Do Christians, Muslims and Jews Worship the Same God?

When I was growing up, I never thought about this question, but if someone had asked me, I probably would have said, "yes, sure … God is God … we just call Him by different names." (Those where the days when I did not question the common assertion that God is male -- no more -- but that's an aside here.)

However, this question arose quite publicly in a recent case at Wheaton College in Illinois. Wheaton is an Evangelical college but is not known for being strongly conservative. A professor there, Larycia Hawkins, recently decided to wear a hijab -- the head covering often worn by Muslim women -- in solidarity with her sisters who have suffered ridicule these days. But when she was questioned about the appropriateness of her head covering, she said that it was fine because Muslims and Christians worship the same God. And that started a firestorm, with some claiming that she had violated the school's statement of faith, and some calling for her dismissal.  

This week, I interviewed a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim imam and scholar, and a Methodist minister about this question: "Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" All three said, "yes … basically they do." (Not all representatives of these three traditions would agree, of course, but these three -- all veterans of the interfaith movement -- said yes right away.) Now, they recognized some complications, like the Christian belief in the Trinity and that Jesus is called the "Son of God," but they still came away affirming that God is basically one and the same for all three traditions.

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It's not often that such a theological dispute makes news, but this one has. And it's not often that the Catholic church is quite progressive in its approach, as my guests were pleased to note.

In fact, this dispute raised up for me the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which affirmed that Muslims "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. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet." (Nostra Aetate).

If we started to recognize and acknowledge the similarities, we might have much less Islamophobia in our world. 


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