Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Yes, Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God (But Here’s What That Means & Doesn’t)

 

In the ongoing conversations about Islam in America, the issue of God v. Allah is a critical one to have.

Do we worship the same God? If so, what does that mean?

The best answer to this question is, of course, Miroslav Volf’s book, Allah: A Christian Response. It’s so important that I’d almost say one should hold off on having a firm opinion on the matter until they’re informed- and Volf has produced what really is the best that exists on the topic. However, for those who would never go out and read a book, I’m going to answer this question in the most broken-down, basic way I can.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Is God and Allah one-in-the-same? In the most primitive way, yes. Let me explain:

In ancient times there was a man named Abraham who is revered in three of the world’s great religions. Abraham, of course, is considered the father of the Jewish people as well as Arabs and then Muslims. Essentially, Abraham somewhat founded a religion that went into three different streams: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Here’s the important part: all three of these religions are Abrahamic religions, trying to worship Abraham’s God.

And this is where we can say all three religions do in fact worship the same God, as all three religions are pointing to, offering worship, and attempting to describe, the same object. 

On the surface, it appears different because we say God, and Muslim’s say Allah, but that’s simply because that’s the word for God in Arabic. In fact, Christians in that part of the world also call God Allah. Allah is just a word- if Islam were born in a different culture, they’d use a different word. In this regard, saying that God and Allah are different because we’re using different words would almost be like saying, “Who is this weird god Mexicans worship and call Dios?” It’s an issue of language, that’s all.

Here’s where we’re at: all three religions are offering worship the same object, and that is Abraham’s God– though they might use different terminology (and described traits, which we’ll get to).

Now, when we affirm that Muslims and Christians worship the same God the Evangelical Machine™ goes bonkers, and that’s because they assume we’re affirming way more than what we affirm when we say, “yes, it’s the same God.”

Same God yes, but that doesn’t mean all three religions are equally true, or that we’re describing this God in the same way.

Affirming the basic fact that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are three religions attempting to worship and describe the same God (Abraham’s God, whatever one calls him), doesn’t mean we’re saying all three religions are the same, equally valid, correct, or anything else. We’re simply pointing to the fact that we’re attempting to describe the same entity.

Some will argue that God and Allah are not the same (Abraham’s God) because Christians and Muslims describe the character of Abraham’s God differently, even conflictingly. However, describing an object differently doesn’t mean that two people are describing two totally different objects. For example, let’s say Jane and Henry both work for a guy named Jeff. Jane says that Jeff is a decent boss who treats people fairly. Henry on the other hand, describes Jeff as being lazy and unavailable. The two people may be describing Jeff differently, and one or both of them might be wrong in their understanding of Jeff, but they’re still attempting to describe the same object.

Describing an object differently doesn’t make it a different object.

However, if having different understandings and opinions on the attributes of the object to which we offer worship were a legitimate argument to say that they are entirely different, one would have to say the same thing about Judaism, and even among Christian denominations/traditions.

For example, Evangelicals are quick to paint Judaism as our close brother, and will say that not only do we worship the same God, but that they are God’s favorite people. However, Jews do not believe about God what we believe about God. If this difference in understanding God’s attributes or activity through history makes the God of Islam a different God than the one we are worshipping, we would have to say the same thing about Jews. Not only that, we’d have to say it about other Christians, too– making the case that each denomination has it’s own God.

And this is the basic logic that’s wrong: “You describe the object differently than I do, therefore it is a different object.” Unfortunately, that logic would get us into all sorts of problems.

For example, plenty of Christian traditions describe a God I have a hard time recognizing. I even find some of the ways they describe his attributes to be offensive. However, as Christians we do in fact worship the same God– we just disagree on what God is like. It’s not the object we disagree on, but the attributes.

We could play this out with every Christian sect– 40,000+ of them. Again, if we apply the same principle Evangelicalism applies to Islam (they describe God differently than how we describe God, thus it is a different God) that same logic would cause us to declare that every Christian different than ourselves is worshiping a different God.

However, we don’t do that. While we disagree and sometimes even fight about these differences, we still have the charity and decency to largely affirm that all Christians are attempting to offer worship to the same object: the God of Abraham. That obviously doesn’t mean we think all Christian traditions are equally right or valid– we simply affirm that we are attempting to worship the same entity: Abraham’s God.

We extend this charity to other Christians. We extend this charity to Judaism– which outright rejected God’s covenant and the Messiah. Yet, when we find Islam, we depart from our norm of acknowledging the object of our worship is the same but simply disagree on what the nature and characteristics are like.

Why we refuse to have the charity to admit that, like Jews and 40,000 versions of Christianity we disagree with, we’re all attempting to worship Abraham’s God, is beyond me. There’s plenty the Christian and Muslim disagree on, theologically. We disagree on the attributes of God, the nature of sin, soteriology, etc. However, like it or not, both religions are attempting to worship the same entity.

And that is the God of Abraham.

When I myself was struggling with this question, the most helpful words came from Miroslav Volf when he came to speak to my class when I studied Islam at Gordon-Conwell. Volf said, “there’s a difference between worshipping the right God, and worshipping the right God rightly.

One can affirm we are worshipping the same God without it being an affirmation that one is worshipping the right God in the right way.

So, yes: Christians and Muslims do in fact worship the same God– but that doesn’t mean everything you’re assuming we mean when we say it. It’s not a confession of Unitarian Universalism. We’re not saying both religions are the same and equally true or correct.

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

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  • Scruffy Scirocco says:

    No, this is categorically false. I have studied Islam for 8 years and I know this to be false. Muslims and Jews and Christians DO NOT worship the same God. Muslims claim this legitimacy based on a tradition of descent from Abraham. This tradition states that the Ka’aba was the house that Adam built when he was expelled from Eden, and that Abraham rebuilt it. There is no biblical or archaeological evidence that Abraham ever entered Arabia. Any similarity between Islam and Judeo-Christianity is a fabrication of Muhammad, intended to make his cult more palatable to the Jews and Christians he was trying to court
    into joining him.

    My God does not endorse the assassination of people who speak out against him. (Ibn Ishaq 676)

    My God does not permit you to rape your captive females. (Tabari IX:25)

    My God did not endorse his prophets to take slaves and “marry” (read:
    Rape with legitimacy) them hours after publicly executing their fathers. (Quran 50-51, Ibn Ishaq 466)

    My God does not share his glory with his two sister goddesses (oops, sorry, Satan dictated that part of the Quran, according to Muhammad. My bad . . . or his. . .. whatever). (Ibn Ishaq 165)

    My God does not endorse 57 year old prophets to have intercourse with 9 year old brides. (Bukhari:V7B62N64)

    My God did not advocate his prophet to wage a campaign of banditry from
    which the prophet got 20% of all the booty. (Quran 8:41, Bukhari:V1B2N50)

    My God did not reverse his teachings. (Quran 2:106)

    My God does not deny the immaculate conception, the divinity of Jesus or that Jesus died on the cross, let alone rose from the dead. (Quran 4:157)

    My God does not teach that a woman is worth half of a man. (Quran 2:282)

    My God does not require that you be killed if you leave the faith. (Quran 4:89)

    My God does not consider the mindless recital of scripture in an archaic language that the penitent doesn’t even understand as prayer. (Bukhari:V2B16N108)

    My God does not instruct the sons of prophets to divorce their wives so that the prophet can marry them. (Tabari VIII:1-3)

    My God does not instruct his prophets to renounce the trinity. (Quran 5:73)

    Monotheism does not automatically mean that you worship the God of Jesus, Moses and Abraham.

  • Chris Don Tremaine says:

    Abraham is at the root of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Abraham had
    two sons Issac and Ishmael. Issac was the son of Abraham and Sarah who
    was Abraham’s wife, Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Hagar, the
    servant of Sarah. Issac stayed in the line of the Jews and Jesus.
    Ishmael went to the Arabs. At this point the two split their heritage.
    Issac was the line that bore Jesus who was the son of God. The Jews
    denied who Jesus said he was. This is because they were waiting for a God
    who would free them from the Romans. Those who followed Jesus became
    Christians, The Jews are still waiting for their Messiah. The Ishmael line
    had diverged from the Jewish and Christian line. I’m not as familiar
    with the line of Ishmael other than this line was the origin of the
    Muslim faith. The Arabs had many pagan gods. Muhammad was the profit for
    the start of the Muslim faith. I can say that the God of Issac who says to
    love your enemies is the polar opposite of the god of Ishmael, Allah who
    says kill your enemies. They both have a “great deceiver” the bible
    says he is Satan, the Koran says he is Allah.

  • Dudley Gilmer says:

    Much of this article is helpful and logical. But when you use the words “right,” ” correct” or ” true,” to define your own specific understandings of God, you lose credibility. My take is that we worshippers are all finite seekers. None of us is wise enough to be “correct” in our interpretations of God. We imperfect seekers need to be open to other imperfect seekers, allowing for varying interpretations.

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