Do Christians & Muslims worship the same God?

By Maria

In this post, I want to get to the heart of this controversial question. The case made here is that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

If asked this question, a faithful Muslim would claim to worship the same God as the Jews and Christians but say that Jews and Christians get God all wrong and so refuse to obey him. In Christian discourse there are several arguments offered either way, but I’ll head for this one.

A mainstream orthodox view would broadly accept that Muslims profess to worship the one true God but get God profoundly wrong. Similarly, Taylor Marshall thinks of Islam like a ‘blind archer with a weak bow’. The archer shoots in the right direction toward the God of Abraham but cannot reach the target. But Jared Staudt says such views of ‘right target wrong aim’ assume that natural human knowledge can know something true about the nature of God without Divine Revelation. He doesn’t think we should even assume or affirm this. For, if an error is held about the nature of God then the true God cannot be the ‘target’ because the whole idea of God is false. This completely challenges the common idea that Islam just gets some things about God profoundly wrong.

Where does this discussion lead us? It leads to the conclusion that Islam holds an entirely false idea about God, which is a stronger claim than supposing that they get some things about God profoundly wrong. But, at the same time, we can say Muslims hold genuine belief in God.

Staudt says, that on these grounds the connections between Christians and Muslims are around similar doctrines about our beliefs. But we are further apart on the nature of God itself than is often assumed and that is a radical difference.

Now let’s back up a little. Why is it the case that if an error is held about the nature of God then the whole idea of God is false. That seems a bit much doesn’t it? Not even one error? Sorry, not even one. For there is nothing in God that can be separated one from another in God’s nature.

The argument rests on the implications of divine simplicity. Divine Simplicity means that God is not complex, God is not composed of parts. God is simple and this must be the case for God to be God. Consider the way we think about complex things, we can have true knowledge of an animal for example but not know whether it is brown or black, striped or plain. We can get some things wrong and still know what it is. But God is simple and not like this, there are no parts or accidents in God about which we can get one or two things wrong and still have true knowledge of God.

Staudt points us to the crux of the argument drawn from Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):

God is absolutely simple for there is no complexity in God to be known or not known, but only in the sense that knowledge about God is never attained. Aquinas says that anyone who believes that God is something that he is not, does not worship God, but something else, and does not know God but something else.

Divine simplicity discloses the reality that differences between the Islamic and Christian understanding about the nature of God are radical differences. For the nature of God is not the same in both cases, as each religion states it. On the one hand, the nature of God in Islam is voluntarist which absolutely protects the arbitrary nature of Divine Freedom and Will. On the other hand, Christianity holds to the absolute of Divine Logos or Reason that infuses the created order through Divine Will, and God is simply free by virtue of God’s own nature. Hence, Islam and Christianity do not worship the same God.

If you would like to learn more about the concepts of voluntarism and Divine Logos I recommend reading this article.