The recent attacks on the West by radical jihadists have prompted many people to ask, Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
In 638 AD, when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, they sought to create a symbol of the superiority of Islam by building the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, smack in the middle of the Jewish temple grounds, on Mount Moriah. There, say the Jews, Abraham was prepared to offer Isaac until the angel stopped him. Muslims say the son being offered was Ishmael, father of the Arabs.
The Dome of the Rock remains a shrine for pilgrims and is Islam’s third holiest site. An inscription at the entrance reads:
“He is God,
He is one,
He has no companions,
He does not beget,
He is not begotten”
This is a direct challenge to the biblical revelation of the Trinity, the unity and diversity of God.
Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Before declaring a simple Yes or No answer, let’s consider the commonalities and differences between these two understandings of God. (For reasons that will become clear below we will add Judaism to the mix as well.)
Commonalities between Muslims and Christians
In contrast to Atheism (no God), Monism (one undivided spirit), Polytheism (many finite gods), and pantheism (God and the universe are one) stands Monotheism. Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews, all confess belief in the One Infinite God, Creator of heaven and earth.
These three monotheistic faiths have more in common with one another than with pagan religions and certainly more than with Secularism–Atheism. They are people of the Book; they believe in revelation. God has spoken to humankind. They believe:
- In one infinite-personal God.
- There is truth and moral order in the universe.
- They have a mission. While the concept of mission is common, the nature of the mission is different. For the Jews, the mission is to settle the promised land. For Christians, to advance the Kingdom of God. For Muslims, to establish a global caliphate
Differences between Muslims and Christians
While the three monolithic faiths have much they agree upon, especially in contrast with atheism, they have major points of divergence.
One point of divergence relates to revelation. For the Jews, it is the Hebrew scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament). For Christians it is the written word (Old and New Testaments) and the Living Word, Jesus Christ. For Muslims it is the Quran and the prophet Mohammed.
But we have moved away from our central question, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? When we consider two critical issues—the nature of God and the character of God—we see the answer is clearly No.
While Jews, Muslims and Christians all believe in one God, they differ on whether God is an absolute (single) one or a united (combined) one. Islam and modern Judaism are unitarian. They understand God to be a single unity. The Arabic word that describes this is توحيد tawḥīd, meaning the oneness [of God] and signifies the indivisible oneness of God.
The Jews have a rather unique understanding of “one.” In the English, when we say “one” we mean absolute one or single one. This is very much like the Arabic tawhid. But the Jews had two words for one. The first is similar to tawhid. It is the Hebrew word yā·ḥîḏ – Yachid – “single,” “absolute numeric one” or “indivisible” one; as in 1=1. This is the unitary concept of one.
But Hebrew has another concept of one, i.e. ʾě·ḥāḏ – Echad. This word means “united,” “compound,” or “bound together.” Genesis 2:24 uses echad to declare “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become echad.” Two combine as one flesh, 1+1=1. The same word is found in the Jewish prayer, the Shema in Deut. 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is Echad.” Christian theologians see this as a reference to the Trinitarian nature of God. God is three in one, 1+1+1=1.
So, there is clearly a difference. While both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic, Christianity is trinitarian and Islam is unitarian. This is the point of the plaque at the entrance to the Dome of the Rock. Devout Muslims see Christianity as a heresy. They incorrectly think Christians worship three gods.
In his remarkable book Answering Jihad, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim who has come to Christ, summarizes:
Christians worship the triune God: a father who loves unconditionally, a Son who incarnates and who is willing to die for us so that we may be forgiven, and an immanent Holy Spirit who lives in us. This is not who the Muslim God is, and it is not what the Muslim God does. Truly, Tawhid is antithetical to the Trinity, fundamentally incompatible and only similar superficially and semantically. Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.
So while Christians, as monotheists, have more in common with Muslims then they do with atheists, they do not worship the same God.
As Christians, we should love all Muslims. But we must not try to “bridge” to Islam by claiming to worship the same God.
- Darrow Miller