Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Challenging question! It has certainly lit up the blogosphere over the past couple months, primarily due to the flap at Wheaton created by one of its tenured female professors asserting that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God.
Let’s start with some basic facts. The word “Allah” means “God” or “the God” in Arabic. The Qur’an teaches that Allah is the only God, he created the universe, and all men will be resurrected and stand before him to be judged. If that’s all there was to Muslim theology, the answer to your question would be affirmative. A number of prominent evangelicals (e.g., Miroslav Volf) have given an affirmative answer for reasons like these.
There is more to it, however. According to the Qur’an, Allah is not a tri-unity of three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, each of which is God. According to the Qur’an, Allah does not and cannot have a Son, and Jesus is not God. In fact, to teach that Allah is a trinity or that Jesus is God’s son is an unpardonable sin (Qur’an 4:116). To worship Jesus as God is blasphemy and idolatry.
So, Christians worship Jesus as God incarnate, and Muslims—of all varieties—decidedly do not worship Jesus as God incarnate. From that angle, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.
Someone may ask, “Aren’t we both worshiping the only true God, even if one of us refuses to worship Jesus as God?” Jesus answers this question for us. “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). Just because someone says they honor God, does not mean they do. You can’t worship God and knowingly refuse to honor Jesus.
You can’t worship God and knowingly refuse to honor Jesus.
Jesus also said, “He who rejects me rejects the One who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Muslims reject Jesus in the same way Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries rejected him: they deny his claims to be one with the Father, to have God as his Father, and to be the Son of God. Thus, they reject the One who sent Jesus, God Himself. You can’t reject God and worship Him.
The apostle John says, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). To “deny the Son” is to deny that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. To “have the Father” means to have a right relationship with God the Father. Muslims deny the Son; therefore, they do not “have the Father.”
Someone may object, “Doesn’t using the same term “God” for the deity we worship mean we are worshiping the same deity?” Exodus 32:1-6 gives us an example of this. Aaron made a golden calf. He said that calf brought Israel out of Egypt and called Israel to worship it as Yahweh. Did Aaron’s use of “Yahweh” mean the Israelites were actually worshiping him? Yahweh denied it (Exod. 32:7-8). So, just because two persons say they worship “God” doesn’t necessarily mean they worship the same “God.”
Is it possible to ignorantly worship the true God? Yes, Paul says the Athenians who worshiped the “unknown god” did so (Acts 17:23). But, Paul also says, “The things the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). When the characteristics of the god worshiped are revealed in Scripture as untrue of God, then God is not being worshiped. This gets to the philosophical question of what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for identifying the deity one worships as the one, true God.
If you’d like a more philosophically nuanced answer, I recommend William Lane Craig’s recent blog on this topic or the answer by Nabeel Qureshi, a converted Muslim who works with Ravi Zacharias. Other helpful discussions have been written by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition and Al Mohler.
Originally posted in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.