Friday, January 22, 2016

Muslim - Christian speech

There has been a lot of good discussion generated by the suspension of Dr. Larycia Hawkins by Wheaton College for her reference to Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. While the college administration is moving toward dismissing her, many of her colleagues are supporting her. Many alumni are, as well (including me).

A recent series of essays by prominent theology professors and missionary specialists in Muslim - Christian relations were collected by the editors of the Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research and can be found online at Highly recommend reading.

The most helpful perspective for me was offered by David Greenlee, who has been with Operation Mobilization since 1977 and has published numerous papers on Muslim - Christian relations. Here is part of what he said, "can we even answer the question, Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Which Muslims? Which Christians? Worship in the sense of ritual and tradition or in the sense of lives as living sacrifices? Same in the sense of the ontological fact of One Almighty God, Creator of all things, or same in sufficient congruence in the details of belief? ....I find myself wondering how many mistakes can there be in my belief for me to be worshipping God and not a false god? Is the loving Father a friend testifies to knowing the same being as the angry ogre she thought he was as teenager? Do we worship the same God as liberals Protestants, the Jehovah of the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Jesus of Oneness Pentecostals? What we believe matters, but God is defined by who he is, not by what I believe about him. A better question might be, Do we know the same God? ...Unilateral declarations about what others believe does little good in building peace among communities. In considering the increasing fear in American society, rather than talking "about them", could we more often talk with Muslims....we might find that sensitive exploration not just about what we believe about God, but what we hope for our children, could contribute to peacemaking in a fearful, increasingly fractured world"

On the presidential campaign trail we are hearing hateful, divisive speech regarding Muslim - Christian relations which is inciting fear and violence on both sides of the divide and hardening the division. One missiologist pointed out that minority Christian communities in Muslim countries are not helped by anti -Muslim speech in America. Let the Church lead in ways that encourage dialogue and sow seeds of peace and disavow any form of hate speech.

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