Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Here is a surprisingly good article, by today’s standards, from a secular publication that touts the virtues of tolerance as consistently applied.  It regards Wheaton professor, Larycia Hawkins, who has gotten into trouble with this evangelical Christian college for showing her solidarity with Muslims on something of a theological level.  What it doesn’t do, however, is touch upon the interesting question of what is so wrong with claiming that Christians and Muslims all worship the same God.

The problem is that “God” is simply a word, and words have meaning. The meanings of most words are pretty uncontroversial and agreed upon by all parties.  Some are not as well defined, though. For instance, the meaning of the word “liberal” depends upon the country or historical time-frame to which one is referring.  The definition of the word “God” is perhaps the most controversial of all, and is the very reason why there are different religions to begin with. Some take “God” to be the universe, or an impersonal force, or a physical being, or an immaterial person, or a plurality of beings.  If “God” were a pitcher, then each religion fills it with a different fluid.

It is true that both Christians and Muslims ascribe some similar attributes and history to “God,” but it is the distinctions that matter. Muhammad taught that the Christians had lost and corrupted the true Scriptures; and Scripture is where we get our very definition of “God.” He said this of necessity, because his own definition offered many profound contradictions to that found in the Bible. The most important of these regards the idea that the Godhead includes that which was incarnate into the world: Jesus. Muhammad claimed that the belief in such a thing is one of the greatest of all sins (“shirk”). In addition to this, he denied that Jesus died on the cross or that God accepts anyone based merely upon grace and forgiveness rather than by way of works of obedience (specifically, obedience to Islamic law and ritual).  If Christianity is built upon the nature of Christ and His work on the cross, and Islam passionately denies these things, then the only things shared in common are coincidental and mere technicalities.

If I say that I saw Charles changing a tire along the road at noon yesterday, when he was in fact at work, then to say that at least I’m right that both are men with the same hair color does nothing to demonstrate that they are the same man.  If there is a God, then surely one definition is the closest match and the others are, at best, poor descriptions, and, at worst, describe something entirely fictional.  It is reasonable to presume that God is keen to be properly characterized.  It is certainly the presumption of Christianity.

To say that we all worship the same God is to deny the distinctions and the very relevance of one’s own religion.  If “God” were a round hole, and all religions were blocks of a variety of shapes, then only the round one “fits” and the rest must have their points and corners shaved to have some hope of insertion. But in doing so, you eliminate those things that make each block a unique shape, and by analogy, you divest the religions of their critical theological distinctives.

Some would say that only those things that can be shared in common across all world religions are what is truly important.  But this is, essentially, to invent one’s own unique religion, and it must necessarily be thin broth in order to contain all the world’s religions. This is why a pluralist like Oprah Winfrey could claim that even an atheist in her audience was a believer, because Oprah defined “God” as “love” and this atheist believed in love.

I once had a Muslim coworker.  We had many discussions about our theological differences.  The interesting thing is not that we agreed in some incidental areas of our beliefs, but that our differences were important and that we both made competing truth claims about God that could be compared and tested.  What we shared in common was the rejection of muddled theology and the efforts of the religious pluralists to throw all beliefs into one, big, tasty stew.

To say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is either naive, an insult to both religions, or the rejection of the fundamental doctrines that separate them.  Any one of the three warrants concern in an institution that is committed to the historic Christian faith, and, in their words, to “serve Jesus Christ and advance His Kingdom.”

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Posted on December 18, 2015, in Christianity, Theology, World Religions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Yes.. Allah is the arabic word for God. He says he is the same God in the quran

  2. Allah states he is the same God that christians and jews worship. He sent the Quran because the other two books had been corrupted

    • Yes, the Qur’an certainly does make such claims, and so does Mormonism and a number of other groups. Part of the problem here is that the Bible gives a different description of God and what He has done, which is the very reason that Islam must say that it has been corrupted — they deny that description. It is only the “same” God if you first assume that the Bible is indeed corrupt and that Christians have their theology all wrong. It’s hardly meaningful to say that the God of Islam is the same God as the one from which the Christians have apostacized. It’s certainly not the same as the one they do, in fact, currently believe in.

      • So what has God done differently in Christianity?

      • For one, and most importantly, God (the Second Person of the Trinity) has come to earth, in the form of a man, to live the sinless life that we cannot and lay down His life for our salvation. Muhammad rejected every part of that statement except that Jesus was sinless.

      • Perhaps because Mohammad was sent to spread the true word

      • Or, perhaps Muhammad is an example of what was being referred to in Galatians 1:8, which says that even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

  3. It is documented the bible has been changed over time by hands of man

    • It would be off topic to get into a discussion on textual criticism. I’ve written on it elsewhere if you are interested:
      http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2005/07/on-defense-of-scripture.html
      http://pspruett.blogspot.com/2006/02/presupposing-perfection-bart-ehrman.html
      It should be noted, though, that even agnostic scholars such as Bart Ehrman admit that we have a pretty good handle on the original text. That text, which we have numerous copies of from well before Muhammad was alive to contradict it, speaks of a God that is at odds with the God of Islam.

      Again, we are comparing the God of the Qur’an and God as recognized by historical Christians, not the God of the Qur’an and the God that Muhammad claimed that the Christians were supposed to be worshiping.

      • Isnt saying its a different God creating a divide between both religions? Both speak of Jesus and moses and Mary the same

      • Muhammad created the divide when he began to preach his unique message and claimed that the Christians had corrupted the true message (the Injil of Isa). If he was teaching the same thing then he would simply have identified himself as a Christian, like Paul did when he had his conversion experience.

        It’s not enough to simply refer to common names. Again, the definitions matter here. For Muhammad, Jesus was simply a man – a prophet – like Muhammad. He didn’t die on the cross, and supposedly taught exactly what Muhammad taught. We both acknowledge a historical figure by that name, but it’s hardly a minor detail to say that one was God and the other just a man. Muhammad certainly thought the difference was important.

      • Islam is the third book sent by God as bible was changed by powerful.men to control the masses

      • A better case could be made that the Qur’an is an attempt to change the message of God by a powerful man. (Side note: Christians don’t believe that the Hebrew texts are corrupt, just that the prophesied Messiah had actually come and brought new things to the table.)

        We’re not getting anywhere here, Mick. You’ve not done anything to negate the point of my post and we’re getting off topic. I like for the comments section to advance the original conversation and that’s not happening here. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, though.

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