Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

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Over at First Thoughts, they’re thinking again about the question. Baylor historian Thomas Kidd has re-posted his review of Yale theologian Miroslav Volf’s 2011 book, Allah: A Christian Response. And Roanoke theologian Gerald McDermott has weighed in.

Volf’s answer is yes. Kidd and McDermott say no. To be sure, they all agree that the God in question is identified by Christians and Muslims, and Jews too, as the God of Abraham. The debate comes down to whether the religions have sufficiently common conceptions of Abraham’s God and what that God requires of us. Volf argues that Muslims share Christians’ core obligations to love God and one’s neighbor. Kidd and McDermott don’t think so.

We could, of course, have a discussion about whether Jews worship the same God as Christians and/or Muslims. And some would say yes; others, no. The problem, however, is that it’s a question that baits its audience with the possibility of different god-beings, then switches to finer points of doctrine.

Plus, in the present case, it’s all about the politics of religious conflict. Kidd gives the game away at the beginning of his review:

President George W. Bush created a boiling controversy amongst Evangelicals in 2003 when he declared that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Many accused Bush of pandering to political correctness.

Then there’s McDermott:

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Since the devastating attacks of 9/11—when the world saw afresh that religion has geo-political consequences, and that Islam is the most volatile religion on the world’s stage—more and more Christians have been asking this question.

The idea seems to be that if we acknowledge that we worship the same God as the people who attacked us, we’ll be less likely to consider them a hostile Other. And if we insist on the contrary, then we’re free to scrutinize the teachings of the alien god for the malevolence we expect from sworn enemies.

History tends to give the lie to this idea. Consider the wars between Catholics and Protestants in Early Modern Europe or Northern Ireland, or the contemporary civil wars between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. As Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural, said of the Union and the Confederacy, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

When it comes to armed conflict, worshiping the same God counts for nothing.

  • geoff

    i am english ! a free person and i want to embrace my moslem friends in this country, we are blood brothers we have shed blood between us for centuries we are pure peoples and warriors the real enemy are the unbelievers. The Godless are not the ones to listen to ! But shedding blood is not the way ,read your history,saladin and richard we are one, the russians,americans,chinese and the rich in monitary terms are alien to peace . VAX VOBISCUM x

  • To appreciate what we have in common with other traditions, I recommend just a glance at the “Daily Bowl of Saki” from Wahiduddin.Net

    Meanwhile, to recognize Jesus as Lord is to see what Abraham saw. Do not imagine, please, that such vision presupposes a knowledge of the Bible or some set of orthodox beliefs about the historical Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11, KJ 2000).

    The gift of aware presence shines forth from the soul of every human being– created as we are, in Christ –in the beginning with God!

    “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” (Psalm 36:9-10).

    The upright of heart are those of any era or culture who, like Abraham, are justified by faith—those who trusting in and relying on Him, truly see His day. Each one of us sees (by virtue of) this light, but few recognize Him as Lord—few recognize in Him their real origin and destiny.

    “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

  • Doc Fox

    Of course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. There is only one God. Any monotheist worships the same God.

    People’s version of what that God is like and what that God may want of us and how we are to approach that God, may differ, but those are people’s notions, not God’s.

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  • This just came to mind recently in another context–it is also from

    Allah – Arabic ﷲ allāh: the Arabic proper name for the Supreme Deity. The exact derivation of this word is unclear, but it is likely related to the Aramaic Alaha and to the ancient Hebrew El. (hw30)

    Note: For those who may be uncomfortable with the word Allah, it may be helpful to note that in the Semitic language of Aramaic which Jesus most likely spoke, the Aramaic word which is translated as God in the European bible was actually Alaha. According to some linguists, the word Alaha which Jesus spoke would have had the ending “a” softened or not pronounced at all, leading to the pronunciation “alah”. Since the Arabic language was largely derived from the earlier Aramaic (much the same as Aramaic was derived from the earlier Hebrew), the modern Arabic word Allah is likely derived from the earlier Aramaic pronunciation “alah”. Indeed, Allah of the Qur’an and Alaha of Jesus refer to the same One.

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