by Rob Lundberg
Have you ever been involved in a conversation with someone who said something like this, “Muslims and Christians and Jews all worship the same God?” Did you believe them? Do you believe the political pundits gussying up to the move to allow Islam a place in politics when they say Islam’s Allah is the same as the God of the Jews and the Christians? Here are four reasons why I don’t believe that and neither should you.
Reason #1: Etymologically They are Not the Same.
We are well aware that the name Allah is used by Arab speaking Christians for the God of the Bible. In fact, the root from which the name is derived, ilah, which originates out of the ancient Semitic languages, corresponding to the Mesopotamian IL, as well as the Hebrew-Aramaic EL. As an example of this we see the names like Ishma-el, Immanu-el, Isra-el. These terms, IL and EL, were often used to refer to any deity worshiped as a high god, especially the chief deity amongst a pantheon of lesser gods.
As such, the Holy Bible uses the term as only one of the many titles for Yahweh, the only true God, Elohim. Yet the problem arises from the fact that Muslims insist that Allah is not a title, but the personal name of the God of Islam. This becomes a problem in the discussion because, according to the Bible, the name of the God of Abraham is not Allah, but Yahweh (YHWH):
God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh (YHWH) and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty; BUT BY MY NAME, YAHWEH, I did not make myself known to them.” Exodus 6:2-3
Therefore, Arabic Christians will say that it is okay to use Allah as a title or a generic noun for the true God, but NOT as the personal name for the God of the Holy Bible.
Reason #2: There is a misunderstanding of the Christian View of Incarnation.
While some of these reasons have the potential to be expounded upon in more detail to make up a full blog post, I will keep this one very short.
When it comes to the subject of God becoming man in Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), Muslims may be willing to admit that they believe that Allah can manifest Himself in anyway He chooses. But when it comes to the possibility of God becoming man? That is a whole other issue, for it makes no reasonable sense to them.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the eternal Word of Allah which came down out of heaven and was dictated to Muhammad. The Word came down and was penned on parchment or paper. The confusing question is as follows: Is that which was penned the eternal Word or is it the eternal word itself that Muslims consider sacred? Anything put on paper by pen and ink or by whatever writing utensil is going to one day go through a decomposition and one day be destroyed. This is where the error in reasoning comes for the Muslim.
For Christians, it stands to reason that when we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . .And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14), it tells us that we do not rely on a book (or a dictation). Christians rely on a Person, God made flesh, who did miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick and the lame, and died and rose for them.
So what do Christians have? Muslims have a book that is their eternal Word of Allah. Christians have a Person, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.
Reason #3: Because of Abrogations in Islamic Revelation, They are Not the Same.
Another distinction between Allah, and the Judeo-Christian God, comes in the attributes of God. Those attributes are the fact of the God of the Judeo-Christian faith being immutable or unchanging. When you look at the definition of immutability, you will notice that it refers to something that cannot be changed once it has been created.
The caveat here is that when we speak of God, we are talking about a Being who is the greatest of all beings, who is uncreated, all powerful in every one of His attributes, transcendent and imminent at the same time, loving, holy and just. The Judeo-Christian God is immutable in all of these attributes, because He is a necessary Being.
I am often reminded of the God’s words to Malachi 3:6, where God says to Malachi, “I the Lord (YHWH) do not change.”
It is not the same in the Qur’an. In the Qur’an we see what are called abrogations. An abrogation is a change or a repealing of a previous revelation, in this context, for one that is new or improved. Looking at Mormon history, we see this same thing happening as well, but that is another discussion for a later time.
However, when we look at the Qur’an, Allah reveals a verse only to have it canceled out a short time later:
“None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar- Knowest thou not that Allah has power over all things?” Surah 2:106
“When We substitute one revelation for another- and Allah knowest best what He reveals (in stages)- They say, “Thou art but a forger”; But most of them understand not.” Surah 16:101.
What does this show to those who believe in an unchanging God? It leaves us with a difficulty of having a God, who does not remain consistent and one that changes his revealed purpose at the drop of a hat. How in the world is one to know that the promises of such a divine being in reference to eternal security can truly be trusted? Just as Allah changes his mind in relation to the revelation, he also has the divine privilege of changing his mind to the believer’s ultimate destiny without anything stopping from doing so.
Again, this is different from the God (YHWH) of the Holy Bible who does not change because His nature is unchanging. Because He is unchanging, He can be totally trusted in fulfilling all His promises. To give some Scripture to back this up, let’s look at the following:
“God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19
“For I, the Lord Your God (Yahweh), I do not change.” ~ Malachi 3:6
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13
Reason #4: Because of Who and What YHWH is, Trinity or Tahwid?
I could go on much further in the study of the abrogations demonstrated in the Qur’an. I could also bring more examples from the Bible that point to God’s immutable nature. However at this point, I want to close this argument with a practical illustration that I think deals with the essence of who God is and how He reveals Himself in contrast to Islamic monotheism.
So what I would like to do here is discuss briefly the personal attributes conveyed in orthodox Christianity and what it teaches about how God discloses (reveals) Himself.
At first glance of the Shema, the word LORD is used, which is one of many names for the Judeo Christian God. Remember earlier in this post, I mentioned that the word, God, is generic title. In Islam, as in the case of Judaism, Allah and God (YHWH) respectively, are seen as a monad.
By using this word monad, I am referring to a term meaning “unit” used by philosophers to signify a variety of entities from a genus to God. We see this monad in both the Shahada of Islam and in the Shema of Judaism.
The first part of the Shahada states, “There is no god but God.” while the Shema starts out with “Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
If you look at the nature of God in both the Islamic and the Judeo-Christian contexts you would find some agreement on this issue of God being one. However, God is not revealed in the Judeo-Christian as a single monad. He discloses Himself as triune within that monad. You ask how can that be?
God (title) is triune, which means that He (personally) reveals Himself through the Persons of the Trinity. Yes God is one God but He is triune in His personal nature. Taking this title/personal relationship a little further, God reveals Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sometimes when we speak in theological terms, we use phrases like, “God the Father,” “God the Son,” or “God the Holy Spirit.” Notice the title “God” with the person. Are you starting to see it?
The Father (Who) is God (Title) (Luke 3:21-22; c.f., Matthew 3:16,17). The Son (Who) is God (Title) (see John 1:1, 14; 8:58). The Holy Spirit (Who) is God (Title) (See Acts 5:3,4) . God is not three Gods but one God. As the great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” declares, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” It is like the mathematical equation, 1 X 1 X 1 = 1. God, in His essence is a divinely, all powerful, infinite, and personal. He is distant, but He is also imminent. With all these infinite attributes, wouldn’t it stand to reason that God is able to disclose Himself in this manner? All three are revealed to be God, all at the same time.
When you look at the creation, one cannot help but see this personal nature playing out in the creation, how everything is finely tuned for our survival. One cannot help by think that God has a personal interest in we see around us.
Again, God is transcendent, but He is also imminent. Although God is distant, He desires us to know Him intimately; unlike Islam where the Muslim will say that Allah is knowable only when they pray the salat. But the Muslim will say that you cannot know God in the personal sense, like we claim that we know God in the Christian context. I find it interesting that the Muslim is willing to admit that Allah (God) is loving, but how do they know that if they cannot know God personally and intimately? If God is loving and He is only a monad, who was God loving before he created man?
But God in Islam is not knowable in the personal sense of knowing another person. Why cannot the Muslim see that Allah, though claimed to personal, cannot be known personally? How does the Christian and those who hold to a monadic view of God come to know Him personally?
We come to know God through His Son, Jesus who is fully God and fully man, and through the working of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the life of the believer upon believing that Jesus is the only way, truth and life, and the only one who can bring us to God the Father.
There are many other reasons that can be given as to why YHWH and Allah are not the same deities. So the next time you are in a conversation with someone who “spouts off” and says, “the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same gods” or if you are talking to a Muslim, and they tell you something like, “we worship the same God,” remember these three points.
Oh, by the way, if you do hear that from a Muslim that we all worship the same God, it may be that he or she is trying to get you to see things their way and their interpretation as the only right interpretation. Friends, in formal logic this is called “the appeal to authority.” Stand firm and lovingly hold your ground standing on the Word of God.
If you would like to know more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, click on the link in the navigation bar of this blog, and learn more. For now I close with these words from the Apostle Paul, (see 2 Corinthians 13:14), known in theological circles as the Trinitarian benediction,
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Who), and the love of God (the Father (Who) and fellowship of the Holy Spirit (Who) be with you all.”
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact this ministry by email or by phone (540.424.2305).