It's a logical question.
"Why not read the book and find out why Volf would make that claim?"
I told you yesterday about a friend of mine who works for Wycliffe Bible Translators and loaned me the book, Allah, by Miroslav Volf. It's a treatise designed to explain how Muslims and Christians worship the same god, a theory which apparently lies at the root of the current Wycliffe Trinity controversy.
Being the stubborn product of a stoic New England mother and minimalist Finnish father that I am, I suppose I could sit down and plow through Volf's book, drafting an exhaustive outline in the process, covering all of the flaws I think I find in his argument. After all, I'm also a native New Yorker, meaning I come by opinions warily, and part with them even more begrudgingly.
But, frankly, I'm mostly a lazy American for whom Volf's 262 pages of text and 46 pages of end notes aren't enticing, especially since his argument depends more on theological hypothesizing than Bible verses.
Verses like "thou shall have no other gods before me" from the Decalogue.
And, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father but through Me," which are Christ's very words regarding salvation and His relationship to God.
"Come out from among them [unbelievers] and be separate," at least according to Paul's instructions to the church at Corinth.
"In the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God," from the apostle John's iconic opening line to his book, in which he confirms that Jesus and God are One in the same.
Or verses which state salvation is found in no one except Jesus, for "there is no other name under Heaven" by which we can be saved.
We can probably talk about God and gods all day long, but if you don't believe that Jesus Christ is part of the Trinity, then what would we have accomplished? God's triune nature is essential to Christianity, and trying to avoid it is like trying to avoid eternity.
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine," says the apostle Paul in his prophetic warning to the young Timothy, my namesake (except for maybe the "young" part!) "Instead," Paul continues, "to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
I'm not saying my Wycliffe friend has itching ears. But doesn't it seem he's itching for me to read something about my God from a book whose author is ambivalent about His literal divinity?
Beware of World Peace Apart from Christ
How can I say that without risking looking like a belligerent idiot? Because Volf seems to be more trapeze artist than born-again Christ-follower, since he insists on straddling some imaginary rope between Islam and the Son of God.
Muslims do not believe that Jesus and God are One in the same. By definition, a Christian is somebody who believes that Christ is Who He says He is: the Son of God. If a person brought up in the Muslim faith can say that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who died for their sins because He is the only perfect sacrifice for those sins, then I'd say they're no longer a Muslim, but a Christian.
Have you ever heard the saying, "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts!" That's a two-way street, isn't it? At some point, truth needs to emerge for the facts to be known. Either the Bible is true, or it isn't. If that betrays an unattractive simplicity in my brain, in which I need to have clear-cut truth upon which I can base my life, then write me off as a flawed, weak human being. I already know that's what I am, so having your confirmation of it won't insult me!
Nevertheless, to at least offer an olive branch to my friend, I brought myself to browse the last chapter of his book, and found Volf's closing paragraph to be helpful in my argument:
The claim that Christians and Muslims, notwithstanding their important and ineradicable differences, have a common and similarly understood God [sic] delegitimizes religious motivation to violence between them and supplies motivation to care for others and to engage in a vigorous and sustained debate about what constitutes the common good in the one world we share.
False religions have a history of trying to hitch their heresies to the Gospel bandwagon. Mormonism, for example. Papism. Rob Bell. It can get confusing when good-sounding falsehoods intrude on truth. Such intrusions are designed by Satan to be elusive, convincing, conventional, intellectually affirming, and even effective, prudent, and rational.
So lets get truly rational for a moment. If Muslims want to care for others, why didn't they offer to pay the tab for the millions in restitution and settlements Uncle Sam is paying out to heirs and survivors of the 9/11 attacks which were perpetrated by militant adherents of their faith? If Muslims care about the "common good," why aren't they taking decisive action in Syria right now? I scan global new sites frequently, and practically the only sustained violence being wreaked across our planet these days is Islamist-based, from Africa to the former Soviet bloc to Asia. Where is the uproar among America's supposedly enlightened Muslims against the carnage their brothers in faith are perpetrating across the world? Don't preach to Christians that you believe we share a god; preach to your fellow Muslims that they're slaughtering people who worship your god.
Faith, Freedom, and Their Impostors
I don't believe for a moment that any born-again Christian should kill anybody because of their faith. We're to pray for them, witness to them, and forgive them, but we're also supposed to be ready to answer for our faith - not theirs, even if that means our persecution and death.
And for anyone who brings up America's current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, let me go on the record once again as saying that I believe that President Bush's foray into Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban was not an attack on Islam. Granted, it has turned into an Islamic refutation of peace and civility, no thanks to many mis-steps American military personnel persist in committing there. On the other hand, Iraq was a complete mistake from the get-go, since false evidence was supplied to Bush and used to justify an invasion that has turned into an unmitigated fiasco. Democracy is one thing; but Iraqis have not gotten freedom, since it seems Islamic democracy is simply shades of the popular yet oppressive Sharia law.
Indeed, if the last twenty years have taught us anything, it's that democracy does not equal freedom in Muslim countries.
And perhaps not ironically, that helps illuminate yet another reason Muslims and Christians do not share a god. Our God is the God of freedom from sin, from condemnation, and from eternal wrath. Our God loves His own, He sent His Son to die for our sins; not so much that we could have fellowship with Him, but that He could have fellowship with us.
Yes, plenty of Americans incessantly confuse the freedom God offers through Christ with political freedom. It's the same mistake Christ's followers made 2,000 years ago, thinking that a grand, pure, liberation would be instigated by Christ here on Earth. Alas, Biblical freedom is found only in Christ. To the extent that anybody thinks earthly freedoms will yield a sociopolitical peace, they are woefully mistaken.
So: why won't I read Volf's book? Because I'm learning to live in Christ's freedoms that He secured on the cross for me. That means I'm not especially curious about the shackles of even an intellectualized apostasy such as Volf's.
Which, since intellectualized apostasy is how he opens and closes his book, I have all the evidence I need to make my open and shut case against it, wouldn't you say?
Note: The more I research the topic of Wycliffe and the Trinity, the more profound my incredulity at the amount of blasphemy already being taught and practiced by other missions agencies around the world. And guess what - I've found yet another term for all of this: "the insider movement," whereby people brought up in a particular religion who are converted to Christianity maintain a disguise through their former religion to avoid persecution and, supposedly, better witness to their friends and family in a subversive manner.
So I guess persecution is now an unBiblical topic as well?
While we American evangelicals have been dithering about the demise of Christianity in the United States, how many of our missions agencies have been helping the Devil infiltrate evangelistic efforts across the world? The next time I hear some missionary try to put us Americans on a guilt trip for the way we live our faith here in America, how valid will their criticism be?
At least my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, has already taken a strong stand against this tide of heresy.
For more research, please consider these resources: