In a previous discussion on this blog Ekaputra Tupamahu made an important statement that I have been pondering. I have argued that it is dangerous to state that Allah equates to God the Father because Muslims will not confess that Allah raised Jesus from the dead. Ekaputra challenged this statement by reminding me that in Indonesia Christians declare that Jesus is anak Allah “son of Allah”. According to Ekaputra this appears to be a declaration that Jesus is the Son of the God that Muslims already know as Allah.
As I have thought about the language of the New Testament there is something that Ekaputra, as well as James McGrath, may very well be correct about: early Christian witness appears to appeal to the deities of the pagan world as a starting point for gospel proclamation. I do not think that this means that the early church affirmed pagan worship as sufficient, nor salvific. But it may be correct that there was some pagan worship that was correct in its assumptions, or some deities that correctly reflect, to some degree, the true God. But I emphasize may be!
I say this because it is true that the church proclaimed Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ (Jesus Christ, the Son of God). It appears that there is an attempt to identify Jesus the Messiah as the Son of the common Greek word for God. The early church could have transliterated the covenant name of God יהוה (YHWH). But the general designation for “God” was used: θεός.
What I have not heard James or Ekaputra say, and I would like to hear their statements on this, is that if we acknowledge that God the Father is known, through some form of general revelation, to Muslims that the one thing we must continue to proclaim is “Allah has a Son, He has raised His Son from the dead” and that there is no other way to Allah, but by Jesus.
Equally, if there are those out there that would like to weigh in on why it is that that θεός makes no difference, I would like to hear your opinion as well. I would like to know why you think that the early Christians did not proclaim Jesus as the son of YHWH to the Greco-Roman world? Or do you think that they did when they equate Jesus with κύριος (although Jesus is never called “son of the Lord”)?