(Photo credit: muslims4peace.org )
In recent days, thanks to a controversy involving a professor at Wheaton College, there has been no shortage of debate in the blogospheres as to who worships what God. The question is commonly phrased: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” After all, can’t Christians utter the first part of the Shahada along with Mulsims? I do not believe I will be adding any new material here, but I wanted to expand the question, as others have, to include adherents of Judiasm. Dr James White, in a video here, covers the Mulsim/Christian dynamic of this inquiry fully, so I will focus mainly on the question: “Do Jews worship the same God as Christians?”
I think instinctively, if you’re a Christian, you want to say “Yes, of course we do. We are Judeo-Christians after all.” If you are not a Christian, you may also think this for the very same reason. You may also think that all gods are the same, we just approach them differently. “All roads lead to Rome” right? (I know for a fact though that I80, I40, and I10 do not…although I40 gets close in Georgia) Back to the Christian: As you think about it a bit longer, you may then be tempted to change your answer thinking: “Well, I would not say modern adherents of Judaism are saved, so maybe not?” Brifely, I am going to argue that the question is not as cut and dry as it first appears, then I am going to argue that it actually is.
It isn’t as cut and dry as it may first appear because we claim to believe in the same God Abraham worshipped, namely, Yahweh. Modern Jews claim this as well (incidentally, Muslims also claim to worship the same God as Abraham). Jesus says in Luke 16, when telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus, that the rich man, speaking from Hades, asked Abraham to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers so that they may avoid the place of torment that he was currently in. Note Abraham’s response : “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them“, and again “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29,31).
What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that what was revealed in the Law and the Prophets was enough for salvation (As a side note, this is one of the reasons I hold to a reformed perspective concerning the salvation of Old Testamnet saints. I believe the Bible teaches that Old Testament saints are saved in the same way as New Testament saints, and that is by looking to the cross. The Old Testament believers looked forward in faith and hope to the coming Messiah’s work, though they did not fully understand what it would be; and New Testament believers look back on the finished work of the Messiah, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. However, this is is topic for another time.).
So, if a Jew could be saved by what was revealed in the Law and the Prophets, do they not indeed worship the same God as Christians? This is where the answer does become as cut and dry as it appears.
No doubt that “Abraham believed God, and is it was counted unto him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3) , but what does Jesus say in John 5, 6, and 8? Let’s start with 5:46: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”, and then in 6:40 “…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life…”, and finally 8:39-42 “They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me…”. So what is the point? Simply: A denial of Jesus is a denial of the Father.
I have been specific in my wording above as I have repeatedly referenced “modern Jews”, for I believe that the Jews of the Old Testament did believe in the same God as Christians, that is to say Yahweh. But this was only in so far as He had revealed Himself at that time. In the New Testament, Christ claims to be Yahweh (see my early post). (Another side note, this is another reason I am reformed. I do not believe God changes or that the New Testament changes the Old Testament, rather, it is a continuing revelation. Jesus Himself says He did not come to abolish the Law and Prophets but fufill it (see Matt 5:17). Again, another topic for another time).
To deny Christ is to deny Yahweh. Simply put, this means that modern Jews and Muslims do not worship the same God as Chritsians because they deny the deity of Christ. Incidentally, so do Momorns and Jehovahs Witnesses and I reject these groups being identified as branches of Christianity. The Bible is clear:
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phillipians 2:9-11)