Maybe This Will Convince People That Some Idaho Christian Theocrats Don't Really Know Anything
The line between opinions and facts can sometimes be blurred, but there are some times when a statement is just an out-and-out lie. Such was the statement today from Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance, who, in discussing the story of a misguided Dutch bishop, said this:
Further, from a theological standpoint, Muslims and Christians do not in fact worship the same God. Islam insists, quite emphatically, that God does not have a son. In fact, mosques often proudly display banners which read, “Allah has no son.”This is the kind of uneducated B.S. that makes it impossible to have real discussions with some people. Muslims will all say they worship the God of Abraham, as will all Jews and most Christians. I know I do, but since Bryan Fischer says he doesn't worship the same God as Muslims, I'm not sure who he actually worships. Muslims, or Jews, or Mormons, or anyone else certainly don't need Bryan Fischer's permission to worship the One God of the universe. If he doesn't want to worship the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob, the Great I Am, Jehovah of the Old Testament, that's his right; it's not his right to try to take that away from other people without being held up to public ridicule as someone who actually knows very little about history or other cultures.
Why is it important to acknowledge that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews? Because the people we're at war with right now are Muslims. (We're not at war with all Muslims, of course; some of them are our allies. But, all the people we are at war with are Muslims.) It's important for us to know our enemies -- and any effort to make the American people understand our enemies less is something I'll fight.
I expect Mr. Fischer to try to back away from this statement, and here's why: Fischer says the reason (and the only reason he gave) that he believes that Muslims don't worship the God of Abraham is because they say He doesn't have a Son. You know who else says that God doesn't have a Son? The Jews. Since Mr. Fischer and his ilk are always talking about a "Judeo-Christian heritage", he really can't be seen as trying to exclude Jews from his little group. For that reason, I expect him to change his website without mentioning it was changed (like he's done before); unfortunately for him, I've already taken a screenshot:
I look forward to seeing either of Mr. Fischer's regular defenders try to back him up on this one, especially with respect to his statement that those who don't recognize the Sonship of Jesus (including, by strong implication, the Jews) do not worship the God that we know and love.
Update 1625 16 August: Rabbi Daniel B. Fink of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise had this to say about Mr. Fischer's post:
I’d like to offer a few thoughts in response to Bryan Fischer’s suggestion that Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians.Thanks to Rabbi Dan for providing this statement to TSSBP; he's a man who actually uses facts. I'll see who else I might be able to get to weigh in on this one.
First, neither Jehovah nor Yaweh was or is or ever will be one of God’s names. Both of those terms come from a misreading of an unvocalized Hebrew word (consonants YHVH). All we know is that that name comes from the Hebrew verb “to be.” Others suggest that it is the sound of breathing; i.e. God is the very air that we breathe.
Second, to my knowledge, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all assert that God has many names rather than just one. So if someone wants to call God by the name “Allah” so be it. One might also use “The Merciful One” or “Creator” or scores of other names, in scores of other languages. No one has a monopoly on names of God.
And most importantly of all, Judaism and Christianity and Islam are all monotheistic faiths. All of us believe that there is only one God, who is the source of all things, present in all things. It follows, necessarily, that all monotheistic faiths worship the same God—since there is only one. We may have different views about what that one God asks of us (and we may disagree within our own traditions, too). But we all worship and serve the same God.
In this time of conflict, we should be looking to build bridges rather than creating chasms. People of faith such as Bryan Fischer should know better.
Update 2232 16 Aug: I wrote Mr. Fischer and asked him to explain how he felt Jews might differ from Muslims when it came to worshipping the same God as Christians even though both don't believe God has a son. He responded; here's what he said, presented without comment:
The Jews believe the same Old Testament prophecies about a promised Messiah that Christians do. I’ve talked to a number of even secular Jews who are still looking for a promised Messiah, and their expectation is based on the same prophecies Christians believe were fulfilled in Jesus.Update 1115 17 Aug: I contacted a notable Muslim here in Boise, Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid -- an Engineering Professor at BSU; here's how he explained the Muslim belief that they, contrary to Mr. Fischer's opinion, do in fact worship the God of Abraham:
So the Jews believe in a coming Messiah who is called the “Son” of God in Old Testament prophecies. They just don’t think Jesus is him. The difference between Christians and Jews is not whether God has or can have a Son, but who that Son is.
Muslims, on the other hand, are quite adamant that Allah does not and cannot have a Son. In their view, it is impossible for the true God to have a Son. If you insist to them that the true God does have a Son, they will be compelled to say “Then you are not worshipping the true God.”
Perhaps you should ask a Muslim whether he thinks he worships the same God Christians do. If he says Yes, then ask him if he believes that God has a Son. He will say No. If he says Christians are simply mistaken on this, but still worship the same God, then you might want to ask him why Islam insists that the only choices Christians have are to convert to Islam, submit to Islamic authority, or be killed. If they are worshipping the same God, why isn’t the Muslim approach to Christians one of live and let live? Why don’t they say, “That’s terrific that we and you worship the same God. Build all the churches you want in our Muslim countries, because, the truth is, we all worship the same God, and we’d be absolutely delighted for you to have as many Christian worship centers as you want in our land.”
Joel, I think if you talk to Muslims you are likely to find they are more dogmatic on these matters than Christians, unless they have been softened by prolonged exposure to Christian culture and its emphasis on tolerance and freedom of conscience.
In other words, if it’s true that we all worship the same God, and Muslims know this, why don’t they just start attending Christian churches instead of building their own mosques?
Muslims believe in one god who is the Creator of the Universe(s). Muslims call this deity "Allah" in Arabic. At our Friday sermons, we use the words God and Allah interchangeably. I believe that Allah is the only word in the Arabic language that is genderless. In other words, Allah is neither a male nor a female god.So there you have it. Mr. Fischer says that he won't accept that Muslims believe in the same God as he does because of a difference in beliefs in one aspect of the total nature of God (specifically, can he have a Son). Jewish and Muslim leaders in Boise, on the other hand, are much more conciliatory, and base their belief that all three faiths worship the same God on history and facts.
God remains a mystery to the Muslim mind and His complete nature cannot be encapsulated with words. Muslims also use 99 other names to call upon God such as the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiver, etc. The Quran clearly refers to this deity as the God of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Arab Christians refer to God as Allah.
My next-door officemate at Boise State University is a Christian Copt from Egypt who calls God "Allah" in Arabic.
There is no theological issue as to the nature of God in Judaism and Islam. In Christianity, however, the nature of God is defined differently with the trinity concept.
To my knowledge, Unitarians, Jehovah witnesses, and Mormons have even different interpretations for the nature of God. Muslims are definitely unitarians in this respect. Allah (whom the Christians refer to as the Heavenly Father or Creator), Jesus (peace be upon him), and the Holy Spirit are three different and separate entities in Islam. All three are mentioned in the Quran. Many Muslims believe that Jesus prayed to God using the word "Father" as a term of endearment in much the same way any old man is called "father" in the Middle East.
In summary, Muslims believe that people of the Scripture (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) worship the same God, the God of Abraham. I am using Abraham as the Prophet of reference here because Moses and Jesus come from the lineage of Isaac whereas Muslims believe Muhammad comes from the lineage of Ishmael. It is the nature of God which is defined somewhat differently in Christianity than in Islam and Judaism.
I'm wondering if Mr. Fischer, deep down, has problems with some of us who believe ourselves to be Christians who may have a different view of the nature of God. Many evangelicals believe that Jesus and God are the same person; therefore, doesn't that also mean that these people believe that God doesn't have a Son (but rather came to Earth himself)? And what of the Mormon belief that God has an actual, physical, perfect body? Does Mr. Fischer believe that Mormons believe in the same God as he does? We'll see if he chooses to answer that question next.