Friday, January 29, 2016

The Same-God Heresy: Gateway to Apostasy (Part 1)

Rod Dreher's sincere confusion on a fundamental theological point brings the “Same God” question out into the public square.

Introduction: An Epistemological Malady

by Ralph H. Sidway

(See also Part 2Part 3, Part 4)

Professor Larycia Hawkins
I am thankful for Rod Dreher’s December 17, 2015 post, “Muslim God, Christian God”, even if I am deeply saddened by it.

Dreher is grappling with one of the most important questions of our age, prompted by Wheaton College’s suspension of a professor over this very question. Dreher cites Wheaton’s statement:

On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam…  
[Her] recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.

And so, we launch into the theological deep-end, with the “Same God” question finally being brought out into the public square. You can read the whole thing, which for all its obvious sincerity is hopelessly muddled, but I think that’s part of Dreher’s point.

I commend Dreher for his honesty, especially this section (emphasis added):

To be honest, I’ve never thought at all about whether Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that they do, and that was my belief when I was a Catholic, though I never gave it a minute’s thought. I don’t know what I believe now, to be honest. We know that Muslims do not pray to the Holy Trinity — but this is also true of Jews.  
Don’t Christians (most Christians) believe that Jews pray to the one true God, even if they have an imperfect understanding of His nature? If this is true for Jews, why not also for Muslims, who clearly adhere to an Abrahamic religion? This is why my tendency is to assume that Muslims do pray to the one true God, even though they have a radically impaired view of Him. 
But how far do we go with that?

How far indeed!

The Church Fathers would have plenty to say about this, including a vigorous denial — based on the Scriptures — of the statement that Islam is an “Abrahamic religion.” 

More from Dreher:

I’m not sure what I think. I mean, I assume, in charity, that people who intend their prayers to be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are praying to the true God, whatever they lack in theological understanding. But again, I’ve not given this much thought.  
How about you?… 

Again, I appreciate Rod Dreher’s honesty, and I think a great many people are in the same boat as he. They don’t know what they think, and have never given it much thought. 

Dreher confesses one or the other epistemological malady five times.  For sincere Christians in our age of apostasy and political correctness to not have ever thought about the "Same God" issue, and to not be sure what they think about it, is deeply, deeply troubling.

Thankfully, Dreher asks on his blog, “How about you?” Rather than try to cram some thoughts into a comment box competing with 204 others, I decided to put some effort into this, especially as my book deals with the “Same God” question at some length.

The answer to this question has, I believe, eternal implications, which is why I opened Chapter 1 of my book, Facing IslamOn Religious Dialogue — with this quote:

“Can any one of us be silent if he sees that many of his brethren simultaneously are walking along a path that leads them and their flock to a disastrous precipice through their unwitting loss of Orthodoxy?”  
~ Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Church Abroad, 1969