Brotherhood and the Children of God
On March 24th, the Miami Herald quoted Pope Francis saying, “Muslims, Christians, and Hindus are brothers, children of the same God.” The Pope was not speaking ex cathedra, so he can be forgiven for the plethora of errors in this unbiblical statement. Following Muslim violence in Belgium, and with Good Friday imminent, the Bishop of Rome doubtless wanted to play peacemaker, pouring oil on troubled waters. But evisceration of Christian orthodoxy isn’t fruitful, since sentimental whimsy has no cathartic value.
Do Muslims, Christians, and Hindus worship the same God? Irreconcilable differences indicate not. Although Hindus worship many gods and goddesses, Hindus claim there is only one God. But, that one God is not the God of Abraham. And, within the bounds of their theology, Hindus do not know Jesus of Nazareth, much less believe he is God incarnate. Muslims and Christians believe in a monotheistic God although they don’t share belief in the same God. Muslims believe there is one person, Allah, in the godhead, while Christians believe in a Trinitarian God of three persons of a single essence. Christians believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three in one. Contrarily, the Koran maintains the sin of shirk, assigning partners to God, is the greatest sin. While Muslims believe in the virgin birth by Mary of Jesus, Muslims don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God. In the Bible’s First Commandment, God wills each person worship Him as He has revealed Himself. Otherwise, a god of preference has been created which is just an idol. Only one of these three religions is worshipping the one true God. Possibly the most divisive statement Jesus made was, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NKJV)
Unique among these three religions, Hindus believe in reincarnation. However, the Bible teaches, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27, NKJV). In judgment after death, Muslims believe Allah weighs in balance each person’s good and bad deeds. But Christians believe, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” (1John 1:6, NKJV) “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags,” (Is 64:6, NKJV) and “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23, NKJV) Through substitutionary atonement, Christians believe not only that their sins are transferred to the account of Jesus through his sacrificial death, but the righteousness of Jesus, the only man who never sinned in his life, is transferred to their account. In this way, Christians are saved from God’s wrath and inherit eternal life. Muslims disbelieve Jesus was crucified, much less that he rose from death.
Hindus are pantheists in that they don’t believe God is distinct from nature. But, Muslims and Christians believe God created the universe. The creator and creation are separate. The Bible warns against those “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” (Rom 1:25, NKJV) Distinguishing themselves from Muslims, Christians believe of Jesus that “All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made.” (1John 1:3, NKJV)
Who are children of God? The Bible teaches everyone’s inclination is to rebel against God. Martin Luther spoke of the unholy trinity of our own sin nature, worldly temptations, and Satan. These work through sin to separate us from God. The Bible teaches, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation -- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Col 1:21-23, NIV) Through God’s grace trusting in Jesus, believers are adopted as children of God. The Bible teaches, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12, NKJV)
Are Muslims, Christians, and Hindus brothers? Since the Pope referenced different religions, the context for common ground must be theological. But Jesus made a sharp distinction of members in the family of God, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12:50, NKJV) The Koran teaches against universal brotherhood in Sura 5:54, “O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people.” Consistently, Sura 48:25 teaches, “Muslims are harsh against the unbelievers, merciful to one another.”
Brotherhood implies commonality of beliefs. Islam and Christianity are imperialistic religions mandated to proselytize. But, these differ radically about conversion to belief. A major contribution of the sixteenth-century Reformation was underscoring the Biblical teaching of justification by faith through grace. It is impossible to convert someone by the sword, i.e. by threats or coercion. “For by faith you are saved by grace and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2: 8-9, NKJV)
However, as fundamentalist Muslims for the last 1400 years know, the Koran, not some corruption of Islam, advocates violence. Sura 9:73 instructs, “O Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end.” Sura 9:123 exhorts, “Believers! Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you.” From Sura 47:4, “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens.” And, in Sura 48:29, “Muhammad is Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. Through them, Allah seeks to enrage the unbelievers.” Sura 66:9 declares, “Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal sternly with them. Hell shall be their home, evil their fate.”
Another major Reformation contribution was turning to Biblical teachings requiring separation of state from church while recognizing separation of state from God invariably brings bad consequences. Sixteenth-century Protestants undermined the Holy Roman Empire by advocating the Roman Catholic Church had no authority wielding the sword. But Muslims believe there should be no separation of state from mosque and that God’s law, i.e. sharia law, is the only legitimate law.
Pope Francis made a fatuous and naïve statement projecting habitual lawbreaker Rodney King’s question, “Can’t we all just get along?” There is no theological basis for the Pope’s wishful thinking. It’s disappointing such unhelpful and misleading appeasement is offered up from such quarters instead of an honest assessment whether peace even is possible through tolerance.