Undeniable Commonalities

After introducing this series of blog-posts on the Cross and the Crescent we have discussed what Islam is, where it may be found, wrong responses to Islam, and we have briefly examined misconceptions that Muslims and Christians have towards one another. Now we will focus on the commonalities that Islam and Christianity share. Timothy George begins chapter one of his book “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?” with this:

“How would you characterize someone who believes in the literal, verbal inspiration of Scripture, who holds that Jesus is God’s virgin-born Messiah, that Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, bodily ascended into heaven, and will one day return to do battle with the antichrist and in the end truly reign on the earth? This person knows that Satan is alive and well on planet Earth, that angels and demons are real forces to be reckoned with, and that after death everyone on earth will go to one of two places – the burning fires of hell or the beautiful palaces of heaven. This individual does not believe in evolution, but believes that God created the world in six literal days. This person happens to be a tee-totaler, is strongly pro-life, and is committed to traditional family values. Women are highly regarded in the religious community to which this person belongs, but they do not function as preachers and leaders there. This person is also deeply patriotic, regards pacifism as weakness, deplores the separation of church and state, and believes that government (ideally) should enforce God’s will in every area of society.

Do you recognize this person as a strict, conservative, Bible-believing Christian? Well, maybe. But he or she might just as well be a devout, conscientious Muslim! More than any two religious traditions on earth, Christianity and Islam share both striking similarities and radical differences. Historically, the relationship between Christians and Muslims has been strained at best. All too frequently it has been marked by bloodshed and violence. But there is a verse in the Qur’an that presents a helpful perspective. This verse tells Muslims, “You will surely find that the nearest in affection to those who believe are the ones who say, ‘We are Christians’” (5:82).

The world’s second largest and fastest growing religion shares some similarities with Christianity, but they are only surface similarities. It’s worth noting that these commonalities are shared by Judaism as well.

Essentially, all religions are about the same thing: life’s brevity, death’s certainty, search for meaning in a life of pain and suffering, and the longings of the human heart. Of course, genuine, Biblical Christianity is not just another religion. We know from God’s Word that He has provided what no religion – including a hollow, ritualistic Christianity – is able to provide: eternal life, victory over death, purpose, and fulfillment. Only Christ’s finished work on the cross and resurrection from the grave is able to rescue fallen humanity from its sin. Still, there are some surface similarities between Christianity and its two Semitic cousins Islam and Judaism. All three originated in the Middle East, and each has a connection to the patriarch Abraham.

Besides that, each religion shares five characteristics.

Historical

All three affirm that God is the Creator who has made known His will to mankind. The idea of the samsara, the wheel of life, which is a key aspect of eastern religions, is rejected by all three. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam history is considered to be the story of God working out His purposes, and each have a defining moment in their history: the Exodus, the Incarnation/Resurrection (I don’t think those two may be separated), and the receiving of the Qur’an.

Scriptural

All three possess books held to be holy and inspired by God. Judaism’s book is what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, and of special importance is the Torah – the books of Moses (Genesis – Deuteronomy). Other important books to the Orthodox Jew are the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Of course, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments form the Christian’s Bible. (It must be noted that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox include more books.)

The Qur’an is Islam’s holy book. Each Muslim believes that every word was given to Muhammad by God, and he recited those words verbatim to his scribes. While a few similarities exist between the Bible and the Qur’an there are a vast number of crucial differences; not the least of which is the message communicated. Here are a few others:

  • The Qur’an was revealed to one person over 23 years.
  • The Bible was written (under divine inspiration) by many people in several languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), over the course of about 1500 years.
  • Muslims regard only the Arabic as from Allah.
  • Christians strive to put the Bible in the language of the people.

Monotheistic

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a passion for the oneness of God. Idolatry is a major heresy in all three religions. Paul describes conversion in 1 Thessalonians 1:9b, “how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

When God speaks of Himself as a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16; 32:21; Joshua 24:19) it is not describing petulance. God alone is worthy of worship, and He will not share it with anyone or anything else. As Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

In Western society monotheism is no longer en vogue. Atheism, pan-theism, and poly-theism are seen as more enlightened or more natural viewpoints. Take for instance Gore Vidal’s opinion as stated in a lecture given at Harvard:

“I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam — good people, yes, but any religion based on a single… well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system that has worked pretty well for twenty-five hundred years. So you see I am ecumenical in my dislike for the Book. But like it or not, the Book is there; and because of it people die; and the world is in danger.” (Harvard Lowell Lecture – 4/20/1992)

No doubt many evil things have been done in the name of God and Allah, but this destruction does not issue from a commitment to the one true God. Instead, it signifies a return to idols. Culture, kingdom, ethnicity, power, territory, and politics are valued more than God, and so atrocities are committed for them in God’s name. That’s idolatry.

Besides, genuine Christianity is much more than monotheism.

Missionary

All three religions have a missionary theme, albeit Judaism has consistently lagged behind in this area. Evangelism, however, is not a New Testament invention. It is intertwined with the Old Testament narrative (Isaiah 11:10; 49:6; Deuteronomy 4:6; 32:43; Psalm 96; 117). In the New Testament, Christ not only commanded and empowered His church to “go” but He demonstrated the going with His own life. The Gospel is for every race, culture, and language group.

Islam is also evangelistic, and Muslim traders as well as soldiers carried Muhammad’s message to Europe, Africa, Asia, and now that message is being declared in this hemisphere.

Purpose-Driven

And I do not mean in a Rick Warren sort of way. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe that God is the God of creation, history, and the final judgment. All of life is marching towards a grand finale in which they will play, according to their beliefs, a significant role.

For all the commonalities that exist between Christianity and Islam there are many irreducible, irreconcilable differences, and they may all be sectioned off into four categories. These four main areas of contention are: view of God, nature of Christ, view of man, and the nature and authority of the Bible. That will be the subject of next week’s post.

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About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christmas, Islam, Relativism, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Undeniable Commonalities

  1. Roy Dearmore says:

    Timothy George is an extremely poor source of accurate information about Islam. (Joel Rosenberg and the Q’uran are much better sources. BTW, I have in my personal library a complete copy of an English translation of the Q’uran.) A classic illustration of this is the quote above. The picture it portrays of Islam is largely nonsense. Islam does not believe that Christ’s suffering and death even occurred (it was a scam and someone else actually died). According to them Jesus did not die, therefore no redemption and no resurrection of Jesus, who is said to have ascended in a human body into heaven. They do not hold to the Biblical view of the virgin birth in that Jesus is not the son of Allah, their god (who BTW is not the God of the Bible). In Islam it is heresy punishable by death to say that Allah has a son. To Islam, Jesus was only a prophet with miraculous powers, but not divine. Islam’s view of hell is probably more or less accurate but escaping it is totally based on good works, especially martyrdom in jihad. Islam’s view of heaven is a place of sensual, sexual pleasures and rampant polygamy. To state that Islam is strongly pro-life is absurd. They oppose abortion but favor killing anyone who will not convert to Islam. They advocate death by stoning for adultery and a woman must have 4 male witnesses to rape, otherwise she is considered an adulteress. Honor killings of women (including your own daughter) are condoned if a woman has not followed Islam strictly enough to suit her father or male relatives. Death is the penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity or any other religion. To say that women are highly regarded in Islam is beyond ridiculous. They are second class citizens. Their husband may beat them at will. He may marry 4 other women (the number varies slightly in varying sects of Islam but all permit polygamy). The husband may have temporary wives (read prostitutes). A woman found alone in the presence of an adult male who is not a blood relative is subject to execution even if nothing untoward happened or was intended. Women are specifically declared in the Q’uran to be inferior to men. Women are basically chattels of their husbands with zero rights. A Muslim’s
    “patriotism” is to Islam and not to the country of birth or residence. To state that a conservative Christian thinks the govt. should enforce God’s will in every area of society is untrue.
    Timothy George is either woefully ignorant of Islam or deliberately deceptive or both. I am aware that there are some Muslims who do not advocate nor practice ALL of what I mention above. I am referring to faithful Muslims who follow the Q’uran. If they believe in the literal verbal inspiration of scripture (???), not just the Q’uran, they certainly deny most of the fundamentals of the Bible, The Trinity, Redemption, and eternal salvation by grace through faith. Any comparison of a true, conservative Christian to a tru Muslim is totally artificial, unwarranted and deceptive.
    Roy F. Dearmore, B.S., Th.B., M.D.

    • Travis says:

      I haven’t stated any of those things you list. You take his generalization, and then run with it in a direction I wasn’t going. I mentioned that the similarities are only “surface” similarities. Yes, the scripture they hold as literally true is the Qur’an, not the Bible. The point is they believe in an authoritative, divinely inspired book. Most world religions, besides the three mentioned above do not. Thus, a commonality. Remember this is a series of posts, and in a future post the differences will be made apparent.

      I’ve only read one George book, “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad”. I’d highly recommend it. Yes, Islam is a misogynistic religion. The entire point of the post was to point out “surface” similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, similarities that exist because Muhammad borrowed from the other two. All the differences you list will be pointed out, and they’re differences George points out in the aforementioned book also.

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