December 26, 2015

NOAH FELDMAN: One God for Christians, Muslims and Jews? Good Question.

What the administration of Wheaton College believes is that the distinctive features of the Christian God — in particular, the mystery of the Trinity and the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ — are so different from the Islamic conception of God as to make the two no longer the same.

This, too, is a perfectly logical view, if logic is the right word to discuss such matters of faith. Islam affirms God’s radical unity. Tawhid, the Arabic word for that affirmation, is at the core of Islamic theology. The Koran treats Jesus as a servant of God, but not God’s son, and certainly not as an element of the Godhead.

So if you think that the triune nature and incarnation are essential elements of the Christian God, you could easily conclude that Allah and the Christian deity are not the same. If you can feel the pull of that argument, then you should be able to understand what the Wheaton College administration is thinking.

If I recall correctly, in the early days of Islam it wasn’t clear to everyone that it wasn’t a heretical Christian sect, a hardcore version of monophysitism. The other thing I seem to recall is that the rampaging armies of Islam in those early years of conquest were actually heavily Christian, because it was cheaper to pay the discriminatory dhimmi tax than to pay the existing taxes levied by the Byzantine Empire and other rulers.

And one way of thinking about Islam — from a memetic-engineering standpoint rather than a strictly theological one — is that it was an ideology that did well in appealing to marginalized people, especially men, in a rigid, bureaucratic, emasculating, high-tax/low-opportunity society. Luckily, things are very different now.

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