Blog

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God

Muslim-vs-Christianity

Considering all the controversy about the Wheaton professor that was suspended for displaying solidarity with Muslims, even going so far as to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, I figured that I would get my feet wet where so many have been swimming lately.

The basic assertion is simple: The father of the Islamic faith is Abraham (though Ishmael, son of Hagar). Since, like Islam, the Jews’ father is Abraham and since Christianity was birthed out of Judaism,  Christians and Islam are brothers.

The Roman Catholic Stance

This is nothing new. We have been dealing with this since well before 9/11. In fact, Roman Catholics have expressed this in their own dogma (official teaching). In 1965, at the Second Vatican Council the wrote this:

But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964; emphasis added).

The recent Popes recent confirmed this, even going so far as to kiss the Koran.

Inclusivism

Many conservative Protestants hold to a view called “Inclusivism.” This means that those who have never had a chance to hear the true Gospel can be saved through other means. For example, someone who is in an African tribe who grew up under the tribal religion and never heard the Gospel can be saved through sincere hope in God as he or she knows him. In this, the blood of Christ must save them, but God uses a different means, other than faith, to save them. On the other hand there are the exclusivists or restrictivists (man, that sounds bad these days) who believe that people can only be saved through hearing and responding the Gospel in faith. I am among the exclusivists.

Having said this, we are not talking necessarily about whether God can save people in spite of their knowledge of Christ. It is whether or not, Muslims and Christians, like the Roman Catholic dogma asserts, worship the same God.

How We Are Alike

First, we must consider Islamic roots. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe that Abraham is the “Father” of our faith. Muslims believe their lineage of Mohammed can be traced to Abraham’s son, Ishmael, whom he bore through Hagar.

If we were to compare the Muslim faith to other faiths such as Mormonism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, one could come to the conclusion that, when it comes to the nature of God, Christians and Muslims are similar. Muslims believe that there is only one God who is transcendent. They believe that God, in his essential being (the actual “stuff” that He is) does not experience time, space, or matter. They believe that he created everything ex nihio, out of nothing. They believe that God is sovereign and rules over all his creation.

Therefore, philosophically speaking, our definition of what God must be to qualify to be God (self-awareness, transcendence, personhood, etc), the Christian view of God is very close to the Muslim view of God. It is the same with Jews and Deists (those who believe that God created everything but is not concerned with it). I am sure that there are millions of individuals around the world who don’t associate with any particular religion who simple believe that there must be one Source who gave birth to all of creation. So, the Muslim belief that Abraham is the father of their faith combined with a correct philosophical understanding of God might lead one to believe that we all worship the same God.

How We Are Different:

But the question, “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God”, may not the best one. The emphasis is naturally focused on one phrase, “same God.” The word that we need to focus on is “worship.” For, even if we were to come to the conclusion that the similarities outweigh the differences, this does not mean that we all worship Him.

[Tweet “Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt.16:5) is the defining question of all history. “]

The ultimate difference between Christians and Muslims and how worship God centers around one person, Jesus Christ. Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt.16:5)  is the defining question of all history. While Christians hold vehemently to monotheism (belief that there is only one God), we believe that God eternally exists in three persons, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. When the Son of God became man, we finally found access to God. Muslims believe in Christ, but they don’t believe that he was born of a virgin and died on a cross for mankind. They abhor the doctrine of the Trinity, believing it is impossible for God to be one and three at the same time. Because of this, when Muslims approach God for worship, they do not go through Jesus Christ. While they, like us, may believe in God’s intolerance for sin, they do not see Christ as the avenue for forgiveness and reconciliation.

[Tweet “If we don’t go through Christ, we find no ability to worship God at all.”]

Jesus Christ has always been the dividing line. His person and work have separated Christians and non-Christians since his advent. First Corinthians 1:23 says, “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” He is it. If we don’t go through Christ, we find no ability to worship God at all. Ephesians 2:18 says,”For through him [Christ] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” If you don’t have Christ, no matter how close we are philosophically, no matter what our lineage may be, we don’t have God. Jesus sets these definite standards himself:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

[Tweet “If we don’t go through Christ, we find no ability to worship God at all.”]

Most all Muslims would agree here.

cta-free-28min-video-of-apologetics

9 Responses to “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God”

  1. Verse correction: Matt 16:15

  2. I enjoyed reading this post.

  3. I agree with the helpful attention to the real dividing line between the two theological traditions, and I find it even more helpful to see how that difference is always born out of a common tradition and heritage. Can we see that all of humanity’s development and change works in this way, bearing new ideas and convictions all the time? The variations in religious traditions are no different. People change their minds and evolve theologies when something better comes along (read the entire Bible without evangelical lenses and see how this is the case).

  4. That being said, it is my historical observation that Muslims and Christians, both professing monotheism, and both rooting themselves in the Abrahamic tradition can undoubtedly be said to be “worshiping the same God.” In fact, both parties should find this henotheistic tone unsuitable and simply say “we both worship God.” Are there theological variations between the two? Of course there are, but so also between Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the 6000+ versions of protestantism (Yikes, do “Christians” all worship the same God?).
    As to your comments regarding the inability to worship God without “going through” Jesus, I must contest. Gaining this kind of reading from those individually collected verses reveals more about your particular exclusivist protestant theology than a broadly informed understanding of the texts. If I had a dime for every time I heard a Christian proof-text their exclusivism with John 14:6 (and only that verse), I would be a wealthy man! For a thorough, refreshing, and eye-opening scholarly analysis of the book of John, see Spong’s “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic.” Read it with a heart and mind for truth (and not with piles of fundamentalist vitriol) and you’ll never see this gospel the same again. But for now, lets just ask ourselves “what does that verse really mean?” If we take it to mean that no one before the first century C.E. has been able to worship God, and that no one without such specific gnosis can even offer the most ignorant yet innocent worship to the Supreme Reality as they seek to know it, then I ask whether whether exlusivist Christians are worshiping “God” or a “god.” It seems to me that doctrinally, muslims are faithful in protecting the diminution of the “G”, whereas I find Christians often have a very complicated time maintaining it. In that case, maybe Christians and Muslims really aren’t worshiping the same God.

    • Michael Patton 2016-02-04 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks Richie. I understand where you are coming from and what you are trying to do. I am more than willing to change my restrictivist option, but my systematic approach to scripture pushes me where I am.

      Accusing someone of proof-texting and not asking for clarification is probably not the best way to have meaningful dialogue. Anyone can do it and it becomes endless. You probably know what I am saying.

  5. Jesus is the incarnate “Word of God.” Those listening to the Word of God, and thereby worship Him, are in a sense coming to God through Jesus! You may want to call them “anonymous Christians.”

    Indeed, we all come to the Father through Him, Jesus Christ! He is truly the way, and the truth, and the life!

  6. Glenn Shrom 2016-03-19 at 6:29 pm

    Great post! This has helped me! Re-framing the question into one of whether we can bring acceptable worship to God apart from Christ is excellent.
    There’s a Spanish song by the group Heart Nouveau (Kim Peterson) called sopa religiosa or religious soup. Somebody wants to mix the best parts (ingredients) of all the religions together to come up with sort of a stew that is tasty, that satisfies. Then the protagonist asks about who is actually going to find it tasty or satisfying. That is the real question.
    Is worship just about what a person decides to do or focus on, or about whether the object of our worship actually agrees that he is being worshipped?
    I know you didn’t go into giver or worship vs. receiver of worship. I’m chiming in with that part. But I agree with your part that the question is more about worship than it is about the same God. John 4 also has this for us: You worship what (one?) you do not know; we worship what (one?) we do know. The hour is coming …

  7. As I posted elsewhere, I can go as far as saying that Muslims want to believe and indeed do believe that the “One True God” they worship is the same God as that of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. And to a certain degree they are right — there is only One True God, and the One True God did indeed reveal himself to Abraham and Moses, and Muslims indeed mean/hope to worship this very God. However
    1. This One True God is solely and wholly manifest in Christ, who is God in the flesh;
    2. This One True God is not knowable or relatable but in Christ and through Christ
    3. This One True God does not condone any so-called “worship” from sinful beings except in Christ and through Christ

    I think it’s fine to say that “Christianity and Islam worship the same God”, so long as we make sure everyone understands that only in Christ does anyone worship God as he has revealed himself. Any other revelation, be it Islam, Mormonism or otherwise, worships God as man have imagined God to be, therefore ultimately usurps, rather than honors, the glory of God.

  8. Did Richie really reference Spong? Tells you everything, right there.

Leave a Reply