One of America's pre-eminent evangelicals is challenging the advice of a retiring Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands who has raised eyebrows worldwide by suggesting Dutch Christians pray to "Allah."
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that it is inappropriate for Christians to call God Allah based on irreconcilable theological differences associated with the name Allah and core Christian beliefs.
The key condition behind calling the Christian God Allah is that Allah must refer to the same God as the one in the Bible. However, this requirement presents "a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians," contends Mohler.
The theologian pointed out that the Qur'an explicitly denies that Allah has a son, and Islam considers the idea of a triune God to be blasphemy.
"Thus, from its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim – the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father," wrote Mohler on his web blog Wednesday.
"If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion …and worse?"
Last Monday, during an interview with a Dutch TV program, 71-year-old Bishop Tiny Muskens promoted the idea of Dutch Christians calling God Allah, believing that it would ease much of the conflict between the Christian and Muslim faiths. Muskens contended that God doesn't mind what He is called and the arguments over what to call Him is an invention of man.
"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? …What does God care what we call Him? It is our problem," said Muskens, according to The Associated Press.
The retiring bishop was a former missionary to Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world – for eight years, where he said priests used the name "Allah" while celebrating Mass.
In response, Mohler pointed out that it would be difficult to support the argument that "Allah" can be used as a generic term for God. The theologian said separation of Allah from the language, theology, and worship closely associated with it is difficult. Moreover, even non-Arabic speaking Muslims use Allah when referring to their god.
Another irreconcilable difference is that Jesus commanded his followers to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
"When this command is taken seriously and obeyed, the whole issue is greatly clarified – a Christian cannot baptize in the name of Allah," stated Mohler.
"So Bishop Muskens is disingenuous at best when he suggests that God does not care about His name. This is not a matter of mere 'discussion and bickering,'" said Mohler.
"If Allah has no son, Allah is not the father of our Lord Jesus Christ…This is no mere 'discussion and bickering.' This is where the Gospel stands or falls," the theologian concluded.
Bishop Muskens in the past endorsed other controversial ideas which went against the Vatican leadership – such as those who are hungry can steal bread and that condoms should be permissible in the fight against HIV/AIDS.