My city, outside of Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan, hosts the third largest Afghan population in the world (30,000 – 40,000 depending on who you ask). My home is a ½ mile from Little Kabul – an area of kabob restaurants and Afghan owned businesses. Four doors down from the church is the Ibrahim Khalilallah (Abraham the Friend of God) Mosque. The Lord has led CC Fremont into the ministry of Muslim evangelism.
Being involved in Muslim evangelism brings one face-to-face with certain questions. One question I have always answered in the negative is: Is the God of Islam the one true God? I have always thought myself justified in my negative response because some of the character descriptions of Allah in the Qur’an, its Unitarianism as opposed to Trinitarianism, and its lack of incarnational mission paint Allah in much different colors than Yahweh in His full Biblical portrayal. But I think I am changing my mind – and here’s why.
Many who argue that the God of Islam is not the one true God go on to assert that the God of Judaism is the one true God. And yet the God of Judaism seems closer to the God of Islam than to the God of Christianity.
- Both Judaism and Islam are Unitarian, not Trinitarian.
- Both deny that Jesus is the Son of God (and if our theology has a Christological lens, this is devastating).
- Both deny the atonement. Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus whereas Judaism denies the resurrection of Jesus. (Interestingly enough, Jesus holds a much higher pace within Islam than He does within Judaism).
- Both deny justification by faith and assert salvation by self-effort.
I don’t see how the denial of Islam’s’ God would not force denial of Judaism’s God. And if one asserts that Judaism worships the one true God, I don’t know how you could deny Muslims the same status.
Consider also Paul’s sermon to the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17:23). Upon noting the plurality of their gods, he says,
For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. NASB
Implicit in Paul’s announcement is that they worship the one true God! They worship Him in ignorance, but He is the object of their worship. Yet -
- this does not mean that God is pleased with their worship.
- this does not mean that this worship rightly relates them to the God they worship.
- this does not mean that the worship of the one true God saves them.
- this does not mean that their worship ennobles them.
In speaking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says:
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. John 4:22
Grammatical note: in both Acts 17:23 and John 4:22 the relative pronoun HOS is used. It can be mean who or what depending on context. It is interesting that, in the KJV, the translators used the word whom in Acts 17:23 and what in John 4:22, both referring to God. I think it is safe to say that both rabbis, Jesus and Paul, think of God as a who and not a what. Jesus doesn’t tell the Samaritan woman that she has the wrong God, but that she has a misguided worship. Paul tells the Athenians that they worship the one true God in ignorance. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that she, and by implication the Samaritans, worship the one true God in ignorance.
Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but by Him.
- Muslims fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.
- Jews fail to come to the Father for they do not some through the Son.
- Worshippers of the unknown god fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.
- The Samaritans fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.
The problem for the Athenians, the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Muslims isn’t the God they worship, but their worship of that God – it is an ignorant worship – not a false God. Ultimately, their problem isn’t with the Father, but with the Son.
Coming to the provisional conclusion that Allah is the one true God has relieved me of a burden I didn’t know I was laboring under. There has been in me a desire to speak with Muslims in a way that communicates (ever so subtly) that I have a profound disrespect for Allah. To compare Allah of the Qur’an and Yahweh of the Bible will yield some interesting results, but will not result in a Muslim being impressed, let alone converted. I see now that I don’t need to speak with a Muslim about the misguided notions they hold about God, I just need to speak to them about Jesus! Through Christ, God comes into focus. Wow! What a burden lifted. When they look at God through a Christological lens, He will come into proper focus. Any kind of apologetic or polemic that attempts to equate Allah with the Moon-God or any other derivation gets about as much traction as someone trying to convince us that Jesus is the mythical lovechild of Semiramis and Tammuz. Since Islam knows nothing of God as Father, the focus on Christ is paramount because in and through Christ the Father is known.
That Muslims worship the one true God, albeit imperfectly, is a thesis that is making more and more sense to me. What do you think? If you disagree, just don’t write and tell me so, tell me why. Who knows, you may win me over. I welcome irenic discussion of this. I am willing to yield to wisdom and good reason.
Finally, please pray for our outreach to Muslims. So far, I don’t feel that we’re doing a good job. Pray that the love of Christ would be seen in us and the power of the Holy Spirit would flow through us.
And please, always remember - Muslims are not the enemy, they are victims of the enemy.