As many readers will know by know, Wheaton College is embroiled in a public controversy over comments made by Larycia Hawkins, the first female African-American tenured professor at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

What’s Going On?

If you need to catch up on the discussion, Joe Carter has a handy “explainer” where he answers the following questions:

  • What is the Wheaton “same God” controversy about?
  • Was Hawkins put on leave because she wore a hijab?
  • How did Hawkins respond to the questions?
  • What was Wheaton’s response to Hawkins’s letter?
  • Does this mean that Hawkins has been fired?
  • How has Hawkins responded to the Notice of Termination?

Mistakes to Avoid

I think there are several mistakes to avoid in trying to process and comment upon this situation.

1. Assuming that we have all the information.

We only have the information that Wheaton has chosen to make public and that Professor Hawkins has chosen to make public. Anyone involved in leading an organization or school likely knows that there is more going on behind the scenes than can be made public, and therefore it is difficult to take limited information and try to form a full and fair judgment.

2. Assuming that this is about one issue.

Many people assume this is merely about one thing, whereas it seems likely that it’s a constellation of complicated and competing factors. Mark Galli of Christianity Today did a nice job of identifying at least some of them:

  • The theological integrity of a Christian institution
  • Loving our Muslim neighbors
  • Academic freedom
  • Maintaining boundaries
  • Diversity on Christian campuses
  • Tenure
  • Confidentiality
  • The right to know

So What about the Statement on Muslims and Christians Worshipping the Same God?

I think this remains one of the best opening questions for the discussion:

There is a sense in which the answer to this question could be answered in the affirmative and a sense in which it should (in my view) be answered in the negative. (Professor Hawkins has said as much herself.) The problem is that it’s a terribly ambiguous statement, such that two people can affirm it and mean very different things by it.

Catholic philosopher Francis Beckwith provides a list of philosophers and theologians who answer the question in the affirmative:

And a list of those who answer it in the negative:

As well as those who offer more of a complicated yes-and-no answer:

One defeater offered to the denial that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is that Jews do not hold to a Trinitarian view of God either, and therefore this position seems to entail a denial that Jews worship the one true God or that Christians worship the God of Abraham and Israel. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has advanced this argument forcefully, arguing that Christians who fall prey to this line of reasoning are being heretical.

The best piece I know of in response to this line of argument is the new piece at TGC today by Lydia McGrew, a homeschooling mother and an analytical philosopher. She writes:

In one sense Christians and modern religious Jews worship the same God; in another sense they don’t.

Old Testament Jews, of course, didn’t reject the Trinity and the incarnation, since those doctrines hadn’t been revealed. If one emphatically rejects these truths about God, however, and explicitly worships God as non-triune and non-incarnate, then this makes a pretty good case that, in one sense, such a person does not worship the same God whom Christians worship.

In another sense, however, Christians can say to modern religious Jews:

The true God who called your forefathers out of the land of Egypt, who gave the law at Sinai, who chose you as his beloved, chosen people, really is the one who sent Yeshua the Messiah to die for our sins. We worship the God who really did found Judaism thousands of years ago, who really did give the Torah. And we are here to tell you more about him.

In this historical sense we can say the God we worship is the God of the Jews, though those who haven’t accepted Jesus don’t (of course) agree. But notice: Nothing like this is true of Islam. God didn’t really reveal himself to Mohammad. Mohammad was not a prophet of God. It isn’t enough that Muslims think the Being who revealed himself to Abraham also spoke to Mohammad. Truth matters, and since that isn’t true, there is no real historical connection—in the acts of God himself—between the Allah of Islam and the one true God. But there is a real historical connection in the acts of God between Judaism and Christianity.

I encourage you to read her whole piece, where she addresses a number of other objections as well.

A Modest Proposal for Both Sides: Can We Agree on This?

Much of this discussion has been in the language of philosophy rather than of exegetical theology.

Here is my proposal: Can we agree that the answer to whether or not Christians and Muslims “worship the same God” has a yes-and-no answer, depending on the meaning, but that Jesus taught that the following is true of all people, whether professing Jews, Christians, or Muslims?

1. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not honor God the Son, then they do not honor God the Father.

“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23)

2. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not receive God the Son, then they do not have the love of God the Father within them.

“I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:42-43)

3. If Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not know God the Son, then they do not know God the Father.

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19; cf. John 7:28; 14:7)

4. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims deny God the Son, then they deny the God the Father.

“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)

5. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not come to God the Son, then they have not heard and learned from God the Father.

“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)

6. If professing Jews, Christians, and Muslims reject God the Son, then they reject God the Father.

“The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

The virtue of this line of reasoning, it seems to me, is it forces us to reckon with the biblical text where Jesus addressed what we must believe and what we cannot reject.

So if you want to say “Muslims worship the same God as Christians” and you can affirm that “Muslims do not know and honor but rather deny and reject the one true God of Christianity”—then I think we are on the same page (though I also think the former statement will be very confusing to many people).

View Comments


61 thoughts on “What’s Going on at Wheaton? A Modest Proposal for the “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God” Debate”

  1. Doug says:

    Well said. This case demonstrates that focusing on who we “worship” can be a diversion. The gist of the Gospel is reconciling sinful men to God. The Gospel does not ask “Who do you worship?” It commands all men to repent and be saved from the wrath of God. In this context, we can emphatically affirm the words of Christ, “[N]o one comes to the Father but through Me.”

    1. Jason says:

      Jesus himself did have the question in mind when he pointed out that some believers’ father was not God of Abraham but the Devil (book of John). You are inaccurate in dismissing the question the who question.

  2. Ray Ortlund says:

    Other considerations: One, in the coherence of the argument of Romans 9-11, Paul implies that the self-established righteousness of the Jews is analogous to Baal worship (Romans 11:4). Two, Jesus said that “by their fruits you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20), which prompts one to wonder not only which God Muslims worship but even which God some Christian churches worship.

  3. Lydia says:

    Beautifully succinct. And put forward at the ideal time. Thank you!

  4. I agree with all of that, but I think it’s only one side that isn’t agreeing with you. Both sides believe the things that you list at the bottom, but only one side is admitting it. Those who agree with Hawkins (who think Muslims and Christians at least in some sense worship the same God) affirm all those things and realize the other side does too. But those who have criticized her continue to assert that the other side doesn’t agree with those things, even though it’s plainly false. I keep seeing accusations that this is all about ecumenical pluralism, which Hawkins has publicly denied. She has no support for anything like that, and Lydia McGrew’s piece this morning says such issues are at stake, when no one is arguing for that. So I don’t think Hawkins’ critics recognize that both sides agree on those things.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks for the comment, Jeremy. It’s not at all clear to me that Hawkins has “no support for anything like [ecumenical pluralism].” She certainly has the strong support of Miroslav Volf, and I’d be very surprised if he readily affirmed all of those things. Further, Wheaton claims the big impasse is that she’s refusing to discuss the “theological implications” of her statement. So apart from that one paragraph in her letter, I don’t think we know what she believes about all of this. She claimed in that same paragraph to be influenced here by post-Vatican II theology, so I think it’s a mistake to assume we know the theological implications of her statement.

      1. Benjamin says:

        She refused to continue discussing because the discussion was to take place in the context of voluntarily giving up tenure for two years. They essentially asked her to give up her right to the due process that comes with tenure and she (properly) declined.

        1. Nathan Rinne says:


          she did quote the more liberal evangelical theologian J. Stackhouse saying “when pious Muslims pray, they are addressing the One True God, and that God is, simply, God.” It seems clear to me that this kind of general, context-less statement (not relative to any particular muslim) is not something that anyone in the church has any real business publicly asserting – particularly if they are a professor at the flagship evangelical college (all of us who value biblical theology look for Wheaton to hold the line). I It seems to me that the revoking of tenure may have been justified in this situation.


          1. Benjamin says:

            Maybe revoking tenure is justified and maybe it isn’t. My point was that blaming the “big impasse” on her “refusing to discuss” is disingenuous. Continuing discussion was predicated on her giving up her tenure, so essentially they asked her to fire herself and save them the trouble. Then when she declined to do so, they blamed the impasse on her.

            1. Nathan Rinne says:


              There is nothing disingenuous as all. It simply communicates to her the serious nature of what she has done. Is it a power play? Well, of course it could be seen that way. But it can just as well be exercising authority and making it clear that there is only so much room for compromise. This communicates to her that she should not be surprised if in the discussion Wheaton is basically intransigent. Its communicated up-front.


              1. Benjamin says:

                Again, you miss my point. Maybe you don’t understand tenure? I’m not talking about the communication between Wheaton and Dr. Hawkins. I’m talking about public communication about the situation (by Wheaton and by other writers) that blames Dr. Hawkins for an “impasse” without including the extremely pertinent point that continued communication required her to voluntarily give up tenure and all the rights that go with it.

  5. steve hays says:


    Excellent how you recast the issue. It can be a problem when an issue is initially framed in one particular way, and that’s how everyone then debates the issue.

  6. cma says:

    Well done! Finally, a “mainstream” conservative evangelical that not only acknowledges the philosophical underpinnings of the question, but then goes on to link to the philosophers’ takes on this issue. Very helpful roundup of the available info on the topic.

    Dale Tuggy and Bill Vallicelli have a very good 2-part podcast on Tuggy’s Trinities podcast. In all honesty, by the end of Part 2, Vallicelli actually seems to come down on the “no” side.

    1. steve hays says:

      Keep in mind that Dale Tuggy is a unitarian, so he obviously doesn’t think denying the Trinity and the Incarnation is an obstacle to worshiping the true God. There’s that heretical subtext to his position.

  7. Chris Polski says:

    I agree essentially with McGrew’s article, but I do quibble with one point.

    McGrew writes…

    “In this historical sense we can say the God we worship is the God of the Jews, though those who haven’t accepted Jesus don’t (of course) agree. But notice: Nothing like this is true of Islam. God didn’t really reveal himself to Mohammad. Mohammad was not a prophet of God.”

    I wholeheartedly agree that God did not reveal himself to Muhammed through an angel, but this is PRECISELY why I believe that at least in some sense we have to acknowledge that Muhammed, in shaping the Quran, borrowed largely from the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, while diverging sharply from them and adding his own unique (and theologically objectionable) elements. In fact, if we don’t say this, then where do we think Muhammed got all the stories that overlap with the Bible?

    Now let there be no doubt that I believe that the elements Muhammed introduced to the Quran are far outside the pale of Judeo-Christian orthodoxy in relation to the doctrine of God.

    But this historical reality of shared narratives between the Qu’ran and the Old and New Testaments is why I think we have to be nuanced in our answers to this challenging question, especially if we hope to show muslim friends, neighbors and acquaintances beautiful truths like the one Abraham learned when he was spared from sacrificing his son (Isaac not Ishmael) by the provision of a Ram from the hand of God himself (Gen. 22), a story that allows us to show these folks that indeed, Jesus is that sacrifice and that the God they are worshipping in the way that they are worshipping him will never be enough to bring them freedom from their sin and brokenness.

    I guess this puts me in the “No” (we don’t worship the same God theologically), but “Yes” (there is a historical overlap in the reference point to the divine being Muslims are thinking of when they think of God Almighty)–camp.

    Is it too far off base to say that Muslims worship the right God in the wrong way and with a paltry understanding of the beauty of His nature as a gracious redeemer?

    I am well aware that the nuance of arguments like this may be lost on some, but does this mean they shouldn’t be attempted?


    1. Melody says:

      Isn’t that the same problem with Mormons? Joseph Smith borrows from Scripture but recreates god in the process. There is no question that Satan is involved in the deception there. One that we are warned can disguise as an angel of light. So are they worshipping God as He has revealed Himself or a god that Satan has played a part in describing?

      1. DL says:

        I agree with Melody and would also add Kabbalism and probably several other divergent religions that re-write the fundamental under girdings of the Biblical account in order to build a new belief system. It’s idolatry, plain and simple.

        (On a side note: a large majority of Muslim apologetic arguments line up more closely to paganism than they do with Judaism. This is why so many in the West are being misled right now, because the distinctions are becoming so blurred.)

    2. Joe M says:

      “the God they are worshipping in the way that they are worshipping him will never be enough to bring them freedom from their sin and brokenness.” Of course, I’d argue a God that requires freedom from sin for salvation would be a different God from the one picture on the Koran, and so we go back to square one. Much like the Mormons, the question is not is there an overlap of heritage, but if theology matters in terms of acceptable worship.

  8. Mark Corbett says:

    I feel the six points at the end of your post are very helpful. If Hawkins would be willing to have a clear and open discussion on those six points, it might help a great deal. I don’t know if she is or is not. If she is not, that in itself may be an indication of a serious problem. I don’t know if Hawkins is theologically liberal or conservative. But I do know that a hallmark of theological liberalism/postmodernism, especially when present in conservative settings, is a great deal of ambiguity which can sow doubt and confusion. Thanks for sharing this post.

  9. Alicia H says:

    I appreciate this thorough summary. Today the Wheaton student newspaper, the Wheaton Record, published an open letter to the Wheaton Community. They exhort at the end, “The faculty, Hawkins, and the administration need our prayers. Considering the administration’s upcoming decision, we exhort both sides to approach each other with respect, to dialogue with honesty and to work together to repair the fractures in our community.” Let’s join them in praying.

  10. Paul Abeyta says:

    Deeply saddened and surprised by this piece from Taylor and that TGC supports it. He only confused the issue further. This isn’t a philosophical issue and an exegetical handling of Scripture answers the posed question (do Christians, Muslims and Jews who deny Christ worship the same God) quite easily in the negative.

    In the linked article from by Olsen, he says “Still, and nevertheless, I do not think we can say with assurance that God does not accept any Muslim’s worship of Allah as worship of himself.”

    Of course we can (it is impossible to worship God apart from in spirit and truth – John 4:24 – and if one is offering worship to Allah – then it surely fails that test), but if Taylor is being influenced by such things as this, perhaps we can see as to why he would be so seemingly lost (hoping he’s not) on such an important issue.

    Towards the end of the article, Taylor offers proposals through 6 affirmations. It’s interesting that he says “professing,” “Jews, Christians and Muslims,” and yet appeals to Christian Scripture to make his affirmations. Of course, if any Christian denies the texts that he listed, then they are of course showing that they are in fact – not Christian and having a false profession. So why even put “Christian” in those affirmations with Jews and Muslims. We know that Jews and Muslims deny all those texts – and if they affirmed them – well then they would be Christians.

    Taylor’s closing paragraph says – “So if you want to say “Muslims worship the same God as Christians” and you can affirm that “Muslims do not know and honor but rather deny and reject the one true God of Christianity”—then I think we are on the same page (though I also think the former statement will be very confusing to many people).” Of course the former statement is confusing to many people. It shouldn’t have been made. If it was to be accurate, it should have said “Muslims worship the same god as false Christians or merely professing Christians or tares or goats or any sort of name that would describe a person who claims to be a Christian but really isn’t.”

    1. Gregory Lawhorn says:

      Exactly right, Paul. The answer is simple. Muslims DO NOT worship the same God. Nor do Jews. That is precisely why we are to take the Gospel to them, so that they may know the Father and the Son and be saved:

      “And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3.

      Knowing God means salvation. Those who are unsaved do not know God. Whatever god they worship, it is not Yahweh, the One True God.

      The apostle Paul’s approach in Athens is perfect:

      So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)

      The Gentiles did not know God. Was Paul saying that they worshiped the same God? Absolutely not. In spite of being “very religious,” they were completely and utterly wrong in their worship. He did not say that they worshiped the same God. He offered them salvation through faith in the God and Savior they did not know.

  11. Andy says:

    Miroslav Volf and Nabeel Qureshi are debating Tuesday on Julie Roys program.

  12. Greg says:

    Please correct the typo in Nabeel Qureshi’s name above in the article. You have “Nadeel.”

  13. Jonathan says:

    I would like to know why so many Christians are falling over themselves to defend Larycia Hawkins, and why these same individuals are terrified of declaring that Christians and Muslims DO NOT worship the same God. And why all the mumbo jumbo about philosophical vs. theological vs. ontological, vs. eleventy other -icals; or “Welllllll, it all depends on what you mean by ‘worship’ or what you mean by God or what you mean by yes and what you mean by no. Stop muddying the waters. Look, there is nothing gracious about helping the lost feel secure and comfortable in their lostness. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? It’s not a multiple choice question, and it’s not an essay, it’s a straightforward question whose answer is either yes or no. Decide, but do not drag all of us into your public waywardness. One God, one way. There are no other ways.

  14. Matt Sullivan says:

    If Allah is ultimately the product of Mohammed’s “revelations”, then the answer is and must be “No” as opposed to “yes and no”. (Galatians 1:8 is probably an important passage to consider in this whole question).

  15. Nathan Rinne says:


    Nice piece. I have written a piece that I think you might really track with as well. Its at the Just and Sinner blog on patheos and is titled: “Do Proponents of Other Abrahamic Faiths Worship the Same God? The Answer is Not in Philosophy but in the Distinction Between Law and Gospel”.


    1. Nathan Rinne says:


      Sorry I called you “Joe” above.


  16. Curt Day says:

    What is missed in the blogpost above is context. Hawkins knowingly answered the question from a specific context. In fact, her response to Wheaton College can be found at the website linked to below:

    Considering the context in which Hawkins answered the question, the real issue is not who is right and who is wrong. The real issue is the margin for error we would allow a political science professor at a Christian university to express in the context in which she was speaking. For I see no problem with her answer considering the context of her statements. It isn’t what I would say or write, but her position is quite understandable. And yet, most of the public judgments made about her my fellow religiously conservative Christians want to decontextualize her statements prior to pronouncing judgment. And I think the same is being suggested above.

    Other than that, I very much appreciate the intention of this blogpost

    1. Joe M says:

      Actually no. In context her answer reads like spiritual multiculturalism. The question whihcno one is asking but is the obvious underlying one is, are Moslems saved or do they need conscious evangelizing. After all, if the ‘worship the same God,’ won’t he honor that? No, say Evangelicals, since there is only one way.

      1. Curt Day says:

        I would like to respond but I am unclear as to what you mean by ‘spiritual multiculturalism.’ For if it, you mean that we should coexist in society peacefully because we have a freedom of religion, then I would agree. But outside of that, you would have to clarify yourself. In addition, if you read her statement, you would realize that she does answer the question you believe no one is asking.

  17. a. says:

    Doug says: Well said. This case demonstrates that focusing on who we “worship” can be a diversion. The gist of the Gospel is reconciling sinful men to God. The Gospel does not ask “Who do you worship?” It commands all men to repent and be saved from the wrath of God.

    Doug, worship, a diversion? I believe you are mistaken, what you say is not what the Lord says- His word clear . We are saved for the purpose of worshiping the One True God – to glorify Him alone and enjoy Him forever.

    1. Doug says:

      Worship is a response.

      1. a. says:

        yes and so any encouragement to anyone to worship a god different that the OneTrue God according to the truth revealed in the Bible is not gracious or kind. Worship is acknowledgement, homage, adoration, reverence for God –His true nature, attributes, ways, claims – just as He has revealed them. God is very serious about true worship, the Bible warning about insidious forms of false worship. Many seem to keep referencing Acts 17: 23, but do not include the immediate exhortation – v 30 therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent

        1. Doug says:

          If men never got sick, they would consider skilled physicians worthless. It would be futile to trumpet the worth of the physician. It is man’s awareness of his innate frailness that makes him esteem the skilled physician so highly. Likewise, a man without an awareness of sin sees no worth in Christ. First, make a man see his sickness. He will then see the worth of the great Physician.

          1. a. says:

            Amen Doug, and sight provided only by the great work of our One True God -Father, Son, Spirit , whom we proclaim, who for His own sake acts, His name not profaned, His glory not shared.
            We, like Jesus, see, weep, and proclaim, in this day, the things which make for true peace, not delaying with His truth, preaching Jesus and His resurrection; then some sneer and others believe – the one who listens, listens to Jesus, and the one who rejects, rejects Jesus; and he who rejects Jesus, rejects the Father
            All authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth who says: go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

  18. According to St Paul, Jews “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Romans10:2 (ESV). This settles the matter whether Jews and Christians worship the same God. By the end of Chapter 11, the apostle announces the salvation of the Jews and “sings” a beautiful doxology!
    Surah 112 of the Qur’an appears engraved on the walls of many Mosques, including “The Golden Dome” in Jerusalem. The four verses of the chapter function as the Credo for Muslims.
    One translation by Yusuf Ali reads: The Unity, Sincerity, Oneness of Allah
    Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; 2. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; 3. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; 4. And there is none like unto Him.
    All rules and standards of human logic would not allow the claim that a Unitarian god can, at the same time, be a Trinitarian God. I’ve never heard Muslims claim that they worship the God of the Christians. While the term “Allah” is the word used by both Arabic-speaking Christians and Muslims, it doesn’t follow that their understanding of the word Allah is identical. As an Eastern Christian, whose mother-tongue is Arabic, my understanding of Allah is informed by the Bible; while a Muslim’s understanding of Allah is informed by the Qur’an that teaches an absolute Unitarianism, and considers Christians as Mushrikun, i.e. believers in Tri-Theism!

  19. DR says:

    Justin: The last sentence has left me confused.

    How can you affirm both that “Muslims worship the same God as Christians” and that “Muslims do not know and honor but rather deny and reject the one true God of Christianity”?

    How can a Muslim worship the God of Christianity if that Muslim does not know or honor that one true God of Christianity?

    Please help me understand your conclusion with further explanation.

    Thank you.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Good question. Don Westblade’s response below might help. Essentially I’m saying that I don’t like this language and find it terribly confusing but we must ultimately press beyond specific terminology to ask about meaning. I’m acknowledging that someone can say “Muslims are worshipping [seeking to pay homage to] the same God as Christians [i.e., the monotheistic God of Abraham; albeit in a misguided and heretical and idolatrous way],” there is a sense in which they are right. It could be argued that this language was used by Paul of the pagans worshipping the unknown God or the Messiah-rejecting Jews worshipping God with zeal lacking knowledge. Hope that helps.

  20. Don Westblade says:

    I appreciate and echo Justin’s call for clarity and his recognition of the ambiguity and equivocation built into (what I’m going to call) Question A: Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?

    In my observation, those who insist on a No answer are actually playing on the equivocation (between the objective God whom we aspire to understand and worship and our subjective conceptions of that God) and are, in effect, responding to a rather different Question B: Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship God the same? Or possibly to an even more ecumenical Question C: is it all the same to God how I worship?

    There should be little controversy among orthodox Christians about a negative answer to Questions B or C (outside of an important distinction for B between Messianic and non-Messianic Jews). Indeed, discussions with Jews and Muslims need most urgently to get to these further questions.

    But when that same negative answer is offered to Question A, I must ask, How do we not sacrifice our foundation in monotheism if we accept a premise that there is a different God available for Jews or Muslims to worship?

    For this reason, my one caveat in reply to Justin’s post is that I would expect a negative reply to Question A to be just as confusing to many people as the affirmative reply.

    The No answer to Questions B and C that I hear from Beckwith’s negative list takes us to the crucial heart of Christology, where Justin’s post in its own way also argues that this conversation needs finally to arrive. But can we please be clear that the No we give to B and C cannot properly be given, without equivocation, and without a relinquishing of monotheism, to the original Question A?

    And may I suggest that we can only get to the crucial Questions B and C about Christology if we begin by answering the theological Question A with an insistence that there can only be one God to talk about. If another god existed, who corresponded to Muslim or non-Messianic Jewish conceptions, the work of Christ could be irrelevant to that god. This is where I hear the compelling concern among those on Beckwith’s affirmative list.

    A failure to recognize this crucial equivocation in Question A between God and our conceptions of God seems to me (i) to have led to most of the unclarity and confusion and rancor that we have been seeing since Prof Hawkins set off this firestorm; (ii) to be sidetracking us from discerning whether Prof Hawkins’s declarations of “solidarity with” Muslims mean to express an affirmative answer to Question B or, worse, to C (in either of which case Wheaton might be justified in finding her ecumenism doctrinally indefensible) or only mean to affirm a shared pursuit of the God of Abraham that all three faith’s profess (a legitimate affirmation to Question A, in my judgment); and most importantly (iii) to throw an unnecessary and lamentable distraction into the urgent task of getting to the Gospel of Christ in our conversations with Jews and Muslims who, as a matter of eternal life and death, need an understanding of Christ’s atoning work to make sense out of their own religion — and their own God!

    As I’ve argued in other web discussions of this question, logic and rhetoric require that persuasion must begin by identifying common ground (a shared end). Paul illustrates this on Mars Hill. Evangelism begins best with Jews and Muslims by clarifying: the God you mean to worship is the God of Abraham, right? Let’s talk about that God. Let me show you how and why the only way to Him must be through faith in His incarnate Son, Jesus Messiah.

    In short, I agree with Travis Myers and Justin that we’ll get no traction on the question whether we worship the same God unless we clarify what we’re really meaning to ask by it. I submit that much confusion results from posing Question A (do we worship the same God? — a question of God’s objective identity) as a proxy for Question B (do we worship God the same? — a question of our subjective conceptions of God), or for Question C (is it all the same to God how I worship? — a normative question to which an affirmative answer would prove eternally destructive).

    1. Benjamin says:

      It’s clear that Dr. Hawkins intended precisely what you call “a legitimate affirmation to Question A.” You can search for “Theological Statement by Dr. Hawkins” to read more.

      It’s also clear that most people writing against Dr. Hawkins betray little awareness that Question A even exists. Justin has done a good job identifying those few who actually deal with the actual question at hand.

      1. Justin Taylor says:

        The document is also hyperlinked in my post above in the statement “Professor Hawkins has said as much herself.”

  21. Dear Justin
    In his Epistles, St John emphasized the equal importance of Aletheia (Truth) and Agape (Love) and one doesn’t have to be a theologian to understand his message. Your lengthy article and your responses are meant for the scholarly readers, not for the average layperson. Why don’t you ask any Muslim whether Christians “worship the true God?” His answer will be a quotation from the Exordium (First Chapter) of the Qur’an which refers to the Jews as the objects of “Allah’s wrath,” and to the Christians as (the ones who have gone astray) It’s that simple!

    1. Eric T says:

      Or they will quote Surah 2:62 and others and say that we do worship the same God, but with many caveats similar to the ones Christians make. Islamic interpretation is no more monolithic than Christian interpretation.

  22. John Coombes says:

    I am no theologian, so apologise at the ouset if my beliefs are simple and hopefulyl uncomplicated. From what i havee read over some years Allah’s origin is the moon god which was probably the most powerful (sic) of the plethora of false gods in what one may generally call the arab lands. Certainly this was the case in Ur from which the true God called Abraham. Mohammed, having learnt something of Christianity and Judaism’s montheism followe the majority vote as it were, amd made a politially shrewd decision to name Allah as the god of Islam, his new religion. So, if the Allah of Islam is rooted in paganism, then how can it be that Muslims in any way worsip the same God as the Christians.
    The gospel is inherently offensive, speaking from a purely human point of view, beacuse of Jesus’ claim to divine exclusivity. He left no opportunity for compromise.
    While we should be gentle in our presentation of the gospel and real in our walk with Jesus, it is futile to debate the issue. We take the message of God the Son to the ends of the world and those called by God the Father will be saved by the power of god the Holy Spirit, all of whom are present in Genesis 1.
    If i am missing the point my apologies; but Peter allowed no opportunity for debate or even discussion in his first sermon. Accept Jesus or die in your sin, because there is no other way by which man may be saved. Heb 6.

  23. a. says:

    Thank you Bassam Michael Madany. Clarity for us simple, that we not be caught off guard with confusion and diversion attempts, even ever subtle. We must worship in truth by the word of God. In these last days, the Father has spoken to us in the Son, and of the Son, the Father says, “Your throne, O God is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom Heb 1:8
    and because King Jesus says “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” John 4:35; we beckon, come Rev 22:17

  24. Jason says:

    Question was, Is the God of Islam and the God of Christianity two different entities or same? One is same as another only if EVERYTHING that one is also is owned by the other. The answer then is no, they are two different entities, for even one single difference, and the following are only few. Jesus was a mere prophet, not Son of God. There are 72 virgins waiting after death. Pleasure here in this world, while Jesus says deny pleasure if needed. Cannot convert to other religion or else death penalty. Cut off hand. Stone adulterer. And other differences make the question an obvious no.

    1. Curt Day says:

      Comparisons between Christianity and ISlam depend on the context and what is being compared. And since you have not provided and exhaustive list of comparisons, not many conclusions could be drawn from your note here. In the meantime, if you go to Hawkins’ website, you will find how she specifically compared the two. For in one context, Hawkins is clear in saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. In another context, she clearly says that they don’t.

      1. a. says:

        Haven’t found and read that yet Curt –not sure it’s necessary- her comment on both ‘being people of the book’ and the review here today of a book, The Whole Christ -are great reminders of how perfect God’s own whole word and whole work are – man not living on bread alone, but constantly nourished on every word of eternal life that proceeds from God’s own mouth, accomplishing His will, by which we may grow in respect to salvation.
        He says: receive my words, treasure them, discover the knowledge of God; hear and accept My word, bear fruit, thirty, sixty, hundredfold. He says: This is eternal life, that we may know the only true God – Father and Jesus Christ and Spirit -and through the true knowledge of Him, His divine power granting to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created us, attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

        1. Curt Day says:

          Read it when you can. Realize that all she is doing by identifying the context in which she is speaking is that she is stating explicitly what we often do implicitly when saying that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

  25. Scott Polender says:

    Thank you Justin. This is extremely helpful. I think that part of the problem is that many who teach in evangelical institutions approach a question like this from a history of religions perspective and not theologically. Its almost anthropology rather than theology. And I find the history of religions framework is going to lead you to think about questions like this in a very unhelpful way where Jesus’ words aren’t central to the conversation. In the end this approach is very confusing to people- especially 18 year olds who may be led away from believing in the exclusivity of the Lord Jesus. The temptation once again, as we see newspapers all over the world covering this, is to be ashamed of Jesus and his words. And of course evangelicals hold to the exclusivity of Jesus the Christ and yet talk to Jewish people the way you described. Understanding the development of OT and NT deals with so many problems the NY Times brings up on hot button issues today.

  26. William wilcox says:

    Following Jesus’ method as told in Mt.21:25 I would ask; the testimony of Mohammad, from where was it? From heaven, or of men? Also a warning in James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well. The demons also believe, and tremble.”

  27. Benjamin says:


    Another resource you might consider adding to your list is the Occasional Bulletin put together by the Evangelical Missiological Society (on the home page at emsweb dot org). A quote from Robert J. Priest, professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

    “As I’ve read the following essays, essays that articulate an array of viewpoints, I’ve been struck by how discordant many of them are from Wheaton’s actions. I’ve also been struck by the idea that many American evangelical missionaries and missiologists, and perhaps the Apostle Paul himself, would be in danger of dismissal if they taught at Wheaton College, since many of us arguably have been guilty of the very thing Wheaton College is sanctioning.”

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      No, that’s not the kind of thing I wish to highlight. It makes the mistake, it seems to me, of assuming we know all that is going on here. I think this is about much more than just a single statement.

      1. Joe M says:

        Yes, exactly.

      2. Benjamin says:

        Did you read it? There are 25+ pages of thoughtful articles that make no assumptions about what is going on.

        And, if not assuming we know what is going on is the criteria for including articles, then it is unclear how

        Al Kimel “I also find Wheaton College’s lightning response premature and unconvincing. Why not give Hawkins an opportunity to clarify her remarks before making her a cause célèbre? Wheaton’s explanation rings hollow. Money is talking.”

        and Miroslav Volf “Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims.”

        and Nabeel Qureshi “Wheaton made a respectable decision in giving Hawkins time off to consider the implications of her statement: she is allowing Islamic assertions to subvert the importance of essential doctrine.”

        and Matthew Cochran “Wheaton College was entirely right to put a professor on administrative leave for claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.”

        made the cut. The articles from EMS are far more measured than any of those four.

  28. wggrace says:

    As Roger Olson says, the question whether Muslims worship the same god as Christians is a question that requires some analysis.
    I think that the question seems to make two assumptions that are worthy of critique.
    First, it seems to me that the question assumes that we have an array of gods lined up as if in an identity parade and that the Muslims affirm the fourth one from the right while Christians affirm the third one from the left. Yet of course neither Muslim nor Christian believe there is any such array (perhaps it might be true of Hinduism and was certainly true in the Greco-Roman world). But to move away from such thinking, from henotheism, if you like, to a true theism, makes the question very hard to grapple with.
    Secondly, some have rejected any parallel with the issue of Judaism. Certainly it is true that Christianity grew out of Judaism. So it is hard to separate the God of Judaism and Christianity even though the Christian understanding of God shows significant development from Judaism. But Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity (albeit somewhat heterodox versions). It developed that understanding greatly not always to its benefit to say the least.
    So what you have is an attempt by Islam to describe better the God we all worship, stripping away what it sees as corruptions of the doctrine of God but an attempt nonetheless to describe the same God.
    The result however is something of a disaster. The richness of the Christian understanding is jettisoned for an understanding in which God is sovereign but utterly remote, in which his character is virtually undefined, in which any descriptions such as love or mercy are distinguished from any human understanding of such notions. We get divine determinism and fatalism.
    So is this the same God? Maybe in intent but surely not in similarity.

  29. Calvin Chen says:

    Overall I appreciate the points and tone here. There’s some fallacious logic though:

    Jesus here is not saying “if and only if you know me, then you will know my Father.” He is saying “if you know me, you will know my Father.” All cats are animals but not all animals are cats.

    I’m not making a direct comment on the “same God” issue here… just pointing out an exegetical fallacy.

    1. Nathan Rinne says:

      “*No one* comes to the Father except by me”… He said. No, I think He is definitely saying “if and only if you know me, then you will know my Father.” And in John 8 he says “Abraham knew me….” Also Acts 4:12 should be considered here.


    2. a. says:

      Calvin Chen: fallacious logic; all cats are animals but not all animals are cats; I’m not making a direct comment on the “same God” issue here

      just an indirect one?

      baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Matt 28:19

      not in the name of the Father and the name of the Son and the name of the Holy Spirit nor in the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

      The word “name” is singularand baptism identifies with God’s name- all that He represents. It is one name with three persons, the mystery of the trinity. The name means all that a person is and does, all that is bound up in that name.

      Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? Rev 15: 4

  30. Justin Taylor says:

    Thanks for the good comment, Calvin. Yeah, it can be tricky to map these statements onto formal logic.

    You’re right, it looks like I’m committing the inverse fallacy:

    1. If P (know the Son), then Q (know the Father)
    2. Not P (know the Son).
    3. Therefore, not Q (know the Father).

    The problem is that Jesus puts it more like this:

    1. Not P (know the Son) nor Q (know the Father)
    2. If P (know the Son), then Q (know the Father).

    All I was doing is restating Jesus’s proposition 2.

    Whereas the then-consequent in formal logic means “it follows that,” in everyday English it can also mean something like “it reveals that.”

Comments are closed.

Search this blog


Justin Taylor photo

Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books