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30 April 2018

Is Allah the same as God?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Read the article.

Back when I was growing up Fundamentalist, I went to a Sunday school class on “cults”—by which they meant heretic churches. They use that word ’cause of Walter Martin’s book The Kingdom of the Cults, in which he discussed various heretic churches, their history, and how they depart from orthodox Christianity. He used the word “cult” to describe these churches—’cause a number of them did try to curtail their members’ free will and free speech, in their early days. (Frankly, a lot of Fundies are pretty darn cultlike themselves, so it stands to reason they’d be happy to have “cult” mean anyone but them. But I digress.)

Anyway, in the “cults” class, the teacher was in the practice of referring to the heretic churches’ beliefs about God as “their God,” and beliefs about Jesus as “their Jesus.” So there was a Mormon God, a Jehovah’s Witness God, a Christian Science God, a Unitarian God, and so forth. Using this kind of language gave you the idea each of these groups had their very own god. Who certainly wasn’t our God, the LORD, the God of Abraham and Moses, the Father of Christ Jesus. These’d be other gods.

Oh, the teachers totally meant to give us that idea. Because that’s how they believed. They didn’t simply believe these heretics were wrong about God: They believed these heretics were worshiping a whole other god. A devil who was pretending to be God, who borrowed God’s title, but wasn’t really God. And if these heretics believed in Jesus, it wasn’t our Jesus whom they followed but—again—a devil pretending to be Jesus. And so on.

Where’d they come up with this idea? They loosely got it from the bible.

1 Corinthians 10.19-20 KWL
19 Then what am I implying?—that idol-sacrifice is real, or that idols are real? No.
20 Instead that they sacrifice to lesser gods. They don’t sacrifice to God.
I don’t want you to enter a relationship with lesser gods.
21 You can’t drink from the Master’s cup and from lesser gods’ cup.
You can’t eat at the Master’s table and from lesser gods’ table.
22 Or do we want the Master to be jealous?—we’re not stronger than him.

Pagans don’t worship real gods, but lesser gods, creatures which are in charge of various things in God’s creation, but obviously aren’t the God, the one true God. Daimónion, as they’re called in Greek—a word we’ve translated demons, and think of devils. Which they aren’t necessarily. Because we’re lesser gods. Ps 82.6, Jn 10.34 (God put us in charge of the planet, remember?) Lesser gods were never meant to be worshiped; that’s where we humans go wrong. And a lot of the things the pagan Greeks identified as “gods” were actual beings, actual lesser gods; but the Greeks worshiped them, and shouldn’t’ve.

Anyway, what the Fundies are doing is claiming, first of all, that heretic Christians aren’t actually Christian—they’re pagan. And as pagans, the God they believe in and worship can’t possibly be the real God. It’s gotta be some other god—one of those lesser gods, like Paul and Sosthenes pointed out in 1 Corinthians. A demon. They’re worshiping a demon.

Yikes.

Now let’s get to where the scriptures indicate that belief is entirely wrong.

Remember the Samaritans?

When the Assyrian Empire dragged the city-dwellers of northern Israel into exile, and scattered them all over their empire, they did the very same thing to other conquered nations: They scattered those people into northern Israeli territory. 2Ki 17.24 These gentiles intermarried with the locals, and became the Samaritans.

And they were heretic.

Well, the Pharisees considered ’em heretic. Because they limited the bible to only its first five books—and parts of these five books are quite different than the bible the Jews and Christians use. Because they built a temple on Mt. Gerizim and insisted that was where the LORD wanted to be worshiped. Because they had a whole different batch of End Times beliefs which differed from Pharisee ideas. Because they just plain rejected Pharisee ideas.

Jesus had many bones to pick with Pharisee ideas too. But when it came to the Samaritans, turns out our Lord actually agreed with the Pharisees: Samaritans are heretics. When the Samaritan at the well tried to engage him on the difference between Pharisees and Samaritans, Jesus said as much.

John 4.19-24 KWL
19 The woman told Jesus, “Master, I see you’re a prophet.
20 Our ancestors worshiped on this hill.
You say Jerusalem is the place where worship must be done.”
21 Jesus told the Samaritan, “Trust me, ma’am:
The time’s come when you’ll worship the Father neither on this hill, nor Jerusalem.
22 You worship One whom you haven’t known.
We worship One whom we know: Salvation comes from Jews.
23 But the time’s come—it’s now!—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.
The Father seeks such people to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and must be worshiped by his worshipers in spirit and truth.”

Now notice how Jesus described the Samaritans’ relationship with God: “You worship One whom you haven’t known.”

Nope, didn’t say they were worshiping “the Samaritan God.” Didn’t rebuke her for worshiping a fake god, different god, lesser god, or demon. Jesus simply said the Samaritans didn’t know God. They worshiped him, and presumed to know him, but they didn’t. The Jews did. Jesus absolutely did.

As for outright pagans, who don’t even claim to follow the God of Abraham, but figure they’re following the One God, the creator of the universe: The way Paul chose to engage with them was not to tell ’em they weren’t really following the One God. It was to tell ’em essentially the same thing Jesus did: You got the right God… but you don’t know him. We do.

Acts 17.22-23 KWL
22 Standing in the middle of the Areopágos, Paul said,
“Athenians, from everything I’ve seen, you’re very god- and demon-fearing.
23 For as I passed through your city and looked closely at your shrines,
I found an altar on which was engraved, ‘To God-Not-Known.’
So you worship him!… ignorantly. Well, I’ll proclaim him to you.”

Followed by Paul’s description of who God is, and how he sent us Jesus. Ac 17.24-31

Not, as various Christian apologists prefer to do nowadays, beginning with a takedown of the pagans’ “false god”—and then, if you’ve managed to not horrify and alienate them with what they consider blasphemy, you gotta go to all the trouble of proving you follow the real God.

Which seems an utter waste of time when it turns out these folks aren’t revering a false god: It is the real God. It’s just they don’t know him. That’s why they’re so very wrong about him.

Now yeah, these apologists like to come back at me with, “When the Hebrews were worshiping Baal, you’re not gonna tell me they were really worshiping the LORD and just got his name wrong, are you?” No. The Baals were obviously different gods. Their worshipers weren’t claiming their Baal was the God of Abraham, nor that Baal saved the Hebrews from Egypt.

What apologists and dark Christians fear greatly is that heretics are following other gods, are worshiping demons. They’re afraid if we tell ’em, “That’s God, but you’re wrong about him,” we’re unwittingly encouraging them to keep worshiping demons… and maybe bring some of their devil-infused beliefs into our churches with them. They’re so afraid of what the devil might do, they exalt its power and undermine their own faith in God’s power. Frankly, they don’t know God all that much better than the heretics do.

Now let’s get to Allah.

Allah is the Arabic word for God. That’s the word Arabic-speaking Christians use for God in church, same as when Aramaic-speaking Christians use Elah, and Hebrew-speaking Christians use Eloah. (Notice how similar those words sound? Similar languages.)

Muslims don’t use any special personal name for God, like Jews and Christians do when we refer to YHWH/“Jehovah.” He’s just “God.” In their faith statement, the shahada/“testimony,” Muslims regularly state La ilaha illa-llah; Muhammadun rasulu-llah/“No god but God; Muhammad God’s messenger.” The shahada frequently gets translated “There is no god but Allah,” and that just gives people the wrong idea—that Allah is a special Muslim name for their god. It’s not.

So Muslims believe in God. (Can’t be Muslim if you don’t!) But while we Christians primarily define God as the Father of Jesus, Muslims primarily define God as the one who sent ’em Muhammad to explain God… and to supersede Jesus as the last of his prophets. And to “correct” various things the Muslims are pretty sure Christians get wrong about God, and Jesus. They don’t believe Jesus died, fr’instance; they insist he switched places with Judas Iscariot on the cross, then went to heaven without dying, and that he’s someday coming back to rule the world. They believe Jesus was born of a virgin, but isn’t God’s son, ’cause God has no sons. They consider the New Testament to be scripture, but don’t read it and don’t trust it ’cause they think we Christians have altered it too much.

Believe it or not, Islam is technically a Christian heresy. But it’s had 13 centuries to evolve into something which looks very different from Christianity. Even so, we Christians still have a lot in common with Muslims. Far more than we have in common with every other religion but Judaism.

This being the case, do we share the same God? Fundamentalists will adamantly insist no we don’t: Their God isn’t the Father of Jesus, so he can’t be the same God.

But here’s the nutty thing. Ask a Fundie whether Christians and Jews share the same God. And just about all of them will say of course we do. Even though rabbinical Jews insist their God isn’t the Father of Jesus either. So why do Jews get a break, but Muslims don’t? Bluntly it’s Islamophobia: Fundies don’t wanna recognize Muslims follow the same God. They like Jews, but fear Muslims. It’s theology based on favoritism, not on a reasoned interpretation of the scriptures.

Reason would conclude that because Muslims recognize the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Zechariah, and Jesus, they clearly intend to identify YHWH, the LORD, our God. And just as clearly, Muslims believe some significantly different things about God. Stuff we Christians can’t help but call misleading, wrong, and heresy. Just like the stuff rabbinic Jews teach about Jesus—and again, Fundies regardless recognize Jews claim the same God. If Jews have the same God as we, so must Muslims.

(I’ll bring up the fact there are certain antisemitic sects who claim Jews don’t have the same God as we. They claim Jews follow a false god, or demon, same as all the other religions these sects don’t like. These sects tend to be racist Christian cults, so I won’t bother to get into their beliefs any further.)

So, to finally answer the question, “Is Allah the same as God?” Yes he is. Ask any Arabic-speaking Christian. Archbishop Theodosius Atallah Hanna, fr’instance.


This meme’s been floating round the internet for a while.

But despite Allah being God, do Muslims know God? No. Because the only way to know God is through Jesus, and not through defective portrait of Jesus which Muslims were raised with. They still have yet to be introduced to Jesus. That, we gotta work on.

And I expect we’ll get a lot farther once we acknowledge, same as Jesus with the Samaritans and Paul with the Athenians, that we share the same God.