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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

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Barry Ensign-George
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March 29, 2011

Do We Worship the Same God?

This is a question at the heart of a Christian understanding of other faiths. 

I do not believe this question has a universal answer, but must be dealt with in particular situations.  For instance, I think it is clear that Christians and Jews worship the same God.  Given that some forms of Buddhism seem not to require a notion of God at all, that would be a more complicated answer. 

The most immediate arena for this question is the relationship between Christianity and Islam.  Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?  In the Presbyterian Church (USA) I find this question answered usually in one of two, mutually exclusive ways.  For some Presbyterians, the answer is an easy “yes.”  “Of course Muslims and Christians worship the same God.”  For other Presbyterians, the answer is a quick “no.”  “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is fundamentally distinct from Allah.”  The events leading up to and growing out of September 11 complicate the situation.  While the events of that day were not about Christians and Muslims, per se, and were deeply political and economic, the emotions and reactions to those events often color Christian-Muslim relations in this country and around the world.  The attacks of that day confirm for the first group the need to affirm not only the common humanity of Christians and Muslims, but the worship of the one God that unites them.   For the second group, those same events demonstrate the incompatibility of these two faiths.  

Miroslav Volf, who teaches theology at Yale, has entered into this discussion with his new book, Allah:  A Christian Response.  You can read his chapter on “Allah and the Trinity” at the Christian Century, if you are a subscriber, or in a PDF on the Yale site if you are not.  In this chapter Volf deals with the Muslim objection to the Trinity as a form of polytheism.  Volf traces classical understandings of the Trinity to try to demonstrate that Muslims and Christians agree on the irreducible oneness of God. 

Volf does not attempt to erase differences between Christians and Muslims.  For Christians, incarnation is fundamental—it is not for Muslims.  Volf is trying to make the case that incarnation does not violate the oneness of God.  I believe that this dialogue with Muslims can sharpen Christian thinking, especially our Trinitarian thinking.  We are committed to the oneness of God, and the questions of Muslims may save us from sloppy thinking.  And that is invaluable if our understanding of God shapes our lives.

I’d love it if some of you would read Volf’s article and respond to his argument.  I’ll try to read his book and post on the larger argument at some point.


Categories: Books, Current Affairs, Faith, Interfaith dialogue and relationships, Theology