Whatever else his critics say of him, no one can fault President Bush for his efforts to show that neither he, nor the United States, is opposed to the Islamic faith. This month the president and Mrs. Bush hosted their seventh Iftaar dinner, the celebration that breaks the Muslim fast during Ramadan.
The president is the most openly evangelical Christian in the White House since Jimmy Carter. And the evangelical community has mostly embraced him. But that constituency is likely to be troubled over something the president said in an interview with Al Arabiya television. In an official transcript released by the White House, the president said, ". . . I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God." Later in the interview, the president repeated his statement: "I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. I believe in that universality."
It is one thing to try to reach out to moderate and sincerely peaceful Muslims. It is quite another to say the claims of your own faith are of no greater importance than the often contradictory claims of another faith.
The central doctrine of the Christian faith is that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for sinners and by repenting of sin and accepting Christ as Savior, one is "saved" and is guaranteed a home in heaven. Muslims believe simply telling God one is sorry and repenting of sin is enough, if one also lives up to the five "pillars" of Islam. Furthermore, according to Muslims, Jesus did not die on a cross (as Christians believe); instead, God allowed Judas to look like Jesus and it was Judas who was crucified.
God calls Himself "I Am" and says He is one, but with three personalities. Muslims believe God's name is Allah and reject the Trinity. How can the president say that we all worship the same God when Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus, whom the president accepts as the One through whom all must pass for salvation?
The president can be commended for sincerely reaching out to Muslims, but he should not be commended for watering down the doctrines of his professed faith in order to do so. That's universalism. No Christian who believes the Bible believes in universalism. And no Muslim who believes the Quran does either.
-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.