Monday, June 20, 2011

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Many claim that Muslims and Christians serve the same God. Sometimes this is stated in hope of establishing peace among opposing religions. However, the pursuit of any lasting peace requires us to face the problems, not minimize or deny them. Along with the commonalities, there are significant differences between Islam and Christianity, but I think we can learn to love each other despite these differences. My wife and I love each other, not because we agree about everything. Instead, we can love despite the differences.

Even to the Samaritans who shared an important piece of the Hebrew religion – The Five Books of Moses – Jesus insisted:

• You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22)

Despite their similarities with Israel’s religion, the Samaritans didn’t know God and consequently salvation. Instead, Jesus maintained that, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). For the Christian, truth entails believing that God the Son died for our sins and accepting the gift of life that can only come through Him (John 14:6).

Islam also has its exclusivistic claims:

• [Surah 33:57] Those who insult [aa-dh-aa] God and His Messenger [Mohammad] will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating punishment for them— 58 and those who undeservedly insult [aa-dh-aa] believing men and women will bear the guilt of slander and obvious sin. (Haleem)

Denial of the existence of these claims can provide no more than a temporary solution for our problems. Instead, we need to affirm each others’ right to believe in their distinctive beliefs in the face of rising secularism, religious pluralism, and multi-culturalism which manipulatively insist that all religions are essentially the same. This insistence is disingenuous and also represents a stealth religion, wanting to eliminate the other religions from the marketplace of ideas in favor of a Godless, materialistic secularism. Consequently, religious symbols and ideas are being pushed out of sight.

Although I sympathize with your concern about warfare and the historical antagonism between Islam and Christianity, I think that there are better ways to address this concern than to fudge over the problems and differences.

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