What do I think of Ronnie Campbell and Christopher Gnanakan’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
When a Wheaton professor wore a hijab, it led to a major evangelical controversy. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? In this volume, four different views are shared on the topic. If you think the answers are simply yes or no, you’re mistaken. So what are these views?
Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb Jr. both take the view of yes, we all worship the same God. Francis Beckwith takes the idea that in a way, we all do worship the same as a referent. Gerald McDermott holds a shared revelation view where Jews and Christians worship the same God, but not Muslims. Jerry Walls takes the position that none worship the same God.
Now going in, my position was very much that of Jerry Walls. I do think there are generic theistic arguments that can be used for all three of the Abrahamic faiths and you can only know which one is true by special revelation, but when we look at the deities described in the revelation, they’re very different. Namely, it comes down to the view of Jesus. Since Jesus is fully God and fully man, Christians necessarily worship a Trinity.
I found the first view of all worship the same God being the most unconvincing. For instance, it was said that there are many Christianities. At this point, I have to wonder if the authors have any idea what it means to be a Christian because if Christianity can be anything, then it means nothing.
It’s hard to disagree with Francis Beckwith, and as Jerry Walls said in the book, especially when he begins with an analogy involving Superman. (We’ll try to forgive him for never mentioning the Smallville series.) Still, at the end of the day, I just can’t sign easily on the dotted line. It’s hard to think that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.
Gerald McDermott would agree as he thinks there’s a radical division between Islam and Christianity. However, there was not any dispute among the Jews and Christians at the start about which God was worshipped. Therefore, Jews and Christians worship the same God. Muslims do not. This can make sense, but I agree with Walls that McDermott does seem to move too quickly through the doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection, and the incarnation.
Finally, we get to Walls’s view. This is the view I did find the most convincing. Now you could say it’s because I approached the book with this view so yeah, bias is always a part, but also when one studies for years, they don’t form positions lightly. In all fairness, the positions of Beckwith and McDermott I did think made some good points.
Walls also did bring up something else that needed to be discussed. Even if we think they all worship the same God, does that count towards salvation for them? I wish the other authors had said more about that question. I don’t think Beckwith and McDermott would hold to a pluralistic view, but I wonder if the first authors might.
There are also two essays afterwards, mainly on evangelizing Muslims. These are good to have, but shouldn’t we include something on evangelizing Jews as well? Judaism is much smaller in number to be sure, but why not have one chapter on Muslims and one on Jews? Jews need their Messiah too, after all.
If this question interests you, then you should get this book. The extra benefit besides just the replies to the authors on their essay is the author of each essay gives one quick counter-reply to all the others. I like this touch and wish it would be used more often.