Is Chrislam a Real Thing?
Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? by MATTHEW BENNETT for The Gospel Coalition
On December 10, 2015, a Facebook post reignited debate over a 1,400-year-old question. At the center of the debate was Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College who posted a message to her personal Facebook page:
I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.
This post initiated a chain of events that led initially to Hawkins’ suspension, and ultimately culminated in her resignation.
This highly public incident sparked heated controversy as those inside and outside of evangelicalism weighed in with their opinions regarding the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” Prompted by the controversy, the Evangelical Missiological Society invited a variety of missiologists to present their approaches to answering the question. Despite reaching various conclusions, one clear theme emerged from the contributions: the question itself is flawed.
In an effort to clarify this discussion, here are three alternative questions which help to elucidate the underlying issues that the question-as-posed obscures.
Idea Question: What Is Allah?
A good place to start this investigation is with the Arabic word Allah. While Allah is the word Muslims use for God, Arabic-speaking Christians also use Allah in their Bible translations to refer to God. In Arabic, Allah is the word that is formed from the noun “god” (ilah) and the attached definite article (al). Thus, Allah could be translated into English as “the God.”
Since Islam and Christianity share the idea that there is only one God, it is appropriate to share the word Allah to describe the One who is responsible for creating the universe. This shared idea provides some common conceptual ground, yet the concept alone describes merely an impersonal idea. A more helpful question might be, “Who is Allah to Muslims and Christians?”