Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims

To Whom are Muslims (and Jews, and Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) Praying? Christians Want to Know!

As posted a few weeks ago, I am following the story of Alycia Hawkins, who was placed on administrative leave by Wheaton College in December. Last week, Wheaton announced that it is now seeking to initiate “Termination-For-Cause” Proceedings regarding Dr. Hawkins. Wheaton claims that it is simply adhering to its “statement of faith;” recently posted an article suggesting that Wheaton’s decision has more to do with public relations than with fidelity to Christian faith.

I’m disappointed with Wheaton’s statement – or, rather, by its lack of public response to the position laid out by Dr. Hawkins. It is OK for Evangelicals to disagree, but Wheaton is taking a drastic step, and thus has a fundamental responsibility to clarify a position which seems at odds with common sense. If people believe that there is one God and only one God in the universe, and they believe that the Old Testament speaks about him, then how can anyone plausibly argue that a person who deliberately tries to pray to the only God, is, in fact, praying to someone else?

The fact that Muslim do not share the beliefs listed in Wheaton’s “Statement of Faith” does not necessarily mean that Muslims are praying to someone else. The New Testament never claims that non-Christian monotheists are, in effect, praying to some other God. The New Testament teaches that such individuals have incorrect ideas about God. We might even argue that God might not or will not choose to listen to such people. But is there any biblical basis for arguing that people who deliberately look to the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, are not actually praying to Him?

Wheaton’s rationale applies not only to Islam, but to many other faiths, including Mormonism and Judaism. Is Wheaton ready to say that Mormons and Jews also worship a different God? And how might this affect Wheaton’s reading of the Old Testament? A plain reading suggests that Abraham and Moses also did not subscribe to Wheaton’s statement of faith, including belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and also God Himself, at once human and divine. Does this mean that Abraham and Moses also did not worship the Christian God? Jewish people today strive to believe what the Old Testament says that Abraham and Moses believed. Will Wheaton say that Jewish people worship some god other than the God of Abraham?

The Qur’an describes the one, monotheistic God as the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. When the devout Muslim prays, he is seeking this God – just as the devout Jew also looks to the God of Abraham and Moses. Neither holds to the “core of our faith,” as Wheaton puts it. Instead, both Jews and Muslims appear to believe the same things about God that Abraham and Moses also believed, as taught in the Old Testament – that God is one God, all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly loving and just, merciful toward sinners, capable of wrath toward the unrepentant.

It is easy to see why Wheaton might choose to avoid thorny questions like these. Frankly, in modern America, it is much, much safer to claim that Muslims worship a different god than to say the same about Jews and Mormons. But simply doing what is safe and convenient, differentiating ourselves only from certain disliked groups, is not Christ-like. True followers of Christ must insist that Wheaton clarify its position. When Christ’s followers strive to single out a group for exclusion, we must give a very compelling reason. Wheaton has not done so.

4 comments on “To Whom are Muslims (and Jews, and Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) Praying? Christians Want to Know!

  1. George
    January 23, 2016

    To Whom are Muslims (and Jews, and Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) Praying? Christians Want to Know!

    Really, why? It’s not going to have bit of an affect on their belief systems. Christians believe in the Trinity, the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jews believe in the Father. Muslims believe in Allah and have contempt for the idea that the Trinity, to the point where its apostasy. The belief that Christ, the Son, is one in the Father is apostasy. Apostasy to Muslims is an offense to Allah and punishable under Sharia, the law of Islam, by death, as written in the Quran. There’s no equivocating. Infidels, those who do not believe in the Muslim god, Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet, are condemned in the Quran as offending their god. The Quaran gives license to the Muslim to act with violence against the infidel. In the early verses of the Quran, the Muslim is admonished to smite the infidel. Later verses, verses written when Mohammed saw the merit of enslaving infidels for personal gain. Instead of executing those Christians and Jews who refused to convert to Islam, Mohammed made them inferiors to Muslims. Jews and Christians were forced to wear identifying markings, as the Nazis required of the Jews during WWII. And Christians and Jews had to pay a tax to keep their heads. This is known as dhimmitude. Dhimmitude was universally practiced in Spain under the Moor conquests. Muslims still view Christians and Jews in this light today. This bigotry is probably the greatest motivation for Muslim hatred against the Jews of Israel today. The idea of an economically successful Jewish state in the heartland of the Middle East, where Islamic hegemony was once exclusive, drives the sons of Mohammed to distraction and why they will never accept the existence of Israel is a permanent entity.


    • John Herbst
      January 23, 2016

      George, thanks for your post! I appreciate your respectful approach, even though you are looking at some things differently.

      You raise a large number of issues. Part of the problem with these sorts of discussions is that we all tend to look for short, easy answers, instead of carefully defining our terms and supporting our assertions. But We Christians believe that we will have to give an account to God for EVERY careless word: God can condemn us for our speech (Matt 12:36-37)! This is why I urge Christians to go slow, so that we do not make mistakes. Even if we think others are evil and or dangerous, we are not permitted to repeat things about them that are untrue.

      For that reason, I keep the topic of any one conversation limited in scope. I want to be correct in all that I write. Better to say two or three things correctly, with no major mistakes, than to say ten things, and only get eight or nine right.

      You make many comments about what Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe. The idea that Jews believe in the “Father” is a Christian idea; I don’t know any Jewish person who says that the God of Judaism is the “Father” of the Trinity. Even more important, I am not aware of any major difference between the God of Judaism, and Allah. You certainly haven’t suggested any.

      Yes, most Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. Most Jews also believe that belief in the Trinity is apostasy. Most Christians hold that NOT believing in the trinity is also apostasy. We might use different vocabulary, but the concept is exactly the same. All three religions teach that this kind of apostasy is an offense to God, and that apostates risk condemnation. The death penalty for unbelievers appears in the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Qur’an.

      Most Muslims today, however, especially Western Muslims, do not agree with you that humans should kill apostates. Yes, I know that many people who are NOT Muslims, insist that Muslims believe in the death penalty for apostates. However, in my view, actual Muslims know what they believe much better than non-Muslims (just as I know better than you what I believe, and you know better than me what you believe). I write more about this concept in my post on Brother Rachid ( When I meet people who want to know what Christians believe, I send them to actual, practicing Christians – not former Christians, or people who define “Christianity” according to their own reading of the Bible. So when I want to know what Muslims believe, I talk to my Muslim friends and acquaintances, and I read books by people who interact regularly and extensively with practicing Muslims.

      I recommend that you seek out actual Muslims in your neighborhood. Visit the local mosque, and ask the Imam about the penalty for apostasy. Most likely, he will talk about Qur’an 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” Muslims read this verse to say that we should never, ever try to force someone to adhere to any religion, including Islam. Modern Muslims also like to refer to 88:21-26, who goes along the same lines. I’m pretty confident that your Imam will take this approach, because Muslims, both scholars and non-scholars, repeat this regularly.

      Yes, other verses say other things. But most Muslims these days teach that Sura 2 is pretty much the most authoritative sura in the Qur’an (someday, I’ll write a post about this.) Christians have a system for explaining why some passages in the Bible overrule other passage; Muslims have their own system for reading the Qur’an. Muslims don’t get to tell me which passages are most important in the Bible, so I don’t tell Muslims which passages are most important in the Qur’an. They tell me what they believe, I tell them what I believe, and we all end up knowing a little more. And, from the point of view of my Christian faith, I am in much less danger of violating Matthew 12.

      Again, as far as apostasy goes, I hope that you do actually sit down and talk with a few practicing Muslims. I’m very, very interested in hearing your report of what they have to say.


      • George
        January 23, 2016

        “The fact that Muslim do not share the beliefs listed in Wheaton’s “Statement of Faith” does not necessarily mean that Muslims are praying to someone else. ”

        Your approach is convoluted. It should not be the commonalities that make the case that we pray to the same God, but if the differences. If the differences are so great as to violate our Christian New Testament that should govern, i.e. that God is a violent god, instead of one of love. The Islamic god is one of peace only as applies to Muslims. The rest of us are viewed by them as apostates in direct conflict with their god.


      • John Herbst
        January 23, 2016

        George, thank you for supporting my point! Wheaton has a responsibility to clearly out line differences, but they did not mention anything that you’ve just laid out.

        I suspect that Wheaton chose not to address this issue because the New Testament is not as one-sided as you suggest. Verses like John 3:36, 14:6 and Romans 6:20-23 clearly teach that apostasy leads to God’s violent judgment, and there are many, many examples of God’s violence to human beings in the New Testament. Furthermore, most Christians believe that the Old Testament accurately portrays God, and that God’s essential character does not change. God’s basic attitude toward humans in the Qur’an and the Bible, believers and unbelievers, is actually pretty close: He loves people in general, and sends prophets to warn them, but He can gets mad at apostates.

        The point of my post is that Wheaton has NOT explained its position.


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This entry was posted on January 17, 2016 by .
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