The Federalist ran an article of mine last week—concerning the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God (spoiler warning: they don’t.) You can read it over there, but I wanted to take a moment to address some of the common objections that were showing up in the comments before there were too many to keep track of.
I’m an atheist and it doesn’t matter which sky god is which or whose imaginary friend is better.
Well, the title should probably should have been a pretty clear warning that the subject matter doesn’t interest you. Live and learn. Why it should interest you and whether God is real are different articles that I didn’t write.
Doesn’t this idiot know that Christians and Muslims both believe in the God who spoke to Abraham?
This is one of those “I have poor reading comprehension” objections that was continually raised despite being specifically addressed in the article. Perhaps I can be even blunter. A parrot can be trained to say “There’s no god but me” and “I talked with Abraham,” but that doesn’t mean Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same parrot. If Muhammad was just telling a bunch of false stories about who he was speaking with, and those false stories include a few bits and pieces lifted from the Bible, then that’s mere plagiarism—not proof of identity.
If you say other people worship other gods, then you must believe in multiple gods.
Or maybe I’m familiar with concepts like “false gods” and “idols.” You know, things, people, and ideas that are not God but are nevertheless worshiped as gods by some people—Muslims for instance. Paul wrote in Philipians 3:19 of some who rejected Christ that “their god is their belly.” I’ve never heard anyone read this and claim that Paul must therefore be a polytheist.
But all sorts of Christian denominations disagree on all sorts of stuff.
Yes. So what? It shouldn’t be controversial to observe out that some things are more important to the question of who God is than others or that some points of disagreement are more important than others. The dividing line between Christian orthodoxy and heresy has always been a question of either “who is God?” (e.g. Gnosticism, Arianism, Modalism) or “What is the Gospel?” (e.g. Gnosticism, Pelegianism, semi-pelegianism.)
What about all the “non-Trinitarian Christians” like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Arians, Modalisits, Gnostics…. etc?
Nice try, but there are no groups of people who Christians refer to as “non-Trinitarian Christians.” There are, however, groups we refer to as heretics. The implication here should be clear.
What about the Jews? Are you saying they don’t worship the same god either?
The implication should be clear here as well, but… I keep seeing this used as though its some kind of reductio ad absurdum that refutes my argument, so I’ll say it explicitly. Yes, the argument correctly implies that Jews today do not worship the same god either. I’m not Christian because monotheism is awesome. I’m not Christian because the Bible is the best book ever written. I’m not a Christian because God spoke to Abraham. I’m not a Christian because of the wonderful traditions or because of what God did for the people of Israel. I’m a Christian because I believe Christ is who he said he is, and did what he said he did. Accordingly, I’m going with Jesus’ opinion on the subject, as he would know a lot better than I would:
“The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:37-40
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here… You are of your father the devil, and you will is to do your father’s desires…. Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:39-47
“It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him.” John 8:54-55
Does this mean none of the Jews at Jesus’ time worshiped God? Well, it could hardly refer to Jesus himself, to his disciples, to the first generation of Christians, to faithful Israelites like Simeon, Mary, Joseph, and so forth—all of whom were Jewish. No, these words (and more) were directed at the Pharisees & Sadducees , not those Jews who believed their Messiah. However, what we now call Judaism is descended from the Pharisaical tradition of Jesus’ day; Judaism is Pharisee-ism. This was not so starkly the case during the first half-century or so after Christ instituted his Church—back then, it was sometimes difficult to tell where the synagogues ended and the churches began. However, it is now almost two thousand years later; that line is no longer blurred.