December 17, 2003


The God of Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad: The author of God: A Biography says that, yes, of course Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. (Jack Miles, BeliefNet)

A week ago, President Bush scandalized some of his evangelical fans by innocently asserting, during his trip to England, that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Richard Land, speaking for the scandalized, has now rebuked the President for what Land calls playing "theologian-in-chief."

Land writes: "When President Bush concludes that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, he is simply mistaken." In my view, Bush is, at least on this point, a better theologian than his evangelical critic.

Though Land neither confirms nor denies that Jews and Christians worship the same God, surely he would concede that the first Christians, Jews all, did not understand Christian discipleship to entail switching to a new God. But what of the first Muslims? If they, too, understood themselves to be worshipping the God of the Jews, then were they not necessarily worshipping the God of the Christians as well?

The Qur'an identifies Allah as none other than the God to whom Abraham offered "submission" (islam) in the episode Jews and Christians know so well from Genesis 22, the story of the binding of Isaac. As the paradigmatic Muslim or "submitter," Abraham then made the original, paradigmatic pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims believe, accompanied by the very son, Ishmael, whom Allah had rescued so dramatically.

Jews and Christians have always believed that Muhammad got this story wrong. It was Isaac, not Ishmael, who was bound, they believe, and Abraham made no such pilgrimage to Mecca. But have Jews and Christians also believed, historically, that Muhammad had the divine protagonist wrong as well--to the point that he was referring to another deity altogether?

This, it seems, is Land's assumption when he writes: "There is only one true God, and His name is Jehovah, not Allah." As it happens, centuries of Jewish and Christian thinkers have assumed just the opposite.

Wow, is there any field where the President isn't smarter than his critics?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2003 8:06 AM
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