Efforts to unite Christians and Muslims threaten the Gospel, panelists say

Communications Staff — December 2, 2003

Should Christians view Muslims as monotheistic allies in the culture wars?

Not according to panelists at a Nov. 14 symposium sponsored by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.

The panelists argued that Allah and the God of Christianity are fundamentally different and that efforts to unite Islam and Christianity tend to compromise the Gospel.

The symposium featured seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr.; Russell D. Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology and executive director of the Henry Institute; and Ergun Caner, professor of theology and history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, was scheduled to speak at the symposium but was unable to attend due to a family emergency.

More than 500 people listened as panelists responded to Kreeft’s book, “Ecumenical Jihad.”

According to Kreeft, Christians and Muslims hold many beliefs in common as monotheists and must unite in the fight against secularism. Fighting between the two religions, Kreeft argues, unnecessarily detracts from positive work that could be accomplished.

Caner, who was a Muslim for 20 years before committing his life to Christ, said, however, that Kreeft’s view ignores irreconcilable differences between Islam and Christianity.

“To say that our … monotheistic religions worship the same God, that as sons of Abraham we can unite on a common cause of this said God against the threat of humanism, in my mind ignores the central tents of each system and insults the adherents of each system,” Caner said.

Though Muslims believe that Allah is the sovereign creator, they deny other portions of the Christian doctrine of God such as the Trinity and the deity of Christ, Caner said.

“It is not the same God,” he said. “The Koran is explicit not to say Trinity … We’re not talking about the same God.”

In fact, Islamic eschatology teaches that one day Jesus will return to “break all the crosses” and “kill and send to hell every Jew and Christian who did not accept Allah,” Caner said.

“As much as I would love for there to be … unity, you cannot unite with those who seek your death for the sole reason of your conversion,” he said.

Mohler, in his comments, said that Kreeft’s thesis stems from a false notion that all monotheists share a common worldview.

Prior to Vatican II, a Roman Catholic council in the 1960s, it was commonly acknowledged that Christianity and Islam hold contradictory theologies, Mohler said. After Vatican II, it became popular to lump all monotheistic religions into one category.

“Vatican II went so far as officially to embrace all monotheists as sons of Abraham and included in God’s economy of salvation,” he said. “This means Christians and Jews and Muslims.”

Christianity and Islam are actually very different, Mohler said. While Christianity insists on the full deity of Christ, Islam denies that God could ever have a son.

“The issue … is the doctrine of the Trinity, in particular the doctrine of Christ,” he said. “We must face the fundamental question of how one knows the one true and living God. The Scripture is abundantly clear that God is known through Jesus Christ the Son.”

Islam, in contrast, insists that “Allah is one, and he has no son,” Mohler said. “The only ground of our Christian identity is … the confession the Jesus Christ is Lord. Our co-belligerence in terms of the great battles of the age is fundamentally limited to those who believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Because God reveals moral standards through human conscience, Christians and Muslims will agree on some cultural issues, Mohler noted. But the two religions will never unite fully because Muslims reject God’s authoritative revelation—the Bible.

“When we come to revelation, it’s not just any book,” he said. “It is the holy Scriptures. It is explicitly not the Koran, which is explicitly a different worldview. Co-belligerence ad hoc from time to time on limited issues we understand by common grace. A common platform to address the culture war? I think not. The seductive nature of that idea makes it all the more dangerous.”

Moore said that Muslims misunderstand the fatherhood of God.

“God the Father does not simply mean that God is caring,” Moore said. “God the Father, in Scripture, is a specific truth claim that God is the Father of Jesus Christ. We cannot start with some generic concept of God and then move to a fuller revelation in Jesus Christ. God reveals Himself as Father, Son, Holy Spirit and as the God and Father of Jesus Christ.”

Though some thinkers minimize the distinctions between Islam and Christianity, Scripture teaches that only followers of Christ will inherit eternal life, Moore said.

“The issues here are about more than foreign policy although foreign policy is at stake,” he said. “The issue is about more than the culture wars although the culture wars are at stake. The issue is billions and billions of people for whom Christ died, who right now are chanting, ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.’”

More concluded, “I fear for us in evangelical Christianity that there are so many of us who want peace with Islam, and by peace what we mean is that they would stop killing us so that we can continue to consume our stuff. That is not what peace is as defined by the New Testament. Peace is John 3:16. … For millions and millions of Muslims, peace—being defined as being ignored by the Gospel—is hell. If we love Muslims as we love ourselves, we will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

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