Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
By Tony Campolo – founder of the Red Letter Christians Movement
When Larycia Hawkins, a Professor at Wheaton College claimed that Christians and Muslims worshiped the same God, a major controversy broke out. Consequently, I was asked if I agreed with her. My response was to ask a question in return: “Do any two of us worship the same God?”
Each of us grew up in a different social environment. We were raised by different fathers and mothers who conditioned our various understandings of God by what they said and what they did. Also, the various economic classes from which each of us came, also gave each of us differing concepts of the nature of God.
Then there is the reality that our church and denominational affiliations highly influenced our understanding of what God is like. Who can deny that a person enmeshed in a fundamentalist church, with a strong emphasis on the penal-substitutionary doctrine of the cross, will have a very different concept of God then does someone raised in a liberal church which teaches that the cross is primarily an expression of God’s sacrificial love? Furthermore, we even must ask if males and females have differing images of what God is like.
Some of the words we use to help us understand the nature of God only serve to confuse us. Words like omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient have great poetic value but are beyond the comprehension of our empirically grounded minds. Can anybody really understand what these words mean? Is it safe to say that the knowledge and power of God is beyond comprehension?
Here is where Red Letter Christianity comes into play. All that we Red Letter Christians know about God is what we find in Jesus. For us, who God was and is, is discovered in God’s son.” In Jesus, the fullness of God is revealed.” (Col. 2:9) As we read those red letters of scripture, along with the divinely inspired black letters that describe the life of Jesus, we get a good look into the character of God.
There is still another way in which we can come to know God, and that is to surrender to the transforming impact that God can have in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. The more we are in a mystical communion with God that allows God’s indwelling presence to transform us into Christ’s likeness, the more we will understand God and the more the world will get some glimpses of what God is like. We are called to reflect God’s likeness to a confused world, and to the extent we do that there will be fewer questions about God’s nature and character, such as those that were raised about Professor Hawkins’s controversial statements.