Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? (Part 5) By Silas

We asked and investigated the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” and to answer the question accurately these points were established:
1.      defined “same” as being identical, not merely similar
2.      identified the faiths’ Scriptures as the primary sources of data
3.      examined those Scriptures and compared & contrasted the Gods’ characteristics in three different topics or categories:

   1) Their commands and plans for Their followers
   2) Their statements regarding Jesus as the Son of God
   3) Their relationships with Their followers

In all three we found either opposite or significantly different results.
Based upon the Scriptural data and the historical evidence the only logical and consistent answer that can be given is that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.  These Gods have acted and spoken in contradiction.  It is these opposites, in command, in statement, and in nature that are grounds for rejecting the proposal that we worship the same God.  They are not one and the same Person or Divinity.   “A” cannot be “non-A.”  Islam’s Allah is not the same as Christianity’s Allah.  They are not the same God!
Muslims may believe that they worship the same God.  However the Quran’s description of Allah’s attributes and characteristics are distinct and different from the Bible’s description of God.  While both refer to a One All-Powerful Creator-God their portrayals and characterizations of that God contradict each other.

Recently I’ve talked with a good friend who has a theological degree about the respect his degree commands.  He is very involved in philosophical and theological discussions with agnostics and atheists and his work has yielded fruit!  However, he’s told me that many of the people he encounters, religious or secular, discount the value of a theological degree.  They view it as of little benefit, “why are you wasting your time and money on that?”  Yet he feels that theology is one of the most powerful domains today because it deals with morality and philosophy of life and affects the lives of some 7 billion people.  Yet today’s theologians, like Rodney Dangerfield, “get no respect!”
I was unaware and surprised by those dismissive perspectives.  I was puzzled:  “Why are theologians dismissed so readily today?”  In times past theologians affected man and culture powerfully.  Today, outside of religious circles, a degree in theology is seen as useful as a degree in sociology.  I can hear the Simpson’s character Nelson mocking and laughing at them:  “Ha ha!”
This question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God” has been addressed by various Christian theologians.  You’ll find a wide variety of articles on the web.  Some answered with a simple and firm “yes” or “no” answer.  On the other hand some Christian theologians argue that a simple “yes” or “no” answer cannot be given, while even others have answered both “yes” and “no”!  Either they are the same God, the one and the same Divine Essence, the one and the same Divine Person, or they are not.
If three scientists were asked to determine two unidentified materials they would investigate and examine them by using various physical and chemical tests and then analyze the data.  Afterwards they would draw a conclusion.  Would you expect the scientists to say:
            “Yes, they’re the same because they both have similar physical properties.”
            “No, they’re not the same.  They have different chemical compositions of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, iron, gallium, chlorine, etc., and different strengths, melting points, luster, densities, etc.  They have similarities but are different materials.”?
Suppose a sports magazine commissioned a professional English sports writer to write an article proving that American football and English football are, or are not, the same.  What type of an article would be expected in terms of comparison, contrast, examination, and evaluation?  Wouldn’t the sports magazine and its readers expect to read an accurate and detailed answer that compared facets of both games and drew a firm conclusion?  What would the reaction be if after a few generalized paragraphs he wrote, “Sure, they’ve both sports and both are called Football, both played on a big field, and both use a large ball, so they must be the same.”

Two books written recently address the question if Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God:
1.  Do we Worship the Same God? which features a selection of previously published articles that affirm we worship the same God.  It is edited by Miroslav Volf.
2.  Do Jews, Christians, & Muslims Worship the Same God? with articles written by theologians Neusner, Levine, Chilton, and Cornell, and an epilogue written by Marty Martin.  (I’ll refer to this book as “Neusner’s book”).
Additionally, a third book by James White which briefly discusses whether or not we worship the same God bears mention:
3.  What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an touches on this subject.

The first two books contain articles written by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives.  They are not asking if both faiths worship God rather they are asking if they worship the “same” God.  My focus is on the Christian-themed responses and it’s important to know their reasoning and arguments for confirming we do worship the same God.  They should be considered, examined, and critiqued.  It is defining and dealing with “same” that theologians struggle and stumble.
Volf is previously on record as believing and proclaiming that we worship the same God and no doubt he chose articles that support his viewpoint.  Volf’s book focuses on the question at hand but a secondary goal of his is to lay groundwork for mutual respect, discussion, and living together peaceably.  The Christian-based articles are written by Christoph Schwöbel and Amy Plantinga-Pauw.
Neusner’s book features fewer but better articles in terms of analysis and they highlight the challenges and differences between the faiths.  Theologian Bruce Chilton presents the Christian point of view.
White’s book focuses upon the errors and inconsistencies within the Quran and White covers the aspect of “same God?” because Muslims believe that God inspired the Quran and view it as Scripture.

Volf’s Book
Volf’s articles start by reviewing aspects of Christian faith and mention the theological divide between the faiths.  Subsequently the authors play a  theological “get out of jail free” card and conclude in one way or another that we do indeed worship the same God, “albeit differently”.  This get out of jail free card is used by many theologians from different faiths.  This card is actually a reflection of the “Three Blind Men and the Elephant” story.  Each theologian admits stark theological differences, but those differences, those different understandings, are due to their possessing a partial understanding of God.  The card exploits God’s unknowable vastness and allows for the overlooking of key contradictions.  It says, “Yes, there are theological contradictions but might there be some aspect of God of which we are unaware that would reconcile these apparent contradictions?”  This card trumps or overrides the contradictions.
Volf’s introduction hits the nail’s head when discussing the theological ramifications of the question:
The dispute is about the divine identity:  Do Muslims and Christians pray to two different deities so that, given that both are strict monotheists, one group prays to a false god and are therefore idolaters whereas the other prays to a true God?  (p.viii)

Volf then plays the get out of jail free card quickly:
Many Christians through the centuries, saints and undisputed great teachers, have believed that Muslims worship the same God as they do – the same God, though differently understood, of course.  (pp.viii, iv)
That argument allows for a synthesis of the Bible and the Quran.  I doubt any of those theologians would come out and state that but that is where their logic leads.  The blind man who examined the tail could also examine the tusk and say, “Yes! This is also true of the One Elephant!”  Why then couldn’t a Christian who accepts that doctrine say, “Let’s take the best parts out of the Bible and Quran and mix them to our mutual benefit?”

Christoph Schwöbel
Schwöbel begins with a review of the Catholic church’s Nostra Aetate which is defined as the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.”  He covers what the Nostra Aetate says about Hindus and Buddhists then moves on to what it says about Muslims.
Schwöbel states that through the ages Christians have said that Muslims and Christians “believe and confess One God, “albeit in different ways.”” 
With respect to Nostra Aetate he addresses the question at hand:
Does Nostra Aetate state that Christians and Muslims worship and believe in the same God?  I think one could only say that Nostra Aetate states that Christians and Muslims worship the one and only God because there is only one God who is the origin and goal of the whole of humankind.  There is thus an identity of reference, more precisely an identity of the referent (the object of the reference) in the way Christians and Muslims understand God.  (p.6)

I appreciate Schwöbel’s clarification, “identity of reference,” because he draws a distinction between worshiping and referring to a God and worshiping the same God.
Schwöbel moves to discussing perspective.  In a thoughtful argument Schwöbel addresses perspectives that could be used to discuss the question of whether or not we worship the same God.  He sets the discussion groundwork and uses the same approach I used:  “p and not-p cannot have the same truth value.”  (p.7)
From there he discusses the trinity and presents his summation of Martin Luther’s view, i.e. that Muslims “have” the same God as Christians, (because there is only one God – again this is the “identity of reference”), but are not in right standing with God and do not have a correct understand of Him.  Schwöbel then takes Luther’s statements and asserts that Luther believed that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Schwöbel then fashions the next step in his argument:
How should Christians approach the other religions if they take Luther’s view seriously – that they have the same God but that they do not know it?  If all God’s creatures have the same God, it seems impossible to limit the economy of salvation to the Christian church and leave the rest of the world to other powers.  Since the God who is revealed in his threefold divine self-giving is the God of “unutterable love” this must apply to the whole relationship of God to the world, although God can only be know where God makes Himself known. (pp.14, 15)

Schwöbel’s argument morphed into syncretism, based on a humanistic and philosophical approach to Christian theology, one that is NOT based on Christian Scripture.  He states that Christians cannot deny God is present in other religions (why not?), that our sin obscures our view or understanding of God, and draws an incredulous, non-Christian, conclusion:
Therefore Christians will expect to experience the same God in new ways also in the religions.  The only criterion they have for that is the gospel of Christ, as the way in which Christians believe God revealed himself.  The other religions are therefor for Christians neither a Godless zone, nor enemy territory.  Christians cannot see the existence of the religions as an operating accident in the history of salvation.  What the precise role of the religions is in God’s providence has remained hidden until now, but that they must have a role is clear from what Christians believe about the presence of the almighty creator to the whole of creation.  (p.14)

Schwöbel took the same “identity of reference” and turned that into same in Divinity.  The argument changed from “They worship a similar God” to “They worship the same God.”  I’m not so sure that Luther would appreciate what Schwöbel did with his argument.
Schwöbel presents various aspects of the Christian faith with a philosophical view towards perspectives, respect, dialog, and the common good.  He concludes with:
We have arrived at a curious conclusion.  From the Christian perspective it seems we have to say that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have the same God – and this statement would be underlined by Jews and Muslims from the perspective of their respective faiths.  However, they each would emphasize that the other do not worship or believe in this God in the same way, because God has been revealed to them, according to their self-understanding, in different ways – which, from each of the perspectives, create a real difference in worship and faith.  However, this difference would not seem to exclude that we live in the same world, interpreted from our different perspectives in which we have to act together for our common good.  (p.17)

Schwöbel’s construction of the Three blind men and the elephant story:  each faith has different perspectives (or revelations) of the same God and our concepts and modes of worship are different, but we worship one and the same God.  God’s vastness and our limitedness and sin allow for this One God to have revealed Himself differently to Muhammad and the Muslims.  Earlier Schwöbel stated that we needed to have a “p and not-p cannot have the same truth value” perspective in order to have a meaningful discussion.  However he either did not look deeply enough into Islam to determine if Allah were the same as God or he overlooked the p is not non-p and drew a politically correct conclusion.

Amy Plantinga-Pauw 
Pauw’s argument comes from a slightly different approach.  She is unsure of what criteria to use as a measuring stick, she does not know what grounds for judging “same” are sufficient, and throughout her article she remains in uncertainty.  She suggests that we need to “learn more” before making a judgment.  1400 years of Islamic theology should be sufficient for the task at hand.  The problem here is not one of missing data rather it is one of applying oneself to know the data.
Because she is unable to find criteria, i.e. “grounds” to base a judgment upon she uses theological beliefs common to both Christianity and Islam to affirm that we do worship the same God.  For example since both faiths believe that one God is the Creator of all, they therefore believe in and worship the same God.  She writes:
It is reasonable to argue about whether two people are praising the same movie.  In the case of God, however, I have every reason to believe that those who claim to be monotheists are worshipping the same God I am, even if their theologies diverge.  The alternative is not that they are worshiping a “different” creator of heaven and earth, but that they are idolaters, failing to worship the one God at all, worshipping instead some part of creaturely reality.  (p.39)

Pauw argues that because Muslims believe in one Creator God, then as fellow monotheists they worship the same God as the Christians.  What she is agreeing to is that both faiths have a similar understanding and identification that their God is the Creator.  Schwöbel brought out a similar point when using the Nostra Aetate and Luther’s writings.  Schwöbel differentiated between having the same “identity of reference,” and having the “same” God, Pauw does not.
On the other hand, Pauw states correctly that if the sharp theological differences allow the denial that these Gods are not the same God, then the alternative is that Muslims are “idolaters” who worship a false god.  However, she is uncertain and therefore unwilling to make that seemingly harsh judgment.  She errs on the side of what she considers to be “charitable” Christian allowance.
Similar to Schwöbel, Pauw counters those “irreducible theological differences” by playing the theological get out of jail free card:
However, the radical distinction between the one Creator and all creation posited by Jews, Christians, and Muslims paradoxically supports arguments that they worship the same God by indicating the impossibility of capturing God’s reality in our theological conceptualities. (p.40)

Pauw’s argument is another version of the Three Blind men and the Elephant:  God is too big to comprehend completely and therefore the theological differences may not necessarily mean that we worship different Gods.  Pauw is aware of the sharp theological differences but affirms we worship the same God because God is greater than our perceptions.  Her uncertainty due to God’s bigness allows her to play the theological get out of jail free card and she uses it to trump her recognition that p is not non-p.
Because God is not just “the biggest thing around,” large and irreducible differences in theological understanding do not automatically nullify the affirmation that the three traditions worship the same God.”  (p.40)
I can still appeal to creaturely finitude and divine otherness to argue that the large theological differences among us are not prima facie grounds for doubting that we worship the same God.  (p.41)

Just as Schwöbel asserts that our sin blinds us to knowing God in full, (p.14), so too Pauw argues that her uncertainty allows her to discount the contradictory statements that both Gods have stated which are recorded in their respective Scriptures.  God’s hidden presence and vastness create a theological uncertainty which allows Islam to be accepted as a legitimate faith that worships the same God that Christians worship.
Taking a deeper look at the quality of Pauw’s faith shows that her uncertainty is a significant factor.  She describes her Christianity as comprised of “seeing through a glass darkly,” (p. 40 - referencing 1 Corinthians 13:12), whereas the Apostle John’s Christianity was certain:  “… but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  (John 20:31).  Within the Christian faith there are things which are certain and things which are not so certain.  Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God, His death and resurrection, His Divinity, are certain.  (Both Paul and John knew and were certain of that.)  Pauw is not so certain.
Opposing Pauw is Francis Schaeffer’s argument.  While we do not know God completely we can know limited and accurate details about Him.
Francis Schaeffer testified publically early in his Christian life:
"My name is Francis Schaeffer and I want to say that I know Jesus is the Son of God, and He is also my Savior."

and commenting on limited knowledge of God, Schaeffer later wrote:
It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term true truth. In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man, and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge.  (Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, Ch. 2, p.21)

Like the apostle John, Schaeffer understood that God has spoken truth about Himself, mankind, and the world.  There is no uncertainty.  There is no second guessing because God has spoken clearly about Jesus being His Son.  Yet somehow, Pauw waits or allows for a future revelation, another deeper theological understanding, that will reconcile Allah’s, “Hell No! Jesus is NOT my Son!” with God’s “Hell Yes! Jesus is my beloved Son!” 
John knew Jesus, he knew His truth, and John was certain.  Francis Schaeffer knew Jesus and the truth and was certain.  Pauw believes but she does not know. 
As Pauw continues her argument she acknowledges it is weak:
It will be clear by now that the “grounds” I have provided for asserting that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God fall well short of a generally convincing argument.  I have addressed my argument to fellow Christians, insisting that our own theological convictions provide grounds for trusting the claims of Jews and Muslims to worship the “One God, maker of heaven and earth.” … I have instead tried to supply distinctively Christian grounds for resisting the domestication of the God we worship, and for trusting in a divine generosity that exceeds our own theological understanding. (p.43, 44)

She admits the differences but hopes that blind generosity accommodates Muslims.  This argument is not a Christian theological argument rather it is an irrational leap of faith.  God was not and is not generous towards idolatry.  Why should Christians compromise their faith?   
In addressing the book’s question, “Do We Worship the same God?” Pauw, like Schwöbel, do not quote a single verse from the Quran.  How do degreed theologians, writing articles that confirm that Christians worship the same God as the Muslims, fail to utilize a single Quranic verse?  How does Pauw fail to describe just one of the “sharp theological differences”?  How is a reader supposed to be convinced if the writer would not, or could not, engage the data?  You would not want this quality of work from your doctor, car mechanic, or home-builder would you?

Bruce Chilton
Dr. Bruce Chilton represents the Christian viewpoint in Neusner’s book.  Like Schwöbel and Pauw he does not perform actual comparison and analysis of the faiths.  While he does scholarly work on discussing Jesus as the Logos and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the early Christians the book’s theme is avoided until the conclusion.  There he offers a few paragraphs.
He starts by stating the theological challenges in his Introduction:
To assert God’s sameness in the three Abrahamic religions may seem straightforward, following from God’s oneness; some version of that claim is often heard.  But exclusions of faith perspectives, both across theologies and within theological traditions, are considerable when the Abrahamic religions are privileged with this assumption.  (p.55)

Also, he states that the faith’s tenets are established by its writings:
Despite these complexities, the three Abrahamic traditions assert their faith in what they describe as one God in documents they hold as classic or canonical.  (p.56)

In Part 1 he expounds upon the relationship of the “Logos” to Jesus and presents a detailed view of the status of Jesus as the Logos.  Part 2 is a study on the active role the Holy Spirit played in the life of the early Christians.  How these Parts relate to the issue at hand is not developed.
Like Schwöbel and Pauw earlier Chilton touches on the “tolerance and mutual respect” theme.  He cites William Graham’s work which says in Muslim countries religious minorities (apart from polytheists) were treated with tolerance.  Graham and Chilton are unable to distinguish between oppression and tolerance.  Islam’s self-defined rule over non-Muslims is meant to be oppressive.  Quran 9:29 is not a command to tolerance, rather it a command to subject, kill, or oppress those that reject Islam’s god as their God.  This is what Islamic history shows us and what we see today in the Islamic world.  There is a correlation between the degree that a Muslim society is Islamic and the degree of oppression it levies against non-Muslims.  The more Islamic a Muslim society is the more it oppresses non-Muslims.  Let’s not call that form of oppression “tolerance.”  Just because the Christians and Jews were not outright killed or forced to convert to Islam does not mean we call that tolerance.  Would Muslims call it “tolerant” if they were treated the same way in the West?
Chilton addresses the “same” criteria from a different perspective than Pauw:
To declare that God is the “same” implicitly lays a claim to a superior definition of what makes for that sameness. … As an analytic category in the comparative study of religion and theology, “sameness” does not appear productive.  (p.82)

While the book’s theme is “same,” Chilton, demurs from addressing it robustly.  “Sameness” is productive when sincere Christians want to know if their God is the same as Islam’s Allah.  They want to understand the differences between the faiths.
Chilton’s last paragraph is a short statement on what should have been addressed fully:
Systematic comparison sometimes points to moments when one of the Abrahamic religions appears at odds with the other two.  Christianity’s Incarnation, Islam’s seal of prophecy, and Judaism’s eternal Israel are as unacceptable to their partners as they are nonnegotiable to faith as articulated in canonical and classic literatures.  Each partner can learn from the others, because they share categories of faith, even as they differ from one another in what is believed.  But precisely because they all lay claim to the one God of Abraham, contradiction must attend their interactions.  Each of the Abrahamic religions, while asserting that God is unique, also insists that its identification of God is uniquely true. That is why their God is one and not the same, and why believers need to acquire a taste for the fruits of difference.  (pp.82, 83)

“Sometimes… appears”?  There are many fundamental tenets in Islam and Christianity that are at odds.  These are not just “sometimes” contradictions rather they are employed full time.
Chilton notes the contradictions and states that the Gods are not the same, but somehow they are “One.”  Because Chilton does not make a strong and clear conclusion we are left wondering what exactly he is trying to say, or not say.  Indeed, even in the book’s epilogue M. Marty actually comments on the lack of clear conclusions:
Whoever might bring hopes that a panel such as this could come up with easy answer to the question has to see such hopes dashed…. Disdain will be the response of others who came to this book with sure answers to the question.  (p131)

“Disdain” may be too strong a word, but disappointment is not.  I don’t know why Chilton was unwilling to write a stronger, more clear, conclusion.  I enjoyed his chapter most of all.  His work in Part I and Part II was detailed and a true pleasure to read.  I wish he had delivered a more developed conclusion.

Earlier I mentioned the perceived uselessness of a theology degree and how it is looked down upon.  I am troubled that so many theologians in the West are more concerned with a humanistic approach instead of a Christian approach to theological questions.  Perhaps I’m naïve but I’ve always expected Christian theologians to, you know, take a stand for Christ and the word of God.  If they are not standing upon God’s word what are they standing upon?  What are they standing for? 
Part of the reason a theological degree is de-valued today is because so many of today’s theologians have nothing to say.  There is nothing strong in their work or their statements and the quality of their work is embarrassing.
Some of the articles I’ve read show today’s “Christian” theologians addressing this question from a mere academic perspective. It is an intellectual puzzle to be investigated, discussed, and then answered.  The God they analyze is a dead god existing in a nice, tidy and cute box.  They dissect him and present him as they choose and answer based upon their personal desires and viewpoints.  Their god has no power and no life force; he doesn’t matter.  They worship a dead angel.

James White
James White takes a more serious approach to the subject of Islam and is accurate and forthright in his analysis.  On pages 70 through 72 he addresses the question directly.  He notes that the Quran affirms Christians and Muslims worship the same God and distinguishes between pure and correct worship versus tainted and incorrect worship:
So it seems beyond question that the Qur’an is saying People of the Book and Muslims do worship the same God.
The Qur’an is saying that though we are all talking about the same God, only the Muslims enlightened by His final revelation, are worshiping that one God with purity (tawhid).  The Jews, by rejecting Muhammad, and the Christians, by exalting and worshiping Jesus, have left the straight path of true worship.  (p.71)
On a very general level, the Qur’an’s clear answer to “Are Christians, Muslims, and Jews talking about the same God?” is yes, “our God and your God is One.”

White then goes into the details that comprise the faiths and addresses the Quran’s naïve position:
But this is far too simplistic, and most well-read Muslims recognize it.  For Christians, the deity of Jesus, the eternal relationship of the Father and the Son, and the personality and deity of the Spirit are not side issues that can be relegated to the realm of “excesses.”  These define the object of our worship; they define our relationship to God.  In light of this, while the referent of God may be similar, it cannot be seriously maintained that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
To deny the witness of the incarnation and the resurrection is to deny the entirety of the Christian faith.  For this reason we maintain, together with the thoughtful Muslim, that if worship is an act of truth, then Muslims and Christians are not worshiping the same object.  We do not worship the same God.  (p.72)

James White understands the question and provides an accurate and clear answer.  The other theologians, not so much.  (That is a shame and embarrassment for Christendom in the West.)  While the Quran affirms we all worship the One and only God, the devil in the details, prove otherwise.  The Quran’s error here is caught by informed Muslims and they struggle with addressing its inconsistencies.
The early Christians knew Jesus is the Son of God and many died for believing in Him.  Many of today’s theologians can’t even take a stand being cowed by political correctness or frozen in uncertainty.

God’s pronouncements against idolatry
Some of my comments are critical.  But when compared to what God has both stated and done with respect to idolaters, I might come off as soft.  If both Gods are the same God then perhaps it would be understandable for Christians to syncretize Islamic worship with Christian worship.  “It’s the same God, so why would He care how we worshipped Him if we are worshipping Him in an acceptable manner?”  However if the Gods are different then the worship of the false god is akin to idolatry.  This type of blending occurred throughout Israel’s history and time and time again Yahweh condemned and punished this syncretizing of Judaism with other faiths’ worship.  Tragically, this is occurring in Christianity today via “Insider Movements” and other similar types of efforts that syncretize Christianity with Islam. 
The Biblical Scriptures that address this topic at its root are blunt and harsh and I’ve compiled a few from the Old and New Testaments.  The statements and commands are strict and uncompromising.  God punished idolatry severely.  My compilation caused me to examine my own heart against anything that would usurp Christ’s rule in my life.  Take these Scriptures at face value and let them speak more loudly to you than my words.
1) The very first commandment God gave to the Israelites forbids idolatry:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  “You shall have no other gods before Me.   (Exodus 20:2, 3)
2)  Jesus’ commandments parallel that:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)

The first commandment given to Moses prohibited idolatry.  The first commandment Jesus quotes also prohibits idolatry.
3)  God commanded that the Israelites put idolaters to death:
“If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.  (Deuteronomy 17:2-5).
4)  Paul warns Christians against idolatry and states that the pagans who worship idols are worshipping demons.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?  (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).
5)  John thought the issue important enough to include it as his final statement in his letter: 
Little children, guard yourselves from idols.  (1 John, 5:21).
Of all of the things John could warn against, he warns against idolatry.  Why?  The New International Commentary on the New Testament addresses this:
If what John has just said is true, it is of the utmost urgency that his readers should avoid anything that would lead them astray from this God who has revealed himself in Jesus.  So, for the last time, John addresses himself to his readers and warns them:  “keep yourselves from idols.”  … Having emphasized that Jesus is the true God, John warns against being misled into the worship of any other alleged manifestation or representation of God. … The adoption of false gods or conceptions of God is usually associated with sin.  John urges his readers to have nothing to do with false ideas of God and the sins that go with them.  Today, it is fashionable to imagine that religion and morality are separable and independent; one can be good and righteous without belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  John would remind us that apart from Jesus Christ there is no real understanding of the truth and no power to live according to the truth.  But Jesus Christ is the true God and the way to eternal life.1

Finally, idolaters are described in the last book of the Bible as not being allowed to enter heaven:  
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.  (Rev. 21:8). 
Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.  (Rev. 22:15).

In light of the above Scriptures we can conclude that the worship of a false god is a severe sin and has severe consequences. Paul discusses idolatry and says that those involved with idols are involved with demons.  John writes that idolaters will not enter heaven.  God commanded idolaters to be put to death and He will sentence them to hell.  Whether you like it, or don’t like it, that is exactly what the Bible states.

I’ve answered the question “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” strongly because in the light of Christian weakness and confusion I wanted a Scriptural position known.  I wanted to speak boldly and plainly because this question strikes me as of the utmost importance within God’s values and strictures.  My answer is not a put down of Islam’s God.  Just as apples are similar to but different from oranges so also Islam’s God is similar to, but also contradictory to, Christianity’s God.  A “One Creator” God who says the opposite of what another “One Creator” God says cannot be the same God.
In “Make My Life a Prayer” Keith Green sings:
Make my life a prayer to You
I wanna do what You want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise

Keith Green understood the sin of compromising our faith and he sang against it.  Compromising faith fails to honor Christ, His divinity, or His sacrifice. 
Elijah challenged the Israelites to make up their minds and choose between serving the Lord or serving Baal:
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  1 Kings 18:21

Elijah’s challenge is appropriate here for the Christians who believe or want to believe that Allah and God are the same God.  While there are some theological similarities there are many more crucial differences.  Christians cannot serve two masters.  Acknowledging Allah as being the same Deity as God acknowledges two valid but contradictory systems of faith.  Like the Israelites of Elijah’s time weak-minded Christians need to make a choice, get in or get out. 
As for me, I will not accept the invitation to bow down to Allah.  I challenge Christians to distinguish between a god who says “Jesus is NOT the Son of God!” and a God who says, “Thou are my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
I know firsthand how devout and disciplined Muslims can be.  So were the priests of Baal:
… Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. …So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 1 King 18:26-29

You will find devout, honest, self-sacrificing and disciplined followers in all faiths.  Admirable traits do not equate to God’s Word.  In both the Old and New Testaments devout people worshipped, prayed to, and praised false gods wholeheartedly.  No Old or New Testament saint said anything as ridiculous as, “God’s faithfulness allows us to accept worship of that false god as worship of the same God.” No, that error was rejected and condemned!
Brethren, I challenge you, open your Bibles and do your own study on God’s view of idolatry.  My study shows me that He condemns it harshly.  Why should Christians degrade their own faith?  A little leaven leavens the whole loaf.  Teaching that Allah and God are the same God is feeding the body of Christ spiritual poison.
I know whom I have believed and I know Him who is true and I am in Him who is true, in His beloved Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

(Back to Part 1)


 Marshall, I. Howard. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978. p. 255, 256.
[First published: 5 November 2013]

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? (Part 4) By Silas

Topic 3:  Relationship with God
This third topic is nuanced.  The previous two topics showed Allah and God contradicting each other loudly which proved they cannot be the same God.  This topic however does not present a contradiction but rather presents a contrast of degree & depth.  It focuses on the believers’ relationship with their Gods and how they know them in some degree of intimate familiarity.  This article examines aspects of these relationships and how each God practices and values them.  Members of both faiths have some degree of relationship with their God but it is the difference in relationship-quality which is our focus.  This focus is not only on the depth of relationship, but also on its breath of application to all believers, not just a select one or few.
Earlier I objected to using mere shades of gray as a legitimate differentiation to declare that they are not the same God.  This topic however involves considerable shades of gray.  The challenge here is to present something more distinguishable than minor variance; it is to show a light gray and a dark gray.  There has got to be a difference so clearly defined in and by both Scriptures and religious writings that an honest and fair person would see and acknowledge it.  This difference must be made clear by comparing and contrasting these writings’ (Bible, Quran, hadith, sira, etc.) verses, passages, and accounts, that describe and portray the degree of intimate relationship between the believers and their Gods.  This difference must be more than mere semantics.  The normal “knowing” of God in Christianity has got to be significantly different from the “knowing” of Allah in Islam.
More fully, I need to show that an intimate or deep relationship between Muslim and Allah is not a part of Islam’s expected experience or a part of its faith’s modus-operandi.
Of course there are Muslims who love Allah.  I have known Muslims who are meticulously honest and I have been impressed with the lengths they have gone to do the right thing.  They obey Islamic law as fully as they can.  But that is actually a classification of devotion, love, and obedience, not relationship.  Allah does not interact with them.
Perhaps I’ll not convince all readers on this topic, and that is fine with me, but I want to present what I consider an important difference between the two faiths and the two Gods.  The longer I’ve studied this topic the more convinced I became of the substantial degree of difference between Allah’s and God’s relationships with their followers.  I’m going to present verses from those religious writings that illustrate the Gods’ intentions of relationships with their followers and provide examples of those relationships in action.

For our purposes I’m using the definitions for “knowing” (via the definition of “know”) and “intimate.”  Here are Merriam-Webster’s definitions for “know” and “intimate” in this article:
Definition of “know”  (as a verb)
1 a (1) : to perceive directly : have direct cognition of
      (2) : to have understanding of
      (3) : to recognize the nature of : discern
   b (1) : to recognize as being the same as something previously known
      (2) : to be acquainted or familiar with
      (3) : to have experience of
2 a : to be aware of the truth or factuality of : be convinced or certain of
   b : to have a practical understanding of

Definition of “intimate.”  (as an adjective)
1 a: intrinsic, essential
   b: belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature
2 : marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity
3 a: marked by a warm friendship developing through long association
   b: suggesting informal warmth or privacy
4: of a very personal or private nature

Note 1:
The “knowing” I am talking about is not knowing God through the study of Scripture, i.e. the knowing about the Gods via Biblical or Quranic Scriptural knowledge.  You can certainly know about God, but knowing a book about God is not the same as knowing God.  Saying you know God because you’ve studied the Bible is the same as saying you know your wife because you read a book on marriage, or saying you know you someone because you read their Wikipedia biography.  You don’t know them.
I am defining “knowing God” as a person knowing God beyond a set of simple Scriptural verses, beyond a set of commands or “Do and Don’t” rules.  I am talking about communing with God and hearing and recognizing God’s response.
Note 2:
I am NOT talking about various religious, or neo-religious mystics, who claim that their form of spirituality and “knowing” God allows them to transcend, cancel, or ignore, Scriptural doctrines.  Both Islam and Christianity acknowledge that there are many types of “spiritual experiences,” but they are NOT necessarily from God.  I believe strongly in the importance of Christians having powerful spiritual and emotional experiences but those powerful experiences must be paralleled and anchored in Scripture to be considered valid, and valid experiences will not contradict the Bible.  I’ve read some Christian mystics who assert that after they entered a deeper plane with God they no longer had to be obedient to the detailed commands of Scripture because their spiritual experiences put them on a deeper level.  They claimed that some types of sin were allowable for them because they have transcended the mere written word.  I reject those spiritual experiences and that type of “spirituality.”  It is not from God and it is non-Christian because the actions and claims contradict the New Testament’s teachings.  That type of mysticism is egoistical, carnal, and anchored in spiritual deception.
Within the world of Islam there are also mystics who have similar viewpoints and they are similarly rejected by orthodox Muslims. 

I’ll start with Biblical relationships.  I need to show the Scriptural foundation for intimate relationship with God, and I need to show examples of this relationship.
Here is a passage from the Old Testament that is also appropriated by the New Testament.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

This passage is quoted, essentially word-for-word, in the New Testament as Hebrews 8:7-12.
This passage covers huge theological territory but what stands out for us is God’s intention to have a “knowing” relationship with His people.  God says that He will write His laws on their hearts.  This indicates that He is after relationship.  He intends to have an intimate relationship with His people and one way He facilitates that is instead of relying only upon a written word He puts His laws into His people’s hearts and minds.
Jesus wanted the same thing for His disciples.   John’s gospel, chapters 14 through 17, records perhaps Jesus’ most intimate time of fellowship and prayer.  Below is a selection of verses from those chapters:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”  Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  John 14:6-9
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.  John 17:1-5
“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”  John 17:25, 26

It was important to Jesus that His disciples know God, in fact it was such a priority that Jesus mentions it in His most intimate prayer recorded in the Bible.  Jesus taught His disciples to know God and prayed that they would continue to grow to know God.
This same goal and aspiration is reflected in Paul’s writings:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:7-11

Paul wanted to know God, specifically “Christ Jesus my Lord.”  This was his utmost aim.  “That I may know Him…” was his driving pursuit in his love and devotion to Christ.
John comments on knowing God in a very intimate way:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.  1 John 1-5
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.  1 John 2:3-6  (Also see 1 John 3:4-6).
All of these passages state that there is to be a “knowing” relationship between God and His people. 
One characterizing feature of this relationship between God and man is the father-son relationship.  This father and son analogy is exactly how the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, describes the relationship between God and His people.  It is not only a “King and servants” relationship, it is also a familial relationship.  Throughout the New Testament God is referred to as “Father.”  When Jesus taught His disciples to pray He started with “Our Father…”  Therefore knowing and being in relationship with God is coined or fashioned after a father and son relationship. 
I want to further illustrate this relationship by a final passage from the book of Revelation.  Revelation addresses themes of the end times.  Chapter 21 depicts the ending of the world, a new heaven and earth, and the inheritance of God’s people. 
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”   Revelation 21:1-7

Here, finally at the end of the age, the father and son relationship is declared.  Relationship, relationship, relationship.  God dwells among His people, takes away their pain, and relates to them as a father to a son.  God’s love is real and of necessity it must be personal.  If God is love, (1 John 4:8), then it is an essential requirement that the relationship He establishes with His people be an intimate one available for each follower.  If God were only King or Master then an intimate and personal relationship with His people would be optional.  But if God is our Father, and God is love, then of necessity that relationship must be intimate.
The Revelation 21 passage shows how God intends to reign with His people for eternity – in a father and son relationship.  He will be Almighty God, King, Ruler, etc. and He will be Father.  That will be our final form for eternity and I am looking forward to it!  (Those who have not had good fathers one day will and God promises to make it up to you.)
What does a father and son relationship entail?  Those of you who have been raised by good fathers know that he has been a source of strength, comfort, encouragement, discipline, and most importantly love.  A father has his son’s back.   A father will go to length to support his son.  A good father will discipline his son for his own good.  The relationship between father and child is an important and endearing relationship.
This aspect of Christianity, the Father and son relationship between God and His followers, deserves many more pages.  It is one of the riches of Christianity and Judaism that Islam does not have.  
What follows are New Testament references and examples of Christians who knew God and had a degree of intimate interaction with Him.  They describe how this relationship occurs; God interacted personally with various followers and shows that this interaction is not limited to a select few, but actually just the opposite, it shows that both the apostles and the everyday disciples knew God’s voice. 
1)  Jesus laid the groundwork for this relationship when He foretold that the Holy Spirit would be “in” His disciples in John 14:16-17, 26.  Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as a Person, not an “it,” not a simple wave of inspiration, but as a Person.  The Holy Spirit will be “in” the disciples, will abide with them, and will teach them.  The Holy Spirit facilitates the spiritual relationship between God the Father, and His followers.
2)  In Romans 8:15, 16, Paul identifies the Holy Spirit in us as a proof of our adoption as sons and God as our Father.
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…
Relative to this passage, The New International Commentary on the New Testament makes these statements:
Paul’s description of the Spirit’s work in conferring sonship forms one the most beautiful pictures of the believer’s joy and security anywhere in Scripture.  p. 499
The Holy Spirit is not only instrumental in making us God’s children; he also makes usaware that we are God’s children. … It is because of this that we cry so sincerely and spontaneously, “Abba, Father!” p. 503, 504. 

3)  In Acts 9:10-18, the Lord speaks personally to a disciple, Ananias, and gives him specific instructions.  This example reveals that a common believer, Ananias, knew the Lord in a personal and trusting way.  Ananias had been intimate with God and knew His voice.  Even though Ananias was commanded to visit Saul, a known brutal persecutor of the church, Ananias knew the Lord well enough to put his faith into action and obey the Lord. 
4)  In Acts 10:10-23, the Lord speaks with Peter and directs his interaction with the Gentiles.
5)  In Acts 16:6-10, God speaks to Paul and his companions and changes their plans for ministry.
There are more such examples found in the New Testament. 
Correspondingly, in Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God?, (a book that will be discussed in the next section), Bruce Chilton highlights God’s relationship with His people through His Spirit:
Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ designation as God’s Son together are attested and enabled by the spirit of God.  That is a founding principle of Christianity.
Paul, for all the controversy he occasioned, is a representative teacher of the primitive church when it concerns the Spirit of God.  He understands that the Spirit of sonship that raised Jesus from the dead is also available to Jesus’ followers in baptism (Rom. 8:14-16): …
For Paul, as for the earliest Christians of the Petrine tradition, creation itself longed for the fulfillment of God’s spirit, because God was making the world anew with a new people (see Rom. 8:22-23), and it had begun with the resurrection of his own Son.1

In summary, what I’ve tried to do here is establish that the God of Christianity desires a one-on-one relationship with His followers.  This relationship takes several modes, one of which is that He is a Father to us, and that as a living God, He speaks to us through His Spirit.  This relationship is effected by the new birth, being born again.  The famous Christian hymn, “He Lives” illustrates this:
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.

This relationship with God is one of Christianity’s riches and it is to our shame if we are not in that relationship with God.


Islam does not have an equivalent concept or theology of Allah writing His laws in the hearts and minds of His followers and of them having personal relationship with Him.  Allah gave His word to Gabriel who in turn gave that word to Muhammad.  Muhammad proclaimed Allah’s word to the people, both believers and non-believers.  This was not a feature of relationship, rather it was a feature of obedience.  The believers were to obey Muhammad and Allah.  Nor does it have an equivalent doctrine of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believers.  Although the terms “spirit” and  “holy spirit” are mentioned in the Quran the definition and identity of what they are or what is meant by those terms is not explained or well-defined.
While some prominent Muslim theologians identify Gabriel the angel as the “spirit” or “holy spirit” of Islam, the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, under “Djabra’il” states:
Gabriel’s name only appears three times in the Kur’an; but in other and important passages, a certain personage is designated by titles or epithets such as “the Spirit”, “the Terrible” or even quite indirectly, and the commentators unanimously recognize Gabriel in this personage.  This identification is quite justified by a comparison of the different passages.2

They draw the conclusion that Gabriel is the “spirit” because his ministry parallels the spirit’s ministry.  Therefore they conclude that they are one and the same.  For example, in the Quran, this “spirit” interacted with significant people of previous times, such as Mary, Jesus’ mother, and ministered to them, in similar ways that Gabriel ministered to Muhammad.  But on the other hand, when the name “Gabriel” is substituted in place of the term “spirit” or “holy spirit,” in some passages the result makes little sense and is confusing.  
The identity of Islam’s “spirit” is not part of this article.  The point is that in Islam there is no equivalent of Christianity’s Holy Spirit indwelling believers and there is no equivalent of Allah speaking one-on-one with His followers.  For further readings, see these articles from both Christian and Muslim websites: 

While Islam does not have an equivalent concept of Allah maintaining an intimate relationship with His Muslim followers, the Quran records that previous to Islam, Allah did have a degree of relationship with the prophets and leaders of Israel.  Allah spoke to them, they heard Him, and they spoke to Him.  And as mentioned previously just because Allah is not named “Father” does not exclude Him from maintaining a fatherly relationship with the Muslims.  However, the relationship that Muhammad had with Allah was mediated through the angel Gabriel, and this in and of itself is more formal and distant.  Gabriel was Allah’s intermediary with Muhammad.  Gabriel would come to Muhammad and give Allah’s words to Muhammad.  Sometimes Gabriel would come to Muhammad and reveal portions of the Quran to him, other times Gabriel would give Muhammad direction aside from revealing Quranic verses.  Also notable is that Gabriel did not maintain a constant presence with Muhammad, let alone with individual Muslims, as the Holy Spirit does with Christians.
On a broader scale, both the early Muslims and today’s Muslims were not “born again” of the Spirit.  Muslims were not “filled” by the Spirit, rather they chose to become believers.  Surely some felt emotions when they chose to believe or recited the Shahada.  I know Muslims who’ve told me they had a wonderful “Shahada” experience.  That is a great emotional experience, not the establishment of a relationship with Allah.  They became dedicated, obedient, believers, not intimate knowers.  In Christianity, along with dedication and obedience, God desires relationship with His people.
The contrast here is not one of black and white, 100% vs. 0%.  Rather it is a contrast of degree.  Relationship with Allah exists in Islam but it is less explicit and more distant.  Given that setting, the Quran states that Allah has love for His followers and desires some degree of relationship with them.  Here are some examples using Pickthall’s translation:
2:222 …Truly Allah loveth those who turn unto Him, and loveth those who have a care for cleanness.
3:31  Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
61:4  Lo! Allah loveth them who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure.

There are more verses like those above that state that Allah loves those who believe in and obey Him.  Even though this love is predicated solely upon performance it exists for Muslims.
Other verses in the Quran, like 50:16, show that Allah is close to His followers:
50:16 We verily created man and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.  (Pickthall).

This verse does not underscore relationship; it stresses Allah’s omniscience.  Allah knows and understands His creation perfectly but He is not intimate with them.  I am not discounting Allah’s love for the Muslims for it is certainly real within Islam.  I am saying that it is a love in a distant, structured, Master and slave, not Father and son, relationship.

Allah and Muhammad
Although Allah favored Muhammad their relationship was not a one-on-one encounter as God can have with Christians.  As mentioned above, Allah ministered to Muhammad through Gabriel.  Gabriel spoke the Quran’s verses to Muhammad and apart from Quranic revelation, Gabriel gave Allah’s words of encouragement, instruction, and even rebuke, to Muhammad.
Muhammad’s initial experience with Allah/Gabriel occurred while he was meditating and praying in a cave.  Sahih Bukhari volume 9, #1113 describes the event.  If you read through the hadith you’ll see immediately that this was not a pleasant, magnificent, awe-inspiring experience.  It was quite the opposite.  As a result of that experience Muhammad was near-hysterical with fear and became suicidal.  Ibn Sa’d records that Muhammad believed he had gone mad4 and Ibn Ishaq records that Muhammad believed he had gone mad or had become demon possessed and attempted suicide.5  This was certainly a strange way for Allah to express His love to Muhammad.  In fact, its effects were the opposite of the interaction that Christianity’s God has with His people.
On the other hand, there are many examples of Allah giving Muhammad revelations, though the spirit identified as Gabriel.  For instance, the episode of the “Satanic Verses” in which Gabriel reproves Muhammad for the allowance of worshiping false gods, Allah’s revelation (through Gabriel) to Muhammad concerning Aisha’s innocence against the charge of adultery, and so forth.  Frequently, during difficult times, or during a change in the status quo, Muhammad received revelations that comforted, encouraged, or directed him to a specific course of action.

Allah and the Muslims
Allah had a relationship with Muhammad.  It was not as close and intimate a relationship that God had with Moses and some of the Old Testament prophets, and certainly not as intimate as God the Father had with Jesus, or with the Christians, but it was a relationship nevertheless. 
However, a void exists when it comes to Allah being in relationship with other Muslims. 
Allah says in the Quran that He loves those that obey Him.  There are traditions (hadith) that say similar things.  For example, from Bukhari volume 9 number 502:
9.502:  Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Allah  says: 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.' "
If a Muslim makes an effort to identify with Allah, Allah will do more-so.  But Allah’s love and effort towards the Muslims is not effected in relationship, rather it is displayed by Allah’s providence for the Muslims as they obey His words in the Quran and imitate Muhammad’s lifestyle (sunnah).
Following Muhammad’s death Gabriel disappears.  Following Muhammad’s death the Muslims were left on their own to figure things out.  There was no Holy Spirit to guide them.  All they had was what they remembered of the Quran and of Muhammad’s life.  (The official Quran had not even been compiled yet – that happened dozens of years after Muhammad’s death.)  Allah was not speaking to them directly, neither Allah nor Gabriel were bringing them any direction.  They were left to judge for themselves and decide their next courses of action.
And it is in this situation that the dark, evil, sinister side of man, the depravity of men’s hearts, blossoms fully.  Within a day or so of Muhammad’s death the Muslims were divided and a power struggle ensued.  Punches were thrown, swords were drawn (but not used), while the Muslims argued amongst themselves as to who would be their leader.  Allah never showed up, Gabriel did not show up to tell Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, Al-Zubayr and Sa’d b. ‘Ubadah how to proceed.  The decision was determined by quarrel and force, and allegiance was obtained willingly or unwillingly.  This situation is documented in Tabari’s History and you can read about it here.   
If there were ever a group of Muslims who should know Allah’s will and guidance, it was these Muslims.  After all, these were Muhammad’s intimate “companions.”  They listened to and obeyed his every word.  They fought, killed, and put their lives on the line for him.  They memorized his Quran and followed his lifestyle.  These Muslims, these Companions, knew Muhammad and Islam best!  Further, if there was ever a time when Allah was needed to guide His people it was now.  They were in severe crisis and were now fighting each other.  Much like two men fighting violently to settle things with the winner determining the next course of action, these Muslims used power and violence to figure it out for themselves.
There is no evidence of Allah’s love or relationship here. 
The subsequent lives of most of these “companions” was destitute of Allah’s relationship and guidance.  You can read numerous stories in Tabari’s History of the cruelty these “Companions” perpetrated one upon another.  Over and over again, when they were not attacking and plundering non-Muslims, they were attacking and killing each other.
On and on it continued.  Shakespeare could not have written a better tragedy!
The “Companions” of Muhammad, the most prominent Muslims, brutalized, tortured, fought, killed, murdered, and oppressed each other (along with non-Muslims).  It seems that much of what Muhammad had taught about Muslims helping and loving fellow Muslims was lost quickly.  Instead these “Companions” were as brutal, cunning, and deceitful, as any group of atheist or cultist leaders in history.
All of this shows a lack of relationship with Allah in Islam.

Part of Christianity’s faith is for believers to come into a knowing-of-God.  We cannot know God in totality but we can know Him partially.  We can experience Him in an intimate way.  There is a phrase today that is almost cliché which says, “have a personal relationship with God,” and that phrase is theologically accurate.  God states His people shall know Him, and one of His goals, one of His intentions, one of His plans is for His people to have an intimate relationship with Him.  This is undergirded by the NT description of that relationship:  Father and son. 
Both faiths have some degree of relationship with their Gods but Islam’s, established by the Quran and exemplified by the lives of Muhammad and the early Muslims, is a distant, unfamiliar, relationship, whereas Christianity’s, established by the Bible and exemplified by the lives of the early Christians, is a familial relationship.  Islam’s is perhaps a kindly God/master-to-slave relationship, Christianity’s is not only God/master-to-slave, but also Father to son. 
This distinction shows that these two Gods are dissimilar.  Their plans and intentions for Their followers are quite different.  From the beginning to the end, God intended to establish a Father and son relationship (Rev. 21:1-7).  Allah never established such a relationship with Muhammad, let alone any of Muhammad’s followers.  These two Gods cannot be the same because They established different means and sought different ends between Themselves and Their believers.  When you compare and contrast the faiths’ “knowing” or “relationship with” the Gods, you find both a qualitative, and quantitative difference.  These are significant differences in intimacy. Therefore, they are not the same God.

End of Part 4.  Continue with Part 5.
(Back to Part 1).

1 Neusner, Do Jews, Christians, & Muslims Worship the Same God?, p79, Abingdon Press, 2012
2 Gibb, H.A.R.,  Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, p79,  Brill, Netherlands, 1991
3 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan
4 Ibn Sa'd, (d. 852 A.D.), "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), page 225, translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society
5 Ibn Ishaq, (d. 782), "Sirat Rasulallah", compiled by A. Guillaume as "The Life of Muhammad", page 106, Oxford, London, 1955
[First published: 5 November 2013]