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Islam is in the news. Again. Actually, I don't think it ever left.

From jihad abroad to terrorism at home to questions surrounding refugees and immigration, there is no shortage of stories about Islam. Depending on who you listen to, you may think that most Muslims are out to kill you or that Muslims are among the most oppressed and ostracized people on the planet. Like almost every other controversial subject in our day, sizing up Islam has become a proxy for where one stands in the culture wars. Either America's problem is that her leaders are weak, PC, and too afraid to tell the truth about Islam, or the problem is that vast swaths of flyover country are intolerant, prejudiced, and trigger-happy.

So where do we go from here?

Well, as Christians, it's never a bad idea to go to the Bible. We won't answer every policy question, but at least we can put a few important truths in place as we try to think Christianly about Islam.

Let's briefly look at a pair of truths--one positive and one negative--under three different headings.


Muslims are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. We mustn't think of Muslims as mere foreigners or strangers, let alone as some sort of sub-human people who can be safely treated with contempt. They are fellow image bearers (Gen. 1:26-27), and we should love them as we would like to be loved (Matt. 22:39).

This does not mean that Muslims are our brothers and sisters. This familial terminology is strictly reserved in the New Testament for those who belong to the body of Christ (1 John 3:1-3, 9-10, 14-16; 5:1-5). Only with God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our reigning and redeeming older brother can we be adopted into the family of God (Heb. 2:11). Muslims may be friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even biological family members. But only those who are born again by the Spirit can rightly be called our spiritual brothers and sisters (John 1:12-13).


Muslims and Christians share important religious commonalities. Abraham is an important figure in both Christianity and in Islam. Both religions are staunchly monotheistic. Both recognize that Jesus was (at least) a miraculous prophet. Both believe in the abiding significance of inspired holy books.

This does not mean that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The differences between Christianity and Islam are wide and deep. We disagree about the Bible, the Koran, the place of Mohammed, the person and work of Jesus Christ, what happened on the cross, what happens when you die, and how you get to heaven, to name only a few major differences. Christians worship a Triune God, one God in three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20). In the Christian understanding, God is only truly known and truly worshiped when he is known and worshiped as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:6-7; 9-11). The Christian God is the invisible God we behold as visible in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6; Col. 1:15). On this side of the incarnation, all other conceptions of God are not merely incomplete, but idolatrous (John 8:39-59).


Christians should look for opportunities to show love and compassion to our Muslim neighbors. I have gotten to know a number of Muslims in East Lansing over the years. They have all been friendly and easy to talk to. Some have lived here longer than I have. Others were just entering the country for work or study. I am thankful for ministries at our church--and in other churches--that seek to make Muslims and other newcomers feel welcomed, cared for, and at home (Rom. 12:9-18).

This does not mean the church has the responsibility to provide for all Muslims everywhere. Christians should do good to all people as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). The church's priority is the church, and the mission of the church is to make disciples and plant healthy churches (Acts 14:21-23; Rom. 15:19). In an effort to stir up one another to love and good deeds, we must not indict fellow Christians who have different opportunities and different callings. Being marked by Christlike compassion is not the same thing as providing social services for all needy people. To be open to helping anyone is not the same as an obligation to help everyone.

Obviously, my list of important truths is short. There is much more that could be said. But agreeing on at least these three (or six, I suppose) things would help Christians not only start off on the same foot, but perhaps help us avoid running off in the wrong direction.

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14 thoughts on “Thinking Theologically About Islam”

  1. WoundedEgo says:

    You wrote:

    “Christians worship a Triune God, one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20).”

    The evidence is very strong that the reference to “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” in that passage is a later addition:

    Do you have any other verse that explicitly supports your assertion?

    Then you wrote:

    “In the Christian understanding, God is only truly known and truly worshiped when he is known and worshiped as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:6-7; 9-11).”

    Doesn’t the fact that God is Jesus’ God and father preclude Jesus from being God? Is Jesus his own God and father?

    Joh_20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

    Now, I think that Muslims consider “Allah” to both mean “God” and to be his proper name. In the Hebrew scriptures “God” (ELOHYM) and “YHVH” are two different words but in Arabic there is only one God and one referred to as Allah. So this raises the question… when Jesus taught to pray “Our father in the sky, reverenced be your name”, what name did he have in mind? “YHVH”? “Allah”? or “Blessed Trinity”? Or did he not mean anything?

  2. watchandpray" says:

    In an English-language Quran, I see multiple incidents where Divinity appears to be speaking in the plural as “We”.


    Surah 2:35 We said: “O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.”

    Surah 97:1 1. We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:

    Surah 108:1 1. To thee have We granted the Fount (of Abundance).

    Is it not possible that the Quran includes concepts of the Mystery of God involving multiple Persons in One? Or, do the concepts of plurality refer to collaboration involving the angel, Gabriel (Jibril) and others? Or, it is something else?

  3. Neville Briggs says:

    Mr DeYoung seems to be mixing up Christian attitude to Muslims and Christian attitude to Islam. by placing these side by side in the discussion.

    If KDY is teaching that Muslims we encounter are in essence our neighbours who we treat with Christian charity then in the light of scripture, there is no argument there, amen to that.
    As far as Islam is concerned, KDY says there is a wide difference between Islam and Christianity, In that case I can’t find that we are encouraged by scripture to devise some sort of kind theological analysis of Islam or look for commonalities ; but to turn away.

  4. anaquaduck says:

    I see in this post the greatest commandment as taught in Mark 12:30-31.

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

    Jesus wants us to know why & what we believe, often revealing similarities & differences to help us get to the bottom of things, or as you state….

    Well, as Christians, it’s never a bad idea to go to the Bible. We won’t answer every policy question, but at least we can put a few important truths in place as we try to think Christianly about Islam. John 1:1-5.

  5. Neville Briggs says:

    Anaquaduck, I hear what you are saying, certainly love God with all our mind, and love our neighbours. Trouble is we see around the place supposed Christian leaders who, in their urge for neighbourly understanding have, these ” interfaith dialogue” things; that become compromise. I’m not suggesting KDY is one of those, but it can be a slippery path if we are not careful. It appears that ancient Israel slipped up that way. Elijah’s theological thinking about Canaanite religion was gritty, stark and direct ” If the Lord is God, follow Him, if Baal, then follow him ” .
    The apostle Paul wrote ” I know in whom I have believed……….” Paul didn’t need to have a theological think about the temple of Artemis.
    And when Peter expressed man-made thoughts, Jesus said to His good friend ” Get behind me Satan ” no discussion or compromise there.

  6. WoundedEgo says:

    Neville Briggs’ admonition to clearly distinguish Muslims from Islam is, IMHO sage advice. The Muslims I know personally are sweetie-pies and good citizens and have nothing in common with their savage, mass murdering, pillaging, enslaving, wife beating, pedophile “prophet”.

  7. Paul Carter says:

    Hi Kevin, I disagreed with your first article on the refugee issue and commented kindly but unfavourably at that time. I generally LOVE your writings and am very glad to have you “on the team” :). I co-lead a little renewal society among Canadian Baptists (fairly small time compared to the big reformed Evangelical movement down south) and we’ve been wrestling with these same issues, perhaps even more so, given the higher percentage of Muslim folks in our major cities and our PM’s early embrace of the refugee issue. Anyway, I wrote an article about a week ago making many of the same points you are making here; if you are interested you can find it here. I appreciate your brother! –

  8. Paul Carter says:

    Ha! That should be “I appreciate YOU brother” – I don’t know YOUR brother, though I’m sure he’s a great fella. :)

  9. Haze says:

    Would you say Jews today “worship a different God” to Christians? There are reasons for adopting this position, and your last sentence under “Faith” would seem to imply it, but I expect a lot of Christians would be a lot less willing to (explicitly) make this claim about Jews than they would about Muslims.

  10. Jimi Akanbi says:

    I entirely concur that Muslims should not be condemned. First of, our Lord asks us to love and pray for our enemies. Secondly, not all Muslims are terrible, some even have better hearts than other fellow Christians. Thirdly, unforgiveness is a sin in the eyes of God. Lastly, when God planned to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded saying, “Will you destroy the good with the bad in the city”? God instantly aborted his plans to destroy the land.

  11. Juliet says:

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  12. Qawii says:

    AL ‘ilah … Arabic for “THE god” was the name given to HuBa’al, the moon god, the lord of the Kaaba, after whom Mohammed’s father, Abdul-lah was named. SO Allah (AL ‘ilah joined together) was the god, moon god, of the Qureshi before the birth of their unprofitable “prophet.”
    I like to ask Muslims if God is eternal; “YES” they reply. And His word …eternal as well? “YES,” they reply! And was God’s Spirit always with Him, or did God evolve? “YES”, they reply; God’s Spirit is eternal; God does not evolve. …..SO, I say: “You believe in three eternals; does this mean you believe in three gods? “NO,” they reply. The three are ONE.
    “But why do you speak of Jesus as “God’s Son.” “Lam youlid wa lam youlad!” He is no begotten (the fruit of someone’s loins) neither does he have the fruit of His loins.”
    “You are correct,” I reply. Jesus is no the fruit of God’s loins (waladou Allah) but rather “ibn Allah” the relational Son of God. He is spoken of as “ibn Daoud” -ben David — Yet David lived around 2,000 years before … He was not the fruit of David’s loins but there was a relationship between the two. You can be ibn al maghreb ..son of Morocco but never waladou al maghreb … fruit of Morocco’s loins.
    By the way …IMPORTANT … Jesus is described in surah 4:171 as “Kalimatouhou” – His Word .. the Word of God… Jesus alone in both the Qur’an & Hadith is thus described … the Eternal Word, Son of God, ONE with God and His Spirit.

  13. Qawii says:

    You want to know more ??? Be sure to visit the resource website: May God use you to reach out to Muslims. Some will be rejecting the Syrian refugees coming to your neighborhood this year. Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself!” (One more bit of advice from the Rabbi.)

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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