The Same God Question (Part 2), by Ralph Sidway from the FacingIslam blog

Allah’s Theological Jihad against Christianity – A Case of Two Extremes

Continued from Part 1, An Epistemological Malady

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The first problem for a Christian who affirms that Muslims worship the same God, is that such a Christian has to contend with the Koran, which Muslims believe to be the unalterable, eternal words of God, revealed to Muhammad alone, which pre-existed in heaven before all eternity.

Allah — in the Koran — explicitly condemns the foundational truths of the Christian Way, calls Christians “blasphemers” and “deluded”, and pronounces curses on Christians (emphasis added):

The similitude of Isa [Jesus] before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”: And he was. (Sura 3:59)

Say not “Trinity”: desist: It will be better for you: For God is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. . . . (Sura 4:173)

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. (Sura 5:19)

They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary . . .” They doblaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:75,78)

Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how God doth make His Signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!(Sura 5:78)

The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Sura 9:30)

In fact, they never killed him [Jesus], they never crucified him — they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him. (Sura 4:157)

Just to recap the above, the Koran — Allah, that is — insists:

  • Jesus is like Adam, mere man created from dust. [1]
  • God is too exalted to have a son.
  • Christians are blasphemers for confessing Jesus Christ as Son of God.
  • Christians are blasphemers for confessing the Holy Trinity.
  • Because Christians are blasphemers, a “grievous penalty” will befall them.
  • Christians are “deluded away from truth” when they confess Jesus Christ as Son of God.
  • Because Christians are blasphemers and deluded away from the truth, “God’s curse be upon them.”

Oh, and furthermore, Allah insists that Jesus was never crucified. [2]

All this condemnation of Christian dogma and calling down curses upon Christians comes forth in supposed direct — word-for-word literal — revelations from the True God. [3]

Now, if Muslims and Christians worship the same God, then Allah = God. Yet Allah explicitly condemns Christian dogma, curses Christians and denies historical fact.

What can this possibly mean? How do we respond to this?

The first response is we need to respect the claims Islam makes about Allah, Muhammad, and the Koran. That is, we need to consider the implications of what Allah reveals to Muhammad through the Koran.

Because it is Allah speaking in and through the Koran, therefore Christian apologists for the Same God position cannot hide behind the relativistic, academic “different conceptions of God” curtain. That is ducking the question. Who is the “man behind the curtain?” Who is the BEING behind the revelation which makes those pronouncements? This is the dilemma of the Same God position. If the Koran is a revealed text, who is the WHO behind the text?

The second problem for a Christian who affirms the Same God position happens to be Jesus’ own words and the New Testament witness, which are quite extreme in their own right.

In juxtaposition to Allah’s condemnation of foundational Christian dogmas, let us first choose an example from the Gospels. I have in mind Jesus’ dialogue with the Jews in John’s Gospel account, in chapter 8. The entire passage is too long to include here, but in summary, Jesus rebukes and challenges the Pharisees and even the Jews who followed him, trying to bring them to faith and repentance:

Jesus said to them… “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (vv 43-47, NKJV)

The discussion gets progressively more heated, with the Jews accusing Jesus of having a demon, and of bearing witness of himself. To which Jesus responds with one of the most incredible statements ever uttered in any language:

Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (vv. 54-58, NKJV)

The “I AM” statement in Greek, “Ego Eimi”, is the translation of the words by which God revealed Himself to Moses, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (Ex 3:14). So by making this statement, Jesus was equating himself with the LORD, YHWH,“He Who IS.” [4]

This was the ultimate blasphemy for the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. No wonder, as John recounts, that after Jesus spoke this, “They took up stones to throw at him” (v.59).

Jesus makes this “I AM” statement twenty-four times in John’s Gospel (forty-five, if you count the instances where the emphatic “Ego” is not included but merely implied with the “Eimi”).

Based on these brief examples alone, Christianity and Islam cannot both be from the same source, which is what the Same God Question ultimately boils down to. If we treat each truth claim with respect, that each faith springs from a self-revelation of God, then it is clear the Allah of Islam is directly, and in a specific, vigorous manner, opposed to the revelation from the Christian God. And Jesus’ own emphatic testimony about himself excludes any alternate revelation concerning the nature of God.

Put another way, Allah’s self-revelation through Muhammad reveals him as completely opposed to the Christian God’s self-revelation through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Much of Allah’s purpose in revealing certain specific verses to Muhammad was clearly to correct (what he saw as) the errors of the Christians. Allah is so vehement in these condemnations of Christian dogma that it amounts to what I term a “Theological Jihad.” 

The implications for Christians are set forth with a holy intensity by the Evangelist John in his epistles. Confessing Jesus Christ is the litmus test for who is of God and who is not. John does not give Christians any “wiggle room” on this point:

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also… (1 JN 2:22-23)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 JN 4:1-3)

My purpose in citing these passages is to show the total commitment to Jesus Christ which John mandates for Christians. [5] 

But this is much more than an act of will, this “commitment.” In John’s Gospel and letters, and for Christians ever since the first days of the Church, it is a question ofBeing, of transformation, of entering into a new life, having already died to this life. Paul uses the same language describing baptism in his letter to the Romans. It is a mystical existence in Jesus even while struggling through this world. Once a Christian begins to “Be,” to “abide,”, to exist in this New Life, they cannot deny it. It is reality, a Divine Reality which proceeds from the Father; it is new life in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Peter puts it in his catholic epistle, we are become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

So, the “Same God Question” asks, can the God who freely gives this New Life through Jesus also be the Allah who commands the opposite through Muhammad? 

Those who take the “Same God” position are, I believe, abstracting the question, and divorcing it from the radically different Sources behind the Islamic and Christian revelations. The Same God Question cannot properly be reduced to an abstract, theoretical, conceptual analysis, but rather deserves to be considered as an ontological, super-essential discernment of two diametrically opposed Sources.

In a similar way to John’s exclusivist writings, the Koranic repudiations of Christian dogma are not abstract, theological points. They too are foundational, activating principles in Islamic faith, prayer and practice. Let us take one example, which the faithful Muslim prays at least seventeen times a day, thousands of times a year:

…Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray. (Sura 1:7)

Offered as a prayer to “the Master of the Day of Doom,” this first sura of the Koran, called al-Fatihah, ‘The Opening’, refers specifically in this its final verse to the Christians and the Jews. In traditional Islamic teaching, Islam alone is “the straight path,” whereas:

“The two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”  (Classic Koranic commentator Ibn Kathir,Commentary on Koran 1:7, Vol 1, p 87.)

This is the mainstream Islamic view, held to by most Muslim jurists, though not all Muslims realize whom they are condemning when they pray ‘The Opening’. But taken in context with the other Koranic verses cited above, it is clear that in the Islamic view, Jews and Christians alike are under Allah’s judgment and wrath.

This wouldn’t be of too much immediate existential concern to us if the differences between Islam and Christianity merely constituted theological disagreement, an abstract spiritual debate over origins and eschatology, or even over eternal life and eternal damnation. Apologists make their cases, the faithful persevere, converts are won, apostates are lost, life goes on.

However, because the Koran contains not merely “foundational, activating principles,” as I term them above, but explicit commandments, exhortations and obligations to commit certain actions against non-believers, by which the faithful Muslim proves his loyalty and obedience to Allah, therefore the Same God Question is indeed an immediate, existential concern to us.

This is what we will look at in our next installment:

Part 3: ‘By their fruits you shall know them…‘ — Practical implications of the Same God Question.

NOTES:

[1] — Granted, there is a verse in the Koran where Allah speaks of Isa as being a word and spirit from him: “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was Allah’s wordwhich he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from him” (Sura 4:171). Gregory Palamas and John of Damascus both keyed on this in their debates with their Muslim adversaries. However, it is clear from Sura 3:79 and 5:78 that Allah believes Isa [Jesus] to be a created being. And after all, he should know, if he is the creator god!

[2] — It is interesting that Allah goes to such lengths to condemn Christian teaching, even denying the historical fact of Jesus’ crucifixion, which was written about not merely by the authors of the gospels and the New Testament letters, but also by 1st century Jewish and Roman historians like Josephus, Thallus and Tacitus, who drew on non-Christian contemporaneous sources to pen their accounts. Thallus was writing circa 50 A.D., before the commonly accepted date for the first gospels.

We know of Thallus through references to his writing in other ancient authors. From an article by William Lane Craig:

In his Chronicle from about the year 800 the Byzantine chronicler Georgius Syncellus cites a passage from a book, no longer extant, entitled A History of the World, which was written around 220 by the church father Julius Africanus, himself an able historian, who in turn reports that the Roman historian Thallus, who wrote on the history of the Ancient Near East, tries in the third book of his History, a work also no longer extant, to explain away the darkness at the time of Christ’s death as due to a solar eclipse…

…Now if Thallus wrote much later than the Gospels, none of this would be very exciting… On the other hand, if Thallus wrote his History prior to the Gospels, then his testimony becomes very interesting, indeed.

The dating of his work is uncertain, but most scholars date Thallus’ History to the mid-first century, that is, sometime around AD 50, just 20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion in AD 30. By contrast most scholars date Mark’s Gospel to around AD 66-70.

If this right, then either Thallus provides independent, extra-biblical attestation of the darkness at noon, thereby increasing the probability of its historicity, or else Thallus is responding to the passion story which was being told by Christians at his time, thereby attesting to the earliness of that tradition. In either case, Thallus is doubtless reacting to a Christian interpretation of the event, since he is trying to provide an alternative explanation of the event.

One could argue that, given his familiarity with Near Eastern affairs, Thallus would have just denied that the event occurred had he no knowledge of its happening. He thereby confirms the historicity of the darkness at noon. Perhaps, however, simply explaining it away was the easier reply (Thallus elsewhere explains portents naturalistically). In that case, what Thallus delivers is not independent confirmation of the Gospel accounts, butevidence of the primitiveness of the pre-Markan passion tradition, a conclusion of no small significance, since the earlier the tradition, the more historically credible it is.

Of course, if we on other grounds—such as the several lines of evidence suggesting that Acts was written prior to AD 60, and Luke’s Gospel prior to Acts, and Mark’s Gospel prior to Luke—reject the conventional dating of the Gospels, as I’m inclined to do, then we already have the Gospels themselves contemporaneous with Thallus. But on the conventional dating, it is rather stunning that the earlier reference to Jesus’ crucifixion comes not from one of the Christian Evangelists, but from a pagan Roman historian.

[3] — There is a surprising passage in the Koran where Allah directs Muhammad to consult the Jewish and Christian believers if he is in doubt. From an in-deptharticle by John Gilchrist at AnsweringIslam.org:

If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the book before thee. (Sura 10.94)

Gilchrist writes concerning this verse, and the Islamic doctrine of Tahrif, that the Jews and Christians had distorted the Scriptures:

Not only does this text yet again confirm that the Jews and the Christians of Muhammad’s time were indeed reading the true Scripture but it even commands Muhammad to consult them if he was in any doubt about what was coming to him in the Qur’an. If the original Torah and Gospel had been corrupted or replaced, would the Qur’an direct Muhammad to consult the readers of these Scriptures? […]

The result of these positive testimonies to the earlier scriptures in the Qur’an was that the early Muslims did not query the authenticity of the text of the Bible. The differences between them and the Jews and the Christians were ascribed to a perversion of the meaning of the scriptures by the latter but not of the text itself. This became known as tahri fi-manawi, a “corruption of the meaning” of the words. It was only much later that the doctrine of tahrifi-lafzi, “corruption of the text”, developed. In the early days, however, it was presumed that the Jews and Christians were only guilty of misrepresenting the meaning of their scriptures.

Since astute readers would no doubt be aware of these issues, I did want to note them. However, these considerations are beyond the scope of my focus in this series of articles, as it is quite clear from the Koran what Allah’s view is of foundational Christian dogmas.

[4]“He Who IS”  — The Orthodox Church uses this specific phrase in its divine services when offering glory to Jesus Christ. Depending on the translation into English, it varies between “He Who Is, Christ our God…” or “Christ our God,The Existing One…” with the concluding glorification, “is blessed, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.”  Furthermore, in the nimbus (halo) around Christ’s head in Orthodox iconography, the form of a cross is inscribed with the Greek letters denoting this same phrase, “He Who Is.”  Thus this specific wording bonds our New Testament worship to He who revealed Himself first in the Old Covenant.

[5] — We see this commitment today, when Christians choose to die rather than deny Jesus Christ and convert to Islam, the most stirring example of this kind of faith being the 21 Coptic Martyrs beheaded by the Islamic State a year ago. The coda to their martyrdom was the forgiveness their grieving families offered for the Muslims who killed them. The mothers of the martyrs were praying for the conversion of the ISIS jihadis to Christ, that they would have, like Paul the Apostle, a “Damascus Road” experience.

_____

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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3 Responses to The Same God Question (Part 2), by Ralph Sidway from the FacingIslam blog

  1. θ says:

    Allah is also God of “Christians”.
    1. Ebionites.
    Islam can claim having the same belief with the faith of 1st century Ebionites (Christian Judaisers) who accept Jesus as Christ born of virgin, but deny Christ’s divinity, and approve the 1st Apostolic Decree that corrects Paul.
    2. Third of the Three.
    Qur’an claims there’s certain “Trinitarian group” that believes Allah is Holy Spirit, not Mary.
    3. Qur’an confirmation.
    Qur’an confirms that God whom Jesus worships is indeed Allah.
    4. Trinity rejection.
    Although Jews reject the Trinity, Christians – as well as Jesus and Paul – believe Jews do worship same God of Christians. Hence the consistency tells that although Moslems reject the Trinity, Christians should believe that Moslems worship the same God of Christians.
    5. Jesus’ universal God.
    Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that Samaritans do worship same God whom Jesus worships, but they can’t understand God as much as Jews know Him.
    6. Paul’s universal God,
    Paul confirms the Unknown God of Greeks is also God of Christians..

  2. madmanna says:

    “6. Paul’s universal God,
    Paul confirms the Unknown God of Greeks is also God of Christians..”

    Yes, but he was known and defined by the revelation of the bible to Christians, unknown and undefined to the Greeks, until Paul arrived.

  3. madmanna says:

    “Islam can claim having the same belief with the faith of 1st century Ebionites (Christian Judaisers) who accept Jesus as Christ born of virgin, but deny Christ’s divinity, and approve the 1st Apostolic Decree that corrects Paul.”

    James didn’t correct Paul, he agreed with him.

    The descendants of the judaizers rejected Mohammed’s teaching and claim to prophethood, rightly so.

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