“[Muslims] believe in the same God as Christians and Jews…”
Religious Education Workbook 5 by C. Campbell and M. Miles
The quotation above was brought to my attention by a Church leader. This idea that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God is not true and I doubt that any Imam or Church official shares the view.
The authors would have been safer with the vague statement “Muslims, Christians and Jews believe in God” but not that they believe in the same God.
Islam’s belief in one God is not the same as the Christian concept of one God nor is either of these views of God compatible with that of a polytheistic religion (cf. ancient Egypt) or animistic religion (cf. ancient and modern sections of Africa apart from Egypt) or non-theistic religions (cf. forms of Buddhism). The lyrics of the song ‘One God’ are nice-sounding but not factually correct!
It is therefore unfortunate that scholars like John Hick, R.C. Zaehner and others, try to homogenize all religions by suggesting that the same basic divine reality is behind all religions. As the Anglican scholar Alister McGrath advises, “The idea that all religions are the same, or that they all lead to the same God, is thus little more than an unsubstantiated assertion that requires a refusal to acknowledge that there are genuine and significant differences among the religions…Only in Western liberal circles would such an idea be taken seriously.” (In his Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths, 1993, 115)
It must be noted too that one cannot defensibly argue for the equality or sameness of any two or more things without coming to grips with what equality or sameness really means, philosophically. If two things are really equal or the same, then whatever is true of one is of logical necessity true of the other. If anything can be affirmed of one which is not true of the other then the two things similar but not equal, not the same.
By this token, Christianity may share commonalities with, but could not be equal to Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or Taoism or even Judaism or any other religion for that matter, because Christianity, uniquely and perhaps arrogantly, affirms that Jesus Christ is God incarnate who died a sacrificial and substitutionary death and rose again three days later.
The fundamental and distinctive Christian doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ were as unique and radical in the religiously pluralist first-century world as they are in the 21st century.
Modern attempts to water down or explain away the meaning and cruciality of these two doctrines for the early Church, in the interest of multi-faith non- confessional dialogue, flounder on the texts of the New Testament documents and those who urge the watering down of these two doctrines cannot surface a good reason why the early Church would have developed these ‘obnoxious doctrines’ in the first place.
There is no question about the fact that the intensely monotheistic New Testament writers put on the lips of Jesus claims to be God or equal to God. The very boldness of Jesus’ claims concerning his deity and the centrality of his personhood to his claims render him unique among the greatest religious leaders of the world’s major religions.
A.J. Hoover has a point when he contends:
“Moses didn’t claim to be Yahweh; Socrates didn’t claim to be Zeus; Zoroaster didn’t claim to be Ahura Mazda; Mohammed didn’t claim to be Allah; Buddha didn’t claim to be Brahma. Only Christ claimed to be one with the God who sent him (John 10:30) Familiarity has dulled our ears to the wonder of his claims.” (In his The Case for Christian Theism, 1980), 169)
Jesus was no mere guide to truth or to God. No, he claimed to be much more than that and ties himself to his teaching and claims.
The authors of that primary school workbook need to wheel and come again!
Rev. Clinton Chisholm is a retired Jamaica Baptist Union Pastor and former Academic Dean of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology