Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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A Brief History of Islam

Have you ever wondered how a religion gets started? Do a bunch of people get together and decide to start a church just so they can pass the collection place and launch a television ministry? Does God look down from heaven and choose someone to start a new belief system just so he can have a few more buildings with stained glass windows built in his honor? Or does some ambitious person decide to blaze a new path to God because he believes all the others are wrong?

Here’s one story—the story of Islam—that may help you understand how a religion gets going. This is the true account (short version) of the early beginnings of Islam, the world’s second biggest monotheistic religion.

The Story of Islam

Muhammad ibn Abdallah was born in A.D. 570 into a prominent family in the city of Mecca, Arabia (now Saudi Arabia). His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six. Raised by his uncle, Muhammad married a 40-year-old wealthy widow named Khadijah when he was 25. The newlyweds settled in Mecca, where Muhammad became a successful businessman.

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The True Christian Myth

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.

C. S. Lewis

Everybody loves a hero. Whether it’s a real life ordinary person who does something heroic in a moment of crisis, or a comic book superhero who saves the world from bad guys, we just love a good hero and a great heroic story. To say Jesus was a hero might seem inappropriate or even sacrilegious because Jesus wasn’t ordinary and he certainly didn’t fly around in a cape. But if you give it some thought, it isn’t all that far-fetched, especially when you consider the classic definition of a hero: “A being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.”

The idea of the classic hero has been a part of human lore, legend and literature for thousands of years. The Greek poet Homer wrote two epic poems, Illiad and Odyssey, that defined the heroic tradition in literature eight centuries before Jesus was born. Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s story, goes on a long journey following the fall of Troy in order to get home. But he doesn’t get there until he experiences a series of adventures. One of the most popular books and movies of the last century, The Wizard of Oz, is based on this heroic tradition.

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God's Will: A Top Ten List

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know God’s will every day of your life? Actually, you can, at least that part of God’s will that generally applies to all people and specifically applies to all those who follow Jesus fully. Here’s a Top Ten list of those things God wants you to do: 

1.  God wants you to believe in Jesus and accept Him as your Savior.

This is number one on God’s list of things He wants you to do. Contrary to what many people believe, God doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins without knowing Him personally.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

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The Messiah Sweepstakes

Throughout the Old Testament, God promised the Jews that He would send a king who would establish God’s kingdom on earth. This “deliverer” was referred to as the Messiah, or “the Christ.” He would be God coming down to earth.

Predictions (or prophecies) in the Old Testament about this Messiah were many and specific, and all gave clues as to how the Messiah could be identified: where and when He would be born, His family tree, when and how He would die, and more.

You might think having so many prophecies posted for all to read—there are at least 40 in the Bible concerning the Messiah, made over a period of hundreds of years—would make it easier for someone to figure out how to be a candidate in the Messiah sweepstakes. But the opposite is true. It’s one thing for an imitator to fulfill one or even a few of the prophecies, but with so many specific parameters, it was impossible for any one person to meet the Messiah qualifications, such as:

  • Had to be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • Would be a direct descendant of the famous King David (Isaiah 11:1)
  • Would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
  • Would say certain things while dying (Psalm 22:1)
  • Would come back from the dead (Psalm 16:9-10)
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The Success of the Cross

The death of Jesus on the cross on behalf and in place of sinful humankind has been the centerpiece of Christianity for two thousand years. Of course, without the resurrection, the cross would be a waste, but without the cross, there would be no resurrection. Jesus had to die before he could come back to life. Even more, to get to the reason for the cross, Jesus had to die so that we might live.

This view that Jesus died so we don't have to is called "substitutionary atonement," and it's best expressed in Scripture in Isaiah 53:4-6. Substitutionary atonement troubles some believers, in particular young adults who are troubled by "religiously motivated violence." On a personal level, they struggle with a God who would subject his own son to the violence and horror of the cross, something Tony Jones refers to as "divine child abuse."

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Does the Bible bore you?

The Bible is the most remarkable book ever written, read by more people than any other book by a mile, and yet if you're completely honest, you'd have to admit that at times the Bible bores you. We'll admit it. There are times when we read the Bible out of obligation rather than from a heart of expectation. Why is that? Why do we sometimes get bored when we read the Bible?

We've thought about this and have a theory. See what you think. Our theory starts with the fact that we humans are a self-centered bunch. We're always looking for our own best interests, doing things that make us feel better, and basically orienting everything we do around us, including the Bible. Even as followers of Christ, we live as if we're the center of the universe, and so the Bible becomes just one more thing to add to our lives, like a self-help book.

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What Hell Is Not

There's no hotter topic right now than hell, thanks to a firestorm ignited by a book that hasn't even been published yet. First came a video and some marketing copy produced by HarperCollins about Love Wins, a new book about "Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Every Lived," coming from Rob Bell at the end of the month.

Then came a blog by Justin Taylor about the video and the marketing copy. Taylor, who is VP of Editorial at Crossway Publishers, pretty much concluded that Rob Bell is a "universalist" when it comes to salvation (in other words, everybody's going to heaven).Well, that got a lot of people talking, some defending Rob Bell, and others decrying him. (There's a good recap of the activity swirling around this topic at ChristianityToday.com.)

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Is "Cult" a Four-Letter Word?

Mormonism is in the news these days, thanks to Glenn Beck, the highest profile Mormon since American Idol runner-up David Archuleta. Beck's rise to fame has come as a conservative radio and television talk show host and best-selling author, and most recently as a speechmaker for the Tea Party.

His call at a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for America to turn to God has conservatives and Christians in a lather. Does Glenn Beck speak for America? More crucially, does Glenn Beck speak for God and Christians?

In the interest of bringing clarity to the conversation, we thought it would be useful to do a couple of things. First, since Mormonism is often referred to as a "cult" (a word that sounds pejorative and mean-spirited), we want to explore with you just exactly what a cult is. In a subsequent post, we will outline some of the distinctives of Mormonism so you can answer the "Is Mormonism a cult?" question for yourself.

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Can things get any worse?

These are tough days for optimists and humanists. For optimists, it's tough to stay positive because of all the junk going on in the world: there's trouble in the Middle East, our economy continues to teeter precariously, the Gulf oil disaster is out of control, and Al and Tipper Gore are separating after 40 years of marriage. If this can happen, is there any hope for the rest of us?

For the humanist, it's discouraging for many of the same reasons, but the frustration comes not so much from the problems in the world as it does from our inability to solve them. The worse things seem to get, the more it seems we are not in control, and that just frustrates the heck out of anyone who puts their trust in humankind.

Even our technology, which is supposed to be the savior of the world (okay, maybe only Steve Jobs thinks that, but you get the idea), has us spooked. Nevermind that we can't fix the Gulf oil leak. What about Facebook? Talk about losing control. Even though Facebook has tried to assure its nearly half a billion users that they have nothing to fear, a lot of people are concerned that the social media giant knows way too much about us. "People actually use Facebook like it's crack," said one 24-year old social-media savvy user. "So I don't see what the next step is aside from world domination."

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About
Christianity 101 is a collection of books and digital resources by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz that talk about God in a way that encourages people to grow in their faith.


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