Reposted with permission from The Cripplegate.
You’ve probably heard it said. “All of the Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—they all worship the same God.” More and more today, we hear such things from the mouths and tweets of idealized and uninformed westerners.
However, such thinking is a hazardous ignorance. The Qur’an does not believe that Allah (the God of the Qur’an) and the God of Christianity are the same. Many Qur’anic teachers do not believe that they are the same. And neither do biblically thinking Christians.
Last week the Cripplegate began a series on the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. We looked at a brief introduction to Islam as well as the textual origin and transmission of the Qur’an. Today, we compare the God of the Qur’an with that of the Bible. As we do, it will become clear that the Qur’an and the Bible are talking about two entirely different deities.
As noted last week, there are some similarities between the deities presented in the Qur’an and the Bible. Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach monotheism. Both teach that God is sovereign and the creator of all things. Beyond that, there are few similarities. Here are a few of the major differences.
1. The God of the Qur’an is not known as Father.
There is not one verse in the Qur’an where Allah is likened to a loving father of believers. In fact, the concept of God’s fatherhood of believers is a difficult thing for Muslims to grasp. For some, it is even offensive.
In the Qur’an, there lacks the concept of kindhearted fellowship with God as father. There is no concept of adoption into the family of God. Tender security under the fatherhood of God is an idea that is foreign to the Qur’an. The Qur’anic teaching is that a believer’s relationship with God is primarily one of submission.
The Bible also teaches that a believer must relate to God in submission. However, submission only describes a fraction of that relationship. In the Bible, one of the most sacred facts is that the God of the universe becomes our Father at salvation. The incredible news is that through the finished work of Jesus Christ, the most flagrant sinner is tenderly, eagerly, and permanently welcomed as a beloved child into the family of God. In light of the holiness and glory of the biblical God, and the sinfulness and unimpressiveness of humanity, the fatherhood of God is quite frankly a wild and extraordinary truth. Why would a God like the God of the Bible ever wish to call even one person like the people of this world, “My child”? One would almost understand why this idea would be too offensive to be an essential doctrine of the faith. Nevertheless, it is true. One of the most profound illustrations of the permanent and tender fatherhood of God comes from Christ’s teaching in the parable of the lost son from Luke 15:11-32.
The parable begins with a wealthy and generous father who has two sons. In an act of high-handed contempt, the younger son requests his share of the inheritance before the father has died. This would be akin to declaring his wish for his father’s death. Immediately, the son moves out of the house; not to another city, but another country, demonstrating his disdain for the family. There, he wastes the wealth on prostitutes and flagrant debauchery. He quickly finds himself shekel-less, starving in the proverbial gutter. To make matters more offensive to a Jewish audience, he is not only working with pigs, but fighting with them for food. After some time, he comes to his senses, and recalls that even his father’s slaves have more than they need. He is scraped out of the gutter and stumbles home in swine-stenched rags to his father’s estate. Because the father had been hoping and watching for his return, he sees his son from a distance. Defying cultural dignity, he runs, throws himself upon his utterly filthy son, hugs and kisses him in joyful, compassionate tears. The vagrant son confesses his unworthiness, to which the father responds immediately with a celebratory confirmation that he is permanently and eagerly welcomed to the family. The son was dead and has come to life; lost and was found.
The parable is a picture of God the Father’s radical compassionate grace upon a sinner who comes to saving faith. This is the way it is for every sinner who is saved. Upon repentance, there is instant joy, forgiveness, and assurance of salvation from God towards the wretched sinner.
The fatherhood of God is central to the biblical faith. Salvation means that God adopts sinners as his own out from Satan’s dominion (Gal. 4:6-7). In fact, the fatherhood of God is so important to God, and God’s children are so loved by him, that he went so far as to predestine every single sinner who would ever be saved as his child before he created the universe (Eph. 1:4-5). J.I. Packer has written that “Father” is the Christian name for God. Jesus taught his people to pray by addressing God as, “Father” (Matt. 6:9). Father-child then sets the context for the relationship between God and the regenerate. God raises us up as children—with all of the good and necessary discipline—confirming that he is a good and perfect Father (Heb. 12:5-11). Even more, this Father gave his greatest Son for unworthy sons (John 3:16, Rom. 8:32).
Tragically, however, there is no Ephesians 1:5 in the Qur’an. There is no Matthew 6:9 nor Hebrews 12. And, there is no Romans 8:14-16, which says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Therefore, the God of the Qur’an differs greatly from the God of the Bible.
2. The God of the Qur’an is not a triune God.
Here is another major difference between the Qur’anic and biblical teaching. The Qur’an teaches monotheism; one god (Surah 5:73). The Bible also teaches monotheism (Deut. 6:4). However, the Qur’an teaches unitarian monotheism (one God, one person) and the Bible teaches trinitarian monotheism (one God, three persons).
The Qur’an incorrectly understands the biblical teaching of trinitarian monotheism as tritheism. For this reason, the Qur’an repeatedly rebukes Christians as polytheists. For example:
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion, and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, is the Messenger of God, and His Word that He conveyed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, ‘Three.’ Refrain—it is better for you. God is only one God (Surah 4:171).
They do blaspheme who say Allah is one of three in a Trinity, for there is no god except One God (Surah 5:73).
They have taken their rabbis and their priests as lords instead of God, as well as the Messiah son of Mary. Although they were commanded to worship none but the One God. There is no god except He. Glory be to Him; high above what they associate with Him (Surah 9:31).
Why does the Quran teach that Christians are polytheists? For the Qur’an, the Trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Apparently the Qur’an understood that the Christian Trinity referred to three gods: Allah, Mary, and Jesus. It is here that the Qur’an makes an extraordinary error. Not one Christian has ever believed the Qur’anic understanding of the Trinity.
The biblical God is triune; one God in three persons. This God is the one living and true God (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 45:5-7, 1 Cor. 8:4), perfect in all his attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14). Therefore, the Father, Son, and Spirit are each equally deserving of worship and obedience. Due to the triune nature of God, no Christian has ever committed polytheistic idolatry while worshiping the God of the Bible. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not different modes or manifestations of one God. They are different persons, though one in essence, all possessing the attributes of God.
In Qur’anic teaching, the unforgivable sin is called “shirk.” This is found in Surah 4:48, “Surely Allah will not forgive those who assign partners to him.” Thus, sometimes Muslims believe that Christians are committing shirk by virtue of worshiping the trinitarian God of the Bible. Similarly, some Muslims believe that Christians are inviting them to commit shirk when they evangelize them, suggesting that they should worship Christ alongside Allah. For this reason, it’s essential for Christians to explain the monotheistic trinitarian nature of God to Muslims.
Additional differences between the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible include the concepts of God’s justice, righteousness, holiness, mercy, love, and forgiveness. As we will study in a few weeks, it is not possible for the God of the Qur’an to forgive. Also, the differences between the concept of God’s love in the Qur’an and the Bible will be discussed in a later post.
It is severely shortsighted to claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Contrary to the God of the Bible, the Qur’anic God is not triune nor a father to believers. The God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible are two entirely different deities altogether. Next week, we will look at the differences between the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Jesus of the Bible.