VOM Executive Vice President Cole Richards answers a question received recently from a VOM reader.
Then [Christ] said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28 (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Question: I’m concerned about liberal Christians here in the U.S. who are advancing the idea that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I have heard Arab Christians and American missionaries say that the word “Allah” is not Islamic and that it is used by Christians in some countries today. When I hear someone say that the word “Allah” is not Islamic, I worry that this is evidence that they have joined the movement that says Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Are people departing from biblical Christianity when they say that the word “Allah” is not Islamic?
Cole: First, let me say that you are correct to be concerned about the idea that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. There is a movement in the U.S. that is advancing the idea that because all three monotheistic world religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) claim to worship “the one true God,” they are therefore worshipping the same God. That is an unbiblical idea, and it is offensive to Bible-believing Christians and all but the most theologically liberal Muslims and Jews. The idea that the god of the Qur’an is the same as the God of the Bible is illogical (these texts are mutually exclusive), and it is an idea Christians must firmly and openly reject. Nothing less than the divinity and lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake! Both Islam and Judaism reject the Christian belief that Christ is divine. Therefore, when we as Christians say “God” we mean something that is very different, and completely irreconcilable, with what Jews or Muslims mean when they use the same word (in any language).
Now, to the question: Thankfully, the answer is “no.” Christians are not departing from, or watering-down, biblical Christianity when they point out that the word “Allah” is not of Islamic origin. In fact, as Christians, we do not want to allow Muslims to revise history in an attempt to claim that the Arabic language belongs to their religion. A quick look at the historic timeline will demonstrate the truth.
Islam and the Historic Timeline
Muslims propagate the myth that the Arabic language is the holy language of Islam. The problem with this argument is that Islam is the newcomer among world religions. It is roughly 1,400 years old (whereas Christian faith was fulfilled in Christ approximately 2,000 years ago, but the Bible is a record of our faith tracing back well over 5,000 years). Muslims want to claim that their religion traces to Abraham and Ishmael, but that is only a faith claim for Muslims – it is not backed up in any way by the historic record. The origin of their faith is entirely with Muhammad in (relatively) recent history. Muhammad established Islam in the year 622 A.D.
The Arab people and the Arabic language predate Muhammad. There were Christians among the Arab people hundreds of years prior to Muhammad. In fact, Acts records that Arabs heard the gospel in their own language on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Arab Christian families I have met personally trace their heritage all the way back to the first century! Imagine knowing that the Christian faith has been in your family for almost 2,000 years. Some of our Arab Christian brothers and sisters have that knowledge, and continue to stand faithfully in places like Syria and Iraq to this day. What a wonderful Christian family we have!
The word “Allah” is (and always has been) simply the word in the Arabic language for “god” and it was used by Arab Christians long before Muhammad’s birth and the advent of Islam. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, most Arabs in Muhammad’s vicinity (which is now Saudi Arabia) were polytheists, but we can see clearly in the Qur’an that Muhammad was influenced by Christians. Neither Muhammad, nor any Muslim living today, can claim the Arabic language as belonging to Islam. It was spoken by Christians first!
Why this Issue is Important
Let’s be resolved not to let Muslims claim Arab culture and language. Let’s be resolved to understand and pray for the millions of Arab and Arabic-speaking Christians. Let’s join our Arab brothers and sisters as they boldly reach their Muslim neighbors with the truth.
We must love Muslims and seek their salvation, but let us be clear that Islam is false in any language. No matter which language’s word for “God” is used – whether it be “Gott” (German), “Elohim” (Hebrew), “Boch” (Russian) or “Allah” (Arabic) – Christians must lovingly and boldly assert that there is only one true God, and He is the triune God revealed to us in the Bible. It breaks my heart that so many Muslims reject His true identity because of the false identity ascribed to Him in Islam.
The true God, the God of the Bible, was worshipped by the Arab people – in their own language! – for hundreds of years before Muhammad’s false teachings about Christ led so many Arabs astray. God is drawing them back to Himself today like never before, and here at VOM we are honored to be part of this special epoch of church history. There have never been so many Muslim Arabs converting to Christ as there are today. Praise God!