Many voices have weighed in on the debate as to whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Wheaton’s Professor Hawkins was only reflecting the sentiment of half the country — and perhaps a third of self-described evangelicals — when she declared that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
The “same God” controversy is the kind of “debate” that plays out mostly on social media and largely among Christians and secularists. So it’s really more of a political statement than a debate. But there are other voices that ought to be heard on the subject — stories of men and women who don’t have access to blogs or Facebook because they are being hunted like animals at this very moment.
Stories of Great Awakenings
There is Saditha. I met her and her husband at a Cairo safe house. She had become a Christian, and so her father was desperately trying to kill her. Then there’s the pastor’s wife in Somalia. She and her husband were both Muslim-background believers. Like the apostle Paul, the love of Christ compelled them — at great risk — to go and share the Good News with their people (see 2 Corinthians 5:14). The Good News wasn’t the discovery that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Rather, it was the stunning, saving message of the gospel, the Word of the Cross. In early February, this pastor was murdered, and his wife and children are now in hiding.
Then there are the three men I met who are sleeping in an old church near Chittagong, Bangladesh. Because they have become Christians, they have been violently cast out of their homes and villages. One young man named Jahru is in his early thirties. Though he is very much alive, his family has already held his funeral. In this communal culture, his prospects for marriage and a career are bleak. I asked him why he would go through so much heartache and trouble, and he spoke of deliverance: “I came to realize that only Jesus could take away the weight of my sin.” Then gesturing to his fellow fugitives he said, “Each believer has his own story, but all must walk through the fire.”
Then there is the joyful testimony of a brother in North Africa named Kamal. His first exposure to the gospel was through Christian satellite TV. The one thing that stood out to him was hearing Christians praying for all peoples — whereas a Muslim’s standard prayer was for Allah to kill all non-Muslims. He saw a way of love and grace that led straight to Christ. He said the word “salvation” appears nowhere in the Koran — whereas the Bible is all about salvation. So Kamal believed on Jesus, the Messiah, and prayed to him in the only place he knew to pray — the mosque!
He had never met another Christian until one day at the café where he was a waiter he greeted a man with the salutation, “Peace and grace.” The standard Arabic greeting is usually only “salam” (peace), but Kamal said, “Peace and grace.” This man, whose name was Mohammed and who also was a believer, said, “Are you a Christian?” Kamal said he was and that he prayed to Christ in the mosque. Mohammed said, “No. You don’t need to go to the mosque to pray. You can pray anywhere, anytime because Christ is in you. And you don’t need to clean yourself by the ceremonial washing because Christ has forever washed you by his blood.” Later these two newfound brothers baptized each other in the ocean near Casablanca.
Kamal and Mohammed, Jahru, Saditha, and thousands of other brothers and sisters have, by the power of the Spirit, shaken off the shackles of Islam. They indeed believe that “there is one God.” But they also know that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5–6). Their robust Christology started with a great awakening. Endless despair has given way to endless joy because they can say with David, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2) and with Peter, “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).
The Muslim Christ
Samuel and Amy Zwemer loved Muslims — a love demonstrated not by headscarves and hashtags, but by living among them in Arabia, the epicenter of Islamic religion and culture. They learned their language, healed their sick, and, above all, loved them enough to speak the gospel to them. Zwemer was a pioneer missionary whose groundbreaking gospel work, combined with the breadth and depth of his scholarship, has earned him the title, “The Apostle to Islam.” Zwemer’s voice also needs to be heard in the current debate as to whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Whatever place Jesus Christ may occupy in the Koran — and the portrait there given is a sad caricature — whatever favorable critics may say about Christ’s honorable place among the Muslim prophets, it is nevertheless true that the large bulk of Muslims know extremely little, and think still less, of Jesus Christ. He has no place in their hearts or in their lives.
All the prophets have not only been succeeded but supplanted by Mohammed; he is at once the sealer and concealer of all former revelations. Mohammed is always in the foreground, and Jesus Christ, in spite of his lofty titles and the honor given him in the Koran, is in the background. Christ is grouped with the other prophets, with Lot, Alexander the Great, Ishmael, Moses, Abraham, and Adam. . . . The sin and the guilt of the Muslim world is that they give Christ’s glory to another, and that for all practical purposes Mohammed himself is the Muslim Christ. . . .
The only Christianity that has a missionary message for the Muslim world is this vital Christianity. It is the only Christianity that can meet the deepest need of our Muslim brothers. Our love for them is only increased by our intolerance of their rejection of the Christ; we cannot bear it, it pains us. (The Moslem Christ, 155–173)
The pain is real, and our brothers and sisters who bear witness while walking through the fire could never relegate their Cross-bearer to a position of “honorable mention” in the same-God debate. Neither should we. Jesus won’t take second place, for he is the great King, lavishing mercy upon us sinners, giving life to all who come to him.