Can Islam and Christianity be seen as being the same, or similar, or as complementing each other, or are they so radically opposed and at loggerheads that it is a grievous error to see them as having anything meaningful in common?
It is a commonplace in certain quarters today – from the secular, largely left-wing media, to the current Pope – to talk and act as if Christianity and Islam are basically comparable and equivalent: “People of the Book,” just two ways of worshiping the same God. But is that accurate?
Most people are at least vaguely aware that Islam does not consider Jesus Christ the Son of God, let alone the Incarnation of God’s creative Word. He is a messenger of God, a prophet, theoretically respected, but far less revered than Mohammed.
But the differences go still deeper, as this post relates:
“God is not love as a father,” the Islamic scholar replied. Instead, he employed the analogy as that of the love that an owner of a dog has for his pet, i.e. not fatherhood but ownership. For a moment, Hahn thought he was joking. He wasn’t.
“He didn’t smile. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. And I realized that Allah does not love as a father. It is a master/slave relationship. It is a religion of divine slavery. [Islam means “submission.”] And if we don’t like it, we have to realize that’s how they define their own religion. Those were the terms he was using. And to say that God is Father and we His children is not only a presumption, it is blasphemy.”
A couple of minutes later, Hahn again referred to God as Father and the Islamic scholar pounded his fist on the table, stood up and stormed out of the restaurant. Whether we like it or not, Christianity and Islam are separated by an abyss of difference. The “God” that Muslims and Christians worship is not the same God. One God might be the true God but, if so, the other is a false god. They cannot co-exist as true gods. It’s a question of being logical, not theological.
And as for atheism, there is at least one thing it shares with Islam. Neither the atheist nor the Muslim believes in the Son of God, nor the love of the Father for the Son, nor that the Father so loved the world the He gave us His only begotten Son that we might not perish but can have eternal life. In this sense, we can say that Muslims and atheist share the same radical impoverishment. They need our prayers.
Indeed they do. But they also need – or at least, we need – our discernment.
If Muslims indeed believe they are worshiping the same God as Christians, they are doing so incorrectly and erroneously; their idea of God is badly screwed up. Alternatively, the “god” they are worshiping – which they think is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who is revealed in the Christian faith as a Trinity of Persons in Unity of Essence, and of Whom our Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person, the only and eternal Son of the Father, and the Incarnate Word, though neither Jews nor Muslims believe this) – is not in fact that same God; it is something quite different, and very likely demonic.
And of course, atheists – of whom many are, in fact, good, decent, and moral people (who fail to realize that they are so because they are living off the capital of a moral code imprinted into our Western consciousness by thousands of years of Judeo-Christian religion) – are likewise sadly misguided. But here again, Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher, although he was that, of course. He was and is also, again, the Incarnate Word of God, the only Son of the Father. His own teachings make that abundantly clear.
One can either accept them or reject them, but as C.S. Lewis explains it in Mere Christianity, He said what He said, and therefore He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”