September 14, 2012

Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

In a book that will hit the shelves in early November, four experts representing Judaism (Jack Neusner and Baruch Levine), Christianity (Bruce Chilton), and Islam (Vincent Cornell) tackle this deceptively simple question.

Baruch Levine says the question is not: Is God on our side? but Are we on God's side?
And God is on the side of those who keep God’s covenant. This means that for the redemption of humanity and lasting peace, we all must recognize that the modern state of Israel must hold an honored place in the family of nations, free, sovereign, and rejoicing in Jerusalem, God’s holy city. But for the state of Israel to continue under God’s covenant, Jews must negotiate peace with the Palestinians and neighboring nations, most of whom are Muslim, and hence monotheist.

Jack Neuser looks at the question from the vantage point of Classical Judaism.
Accordingly, only Classical Judaism affirms authentic monotheism and only when we all accept this can we have true interfaith dialogue. Because Christianity and Islam are not monotheist, they can lay no claim to unique possession of the truth and there can be no common ground for discussion. Judaism stands in judgment of Christianity and Islam because it alone sets the standard for true monotheism.

Bruce Chilton answers this way: Being able to make comparisons about how we believe God acts does not mean that we actually believe in the same God. Likewise, comparing the theologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can give us common ground, but it does not mean that we start or conclude with belief in the same God.

Vincent Cornell says that Islam stands in a medial position between Judaism and Christianity. Do they worship the same God? In the case of Judaism, yes. In the case of Christianity, it depends on who Christians worship. If they worship Jesus, the answer is no; but if they worship God, the answer is that there is more room for conversation. Even so, it is still not possible to bridge the differences between Islam and Christianity enough to create some kind of Abrahamic world theology, but at least a strictly Trinitarian Theology of worship can provide some common ground. Interreligious conversation derives its greatest benefits from counterpoint rather than comparison.

Then Martin Marty writes in his epilogue that the conversation surrounding the question of whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God can and must proceed. And amazingly through this difficult and complex discussion, we can all learn and reap unexpected benefits.

This book will be worth your time and energy to digest. The title is, Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God? Here is the ISBN: 9781426752377.

Grace, Kathy

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