Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christians and Muslims...

Ordinary Time

... do not worship the same god.

Just because a particular religion believes there to be one "real" god, doesn't mean they all happen to acknowledge the same god as being the one. You don't suppose that all polytheistic religions keep the same pantheon, do you?

Just because modern day Judaism, Islam, and Christianity claim a connect to a guy named Abraham that people said the (singular) god spoke to doesn't mean it's true in any case.

Here's a bit of Christian Theology 101 for us to consider: Christians don't believe in "God." (Well, I don't, anyway.) Christians believe in the Trinitarian god who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians do not say, here is an idea of "God." Jesus is divine, so our idea of that "God" will tell us what Jesus is like. No, no, no! Christians believe that Jesus fully reveals the Trinitarian god: the tradition we have received about Jesus, the second "person" of the Trinity, is the foundation of any ideas we're going to have about "God."

Therefore, any statement about "God" that doesn't start with "Jesus is/was _________ so therefore God is _________," is opposed to any Christian theological statement. And yes, it is needful and right to move on and talk about the connection of that god to the god of the Old Testament, and even to use "reason" to sort out what that god might be like, but there is no valid starting place in Christian theology other than Jesus.

Any god that cannot be said to be like Jesus the Christ, and manifested in Jesus the Christ is a different god than the Christian god. Any god that is not understood as three persons in one substance is a different god than the Christian god.

That does not mean that other religious folks who worship these other gods are bad people. I don't hate them. I certainly don't dislike them for that reason, either. I would never be unkind to anyone for that reason. It doesn't mean we can't have inter-faith dialogue, and it doesn't mean we have no common ground at all. It just means that we worship and serve different gods.

16 comments:

Caelius said...

You really should call this type of post:
"Kyle's demythologization of the day." I always start them disagreeing with you, end the post disagreeing with you, and then think again and go, "wait, he's right, because he's merely exposing a jeu de verite for what it is, not actually establishing new ontological objects."

stephen said...

I think a lot of confusion would be averted if we stopped using "God" as a proper name. It is not. It is a catagory of being. I think that we should use god the Father's proper name more often, Yahweh. Yahweh, Jesus, and the Helper they are all god, and we only believe in one god. see? I think it help would clear up this issue too.

but that is just my two cents.

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Rob said...

I like you. =D

good post. Quick question:

How exactly, practically, do you fight the war on Christmas? Do you not buy at big stores or give presents or what? How does this work?

Stay well and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but that won't wash. That logic would only follow if Jesus were ahistorical. Jesus, however, was indeed historical, and integrated into the history and community of Israel, within which he became incarnate.

We understand God most fully in and through the revelation in Christ. That's not the same thing as saying we can only know God in and through Christ. After all, Christ did not reject or ignore the history of Israel, nor suggest that the prophets of Israel proclaimed a God separate from the Godhead of whom he was God the Son. The God proclaimed by Isaiah was known before the Incarnation, but not known as well. We know that God is Trinity after Jesus; but that doesn't mean that others didn't know the only God who never knew of Christ.

A said...

I have to agree with Marshall. Well said chaplain.

Anonymous said...

You've given me something to ponder with your Barthian definition of having to start with the revelation of Jesus. I like where you are going with that, but I think I might take issue with your logic there, as I am troubled by what would seem to be the underlying assertion you seem to be making that Christians can't use God the Father as a starting point for systematic theology.

If we are to truly believe in the Trinity as 1 God, 3 persons, one substance, having as the mandatory starting place being the 2nd person Jesus, we are setting ourselves up to problematic theology with God only having one person. If Jesus is the only median stick, Jesus would then seem to become metaphysically indivisible and indistinct from the other two person, if in fact Jesus is the only person from which we can start, judge, and end a definition of God.

That's about as clear as porridge, but remember my motto: Panic, chaos disorder...my work here is done.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm with Marshall on this one. While I think Kyle is on the right track, I think we have to be careful to remember that the Trinity is more than just Jesus and Jesus is revealed through the actions of the other members (who, after all, participate in the actions of the others; denying that risks modalism). I'm not sure that Kyle will disagree, since he concedes God speaking through the OT, for instance. Yet, I think a corrective is needed here.

Really, in my view, I think Kyle is right about recognizing that we may not be worshipping the same God as other religions. In most cases, including Islam, I have profound doubts whether we are. I would make a special case for Judaism because I don't think that the God of the OT is a different god of the Trinity, just that we have seen him revealed in a rather different way to that of the OT. In that case, I think we have a commonality with the Jews which makes that bond a little tighter.

Good post, Kyle, but I've just given a few ideas to think about.

Peace,
Phil

Rob said...

Concerning Phil's last comment about commonality between Jews and Christians, what do you think of Jesus' statement in John of, "If you would've known the Father, you would've recognized that I've been sent by Him." If Jesus is truly the answer to Philip's "Show us the Father", then do the Jews truly worship the Father, or rather a distortion of who He is?

Kyle said...

Perhaps Marshall didn't read this paragraph:

Therefore, any statement about "God" that doesn't start with "Jesus is/was _________ so therefore God is _________," is opposed to any Christian theological statement. And yes, it is needful and right to move on and talk about the connection of that god to the god of the Old Testament, and even to use "reason" to sort out what that god might be like, but there is no valid starting place in Christian theology other than Jesus.

I'm the last person who's going to tell you that Jesus could possibly be understood outside the context of Second Temple Judaism. Marshall makes a good point - with which I agree - about a consistency with OT revelation. If this little piece gives the impression that one should push aside the OT as unimportant, I ought to re-write it.

And yes, I do need to think about that distinction between "knowing God most fully" through Jesus, and only knowing God at all through Jesus. I'll have to come back on it.

Ryan, why does starting with the person of Jesus as the controlling definition of the Godhead reduce that god to one person? I don't follow you there, but I think you guys are backing me down on this quite a bit. I don't think it can be said that the other trinitarian persons can only be defined or understood in terms of Jesus, and I wouldn't have thought about it that way yesterday.

Yes, Phil, you have. :0) And as for Judaism, and in response to Rob's point, I follow a Dallas rabbi's distinction that Christianity and modern Judaism to be two different religions that originate in second temple Judaism, which no longer exists.

Kyle said...

Oh, and my admitted theological sloppiness in this post aside: does anybody care to argue that I'm wrong about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same god?

Rob the Cuban said...

No. =D

-mike- said...

I don't care to argue but I think I understand it a bit differently. I think that Muslims do worship the same God but that their worship is perverted. I don't know. Maybe one day I'll make a post about it...

:P

Anonymous said...

What the President meant to say...was that if we can only start from the person of Jesus, then are we not in danger of saying that the person of Jesus is all that can be known. Hence, Jesus is the only lens through which we can see the wholeness of God.

I guess I am arguing that being forced to only start and end with the person of Jesus is to say that Jesus becomes the rose tinted glasses, and thus the other persons of God only appear to us as the "shade of Jesus" so to speak. The danger I see is that there would be no way to discern the other persons and might appear to be the same. Much like those secret message things you used to get in cereal boxes that you put under the red cellophane and all the red disappears and you see the secret hidden message.

If as the creed says that Jesus proceeded from the Father, then I would argue there has to be some way to discern the Father from the Son other than seeing Him solely through the lens of the Son. If so, then I would argue the case could be made that Muslims do perhaps worship the same God, but have a different understanding and perspective on God.

Does this make any sense or am I being too bizarrely Esoteric?

byron said...

If as the creed says that Jesus proceeded from the Father, then I would argue there has to be some way to discern the Father from the Son other than seeing Him solely through the lens of the Son.
Not sure I follow. Why is this so? (BTW, Jesus is 'begotten' of the Father; the Spirit proceeds)

Apart from that, most of my comments were taken by others. Christian belief is necessarily Trinitarian (even if it is possible to be implicitly trinitarian without explicitly realising it).

Kyle said...

Yah, it's not easy in the least to talk about Trinitarian theology, but Byron sums it up perfectly: the Christian god is trinitarian, and the gods of the other monotheistic religions are not. So there. :0)