Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Can someone be both a practicing Muslim and also 100 percent Christian? Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Yes and yes, says Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf in his new book Allah: A Christian Response (see The Gospel Coalition’s review).

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile draws upon his experience as someone who formerly practiced Islam to respond to Volf’s arguments and efforts to clarify Christian views for Muslims who often misrepresent such doctrines as the Trinity.

Contrary to my opening question in the video, Volf does not explicitly state in the book that someone can be both 100 percent Christian and 100 percent Muslim. Rather, he argues more narrowly that you can practice Islam and be 100 percent Christian. He explained in the comments section following TGC’s review of his book:

As I see it, to be a Christian (spiritually and not merely culturally), means to accept that Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God. A Christian cannot accept therefore that Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets. The vast majority of Muslims do not believe that in Jesus Christ is God dwelled in human flesh, for me an essential Christian belief. In the book I state explicitly and precisely how what the publisher put on the book jacket (namely that you can be a practicing Muslim and 100 percent Christian) should be understood. I say: “In holding many Muslim convictions and engaging in many Muslim practices, you can still be 100 Christian.” . . . I say that one can be a 100 percent Christian, and engage in some specifically Muslim practices. I explicitly state that I leave open the question whether such person can be described as 100 percent Muslim. That’s not on me to decide; Muslims must decide that.

  • Dr. John D. Abbott, Jr.

    Sorry, but the God that 100% Christians serve is the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not so with the Muslims…therefore we do not serve the same God!

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  • Steve Husting

    A Muslim textbook for children states emphatically that God does not have a son. However, the Christian worships Jesus the Son of God. Very different Gods indeed!

    Yes, one may practice several aspects of Muslim (such as their physical cleansing rituals) and still be a Christian, just as one may practice some aspects of yoga (part of Hinduism) and still be a Christian. Some Christian even follow a few Sabbath laws, but that doesn’t make them followers of Judaism!

    The title of this article is quite misleading, but good for book sales!

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  • paul st.jean

    Allah and Jehovah God are certainly not the same. That I know for sure.

  • Jesse

    I seem to remember Piper talking about this, insomuch as answering the “do we worship the same god” question by referring to Christ’s words in John 8:19 -“If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

    This was helpful to me in understanding that my orthodox jewish friends did not know the same God i know, and furthermore islam does not know the true Jesus and therefore can not know the true God.

  • Ryan Faulk

    You can be ‘culturally Muslim’ the way you can be culturally American, and still be a Christian, but the god of Islam and the God of Christianity are NOT the same. He is triune, and salvation is through grace and faith alone.

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  • Deb

    Jesse, that’s the exact passage of scripture that I go to also John chapter 8. Keep reading and it gets even more convicting (especially vs. 39-59).
    I agree that this post is very misleading. Volf argues in his book, not simply that there can be people who still consider themselves Muslim, but who are truly Christian and have been converted. Volf goes much further than this stating that generally Muslims (and he also adds unregenerate Jews as well) when they worship, worship the same God as Christians. And for some reason, lots of Christians are open this.. I don’t understand why though.
    Christianity Today had an interview with him where he talks about his book here:

  • Deb

    One further comment: I think perhaps that the best way to understand the Muslim referent, might be based on Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapters 1 and 2. He describes what all men (and women) know by the light of nature and because of being created in God’s image about the general revelation of God and His law. This is “sufficient” to convict us of our sin, but not to save. Saving knowledge of God comes only from His Word, and we know that Jesus is the Word; that Jesus is God.

    I don’t see any reason why we can’t simply say that Muslims or Jews or people in 12 step programs who acknowledge a “god” of their understanding who is working in their lives are just agreeing with what Paul told us in Romans 1 and 2.

    We still need to preach the gospel to them, but they are at least more aware of our sovereign Creator than a total atheist. And we can appreciate them and love them and befriend them because of the image of God in them as human beings. That’s my $.02.

  • miss

    No, Christians and Muslims don’t follow the same God.

  • Pete

    This idea that you can be ‘culturally’ moving in one direction and Spiritually moving in another is one of the biggest problems within western Christianity at the current time. It is an idea born out of isogesis and not exegesis. I am an Australian by birth but the more I know Chirst and his word I realise that contained in Scripture is not simply the way unto salvation, but an entirley different worldview which challenges EVERY human culture at some level.

    Chirst’s teaching on the kingdom when taken seriously WILL at some point lead it’s hearers into conflict in some area, however small, of thier prevailing culture. In short, an honest belief will manifest itself in a worldview that corresponds to that belief and the collective effect of that is known as culture.

    You cannot be objectivley and fully Christian and yet culturally Muslim. The corrollary of this idea is essentially the ridiculous but prevalent notion that ‘I can trust that Jesus has saved me….and now do anything that I want in regards to the way I live.’

    • Andrew Stroud

      Amen, my Australian brother! That is such an important message for the Church to know today–thanks for sharing it so well!

  • C.L Edwards

    I am also a former black American convert to Islam, I was a Muslim for 10 years, 8 of those years as a strict Wahhabi. Now as a Christian I can say explicitly that the god in the Quran is not the same God in the Bible. Islam is the most anti trinity, anti Christ, anti Church religion on the face of the earth.

    • Rose

      Amen! The spirit of antichrist fuels Islam, and one cannot serve two masters.

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  • ScottL

    I would encourage readers and commenters to fully engage with Volf’s work. I suppose that even if you disagree with every point, one can agree that we need to move towards better understanding and dialogue between these 2 faiths. This seems to be coming forth as an important issue in our early 21st century (and will only become more important in our global world).

  • Allan

    I’ll admit that I have not read Volf’s book, but it seems that the questions that Hansen poses here entirely miss (and significantly misrepresent) the argument that Volf seems to be making, as demonstrated by his response comment on the TGC book review. I’m actually very disappointed by the way the questions are framed by Hansen here because he seems to be setting up a pretty significant straw man that is totally unfair.

    Obviously, a Muslim who doesn’t believe in the Trinity isn’t worshiping the same God as Christian who does believe in the Trinitarian God. But I don’t think Volf is actually arguing for that. I think the question Volf is probably arguing for is whether a Muslim convert must immediately cut off all ties to their Muslim culture. Should they change their clothing, their eating patterns, their attendance at the Mosque, their work schedule because they have converted but they still live in a Muslim country? Or could a Christian actually continuing practicing certain cultural norms but for a different reason or with a different foundation.

    The quick responses to this post by most people seem to demonstrate the huge problem that many of us are entirely blind to. In the secular west we (ie. born again Christians) are just as deeply intrenched in an anti-Christian lifestyle that pervades our clothing, eating and schedule as a Muslim may be intrenched in their Muslim lifestyle in the middle east. I think we can see issues like this as far more black and white then they actually are.

    Paul converted and yet still made Timothy get circumcised and sacrificed at the temple post conversion. That doesn’t seem right to me, especially in view of his own teaching, but he demonstrated that some of these issues are grey. The separation of cultural practice and faith in Christ are not as clear as I think many of us would like to suggest.

    • Collin Hansen

      Allan, if you had read the book, you would realize that Volf makes the precise argument you say he “obviously” does not. In fact, that argument is central to the whole point of his book—namely, that Muslims might worship God with mistaken views (by denying the Trinity, for example) but they worship him nonetheless. If you don’t read the book, you could learn more about Volf’s arguments in the review I linked.

      • Allan

        Thank you for correcting my misunderstanding of Volf’s position. The quote you shared from Volf seemed to imply that he was talking primarily about engaging “in some specifically Muslim practices” not evaluating a definition of God. As I mentioned, I have not read the book, so I will take your word for it that his argument in the book are related more specifically around the nature of God and not simply cultural practices.

        • Collin Hansen

          Glad to help, Allan. The issues you raise relate primarily to contextualization, no doubt a vitally important issue for all of us, particularly as we think about missions. But Volf’s primary concern is Muslim/Christian dialogue with hopes of defusing the great conflicts of our day.

      • Rose

        Yet God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.

  • Don

    Deb mentioned “He describes what all men (and women) know by the light of nature and because of being created in God’s image about the general revelation of God and His law. This is “sufficient” to convict us of our sin, but not to save. Saving knowledge of God comes only from His Word, and we know that Jesus is the Word; that Jesus is God.” My question is…if the light of nature is sufficient to convict of sin, what happened to all the Native Americans living in this country before European contact? Were they all condemned to hell without ever having any chance of knowing the gospel? For that matter, are people today condemned to hell dependent on the choices of someone in another country who may or may not feel like evangelizing them? Are we saved today in a different means of faith than Abraham, who never had Moses law, or the gospel of Jesus, yet was saved by faith.

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