Contend Earnestly: The Holy Spirit Calls God...Allah

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Holy Spirit Calls God...Allah

Yeah...I know I know...back to my old tricks again. But, check this out. I was emailed this thought and it very much intrigued me. This is in no way to say that followers of Jesus and Muslims have no differences, but what this is an attempt to do is to get rid of basic misunderstandings in regards to each other. The name "Allah" invokes a lot of weird emotions within Western Christians. Most of the time, people speak out of ignorance on basic linguistics. This following thought was sent to me yesterday and I found it very helpful. Wondering what my readers' thoughts are on this.

Question posed:

This is for all of ourcritics who say using the word Allah for God of the Bible is blasphemy or wrong. at Pentecost in Acts, when the apostles and disciples are given the Holy Spirit and are speaking in the native tongues of everyone, the last language is Arabic. So, when these Arabic speaking Jews (or Jewish converts) are hearing Arabic, what words for God and Jesus do they hear?

At this point, one of my friends, who has been a linguist for 25 years added this to this question:

Arabic speaking believers at the time of Pentecost were using the term Allah, which is related to Aramaic Eloi, Jesus' term for God, which originally came from Abraham's use of the Canninite work Il, for pagan god. Of course our English "God" is from a Norse term for their pagan God, so I guess we are all blasphemers.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
Acts 2:1-12


SnatchedFromTheFire said...

Ok - while not explicitly stated in the text, it is a reasonable inference to say that when the apostles were speaking to Arabic speaking Jews the Holy Spirit used the word Allah when talking about God - awesome.
The problem with this is that this is not new information. Maybe there are some 20-somethings still living in mom and dad's basement contending that the word Allah is somehow evil and balsphemous to use for God, but i hope most intelligent people have solved this long ago in their minds.
The key point that i think needs to be addressed here (and isn't) is this:
when the Holy Spirit is speaking through the apostles to Arabic speaking Jews in this instance and uses the word "Allah" which - as we've established just means God in Arabic - to Whom is He refering? God, right? The Three-in-One, Immortal, Invisible, God of the Bible perfectly and completely revealed in the God-Man Jesus Christ.
Now stay with me 'cause this is an important distinction that often gets missed i feel. When the Muslim who follows Muhamed and the Koran and denies Jesus as the One and only Son of God but thinks of Him as "one of the prophets of God like Moses and Abraham and Muhamed", to whom are THEY refering to when use the term "Allah". Same word. Same meaning. But a DRASTICALLY different subject.
To be blunt, if some religion who spoke Arabic set up a statue of a dog and prayed to it calling it "Allah" (the Arabic word for God) would you still be writting these posts about how the name "Allah" means God in English so they're praying to "god" too just like us. You simply cannot be an Orthodox Christian and claim that the god the Muslim prays to is the same as the God of the Bible revealed in Jesus Christ simply on the basis that the words mean the same thing. The meaning of the words is, frankly, besides the point! The Subject of the words is entirely the point.
Push back please.

Anonymous said...

@SnatchedFromTheFire: +1

Seth McBee said...

Actually, the point of the post wasn't to speak about worshiping the same God, even though I have addressed that in other posts. I am simply trying to show why we can contextualize to the Arabic and Muslim world by using the term Allah when speaking of God. Same reason why I would use the term Jehovah with a Jew.

Of course, using your distinction, Jews don't worship the same God as us either.

Question. Who was Cornelius praying to in Acts 10? Being a Gentile, not following the Law of Moses, what was going on? What is going on with a Muslim who is praying to Allah and then decides to follow Jesus? When will you say he is worshiping the same God?

Do you get to make these decisions? Or can we show some patience and understand that we are a little ignorant in all of this and allow God to work and us not get in the way?

And...your example of a statue of a dog is very ignorant and simply browbeating and drawing a straw man to try and prove a point.

If your neighbor says that he is worshiping God but knows very little of him, but earnestly desires to please God, do you tell him, "'re not worshiping the same god because you don't know his fullness yet?"

Your argument gets very tricky and allows you to be the determinate when someone is "good" and when someone is still "reprobate." Sorry're stepping over the line on this one.

We must allow all people to pursue the God of the Bible, the Triune God, without getting in their way, but to continually show them the truth. When you try and prove a point by telling them they aren't worshiping the same god, you are being a stumbling block and the argument doesn't hold weight when looking at all the God fearers in the New Testament. Ignorant of the fullness of God but yet they are still said to be worshiping God...and also...not all of them turn to God in the end. (Just look to Acts 13)

If this makes me an unorthodox Christian...then so be it. I still think that you put too many restrictions on what it means to be a follower of Jesus, especially since Peter and the Apostles told people to turn to Jesus and repent and believe. You try and add now that if people hold to Muslims praying to the same God as Christians they we aren't orthodox.

That's just plain B.S.

SnatchedFromTheFire said...

Seth -
i dunno man. i really wanna sit down over a coffee or a beer or whatever and work this out with you b/c i feel like we always miss each other, and then (every now and then) we realise that we're often saying/thinking the same thing. Maybe not, but ...
Couple things:
1 - you know from what i've written before that i don't believe the Jews worship the same God of the Bible. Jesus tells Judaism's most devout followers (Pharisees and Scribes) that they don't know God b/c they don't recognise He is from God.

3 - The ESV study Bible says this of the "god-fearers" mentioned in Acts, "a Gentile who worshiped Israel's God and was in some way attatched to the synagogue but who had not submitted to Jewish conversion rites (esp. circumcision). He followed two of the primary expressions of Jewish piety - prayer and alsmgiving." So you have men and women following the fullest revelation of God given to mankind at the time and worshipping Him. This is NOT someone following Baal and then God sends one of the apostles to tell them the truth of His revelation in Jesus, but rather Gentiles who knew the Bible and feared Him, prayed to Him and then God sends the apostles to reveal the fullness of His revelation in Jesus thus, being the first of the Gentile converts

4 - I'm honestly not nitpicking here but no one "decides to follow Jesus" - i'll say someone is worshipping the same God as we do when the Holy Spirit enlightens the eyes of their heart to see Jesus as their only hope to be reconciled to God. So, no, i don't think i make that decision - i think God does. But yes, yes for sure we are to be patient as the Spirit does that work of opening darkened eyes.

5 - i think your desription of my example with the dog statue is pretty harsh. It may be simple/crude but it's not ignorant as it clearly makes the point i am trying to draw. I meant no offence in any way nor was i drawing any parallel between Allah and a dog.

6 - nowhere did i write or even infer that you should tell your neighbour "'re not worshiping the same god because you don't know his fullness yet" That is an unfair twisting of my words. If i had a neighbor who said they knew God too, like me, but didn't think Jesus was God in the flesh, i would seek to patiently over time correct that misunderstanding - i would NOT however say "we sure do brother!" By all means, let's not get in the way of the Spirit's work, but let's not hinder it either by softening the truth to "help Him out."
So, it's not "proving a point" to tell someone they aren't worshiping the same God, it's (hopefully) graciously speaking the truth in love, and that absolutely holds weight. I don't think i "determinate when someone is "good" and when someone is still "reprobate" " - as a fellow Reformed thinker you know this already. If my comments seem to speak otherwise then ask for clarification - don't assume i've abandoned unconditional election and want to decide for God who gets saved.
Finally, Seth ... brother. I know i don't have to tell you that what you believe about Muslims worshiping the God of the Bible has NOT been held by anyone historically in the church tradition as orthodox so then, by definition, what you believe is not orthodox. you need to be straight with me and your readers and say this is NOT a position that has been historically held by the church fathers and is, in fact, un-orthadox. I'm not the one adding things.

At then end of the day, this is like a rugby match to me: we can rough each other up now and again on the field but i'm stil lgonna sit down for a beer with you after the game and laugh it up. You're my brother in Christ and i love you. Keep up the fight bro and let's get that beer one of these days.

Darlene said...

Snatched from Fire:

You said, "I know I don't have to tell you that what you believe about Muslims worshipping the God of the Bible has NOT been held by anyone historically in the church tradition so then, by definition, what you believe is not orthodox."

The accuracy of your statement here cannot be denied. The Orthodox Church, whose history is composed of the Muhammedan's coming into their lands and waging war by the sword is proof of this. The Hagia Sofia, which was once an Orhtodox Church of worship, was converted into a mosque. Islam in that day did not recognize that Christ was God and thus they violated and desecrated the Orthodox Church, a place of holy worship to Christ.

While attending a conference at St. Tikhon's Seminary, an Orthodox priest spoke at length about his conversion to Christ. He had been raised in a Muslim family in Indonesia and taught the Quran at an early age. He also spoke about the persecuted Church both then and now in that country, which is under a theocracy ruled by conservative Muslims.

Upon receiving and confession of Christ as his Lord and Savior, he began to fear for his life. When his father learned of his conversion, he slapped his son across the face and let his son know that he was dead to him. This priest spoke of how he had to go into hiding because there were threats against his life. He was only a teenager at the time. If Islam worshipped the same God as Christians, surely his family would have not seen any difference in him becoming a Christ follower.

The point is, the true God whom we Christians worship, Who is Christ the Incarnate God, is neither the God that the Muslims or the Jews worship. Neither worship Christ as true divinity and deity. Neither acknowledge that He died for their sins upon the cross of Calvary. Neither believe that He was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. In essence, both Muslims and Jews outright reject the truths Christians confess in the Nicene Creed.

Yes, we should love all men for this is commanded to us by Christ our Lord in His Second Commanndment. And that loving all men will necessarily entail loving our enemies, those especially who are enemies of the cross of Christ. But we do not, we dare not acknowledge that those who do not profess Christ as the Incarnate, Resurrected, and Ascended Lord worship the same God as we.

Seth McBee said...

Yeah...chilling over a beer would be cool...where do you live?

I'll say some quick things.

1. To know God isn't the same thing as worshiping God. Two different things. One can worship without fully knowing what the hell they are doing or who they are doing it to. Again...this is shown with all those who worshiped God before fully knowing who he was in the OT and NT.

2. I believe most Muslims believe in and worship as much of God that has been given to them. We don't know which ones have been given good information and which ones have been given bad information. The more I interact with Western Muslims, the more and more I am surprised at their lack of knowledge of the Bible and what we believe to be true. I interact with them as a Cornelius because I don't believe they have rejected the actual Jesus of the Bible...but they have rejected American Christianity, which to be honest, is full of crappy theology and doesn't help the Muslim understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

3. When I speak of orthodox. I speak of what the term means. Which is right theology. Based on that. I am in no way denying the orthodox faith. You are using too broad a range for the term orthodox in my estimation.

I would lastly say that you need to be careful how you handle someone who is making a decision on something that does not negate the truth of our faith. What I mean by this is I am careful with those who agree 100% on the Nicene Creed with me and have a hard time saying they aren't orthodox or are an unbeliever.

Just saying be careful with this. You might be right in all this. I might be totally wrong in this.

I guess I just have a real hard time, after reading the bible, interacting with Muslims inside and outside the Mosque, to say that they don't have a heart that desires to know God and worship Him.

Neither the Muslim or the Christian would say we both know God. That is a different discussion. We say we know him through the cross, they say they know him through the Koran and their 5 Pillars. We differ here. We all know this. What we should be careful with is worship. Although their worship might be in vain, because they don't know God, it is still worship and is sincere.

I wish we could would hear my struggle. Most read this stuff and think that I am blurring a line of salvation....I think you have read me enough to disagree with me on these points, but not think I am going that far.

Lastly. I still want you to go out and go to a Mosque and meet some Muslims and build some friendships with them. You'll love it. They are great people to hang with.

Peace bro.

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