Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do we share a common love for God?

Part of the latest meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society met to discuss “A Common Word Between Us and You” and the controversy surrounding it with various Evangelical and Muslim leaders.  (Read here for more background information.)

Desiring God has made the panel discussion available on audio.  I thought the discussion was very interesting.  Interfaith dialogue is new between mainstream Muslims and Evangelicals- it seems a bit bumpy so far.  Here are some of the audio portions of the panel:

  • Muslim Perspectives on the Writing of "A Common Word"
  • Christian Defenses of the Yale Response to "A Common Word"
  • Christian Objections of the Yale Response to a “A Common Word”
  • Q&A (this was the best portion, very interesting)

    Piper objects to the dialogue because he feels the common ground that forms the basis for the dialogue (love for God and love for neighbor) doesn’t exist.  Here is part of what he said:

    “What is the central summons of A Common Word? The phrase “a common word between us and you” is taken from the Qur’an (Aal ‘Imran 3:64; A Common Word, p. 13). Quoting God, it says, “O People of the Scripture [Jews and Christians]! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God . . . .” This quotation is important because it makes clear that the central summons of A Common Word is not that we agree as monotheists on the formal principles that love to God (whoever he is) and love to neighbor (whoever they are) are a formal common ground. That may be true. But what the quotation from the Qur’an makes clear is that the central summons of A Common Word is that Christians and Muslims actually love the same God…

    It’s clear from the phrase “our common love for God” that those who wrote this either misspoke (which is unlikely, since too many other traits of the document point in this direction) or that they agree with A Common Word that the common ground for Christian-Muslim dialogue is not a formal similarity in our religions but, in fact, a shared love for the one true God and for our neighbor.

    The flaw in the common ground proposed by A Common Word and embraced by the Yale Response is that Jesus makes clear that this common ground does not exist. And my contention would be that this absence of such common ground must be made explicit—not to destroy dialogue or to undermine peace, but (from the Christian side) for the sake of forthright, honest, biblically faithful, Christ-exalting, trust-preserving dialogue, and for the sake of truth-based, durable peace.

    • Jesus said, “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. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (John 5:42-43). When Jesus says, “receive him,” he means receive him for who he really is: the divine, eternal Son of God who lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again in three days. If a person does not receive him in this way, that person, Jesus says, does not love God.
    • Jesus said, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:22-23). When Jesus says, “Honor the Son who sent him, he means honor the Son for who he really is as the divine, eternal Son of God who laid down his life for the sheep and took it up again in three days. The person who does not honor him in this way, Jesus says, does not honor God.
    • Jesus said, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:18-19). This means “know” Jesus for who he really is. So the person who does not know Jesus as the divine, eternal, crucified, risen, Son of God does not know God.

    Historically Muslims do not know Jesus, honor Jesus, or receive Jesus for who he really is—the divine, eternal, Son of God, who laid down his life on the cross for sinners and rose again the third day. Therefore, Jesus says, such Muslims do not know God and do not honor God and do not love God. As offensive as this is, Jesus said it to the most Bible-saturated, ritually disciplined, God-aware, religious people of his day.

    Therefore, the central summons of A Common Word, shared by the Yale Response, is deeply flawed. In fact, the proposed common ground does not exist. I believe there is a better way forward among Christian and Muslim scholars and clergy. From the Christian side, it will be honest, biblically faithful, cross-centered, Christ-exalting, trust-preserving dialogue.

    I believe with all my heart that, as forgiven sinners, who owe our lives to blood-bought grace alone, we Christians can look with love and good will, and even tender-hearted compassion, into the eyes of a Muslim and say: I do not believe you know God or honor God or love God. I hope through our conversation that you will see the truth and beauty of Christ-crucified and risen for the sins of everyone who trusts him. And if we were threatened right now, I hope that I would lay down my life for you.

    If love toward God is to be spoken of as essential to Christian faith, it must be spoken of the way the apostle John does: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10).”

    Piper’s response certainly raises a lot of issues.  I think readers of Circumpolar would all agree that Jesus is the only way to God and that all people are eternally lost without Christ.  But the question is: Do Muslims and Christians believe in the same God?  And do Muslims love or honor God, even if they try without Christ?

    What do you think?


    Timothy said...

    Do Muslims and Christians believe in the same God?

    Yes. Though the Islamic revelation is not complete, there is enough there to indicate we are speaking of the same Being.

    Do Muslims love or honor God, even if they try without Christ?

    No. Though many Muslims certainly attempt to love and honor God, this is impossible without embracing the Messiah for who he is.

    Timothy said...

    Thanks for the links. Just listened to the audio and I'm holding to my answers above. Great discussion!!