As many of you know, in 2013 I published an apologetics debate book with atheist John Loftus titled God or Godless. I thought Loftus did a good job in that book because he can handle short, pithy debates. (And a mere $7 for a paperback is a great deal!) However, when it comes to his blog, I have long found Loftus’ analysis to be — how should I put this? — subpar. Yes, that’s it: subpar. For that reason, I stopped interacting with him online a long time ago. Loftus’ writing is highly polemical and deeply confused and he attracts readers who share and echo his ignorant hostilities.
That said, I decided to deviate from my general principle this morning and offer a brief response to the opening paragraph of his most recent article: “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?” Loftus begins:
“I wish Christian apologists would get their stories straight on this question. Apologists who seek to soften the problem of religious diversity, and who want to explain why a diverse number of religious believers have their prayers answered, will say Yahweh and Allah are the same god by different names. So say Paul Moser, David Marshall, Victor Reppert, Randal Rauser and many others.”
Loftus wishes Christians would “get their stories straight” on the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Yeah, well, I wish atheists would “get their stories straight” on what atheism means. Some self-described atheists say they believe God doesn’t exist. Others say they believe nothing “supernatural” or “magical” exists. Still others say they are merely without belief in God. And so on.
Next, ask atheists whether objective morality exists. Some are moral relativists. Others are emotivists. Still others are bold Platonists. From there, you can ask them their views on naturalism. And so on.
Gee, I wish those folks would “get their stories straight”!
Just kidding. I actually wish that Loftus would grow up, acquire a modicum of self-reflection, and come to realize that any complex and diverse doxastic community features debates on various questions among adherents to the community.
Next, Loftus says I take the position that Muslims worship the same God as Christians because I am trying to “soften the problem of religious diversity” and “explain why a diverse number of religious believers have their prayers answered”.
On the upside, that comment does illumine how misinformed and unreliable Loftus is as a commentator.
The question is ultimately one of linguistic reference. When a Muslim refers to God, are they referring to the same being that a Christian refers to when they refer to God? If they are, then it follows that they worship the same God. It does not follow, however, that they are in a salvific relationship with God or that their statements, prayers, and actions are soteriologically significant. Those are completely separate questions and ones that I do not address.
As for the matter of linguistic reference, it is clear that Muslims and Christians share a common conceptual core understanding of deity with Jews. Together, these western monotheisms identify one God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, who created and sustains all things, and who revealed himself in history to Abraham, Moses, King David, and the people of Israel. That is sufficient shared content and history to secure shared reference.
That’s it. Nothing about “softening religious diversity” or attempting to explain why “religious believers have their prayers answered.”
For further discussion of these topics, I have written the following articles:
Podcast: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? A conversation with Andy Bannister”
“Muslims, Christians, and Worship of the Same God: A quick response to the Unbelievable debate”
“Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? A Question Explored Through Sheep and Goats“