Common Ground

Learning to Discuss the Things that Matter

 

Something Remarkable is Happening

“God is clearly at work within Muslims, opening their hearts as they experience Jesus in dreams and visions, through first time Bible study, and by meeting authentic Christians. This openness combined with new technologies has created an explosion of multiplying movements of Muslims to Christ that anyone and everyone can take part”

Fouad Masri President/CEO Crescent Project

Step 1 – A Common Ground

There are a number of similarities between Christianity and Islam, however, as we will see, there are also significant differences.

 BELIEF  ISLAM  CHRISTIANITY
 God Only one god – called Allah Only one god the Lord God – a triune being called the Lord God or Yahweh
 Jesus A prophet who was virgin-born, but not the Son of Allah Divine son of the Lord God who was virgin-born. He is the Lord God’s Word and Savior to humanity
 Crucifixion  Jesus was not crucified. Someone was substituted for Jesus and He hid until He could meet with the disciples A fact of both secular and church history. Jesus sacrificed His life for the atonement of sin and the gift of salvation for all believers
 Jesus’ Resurrection Since Muslims do not believe in the Crucifixion of Jesus, there is no need to believe in his Resurrection A fact of history that signifies the Lord God’s victory over sin and death
 Trinity A blasphemy signifying belief in three gods. In Islam, the Trinity is mistakenly thought to be God, Jesus, and Mary The one Lord God is eternally revealed in three coequal and coeternal persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
 Sin Sin is disobedience to the established law. Sin does not grieve Allah. The three sources of law are the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith. Sin is rebellion against the Lord God. Sin grieves the Lord God. Christians are not under the laws of the Old Testament. They are to obey governmental authority and laws that are not against Biblical teaching.
 Man Man is created by Allah and is sinless at the beginning of life. Man is created in the Lord God’s image and is sinful by nature. This nature coming from the Original Sin in the Garden of Eden.
 Salvation Salvation is achieved by submitting to the will of Allah. There is no assurance of salvation, it is granted by Allah’s mercy alone at the Day of Judgement. Salvation is a gift accepted by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and provided through the Lord God’s grace
 Bible Muslims accept the Bible (especially the Pentateuch, Psalms (Old Testament), and Gospels (New Testament) insofar as it agrees with the Qur’an The Bible is the inspired Word of God that is complete and not to be added to
 Qur’an (Koran) A later revelation from Allah that supersedes and corrects errors in the Bible Not accepted as divine revelation
 Muhammad The last in the line of prophets of Islam, and, therefore the final authority in spiritual matters Not accepted as a prophet or legitimate theological source
 Angels These divine messengers are created from light and are not worshipped. Satan is an angel Angels are defined in the Bible as heavenly servants of God who act as His messengers
 Last Days There will be bodily resurrection and final judgment with a final destination to heaven or hell All infidels, nonbelievers in Allah are destined for hell There will be the bodily resurrection of all humanity on judgement day. All humanity will be judged on whether or not they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Final judgment and eternal destination (heaven or hell) will be decided based on acceptance of Jesus as Savior and His removal of the sin which separates each person from God

Step 2 – Exploring that Common Ground

We desire an open discussion about our beliefs that is guided by the following points:

SEEKING TRUTH

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Purpose Statement

In our search for the truth we will be guided by the following points which provide for an open discussion that is committed to mutual respect and freedom of belief:

1. Extend the hand of peace, fellowship, and mutual respect toward all mankind and especially to all Muslims throughout the world.

2. We remind ourselves that both of these faiths have had low points in their history such as the Crusades for Christians and the expansion of Islam by military conquest for which we forgive each other and dwell now and in the future in a relationship of mutual respect for each of our separate faiths.

3. We commit to respect each other’s sacred texts, the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. Confirming that while we share some similar narratives and events in each of our Holy Scriptures, they do in fact present two mutually exclusive different paths to salvation and we respect the privilege of each faith to present itself to the world.

4. We commit to defining Christianity and Islam by reviewing key passages of scripture that uniquely define them as two separate religious faiths, even though they share many characters and events.

5. We call believers of each faith to respect the God-given right in both faiths to choose which faith they will or will not follow.

  • Respect the God-given value of all humanity having been made in the image of the Lord God.
  • Respect the right of each faith to exist without any prejudice, enmity, or coercion between each faith.

The essence of what we find in our review of these two religions is:

  • Two Different Gods: The Lord God of Christianity and Allah of Islam
  • Two Different Messages: The Bible of Christianity and The Quran of Islam
  • Two Different Faiths: The scriptures and beliefs of these two radically different faiths are so completely different that they present a choice to the believer between being either a believing Christian or a believing Muslim.

A Clear and Distinct Path to a New Life

The central goal of our study is to review those basic beliefs within both Monotheistic Islam and Monotheistic Christianity that direct the believer to salvation. The reader will see the significant differences between Islam and Christianity and is invited to consider the claims of Christianity.

Is Allah of Islam the same as Yahweh of Christianity?

As I was passing the State Capital I noticed a flag waving in the breeze behind a large, decorated Christmas tree. The contrast of symbols caught my attention. To most people, the tree nominally symbolizes the season of Christmas and the focus on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. For some people any representation of a spiritual reality on public property is a travesty against their rights. State flags have also presented some controversies.

The different flags of each of the states, have, in some cases become controversial due to the use of different symbols on the flags. Thus, we have these different symbols being interpreted in different ways, some of which are offensive to some people. Thus, we have one symbol on a flag or a Christmas tree being interpreted with several different meanings.

This is similar to the word “Allah.” For most Muslims, Allah is the only God and therefore must be the same God as the one that the Jews and Christians worship. Similarly, for some Christians, Allah is just another name for the one God of the universe. For others, however, the Muslim Allah and the Biblical Yahweh are contradictory and cannot refer to the same being, they say, “how can the Allah/God of Muhammad be the Father of Jesus Christ?

The question before us, is whether the terms “Allah” and “Yahweh” are just two names for the same God, or are they referring to different God’s? This question becomes of supreme importance as we seek to worship the one and only Creator and guarantor of our salvation; Salvation both for living our daily lives and for Eternal Life in heaven.

Back to Questions

What’s in a name?

Let’s first look at the origin and meaning for the term “Allah.” The root of this word is ALH and by adding al it becomes Allah, a non-derivate noun, meaning “the god”. It is the generic term for the highest god of the people, and in Arabia it was in use for centuries before Muhammad came and announced that he was the final prophet. Allah
was the Most High God of the 360 gods worshiped in the Kaaba in Mecca. Allah was the Chief/Supreme God for the Quraysh Tribe. Muhammad was a member of the Quraysh Tribe and worshiped at the Kabbah during the Pre-Islamic time. This Pre- Islamic time is described in Arabic History as a time of “ignorance” (Jahiliyyah) of monotheism and divine law. In the pre-Islamic time, Allah had three daughters, Al-At, Al-Uzza, and Al-Manat (Q53:19-20). In Muhammad’s campaign against polytheism he chose Allah as the one true God and rejected the notion that Allah could have any daughters or sons.

The Allah of the Quran is very different from the Yahweh of the Bible. In the Quran Allah is a distant, remote Being who reveals His Will but no relational dimensions of himself. It is impossible to know Him in a personal way. In Allah’s absolute Oneness (Tawhid) there is Unity without any other associates. Because there are no other associates, love is not emphasized. Indeed, for Muslims Allah cannot have any
associates. Therefore, to claim that Jesus is Allah’s son is the greatest of all sins in Islam. In Islam this would be seen as blasphemy. In the end, even for the devout Muslim there is no guarantee of salvation for Allah may reject the believer’s good works and send him to hell. Thus, even if one’s good works outweighed his bad works salvation is ultimately up to the Will of Allah.

When we look at Yahweh, however, who is the Lord God of the Bible, we see a different kind of deity. First of all, “Yahweh” comes from the time that the Lord God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. At that time the Lord God told Moses to call Him “I Am that I Am”, or in Hebrew, “Yahweh”. It is significant that Jesus referred to Himself as the “I Am” in John 8:58. The Jewish leaders realized that Jesus was referring to Himself as the Lord God and took up stones to stone him for what they believed was blasphemy.

Back to Questions

Who is Jesus in the New Testament?

This link between Jesus in the New Testament and the burning bush in the Old Testament (Tanaka) demonstrates the unity of the Lord God revealing Himself to both Jews and Christians. This cannot be said of Allah’s revelation of himself because Muslims reject the deity of Jesus and therefore reject much of what the New Testament says about Jesus. We also fine that the Bible portrays Yahweh in contrast to Allah. For example, Allah is considered to be too holy to have personal relationships with man, but Yahweh is also depicted as unchanging and One who assures the salvation of the faithful. Finally, there is unity in the Trinity with the Lord God revealing Himself as three persons, Lord God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the person of the Holy Spirit.

Some scholars want to emphasize the similarities between Yahweh and Allah and point to a common belief in a monotheistic God who is creator of all things, omnipotent and merciful. However, Allah and Yahweh cannot refer to the same person for the following reasons. First of all, their attributes are different. In Allah’s monadic oneness his attributes stem from his powerful Will. The strongest demonstration of this Will is seen on the Day of Judgement. The believing Muslim has no assurance on the Day of Judgement that his good works will be judged to outweigh his bad works. The decision is entirely dependent on the Will of Allah.

On the other hand, because Yahweh is by nature a Triune Unity his attributes stem from His relational nature. The eternal relationship within the Trinity promotes love within the Godhead and extends to His Creation. Christians understand the nature of the Lord God to be Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) which is the only way that Jesus Christ, as the second person of the Trinity, could die on the cross to pay for our sins. If Jesus were not the Lord God Himself, then His death on the cross would be meaningless. However, Muslims deny that Jesus died on the cross and they reject the belief in his resurrection from the dead. Only a Triune God, defined as one essence and three persons, could become incarnate and still remain the Lord God of the universe. For Muslims, Jesus cannot be the Lord God nor can He be a Father, for He cannot have a son. Therefore, if Muslims reject the Lord God as the Father of Jesus, then Allah cannot be the same as the Lord God of the Bible.

Back to Questions

What about Christians calling the Lord God Allah?

But wait a minute some will say. What about the Arabic Christians who call the Lord God of the Bible “Allah”? Doesn’t this illustrate that Allah and Yahweh are referring to the same God? Actually, when the Arabic Christians refer to “Allah” in their translation of the Bible, they believe that Allah is the Father of Jesus and they believe that “Allah” is Triune. Therefor the Allah of the Arabic Christians cannot be the same Allah of the Muslims.

We must remember that words have both a denotative and a connotative meaning. Denotation refers to the dictionary meaning of a word so it would be correct to say that Yahweh and Allah both refer to the “concept of a God”, especially for their respective language groups. However, the connotation is determined by both the context or setting in which the word is used and by what a person conceives about the object of that word.

The application being that Allah is the God of the Quran and the Lord God is the God of the Bible. They are two different entities with two different sets of attributes.

This article is an adaptation from the original written by Mr. Daniel Janosik, Adjunct Faculty (Apologetics), Columbia International University.

Back to Questions

Step 4 – The Decision we all must make

The goal in our study of these two faiths has been to present a clear understanding of the basic beliefs of Christianity and Islam. As we conclude our study we are faced with the message Paul, the great Christian Disciple presented to the Greeks in his address on Mars Hill in Athens.

Acts 17:16-34 New International Version (NIV)

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?
20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.”
21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”
33 At that, Paul left the Council.
34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

            Will you make the decision today to pray and accept Jesus Christ as your savior, as did Dionysius and Damaris that day in Athens?