It’s striking to me how much common ground the Pope was able to find with Muslims. He wasn’t lecturing the Muslim leaders on what they must do nearly so much as laying out a vision for a shared mission. Far from being a strident, bossy lecture, the Pope’s address was a laudable effort to deal openly with the tough but inescapable issue of terrorism, and to build bridges of understanding between Christianity and Islam.
From the point of view of Christian theology, I find it fascinating that the Pope is willing to refer to a Muslim as a “believer” who “knows . . . he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.” This seems to fit with what was taught by the Second Vatican Council, in a passage quoted by the Pope: “[Muslims] worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity . . . .”
Is this true, from a Christian point of view? The question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is a tricky one upon which Christians disagree. Though the Pope, following Vatican II, seems to emphasize the common worship of Christians and Muslims, Professor Doug Groothuis, in a short, well-reasoned, online article, claims that the differences between Christian and Muslim views of God and worship make it unreasonable to claim that practitioners of both religions worship the same God.
Benedict is by all accounts an amazing intellect. He will be choosing his words very, very carefully, and I am glad that Dr. Roberts is parsing those words closely. “The question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is a tricky one upon which Christians disagree,” is the understatement of the decade. I am no theologian. But I am interested in what the theologians have to say on this crucial issue.