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Do All Abraham’s Children Worship Abraham’s God?

Neither is the singular identification of the God of the Abrahamic faiths a recent theological innovation. Significantly, the great American theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), an Evangelical titan, grouped Muslims together with Jews and Christians as “that part of the world which acknowledges the one only true God.”[9] Edwards explained Islamic monotheism as a result of Christian influence.[10] For him, Jews, Christians, and Muslims together have escaped from “heathenish darkness” and from being “sottish and brutish idolaters”.[11] This remarkable reference is an explicit assertion that Jewish, Christian, and Muslim monotheists, despite deep differences, nevertheless worship “the one only true God.” Not surprisingly, Edwards continued to stress Christian evangelism toward Jews, Muslims, and others.[12]

Knowing God as Creator and Supreme Lawgiver or Master of the Universe just isn’t the same as knowing God as your Heavenly Father through his Son Jesus Christ.

So then, do all Abraham’s children worship Abraham’s God? Perhaps a circumspect reply would be a carefully qualified “Yes and No.” All those who authentically worship the God who revealed God’s self to Abraham may be acknowledged in the affirmative. But “the Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands” (John 3:35 NIV). And that’s what makes all the difference. Knowing God as Creator and Supreme Lawgiver or Master of the Universe just isn’t the same as knowing God as your Heavenly Father through his Son Jesus Christ.

 

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Notes

[1] I wrote an earlier version of this piece in blog form about two years before the recent, and very public, controversy erupted over Larycia Hawkins’ statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. See Emily McFarlane Miller, “Wheaton professor who left college over ‘same God’ flap: ‘I would do it again,’” Religion News Service (Feb 26, 2016): http://www.religionnews.com/2016/02/26/wheaton-professor-who-left-college-over-same-god-flap-i-would-do-it-again-and-again-and-again/. The intended publisher declined it based on alleged conflict with their official theological position. In short, a Wesleyan editor thought it went too far. So I sent it to a “mainline” Protestant colleague for input. He suggested it did not go far enough. After the subject came up again, due to Hawkins and Wheaton, in a manner that really should have been anticipated by Evangelicals, I pulled the file out, brushed it off, and updated it a bit. I appreciate The Pneuma Review publishing it, not necessarily out of agreement with its contents but out of recognition that it is a needed conversation for Pentecostals and Charismatics. I leave it to readers to assess its contents and to God to judge my intent.

[2] Peter Ochs, “Judaism and Christian Theology,” in David F. Ford, ed., with Rachel Muers, The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology Since 1918 (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 650-51.

[3] Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response (New York: HarperOne, 2011). [Editor’s note: See the review by Pentecostal scholar Amos Yong.]

[4]Ataullah Siddiqui, “Islam and Christian Theology,” pp. 663-81, Ford, Modern Theologians, pp. 663-64.

[5] Cp. Steven Jack Land, “Faith of Our Fathers,” at http://ourcog.org/dr-steven-land-faith-of-our-fathers/.

[6] Those who argue that since in early Arabic history Allah was used of pagan deities it therefore can’t refer to the true and living God ignore two obvious facts. First, the earliest Israelite designation for God, El, was also used of pagan deities. It was simply the cultural and regional name for “God”. The same is true even of the New Testament use of theos for God, a term that was applied by pagans to Zeus and other so-called deities but was nonetheless taken over by Greek-speaking Christians. That leads to a second obvious fact: Arabic-speaking Christians pray to Allah in the name of Isa because these words are simply comparable terms for God and Jesus.

[7] D. L. Akin, (2001). 1, 2, 3 John in The New American Bible Commentary vol. 38 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 216.

[8] Isaiah 55:8–9 (NIV).

[9] Jonathan Edwards, “A History of the Work of Redemption,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volumes 1 & 2 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2011), from 1834 British edition, 1:593.

[10] If Judaism is Christianity’s parent, Islam is its younger sibling. Cp. Tony Bayfield, Alan Race, and Ataullah Siddiqui, eds. Beyond the Dysfunctional Family: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue with Each Other and with Britain (Seattle, Washington: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012).

[11] Edwards, “History of the Work of Redemption,” 1:593.

[12] For more on this topic, see Tony Richie, “‘The Grand Design of God in All Divine Operations’: Jonathan Edwards’s Distinctive Contribution to the Positive Significance of Non-Christian Religions,” Amos Yong and Steven M. Studebaker (eds.), From Northampton to Azusa: Pentecostals and the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, forthcoming).

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2016

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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