This topic has been in the news recently, particularly after a professor at Wheaton College faced termination for making the claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Was this professor right? Do we worship the same God? The simple answer is No…and Yes. Muslims certainly do not have the same revelation and understanding of God that we have: a God who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, Muslims have rejected the deity of Jesus Christ, whom we identify as God’s greatest revelation of Himself to us.
And yet…Muslims do worship the God who created the heavens and the earth; the God who spoke to familiar patriarchs Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, and Jesus; the God of the Old and New Testaments, the God of both Gentiles and Jews. Yes, we recognize that God, it is the God we worship.
The problem is not with God, it is with the Islamic religion – the religion of Muhammad – that has taken the elements of God that we know and love and distorted them. In doing so, they have crafted a religion that opposes what we hold most valuable in our faith.
Muslims teach that God was not incarnate in the person of Jesus nor did he die on the cross to save us from our sins (Qur’an 4:156-159). These denials of the very heart of our Christian faith are compounded by the Qur’an’s insistence that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God (Qur’an 5:116). It is troubling enough to deny Christ’s deity, but to go a step further and insist that Jesus never professed to be God is an offense to the truth that must not be glossed over. We can never compromise Christ’s insistence that, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Muslims and Christians agree that there are not two Gods, one Muslim and one Christian – there is only one. But our understanding of God holds irreconcilable differences that will remain so as long as the Qur’an is authoritative for Muslims and the Bible is for Christians. Neither religion can compromise on these core tenants of their faith.
So how do we answer this complicated question in a complicated world with Muslim combatants on one front and Muslim neighbors on the other? First, we must avoid simple, sound bite answers. Sound bites are better for evoking emotions than for producing clarity and understanding.
Second, it is important for us to know what Muslims believe and reject about God, and how their views differ from our Christian understanding. While there is only one God, we do hold two very different conceptions. To blur these differences is to sacrifice the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest revelation of Himself to mankind.
But, third, to leave the conversation with a resounding “No” is to miss Christ’s mandate to bring Muslims to a full understanding of God’s love for them. Our task doesn’t end with establishing a “No” to Islam. Our task isn’t complete until we build on Muslims’ inadequate understanding of God, and introduce them to the “Yes” that the one God of all creation offers them in Jesus Christ.