Defining and Defending the Christian Concept of God

Introduction

There’s been a controversy in recent weeks over the suspension of Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, after she began wearing a hijab in a show of support for her Muslim neighbors. The college administration claim the suspension was not due to Professor Hawkins’ head scarf, but rather because her declaration that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is incompatible with the college’s statement of faith.
 
The coverage in the media makes it obvious that neither the politicians, nor the journalists understand either the fundamental issue at hand or the enormous implications of it. This is evidenced by both the news outlets’ choice of theological “experts” for their interviews and discussions, and the nature of the questions they pose. It’s not surprising that media pundits and politicians don’t have a solid grasp on fundamental theology. What concerns me more is that many supposedly Christian students at Wheaton, and nominal Christians in the Church at large don’t seem to get it either.
 

The Christian View of God

Before tackling the question, it is essential to define exactly who the Christian God is. The basis for any such definition must be solely what God says about Himself in His Word – The Bible – not personal beliefs and emotions. We must guard against defining God in mystical, subjective terms, and stick to what that great theologian, Joe Friday, famously referred to as “Just the facts” as laid out in God’s Word.
 
The fundamental distinction of the Christian God which separates Him from the gods of all other religions (including Islam and Judaism, by the way) is the concept of the Trinity. Christians believe in a triune God made up of three distinct, but inseparable persons – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus of Nazareth), and God the Spirit. We see the concept of the Trinity voiced in God’s Word from the very start…
Genesis 1:1 [NKJV]
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
While not obvious from the English translation, the word “God” in this verse is the Hebrew word – אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym – a plural noun. The verb “created” here is – בָּרָא bara meaning to make something out of nothing – an act only God could perform. I have virtually no knowledge of Hebrew grammar, but I have been told that this form of the verb is singular. So we see a seeming grammatical error in the very first verse of the Bible matching a plural subject with a singular verb – a profoundly poetic declaration of the three-in-one nature of God.
 
Later in the creation text, we hear God referring to Himself in the plural…
Genesis 1:26a [NKJV]
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
Of course, numerous passages in the New Testament affirm that Jesus is indeed the singular human manifestation of the triune God. The apostle Paul states this directly in his letter to the Colossians…
Colossians 2:9 [NKJV]
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
John’s gospel affirms the deity of Jesus from the start, reiterating Jesus’ role in the creation of the universe, and His relationship to His holy Word…
John 1:1-3, 10-11, & 14 [NKJV]
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Later in the gospel of John, Jesus Himself affirms His deity in responding to His disciple Phillip’s request to see God the Father…
John 14:9 [NKJV]
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'”
Indeed, it was this claim of deity for which Jesus was eventually crucified…
John 10:27-33 [NKJV]
27My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30I and My Father are one.” 31Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” 33The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
Without doubt then, the Bible clearly proclaims the concept of the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus. This is a fundamental concept of Christianity. Anyone (e.g. the staff of Wheaton College) claiming to be a Christian must hold this belief as non-negotiable. Indeed, even if we believe in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, without the corresponding belief in His godhood (and His consequent power to forgive our sins), His promise of eternal life for His believers would be of no effect.
 

The “Abrahamic” Faiths

So now that we have a clear definition of the nature of the Christian God, what can we say about Professor Hawkins’ (and so many others’) declaration that Muslims worship the same God? The basis for this claim is that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all so-called “Abrahamic” faiths – that is, they are all monotheistic religions whose God created all things, and is the same as the Lord who first called Abram (later renamed Abraham) from his ancestral home in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan (now popularly known as Palestine), and later promised that through his Seed all the world would be blessed…
Genesis 12:1 [NKJV]
Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
Genesis 22:18 [NKJV]
In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
The Name Lord in Genesis 12:1 is printed in most English translations using all uppercase characters. It is the Hebrew Name ” יְהֹוָה Yehovah ” considered so holy by the ancient Jews that it couldn’t even be uttered, so that its true pronunciation has been lost. Indeed, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike claim devotion to this God of Abraham. Yet we differ profoundly with regard to exactly who this God is. As we have seen, Christians believe God is a singular deity manifest in three distinct persons, Jesus the Son being one of those persons. This belief sets the Christian God apart, and has profound implications for everyone, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike.
 

Indeed There Is No God But God, but Muhammad Isn’t His Prophet

To start with, I need to confess that my knowledge of the Q’ran is just as weak as my knowledge of Hebrew grammar. Nevertheless, a few quotes from the Q’ran serve to contradict the idea that Allah is the same triune God that Christians worship, in that they clearly deny the concepts of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ…
Surah 4:172

 O People of the Book, exceed not the limits in your religion, and say not of Allah anything but the truth. Verily, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah and a fulfillment of His word which He sent down to Mary, and a mercy from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messengers, and say not “They are three.” Desist, it will be better for you. Verily, Allah is the only One God. Far is it from His Holiness that He should have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. And sufficient is Allah as a Guardian.

Surah 5:18
They have indeed disbelieved who say, “Surely, Allah is none but the Messiah, son of Mary.” Say, “Who then has any power against Allah, if He desire to bring to naught the Messiah, son of Mary, and his mother and all those that are in the earth?” And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them. He creates what He pleases; and Allah has power to do all things.
Surah 5:117
And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah’?”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things.
Note that this verse would clearly seem to indicate that the false doctrine of Mary worship had already entered into the ostensibly Christian church by the time of Muhammad in first half of the 7thcentury AD. Bible-believing Christians deny that Mary was anything but an ordinary woman used in an extraordinary way by God as His means of entering into the creation in the fleshly form of the baby Jesus. The Catholic doctrine that Mary herself was anything other than human, was herself immaculately conceived and sinless, or should be prayed to or worshipped is entirely unbiblical, and false, even blasphemous!
 
Not only does the Q’ran clearly teach against the concepts of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ, it also proclaims that Jesus is not eternal, but is a created being just as ordinary people are…
Surah 3:60
Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, “Be!,” and he was.
In this false belief, the Muslims are not alone. Some so-called “Christian” cults claim similar beliefs as we shall see later.
 
Finally, it must be pointed out that the Q’ran clearly proclaims Allah’s condemnation upon Christians…
Surah 5:73-74
Indeed they are disbelievers who say, “Surely, Allah is none but the Messiah, son of Mary,” whereas the Messiah himself said, “O children of Israel, worship Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord.” Surely, whoso associates partners with Allah, him has Allah forbidden Heaven, and the Fire will be his resort. And the wrongdoers shall have no helpers. They are surely disbelievers who say, “Allah is the third of three;” there is no God but the One God. And if they do not desist from what they say, a grievous punishment shall surely befall those of them that disbelieve.
Before we leave this subject, note that this last passage claims to quote Jesus. Yet neither the modern Bible translations nor the ancient texts from which they were derived contain any mention whatsoever of Allah. Nor does Jesus ever use the name Lord except in parables quoting the characters in them. Thus, if the Q’ran is indeed what it claims to be – the word of Allah spoken to his messenger, Muhammad, clearly Allah is either misquoting Jesus by mistake out of ignorance, or outright lying. Either way, this Allah, whether simply ignorant or a liar, is in no way comparable to the Christian God, Who is all-knowing, and Who does not and cannot lie.
 
The Q’ran undeniably teaches against and condemns the fundamental Christian belief in the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. Allah is most certainly, therefore, not the same God who Christians worship. Anyone claiming otherwise is either ignorant of the basic tenets of both the Bible and the Q’ran, or worse, is lying on purpose, despite knowledge of the truth, in order to promote a misguided agenda of unity for its own sake. Sadly, many such people (like Professor Hawkins) are professing Christians. Shame on them!
 

The God of Israel

As we’ve seen, despite Islam’s being a so-called “Abrahamic” faith, Allah – the god of Islam – is clearly not the same triune God worshiped by Christians. But what about the God of the Jews? The Jewish children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) also believe in the God of Abraham, and that there is but one God – יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah
Deuteronomy 6:4 [NKJV]
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
Indeed, modern Jews still await the coming of the promised Messiah first foretold by God Himself in the Garden of Eden…
Genesis 3:14-15 [NKJV]
14So the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Indeed, it might well be said that the uniqueness of God, and faith in the promise of the coming Messiah are the defining characteristics of Judaism. Yet despite hundreds of Messianic prophecies within the Hebrew scripture, which were perfectly fulfilled by Jesus, the Jews of Jesus’ day failed to recognize Him as their Messiah, and most still do. In this respect, of course, the God of the Jews may certainly be the same God that Christians worship, yet most Jews still fail to recognize His triune nature, and the deity of Jesus Christ.
 
We must be very cautious, though, of the mistaken idea that the Christian Church has somehow replaced Israel as the chosen people of God. The Bible makes it very clear that Israel and Jerusalem have always been integral parts of God’s plan of salvation, and that one day all of Israel will come to a saving faith in Jesus as God…
Romans 11:25-32 [NKJV]
25For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
28Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

False “Christian” Gods

We have seen the uniqueness of the Christian claim that Jesus is God the Son, one facet of the Three-in-one, God come to Earth in the flesh of man – Immanuel (God with us). We have seen that both Muslims and Jews reject this idea. But what about ostensibly “Christian” cults who deny the deity of Jesus Christ?
 
The Mormon doctrine on the nature of Jesus is muddled at best. Modern Mormon apologists claim that the Mormon view of Jesus is entirely orthodox. Yet traditional Mormon theologians and the Mormon Doctrines and Covenants (which along with the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price has traditionally been held equal in authority to the Bible) clearly say that Jesus is a created being along with His “spirit brother” Lucifer and many others. Another traditional tenet of Mormon beliefs is that the statements and writings of the head of the Mormon Church at any moment in time are of equal authority with the Bible. In the past Mormon theologians have said that Jesus was conceived by the physical act of sexual intercourse between Mary and God the Father, and that Jesus Himself had multiple human wives.
 
All of these doctrines are clearly false and blasphemous from the standpoint of Bible-believing Christians whose sole authority must be the Word of God. Perhaps in the future, the Mormon Church will abandon these lies, but until it does, the god they worship clearly isn’t the same as the true Christian God.
_____________________________
 
Most people in America falsely assume that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian sect. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Watchtower Society, which officially formulates Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, entirely denies and condemns the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus Christ. The history of this cult is rife with deceit and purposeful misinformation. The Society commissioned its own “translation” of the Bible – The New World Translation (NWT) – which reworks various passages in order to promulgate their foregone conclusions about these doctrines by both purposeful mistranslation of the original languages and by simple excision of problematic text. Two examples will suffice to make the point. First, recall John’s statement concerning Jesus – the Word of God by whom all things were created…
John 1:1 [NKJV]
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The NWT changes this to read…
John 1:1 [NWT]
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. [emphasis mine]
The idea here, of course, is to rebut Jesus’ claim to being the exclusive means of salvation…
John 14:6 [NKJV]
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
The Society justifies their blatant mistranslation of John 1:1 by claiming that all foregoing translators mistakenly mistranslated the original Greek. Of course, this is just simply an outright lie.
 
The clear reference to the Trinity found in…
1 John 5:7-8 [NKJV]
For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
…is simply butchered in the NWT to exclude reference to Jesus, the Word…
1 John 5:7-8 [NWT]
For there are three witness bearers, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.
_____________________________
 
Despite its name, Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific. It includes a number of bizarre claims such as denying the reality of the physical world, and claiming the spiritual world is the only true reality. Christian Science denies not only the Trinity and the deity of Jesus, but denies even the existence of God’s Holy Spirit, and the holiness of God claiming that God is “all-in-all.”
_____________________________
 
While it doesn’t deny the Trinity or the deity of Christ, the Roman Catholic church has introduced a number of false and blasphemous doctrines into Christian theology over the last 1500 years or so, including the worship of Mary noted above. Furthermore, in the last 50 years or so, the “mother church” has largely abandoned Jesus’ clear Biblical claim to be the exclusive Way of salvation, and (along with the majority of Protestant denominations in the West) has embraced a doctrine of inclusion and unity, devaluing the simple Biblical Gospel Truth into near meaninglessness. The current pope is in full agreement with Professor Hawkins’ claim that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all worship the same God.
 
He’s not alone. Even among mainstream Christian denominations, abandonment of traditional orthodox Christian doctrines is rampant. In 2002, London’s Daily Telegraph reported after surveying 10,000 Church of England clergy that fully one-third of them did not even believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the central tenet of Christian belief.
 

So What’s a Christian To Do?

Jesus’ brother Jude’s admonition to the believers of his time is still quite apropos nearly 2,000 years later…
Jude 1:3-4 [NKJV]
3Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
To those outside the faith, the Wheaton College administration’s strong censure of a faculty member who claimed that the Christian God and the god of Islam are the same seems like “much ado about nothing” at best, and hateful bigotry at worst. Yet, these leaders have been called as Jude urges to contend earnestly for the faith, especially since Professor Hawkins was in a position of authority over young students who might not have a firm, orthodox understanding of the tenets of their Christian beliefs. It is the sacred duty of all Christians to stand and speak against the false and blasphemous claim that Christians worship the same God as Jews, Muslims, or anyone else. Jesus claim of divinity and His being the unique means of salvation is clear. It can brook no compromise.
 
First, the Word of God must be the singular foundation of our Christian beliefs, not our own emotions, vague mystical revelations, or even the teachings of our pastors and leaders. This is not to denigrate the value of good Biblical teaching, but the responsibility rests on the individual Christ follower to test all teaching to ensure that it agrees with God’s Word. We must also be willing to point out any errors we find to the teachers. Any truly Christian teacher will be willing to accept correction if it’s Biblical. If any teacher is unwilling to receive such correction, that should also serve as a stern warning to the ordinary congregant. In order to accomplish this, we all need to know as fully as we are able what God says about Himself in His Word, and be continually seeking to grow in this knowledge.
 
Finally, we must be willing to accept the consequences of our contention for the Gospel. Of course, we need to be ready in our own minds to face martyrdom at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Only a few years ago, for most of us in the United States, this seemed like a remote possibility. But we can see the threat drawing closer to home day-by-day. In an Oregon college, recently, the gunman reportedly asked victims whether they were Christians. Those who affirmed belief in Jesus were shot in the head. Those who denied Him were shot in the leg. The recent massacre in San Bernardino, CA was clearly an act of Islamic murder against people who were simply attending a Christmas party, which likely was called a “Holiday” party. Probably most of those in attendance weren’t even professing Christians.
 
Most of us have prepared our minds for such encounters, and decided ahead of time to stand firm in our beliefs. But are we ready for the attacks that will soon come from our own government, and even from within our own church. Jesus Himself has warned us…
Matthew 24:9-14 [NKJV]

 9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

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