Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

There is a new web page designed to help college students develop their worldview and meet the intellectual challenges of the university. It is called True U. They have posted a new article by me called, "Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?" I hope to have other essays on apologetics posted on this page in the near future. Here is the link to the article:


greg.w.h said...

The short answer to the question is that it was the intention of Mohammed to portray Muslims as worshipping the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He also portrayed Judaism and Christianity as being corrupted by evil men. His portrayal of Judaism and Christianity as corrupted disagrees with Jesus' portrayal of the Law and of his Ministry. It also disagrees with Paul's systematic theology in Romans and with the truth claims of the epistle to the Hebrews.

The longer answer is this: The argument that the religious leaders of Judaism were corrupt was certainly in agreement with Jesus' polemics against the Pharisees, Sadducees, and (Herod-allied) Temple Priests. But Jesus did not argue that the "Mosaic" Law and the Levitical/Aaronic system of worship was corrupt. In fact, Jesus famously stated in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

That statement by Jesus condemns Islam to the extent that Islam rejects any portion of the Law. It also sets up the rejection of the legalistic vision of Islam based on the five pillars.

It anticipates Mohammed's argument that Judaism is corrupt and also anticipates that Jesus' revelation of the New Covenant will be attacked as a rejection of the Law. And, of course, Paul's systematic theology in the epistle to the Romans extends these themes by further rejection of law-based redemption. And then the author of the book of Hebrews explains why Christianity is superior to the Law and to the Levitical system.

You can't read the Sermon on the Mount, Romans, and Hebrews without seeing the arguments against Islam. You can't see Jesus' ministry to women without rejecting the inferior treatment of women by Islam.

On the other hand, just as Paul used the statue to the unknown God at the Acropolis to reason with the Athenians, I sense that the desire to be reasonable and to start from the spiritual principles of Islam is a meaningful evangelistic technique.

I applaud the effort to do it, but all apologists must be careful not to mislead weaker Christians into elevating the inferior claims of Islam to stand as equals to the superior claims of Christ. Overarching Truth is singular, not plural.

stc said...

In your essay, I think you're confusing two discrete issues.

I agree that Muslims and Christians "have very different views of God." But that isn't the question you set out to answer.

There is only one God. Muslims and Christians both worship that God, even though they understand God differently in certain respects.

Even then, it would be a mistake to exaggerate the differences. For example, Muslims do teach that people can earn God's favour by submitting to God's will. But God's grace is still a fundamental tenet of the religion. Every surah praises God as "the Compassionate, the Merciful". So the difference may be one of emphasis rather than irreconcilable conflict.

Either Christianity, Islam, or both are in error of some of the things they affirm about God. That is the only thing you have successfully demonstrated in your essay.

Victor Reppert said...

This reminds me of my favorite Bertrand Russell story. When Bertrand Russell was imprisoned for anti-war activities, he was checked into a jail cell by a man who asked him what his religion was. He answered "agnostic," to which the jailer replied, "We all worship the same God."

Apostle John said...

I enjoyed the article -- thanks for putting up a link to it.

I am not sure I agree with the writter of the essay as much as I agree with the comment by G.