A professor at Wheaton College is in jeopardy of losing her job over a social media posts where she notes that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Professor Larycia Hawkins, a Christian, even went so far as to reference Pope Francis’ recent speech where he stated that Christians and Muslims were “brothers and sisters.” So why is the professor about to lose her job? Well, even though Catholics and liberal Christians and many Muslims would agree that they worship the same God, many evangelical Christians have a different opinion.
The Christian Science Monitor reported January 7 that there are some Christians, primarily evangelicals, who do not believe that Christians and Muslims share the same God. A recent poll suggests that more Americans believe that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. And those poll numbers are driven primarily by evangelical Protestant denominations.
The poll, which was conducted by Christianity Today magazine, revealed that while 46 percent of Americans believed that Christians and Muslims believed in the same God, 47 percent did not. The magazine noted that just over 30 percent of self-identified evangelicals agreed that Christians and Muslims shared the same God.
In fact, this is where Wheaton College stands. In its statement regarding Professor Larycia Hawkins’ suspension, the college insisted that it was her statements about faith and not the fact that she wore an hijab that prompted the college’s decision. “While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer,” the Wheaton statement read, in part.
But is this an interpretation of the two faiths and the perceptions of God and his divine will? And what about the shared histories, not to mention the cornerstone books of the two belief systems, both of which share a commonality with Judaism as well? And if one follows the argument of divergence, where one religion becomes more acceptable than the other (despite common ground), what places Muslims in the arena of worshipping a different God while equally divergent Christian sects, like Mormons with their separate books and teachings, are simply relegated to the categorization of cultish or misled Christians?
Mark Woods, a writer and contributing editor at the London-based evangelical Christian news site Christian Today sees the argument as nonsensical. “If we don’t believe that we worship the same God, what exactly are we saying? That when Muslims pray, there is simply no one there to hear? Or perhaps that Allah (incidentally the word used for God by Christians in Arabic-speaking countries) is really some sort of demonic figure, a sort of alternative to the real thing?”
Charles Kimball, Southern Baptist minister and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Christian Science Monitor in December that Islam does not even question that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same deity. In fact, Muslims acknowledge that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all derive from the same God, the God of Abraham. In fact, Muslims refer to the followers of Judaism and Christianity as “peoples of the book,” since both predate Islam and follow the teachings of the Jewish Torah, which is traditionally the first five books of the Christian Bible.
So what lies behind evangelical thinking that would relegate Muslims to worshipping a different God? Since evangelical take a fundamentalist and infallible view of the word written in their versions of the Holy Bible, other belief systems are suspect, wrong, misled, or simply the worship of another, very different God than their own. Since Muslims also study the teachings of the Quran, many evangelicals deem them as not following the true word of God, therefore following a different God.