Do Jews and Samaritans Worship the Same God?

Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, in "hijab." (Facebook)

Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, in “hijab.” (Facebook)

The suspension of Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, in response to her “same God” comments about whom Muslims and Christians worship, has reignited a long-standing controversy within the church. Yes, on the one hand, theological clarity is at stake, but at the same time, having a measure of wisdom, that emphasizes shared values as a starting point in developing relationships of trust in the midst of cultural tensions, is just as important. Jesus never compromised on the truth, but He never compromised on His love for those who need salvation either.

Here is a great example: When Jesus met the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4, He was quite clear in saying that Samaritan theology did not line up exactly with traditional Jewish belief. The Samaritans (still) worship God, believing that Mount Gerizm is the proper place for such worship. Traditional Jewry has always focused on the Temple in Jerusalem instead. Jews would purposely avoid Samaritan lands because of the latter’s heterodoxy. But notice how Jesus, who purposely passes through Samaria, approaches the woman:

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”(John 4:21-24 ESV).

I just do not see Jesus falling for the modern, popular tendency for the “sound-bite” theologies of the politically-correct: “Samaritans and Jews worship the same God,” nor the opposite, bigotry-sounding to some, in this day and age: “Samaritans and Jews do not worship the same God.” Instead, Jesus proclaimed the truth, but he did it in a way of great wisdom that built a relationship of trust with this woman, and she recognized Jesus at the Messiah.

If only some of our Christian leaders and theologians on both sides of  issues like this were to show such restraint and wisdom. You can be theologically correct and still miss an opportunity to demonstrate love and solidarity with those, like the Syrian refugees, who are marginalized, for the sake of the Gospel. Likewise, on the other side, one need not resort to confusing or misleading theological statements for the sake of avoiding the appearance of bigotry. For the most part, I will leave it to the reader to make such judgments as appropriate (for the content linked below).

So, do Jews and Samaritans worship the same God?  How about Christians and Jews? Do they both worship the same God? What does one mean by the “same” God? These questions are not so easy to answer. No matter what your “take” on all of this is, we should probably take our cue from Jesus as to how we approach the current debate over whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the “same” God.

Additional Resources:

 

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

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