Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The 'Same God' Belief: a Fatal Heresy and a Theological Trojan Horse

Time again for an extended refutation of the "Same God" position.

The “Same God” belief is a "Theological Trojan Horse" for Christians, as it contains within it the seeds of apostasy, and predisposes its adherents to deny Jesus Christ.

I recently enjoyed a correspondence with a fellow who goes by the name of Giorgio, and who is quite a thoughtful theological writer. He asks:

Dear Zosimas, I was reading your blog and noticed in your featured post, you refer to the “Same God Heresy” – I assume by this you mean “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” is heretical. I was surprised to see this, since this seems contrary to what our saints have taught and also to reason (not that there is a difference, since the saints were very reasonable people). 
I argue this here, if you care to look... I would be interested in hearing your opinion about it. Sincerely, Giorgio

A couple of excerpts from Giorgio's article (do read the entire piece for his closely reasoned argument):

...whoever does not know God’s essence cannot love God, and it is clear that whoever does not love God cannot worship Him. But whoever does know God’s essence can, to at least a certain extent, love God and in this way be said to worship Him. 
By essence we mean that which makes God, God. But God is not God in virtue of being triune, or in virtue of being omnipotent, but by the fact that there is no distinction between His existence and His essence. For this reason, when Moses asks God who He is, God responds by saying: I am The One Who Is (Exodus 3:14, LXX). 
This is not to say that God being triune, His omnipotence, or His holiness are mere accidents, but rather properties which flow from His essence without being included in it, as St. John Damascene says in the fourth chapter of his exposition on the Orthodox faith: 
"All that we can affirm concerning God does not show forth God’s nature, but only the qualities of His nature. For when you speak of Him as good, and just, and wise, and so forth, you do not tell God’s nature but only the qualities of His nature. "
Now since Muslims generally acknowledge that God is He Who Is, they therefore grasp His essence and so can be said to know Him and worship Him. 
Like Muslims, the pagans were unaware of the Trinity, yet St. Paul did not say [in Acts 17:22-23] they worshipped a different God, but rather applauded them for worshipping God to the best of their abilities. The Apostle writes elsewhere: 
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made "(Romans 1:20). 
Here he clearly states that one may attain knowledge of God without revelation – therefore Muslims can be said to have some knowledge of God and worship Him. This is also clear from what St. John Damascene writes about knowledge of God’s existence and essence in the beginning of his exposition on the Orthodox faith, especially when he says in the eighth chapter that: We believe, then, in One God … believed in and ministered to by all rational creation.

First of all, it is not clear that in Islam there is any sense of "loving" God, hence some of the terminology used is wholly inappropriate to an honest discussion of Islam and Allah. In Islam, Allah is classically presented as being so "other", so utterly transcendent and beyond, that he is ultimately beyond the grasp of humans to know him, let alone love him. Islam calls man to be slaves of Allah, not to love him.

Secondly, there is no consistent, universal teaching of the saints in the Orthodox Church on the god of Islam being the same as the True God who sent His Only Begotten Son into the world for our salvation. In fact, a few quick quotes makes clear that several great Fathers of the Church seem to repudiate the "Same God" position:

"It is true that Muhammad started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from east to west. Nevertheless he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil." St. Gregory Palamas (14th c.)

"...the vengeful and God-hating Saracens, the abomination of desolation clearly foretold to us by the prophets, overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries... Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God." ~ St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

St John of Damascus writes very strongly against Islam and Muhammad at the start of his section on the new religion in his Fount of Knowledge, which leaves it open to debate as to whether or not he would agree with my description of the Same God position as a heresy. Indeed, in our time, it may need to be defined in Council as a heresy, due to the danger it poses to the faithful who carelessly adhere to it.:

"There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst…"

More recently, St Ignatius Brianchaninov in the 19th century warned against the teaching, co-inherent wth the Same God Heresy, that virtuous Muslims will be saved:

"Christians! Know Christ! — Witness that you don't know Him, that you denied him in claiming the possibility of salvation without Him for some kind of virtue! Claiming the possibility of salvation without belief in Christ denies Him and, maybe not consciously, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy... And namely for these virtues you like... the Muslims! 
"To them, though it were repudiation of Christ, you want to give salvation." 

"Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth." - New Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev of Moscow(†2009)

Perhaps my favorite quote is from Fr George Maximov, co-laborer and friend of New Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev of Moscow, (†2009) who openly debated with Muslims, converting some eighty — including many extremists Wahhabis — to the Orthodox Faith in Christ, and was ultimately killed by a Muslim because he was advancing the Gospel among them:

Among those who call themselves Orthodox, I have met such strange people who say that Fr. Daniel should not preach to Muslims, that one must respect their religion, and that there is no benefit from his preaching. 
But Fr. Daniel thought, as did the Lord, the Apostles, and all the saints, that one must respect mistaken people but not their mistakes. 
Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth.

Affirming the "Same God" teaching is a form of "respecting their religion," and is a hindrance to sharing the Gospel of Life with Muslims, as it relieves them of any sense of urgency or even the need for repentance and turning to Jesus Christ. Why would a believing Christian want to withhold eternal life from a Muslim by affirming their false belief in a false god?

Secondly, in response to Giorgio's presentation, for all his nuanced discussion about God's "existence", "essence" and "properties", all he has shown is that Muslims acknowledge that there is a God. But it is a huge leap to therefore conclude:

Now since Muslims generally acknowledge that God is He Who Is, they therefore grasp His essence and so can be said to know Him and worship Him. 

The simplest acknowledgement that a Creator God Exists reveals nothing about the nature of that "God." One cannot make a leap from "acknowledging that God is He Who Is" to a truth claim that Islam "grasps His essence.”  

If we consider the “essence” (Greek: ousios) of God as was dealt with by the Fathers of the first three Ecumenical Councils, we see that the Orthodox understanding was clearly that Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of the Father, was of the "Same Essence” — "homoousios" — specific language which was employed in the Creed: “Light of Light, True God of True God, of one essence with the Father". 

I submit that these same early Church Fathers would conclude that Allah could not possibly be of the “Same Essence” as the Father or the Son, due to all that has been revealed about Allah. By all of its holy texts, by the example of its founder, and by the manner in which Islam has treated non-Muslims for fourteen centuries, it is clear that Islam has a "grasp" on a very different "god" with a very different "essence".

Furthermore, we must assert that the Trinitarian nature of God — One God in Three Persons in a Communion of perfect Oneness, of One Essence — is Who God Is. There was never a time when the Son (or Word) was not, or when the Holy Spirit was not. The Trinity is Who God Is, from before and beyond all time. 

Therefore, when Giorgio writes, 
This is not to say that God being triune, His omnipotence, or His holiness are mere accidents, but rather properties which flow from His essence without being included in it,
he is wrongly describing the Triune Nature of God as a mere "property" which "flows from his essence." Indeed, the quote he provides from St John of Damascus does not include God's Triune Nature in his list of "the qualities of God's nature", because God is Triune By Nature. God's Trinitarian Nature is not a "quality of His nature", it is before and is the source of all His qualities.:

"All that we can affirm concerning God does not show forth God’s nature, but only the qualities of His nature. For when you speak of Him as good, and just, and wise, and so forth, you do not tell God’s nature but only the qualities of His nature. "

To make my case, I have compiled a number of my previous writings from my book and blog, which I present below in the hopes it will help some readers repent of the pernicious Same God Heresy, and may even help lead some Muslim readers to abandon their false religion, false prophet and false god, that they may come to know Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and inherit eternal life. 

This should always be our prayer, that our Muslim neighbors may be set free from spiritual darkness, delusion and deception, "That they may come to know the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent" (JN 17:3).  Amen.

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Dear Giorgio,

Thanks very much for your email. I appreciated reading your own article, which I think benefits from the "disputed question" method you used. However, I notice that you do not mention anywhere Islam’s commands regarding unbelievers, nor very many other specific aspects of Islamic doctrine, nor its treatment of Christians as unbelievers from its earliest days, but rather present a more high-level, “pure” theological discussion. These are excellent considerations, and I think Fr Lawrence Farley grapples with these same issues in his excellent article to which you referred in your initial email to me.

I wrestle with the Same God question in my book, Facing Islam. And over the 5+ years of my blog have returned to the question many times. I am aware of the writings of several of the Church Fathers, and cite many of them in both my book and blog. Of course, all such discussion is in the realm of “theologoumenon”. 

For myself, I do not hesitate to adopt a deliberately polarizing position by my explicit coining of the term “Same God Heresy,” in spite of any apparent disagreement with some writings of the Church Fathers or contemporary Christian writers. The term itself is intended to have a bracing pedagogic effect, as I believe it is immensely — even eternally —  important for Christians NOT to subscribe to the Same God position. 

The Same God position has been a dogma of Islamic theology from its inception, as seen in Muhammad’s own attempts to validate his claim to be a prophet and be recognized as such by Jews and Christians — or else. The Same God teaching is likewise essential to Islamic dawah, proselytizing. 

But the Same God position is most definitely not a dogmatic teaching of Orthodox Christian theology - thank God.  As I state in an excerpt below, I consider the “Same God” position to be a "Theological Trojan Horse" for Christians, as it contains within it the seeds of apostasy.

If I had to sum up my argument in a single sentence, it might be as follows:

"Allah’s self-revelation through Muhammad reveals him as completely opposed to the True God’s self-revelation through the incarnation of Jesus Christ."

Can anyone deny this statement in any meaningful way? This assertion leads to numerous expositions.

One way I have chosen to explore this is in my article, “Can There Have Been Two Annunciations?” Basically, in this article my approach is ontological, by which I mean to say, if we accept that Islam began as a result of revelations given to Muhammad, then is the source of those revelations the same as the source of the Christian revelation, i.e., the Incarnation? That is at the core of my consideration of the issue. 

Put another way: There is clearly a spiritual power behind Islam. What is the source of that power?  Is it the same as the power behind the Christian revelation and the Church? How could anyone convincingly claim that it is? 

The Wheat and the Tares

For me, perhaps the strongest refutation of the Same God position comes from one of the Lord’s parables. 

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” 
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!  (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

In my read of this parable, the tares, or weeds, those similar in basic appearance and general (monotheistic) belief to Christians, can easily be understood as followers of Muhammad, who claimed to bring the “Religion of Peace”, yet who (with his followers) used warfare to expand its reach, condemns and persecutes Christians, denies Jesus Christ, is possessed of deeply disturbing immoral positions regarding treatment of women, children, unbelievers, apostates, etc., and produces nothing good for humanity and no eternal harvest for the Father. 

Regarding the "weeds" of Islam, it can rightly be said that Muhammad and his followers fulfill Christ's prophetic word to His disciples:

"The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God" (JN 16:2).

Who sowed the bad seed among the wheat? As the Lord has the landowner say in the parable, “An enemy has done this.” The bad seeds, the tares, were sown by the enemy, the wicked one. 

Put another way, our duty as Christians is to be the best “wheat” possible so that we will be gathered into the Lord’s barn at the time of the harvest. 

Our job is NOT to make the weeds feel good about themselves by telling them they are just like us, i.e., that they have the same sower, since clearly an enemy has sown them. Rather we may be able to be good servants (mixing our parable metaphors a bit) and with God’s help convert some weeds into wheat. “By all possible means save some!”  

But the heart of it for Christians is to be true to Jesus Christ, to be good wheat. Not to lie to ourselves and others about the weeds.  Love the weeds by telling the truth, and perhaps they will choose to become wheat also. That is the mystery deep behind this parable, that the weeds can change… 

Ominously, so might the wheat, especially if it identifies with the weeds too much.

Of course, no parable should be forced or applied too literally, but when one looks at the Koran, the hadiths and life of Muhammad, the doctrines and history of Islam and how it has spread, at all the distortions contained within it, is not Islam a useless and even hostile weed compared with the Christian Faith? How could a Christian possibly believe or claim otherwise, without denying Jesus Christ? 

Below are some excerpts from my book, and from a recent series of articles I posted last Winter which elaborate on my view.

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Excerpt from my book, Facing Islam (as posted here - much more in the full post and the book):

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of my chapter, 'Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?', which features an extensive quote from Dr Mark Durie's book, Revelation - Do We Worship the Same God? (now revised and re-published under the title Which God? Jesus, Holy Spirit, God in Christianity and Islam):

[The Muslim position is expressed] in this quote from Shamim A. Siddiqi, author of the Muslim proselytizing guide, Methodology of Dawah:

"Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all prophets of Islam. Islam is the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim community of America, and establishing the kingdom of God on earth is the joint responsibility of all three Abrahamic faiths. Islam was the din (faith, way of life) of both Jews and Christians, who later lost it through human innovations. Now the Muslims want to remind their Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters of their original din. These are the facts of history." (Shamim A. Siddiqi, Letter to the Editor, Daniel Pipes, February 2002)

To assess this blasphemous Islamic revisionist teaching, we offer the following passages by Dr. Mark Durie, to whose insightful work, Revelation? Do We Worship the Same God?, we have already referred in elucidating key points in this chapter:

"This historical negationism — appearing to affirm Christianity and Judaism whilst in fact rejecting and supplanting them — is a lynchpin of Muslim apologetics. What is being affirmed is in fact neither Christianity nor Judaism, but Jesus as a prophet of Islam, Abraham as a Muslim, Moses as a Muslim, etc. This is intended to lead to ‘reversion’ of Christians and Jews to Islam, which is what Siddiqi refers to when he speaks of ‘the joint responsibility’ of Jews and Christians to establish ‘the Kingdom of God’. By this he is asserting that American Christians and Jews should embrace Islam and work together to establish Sharia law and the dominance of Islam in the United States.  
A Different Gospel 
"Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, warns believers of the danger of abandoning the Gospel of Jesus Christ: 
'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be anathema!' (Gal 1:6-8). 
"It is quite clear that the Injil, as described by the Koran, is nothing but a ‘different gospel’. The prophet Isa (Jesus) of the Koran is a product of fable, imagination and ignorance. When Muslims venerate this Isa, they are far removed from Yeshua, the Jesus of the Bible and of history... For most faithful Muslims Isa is the only Jesus they know. But if you accept this Muslim ‘Jesus’, and his ‘gospel’, then you also accept the Koran, and you accept Islam... 
"By Islamicising [the true Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus of history] and making of him a Muslim prophet who preached the Koran, Islamic orthodoxy would destroy Christianity and take over its history. It does the same to Judaism… 
"The traditional Islamic view is that if you want to know what the God of the Bible is like, then read the Koran. Not only must Muslims believe that ‘we worship the same God’, but this message is always a central component of the presentation of Islam to Christians and Jews. 
"[This message] provides the lynchpin of Muslims’ efforts to convert the ‘People of the Book’ to the faith of Muhammad. In addition, this belief, once accepted, can lead Christians to support Islamic perspectives in ways other than conversion. For example, embracing this Islamic doctrine wins a measure of respect and even support for Islam from Christians." (Durie, Revelation, pp 50-51, 75-76.)

The god of this world would like nothing better than to lull unsuspecting Christians into accepting the lie that the “god” of Islam is the same as the True God proclaimed and worshipped in the fullness of Orthodox Christianity. This is the cornerstone of Islam’s mission (dawah) to co-opt, undermine and weaken Christianity, and ultimately convert the “People of the Book” to its false religion. 

The Same God Heresy is thus a Theological Trojan Horse, putting forth a Different Gospel and a False Jesus, and containing within it forces that would nullify, neuter and eventually destroy Christianity... (Facing Islam, pp 84-86.)

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In my book, Facing Islam, I also adapt a lesson from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers which directly bears on this all important issue:

The significance of this question of religious dialogue and how it bears on our eternal salvation might best be conveyed through the story of a poor disciple of one of the fathers of the Egyptian desert, St. Paisius the Great (June 19), to emphasize the grave danger of carelessly entering into a discussion with someone of another faith: 
Once a disciple of his was walking to a city in Egypt to sell his handiwork. On the way he met a Jew who, seeing his simplicity, began to deceive him, saying: “O beloved, why do you believe in a simple, crucified man, when he was not at all the awaited Messiah? Another is to come, but not he.” The disciple, being weak in mind and simple in heart, allowed himself to say, “Perhaps what you say is correct.” When he returned to the desert, St Paisius turned away from him and would not speak a single word to him. Finally, after the disciple’s long entreaty, the Saint said to him, “Who are you? I do not know you. This disciple of mine was a Christian and had upon him the grace of Baptism, but you are not such a one; if you are actually my disciple, then the grace of Baptism has left you and the image of a Christian has been removed.” 
The disciple confessed with tears his encounter, and the words he spoke, “Perhaps what you say is correct.” Whereupon St. Paisius sternly admonished him, and wanted to send him away from the desert: 
“O wretched one! What could be worse and more foul than such words, by which you renounced Christ and His divine Baptism?… Your name is written with those who have renounced Christ, and together with them you will receive judgment and torments.” 
At the disciple’s pitiable entreaties, St. Paisius went into seclusion to pray for the Lord to restore to him the grace of Baptism. Having received assurance from the Lord that his prayers had been heard, he returned and warned his disciple in no uncertain terms: 
“O child, give glory and thanksgiving to Christ God together with me, for the unclean, blasphemous spirit has departed from you, and in his place the Holy Spirit has descended upon you, restoring to you the grace of Baptism. And so, guard yourself now, lest out of sloth and carelessness the nets of the enemy should fall upon you again and, having sinned, you should inherit the fire of gehenna.” 
We should not discount the truths revealed in the lives of the Desert Fathers which speak of such dangers, especially when our Lord Himself warned us that we shall have to give an account for every idle word (cf. Mt 12:36). Our Lord also warned us, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him the Son of Man shall be ashamed when He comes in His glory with the holy angels” (Lk 9:26, Mk 8:38). With the postmodern, relativistic cultural climate already exerting relentless pressure for the acceptance of all manner of religious beliefs as being equally valid, the temptation for a Christian to either understate his own faith, or overstate his tolerance of a diametrically opposed religious view is both subtle and all-pervasive... 
In Baptism we have mystically “put on Christ” and become clothed in and identified with Him (Gal. 3:27). As “Christ-bearers” we are called not to “dialogue” with non-Christians [nor to preach that they too worship the Same God], but to bear witness before them of the Life in Christ, to confess before them the True Faith in Christ Jesus. Worshipping the Holy Trinity in Spirit and in Truth (Jn 4:23), speaking the Truth in love (Eph 4:15), and if need be dying for the Truth, is not merely commanded us for our own salvation, but to manifest God’s will, that we might make real the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to others, regardless of whether or not it offends them or exposes their beliefs as false.  
This is the “good confession” which we are called to make, which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself made before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6:13). By God’s grace may we become good confessors for Christ!

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The Orthodox Christian Baptism service implicitly makes clear that the god of Islam is a false god, not the same True God.  From Facing Islam, pp 48-50:

[God the Father] draws to Jesus Christ all who truly seek the One True God, all who hear His voice (cf. Jn 3:21, 10:27). Thus we gain some sense of the mystery of the human heart and whether it desires to know the True God, and to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. This is in harmony with the teaching of the “Seeds of the Logos” as articulated by St. Justin the Philosopher, and with this we understand how it is that there can be fragments, hints, echoes of truth in a wide array of religions, and likewise how it is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can resonate even within the heart of one mired in a false religion, and lead that person out of darkness into the wondrous light of the Son of God. This is how the Orthodox missionary finds words and means by which to express the Gospel so that the hearer may be able to receive it. 
The hearer does not by turning to Christ better understand the (false) god he had been worshipping, nor would we say that he merely had a wrong conception of the True God. Such weak descriptors betray a modern rationalism, and do not speak to the deep, profound change — metanoia — which occurs within the human heart when it responds to Christ. If hamartia means to “miss the mark” and to commit sin, then we may safely say that those who are not worshipping the True God are not even aimed at the correct target. Rather, the newly called realizes he has been in spiritual deception, repents, turns away from the false god, the false idol, and turns towards the One True God by embracing the Word of God, the God-Man Jesus Christ. 
This mystery of conversion finds expression in the Orthodox Baptism Service, where the priest offers the following prayer for the candidate for illumination: 
"In your name, O God of Truth... I lay my hand on your servant who has been found worthy to seek salvation in your Holy Name and protection under the shelter of your wings. Banish from him the error of old, fill him with faith and hope in you... so that he might know that you are the only true God... " 
Following this, the prayers of exorcism involve the one approaching for illumination to three times “renounce satan, all his works, all his worship, all his angels, all his service and all his pride,” and to “breathe and spit upon him.” This is not fanciful language nor poetic imagery, but speaks of profound spiritual realities. Regardless of what [non-Trinitarian Christian] spiritual tradition the convert comes from, the Sacrament of Baptism affirms that the convert had emphatically not been worshipping the One True God, but now at last is turning towards Him. 
Let us return briefly to the commandment from the LORD: “You shall have no other gods before me.” There are “other gods” in the cosmos. Scripture is quite clear on this point: “The gods of the nations are demons.”  This is what the Apostles preached, and what has been preached by Orthodox missionaries from Saints Cyril and Methodius to Saints Herman and Innocent, down through those of our own age, as evidenced in two key passages: 
"[We] preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:15-16). 
"The things which the gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons" (1 Cor 10:20).

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Excerpts from the “Same God Heresy” Series. (The full articles can be found here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4)

...The first problem for a Christian who affirms that Muslims worship the same God, is that such a Christian has to contend with the Koran, which Muslims believe to be the unalterable, eternal words of God, revealed to Muhammad alone, which pre-existed in heaven before all eternity. 

Allah in the Koran explicitly condemns the foundational truths of the Christian Way, calls Christians “blasphemers” and “deluded”, and pronounces curses on Christians:

  • The similitude of Isa [Jesus] before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”: And he was. (Sura 3:59) 
  • Say not “Trinity”: desist: It will be better for you: For God is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. . . . (Sura 4:173) 
  • In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. (Sura 5:19) 
  • They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary . . .” They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:75,78) 
  • Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how God doth make His Signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (Sura 5:78) 
  • The Jews call 'Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Sura 9:30) 
  • In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him — they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him. (Sura 4:157)

Just to recap the above, the Koran — Allah, that is — insists:

  • Jesus is like Adam, mere man created from dust.
  • God is too exalted to have a son.
  • Christians are blasphemers for confessing Jesus Christ as Son of God.
  • Christians are blasphemers for confessing the Holy Trinity.
  • Because Christians are blasphemers, a “grievous penalty” will befall them.
  • Christians are “deluded away from truth” when they confess Jesus Christ as Son of God.
  • Because Christians are blasphemers and deluded away from the truth, “God’s curse be upon them.”

Oh, and furthermore, Allah claims Jesus was never crucified.

All this condemnation of Christian dogma and calling down curses upon Christians comes forth in supposed direct — word-for-word literal — revelations from the True God.

Now, if Muslims and Christians worship the same God, then Allah = God. Yet Allah explicitly condemns Christian dogma, curses Christians and denies historical fact…

It is interesting that Allah goes to such lengths to condemn Christian teaching, even denying the historical fact of Jesus’ crucifixion, which was written about not merely by the authors of the gospels and the New Testament letters, but also by 1st century Jewish and Roman historians who drew on non-Christian contemporaneous sources to pen their accounts. This alone should cast doubt on the reliability of the Koran (which gets all sorts of historical facts mixed up and confused).

As seen in the above, Christianity and Islam cannot both be true. The Allah of Islam is directly, and in a specific, vigorous manner, opposed to the Christian God. 

Put another way, Allah’s self-revelation through Muhammad reveals him as completely opposed to the True God’s self-revelation through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

These are not obscure theological points, they are foundational principles in Islamic faith, prayer and practice. 

The Return of Jesus in Christianity and Islam

Traditional Christians believe that this same risen and glorified Jesus will return at the end of this age to usher in his kingdom, after which the destiny of mankind as children of God will be fully revealed.

This is set forth in a simple way in the Nicene Creed: “He shall come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” What will this kingdom be like? John relates the vision given him in Revelation 21:

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God… Then He who sat on the throne said to me... “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son…”

Yet this is a great mystery, beyond our comprehension; we are reminded by the apostle Paul that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard…” 

Jesus himself likened the rewards for the faithful to be like a ruler who gives his servants money to trade with while he is on a long journey. When he returns, one has increased the gift tenfold, another five, another was a coward and lazy, and hid the money in the ground until his master’s return. To the ones who increased their gift, their master puts them in charge of “many things” (in Matthew 25; in Luke 19 it reads “cities”).  So there is a great reward but also further growth for the faithful.

Of course, much is made of the 72 virgins awaiting faithful Muslim men (guaranteed to those who die while waging jihad). [2]  In comparison, Jesus says about the age to come, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (MT 22:30). (Little more need be said of the Islamic belief, or I would be guilty of crass ridicule.)

Regarding the Second Coming, Islam also teaches that Jesus (the Muslim Prophet Isa) isto return, but this Muslim Jesus has quite a different purpose from the Christian one.

In the Islamic teaching, Isa will come to condemn the Christians’ misunderstanding of him as divine and to literally destroy Christianity and judge all non-Muslims; the Koran universally brands all unbelievers as “the vilest of creatures” (Sura 98:6). The Prophet Isa will be a “good Muslim,” and will direct his followers to the Mahdi, the Muslim messiah, before taking a subservient position somewhat behind the Mahdi:

Isa will “fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine and abolish jizya” and establish the rule of Allah throughout the world (Hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of Battles, 37:4310). 

The Jews are likewise marked for destruction. Islam’s long history of anti-semitism finds full expression in the Koran itself, where Jews are described as being made into apes and swine (5:60, 2:65, 7:166), are eternally cursed (2:61, 3:112) and damned to hellfire (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, 58:14-19), unless they understand their faith and embrace Islam (3:113); the Islamic end times scenario is every bit as ruthless towards Jews as it is towards Christians, as this hadith demonstrates:

Mohammed said in his Hadith: “The Hour [Day of Resurrection] will not arrive until you fight the Jews, [until a Jew will hide behind a rock or tree] and the rock and the tree will say: Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!” (Sahih Muslim, 41:6985. This is a favorite among jihadists and zealous imams.)

This thread of Islamic invective against Christians and Jews is not some arcane theological reference shrouded in the mists of time and known only to Muslim jurists, imams and historians, but is rather active and woven into the daily prayers offered by pious Muslims all over the world. As we saw in Part 2 of this ‘Same God’ series, the first sura of the Koran, called al-Fatihah, ‘The Opening’, refers in its final two verses to the Christians and the Jews, condemning them for abandoning Islam and being “led astray.”

We might be inclined to simply ignore such koranic texts, were it not for the dozens of others which command Muslims to openly fight against Christians and Jews. When these commands are joined with eschatological promises, these jihad commands become especially powerful.

Back to the Same God Question

In Part 2 of this series, I emphasized that we must look at who (or Who) is behind the Koran:

Because it is Allah speaking in and through the Koran, therefore Christian apologists for the Same God position cannot hide behind the relativistic, academic “different conceptions of God” curtain. That is ducking the question. Who is the “man behind the curtain?” Who is the BEING behind the revelation which makes those pronouncements? This is the dilemma of the Same God position. If the Koran is a revealed text, who is the WHO behind the text?

When it comes to Islamic eschatology and the ultimate goal of jihad, we see again the primacy of this question. Who is the source of Islam’s end times doctrine? As we have noted, Muslims claim to worship the Same God as Christians, but insist that Christians have gone astray, corrupted our scriptures, committed blasphemy, shirk, etc. William Kilpatrick, in an important recent article, Was Muhammad a False Prophet?, sums it up as follows:

Muhammad’s purpose in introducing Jesus into the Koran is to discredit the Christian claim that he is divine in order to enhance Muhammad’s claim to prophethood… Whatever Muhammad’s motivation, the fact is that the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of the Koran are irreconcilable. How can both revelations possibly be from the same God? If Christ is God, then the Koranic account is a false account and Muhammad is a false prophet.

We reach the same conclusion from comparing the radically opposite end times teachings of Islam and Christianity, which rest on the radically opposite views of Jesus. Such radically opposed eschatological goals, such radically different views of Jesus, could not issue forth from the same God.

An Arrow to its Target

Perhaps a metaphor might describe it best.

Christianity and Islam both claim to know the ultimate goal (God), and can instruct and guide the disciple in ordering their life so as to reach the goal, like an archer aiming at his target.

Yet everything Islam teaches about its target, its goal, is the complete opposite, radically opposed to, what the Christian faith teaches about its target. Does it really make sense to say that the targets are really one and the same, it’s just that the two faiths have different views of the target?

Yet this cannot be. If a Christian followed the teachings of Islam, he would completely miss his target and eventually could no longer be called a Christian. Indeed, he would ultimately find himself committing jihad against his former fellow Christians.

Likewise, if a Muslim aimed at the Christian target, he would be seen a blasphemer in the eyes of Islam, and would be subject to Islam’s death penalty for apostasy.

Interestingly, the Greek word for “sin” most often used in the New Testament, hamartia, means “to miss the mark,” and describes well the phenomenon of sin: falling short, not being aimed properly at the target, failing to attain the goal.

There is a certain sense of hamartia — of “missing the mark” — in the word apostasy, which means a falling away, though apostasy indicates primarily a failure to stand within the truth, a failure to remain upright. Both these words can help us in warning Christians against well intentioned but misguided efforts to be too inclusive, too tolerant and politically correct when speaking of Islam and relating to Muslims.

When a Christian affirms the Same God position, he implicitly allies himself with Islam, even though the latter has a polar opposite target and goal. To return to the quote from Mark Durie which I cited at the beginning of Part 1 of this series:

[This ‘Same God’ message] provides the lynchpin of Muslims’ efforts to convert the ‘People of the Book’ to the faith of Muhammad. In addition, this belief, once accepted, can lead Christians to support Islamic perspectives in ways other than conversion. For example, embracing this Islamic doctrine wins a measure of respect and even support for Islam from Christians.

The Same God claim is an Islamic doctrine, not a Christian belief. Christians who affirm it are advancing the Islamic narrative, aiding Islamic dawah, and aligning with Islam’s eschatological goals. 

By affirming the Same God claim, they are tacitly affirming the Islamic view of Jesus, and are essentially saying they would rather side with Muslims than with Jesus at his return.