February 8, 2012
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that rationality, logic, and just “good-ole” common sense usually play some role in a good discussion or debate, but all of that seems to change when a discussion takes a religious or theological turn. It’s almost like the mere mention of the word God or religion prompts a culturally preconditioned response that involves the removal of people's thinking caps as they enter a world where contradiction somehow finds acceptance. Such was the mentality expressed by a teen columnist in one paper I read when this young writer petitioned his readers to let the similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam override the foundational differences between them coupled with the call to respect all religious beliefs. Said the young writer, “Unbeknownst to many is the fact that Muslims, Christians, and Jews believe in the same God."
I understand the angle from which this common request comes, but I must remind my readers that such a mentality, despite its popularity, is dangerous in the real world – a reality illustrated by another recent column highlighting $4,600 in fake money orders that, according to the recipient, “looked so legitimate that they included a watermark and foil embossing.” The issue here, as is the case with any kind of counterfeit, is the similarities between an authentic and a phony piece of paper with one having legitimate value and the other having no essential value whatsoever.
This tells us that the best of counterfeits and the greatest deceptions, then, emerge from similarities that convincingly mask the foundational and substantive differences between authentic and real or true and false. Behind the idea that the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same God, then, is the fallacious assumption that certain superficial similarities should somehow outweigh the foundational differences that logically distinguish one theology from another.
Christians, for example, revere Jesus as the Son of God, God the Son, and count his death a substitutionary sacrifice for humanity’s inherent sin with his physical resurrection as the confirmation of each claim, but both Judaism and Islam vehemently reject these foundational ideas. The issue here is simple. If the claims of Jesus were true then modern Judaism and Islam are patently false, and if He isn't who Christians say he is, then, well, Christianity is false. There is no middle ground.
So, while religious ideas may have many similarities, there are still significant differences that make them logically irreconcilable, and saying that we should overlook those essential differences and respect other religious ideas is like saying one should ignore the law of non-contradiction or applaud the demise of simple logic in the process. It's like suggesting that we should respect other views despite their contradictory nature.
It's akin to holding the views of both Joseph Stalin and Mother Teresa in like esteem. It's like highlighting their similarities at the expense of those foundational differences that set them infinitely apart from one another. It's like concentrating on their similar physical characteristics, their similar personality traits, or their similar reasoning powers, and then suggesting that each of their ideas warrant the same consideration and/or respect.
Ridiculous? Absolutely! No one, at least as far as I know, would declare their respective views of reality, human nature, and human life worthy of equal honor, because, while one was synonymous with suffering and death the other was known for her alleviation of both.
No, the three monotheisms do not worship the same God. The God of Christianity alone sent his Son to die for the world, the love of God in historical high def, and any view of God that contradicts that reality, said Jesus, leaves men in their sin and without Him (John 8:24). “No man,” said Jesus, “comes to the father but by me,” and that is a significant and substantive difference that cannot be compromised.