Knowing Godhead

Timothy George attempts to answer the question "Is the God of Muhammad the Father of Jesus?" [Feb. 4] by arguing that the doctrine of the Trinity sets us apart from Islam. Therefore, he argues, the answer to the question must be (in part) no.

Using this logic, one would also conclude that the God of the Jews is not the Father of Jesus. Moses certainly wouldn't have affirmed the Trinity! Does that mean the God of Moses was not the Father of Jesus?

George may be correct in his conclusion. But I'm very uncomfortable with the path that he takes to get there.

James Rigney
Picayune, Mississippi

I am a trinitarian and a Christian, but I remain confused after reading Timothy George's article. Is there any doubt that the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses is indeed the God of the Muslim, the Jew, and the Christian?

Jew, Muslim, and Christian all worship and serve a common God, but from the Christian perspective, the Islamic and Jewish belief systems contain error and/or are incomplete.

Glenn A. Hartquist
Kirkland, Washington

'Is the God of Muhammad the Father of Jesus?" The answer is no, for unlike the "God of Muhammad," the Father of Jesus is a triune God.

Muslims deny this doctrine, seeing it as polytheistic. The doctrine is not polytheistic but teaches that the one God has existed eternally in three Persons. The confusion centers on the word Person, which really means role. In ancient times, the Latin word persona meant a mask which an actor wore as he played a part or role. Thus it was possible for an actor to play several roles in the course of a play.

This is the idea behind the doctrine of the Trinity: one God who has appeared on the stage of history in three roles. Just as steam, water, and ice are all one, namely H20; and just as coal, graphite, and diamond are all one, namely, carbon, even so are the three Persons who make up the one true God.

The Rev. John S. Jennings
Archdale, North Carolina

Timothy George's article was informative and wonderfully written. I cannot agree, however, that Allah is the same God as the Father of Jesus.

When Muhammad was born, Arabs worshiped about 360 gods. Allah was the name for the moon god. Muhammad's family had a particular devotion to Allah, the moon god.

In fact, Muhammad's father was named after Allah. Allah is not just another name for God the Father but is the name of the moon god worshiped before the founding of Islam.

That is the reason the crescent moon is part of the symbol of Islam.

Jerry L. Fretz
Seattle, Washington

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Timothy George responds:
It is true that Muhammad was the son of a man named Abdullah, which means "the servant of Allah." It is also true that there is inscriptional evidence linking the name Allah with an astral deity whose symbol was the crescent moon. It does not follow from this, however, that Muslims think of the moon god when they say, "There is no God but Allah." Muhammad broke with the pagan polytheism of his day to acknowledge the one sovereign creator God. Arabic-speaking Christians prayed to Allah (the Arabic name for God) long before Muhammad was born.

Christians have always thought it appropriate, and indeed necessary, to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament not only predicts the Incarnation but also foreshadows the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

When applied to the Trinity, the word Person means infinitely more, but surely not less, than fully relational and truly mutual in the deepest sense. The unwitting heresy of modalism that reduces God to a "role" in a play misses entirely the communitarian character at the heart of God. As a Puritan divine once put it, "God is within himself a sweet society."

Jesse's Legacy

One reason many evangelicals are uncomfortable with Jesse Jackson ["Still Somebody," Feb. 4] is not his juggling of vocations (pastor and politician), but what is perceived as a conflict between sources of identity: Christianity and civil rights activism.

The Christian social activist is called to find his identity and meaning in Christ; the social activism then follows. When I listen to Jackson discuss Christianity, I hear someone whose identity seems to come primarily from his cause. Hence his cognitive filter accepts only those parts of Christianity and the world that advance his cause.

Eric Chisolm
Los Alamos, New Mexico

The shame is not that Jackson's personal life has revealed him to be a sinner; we are all sinners. The shame is that for too long he has been alone among national evangelical figures in his passion for social justice and racial reconciliation.

Those judging him would better serve God's people by joining him in his call for social reform.

Brian Donofree
Bethel, Connecticut

In "Still Somebody," Jesse Jackson is compared to King David by a supporter: "But with the way a lot of our evangelicals treat Jesse, I don't think David would have been able to be king anymore." Another said, "David had a baby out of wedlock" but was still a "credible witness."

Amazing. But what amazes me most is that some of Jackson's peers said they knew all about the scandal before it became public. There's something missing in this story that was not missing in the story of David: Nathan.

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The brave prophet confronted the king with his behavior. At least one of Jackson's friends should have done the same.

Victor Knowles
Joplin, Missouri

Flying for Christ

In "Fire In The Sky" on mission flying, Andy Halbert says he oversaw the closing of MAF in Honduras.

"Technology, the building of roads, and the advancement of the gospel have caused this era of mission aviation to end there," Halbert says. Actually mission flying is still vital to a portion of Honduras, namely the area known as "La Mosquitia."

MAF left behind one Cessna plane and one national pilot, George Goff, who has been bravely continuing this ministry. He flies to many gravel and grass-covered landing strips, often taking with him the Jesus film.

Samuel B. Marx
Winston-Salem, North Carolina


Perhaps it would be helpful for Mark Galli to recognize that not only was the centurion Cornelius not told to lay down his arms as a necessary condition of faith in Christ, he was not told to lay down anything as a condition of faith ["Wielding the Sword," Feb. 4].

He was simply invited to come to faith and he did so. What happened after he came to faith, the Scriptures do not tell us.

Preston Nowlin
Powhatan, Virginia

As Mark Galli suggests, early believers may not have been as troubled as some of today's pacifists regarding the use or "practice of violence." And pacifists today may be misguided in their efforts to convince governments to reject killing.

Galli's arguments supporting Christian participation in killing by governments, however, may be just as mistaken. Paul's idea in Romans 13 that governments have the right to take life in exercising punishment within their domains never ought to be used to suggest that God has called Christians to wield the sword abroad for their respective states.

It was a sad day when Christians began believing that they could both bless and kill their enemies at the same time. Violent opposition to Rome by the Jews most likely would have been justified in the minds of most people, but that was not what Jesus or his followers were about. Why is it different now?

Richard W. Wilson
St. Louis, Missouri

Today's NIV

You were discreetly neutral in your coverage of the controversy over the updates to the New International Version ["Revised NIV Makes Its Debut," Feb. 4], but my intention was not to be neutral. I wanted to reach a conclusion about the issue of gender inclusivity in the Today's New International Version (TNIV).

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One side or the other has an agenda that wants to rise above the truth of God's Word. Which side? I decided to use a common-sense test: Look at the controversial verses and ask whether there was any question whether they applied equally to men and women. If they do apply equally, then attempts to make the English translations do the same are sound. If they do not apply equally, then any attempt to make them gender-neutral would certainly be a manipulation of God's revelation.

When accusations of diluting the gospel arise, I take them seriously. I concluded that there are people who are diluting the gospel—those who want to prevent it from being clear that God's grace is fully and equally available for everyone who believes, whether male or female.

Your article helped me conclude which side of this debate is at the biggest risk of distorting God's Word.

Eric Thurman
Radnor, Pennsylvania

The TNIV is silly. Are the translators really willing to sacrifice accuracy of translation and even proper grammar to appease a handful of radicals?

Not only is the translation misleading, the dumbing down of English is appalling. Perhaps chuckling is too light of a response. Weeping may be more to the point.

Don White
High Point, North Carolina

Real Repentance

Frederica Mathewes-Green ["Whatever Happened to Repentance?" Feb. 4] makes a good distinction between self-loathing and the true definition of repentance (a change of our innermost consciousness), but she still toots the same old legalistic horn that fails time and again to explain the meaning of repentance to nonbelievers.

Fasting, biting tongues, minding thoughts, and practicing humility are the fruits of repentance, not the definition.

Edward J. Gordon
Gulfport, Mississippi

I just received my first issue of Christianity Today, and I'm still reeling in awe nearly 10 hours after reading "Whatever Happened to Repentance?"

In my 20 years as a believer I can say that piece was, without exception, the most brilliant journalism I've ever read in a Christian magazine.

Thank you so very, very much for publishing what is undeniably a message straight from the heavenly Father's breaking heart.

Jim Fisher
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Divine Freedom

In his "only God is free" [Feb. 4], Geoffrey Bromiley claims that open theists have forgotten or ignored the longstanding teaching that divine and human freedom are not identical. He says we speak of God's freedom as if it were limited.

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Bromiley does not mention any of our discussions of the subject. The index for "God's freedom" in John Sanders's The God Who Risks lists 13 pages of discussion, including interaction with the literature on the topic.

Bromiley provides many instances in which human freedom is very limited, seeming to think we believe that humans are totally free in every respect. We do not. We do maintain that, though human freedom is hemmed in, not all human choices are determined.

Several times Bromiley speaks of "the total unlimitedness of divine freedom." What might this mean? Can God make a colorless green car? Can God fail to exist? Can God change the past so that the Holocaust never happened? We are not sure how Bromiley would respond to such questions, but we believe that the way he speaks of God's unlimitedness is incoherent.

Finally, Bromiley seems to put forward theological determinism, for his main complaint against us is that we hold that God takes risks. If so, then he is rejecting all forms of Arminianism. If you want a risk-free God, your theological options are rather limited.

He also is apparently rejecting the many biblical passages that represent God as disappointed and sorrowful because of the choices human beings have made (e.g., Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11; Matt. 23:37).

John Sanders, Huntington College
Clark Pinnock, McMaster Divinity College
Gregory Boyd, Bethel College
William Hasker, Huntington College
Richard Rice, Loma Linda University

"Only God Is Free" questioned "many discussions" about openness, not all. To be sure, some discussions are more nuanced than others. Nor did it attempt to refute openness theology, only to restate briefly one traditional view of freedom that needs to be "taken into account more regularly."


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