DO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD?
A friend threw this question at me via inbox. It is indeed a complicated one, and often springing up theological disputes among Christian denominations and within the Islamic parlance. With a relative knowledge of Islam, I spent some time in my library and came up with the catholic position.
To begin with, the Muslims worship the God who created heaven and earth, who made Adam and Eve, who rescued Noah from the flood, who promised Abraham a vast progeny, who helped Moses escape Egypt, who made the Virgin Mary great with child, who sent Jesus into the world, and who is still sovereign today (the all-powerful and ever-living God), which in the Arabic language is translated as Allah. This is no doubt, the God of the bible. For that matter, the Quran asserts that the Torah (Pentateuch) and the Gospels are inspired scripture and that Jews and Christians are people of the Book. The Quran tells Muslims to say to them, “our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender” (29.46). While many mainstream Muslims would hold on to this claim, the extremist Muslims (and perhaps, the uneducated ones) may not agree, and as such; they end up persecuting the Christian faithful.
On the other hand, in the Christian religion, we believe in the Triune God (the Holy Trinity). The God who made heaven and earth. The God who worked in history – God the Father (in the Old Testament), God the Son (the Saviour of the world – New Testament), and God the Holy Spirit who came down upon Jesus at baptism and upon Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost.
Nevertheless, many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians would assert that Christians and Muslims worship different Gods, since we hold different beliefs – that is, the Muslims don’t believe in the deity and son-ship of Jesus Christ. Many evangelical Christians would refer to that part of the Scripture which says “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him’ (John 3:36). In this regard, maintaining the position that Christians and Muslims worship different Gods.
However, the Catholic Church, since the time of the Second Vatican Council holds the position that Christians, Muslims and the Jews worship the same God since all three religions spring from the Abrahamic faith. For this reason, the DECLARATION ON THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS “NOSTRA AETATE” affirms that Muslims “adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.
ARGUMENT TO PROVE THAT CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD.
For those who hold on to the position that Christians and Muslims worship different Gods, I suppose you remember that Abraham, Moses etc. had no idea of the Trinity, yet, they still worshiped God, and it is the same God they worshiped that we Christians claim to worship too. In this vein, I would like to ask whether Christians and the Jews worship the same God. If the answer is No, then why do we hold on to the concept of the Judeo-Christian God? Why do we hold on to the belief in the God of Israel? If the answer is Yes, then the same argument applied in reacting to the Muslims (who do not believe in the deity and son-ship of Jesus Christ) should equally be applied to the Jews, since they too do not believe in the deity of Christ, instead, they rejected Him and had him crucified.
As a matter of fact, in Romans 1:19-20 Paul explains that all people have some real knowledge of God by general revelation so that they are without excuse. Speaking in Athens in Acts 17, Paul argued that even some of the Greeks’ own philosophers and poets gave evidence of a rudimentary knowledge of God — but this was not a saving knowledge, however.
Therefore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this matter categorically states: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator in the first place, among whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the One, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 841, quoting Lumen Gentium 16).
In all these, I would suggest that while Christians, Muslims, and the Jews worship the same God, however, they do not share the same understanding of God. Hence, the question above can be reframed, thus: “DO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS HAVE THE SAME UNDERSTANDING OF GOD?” To this question, the answer is definitely NO, because of crucial differences between the Christian and Muslim concepts of God.
Above all, Pope John Paul II reiterates the position of the Church vis-à-vis the Vatican II Council even more clearly. Addressing Muslim youths, the Pope said: ‘We believe in the same God, the One and only God, the living God, the God who created worlds and brings creatures to their perfection’. This is why the Church involves herself with the Muslims in interreligious dialogue.
Hence, the earlier we see ourselves as one-children of Abraham and relate/dialogue with one another in peace, the better.