Christianity and Islam fall under monotheism. Monotheism is a belief that holds to one God. Monotheist is not a religion but rather a category that classifies religions. Many different religions fall under this category. Almost every major religion in history had a sect that held to some form of monotheism. Therefore, there are many ideas and concepts to what this one God is like.
The most significant difference in monotheism today is the idea that God has a plurality of persons in Him. Judaism and Islam hold to a single person in a Godhead while Christianity holds to the plurality of persons in a Godhead, specifically three persons (Trinity) in a Godhead. Monotheism is broken down into Unitarianism, Binitarianism and Trinitarianism forms. Where unitarianism holds to having a single person in a Godhead, Binitarians holds to having two persons in a Godhead and Trinitarianism holds to three persons in a Godhead. Since many things are similar between Islam and Christianity, let’s list the confusion and talk about each part individually.
- Common Historical Origin
- The word “Father”
- The word “Person”
- The Phrase “Son of Man”
Common Historical Origin
Muslims claims that the Quran has the most accurate historical account of the Jewish and Christian history. The problem is that Jews and Christians still exist today and contend against Islam’s claim. Muslim state the reason why the Quran was given was to correct Jewish and Christian historical events. Hence, creating this confusion for many Arab people. In theory, this is possible, but it better reflects what historical evidence reveals. In this case, I think we can all agree that you can not supersede historical evidence with blind faith. Let’s look at the historical evidence and see where it leads us.
Since Judaism and Christianity came before Islam, it is best to start from their historical records and beliefs. Christianity and Judaism agree on everything except for who the savior is. Christianity began from being a sect of Judaism. What separated them was the disagreement about who Jesus is. With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and gentile membership becoming a majority population in the sect, created this religious separation. Jesus is the stumbling block for the rest of the Jews. Due to Jesus’ claims, the church developed doctrines to make sense of His claims. One of them being Trinitarianism. Islam entered into the scene much later in history and for a little while was considered as a heretical Christian movement. This was due to Islam stripping Jesus of His divine nature and not following the gospel that was already there. Instead, Muhammad created his own book, Quran, claiming that it was giving to him by God himself. As you can imagine, it was similar to biblical historical events. Today, Christianity and Judaism do not disagree on historical events.
Islam, on the other hand, does not agree with all the historical sources and appeals to divine authority. If the Quran and Torah are in conflict, then the Quran is correct based on divine authority. The problem is that Christian and Jews also claim that their book(s) have divine authority as well. Therefore, it is fair to rely only on historical evidence and not on divine authority.
This puts Islam in “Neverland.” Quran has nothing to do with biblical historical accounts. Quran is not a historical record but a theological claim. And theological claims are built from historical accounts of revelation. Biblical history is the revelation of God dealing with his people. On the side of Christianity, there are plenty of scrolls to re-create the account of history. It is the best account of any historical event in world history. If the Quran wants to be considered a true book, historically speaking, then it needs to align itself with all the historical records rather than try to stand on its own feet. No historian in the right mind would use the Quran to establish facts about Abraham, Moses, or Jesus. Quran is merely an attempt to retell the historical events.
Let’s talk evidence for a bit. Bible has impeccable traceability of their scripture. There are 5,800+ Greek New Testament manuscripts, there are more than 2.6 million pages! That equates to one mile of New Testament manuscripts (and 2.5 miles for the entire Bible), compared with an average four feet of a manuscript by the average classical writer. Combining both the Old and New Testament, Christians have more than 66,000 manuscripts and scrolls that speak to the historical validity of Scripture! This is the evidence of God preserving His word. The only thing the Quran can do is bring to light those things that were lost or corrupted based on historical evidence. You may ask, how much of scripture was corrupted? Less than 1% was corrupted, and most of it is grammatical errors such as a misspelling. None of the doctrinal claims is affected by any of the corruptions that were discovered. The Old Testament is the source for the prophets, and the New Testament is the source about Jesus and his claims. This is based on historical evidence, which historians would use to show what was initially written and heard by the original hearers. Hopefully, you see why this puts Christians at odds with Muslims. Christians and Jews hold all the cards, and it is sad that most Muslim scholars and Imams do not study these sources. Secondly, the Quran supports this idea in the following verse.
Quran 15:9 Surely We revealed the Message, and We will surely preserve it.
The word “Father”
Another part of the confusion is the word “father.” Many confuse this term as being synonyms with God. Father and God are synonymous in Islam and Judaism but not in Christianity. Let’s talk about language. In English, you can make the following statement “Our Father in heaven is God.” The word “is” can be used to create two different statements. “Is” can be used to create an identity or a predicate statement. A predicate is what a subject is, what properties it has, or what actions it does. For example “the truck is red.” The truck possessed the property of being red, but it is not the color red. What is an identity statement then? Or what is the nature of identity? Here is a quick description: If two things are identical then they are, in fact, the same thing. You are trying to identify someone or something by comparing them to everything else. We can say “that person is Muhammad.” In this case “is” is used to identify a specific person. In Christianity when we say “Father is God,” it is not used as an identity statement but as a predicate statement. Father has divine properties but is not identical to God. In Christianity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, in other words, Trinity is God. Individually they are not God. I hope this helps with the confusion of how Christians use the statement “Father is God.”
The word “Person”
The third issue is the word “person.” The Unitarian concept says there is one person in God. Let’s first break down the idea of what is a person. A “person” is not the same thing as a “being.” When we think of a human being, we point to a physical form, a body, and some kind of shapeless conscious awareness. Let’s use another creature to get a better perspective. Let’s use a monkey. When we look at the monkey, we do not call it a person, yet it has a physical body similar to the human body and some limited cognition. We do not claim that a monkey is a person because we know it does not have a self-conscious mind. But a human being is qualified to be a person because we are self-conscious. Therefore, a self-conscious mind is what we refer by the word person. While a monkey-being has a mind, yet it is not a self-conscious mind; consequently it is not considered as a person. I hope this gave you a better understanding of what is meant by a person. What is a being then, if it is not a person? There are different kinds of beings as we know. There is an animal, human, or God. What is the difference? The difference is each “being” is endowed with different kind of faculties. A person is a type of faculty that a being can have. In the Trinitarian case, it has three sets of it. Hence a Christian God has three persons in His being. Hopefully, this gives you an understanding and removes any confusion of what is meant by the word “person.”
The Phrase “Son of Man”
The final confusion is when Christianity talks about a “son of man.” Those who are not familiar with the Hebrew language and the Apocrypha genre of literature will misunderstand this phrase. Many Muslim scholars and Imams interpret it literally because they have this negativity towards Christian theology and therefore never truly study it. Hence creating confusion for the rest of the Arab people. “Son of Man” is a figure of speech used in the Bible. The phrase “Son of Man” is a reference from a prophecy that was given to Daniel.
13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
This refers to someone who is equal to God. Jesus made this claim about himself multiple time. To claim equality with God is blasphemous, hence the reason why so many attempts to kill him were made. And this is the claim that condemned him to the cross.
61 Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.
Jesus referenced prophecy from Daniel 7 and claimed that He is that person that is equal to God the father. He was condemned by the high priests and the chief priests to death for claiming that. “Son of Man” does not mean that Jesus is declaring that He is a human being but rather that He is God in human flesh. This is not a scholarly idea but a typical figure of speech that was known by the general public, hence the reason why attempts were made to stone Him during His public ministry. Why then, do Imam not interpret this correctly? Because they most likely never studied Christian literature or they are lying to you. Once again, this is another reason why Christians are at odds with Islam. The fact is that most Muslims do not know what Christians claim about their faith. Hopefully, this response gives you a better understanding of Christian claims.
This leads us to the main difference. Christianity is based on Jesus claiming to be part of God. This is the central doctrine of Christianity. This is the founding belief of the Christian faith. From this belief, Christianity was formed into what you see it now. Without this belief, there is no Christianity. Jesus claimed that He is divine, that he descended from heaven.
13 Jesus states: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man”.
He is one of the persons in the Godhead that came down from heaven to save us from sin by dying on the cross for us. He was raised on the third day to prove that there is life after death and He gave that salvation freely to those who want to receive it. Islam does not believe that Jesus is a savior. They definitely do not think He is divine, which puts them at odds with Christianity. This is why Islam and Christian’s believe in different Gods. They are not the same. Philosophically it’s a different God, theologically it’s a different God, and historically it’s a different God. This is why Christians tell Muslims that they do not believe in the same God.
Jesus is a historical character that proved to be God by being raised from the dead. Therefore Christians take His word over anyone else’s word. Muslims take Muhammad’s word, which historically looks like plagiarism. Muhammad clearly did not understand Christian claims. And, at the same time, claiming to be a prophet of a religion he fought against. No prophet has ever done that. Even Jesus stated that He did not come to destroy the word but to fulfill it.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
It is historically proven that Jesus died and the tomb was empty on the third day. This claim has the best historical records that the world has ever recorded. And Muhammad was a man who died like the rest of us. Who should a person trust in this matter? Jesus or Muhammad. Do you see the reason why Christians think we serve different God’s? I hope you do.
This is not the first time we hear someone claiming to worship the same God as Jews. Believe it or not, Jesus himself ran into this issue. Let’s see what Jesus has to say about it. Samaritans claimed that they worshiped the same God as Jews. They claimed to have historical origins and theological understanding of God and even built a temple. Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple before Jesus was born. This story is from John chapter 4 – Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman.
When Jesus prophesies to the woman about her marriage situation, she recognizes him as a prophet and then proceeds to tell Jesus about their religious beliefs. John 4:20 “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Does this sound familiar to Christian and Muslim conversation? Jesus responds with the following words. John 4:22 “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” In the same way, I will make this statement:
“You Muslims worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from Christ.”
I’ll leave you with these thoughts. Jesus said, “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One.” What is the significance of this statement? Who was this done for? The “Son of God” was there from the beginning and was coequal to the two other persons in the Godhead. He did not have to earn that position. This is speaking about the human race. Jesus lifted us up with Him. This is a very humbling statement, Jesus raised us higher than any other creature. This is good news for all of us. Not only did He save us but He placed us right next to Himself and called us His sons and daughters. I hope this penetrates your heart and that you will see the truth. I hope you see the contrast between Islam and Christianity and how different they are. Choose the right one.
Hopefully, this gave you a better understanding of this matter my friends and gave you something to think about.