Sunday, January 3, 2016

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? For that Matter, Do Christians?

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

That question was brought into sharp focus last month when Wheaton College, the premiere evangelical university in the U.S., suspended professor Larycia Hawkins for suggesting that members of the two great faiths worship the same deity.

Hawkins, who teaches political science at Wheaton, made the claim in a show of solidarity with American Muslims.

In a statement, she said that she stood with her Muslim neighbours because of their human dignity, because we are all human beings, and because “they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And . . . we worship the same God.”

In putting Hawkins on leave, Wheaton stated that “while Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer.”

I suspect that Wheaton’s decision had as much to do with not offending major donors as it did with doctrinal orthodoxy. Whatever the reason, the suspension sparked a debate across the U.S. and throughout the media and the Internet.

As I read about the controversy, I thought: Forget whether or not I, as a Christian, worship the same God as my Muslim friends. 

The bigger question is: Do I even I worship the same God as some other Christians in the news these days?

Take, for example, the Republican candidates vying to become the next President of the U.S. 

Many evoke faith in Christianity. Yet some are stoking anger and hatred against Muslims, calling for them to be deported from that country. They also take a very unChristian stance towards Syrian refugees, not wanting to let any into their country.

I have to say I don’t recognize the God they claim to worship.

Then there's Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University, who told students in December that they should, like him, carry guns on campus.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in, and killed them” he said to applause from students and faculty at the university. 

I don’t recognize his God, either.

Or consider Franklin Graham, son of Billy and president of the evangelical Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief and development organization. 

In addition to saying hurtful things about Muslims, he has voiced support for Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on the rights of LGBT people in Russia.

Graham’s God is also foreign to me.

And what about the God worshipped by the Westboro Baptist Church, a group that preaches hate towards gays and Jew?

Or the God worshipped by the prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen—people who tell their followers that God is like a spiritual ATM who wants them to be rich?

Then there’s the God worshipped by Scott Lively, the American church leader behind Uganda’s brutal crackdown against gays, and the God worshipped by Robert Lewis Dear, who claimed he was following God by attacking the Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, killing three people.

These people all call themselves Christians. They claim to be worshipping the same God I do.

But if that’s the case, I can’t see it.

For me, there are a couple of takeaways from this whole thing.

First, it’s a reminder to those of us who belong to other religions that we need to be careful not to lump all Muslims together. If Christians can’t agree about what God wants, why should we expect them to be any different?

Second, instead of worrying about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I’d rather ask a different question. 

The question I’d like to ask is found in the book of Micah in the Jewish scriptures, or what Christians call the Old Testament. 

In chapter 6, verse 8, it says: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

If more people of faith did that, regardless of which God they worship, maybe this world would be a better place for everyone.

From the January 2, 2016 Winnipeg Free Press.


  1. Excellent article, John, and as for your question: "Do Christians, for that matter?" I think it is supported by the large exodus of believers from churches ll over North America - people want to know God, not just be part of a religious group so they need to leave the "box." And they do.

    Just one thing I'd like to simply correct. You wrote: "Or the God worshipped by the prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen—people who tell their followers that God is like a spiritual ATM who wants them to be rich?"

    I don't listen to him, but had to check him out as my wife does listen to him almost daily for one key reason: he sets things in a perspective of faith in a loving God. He does NOT "tell his followers that God is like a spiritual ATM." He does emphasize NOT treating God like a Santa Claus, but to trust in His goodness rather than live under false assumptions about Who He is, and His willingness to honour and give favour.

    If you need a pure example of a "prosperity teacher" look at Mike Murdoch, Kenneth Copeland, and those of their ilk.

    Other than that, great stuff! :)


    Andre Lefebvre
    Alberta, Canada

  2. I have to agree with the above comment. While I don't take to Joel Osteen's style of preaching, what I have heard has not reflected your judgment here. As to what God we worship, we are all called to work it out for ourselves 'fear and trembling' no? I would also include that to mean caution when judging other believers regarding what God they worship...we're all of us fallible, and capable of wrong assumptions and misguided words...Thanks for raising the discussion...

  3. Thanks for this reframing of the question John...

  4. Thank you John for that TIMELY, WELL thought out response to the injustice done at Wheaton College and else where in North American Christianity. In honesty, I don't think anyone really knows what God is really like.
    I BELIEVE that he/she wants us to love one another and our enemies. I don't sense a whole lot of love in the examples of the people you referred to.