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.
Nature of God
As we’ve mentioned already, Muslims and Christians both believe in the oneness of God, to the sovereignty of God, and the holiness of God. There is a great departure, however, when the character of God is discussed. The Qur’an speaks only of Allah’s attributes, but says little to nothing of His character. Whereas the Bible reveals to us not only God’s attributes, but His character. In other words, we learn not only that God is, but we learn who God is. This is foreign to the Muslim.
Islam does very well in teaching the transcendence of God. That means the “otherness” of God. He is completely other than His creation, because He is perfectly holy, just, merciful, pure, loving, and so forth. The 99 Names of Allah are found in the Qur’an that enumerates his attributes, but no indication of how to enjoy relationship with him. In fact, in Islam that is unthinkable. Unlike Allah, the God of the Bible, who is the living and true God, is not only transcendent, He is immanent – existing with us.
I have often heard that Christianity is loved-based and Islam fear-based. Technically that is true, but that simple statement belies the fact that love is replete in the Koran. One of the ninety-nine beautiful names for God in the Koran is al-Wadud which means “He who loves.” Every surah except one begins with the words, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” BUT in the Qur’an love is something God does, not that which God is.
In the New Testament we clearly (and gloriously) read that God IS love! Love is not just an activity of God, love is His essence! His love is neither accidental nor conditional.
- Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
- 1 John 4:8 – “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
- 1 John 4:10 – “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.”
This is what makes God’s love so amazing. He IS love, and He shows me His love. Me. I am a sinner. I do not just commit sins. I am sin. Sin is my nature (Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 8:7; Mark 7:15; Romans 5:12). BUT God shows His love for me (and for you) in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Praise God for His powerful, unconditional, purposeful, redeeming, sanctifying, and satisfying love for me, a chief sinner whose best righteousness is nothing but filthy rags! God shows us His love because He is love. Meditating on this deep love of the Father (yes, my Father!) caused me to begin to sing in my heart the marvelous hymn of Stuart Townend – How Deep the Father’s Love.
How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away. As wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross, My sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there, Until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.
No devout Muslim can call Allah father, for this would compromise his divine transcendence. As a believer I unabashedly cry out to God, “Abba, Father!”
- Galatians 4:6 – “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
- Romans 8:15 – “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
View of Christ
Jesus is more than a carpenter, and He is more than a prophet. The Qur’an both admits and denies too much about Jesus. He is mentioned in fifteen surahs and ninety-three ayats. He is referred to as Isa al-Masih – “Jesus the anointed one” – eleven times, and Isa ibn Maryam – “Jesus the son of Mary” – sixteen times. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was virgin born but not divine. His pre-existence and incarnation are flatly denied, as is His death and resurrection. In the Qur’an He does miracles, but none of His miracles over nature are recorded. The Sermon on the Mount is absent, as is the parable of the two lost sons, and His teaching on the new birth and His divinity. The Islamic view of Jesus is warbled, confused, and provides no comfort, because there is little comfort in a Jesus who is no more than a prophet and far less than the One come from the Father full of grace and truth.
Of course, Islam denies Christ’s crucifixion and therefore His resurrection. While they admit someone died on the cross, it was not Jesus, because Allah would not permit one of his prophets to endure such a humiliating death. They are taught that Allah pulled a switch at the last second, and while the Jews and Romans believed they were crucifying Jesus, it was really someone else; most likely Judas. If there is no death, then there can be no resurrection, but if there is no crucifixion and no resurrection then there is no hope of redemption from sins. There can be no Christianity without the crucifixion/resurrection. There can be no Islam with it.
Nature of Man
While Islam readily admits that man commits sin, it does not admit, as I stated earlier, that man is sin. This means they deny original sin, that man is inherently sinful. Man is foolish, weak, ignorant, disobedient, arrogant, and in need of guidance but not of salvation. Islam denies that Adam’s sin has any effect on mankind. Adam did sin, but he repented. Allah forgave him, and that was that. While scripture is clear that by one man’s sin, sin spread to all men. Romans 5:12 – “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”
Islam views Christianity as a weak religion which robs man of his dignity because it views man as a fallen creature who has to come begging for his salvation. Whereas Islam provides man with “dignity” and says, “Rise up! You are morally capable of fulfilling Allah’s will for yourself.”
Authority of Scripture
Islam considers most of our Bible to be Holy Books – the Pentateuch, the Psalms of David, and the Gospels, but they believe they have been corrupted over time by the Jews and by the Christians. Nevertheless, there are several places in the Qur’an where Muslims are encouraged to consider the scriptures. (I have spent time in this series’ previous posts on the different views held by Muslims and Christians regarding the Bible. I won’t repeat them here.)
Yes, there is a little common ground between Islam and Christianity, but those similarities are superficial. The God of the Bible is not the god of Islam, and these two systems of belief do not lead to the same destination.