thalweg

                They are different definitions of Messiah, dude. If you can’t get that, why should I read the rest? (I scanned.)

                I’m all for working for peace, freedom and justice with anyone. But you can lapse into indifference and latitudinarianism, too. The Gospel is the truth from God; Islam is a lie from hell. It’s pretty much as simple as that. All religions may contain varying degrees of truth, and the differences as well as the similarities are important. Buddhism contains beautiful teachings. Hinduism contains some beautiful teachings. Both have motivated humans to achieve varying degrees of good.

                We can get along with heathen, pagans, schismatics, heretics, infidels and idolaters, can’t we? Of course we can, but it doesn’t change the fact the answer is conversion to Christ. The answer is not pretending that Islam isn’t a satanic subversion of the Gospel.

                • Steve

                  The two of you could actually have a civil conversation. Devolving into acrimony and trading barbs is not exactly a persuasive Christian witness, either. (And just because saints called people names and St. Nicholas punched heretics is not a reason to emulate them.)

                  I think there is a lot of room between “basically all religions are the same” and “Islam is from the devil”. I would be willing to bet that the truth is somewhere in the middle. We don’t do Muslims or Christians any favors by trying to preach/teach either of those extremes.

                  There is historical evidence that Muhammad was most likely exposed to a variety of religious teachings (including Arabic paganism, Judaism, and probably a version of Christianity that may have been Nestorianism, if memory serves). It would seem best to be able to affirm the good, work together for peace and justice (among other things). When that sort of goodwill is established, people may be more receptive to hear what you have to say about the nature of God.

                  • Gunnar Thalweg

                    The truth is somewhere between Islam and Christianity? Well, you would have your own religion there. If Christianity is the truth, then Islam is pernicious nonsense, and given its persistence and attacks on Christianity, no doubt a move of the enemy. If Islam is the truth, the Christianity has been corrupted and is now corrected by Islam. They think they are right, we think we are right; why do any of us need to pretend otherwise?

                    We can work together in good will, but that can quickly be turned into “ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Which is what the enemy wants. The Gospel spreads miraculously through anointed preaching. Boldly preach Christ.

                    • Dave G.

                      I think he meant ‘the truth is somewhere between those two extremes of the debate’, not that the Eternal Divine Truth is the result of adding Christianity and Islam together and dividing by two.

  • Stu

    The nicest thing I can say about Islam is that it is a heresy. At best, the product of Mohammed’s imagination and at worst given to him by a demon.

    Individual Muslims can be great people and good friends just as can be the case for Mormons, JWs, etc.