Bruce McCormack on the Wheaton Controversy and the Same God Debate

Bruce McCormack, of Princeton Theological Seminary, has weighed in on the “Wheaton Controversy,” the same God debate fostered by Dr. Hawkins’ (of Wheaton College) claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. As you read McCormack’s post you will see him engage in a kind of abductive approach wherein he offers the strongest arguments possible (as he can muster) for trinity-iconbelief: 1) That Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God (which in McCormack’s opinion is the best way) juxtaposed with 2) That Christians and Muslims do worship the same God. In his article you will see him make a theological case for the not-same-God locus, and then temper that with a history of doctrine case that it is possible within the historic development of classical theism for people, like Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Volf et al. to maintain the belief that Christians and Muslims and Jews do worship the same-God. McCormack places the burden on his ‘not-same-God’ position placing into the realm of private theological opinion (theologoumenon) versus the catholic/universal position that would allow for debate in regard to the belief that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the ‘same-God’; i.e. the catholic position, or classical theistic position, being the position that started with an emphasis upon the monotheistic reality of God’s life, only later developing a Trinitarian grammar that we today understand as constituting orthodox Christian dogma in regard to a doctrine of God.

I am still pondering what McCormack wrote, but in the main I can agree, particularly with the idea that there is room for debate, even though ultimately (as I would contend) the idea that God is three-in-one/one-in-three is the actual reality of who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Here’s the link: click here

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5 comments

  1. Brother:
    Please know that I am blessed by your writings. Nevertheless, McCormack “soft push” for further debate about this issues is trumped by the fact that no one can’t have a debate if you get “fired” for voicing your position on a “debatable” topic. That doesn’t make sense at all! He is either indirectly attacking Wheaton (by suggesting that there is indeed a “theological case” for affirming the same God thesis) or he is just playing “nice” to avoid a nasty collision with Volf.

    He did say that “no one involved in debates over the issue raised by the Wheaton controversy should deny that the issue is theological.” And if you remember Volf’s piece in the Washington post, he clearly pointed out that something other than theology was behind this incident. I don’t know what McCormack is up to, but his encouragement for further debate doesn’t make any sense to me in light of the facts of this incident.

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  2. It was a frustrating piece. The looming question which he mostly avoids is authority and revelation, and collapses these issues into dogmatics. The problem is less so whether one has a thorough or orthodox understanding of ‘Trinity’, but the source of where the debates over the use of ‘Trinity’ come from. The issue is not Three or One, but “Who spoke and what was said?”

    If we confess that a certain kind of threeness is required, then we admit Neo-Platonists(!) as worshiping the same god. But that wasn’t the point. The fathers were trying to understand the biblical witness within all the distinct contours of their Hellenism and Semiticisms. The questions were about what the Bible revealed, not presupposing a general theism.

    It seems our christianized culture, generally, both for Volf and McCormack, hinders us. how many evangelical testimonies include a kind of “I always believed in God, but then I found Jesus”. We find it inconceivable that, maybe, we were worshiping demons if we weren’t worshiping the Father of Jesus Christ.

    Why does no one raise the fact that this is a revelational issue! No Muslim is claiming the authority of the Bible. There’s no ambiguity, there are literally two different books.

    I think Volf is right, the decision was probably made because of fear and bigotry by purse-string holders. But his decision to thus theologically rationalize shows he’s missing his own point. He’s pulling back the curtains only to close them again. Whether its Wheaton, or Vatican II, or the future Abrahamic Faiths paradigm, it’s all politics. Once ISIS runs out of steam and is crushed, and we beat our easy target terrorists to death, Islam can be slowly reabsorbed socially as America plays kingmaker in the Near East. Liberal, conservative, it’s the same chessboard.

    For what it’s worth,
    cal

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  3. […] is respond further to McCormack’s thoughts, and provide greater reflection than I originally did here; I’ve had a whole day to process it out a bit further. McCormack, as I noted earlier, engages in […]

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  4. Guys:

    See my newest post.

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