[ Author: Kathy Petersen ]
The same yet different
This defies a simple “yes” or “no” answer, though at first glance, it might seem straightforward.
The problem, is that both Christians and Muslims (and Jews, for that matter) all claim to worship the God of Abraham, so in that sense, we might all be said to worship the same God. However, we all believe much different things about the God of Abraham, so can those differences be reconciled to the point that we can say, “Yes, we all worship the same God”? Is identifying the one true God as “the God of Abraham” enough to say we worship the same God? I would say no, because of the differences between the Muslim and the Christian understanding and viewpoint of God.
The biggest example, is that Christians believe that Jesus is God, while Muslims believe he was just a man – maybe one of the best prophets of God ever but still not God. Further, Muslims believe that God “neither begets nor is begotten”, while Christians of course believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Waving away these differences as inconsequential simply because “they both claim to worship the God of Abraham” does no justice to either side.
There are many other differences, of course. In Islam, God can simply forgive sin because He’s God, while the Bible says that God is just. While this doesn’t at first seem to be that big of a point and some may not understand the difference, but can God be just if He leaves sin unpunished?
What is justice?
Imagine a human judge faced with a murderer, and the judge simply lets the murderer go free. That may be quite merciful but it would be very unjust. Christianity holds that God is just but justice does not permit wickedness to go unpunished. Instead, Jesus suffered for and paid for the sins of all His people, thus God can forgive those sins and not punish the guilty one, yet still be just because Jesus Christ suffered the punishment and paid for the sins.
In Christianity, God is intimately and personally connected with creation but in Islam, Allah is considered too pure and holy to interact with humanity. One example of how this works out, is that in the Bible, God personally appeared to prophets in various ways (dreams, visions, and theophanies), and sent His word to prophets for them to relay it to the people. In Islam, that would be considered beneath Allah; the Angel Jabreel (Gabriel) was the one who went between Allah and the prophet Mohammed, instead of Allah sending the word directly. That should be sufficient, but there is one more big consideration, and that is that when Jesus came to earth, that was God entering into His creation – something inconceivable in Islam.
There are many other functional differences between Islam and Christianity, of course – the prescribed fasting during Ramadan, the five daily prayers, traveling to Mecca, etc., etc. – but these do not necessarily alter the view of God. That is, to Christians, God would still be basically the same if He had required certain days of fasting, certain prayers, etc., but He could not be the same if He had not entered creation, or if Jesus was not the begotten Son.