Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God? — 30 Comments

  1. I recently watched a video about a man who converted from Islam to Christianity. As a matter of curiosity for our conversation–since it is a poor idea to accept anecdotal information as authoritative–this fellow was in distress and called out to “Allah” that if he was real, reveal himself. Nothing. Then later he called out to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” with the same appeal and was answered. So he converted, gave up all his hatred and now preaches Jesus AND the falsity of Islam. His name is Kamal Saleem Here is the link. A very inspiring story. And twice it uses the invocation “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” at the beginning of the story, and at the end of the video, with only references to “God of Abraham” in between.

  2. So, whereas other “gods” were known to claim a place or activity (like an artisan trade), the God of the Bible claimed a people. And it wasn’t a one-sided claim, the agreement was like a marriage with mutual agreement and reciprocal obligations. “The God of this people; the people of this God.” It seems to me that the Muslims disagree with the material facts of this covenant and so are excluded from valid worship of this God.

  3. Genesis 17:3-9
    When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
    “My covenant with you is this:
    you are to become the father of a host of nations.
    No longer shall you be called Abram;
    your name shall be Abraham,
    for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
    I will render you exceedingly fertile;
    I will make nations of you;
    kings shall stem from you.
    I will maintain my covenant with you
    and your descendants after you
    throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
    to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
    I will give to you
    and to your descendants after you
    the land in which you are now staying,
    the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
    and I will be their God.”

    God also said to Abraham:
    “On your part, you and your descendants after you
    must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

  4. Don’t forget Isaiah 43. It states that God has chosen to reveal himself through this people:
    But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; from the east I will bring back your offspring, from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them! Bring back my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them. Lead out the people, blind though they have eyes, deaf though they have ears. Let all the nations gather together, let the peoples assemble! Who among them could have declared this, or announced to us the earlier things? Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!” You are my witnesses—oracle of the LORD—my servant whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none. I, I am the LORD; there is no savior but me.

  5. 1 Kings 8:50-53, 58-61
    “Forgive your people who have sinned against you and all the offenses they have committed against you, and grant them mercy in the sight of their captors, so that these will be merciful to them. For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace. Thus may your eyes be open to the petition of your servant and to the petition of your people Israel; thus may you listen to them whenever they call upon you. For you have set them apart from all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, Lord my GOD. May he draw our hearts to himself, that we may walk in his ways and keep the commands, statutes, and ordinances that he enjoined on our ancestors. May these words of mine, the petition I have offered before the LORD, our God, be present to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and there is no other. Your heart must be wholly devoted to the LORD, our God, observing his statutes and keeping his commandments, as on this day.”

    • And just before that, in 1 Kings 8:23, it says, “Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below.”

  6. Curious, is it unique that our God chose a people–the Jews? Greeks and Romans had gods for professions and certain needs (like we treat the Saints), even lands / territories, but not a specific people.

  7. “Jesus said to her, ‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.’ ” (John 4:21-22)
    I think this means something–that Jesus described salvation as coming through the Jewish people. It’s their God. That’s how Jesus described God. He didn’t try to describe the other characteristics of divine being. And if he was making this doctrinal assertion to a Samaritan woman, implying that because the Samaritans had set up a parallel worship with a parallel temple, how much more so would it apply to Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, etc. in their worship and with their temples.

  8. “Abba or Allah: The Difference It Makes”–free audio recording of Dr. Scott Hahn at Franciscan University
    He talks about the Islamic submission to God being that of a slave / servant while that of Christians as the submission of a loving son in imitation of Jesus. To get there, he makes a comparison of human relationships: Ishmael & Abraham vs. Isaac & Abraham. So, the treatment is one of the same God, the God of Abraham. But, at the end of the talk, around time index 56 minutes, he says that we aren’t talking about two different paths up the same mountain, rather two different mountains. I find the specific question left unresolved but much enjoyed the talk anyway.

  9. Note that even Jesus is still defining heaven according to the affirmation of God as the God of the patriarchs.
    “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith [as the Centurion foreigner demonstrated]. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth,” (Matthew 8:10-12).

  10. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:23 Bible doesn’t say that about Muslims.

  11. Is your reasoning a repudiation of seeking God through reason? The Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason are both means of knowing God. Yet in your description of rejecting what the pagans might think about Him and starting over with His own public revelation, it seems that reason isn’t good enough.

    • In other words, it’s not “what” you know that counts…namely, that there can only be one god of creation. Rather, it is “who” you know that really makes the difference. And the real God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No other formulation of relationship is possible.

  12. Since the Muslims came after Christ yet don’t believe in the Incarnation or the Trinity, it wouldn’t be right to call them heretics like the Protestants. Nor can we call them apostates because they never believed. Nor would I think them mere pagans. Perhaps they are most like the Mormons and the Jehova’s Witnesses, cults.

  13. In respect to the Gospel, [unbelieving Jews] are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. FOR THE GIFTS AND THE CALL OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE. (Romans 11:28-29)

  14. How about the words of Simeon, when Jesus was manifested as an infant to those in the Temple: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

  15. I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about. There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as it was decreed for Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of the Lord. There are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers.” For the sake of my brothers and friends I say, “Peace be with you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God, I pray for your good. (Psalm 122).

  16. At least by the time this Psalm 147 was written (King David or later?), it is a repudiation of other possibly competing lineages. “He proclaims his word to Jacob, his statutes and laws to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; of such laws they know nothing. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 147:19-20).

  17. From Psalm 147:19-20, “He proclaims his word to Jacob, his statutes and laws to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; of such laws they know nothing. Hallelujah!” The text certainly implies a special relationship with the Jews. But can it also be read defensively, like there are other nations who do claim that God (the one and only) or gods (small “g”) have made laws for them, too?

  18. So what shall we do with a blanket statement like the following, one which is found in no less of a document than Lumen Gentium, one of only two “dogmatic” constitutions among all the promulgated teachings of Vatican II?

    “16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.”

    I think it obvious that the phrase “professing to hold” introduces a bit of ambiguity, equivalent to “for the sake of argument, let’s assume…” Because the point of the paragraph is what comes next, a statement that any truth which exists among Jews, Muslims, pagans and atheists, is a precursor for their reception of the Gospel.
    And this only makes sense, for the provenance of the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Church in the Magisterium and its teaching authority is to say what the truth is, not speculate about how true some falsehood is. In short, the affirmation that we worship the same God as the Muslims is not authentic teaching of the Council, it is a rhetorical setup for what follows, that, if supposed to be true, they should therefore accept the rest of the faith and believe in Jesus, receive the Sacraments, etc.

  19. Someone drew my attention to a book-length interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider (popular with the traditionalists in the Church), called “Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age.” Starting on page 71 he discusses Islam. But especially of interest to us for this controversial posting, on page 76 (accessible via Amazon preview), he treats the question of worshiping the same God.

    “To state as the Council did in Lumen Gentium n.16 that Muslims adore together with us the one God … is theologically a highly ambiguous affirmation. That we Catholics adore with the Muslims the one God is not true. We don’t adore with them. In the act of adoration, we always adore the Holy Trinity, we don’t simply adore “the one God” but the Holy Trinity consciously–Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Islam rejects the Holy Trinity. When the Muslims adore, they do not adore on the supernatural level of faith. [Their act of adoration] is essentially different. Precisely because we turn to God and adore Him as children constituted in the ineffable dignity of divine filial adoption, and we do this with supernatural faith. However, the Muslims do not have supernatural faith. I repeat: they have a natural knowledge of God.”

    Now, I don’t know the man, and not having read the book I can’t say whether I respect him as a theologian or apostle. But I can note that his explanation would exclude the Jews as rejectors of the Trinity; further, it positions their faith as a natural one, not possessing any supernatural value despite being within the Traditional “people of God” who received a supernatural revelation of faith. So, I think on both points the bishop is going too far. I prefer my own reflection as delivered in the original post.

  20. You can’t just reason your way into a relationship with God. Prayer / submission / friendship isn’t the same as simply knowing God exists. So, how should we turn the question of “worship.” Does God accept worship in ignorance? We have the words of St. Paul in Athens, God wants true relationship, not something false:

    “Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:22-32)

    It strikes me that God operates by invitation that is made, acknowledged, and has reciprocity: friend, lover, spouse–all have to be acknowledged. One can’t just claim one has a relationship because you THINK you have reason to have a relationship; no, it must be acknowledge. Thus worship has two levels philosophical vs. relational.

    St. Paul’s own conversion story includes bringing your understanding of God to the community of God. He went to the Christian believers to learn the faith. And later submitted his teaching to the Apostles (in Galatians 2:2). Without submitting to the people of God, the community of God, the Muslims are still just worshiping what they THINK they should worship, and that’s not good enough for God. He wants more. He wants one community.

  21. Perhaps we can relax our language and worship with the Muslims and Jews by relying upon our fuller, Christian, understanding of God, and be in good conscience. But what if they cannot meet that understanding? Perhaps then we should change our behavior to let them know there is a divide between us? Consider how Paul suggested solving a similar dilemma:

    1 COR 8:1-7, 11-13
    “Brothers and sisters: Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him. So about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols: we know that there is no idol in the world,
    and that there is no God but one. Indeed, even though there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth (there are, to be sure, many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist. But not all have this knowledge. There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, their conscience, which is weak, is defiled. Thus, through your knowledge, the weak person is brought to destruction, the brother for whom Christ died. When you sin in this way against your brothers and wound their consciences, weak as they are, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin.”

  22. Among the “Five Pilars of Islam” is the Shahada. It goes something like this, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet.” But their tradition tolerates some variants, as seen here: (Compare to how in the Christian tradition there can be different formulations for Baptism, some valid, some invalid, some licit some illicit.) So, suppose you were threatened with death if you don’t offer your assailant a vocal statement / affirmation of the Shahada, but in your case they only wanted you to say the first half, “There is no god/God but Allah.” How might this happen? Well, like the ancient rulers who would try to convince Christians to deny their faith by making some sort of symbolic gesture of worshiping the emperor, maybe they don’t really want to put you to death but have to obey the others who are making them impose the persecution. So, freed from any need to make a statement about Mohammed, could a Christian, in good conscience, make the profession? Again, back to what I posted about 1 Corinthians 8–you might make the profession in good conscience, but it would lead others who hear into the sin of worshipping God falsely (a blasphemy) or of worshiping the Muslim god (little “g”) and thus idolatry. Either way it’s going to be scandal, so which do you choose, affirm a falsehood or deny the truth?

  23. The question seems to resolve upon whether mere knowledge of God is enough to offer worship. If worship, or “true worship,” requires right relationship or some means of introduction (to anthropomorphize things) then Muslims lack the proper familiarity to address their prayers to God. It cannot be presumed upon, for God is the one who chooses who will know Him or be in right relationship. Can you imagine some high school geek who, when out on the street in the neighborhood, talks about a girl in his class like he is someone special to her? Knowing name, address, family, history, whatever, even being on speaking terms with her, doesn’t make him her boyfriend. I suggest “worship” is even more personal than a dating relationship. Unless the Muslims have been chosen by God somehow–and all we currently have is their dubious word about it (dubious, since they get so much else wrong about Scripture and Tradition–Divine revelation) I would not want to honor their self-glorifying error. The girl in the high school example was just being nice to the guy. God is just being nice to the Muslims as he is nice to everyone, “[God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matthew 5:45).

  24. We can’t choose the terms upon which our relationship to God is based. He chooses the terms, and we don’t see any Divine acknowledgement of Mohamed’s person or teaching. Rather, it is clear that God wants humble acceptance of Jesus as the offering for our sins and the source of grace that proceeds from such acceptance.

  25. It is hard to imagine God defining any act of worship that excludes love. We know in the Old Testament He repudiated sacrifices that were offered with injustice to one’s fellow man / the poor, etc. And there are other verses in the New Testament where love is defined as keeping Jesus’ commands, what he taught. I think there is a close connection between worship, and obedience in love. So the question of whether any person or religion can worship God comes down to whether or not they know and observe such commands. Well, they are only present in the Church’s Tradition. Thus, it would seem that neither the Jews nor the Muslims know and keep God’s commandments.

  26. “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:2-3) Based on this verse, I would say it’s hard to argue that there is NOT both true worship and false worship, despite the subjective sincerity of the worshipper. So, back to the original question, how do you want to answer it? Just pick whether by “worship” you mean true or false worship and there is your answer.

  27. How about the whole of Isaiah 45? It covers God saying He is the only God, rules the world, favors Israel. Also, Romans 3:29-30 says
    “Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith
    and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Although here we know he is thinking of believers, jewish and gentile believers.)

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