Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? This is an important question for two reasons:
- What happens in the name of Islam impacts not only how people view Islam in all its variations, but also on how people view Christianity. Consider the popular statement among some atheists: ”Religion flies you into buildings. Science flies you to the moon.” Many are only too ready to agree with this simplistic statement and so sweep all religions together into one big lump which they then throw into the rubbish bin. If all religions are basically the same, then if part is foolish, then all must be foolish.
- It impacts the relationship between the Christian and the Muslim. Should I as a Christian try to convert my Muslim friend, or should I just live and let live? If I conclude that we are not worshipping the same God, I will want to talk about Jesus. If, however, I conclude that indeed we are worshipping the same God, but just in different and unimportant ways, I am more likely to do the Canadian thing and talk about the weather. So which will it be, Jesus or the weather?
Let us begin with the notion that since both the Christian and Muslim each speak of one God, they must both be worshipping the same God. Now suppose that we lost our son’s dog and my wife and I go out to ask our neighbours if they have seen him. My wife heads up the hill and describes the dog as being a fluffy silver standard poodle with brown eyes who answers to the name “Jackson.” I however, head down the hill and describe the dog as being a white fluffy poodle with blue eyes that responds to the name of “dinner’s ready.” Notice several things. First, our description agrees on some points. Second, my wife’s description is more correct than mine. Third, not only is my description not helpful, actually it will be harmful to the search for the dog. So with Christianity and Islam, while we may begin with an attempt to describe the one God that is, the descriptions differ so widely that if one is correct, then the other goes beyond being unhelpful, to being harmful. Precision and accuracy are important, especially when you consider that heaven and hell hang in the balance.
But do the descriptions differ that much? The Bible gives a precise description of God as can be readily be seen in the following passage:
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4 NRSV
The Koran gives a very different picture of who Jesus is, and so who God is. Gone is the self-revelation of God through the incarnation, through Jesus. And gone too, therefore is the purification of sins by Jesus. Gone is the Gospel of grace, the good news of reconciliation to God in Christ, and the good news of God’s Kingdom come near in Christ. Gone is John 3:16. To say that Islam and Christianity are basically the same is far too simplistic a statement. They are very different.
So how should I as a Christian relate to my Muslim friend? Being Canadians we still want to talk about the weather and hockey, but I will also want to talk about Jesus and who He is. But I do not do this out of “Islamaphobia” or even because I think my religion is better than their religion. I share out of loving concern for my friend. To help someone know Jesus as Lord and Saviour is the most loving thing we could do! But of course we must do this in a loving manner. Pointing out the differences in religion should never be construed as “hate speech” for seeking truth together is the loving thing to do when done respectfully.
Now what about our non-religious friends who want to lump and ignore all religions altogether? Far too many people have rejected all religions in one go without ever really investigating any one of them. One can investigate each more deeply and follow the evidence. Christianity and Islam are not the same, so one cannot just trash them together. Seek precision and accuracy, and to do that you will need to do some research. Follow the evidence for each. There are many resources, some good, some not. Let someone who has experience with evidence, a cold-case detective, help you here. Truth, especially in the most import questions of life, is worth the effort!