Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do Muslims & Christians Worship The Same God?

We live in a religiously pluralistic culture.  The postmodern approach to truth is... everything is relative.  Basically, believe what you want just don't try to impart those beliefs as absolute truth.  Birthed from this worldview are questions like, “Christians and Muslims worship the same God, so why should they try to convert each other?”  With tolerance as King, this question will be posed more and more in the coming years.  Below is an section from a paper I wrote BRIEFLY dealing with three main reasons why Muslims and Christians do NOT worship the same God...

Muslims and Christians make up the two largest monotheistic religions in the entire world. This might be a primary reason why one would believe that they worship the same God. Although many in today’s culture hold to an assumption that all religions are one, it is clear that Islam and Christianity are different at the core of their worldviews. Three doctrinal areas in which these differences are prevalent are the nature of God, the human condition, and teachings on worship. Muslims and Christians have come to major contradictions concerning these fundamental theological issues.

Although both religions are monotheistic, that is where the similarities end. When one studies Islam and Christianity, he or she will soon discover that their view of God is dissimilar. Abdul Saleeb explains the Muslim view of God when he writes,

"The first and by far the most important belief (of Islam) is in the absolute oneness of God […] The absolute oneness and sovereignty of Allah is the unifying theme of Islam. In fact throughout their history, Muslims have viewed their confession of faith that ‘there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s messenger’ as an adequate summary of Islam and what it stands for."

It is apparent through Saleeb’s statement that Muslims are convinced that God is indeed one. However, Islam denies that God is a Trinity, that one God eternally exists as three co-eternal and equal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Islam also rejects that God became man in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-8). These doctrines are foundational to both religions core beliefs. Moreover, God cannot be both a Trinity and not a Trinity, this is a matter of simple logic.  

Within Christian theology, it is evident that they believe humans are corrupted by an inherited sinful nature that cannot be overcome (Ephesians 2:1-10). However, Muslims claim that because humans are ignorant and weak they sin, not because humanity’s nature is sinful. Also, according to John 3:16, Christians teach that salvation is secured only through faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Whereas, Islam teaches that if one obeys the laws of the Qur’an, and are worthy they will be given paradise. These are obviously two contradicting views; therefore, they both cannot be true.

The last major doctrinal issue one needs to consider when comparing Islam with Christianity is how each religion teaches worship. Christians believe that one must worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Doug Groothuis discusses this further, “Worship requires assent to the truth of God (the Trinity), belief in the gospel, trust in Jesus Christ, and submission to God’s will.” On the contrary, Muslims deem worship of the Trinity to be polytheistic. They would also not agree with worshiping Jesus because they view Him as merely human. Again, these are stark differences between Islam and Christianity.

Grasping these fundamental dissimilarities is essential for Christian apologetics in two ways. First, today’s culture instructs Christians to be “tolerant” and to refrain from “proselytizing” anyone. Due to this tolerance, and the religious pluralism that dominates our society many people say that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Christian apologists must be ready to speak out against this common misconception. As the culture turns increasingly to religious pluralism, apologists must stand firm not being tolerant of deceptions, and speak truth through a Christian worldview.

The second reason why this is so important for Christian apologetics is a result of September 11, 2001. From that day forward many individuals have become curious as to what Muslims believe. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians are ignorant in this area. They have memorized their cliché Christian sayings but have not prepared themselves to engage individuals with questions. Not only are Americans interested in Islam, Muslims are around every corner. If one does not know the core beliefs of Islam how will they ever reach them for Christ? Christians must be dedicated to understanding Islam so that they can fulfill the great commission and reach others with the news of the Gospel. These are only two ways in which this subject is vital to Christian apologetics, one could go on.

Doug Groothuis has written an article concerning this topic in which most of my information comes from.  Unfortunately, the website that published this article is no longer up and running.  If you would like I can email this article to  you for further reading... just leave a comment with your email address and I will get it to you at my earliest convenience.  Please remember that this is simply scratching the surface regarding this subject... much more has been written... please investigate further.  


khany said...

peace Bobby,

i am a muslim. one of those ubiquitous muslims around the corner :)

it is not some form of modern day expediency that leads muslims to claim our god (jews, christians and muslims) is one god. this is a core muslim belief. god says in the qur'an:
And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender.

Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.

these and other acknowledgments of commonality between muslims and christians are not meant to white wash our differences. the differences are just as important to muslim identity and are explicitly stated.
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

i would also like to turn your attention to this dialog organized by the eastern mennonite university. the speakers do a fair job of reducing the similarities and differences to the most essential.

while i personally, as most muslims, believe that jews, christians and muslims believe in one and the same god, i can understand that you do not share this belief. however, i would be interested to know if you also reject the "jewish god"? since jews and muslims no argument in that they both worship the god of abraham, who is one, who is merciful and just.

may god guide us to the straight path.

Bobby said...


I want to first thank you so much for commenting on my post. I just started blogging and am so encouraged that I am able to participate in dialogues with people all over the world about issues that interest me. Your post was obviously well thought out and put together, and I appreciate your insight.

I want to address the last paragraph of your post… you wrote, “while i personally, as most muslims, believe that jews, christians and muslims believe in one and the same god, i can understand that you do not share this belief. however, i would be interested to know if you also reject the "jewish god"? since jews and muslims no argument in that they both worship the god of abraham, who is one, who is merciful and just.”

The short answer to your questions is … no. I do not reject the God of the Old Testament… I in fact believe that Christians worship the same God as Jews. However, I do not think that Allah is indeed an equivalent. I want to start by giving an example… though it may seem corny I believe it helps develop my point.

A man named Jim thinks in his mind that he is a LION. He goes to a zoo and did his makeup as a LION. He tries to walk as a LION, eat like a LION and locks himself up in a cage like a LION. He puts a big board outside his cage stating in big, bold letters, "LION, KING OF THE JUNGLE". Now when people come to the zoo, he shows himself as a LION, but needless to say that he is showing himself as a man rather than a LION. Why? Because there is no match in the quality of Jim and a LION. If Jim wants to be a LION he must contain the qualities of a LION. By simply locking himself in a cage or doing his makeup like a LION will not make him a LION. In the same way, the qualities or message of Allah is not matching with the God of the Bible, which means he is not the God of the Bible. If he was there would be some serious contradictions that needed to be addressed.

I think a good place to begin is examining the differing Scriptures. Misha’al ibn Abdullah summarizes the mainstream Muslim attitude toward the Bible when he writes,

“Muslims believe in the books of the previous prophets including the “Torah” which was sent to Moses, the “Zabor” (Psalms) which was given to David, the “Injeel” (Gospel) which was given to Jesus, and the Qur’an which was given to Muhammad. However, Muslims are told that the previous scriptures were tampered with by mankind and the Bible should only be accepted in as far as it is confirmed by the Qur’an. It is to be treated with respect, however an statements which clearly oppose those of the Qur’an are to be rejected as the work of mankind.”

In other words, because the Bible has been corrupted and is no longer in its pure and original form that was revealed by God to the prophets, the Bible is no longer authoritative for today. The only authentic, final and authoritative revelation of God for humanity today is the Qur’an. It is clear that the Qur’an refers to the Bible as “the Book of God,” “the Word of God,” “a light and guidance to man,” “a guidance and mercy” and other descriptions confirming its divine origin and continuing authority. The Qur’an repeatedly tells its readers that it has come in confirmation of the previous scriptures (sura 2:41, 89, 101). Muslims are commanded to believe in the previous Scriptures (sura 2:136). Muhammad is even encouraged by God to test the genuineness of his own message with the contents of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures (sura 10:49). Christian and Jews are also commanded, “you have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord” (sura 5:71, also 5:50).

So my question is… How is it possible for Jews and Christians to have such totally corrupt Bibles and yet receive such glowing recommendation and confirmation by the Qur’an? If the Bible had been corrupted before the advent of the Qur’an, then the Qur’an is not only completely silent about it, but it is actually giving legitimacy to a corrupt scripture. It simply does not make sense to me. If Allah knew that the Bible would be so corrupted, why would He even mention it to Mohammed?

Because the differing scriptures are how we understand and know about God… it seems apparent to me that Allah and Yahweh do not share the same qualities or identities. The only difference between Jews and Christians is that Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized about in the Old Testament. However, the Old Testament and the New Testament talk about the same God without contradictions.

Though I know you probably don’t agree with my response, I feel like it is untrue to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

The majority of my response was from To Everyone an Answer which I referenced in my post.

Again, I thank you for your post and willingness to dialogue about this topic. May you have a wonderful holiday. God Bless.

khany said...

peace Bobby,

i reread your blog post. i realized that you motivate the post with the words, “Christians and Muslims worship the same God, so why should they try to convert each other?” muslims and christians disagree about some of the attributes of god. we disagree in some degree about what god expects from creation. this is why we continue to "engage" with one another.

i didn't mean for this to become a drawn out discussion. my purpose was simply to present a muslim's, i.e. my own, perspective. i am glad that you found it worth your time.

thank you also for referencing the source of your argument. you did not, however, differentiate between the "jewish god" and the "muslim god". jews and muslims are agreed that they believe in one and the same god. however, as a christian, you believe in the god of the jews but not the god of muslims! i also understand that this is not a "Christian" position (there are christians who do not feel the need to deny that muslims worship the same god).

- the jews believe in one god.
- jews believe specifically in the god of abraham and the god of moses.
- jews reject that god is triune
- jews reject the idea of salvation through jesus christ (peace be upon him).

these are precisely the reasons that you felt were sufficient for differentiating the "muslim god".
i am not asking you to defend or explain your position. i am only presenting you with a muslim perspective.

you claimed in your response that the qur'an is silent about corruptions in the previous scriptures. let me quote from the qur'an:

Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:"This is from Allah," to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.

see also (002:058-059), (003:077-078), (005:013-015) and (007:162).

interestingly the bible also records:
(NIV Bible, Jeremiah 8:8)
"How can you say, "We [the Jews] are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?'"

(RSV Bible, Jeremiah 8:8)
"How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie."

you don't have to believe the word of the qur'an. bible scholars and textual analysts (christian and non-christian alike) have long known that the bible has evolved considerably as time goes on. an excellent presentation is given in this lecture titled misquoting jesus.

may god guide us to the straight path.

Bobby said...


I understand that you don’t mean to draw this discussion out; however, I just want to clearly state my response for other readers who happen across this blog… you understand.

Thank you again for bringing up some very good points in your most recent post. I will agree that the Jews do not believe that God is triune. They clearly speak of Him as being one. However, this does not seem to match the writing in Genesis 1:26… “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (NIV). When the text says that God made man in “our image” it at least insinuates a duality that is present. I am not claiming that this verse proves the trinity.

Therefore, to backtrack a little… I would clarify my previous response… I believe and worship the same God that the Jews do, however, I do not agree with their interpretation of the Trinitarian doctrine (the very nature of God). Simply for clarification I want to briefly present why I do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity is irrational or contradictory…

In a Qur’anic commentary (The Noble Qur’an: Tafseer-e-Usmani) written by two Indian Muslim scholars, I read, “So how can God be one and three at the same time? It is absurd, rationally impossible, mathematically wrong. Unity and Diversity cannot gather together.” What needs to be pointed out here is that in the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians do not affirm God to be one and three at the same time and in the same sense (that would be a contradiction). What Christians claim is that in one sense God is one (he is one in essence or being) and in a very different sense there is a divine plurality (three eternal “persons” or distinctions or relationships or dimensions). Thus there can be no charge of logical contradiction against this doctrine.

I will be the first to admit that everything about God is not completely clear and understandable. The doctrine of the trinity is hard to wrap one’s mind around; however, I do not feel that this is an adequate reason for dismissing it.

Again, I think the Jews worship the real God… who indeed is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit… the fact they do not believe that does not change God from who Christians say and believe He is.

Well… I have really enjoyed discussing these issues with you… however; I understand that you simply wanted to present a Muslim perspective which I appreciate. If you do not wish to continue the dialog I understand… it was nice meeting you.

khany said...

peace Bobby,

you are most welcome. and i perfectly understand your concern regarding clarifying your position for the benefit of readers.

in my previous comment i was not arguing the trinity. i was only pointing out that if rejecting the trinity is sufficient grounds for differentiating the "muslim god" perhaps you should use the same yard stick when judging the "jewish god". moreover, the dialog that i linked to in my first comment provides a much more sophisticated muslim critique of the trinity than the one you quote above. i recommend the former if you want to truly "engage" islamic theology.

finally, the first person possessive plural pronoun "our" used in the biblical verse is not interpreted by the jews to signify multiplicity of persons. i am sure you are aware that in the semetic languages (hebrew, aramaic, arabic, etc.) the "royal plural" we is employed to imply majesty. in the qur'an god uses "we" and "our" dozens of times to refer to himself. like the jews before us, muslims have never had any question or doubts about what it means!

thank you once again for "engaging" in this discussion with me. i will conclude with the qur'anic verse:
Say: "O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back, say ye: "Bear witness that we (at least) are they who have surrendered (unto Him).


Anonymous said...

The false notion that all religions which give homage to a deity of any sort somehow worship the true "God" but simply "under another form" is one that is presently being propagated in order lead the Catholic Church down the path of apostasy in the name of ecumenism.

From an objective point of view, regardless of the teachings of Islam and Catholicism, Almighty God is God over both. His existence is neither dependent on mankind, nor upon any religion. He is the Creator and the Providence of the entire cosmos, of all existing things, whether they be angels, human beings, animals or plants, animate or inanimate. He is also the Savior and the Judge of the living and the dead, having redeemed mankind and must judge Catholics and Mohammedans, believers and atheists. On the other hands, allah is another strange god. On every essential point concerning the true God and the nature of the true God, the Islamic belief radically and seriously conflicts with the established and revealed Dogmas of the Catholic Church.

Again from a subjective point, Muslims might think and believe with a firm confidence that they worship the true God, "Allah" yet the reality is quite the contrary as objectively speaking we can only affirm the contrary. This point is clear from Scripture:

"Whosoever does not continue in the doctrine of Christ does not have God." (2 John 1:9)

The teaching and the beliefs of Catholicism and Islam are different and contrary. Their concept of, and their approach to God, diverge and conflict. Catholics indeed accept as dogmatic truth the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation and the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Moslems vehemently and vociferously deny the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion of our Divine Lord and the Divinity of Christ.

Islam has a carnal notion of heaven that St. Alphonsus Liguori did not hesitate to declare that:

"The Mohammedan Paradise, is only fit for beasts; for filthy sensual pleasure is all the believer has to expect there."

Is it the same God that promises "good" Muslims a harem of women in Paradise, yet Christians get nothing? Is it the same God that wills monogamy for Christians and polygamy on Muslims?

NO, muslims and christians DO NOT believe in the same God. The Holy Trinity, and allah, the islamic Deity, are not one and the same person. Neither do Jews worship the same God as Christians, since the Jews, just like Muslims, roundly reject Christ.

Christ has solemnly declared that he that shall denies Him before men, shall be denied before God(Luke 12:8).

This statement is neither ambiguous nor idle. For, if Christ be the Son of God, it must, and will, come to pass.