One day last December, Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkins donned a hajib (Muslim head covering) and posted the following statement on Facebook: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
That gesture, by a professor at an evangelical college, ignited a firestorm of controversy that continues to blaze. Wheaton administrators took exception to Hawkins’ statement. The media largely took exception to Wheaton. Social media took the story viral. And Christianity Today magazine editor Mark Galli opined, “We at CT are not sure we can unambiguously take a side at this point.”
Hawkins’ social media post revived important discussions about academic freedom, the theological integrity of Christian institutions, racial diversity, and other issues. But more important, it shed fresh light on a centuries-old debate: Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
It’s an important question for which influential people across the religious spectrum offer a variety of answers.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, many, in the spirit of tolerance, will conclude that we all worship the same God. The only differences are in styles of worship, sacred scriptures, doctrines and traditions.
Former President George W. Bush said as much in a 2007 interview with Al Aribaya Television: “Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe.”
The Qur’an seems to support the former president’s view:
Do not argue with the people of the scripture (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) except in the nicest possible manner-unless they transgress-and say, “We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you, and our god and your god is one and the same; to Him we are submitters.” (29:46).
The words of Rodney King echo in our ears: “Can’t we all just get along?”
But insisting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God dishonors both religions and disrespects the people who hold dearly to their teachings. In other words, both Christians and Muslims should respond with a resounding “no” to any suggestion that the God of the Bible and the God of the Qur’an are the same.
But let’s make the issue more personal. Every person can know the difference between Yahweh and Allah by asking three personal questions:
1. Does God know me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah is the transcendent creator, all-powerful and all-knowing. He knows who you are; in fact, he has fatalistically determined your thoughts, words and deeds – good and evil – and even your eternal destiny, which is why Muslims so often say, “If Allah wills it.” So, Allah does indeed know you.
But Allah is not truly personal, knowable, or approachable. The Qur’an depicts him more judgmental than gracious. He exists as a singular unity who has no “partners.” In fact, to call Jesus the Son of God is to commit the unpardonable sin, or shirk. Of the 99 names for God in the Qur’an, Father is not one of them. In Islam, it is considered blasphemous to “presume” that one can know God or claim any sort of close, personal fellowship with Allah. He reveals his will, not himself.
Yahweh, the God of the Bible, also is depicted as the transcendent Creator. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. He knows us; but more than that, He is knowable and approachable to us. He created us in His image – with personality, thought, and will – for the purpose of enjoying an everlasting, unbreakable, intimate relationship with Him. He exists as a Trinity in eternal relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In fact, God is so knowable, He came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. Consider just a few of the abundant evidences in scripture:
- John 1:1-3, 14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created….The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- John 15:14-15 – You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
- John 17:3 — This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent-Jesus Christ.
Does God know me? Allah and Yahweh are depicted as supreme beings who know everything and everyone. But … only the God of the Bible is truly personal and knowable.
2. Does God love me?
Allah.The Qur’an teaches that Allah loves those he chooses to love and hates those he chooses to hate. “Allah loves not those that do wrong,” says the Qur’an (Surah 3:140), neither does he love “him who is treacherous, sinful” (Surah 4:107). “Those who reject faith and do wrong – Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way – Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein for ever. And this to Allah is easy (4:168-169).
Other types of people Allah hates:
- Transgressors (2:190).
- Ungrateful and wicked creatures (2:276).
- Those who reject faith (3:32; 30:45).
- Those who do wrong (3:57, 140; 42:40).
- The arrogant, the vainglorious (4:36; 16:23; 31:18; 57:23).
- Those given to excess (5:87).
- Wasters (6:141; 7:31).
- Treacherous (8:58).
- Ungrateful (22:38).
Yahweh, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, loves all people (John 3:16). He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). John writes, “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Even though God hates sin, He loves the sinner and takes no pleasure in punishing him (Eze. 18:23).
Does God love me? Only the God of the Bible loves all people.
3. Did God die for me?
The Qur’an teaches that Allah did not, would not, and will not die for you, nor would he send anyone to die for you. In fact, the Qur’an insists that Jesus did not die on the cross, but was taken up into heaven, and Judas, or someone who looked like Jesus, was crucified in His place.
Further, the Qur’an teaches that there is no need for God to provide a sacrifice for sin because ignorance of Islam, not sin, is man’s problem. (The possible exceptions are apostasy from Islam and refusal to convert to Islam.) Staying away from major sins (whatever those are) will automatically result in one’s “small” sins being overlooked by Allah (4:31).
Yahweh, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us. This was determined in eternity past, before you and I were ever born and before any of mankind had fallen into sin; Jesus is declared to be the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
But even more than dying for us, God the Son rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, and He offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by His grace through faith in Him.
Did God die for me? Only the God of the Bible sent His Son to die for sinners, securing eternal life for those who trust in Him.
So, are Allah and Yahweh just two different names for the same God?
No. Allah is distant and unknowable; Yahweh is close and personal. Allah does not love every person; Yahweh does. Allah did not, would not, and will not die for you, nor would he ever send anyone to do so; but the God of the Bible loves you so much He sent His one and only Son to die for you. And He stands ready to grant you everlasting life if you will receive Him by faith.
Are Yahweh (the God of the Bible) and Allah (the deity of Islam) the same? Are the differences between them inconsequential — so small, in fact, that they negate any grounds for debate? In the spirit of tolerance, political correctness, ignorance or even fear, many have concluded that we all worship the same God. The only differences are in styles of worship, sacred scriptures, doctrines and traditions. Former President George W. Bush said as much in a 2007 interview with Al Aribaya Television. The words of Rodney King echo in our ears: “Can’t we all just get along?”
But insisting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God dishonors both religions and disrespects the people who hold dearly to their teachings. In other words, both Christians and Muslims would respond with a resounding “no” to any suggestion that the God of the Bible and the God of the Koran are the same.
But let’s make the issue more personal, as I did in this article, which continues to be the most-read post in this blog. Basically, the issue may be boiled down to three personal questions:
- Does God know me?
- Does God love me?
- Did God die for me?
The idea that the world’s three great monotheistic religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism — worship the same God is comforting to many people. It’s also a politically correct way to tone down the rhetoric that often generates more heat than light. But is is true? In this post from 2009 — one of the most visited posts on this site — we will ask three simple questions that enable us to compare Yahweh (the God of the Bible) and Allah (the god of Islam). If Christians truly love Muslims, as Jesus does, we must clearly and compassionately share the truth about the identity of the one true and living God.
Click here to view post.
This is the fourth in a series of occasional posts from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, where I have the privilege of serving with Michael O’Neal, a church planter/pastor/teacher from Tennessee, and missionary Scott Carter to teach Christian apologetics to fellow believers and assist local pastors in their discipleship and church-planting efforts.
Sept. 30, 10:15 p.m. — ConneXion Nilai (university student ministry center)
For the third night in a row, I have the privlege of meeting with college students who have come to Kuala Lampur to study from all over the world. And tonight 47 students, representing nearly a dozen countries from Uganda to India, have gathered in the student ministry center to hear about the uniqueness of Jesus. After presenting an hour-long Bible study on Jesus’ outrageous claims, convincing proofs, and finished work on the cross, missionary Scott Carter and I open the floor to questions.
They come non-stop: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? If God knows who is going to be saved, what’s the point of evangelism? If a baby dies in her mother’s womb, does she go to heaven or hell? As was the case last night at Nottingham University and the night before at ConneXion Subang, I am worn out before the students are and the student ministry leader has to call the Q&A to a close. But not before a series of questions about Islam, including: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”
The short answer is no. While there are some similarities between Yahweh and Allah, the differences are so significant that it cannot be said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. It’s not necessarily what people want to hear — especially in a multicultural world that increasingly values the concept of many paths to God. But it is the truth, and even our Muslim friends would agree that the Christian God and Allah cannot be reconciled.
As yourself: Does God know me (and can I know Him)? Does God love me? And did God die for me? Only Yahweh, the God of the Bible, answers all three questions affirmatively.