Recently I saw the documentary by National Geographic narrated by Morgan Freeman called the Story of God,where he says the God worshipped by the Christians and the Muslims is the same. I know this is not true.Can you explain briefly the major differences?
It is debatable whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians. I believe that this statement is more true than false, but it is a simplification which hides some absolutely essential differences about how Jesus viewed God and how Muhammad viewed God.
Let me first defend Morgan Freeman’s statement. First of all, in principle, Christians and Muslims agree that there is one God who is a person and who created the entire universe—both physical and spiritual. We agree that God created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing), not from pre-existent material. The scriptures of both religions agree that this God has been revealed specially to people through patriarchs such as Abraham, prophets such as Moses and kings such as David, as well as through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is proper for a Christian speaking in Arabic to call the Christian God Allah and it is proper for a Muslim speaking in English to call Allah by the name God. Both accept monotheism and both come from a monotheism with similar historical roots. To this extent, Morgan Freeman is accurate when he says that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Although I am not personally fond of Morgan Freeman saying this, from a comparative religion standpoint, he is not totally off base to say that we have the same God.
However, there are some who would completely reject the very thesis that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I am not among this group, but I definitely can understand why people say this. There are essential differences between the theistic God of the Qur’an and the God in the Christian Bible. For example, the God of the Bible is compassionate and loving. In Christianity he is also approachable and treats us a sons and daughters. He wants an intimate, personal relationship with believers. He is so passionately desiring of us knowing him intimately that he came “down” to the earth and took on human form so that we could know him. That “form” of course, is Jesus Christ.
The God of Islam is far more distant from us. He is not often described as loving. Merciful is a much better description of this God than loving. He is distant and unknowable. He is not approached by us. He does not interact with us, but rather he determines all of our actions before they happen. This God sometimes acts arbitrarily. The God of Islam is just, as is the God of Christianity, but the Christian God is willing to make atonement for sin by a substitutionary sacrifice. The Muslim God definitely does not free people from the consequences of their sin based on the sacrifice of another.
The Christian God is one, but he takes three forms or exists as three “persons”—the Father, the Son and the Spirit. The Muslim God certainly would not be described this way. The Christian God dwells in us who are his. The Muslim God certainly would not do this.
There has been much divisive rhetoric around the question of whether the Christian and the Muslim God are the same God. Let us concede that there is sufficient reason to say this, and let us not attack those who say this. Instead, let us accept this as a premise, but use it as an opportunity to describe God more adequately. This is what Paul did in Acts 17. Rather than totally reject their false idea about God, he asked them to consider a much better idea about God—one who is very near us, in whom we live and move and have our being. The Epicureans he was debating with in Athens actually have an idea about God with a fair amount in common with the Muslim God, and we would do well to imitate Paul—not rebuking our Muslim friends, but instead finding common grounds, and then proceeding from there to describe a much better God—the God who sent his son to die for us so that we could be accepted back into an intimate relationship with our Creator.
Is the Christian God the same as the God of Islam? I say that this is debatable. Are the religions equivalent. Absolutely not! In fact, according to the Bible, a person who is a Muslim cannot possibly be saved (because they reject that Jesus is God and that he was crucified for our sins) and according to the Qur’an, a Christian who does not submit the will to Allah and accept Muhammad as a prophet is also not going to heaven. There are parallels on the surface between these religions, but the claims and the means of salvation of Islam and Christianity are fundamentally and absolutely on contradiction to one another.