The Same God?

Posted: December 17, 2015 in justice, thinking, worldviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,
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image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

Wheaton College in Illinois is the newest Christian college under attack for holding fast to their conservative evangelical beliefs.  Similar to the Bethel College issue back in July, Wheaton’s staff agree to abide by the school’s statement of faith, yet in both situations, the professor in question ignored that commitment she’d made when she took the job.

Wheaton’s statement on the subject says this:

The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet 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.

The question again becomes:

Should a staff member of a Christian college adhere to the commitment they signed when they agreed to be employed by that establishment?

I say yes.

Nobody forced them to take this job, so why do they think they can nullify their previous commitment to the values the college stands for?  When you agree to fill a position, whether it be for a college or a factory, you agree to certain terms that go with that acceptance.  You agree to the working hours, salary, and benefits you’ve been offered in exchange for your work according to the guidelines.  If the job requires you to wear a uniform, that’s part of what you agreed to do when you accepted the position.  If the job requires you to work on weekends, you agreed to that.

When a professor takes a position in a religious college, they should assume the religious values of that college will be upheld throughout the establishment.  In the case of both Bethel and Wheaton, not only are staff informed of this expectation, but they sign a document saying they will uphold those religious values.

In the case of Dr. Hawkins, her statements are, as the Wheaton College statement regarding this matter clearly indicates, “in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.”

Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.

In other words, if a professor pledges to uphold these evangelical beliefs, then they shouldn’t contradict them, as this woman did.

I’d like to believe she has made the statement that the god of Islam and the God of the Bible are the same God out of her ignorance about the Muslim god.  Many Christians have never studied Islam, so they assume the word “God” means the same thing to both parties.  However, if you deal with comparative religions, one of the first concepts you learn is that while the words might be the same, the meaning of those words isn’t.

So let’s take some time to compare the God of the Bible and the god of Islam and see how they match up by working through the Wheaton College Statement of Faith.

WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.

Setting aside the evidence that indicates Allah was originally the name for either a black stone or the moon god (which would keep him from being eternal), a main problem between Allah and the God of the Bible is the idea of the Trinity.  While the term “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, the concept is replete throughout the Bible (”Let us create man in our image…”).  The evangelical view of God is one being existing in three eternal and equal persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Allah, on the other hand, is one being and one person.  There is no Allah the Son or Allah the Holy Spirit.  Not only is Allah not a Trinity, the very idea of a Trinity is considered blasphemy by the Quran:

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. (Surah 5:73)

Based on this point and this point alone, even without any further analysis of the differences, this is a significant enough difference to cause Dr. Hawkins’ statement to be contradictory to Wheaton College’s Statement of Faith.

Belief in the Trinity is foundational to conservative evangelicals, so any support for a religion that denies the Trinity will automatically put that person in opposition to an essential evangelical belief.

WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.

Islam is based on the Quran, not the Bible.  Although a Muslim might refer to the Bible (they consider it corrupted as we have it today), it always takes second place to the Quran and the Hadith (collections of sayings of the prophets).  Wheaton College’s Statement of Faith, however, does not include nor allow any additional holy writings that supersede what the Bible says.  It’s impossible to exclusively believe the authority of the Bible and then also include the Quran in that.  It’s a contradictory belief, so once again, Dr. Hawkins’ statement contradicts the basic evangelical belief of the authority of the Bible.  Either the Bible is the final authority or the Quran is.  Both cannot be the final authority in matters of faith.  Wheaton College upholds the Bible as the “supreme and final authority,” which is in direct opposition to Islam’s beliefs.

Notice that Wheaton College upholds the Bible’s inspiration by God, yet Islam believes an angel (not God) inspired Mohammed to write the Quran.  Instead of the Quran being “inerrant in the original writing,” abrogation is not only condoned in Islam but frequently practiced.  A newer surah supersedes an older one.  In other words, Allah changed his mind and gave a new surah to indicate that change, which then invalidates the first surah.

Again, a belief that Allah is the same as the God of the Bible becomes impossible since Allah’s word (the Quran) is flawed in its original writing and needed to be corrected through abrogation, whereas the evangelical belief is the Bible came to us without flaw.  Either the Bible came from God flawless or it has to be constantly updated since it was flawed in the first place.  Both beliefs cannot be true since they contradict each other.

WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.

Surahs 4:172, 5:73, 9:30 make it clear that Islam teaches that Jesus Christ is not God in the flesh (John 1:1, 1:14, Colossians 2:9), another foundational belief for evangelical Christianity.  In fact, the person Jesus (Isa in the Quran) was merely one of many prophets–and not even the greatest (Mohammed was).

In regards to Jesus’ death, the Quran teaches that Isa only appeared to be crucified, but he didn’t actually die.  Instead he ascended to heaven.

Since the divinity, substitutionary death for our sins, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is pivotal to Christianity’s understanding of who God is and what His character is like, it’s totally incompatible with the Quran’s teaching about Isa.

How can Jesus be God and not be God?

We can clearly see the Jesus in the Bible is not the same as the Jesus (Isa) in the Quran.  They’re not at all the same people and they didn’t even serve the same purpose in life.

In Islam, there is no payment for sin.  Salvation is based completely on a person’s works, and a Muslim can never be assured of that salvation except through their own death in a jihad (which explains why so many are willing to give up their lives in that way).  In evangelical Christianity, we are assured of our salvation because it’s by the grace of God through faith in Christ and not based on our own works.

As we can see, Dr. Hawkins’ statement that Allah and the God of the Bible are the same substantially contradicts what Wheaton College (and most evangelicals) believe.  How can they be the same God when their character and actions are totally different?

Although Muslims use the term “god” to refer to Allah, Christians should never assume the Muslims’ concept of god is the same as what the Bible teaches us about the true God.  Just because they use the same terms doesn’t mean they define them in the same way.

I hope Dr. Hawkins is merely unaware of the theological implications of her statement, that she is speaking out of ignorance instead of out knowledge of the character and definition of Allah found inside Islam’s own writings.

Whether she is willing to hear the truth or not, though, is immaterial.  She signed an agreement to uphold the Statement of Faith, and she needs to do that.  If she can’t abide by her previous commitment, she needs to step down and find a different job.

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