Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?

Kevin DeYoung passed along today an excerpt from chapter 2 of Timothy Tennent's book,
Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology (p. 48):
This study has sought to clarify many of the issues that lie behind the question, "Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?"

First, I pointed out the importance of differentiating between those predicates about God that we share with Muslims and those predicates about God that are distinctively Christian. We observed not only how crucial the distinctively Christian predicates are to Christian identity, but even how a truly Christocentric perspective transforms the shared predicates.

Second, I attempted to demonstrate that the long and sustained use of the word "Allah" by Muslims has altered its connotation such that, for Muslims, it has become a name for the Islamic God, not just the Arabic equivalent of the English word "God" as it is used by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews. For the Muslim, the word "Allah" is becoming more like the equivalent of the Jewish Yahweh (YHWH) than the more general words el or theos, which, like the English word "God," have a broader application.

Finally, we reflected briefly on the pastoral and evengelistic implications of our question, since this issue has major ramifications for large communities of people who follow the "God of Muhammad" and the "Father of Jesus" respectively.

The result of this survey has concluded that although "Allah" and "God" are etymological equivalents and, as monotheists, we only believe in one God, it would fragment our very identity as Christians to accept the statement that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.

The reason is that the statement is not essentially an etymological or an ontological statement, but an attempt to identify the predicates associated with the Islamic and Christian use of the words "Allah" and "God" respectively. The phrases "God of Muhammad" and "Father of Jesus" are spoken by communities of faith with important books of revelation that provide hundreds of predicates, all helping to set forth the full context for the meaning of thee two phrases. From the perspective, I must conclude that the Father of Jesus is not the God of Muhammad.