Conversation with James White

James White

In January 2016, Dr. James R. White taught apologetics at the Charlotte campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, filling in during Dr. James Anderson’s sabbatical. During his visit to campus Dr. White was asked whether Christians and Muslims believe in the same God.

“The question of whether Christians and Muslims believe in the same God has become central in dialogues between the two religions, and the answer is ‘yes and no.’ Let me give both answers.

“Yes: the Quran specifically claims that Muslims worship the God of Abraham. Since we claim to worship the God of Abraham, then from the Muslim perspective, the historical breaking in of a deity that communicated with Abraham – we are talking about the same God. That is their understanding. The Quran specifically says, we make no distinction; we are referring to the same God.

“The problem is that the Quran goes on to describe as unbelief the Christian worship of the triune God. From a biblical perspective, the Trinity is not just an addition to monotheism. It is what defines our monotheism. God has revealed himself: he has broken into human history.

“I always teach that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught in the ‘gutter’ between Malachi and Matthew. What I mean by that is, it is in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we have the full doctrine of the Trinity revealed to us. So the Old Testament become prophetic in pointing toward the deity of Christ (Is 9:6).

“The New Testament then, is not merely the place where the doctrine of the Trinity is argued for. All of its authors are experiential Trinitarians. Consider Peter: he has been on the mount of Transfiguration where he heard the Father speak, he has walked with the Son, and he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So the language of the New Testament flows out of the matrix of the experience of God’s triune revelation. The New Testament writers are not saying, ‘we need to prove this new doctrine.’ Rather, ‘this is how God has revealed himself.’ The New Testament did not come up with a new deity; this is how the one God has revealed himself.

“So for the Christian, the ‘No’ part of the answer is: now that this revelation has taken place, if you deny Jesus as the Son of God, if you don’t have the Son, then you don’t have the Father either (I John 2:23). You can’t go back and say that God is basically lying about the revelation he has made of himself.

“So the real question is: Do we worship the same God? Not that we are identifying the same historical deity back in the history of Abraham. In worship, we are talking about truly engaging with God as he has revealed himself. There is no way that any honest Muslim who believes in Tawhid and rejects the doctrine of the Trinity can say, Yes, we are worshiping the same God. Certainly from a Christian perspective that is what we have to say as well.”