Further thought on Islam and Christianity

Whenever Christians start arguing about Islam, it always seems to come down to assertions as to whether or not Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” Broadly speaking, liberals will assert that we do, and conservatives will assert that we don’t, with the sides pointing to different Scripture passages and historical facts to make their case.Every time this happens, I have the same question: what on earth does that statement mean, anyway? From the typical Christian point of view, there only is one God, and the question is how truly or faithfully or properly one worships this God; there simply aren’t any other deities out there. With that in mind, granted that Muslims are seeking to worship the one true God rather than something of this world, we might say that the real question is whether they’re doing so in a way which God finds acceptable.That said, one might say that the Muslim and Christian conceptions of God are so different as to be mutually exclusive, which seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable conclusion. All that proves, however, is that they’re different religions—which is to say, it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (since I don’t think anyone’s under the illusion that Islam is merely one among many Christian denominations). For the statement that “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” (or “don’t worship the same God”) to be in any way meaningful, it has to say more than that; it has to be a statement about the relationship between the two religions. Maybe it’s intended to be; but if so, what is it intended to mean? I’ve honestly never been able to figure that out. As far as I can tell, it’s just an unhelpful bit of rhetoric deployed not to convey real meaning, but merely for emotional effect; and if that’s all it is, it would be better to drop it from the conversation.

Posted in Religion and theology, Uncategorized.


  1. This is interesting to me because the idea that there is only one god is totally foreign to the Old Testament and sort of tough to shoehorn into a lot of the NT. Right in the ten commandments, we’re not supposed to have other gods before Adonai – there is no contention that no other gods exist. Rather, there is the contention that there is one true/worthy/appropriate god among many gods.

    Personally, I find this Biblical view more interesting for a lot of reasons – it addresses my experience of cultural differences, among many other things.

    It might be that Muslims and Christians worship different gods, both of whom are gods in some sense, though of course each side will claim that the other is the false god.

    And of course, that leaves us with the problem of evidence, which is behind all of this.

  2. Its a problem for me because the Gospels were written with Isaiah in mind – so seeing that they have some resonances isn’t really all that much of a surprise. It isn’t as if impartial observers researched the events around Jesus and found – voila! – that prophecy was fulfilled. The writers of the Gospels were, if nothing else, pretty partial, wouldn’t you say?

    When I say evidence, I guess I mean concrete, verifiable evidence that some how sets Christianity apart from what every other religion would put forward as evidence. *Every* religion’s holy book has evidence that other parts of the holy book takes as proof, and which the believers accept. It isn’t surprising that we’d find it in the Bible – what is surprising to me is treating the Bible as if it is unique in that way, or as if the writers of the Bible were like reporters or researchers rather than evangelists and court historians…

  3. I think my comments re: Isaiah should have been a bit clearer. I think your statement that “the idea that there is only one god is totally foreign to the Old Testament and sort of tough to shoehorn into a lot of the NT” doesn’t fly; I think Second Isaiah is the place where it completely shipwrecks, but honestly, I don’t think henotheism is really the obvious reading anywhere in Scripture. Certainly the Egyptian priests in Exodus are portrayed as having real powers, but there’s no indication in the text that this means that their gods actually exist; and in the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Ba’al, the point of the whole setup and all Elijah’s mockery is pretty clear: YHWH Elohim exists, Ba’al doesn’t.

    And again, I don’t take the matter of evidence as a problem. I will certainly grant that God hasn’t chosen to furnish us with concrete proof of his existence; I just don’t have a major issue with that.

  4. Pingback: What do we mean by “the same God”? | Wholly Living

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