Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Christianity and Judaism have the same God, but Islam does not.  Here is how I see it. Basically when the Romans encountered the Greeks and the Egyptians they all tried syncretism: keep the titles of their own gods while mapping them to the equivalent entities in the other cultures. It happened locally in Palestine, too, among the pagans. But this was an offense to the Jews when the idol of Zeus was set up on the altar in Jerusalem in the time of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 1:54). Why was it an offense? For the same reason that God chose to reveal himself to Abraham. They were different gods. They couldn’t be mapped together. All other gods are not our God because they came to be through human reasoning or private revelation (not gifted by God for public worship of Himself) or demons, etc.–things “we” don’t accept because it is not the “public revelation” of our God which our God says he only began with Abraham. That’s the faith. Different Gods.

It is true even of monotheistic religions, people desire syncretism. (I’ve even been told by a Hindu that they have only one god with many manifestations–everybody wants to get on the monotheism band wagon.) So where does “Allah” fit in, Muhammad, and the teachings of Islam? Well, consider this. The original proclamation of a private revelation to Abraham, which made it a public revelation, was that God continued the “promise” to Isaac. Then to Jacob. Our faith teaches that we worship “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This phrase occurs over and over in the Bible. It was the core declaration of faith, even after God revealed the tetragrammaton “name” in Exodus 3:13-15. This is the course through which God chose to reveal himself, through the choice of a visible people that would be his own. The identification of the two are synonymous. The God of this people. The people of this God. It is a covenant.

At one point, God had said to Moses, “let me destroy this people and I will make of you a great nation” (paraphrased from Exodus 32:9-10). Had Moses accepted the offer, the declaration of who our God is would now be “the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses” but it isn’t. Even though Moses was an important figure, God, at Moses’ urging did not choose to go that route. Neither did he repudiate his people according to good kings, bad kings, prophets, etc. Even Jesus. As important as Jesus is to the revelation of God, we are still within the Jewish religion, sharing the same God. Gentiles are adopted into the people of God (Galatians 4:5; cf. “grafted” Romans 11:11-24). Even Jews who reject Jesus yet practice their covenant religion are worshiping the same God.

But does Islam proclaim either genealogical connection or adoption / grafting  into the people of the God who is “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”? I would say not.

So, when it comes to considering what we say about Islam,
it all turns upon what Islam says about the people of God, the Jews.

Muhammad did not proclaim a worship of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He merely claimed that his revelation was the successor of previous ones and that those previous understandings of the covenants God made were mistaken and misquoted in the bible. Muhammad taught that Jews and Christians have corrupted the revelation of God and that is how Islam takes their place. But in reality, Muhammad only proclaimed the god of “Abraham, Ishmael, and Muhammad.”

Thus, having broken the core declaration of faith in this God vs. any other god, Muslims don’t worship the same God as Jews and Christians. “Allah” is just a generic name for “god” in the local languages. Christians in that part of the world use the word “Allah” for worshiping our God. But don’t let that confuse you. They are using it differently from the Muslims. There is an essential difference in that the Christians preserve the core meaning I have just related. Even more fundamental to our faith in Jesus as the Son of God and in the Trinity is our fidelity to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Appended later:

Some Christians may object to this seeming reduction in status of Jesus as if he were not central to the faith. I don’t think that is what I am doing. At least not for modern Jews who reject the Trinity. It was the contemporaries of Jesus who, when rejecting him, were cut off from the people as he was the prophet leader foretold who would act like Moses and render this judgment.

Acts 3:22-23 “For Moses said: ‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.”

But other verses clarify that it was because such unbelievers had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard his words of interpretation. Thus they had no excuse. The same is true of the miracle-working Apostles and their words of explanation.

John 14:9-14 “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.’ ”

And again:

John 15:20-27 “Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

So, contemporary Jews had no excuse. But neither of these statements about Jesus’ testimony and power, and the Apostles testimony and power apply to modern Jews. Thus they are not cut off, and they are not faulted (to the same extent) for living the “old covenant.” In other words, the Catholic Church gives modern Jews  and Judaism some slack. They should still accept Jesus as their Messiah, but they might not know this is what God wants.

Now, some protestants take these scriptural verses and apply them to modern Jews. In this case the only valid argument is to say that modern Jews do not worship the same God as Christians. But I would not go that far. The Jewish religion wasn’t always so confused.

But Islam has always been confused on every point I have made about the identity of God. At some point we have to draw the line–as God did with all the other supreme deities of the ancient world–and take the position that a concept / identity / entity cannot be emptied of an arbitrarily great amount of content and still be merely “confused.” At some point it becomes “other.”  Read that passage from Exodus again.

Exodus 3:13-15. “But,” said Moses to God, “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?” God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you. God spoke further to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations.”

Islam is so confused that its followers have never and do not currently worship the same God.

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16 Responses to Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

  1. Silo says:

    At least by the time this Psalm 147 was written (King David or later?), it is a repudiation of other possibly competing lineages. “He proclaims his word to Jacob, his statutes and laws to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; of such laws they know nothing. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 147:19-20).

  2. MNL says:

    I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about. There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as it was decreed for Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of the Lord. There are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers.” For the sake of my brothers and friends I say, “Peace be with you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God, I pray for your good. (Psalm 122).

  3. admin says:

    How about the words of Simeon, when Jesus was manifested as an infant to those in the Temple: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

  4. Silo says:

    In respect to the Gospel, [unbelieving Jews] are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. FOR THE GIFTS AND THE CALL OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE. (Romans 11:28-29)

  5. Silo says:

    Since the Muslims came after Christ yet don’t believe in the Incarnation or the Trinity, it wouldn’t be right to call them heretics like the Protestants. Nor can we call them apostates because they never believed. Nor would I think them mere pagans. Perhaps they are most like the Mormons and the Jehova’s Witnesses, cults.

  6. Silo says:

    Is your reasoning a repudiation of seeking God through reason? The Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason are both means of knowing God. Yet in your description of rejecting what the pagans might think about Him and starting over with His own public revelation, it seems that reason isn’t good enough.

  7. Silo says:

    Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:23 Bible doesn’t say that about Muslims.

  8. MNL says:

    Note that even Jesus is still defining heaven according to the affirmation of God as the God of the patriarchs.
    “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith [as the Centurion foreigner demonstrated]. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth,” (Matthew 8:10-12).

  9. MNL says:

    “Abba or Allah: The Difference It Makes”–free audio recording of Dr. Scott Hahn at Franciscan University
    He talks about the Islamic submission to God being that of a slave / servant while that of Christians as the submission of a loving son in imitation of Jesus. To get there, he makes a comparison of human relationships: Ishmael & Abraham vs. Isaac & Abraham. So, the treatment is one of the same God, the God of Abraham. But, at the end of the talk, around time index 56 minutes, he says that we aren’t talking about two different paths up the same mountain, rather two different mountains. I find the specific question left unresolved but much enjoyed the talk anyway.

  10. Jim says:

    “Jesus said to her, ‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.’ ” (John 4:21-22)
    I think this means something–that Jesus described salvation as coming through the Jewish people. It’s their God. That’s how Jesus described God. He didn’t try to describe the other characteristics of divine being. And if he was making this doctrinal assertion to a Samaritan woman, implying that because the Samaritans had set up a parallel worship with a parallel temple, how much more so would it apply to Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, etc. in their worship and with their temples.

  11. Jim says:

    Curious, is it unique that our God chose a people–the Jews? Greeks and Romans had gods for professions and certain needs (like we treat the Saints), even lands / territories, but not a specific people.

  12. me says:

    1 Kings 8:50-53, 58-61
    “Forgive your people who have sinned against you and all the offenses they have committed against you, and grant them mercy in the sight of their captors, so that these will be merciful to them. For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace. Thus may your eyes be open to the petition of your servant and to the petition of your people Israel; thus may you listen to them whenever they call upon you. For you have set them apart from all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, Lord my GOD. May he draw our hearts to himself, that we may walk in his ways and keep the commands, statutes, and ordinances that he enjoined on our ancestors. May these words of mine, the petition I have offered before the LORD, our God, be present to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and there is no other. Your heart must be wholly devoted to the LORD, our God, observing his statutes and keeping his commandments, as on this day.”

  13. anon says:

    Don’t forget Isaiah 43. It states that God has chosen to reveal himself through this people:
    But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; from the east I will bring back your offspring, from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them! Bring back my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them. Lead out the people, blind though they have eyes, deaf though they have ears. Let all the nations gather together, let the peoples assemble! Who among them could have declared this, or announced to us the earlier things? Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!” You are my witnesses—oracle of the LORD—my servant whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none. I, I am the LORD; there is no savior but me.

  14. Mark says:

    Genesis 17:3-9
    When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
    “My covenant with you is this:
    you are to become the father of a host of nations.
    No longer shall you be called Abram;
    your name shall be Abraham,
    for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
    I will render you exceedingly fertile;
    I will make nations of you;
    kings shall stem from you.
    I will maintain my covenant with you
    and your descendants after you
    throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
    to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
    I will give to you
    and to your descendants after you
    the land in which you are now staying,
    the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
    and I will be their God.”

    God also said to Abraham:
    “On your part, you and your descendants after you
    must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

  15. Me says:

    So, whereas other “gods” were known to claim a place or activity (like an artisan trade), the God of the Bible claimed a people. And it wasn’t a one-sided claim, the agreement was like a marriage with mutual agreement and reciprocal obligations. “The God of this people; the people of this God.” It seems to me that the Muslims disagree with the material facts of this covenant and so are excluded from valid worship of this God.

  16. anon says:

    I recently watched a video about a man who converted from Islam to Christianity. As a matter of curiosity for our conversation–since it is a poor idea to accept anecdotal information as authoritative–this fellow was in distress and called out to “Allah” that if he was real, reveal himself. Nothing. Then later he called out to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” with the same appeal and was answered. So he converted, gave up all his hatred and now preaches Jesus AND the falsity of Islam. His name is Kamal Saleem Here is the link. A very inspiring story. And twice it uses the invocation “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” at the beginning of the story, and at the end of the video, with only references to “God of Abraham” in between.

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