Pope Francis’ disquieting statement that the God of Christians and Muslims is one and the same surprised many.1 This was further echoed in the academia. Dr. Larcyia Hawkins of Wheaton College claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.2 When theologically controversial statements are proclaimed by the Christian leaders, chaos governs the flock, for the fundamental belief of Christians (about the Godhead) is rattled.
Any dialogue between Christians and Muslims would hit a bottleneck while discussing the Godhead. While Christians believe that God is a Trinity, Muslims claim that God is one (a singular being - one in essence and person) and deny the Trinity.
On the other hand, the Bible and the Quran narrate the creation of Adam and Eve, the flood in Noah’s time, the great escape from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, and the birth of Christ Jesus to Virgin Mary. Hence, it is quite plausible to think that the God of the Bible and the Quran is one and the same.
Therefore, when the Pope or other Christian leaders claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, a conundrum needs to be solved.
When the Pope mentions Christians and Muslims as the people of the book and worshiping the same God, he merely emphasizes the Quranic assertion, “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."” (Quran 29: 46, Emphasis Mine).
This verse from the Quran and the innate naiveté of some may motivate a thought process that Islam and Christianity are one and the same. But this subject is more complex than what it seems to be.
Christian Argument for Similarity
“Muhammad Ali” is also known as “Cassius Clay.” The properties defining Muhammad Ali and Cassius Clay are one and the same. So the terms “Muhammad Ali” and “Cassius Clay” refer to the same person. Hence Christian scholars like Francis Beckwith of Baylor University argue that God is one whether HE is referred to as “Allah” or “Yahweh.”3
Beckwith’s argument is predicated on the understanding of God in “classical theism.” A classical theist believes that in principle there can be one God. Since great thinkers from both sides, Thomas Aquinas (Christian) and Avicenna (Muslim), subscribed to Classical Theism, it is plausible to think of the God of Muslims and Christians to be one and the same.
But when the Trinity is discussed by the Christians and Muslims, disagreement ensues. How does Beckwith solve this conundrum?
Beckwith argues for the Muslims from within the distinction of belief between the Old Testament and the New Testament believers. We could possibly assume that those who lived in the Old Testament period were unaware of the Trinity, for Christ had not arrived then. But those who have understood the New Testament believe in the Trinity of the Godhead. Nevertheless, those who lived in the Old Testament and the New Testament period worshipped the same God.
So Beckwith, using the same reasoning, contends that Muslims may be genuinely unaware, either intentionally or ignorantly, of the pure ontology of God. But that does not disqualify them from worshipping the same God, for he says, “But doesn’t Christianity affirm that God is a Trinity while Muslims deny it? Wouldn’t this mean that they indeed worship different “Gods”? Not necessarily. Consider this example. Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.” On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.”
Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not. In the same way, Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity, but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? Again, of course not. The fact that one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person – whether human or divine – does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.”4
Christian Argument for Divergence
The argument that Abraham and Moses did not believe in the Trinity does not mean that they rejected the Trinity. Instead they were merely and possibly unaware of the Trinitarian nature of God, because God, at that specific point in time, had not revealed HIS Trinitarian nature to HIS believers. On the contrary, the Muslims reject that God is a Trinity.
Keep in mind that Islam originated in the 7th century (hundreds of years after Christ’s lifetime). Muhammad was aware of Christ and HIS teachings. For instance, Muhammad would have been aware of Christ’s claim to divinity. Nevertheless, Muhammad rejected Christ’s claim to divinity.
Furthermore, Islam rejects quite a few fundamental teachings of Christianity.5
First, Islam rejects the Christian belief that Christ is God. If Christians believe that Christ is God and if Islam rejects this belief (Quran 5.72), how is it possible that Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
Second, Islam rejects that God is a Trinity (Quran 5.73). Christians believe in a Trinitarian-Monotheistic God (God is one in essence but in three persons), whereas Muslims believe in a strictly monotheistic God (cf. the Islamic doctrine of Tawhid holds that God is one).
Third, Islam rejects the Fatherhood of God. God is personal to all Christians. God is our Father. Islam not only rejects the Fatherhood of God (Quran 112.1-4) but exhorts Muslims to ridicule the Jews and Christians for deeming God as their Father (Quran 5.18).
Fourth, the nature of the God of Muslims and the God of Christians reveals a fundamental incompatibility between the Godhead conceptions of these two religious worldviews.6 The God of the Bible is a loving God. HE loves the sinner (John 3:16).
On the contrary, within the Islamic conception of the Godhead, Allah does not love sinners (Quran 2.99, 277; 3.33 et al). So when the Quran terms Allah as all-merciful, it refers to Allah being merciful only to the believers, who do righteous deeds (Quran 2. 278, 282; 9.105; 19.97). Allah does not love the unbelievers and the sinners.
Christ cannot be God and not God. God cannot be loving and not loving. Therefore, it is either that the Muslims and the Christians worship the same God or that they do not worship the same God. Since fundamental contradictions about the respective Godhead are revealed by the Quran and the Bible, it is very reasonable to conclude that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.
Christian apologist and the author of the best-selling book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus,” Nabeel Qureshi said, “Christians worship a Triune God: a Father who loves unconditionally, an incarnate Son 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 what the Muslim God is; it is not who the Muslim God is; and it is not what the Muslim God does. Truly, the Trinity is antithetical to Tawhid, fundamentally incompatible and only similar superficially and semantically. Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.”7