23 August 2014

Do Moslems and Christians worship the same God? The Council says ...

The Conciliar decree Lumen gentium does not say that Moslems have the faith of Abraham; it calls them fidem Abrahae se tenere profitentes ['they claim to ...']. Which is certainly true; Ibrahim is a very common Islamic name. The Conciliar text (signed, incidentally, by Archbishop Lefebvre) then does indeed go on to say that nobiscum Deum adorant unicum, misericordem, homines die novissimo iudicaturum. I take this to be an indication of an overlap between the attributes of the Gods of Islam and Christianity. Nostra aetate (3) I take to be engaging in this same process of analysis. If the Council had wished to make and impose a formal doctrinal statement of the identity of the God whom Christians worship, and the object of the Islamic cult, I presume that it would have needed to so clearly, unequivocally, and unambiguously. The Ecclesia docens has never left her dogmata definitive tenenda lurking in a clause within a statement uttered obiterDeum cui Musulmani* cultum exhibent haec Sacrosancta Oecumenica Synodus sollemniter profitetur eundem esse quem Ecclesia Catholica adorat. Something similar to this would have needed to be said. The Conciliar Fathers could not, of course, say anything remotely like that, because we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, which Moslems fiercely deny as blasphemous. By identifying common features of predication the Council implicitly assumes recognition of features of non-identity.

The Council, addressing the circumstances of its time, looked optimistically at what Islam and the true Faith could be said to hold in common. A different context could be said to require a different emphasis: of what radically divides two such different religions. This does not imply that the Council was wrong to say what it said, when it said it.
*Musulmani in Lumen gentium; they have metamorphosed into Muslimi in Nostra aetate.

I am reprinting a relevant earlier piece of mine.


job said...

Father, You do have to take into account that "Allah" is the standard Arabic word used for "God" by Christians and Muslims alike. This is a cause obviously of some ambiguity.

Nous Apeiron said...

Fr. Hunwicke, thanks for distilling the information into such a concise form and citing the relevant Church documents.

I tend to agree that it's not so clear as some seem to think that the Church has endorsed the notion that we worship the same God. I have a hard time going along with the idea that the Church has done so.

On a personal level, I tend to think that we do worship the same God based on my reading of the Koran and various secondary sources. Obviously, we have a very different understanding of who God is in some very important respects. I don't think the Catholic (or Orthodox) positions I hold are compatible with or can be reconciled with the various Muslim positions on many theological questions. I could easily say the same thing about many of the Christians at various Protestant and other post-Reformation Christian groups whose churches I attended before converting, so I don't feel justified in claiming that we don't worship the same God based on those incompatibilities.

Tradical said...

Interestingly the idea that the Muslims address their worship to the God of Abraham - as do the Catholics is not necessarily a conciliar novelty.

The first pre-conciliar reference that I located is the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X.

In it we find the following:

"12 Q. Who are infidels? A. Infidels are those who have not been baptized and do not believe in Jesus Christ, because they either believe in and worship false gods as idolaters do, or though admitting one true God, they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ, nor as to come; for instance, Mohammedans and the like. (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)"

Further, in the Catholic Encyclopedia we find the following:

"Infidel: in ecclesiastical language those who by baptism have received faith in Jesus Christ and have pledged Him their fidelity and called the faithful, so the name infidel is given to those who have not been baptized. The term applies not only to all who are ignorant of the true God, such as pagans of various kinds, but also to those who adore Him but do not recognize Jesus Christ, as Jews, Mohammed; strictly speaking it may be used of catechumens also, though in early ages they were called Christians; for it is only through baptism that one can enter into the ranks of the faithful. (Catholic Encyclopedia)"


What is clear is that Lumen Gentium 16 and Nostra Aetate 3 both do not give the whole picture.

Don Camillo SSC said...

It is impossible for Muslims to worship a different God: there is only one God. It is possible that they have false ideas about that one God.

Patricius said...

Allah was being worshipped in Arabia before Muhammad was born. Muhammad's father was called Abdullah, "servant of Allah," one of many tribal Arabian gods. The pagan Arabs worshipped many false gods, gods of fertility, the heavenly bodies, etc; whatever was important to them. The only thing Muhammad did in devising his heresy was to declare that one god, Allah, was the God of the Patriarchs. If you would perceive the real foundation of Islam you need look no further than the top of a mosque. "Allah" is simply an ancestral tribal moon deity to whom Muslims ascribe the infinite perfections of the Godhead. Furthermore, the Qu'ran explicitly denies the Divinity of Christ, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Clearly Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.

I would encourage you all to read St John of Damascus' critique of Islam, The Heresy of the Ishmaelites (in De Haeresibus, final chapter). For those of you rich and fortunate enough to own the entire Migne collection you can find it there.

GE said...

Don Camillo, that is also my thinking. Mind you, did the Arians believe in a false god because they had wrong ideas about the Trinity? Should we call Jehova's Witnesses idolaters?

The Bones said...

It is impossible for Muslims to worship a different God: there is only one God. It is possible that they have false ideas about that one God.

All of the gods of the gentiles are devils.


So, its not 'impossible'.

Joshua said...

Here is a link to a translation of the passage from St John Damascene referenced above.

Don Camillo SSC said...

Muslims identify their God as the God of Abraham- clearly not a devil!

rick allen said...

"Furthermore, the Qu'ran explicitly denies the Divinity of Christ, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Clearly Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God."

But the Jews deny the divinity of Christ, the incarnation and the resurrection. And surely we do worship the same God. Either that, or we have to do something about all those psalms.

I think this an admirable piece. Not what the council is thought to have said, or what we want it to have said, but a careful parcing of careful words.

rick allen said...

Despite the conventional designation of Islam as "another religion," I think our late antique and medieval fathers were more correct to see it as a Christian heresy.

They are essentially Eastern Unitarians. They theology is obviously far afield from orthodoxy, but they are quite closer to Christianity than, say, Mormonism.

Lepanto said...

Among the 99 titles of Allah is 'The Deceiver'. Now, who could that be?

Noah Solomon said...

Since Islam rejects free will in favor of predestination, I constue this to mean that their one God is theologically distinct from the God of the OT and NT.