Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

Dr. Larycia Hawkins

Dr. Larycia Hawkins

A Wheaton College professor recently stated that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and lost her job. This has stirred up quite a debate in the echelons of evangelical accuracy that should have gone on before the professor lost her job. It’s a healthy discussion. At least let the teacher keep her job until we figure this out.

I’m going to attempt a non-theological answer to this question because we are not theologians nor are we in theological circles. If we had a theological answer, it would be at least 32 pages long and no one would bother to read it or understand it except other theologians. We are in the world, and we live among Muslims, and people of all religions and none, and a practical answer to this question would be extremely helpful to us in our relationships and in learning how to talk to others about our faith.

So, I am going to suggest that the professor is right from the standpoint that there are not four or five gods out there, and you’d better choose the right one. “Nope, sorry, it was Door Number 3.” No, we believe there is only one God and a lot of wrong or insufficient information about Him is out there. If you really want to know God, you need look no further than Jesus the Christ, because all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus (Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus came for the express purpose of showing God to us, and then, to top it off, He died for our sins, and came back from the dead to prove He was God, and He can therefore offer forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him. See how we did that? We didn’t knock anything down, we filled in the picture.

Missionaries have been doing this for years. They used to come into a tribe of pagans and force them to see that whatever religious beliefs or practices they had were wrong and they needed to debunk those beliefs and set up western Christianity. Now they study the tribal religion and religious practices first to see if there is anything they can use to help reveal God, and then they put the gospel in those terms — terms the tribe already understands, and that already have religious implications. For instance, many American Indian tribes worship the Great Spirit, and a lot of what they believe about that Great Spirit lines up with the God of the Bible. For instance, they believe He is the creator and He causes the rain to fall and their crops to grow. They honor Him and give Him thanks — things Paul says are basic to everyone’s knowledge about God without even being told, if we’d just pay attention to it (Romans 1:19-20). So what if, instead of getting them to denounce the Great Spirit, you told them the Great Spirit had a Son and He came to earth to reveal the Great Spirit to us? How would that work? Well, they found out that it works very well.

If we assume that Muslims are seeking to worship God just as we are, but they just have some wrong information about Him, and if they would take a long, hard look at Jesus (whom they already believe is a prophet) they would discover that He is more than a prophet — He can reveal to them everything they need to know about God. Really. We’re halfway down the road with some of these dear people. Many believe the Bible is the word of God as well as the Koran. We don’t need to burn the Koran; we need to introduce them to the Bible and the Jesus of the Bible.

One biblical example of this was when Paul was in Athens and he found an idol to an unknown god (Acts 17:16-31). He did not topple that idol. He did not smash it. He announced publicly that what they were worshiping in ignorance, he had come to reveal. And then he went on to teach them about how they got it backwards: We didn’t make god; He made us, and put us here, and revealed Himself through a man who proved He was from God by rising from the dead. See how he did that? He even complimented them on being very religious. In other words, they had the right idea, they just didn’t have enough information.

The assumption we should make about everyone is that people know there is only one God. Everybody already knows that, deep down in their hearts, even if they’ve convinced themselves, or someone else has convinced them, otherwise. Everyone is desperately seeking the one true God because they have a very big hole in their hearts that only the one true God can fill; so if they want to know about Him, look to Jesus, because everything we need to know about God is found in Him.

Why is this so hard? If she was saying this — and I don’t know, but I bet she was — then give the prof her job back. And thank her for bringing this up, because it gave us a chance to discuss it, and find out something very useful to our place in the world as those who are turning grace outward to those who need the gospel of welcome.

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30 Responses to Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

  1. Andrew P. says:

    John, your answer seems pretty theological to me!

    More seriously, though, I’ve always thought that if there is only one God, of course the Muslims worship the same God. Somewhere along the way, we have to make the point that they misunderstand him in serious ways, but that is exactly your point, is it not?

    We really do need to take more cues from the Apostle Paul than we do from the doctrinaire. I wonder when we’ll learn that?

    • jwfisch says:

      Yes. I have a song: “Jesus is the only way but there’s more than one way to Jesus.” I’m not saying you can be saved through Islam. I’m saying that you can find your way to Jesus by way of Islam. Many have.

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    Dear Pastor John I tend to think / believe, if you tell anyone they’re wrong – All you do is, get them to want to defend themselves and show proof, their right…
    PS I happen to have a Muslim physical therapist (PT) and I can guarantee I will never tell him or any other person they’re wrong – Simply because all that does is make an enemy out of them and we’ll have a hard time agreeing to disagree or discuss much of anything! Yet twice a week, I’ll tell him I love him and believe he is a good man – because he is – when God through His Holy Spirit gets him my PT to ask me more then and ONLY then will I tell him more about Jesus, which I tend to also think / believe the Holy Spirit can & does do much better work in any man’s heart then I can do…(I made a decision a while a ago to stop playing the Holy Spirit and correct every thing I see as wrong) LOL 🙂

    My two cents.. 🙂

    • jwfisch says:

      Mark, I sure wish more Christians thought like you. Your two cents is worth a million bucks. Thank you.

      • Mark Seguin says:

        You’re welcome…
        PS let me also inform you and all of the Catch members yesterday as my PT left my place – he gave me a big hug and thx me for asking him questions about his faith (I still cannot explain the difference between the two big differences in his Muslim faith) YET he does know I love him as a fellow man & human being – and respect him, I tend to think / believe that’s a big step one in sharing the Gospel of Welcome!
        PS I still do not receive an email when someone comments of the Catch blog, plz look into that 4 me, becauz I once did… 🙂 And hope & pray all is going well 4 u in Vegas.
        Also and yes I do check both boxes to be Notify of new post & comments

  3. P. W. Sibayan says:

    John, I am sure you know that Islam teaches that Allah has no sons and therefore Jesus is not God as we believe, so we do not worship the same God. I do like your methodology to start the conversation with things we have in common. However, we must educate ourselves about the other person’s faith. For example, I am reading two books that explain Islam and Mormonism to do just that. Thank you.

    • Brian says:

      Why do we need to educate ourselves about what others believe? So we can win an argument with them? To what end? No one is ever argued into the Kingdom. In fact, no where did Jesus instruct us to know what others believe. What Jesus did teach was two important things: love God and love others. He also taught his disciples to tell people about the Kingdom, which means tell them about the Good News that Jesus has made a way to be reconciled to God. What does the Gospelling have to do with anything anyone else believes? The answer is it does not matter except for the bridges of understanding that can be made with how others understand God, which is the important point the John makes..

    • jwfisch says:

      I am saying we help lead them to the Jesus of the Bible and the true God they are seeking.

  4. Lois Taylor says:

    Well said, John. Thank you.

  5. Tim says:

    Someone has to be wrong about something.
    In my 20’s I had more answers than I do today.
    It is a privilege to walk our journey with others. If they happen to walk with God differently than me I rejoice they desire a walk with God at all.
    If Christ was truly the remission for our sins who wasn’t it good enough for?
    I just can’t imagine God saying, “I really appreciate your life of trying to honor me but you didn’t get the 4 spiritual laws right and even though my son died and you’re forgiven you’re going to hell anyway “.
    If that’s true the “good news” it kinda sucks.

  6. DB says:

    David Garrison, author of “A Wind in the House of Islam”, was a recent guest on
    Context with Lorna Dueck — at the 15 minute mark:

  7. DB says:

    Last year one VERY conservative Christian (so conservative he doesn’t even vote in federal elections) tell me Allah is actually Satan. So how do you even begin a dialogue with someone who thinks that?

  8. kevinm1957 says:

    What gets me are the “Christians” who claim that Muslims do not worship the same God we do. They need to read the story of Abraham, where God tells Hannah that he will make a great nation from her and her son (Abrahams first son) and that they will worship Him. That is the birth of Islam.

  9. MrPete says:

    Interesting discussion.
    I agree fully with John (and Rick Love of Frontiers) about the wonderful example of Paul in Athens… he was actually *quite* upset about their pagan perspective, but he didn’t yell at them. He started with a point of connection.
    HOWEVER, just as with Athens, just as with a tribe that worships the Great Spirit, to say there’s a point of connection is NOT to say they worship the same God. As soon as we suggest such a thing, we are beginning to deny the importance of the Good News. “Hey, we more or less ‘get it’ so why should we listen to you?”
    Seems to me that we too easily assume that just because we have similar head knowledge to those who have a living relationship with Jesus… somehow we have a get out of jail card. Jesus put a forceful end to that with the scariest verses in the Bible: Matt 7:21-23.

    Personally, I’d love to see a gentle end to the yelling, an ever more diligent search for points of connection and grace, and persistent love that breaks through to so many who really are doomed to an eternity w/o God because we never took the time to make the introductions.

  10. David Cook says:

    John we read how Paul built bridges and related to those whom he was trying to win to faith in Christ Jesus as Lord. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 NASB As you have mentioned there are clear differences between Christianity and Islam namely the God of the Bible is not the god of the Quran. Yehovah is not the same God as Allah. Jesus did die for our sins and raise from the dead on the third day which is not what is taught in the Quran.

    • jwfisch says:

      Thank you for your comment, but I’m not sure you quite understand my point. Perhaps you might want to give it another read.

  11. Gary says:

    When I first started read this “Catch’, I said to myself ” oh lets not go there, oh yes we can, oh yes we must ! A chain of uncertainty was broken. My heart was so close this issue. I just want to thank the Lord for speaking through you. Now I’m just wondering how I can or He can use me to push open the doors for others who need to hear this.

  12. John, are you advocating “inclusivism”? I hope I’m not reading that…..

    • jwfisch says:

      Hi Scott. No. I’m not saying there are many paths to God. Jesus is and will always be the only way. I’m saying there are many paths to Jesus. That’s entirely different. I’m saying lets find a place to start the conversation. Can you start out as a Muslim and end up with the Jesus of the Bible? There are many who have. We’re going to have one of them on our show next Tuesday. Should be interesting.

      • As long as you are saying that salvation is made available by explicit faith in Christ I agree. I do not believe in anonymous Christians. The inclusivist believes that adherents of other religions and even atheists can be saved by responding to God’s revelation in creation or through the elements of truth contained within their non-Christian religion.

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