Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Prof. Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College, Illinois, made news when she said she would wear a headscarf (or hijab) through Advent in solidarity with Islamic neighbours, particularly those in her home state of Oklahoma. Now she has been suspended by Wheaton for asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God—a statement that, Wheaton administrators apparently believe—is at odds with the college’s statement of faith.

Since I know President Phil Ryken and Provost Stan Jones, and know them to be both good and intelligent men, I am confident that they have not rushed to judgment on this matter. At the same time, I have more than a nodding acquaintance with Christianity and Islam…and also with Wheaton and the American evangelicalism it serves.

So the first thing I’d say is that I’m scratching my head over Wheaton’s decision. Had Professor Hawkins claimed that Islam and Christianity were religions whose differences were trivial, she would clearly be at odds with Wheaton’s statement of faith. Had she claimed that Islamic and Christian understandings of God were basically the same, she would clearly be at odds with Wheaton’s statement of faith. Had she claimed that since Muslims worship the same God as Christians, they have no need of the gospel, or the Bible, or the work of Jesus Christ, she would clearly be at odds with Wheaton’s statement of faith.

What she did say, however, was none of the above. Instead, she claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

I frankly don’t know what she meant by that.

She cannot have meant that all those who claim to be Muslim and all those who claim to be Christian worship the same God, for the scriptures of both religions make it clear that there are those among the community of the faithful who do not in fact devote themselves to God: pretenders, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and purveyors of alternative religions (e.g., Gnosticism, moralism, mystical universalism, and so on). And surely Professor Hawkins knows that.

She cannot have meant that there is no important theological difference between Islamic and Christian views of God. Indeed, she very likely knows that there are significant differences among Islamic believers and also among Christian believers when it comes to theology (that is, the doctrine of God). And I’m not meaning heresy here so much as differences that would be recognized as areas of legitimate disagreement within whatever community sees itself to be orthodoxy. So the very significant differences within Islamic theology or within Christian theology would make it preposterous to claim that all Islamic theology agrees with all Christian theology.

What she could have meant, and what makes sense in the context of her long-time affiliation with Wheaton College, is that she believes that the same God is the object of much and normative Islamic piety as is the target of much and normative Christian piety. (By clear implication, surely Jewish piety is meant as well.) When pious Muslims pray, they are addressing the One True God, and that God is, simply, God.

Thus Christian translators of the Bible in Malaysia, as in other predominantly Islamic countries, stoutly prefer to use “Allah” to demonstrate that the Bible is indeed speaking of that One True God: there is no contest, in their view, between two rival Gods.

Likewise, Christian missionaries (and missiologists) have reported for a very long time that converts from Islam to Christianity routinely testify that they did not change Gods, but came to understand the One True God better…and especially to understand Jesus aright as not merely a highly regarded prophet but as the divine-human Lord and Saviour. Much like Saul on the road to Damascus, many point out, these people undergo tremendous change—that’s why it’s called conversion, rather than merely a theological correction—but they do not drop one deity for another.

We evangelicals would do well, once more, to listen to our own missionaries more and to heed those I call our “watchdogmatists” perhaps less. We also need to know what we’re talking about in a highly charged situation such as this. That’s why I have taken the pains to rule out a number of issues that really cannot be at stake here and to focus on what seems to me the only conceptual point at stake: Whether theological difference about God necessarily means that one is praying to, and otherwise giving worshipful service to, a different God.

If we insist, as many are insisting in this furore, that God must be understood in terms of the Trinity, with a focus especially on Jesus, or else one really doesn’t know God, I respectfully want to ask such Bible believers what they make of Abraham (who is held up as a paradigm of faith in the New Testament) and the list of Old Testament saints (who are held up as paradigms of faith to Christians in Hebrews 11), precisely none of whom can be seriously understood as holding trinitarian views and some proleptic vision of the identity and career of Jesus Christ.

So let’s avoid claims that have the bizarre consequence that all Old Testament saints would be disqualified as praying to the wrong God. Let’s likewise avoid claiming that theological differences don’t matter.

And in this particular controversy, let’s insist that Christian solidarity with our Muslim neighbours is a good idea because they are our neighbours, regardless of what we think of their piety or their theology. As American (and Canadian) Muslims feel ostracized, or even endangered, by nativists claiming to be acting in the name of the Christian God, let us evangelicals truly act in the name of the Christian God and love these neighbours as we love ourselves.

 

UPDATE: Please feel welcome to read the following post as well.

68 Responses to “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?”

  1. Curt Senka

    I fail to understand Mr. Stackhouse’s use of OT characters in relation to properly worshipping the God of the Bible. The NT is a product of progressive revelation in the Scriptures of a God revealing more about Himself over time, not disqualifying earlier worship or understandings of God. How can the Quran or Islamic understanding of God possibly be held up as a reasonable comparison theologically?

    • John

      I am saying that not affirming the triune God doesn’t mean you’re not affirming the One True God. Having a deficient (e.g., nontrinitarian) theology of God–and anything other than trinitarianism is indeed deficient–does not mean that you are not in actual prayerful and faithful relationship with God. (Having wrong ideas about a person, even importantly wrong ideas, doesn’t mean that you do not have a relationship with that person.) That’s the point. To be sure, truly encountering Jesus through the Holy Spirit (vs. “hearing about Jesus in any old way from any old person”) and steadfastly refusing to worship him puts you in peril. But anything short of that leaves the possibility open that you are in fact relating in faith to the One True God and simply have yet to see and embrace the gospel of Christ.

      • Steve Wilkinson

        I guess I’d see one as a progressive revelation issue, whereas Islam is aware of (a faulty view of) that revelation, and rejects it.

        So, I can see the argument that if you’re rejecting the Christian God, then you can’t actually be worshiping the same God, even if you think you are, or that’s your intention.

        But, that differentiation takes some careful wording or explaining….. not just that we’re *either* worshiping the same God, or that we’re not worshiping the same God. Either statement seems to become problematic aside from a more deep understanding.

    • Nate Johnson

      Yes, I think you are correct in pointing out the ‘progressive aspect. It does bring a nuance to the table. However, I don’t think, therefore, your implied point stands, i.e., that it is incorrect in every sense to say that Islam worships the same God. It seems to me that we have the ‘god-fearers’ in the NT. We have Paul’s engagement with those who erected an altar to ‘the unknown’ God, and later Paul included ‘as true’ their statements about us as ‘his’ offspring. So in a wide sense – EVERY – groping is a groping for the God who is truly there; and this, because it is ‘his’ revelation to which they are responding. That being said there’s a lot of distinctions that need to be brought to bear upon such a statement, and I think Dr. Stackhouse has entertained a good many of them. I would probably end up with ‘it’s true insofar as’ and ‘it is not the case insofar as…’ kind of outlay.

  2. Steve Dawe

    I think there is a fairly profound difference between trusting in the forthcoming promises of God (not knowing how God would reveal Himself), which is what the Old Testament saints did, and pointedly denying that Jesus is God after the incarnation, as Islam emphatically does. Islam states (if I trust the Qu’ran, many Haddith, and most Muslims I’ve spoken to) that they deny what we affirm about God.

    With all due respect to Dr. Stackhouse, and to Larycia Hawkins, to say that we worship the same God is to state that you can *deny* Jesus Christ and still be worshipping the same God.

    • John

      See my comment above, Steve. You can indeed deny Jesus and be worshiping the same God–as Saul/Paul did for a while. But you cannot *ultimately* deny Jesus, of course: When you genuinely encounter him in the Holy Spirit, if you are genuinely a believer in the One True God, you will embrace the Son.

  3. Sarah T

    “(MA, and with the American evangelicalism it serves.” should read “IL, and with the American evangelicalism it serves).”

    • John

      Sorry about that, Sarah. I was referring to my own master’s degree from Wheaton, not the state of the *other* Wheaton–by coincidence! I have corrected the original article to remove the ambiguity. Thanks!

      • Sarah T

        I know many faculty at Wheaton, MA. And the President had to come out and say “it’s THE OTHER Wheaton” because of the confusion! Thanks for clarifying!

  4. Andrew Holt

    Abraham et. al. were looking ahead to the time of Christ, anticipating it with faith. Had they been around when he appeared, they would have confessed him as both Lord and God – according, at least, to the authors of the NT. Mohammed looked back upon the life of Christ and said, essentially, “No, he is not God.” Abraham was, therefore, pre-trinitarian in his faith, and would have become trinitarian had he lived to see the revelation of God in Christ. Mohammed, however, was anti-trinitarian in his faith, and rejected the revelation of God in Christ.

    Whether or not Allah is YHWH is irrelevant to this conversation because YHWH is not the totality of God. God has revealed himself as Father-Son-Spirit in perfect love and unity. Mohammed has rejected this revelation of God as God, therefore he does not worship this God. Therefore, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

    • John

      Muhammad’s eventual faith-stance should not be identified with that of all Muslims at every time in their lives.

      • Andrew Holt

        And yet, based upon our core creeds, a Muslim cannot, by definition, be trinitarian. Neither can a Christian, by definition, be non-trinitarian.

          • Mark

            I have held the author’s understanding for a long time. The commentators above who say Muslims don’t believe in the Triune aspect of God, worship of only ‘one-third’ of God, so this means they aren’t worshiping God at all. The corollary, then, is that Christians are worshiping Muslim’s pre-NT God w/ God’s two additional aspects. These commentators, then, are arguing God is Allah but Allah is not God?! There is a fallacy built in to this argument.

  5. Bryan Burton

    John
    Again thanks for bringing clarity to this in a time of great chaos and muddied thinking. Always appreciate your insights.

  6. Deborah

    …..perhaps “worship” (worth-ship) is a key word in understanding this discussion a little more fully?…..what sort of “worth” is being applied to God within the forms and attitudes of Islamic worship?….in other words, if it is essentially God’s character/intention to be in relationship with humanity, and our response is to worship or acknowledge our gratefulness to him in this, then true worship would include true protracted relationship? (which comes through Christ)…..offering mere devotion or piety is admirable, but is not redemption or response to redemption………

    …..but I don’t think prof Hawkins should have been suspended for her show of solidarity!….we need MORE of these sorts of displays of love and respect for those who are of other belief “systems”……and the above questions and explanations, I believe, show the harshness of this decision……

    …..I think of dr. nabeel quereshi (of RZIM) who came to faith in Christ while bowed with his face to the floor in his time of prayer before Allah…..Christ came for nabeel there!……we do not come to Christ…..he pursues us……if we find ourselves submitting to faith in him, it surely is because he has given us even that faith to do so…..

    …..I think Christ spoke once of being “very near” the kingdom?…..but being near is not being onboard……this should make our hearts ache for ANY whose “goodness” lies merely in reliance on devotion or piety……especially a devotion that falls just short of the One Love that seals our freedom to humbly (but boldly) connect with God in his “throneroom”!…..

    ….as American christians, we are so deficient in showing and living out the freedom and true piety described in 1 Peter 2: 16, 17……we are to value ALL people (yes….and our “emperor” as well!)……we are to love (agape) the christian fraternity of which Christ as the Head is included….and we are to be in awe of God!…..instead, we are most often allowing all sorts of schisms to divide us within and without the church, blind and often disobedient to Christ’s example and instruction, and mostly negligent in offerings of worship to a God of whom we should be in awe!……..

    …..I personally want to be doing better in these areas of christian practice……

    …..do I have to don a hijab to do it?……no…..but what would it hurt to have a tangible reminder of humility before the One who humbled himself for my rescue!

    …..put prof. Hawkins back onboard…..

  7. Stephen Chaloner

    Christians are deeply divided over this matter, i.e. whether Yahweh and Allah are the same God. However, it should be remembered that Allah was the preferred name for God that Arabic speaking Christians used BEFORE the birth of Mohammed. The 99 names or characteristics of Allah, present surprising parities with those of Yahweh. As a result, many Christians see no need to consider Allah as a different god. Muslims who have become followers of Jesus discover the same common ground. The anti-Christian/Muslim rhetoric and conduct of the past in both communities should not be considered evidence of a fundamental difference between Allah and Yahweh.

    • Will

      This is a good point and one which has aided the church in evangelism around the world. Many cultures have an incomplete view of God, being that from origins of general revelation but it is still a foundation. Korea is a good example. When, about a century ago, a group of missionaries there decided to begin to use the common, “pagan” name for God, the people immediately understood and the message about the full character of God and His plan for us in Jesus made an amazing change in the population. And now South Korea is the second highest missionary sending nation in the world.

      • WoundedEgo

        When you say “name” of God do you mean the title or the proper name? If “title” then no big deal. But if “proper name” then big deal:

        Ex 20:7
        Thou shalt not take the name of YHVH thy God in vain; for YHVH will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

        and

        Mat 6:9
        Pray like this: Our father in the sky, reverenced be your name…”

        • Will

          I don’t see much difference really in title or proper name and it does seem like we are splitting hairs here. We are talking about what theists (those who believe in a god) call the most high ruler of the universe. Romans and other references says that is the start to understanding God but that people must go further to truly understand Him. Our job is to make His name known to all who are seeking the Lord and leave the rest to Him. I don’t think God demands complete and utter obedience for seekers the moment they latch onto one bit of truth. And ultimately, it is God who decides who is serving Him correctly so let’s not put Him in a box and let God be God.

            • Will

              That’s what makes a relationship with the Living God, Creator and Ruler of the Universe, so very different, and definitely not in a box.

                • Will

                  I respectfully disagree. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God. A true relationship with Almighty God is very different. Because of Christ’s atonement our sin is forgiven, even if we “go outside the limits” after salvation. But we do have to confess and be in right relationship with Him. This is very different than the totally transcendent God of Islam, the confusing array of gods of animism or Hinduism.

  8. Donald Johnson

    My take is that Muslims may think they worship the God of Abraham, but they do not really do so. How can I claim that?

    Because the God of Abraham is a covenant keeper and made 3 covenants with Abraham and all of the promises in those covenants have been kept by the God of Abraham. Islam’s Allah is claimed to be so free, powerful, and unconstrained that Allah is free to keep or break covenant promises. This is not a small thing as this means a lack of assurance for followers of such a conception of God, all bets are off.

    In other words, just because someone may claim to worship the God of Abraham means nothing unless one starts getting into the details of how the God of Abraham has revealed Godself.

    • Donald Johnson

      Another way to think of it is that the Islamic Abraham and the Jewish Abraham are not the same, the stories told in each faith tradition are incompatible with each other, at most one of the stories can be correct. So the God of the Jewish version of Abraham is not the same as the God of the Islamic version of Abraham, as the Abraham’s are different.

  9. Simon Bailey

    Even the Hindu scriptures point to Christ but that does not mean that the Hindus are also worshiping the God of the Bible.
    We cannot as Evangelicals move away from the centrality of Christ, His teachings, His existance as The I AM. His ministry and commission. We are saved unto good works, but all other religions including Islam qualify an individual through good works.
    Jesus Christ is unique, if one has recieved Him then he has recieved the Father.
    Islam is anti-religion, anti-Church and is the vehicle of the anti-Christ.

  10. Jeff Carpenter

    The question remains, do Muslims (might as well include Jews) and Christians worship the same God? and so many of the answers are about the humans and their understanding of God, not about God himself. Christians alone have had this controversy regarding Catholic v. Protestant, and what to do with Witnesses, Adventists, Mormons ? Is the question best answered by the loudest and strongest orthodoxy, or by the submission to the thought that “now we see through a glass darkly . . . “?

    • Will

      It is interesting that when we talk about our western value system we call it “Judeo-Christian”. I consider the basis for our sytem of law as dependent on the 10 commandments which is rooted in the very character of God. Thus, the God of the Jews is the same God we worship.

  11. Brian Moss

    Thanks for sharing this, John. I think this essay does a good job of cutting to the heart of the question.

  12. Jonathan Ludeman

    Thank you for this thoughtful response, John. I seem to recall that one of Wheaton’s most revered scholars, C.S. Lewis, also referenced this concept of all pious worship being accorded to the One True God, regardless of the worshipper’s degree of accuracy in understanding God. Since we do not believe that worship leads to salvation, I fail to see what the problem is with Dr. Hawkins’ statement.

  13. WoundedEgo

    The ridiculous 3-person god of dogma is neither the deity of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim scriptures. It is a Catholic fabrication shared by no one. Paul affirmed the Shema when he said “but as far as we are concerned there is but one God: the Father…”. Islam agrees with the Jewish and NT scriptures that there is only one God but in no other significant way is there any faithful continuity with the OT or NT. The word “Allah” is both their word for “God” and the proper name of their god whereas the proper name for the deity in the Hebrew scriptures is “YHVH”.

    • Kirby Hopper

      Exactly right. Jesus and the early church were Unitarian, not Trinitarian. When Jesus repeated the Shema: “Hear oh Israel, the Lord they God is one,” he had no thought in his mind that God was “three in one.” NOBODY thought of God this way prior to Tertullian in the 3rd century.

      • WoundedEgo

        I would say “strict monotheists” rather than “Unitarian” because that opens a whole other can of worms.

        And even when Constantine assembled his puppets to his country home in Nicaea to declare that Jesus was “of the same substance as the father” that was a binary deity, not Trinitarian.

        The “shibboleth” of Trinitarian dogma (and attending “convert or die”) was Roman commandeering of the monotheistic Pauline religion to fulfill Constantine’s “vision” of: “Through this, conquer”.

  14. Bryan Burton

    What the Christian Church and the Academy have not done well is to offer and engage a faithful Christian Theology of Religion. We offer introductions to other religions but do not offer how Christians are called to navigate other religious truth claims. Karl Barth spoke of the possibility of other religions being other words, lights, parables that bear witness to the one true word revealed in Jesus Christ. That is left to the sovereignty of the triune God. Ours is the challenging task of understanding theologically as followers of Jesus Christ.

  15. Leroy Ng

    I am a Christian from Malaysia, predominately a Muslim country.

    Putting on a hijab, headscarf is not a problem. It is cultural. Before Islam came, middle eastern women wore headscarf, and that including Jewish women. Today there are non-Muslim women in some cultures still wear a form of headscarf. BTW Mother Teresa wore headscarf.

    Now to say in public that Christians and Muslims worship same God, to me is not only unnecessary but divisive, not only to the Christian community but to Muslims as well.

    In Malaysia he Muslim authorities and the court of law have decided that Christians and Muslims do not worship same God. Hence Christians are told not to use the word Allah though the word in Arabic simply means God and that word pre-existed Islam.

    Christians are divided with statement like that – worship same God and as such it should be academic and be argued in classrooms. But when it is brought to the public, and without explanation, can cause division. And this division is so unnecessary. It also caused pain as we can see in Wheaton College today. What’s the point?

    Professor Hawkins was to share a devotion on Advent. Then keep the devotion on Christ. But to bring in a controversial statement and without explanation what she meant by worshipping same God, to me is not a wise thing to do. It would be wiser if she brings the subject to her classroom and allow her students to debate on the topic.

    Back to wearing a hijab as a statement to identify with Muslims, or solidarity… Hawkins would make a stronger statement if she wore a burka/burqa like those Muslim women wear in Afghanistan, total coverings from top to bottom including her eyes.

  16. bodhigod

    there’s a sense in which we can say all people worship the “same God,” whether or not they know it.

    the difficulty lies in outlining the boundary within which we can significantly say that we worship the “same God.” that’s why some conservative evangelicals can even wonder out loud whether other evangelicals worship the “same God.”

    this issue of semantics is something that can better be defined by an association of evangelical scholars, not argued by everyone, kinda like whether or not Pluto is a “planet.”

    • WoundedEgo

      What scientists did was to set up a sign that said “You must be this tall to be considered a planet”. Once the standard is set it is an objective matter whether or not a particular body meets the size requirement. Ergo, I am not a planet but Uranus is a gas giant (pun intended).

      It is only in the most vapid sentiments of an ecumenical that the “Trinity” is also Allah and only in the eyes of “the clever” that the Emperor has on wondrous clothing and the “Trinity” is also YHVH. The ecumenical ambition of reducing all deities to a common denominator in the interest of unity is only reachable by extreme and dishonest cherry picking.

      • Steve Wilkinson

        It depends a bit on the background of who is hearing a statement which is too simplistic. I’ve been around the liberal camp enough, that your reaction is usually mine as well (i.e.: I think it’s ecumenicism gone wild). But, that might also not be the case. In the context of someone who says, “Muslims worship the devil!” maybe they need a bit of a push to consider it more deeply.

        I don’t know the Wheaton prof at all, so I have no idea of where she was coming from.

      • bodhigod

        yes, and in countries like Malaysia it’s illegal for Christians to use “Allah” for God. conservative Muslims don’t think we worship the same god; if they did they’d protest all the churches that have images of Jesus or God, even doves signifying the Holy Spirit.

    • Steve Wilkinson

      I’d have to think about it more carefully, but I’m leery of putting it as ‘worship the same God’ too, instead of saying something more like ‘everyone realizes there is a God and tries to fill that realization with something.’

      So, instead of worship, maybe that we realize and react in some manner (the Bible says suppress, unless the Holy Spirit changes that).

    • John

      I cannot comment on what I do not know. I’m responding to what has been reported (including what the College has said in its statements). I await the College actually showing, rather than merely asserting, that her theology contradicts Wheaton’s statement of faith. So far, I don’t see it. But, again, I’m not judging what I do not know. I like and respect Phil Ryken and Stan Jones (Wheaton’s president and provost). I also know that evangelical leaders and institutions are fallible, sometimes very much so. Therefore, I’m trying hard not to assume anything (as many commentators on one side or another seem to easily be doing) and to confine my remarks to what is actually available.

      • Curt Senka

        I think there are theological problems with asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and cannot imagine a N.T. writer such as Paul agreeing with such a statement. But at the end of the day, Dr. Hawkins placed Wheaton College in a very difficult situation and she probably should have assumed that removal from her teaching position was a possible move by the school. Students (and their parents) pay a lot of money to attend Wheaton, and the school has a reputation to protect.

        • John

          Well, I cite Paul’s actual practice. So try harder to imagine!

          • Curt Senka

            I must have missed that citation of Paul’s “actual practice.” Was that my imagination too?

            • John

              It’s in the follow-up post, the one I urge readers to look at following this one (the UPDATE at the end). I look forward to seeing what you think of, indeed, my reference to the ministry of the Apostle in this regard.

              • Curt Senka

                If I’m looking at the proper Paul reference you are pointing me to, I fail to see the grounds for a comparison. Paul’s pre-Damascus Road understanding of God was missing God’s most recent revelation of Himself. How is that a comparison to a Muslim’s understanding of God? A Muslim may refer to their religion as a “people of the book”, but its not the same book.

                • Steve Wilkinson

                  I think the problem here is that there are two sorts of discussions going on.

                  On the one hand, there is the technical question of whether ‘Muslims and Christians worship the same God.’ If we go to much depth, I think the answer is no. (And, I’m in good company on that, as it seems to match what Dr. James White recently posted on the subject http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2015/12/17/a-quick-word-on-the-current-controversy/ who, among other things, could be seen as a main player on Islam, and quite possibly the Trinity… at least having published books on the latter subject.)

                  On the other hand, there is the question of where someone who doesn’t hold to their religion perfectly, or have accurate understanding of the subject matter, falls into this spectrum. (Which includes all of us to some extent.)

                  So, (if I understand correctly) the idea is that Paul (while Saul) seems to have been directing his worship to the One True God, just imperfectly, as he didn’t see Jesus as God, and in fact rejected Jesus (similar, for the parallel) to how a Muslim rejects Jesus. So, I’m not sure if Saul was unitarian, but he wasn’t trinitarian.

                  So, while Saul, was he worshiping the One True God any more than a Muslim?

                  The problem with this parallel, for me, are two things:

                  1) Saul was rightly worshiping the One True God, as well as one might expect of a good Jewish man, given the revelation which had been received up until that point… aside from the recent living revelation of Christ’s life and resurrection.

                  While a Muslim seems to be worshiping the One True God in a kind of abstract sense, in that the Qur’an is at least supposed to be talking about the same One True God of Israel, but in reality, it sure doesn’t seem to be.

                  (Aside from the ‘Muslim’ who is being worked on by the Holy Spirit… which is what – while being an accurate possibility – is confusing the technical answer to the question. IMO, that person is no longer really a Muslim.)

                  2) While, yes, technically Saul wasn’t properly worshiping the triune God accurately, he wasn’t – centuries down the road with clear information and revelation to study and examine being available – rejecting not only the triune nature of God, and the person of Jesus as deity, but also holding to a relatively different god in many ways.

                  There is a parallel… I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with it. AND, there is the confusion going on over the technical religion question as opposed to the ‘what does conversion look like’ in the messy real world one.

  17. Kirby Hopper

    John I was hoping in addition to the OT saints you would add to “precisely none of whom can be seriously understood as holding trinitarian views and some proleptic vision of the identity and career of Jesus Christ,” Jesus, his apostles, and the Apostolic Fathers, none of whom thought of God as a triune being. Quoting from the inventors of the doctrine of the trinity: “The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title THE TRINITARIAN DOGMA. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.” – New Catholic Encyclolpedia

    • John

      Oh, dear. Of course Jesus thought of God as a triune being! What else would he think of God, himself being the Son in constant communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit? As for trinitarian formulations, yes, they don’t occur in the record we have for a couple of centuries, but the sense of the Church ever since is that the New Testament makes sense when read in terms of the Trinity and doesn’t if it isn’t. So that’s why your hopes have been dashed that I would suggest a gulf between Christ’s self-understanding, or the apostolic testimony, and later doctrinal formulations of the Trinity.

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