In a new video from the Gospel Coalition, J. D. Greear says he believes there is a way to answer the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” that seeks a common starting point without compromising the truth. He does warn, however:
“I do think you’ve got to make sure you’re asking the right question.”
How We Answer Depends on the Conversation
Greear says that because he served as a missionary to Muslims and wrote a book called Breaking the Islam Code, people often ask him whether or not Christians and Muslims have the same beliefs about God. It’s not suprising that people would have this question. According to Pew Research Center, Muslims comprise about one percent of the U.S. population, and only around half of Americans know a Muslim personally.
And, because of similarities in their doctrines and their origins, it’s fairly common for people to think that Islam and Christianity, as well as Judaism, teach basically the same thing. For example, all three are monotheistic, recognize Abraham and Moses as key figures, and emphasize the importance of obeying God.
Nevertheless, if the question is whether or not God accepts the worship of both Christians and Muslims, Greear says the answer is definitively, “No.” “Islam is a false way of salvation” and “presents basically salvation by works.” It also denies some key tenets of Christianity, among them the Trinity and the belief that God is a personal being.
However, Greear says that because Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham, some missionaries have found it helpful to use that common ground as a starting point for evangelism. As a scriptural basis for this tactic, Greear points to Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4.
The woman was not a Jew, but a Samaritan, and at one point asks Jesus a question about worship. In His answer Jesus says, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.”
Instead of telling her that she worships a false god, says Greear, Jesus tells her, “You’re attempting to worship the one creator God the wrong way.” Greear believes this scenario can be a model for conversations about the gospel, depending on how the discussion is framed.
If a Christian is having a conversation with a Muslim and clearly communicates that God is Trinitarian, that His character has been fully revealed in the person of Jesus, and that Mohammed is not one of His prophets, then, says Greear, “I have less problems with them saying Christians and Muslims are attempting to worship the same God but in two entirely different ways.”
Whether or not you agree with J.D. Greear’s perspective, he raises a great opportunity to discuss what it looks like to find common ground when sharing the gospel without distorting the truth.