They’re really not that far apart.
It probably comes as no surprise that a Unitarian Universalist has no real grasp on the gospel. However, it may surprise some people that an atheist is actually closer to the truth than someone who considers themselves a “Christian.” I found it interesting to compare and contrast the views of atheist Christopher Hitchens and Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell in this interview between the two.
A few interesting exchanges are highlighted:
The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
Let me go someplace else. [continues with next question…]
While Hitchens rejects God and the gospel, at least he understands what the gospel message is. Sewell thinks you can have “Christianity” without the gospel, and doesn’t really want to talk about the gospel.
Is it heresy to say the Muslims worship the same God that Christians worship?
Many respectable Christians have different viewpoints on this. To me, it’s more important to discuss the character, actions, and expectations of the Creator and Supreme Being of the Universe than to debate what He should be called. Jews do not believe that Jesus was God’s son; does that mean the Jehovah they serve is not the same God we serve? I don’t think many people would say the Jews believe in a different god; however, they don’t believe the right things about God. Some people believe the same principle applies to Muslims.
Does believing the wrong thing about God mean that you believe in a false god? Many people have taken offense at President Bush and others who have said something to the effect that Muslims worship the same God that we do. I have a problem with such a statement if it implies that Islam is an equally valid route to God, but I’m not so sure that it’s necessary to separate “God” and “Allah.” According to the Wikipedia entry on Allah, “The word Allah is not specific to Islam; Arab Christians and Arab Jews also use it to refer to the monotheist deity. Arabic translations of the Bible also employ it.” “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for “God.” Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah and therefore believes the wrong things about God, but we wouldn’t say they worship a false god. I know a couple of missionaries to Muslims who don’t try to get Muslims to stop worshipping Allah. Rather, they try to get Muslims to understand that Jesus IS Allah, and the things they have been taught about Allah all their lives are wrong. When Paul was in Athens, he didn’t tell them to stop worshipping the “unknown god” and worship the “true God” instead; he told them “you know this god you worship…let me tell you what He’s really like.” I wonder if that’s how we ought to approach the God vs. Allah debate.
Here are a couple of interesting links on the subject: