John Chapter 8: This Week In God's Word
Yes And No
Ask most any white conservative Christian, do Christians and
Muslims worship the same God? And you’ll likely get the same
answer: absolutely not. Ask most any black Christian, and you
may get a pause, a moment of thought, followed by, perhaps, “I’m
not sure.” Many if not most of us aren’t sure. This isn’t a
question that gets asked a lot. And maybe your pastor has spoken
on the subject, but in 38 years of active ministry, I’ve never
heard a black pastor preach about this. So, what’s the answer?
Do we worship the same God? My official answer is do your own
research. Pray. Make your pastor earn his salary and stop
preaching that useless nonsense so many of our pastors preach
every Sunday and teach on things that actually matter.
For instance: is it okay to refer to God as “Allah?” “Allah” is merely the word “God” in Arabic. But many Christians become deeply offended by even the suggestion of referring to God by that name because they cannot or will not disassociate the name itself from the Islamic faith. But the name “Allah” is not, in and of itself, Islamic. It’s Arabic—a cultural distinction and not a religious one. Around the world, Arabic-speaking Christians—who believe in and worship Jesus Christ—refer to God as “Allah.” We should not quarrel with our Muslims friends over the Name of God, or get dragged into a doctrinal quagmire. Technically speaking, in our belief system, “Allah” would mean essentially the same thing as “Jehovah” or God The Father. We do not, as matter of routine, refer to God as “Jehovah” outside of its archaic reference, but if the name “Jehovah,” or “Yaweh” does not offend, neither should the literal translation of the English word “God” into the Arabic language. But this is the nonsense we fuss about: My God Is Not Muslim. The name “Allah” should not offend us, and we are commanded by Christ to not intentionally offend others by attacking them just because they choose to refer to God by a completely appropriate name simply because we disagree with their religious practice. In other words, the name “Allah” is not blasphemous or in any way disrespectful of God. What is both blasphemous and disrespectful of God is our ignorance, our failure to learn even the most basic and rudimentary things, and our willingness to expend energy fussing over this kind of stuff.
My own conviction is this: Do we worship the same God? Yes and no. My fundamental problem with both Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that both add their own supplement to the canonized scripture. Now, the bible we carry is far from perfect and may not be complete. Most of us have no idea where the bible came from or how these particular 66 books came to be recognized as the official and complete record. I discuss that in some detail here. But I personally become suspicious when any religion says, “We believe in the bible, and, oh yeah, here’s this supplemental text that adds new revelation.” Both Islam and Mormonism deny the doctrine of the Trinity, a controversial idea that postulates God is one Being Who manifests Himself in three distinct Persons: God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is very simple and yet amazing complex. Most Christians get it wrong. Virtually all Christian offshoots and outside religions get it wrong. And this is Step One of creating a false religion: Deny The Trinity. Diminish Jesus Christ’s oneness with God, deny the Virgin Birth and/or The Resurrection. These are the tent poles of Christianity. When you remove or compromise them, call yourself whatever you wish, but you’re not a Christian.
Not Three Gods:
How To Start A False Religion: Step One: Deny The Trinity.
The Trinity doesn't say there are three Gods, but three distinct functions (Persons) of one God. Much the same way a man can be a father, a son, and a taxi driver all at the same time. Noted theologian Charles C. Ryrie writes, “The ontological Trinity focuses on the personal operations of the Persons of the opera ad intra (works within), or personal properties by which the Persons are distinguished.” Ryrie continues, “The concept of the economical Trinity concerns administration, management, [and] actions of the Persons, or the opera ad extra (“works outside,” that is, on the creation of its creatures).” Ryrie concludes, however, that, “The Trinity... is in the final analysis a mystery.” From Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie © 1986 SP Publications, Inc
Muslims do not claim to be Christians,
and that is not what we
struggle with. Christians, if they are truly Christians,
acknowledge and believe the God Jews worship is the same God we
worship. We believe Jews are living beneath their privilege by
not recognizing and accepting Christ, and to Jews, Christians
are the strange offshoot who have taken a wrong road, much in
the same way many of us view the Mormon church. But both Jews
and Christians believe they are, at the end of the day,
worshipping the same God.
Can that thinking now be applied to Muslims? The Muslim faith began with Abraham much the same way the Jewish (and, subsequently, the Christian) faith did (see sidebar). It is reasonable, therefore, to argue that, despite the different paths to two faiths took, they find a universality in their basic origins, and both sides perhaps see the other as misguided of not wholly deceived by misguided teaching.
I doubt I’d ever walk into a Mosque and proclaim they worship a false God. I don’t think that’s my complaint with Islam. I believe the bible. I have accepted Jesus Christ into my life and enjoy a personal walk with Him. A consequence of my faith is my belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to see God, which prevents me from including Islamic or other beliefs as equally legitimate because of the inherent denials of Christ within those teachings. All of which answers a question I did not ask: do I personally believe Islam is a legitimate path to God? My conviction is no. That’s not the same thing as saying they don’t worship the same God. I believe Jewish persons worship the same God but are missing out on key promises God wants to fulfill in their lives through Jesus Christ. If (and all I’m saying is “if”) Muslims worship the same God as I do—which is a distinct possibility—I would believe the same to be true of them. At some point in the evolution of their faith, a human being became the focus and exemplar of God’s self-revelation to mankind. In the case of Islam, it was the Prophet Muhammad. In the case of Mormonism, it was Joseph Smith.
In the case of Christianity, it was Jesus Christ. What was unique about Christ was that He had the audacity to not only claim to know God or to hear from God but to, literally, BE God. Judaism and Islam trace their roots back to Abraham, but Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The commonality between faiths as diverse as Islam, Mormonism, or, for that matter, Jehovah’s Witnesses, is that an important tenet of these diverse faiths is the denying of some part of the Christ story, while Christ’s story relies on no such reference to any other person. In other words, Jesus did not validate Himself by referring to or repositioning, reinterpreting, some other religious figure. But jesus is mentioned in all of these other faiths, if only to acknowledge Him on one hand while denying Him on the other.
So, I’m likely talking about paths to God (if not, specifically, Heaven), here. And we’ll agree to disagree with our Islamic brothers and sisters. But the question remains, regardless of our path forward: do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
You’ll need to ask someone a lot smarter than me.