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Nabeel Qureshi Part 2

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Christians worship Yahweh, the Trinity, whereas Muslims worship Allah, a monad. This is not an incidental difference; Islam makes every effort to condemn the Trinity as blasphemy (4.171). The Quran rejects the relational aspects of God, saying that He is not a father (5.18) and He is not a son (112.3). It establishes its own doctrine of God, Tawhid, in diametric opposition to the Trinity, and that doctrine becomes the central doctrine of Islamic theology.

Most people who say Christians and Muslims worship the same God are aware of this difference, but they treat it as relatively inconsequential. This is not a trivial difference, though; it has major implications. Since mankind is made in the image of the Triune God, love is woven into our very nature. The Trinity gives us the most consistent, most powerful basis for being self-sacrificial and altruistic.

This is an important point to unpack. Of course, many people are very altruistic, regardless of their worldviews. A person does not need to believe in God to genuinely care for others, as secular humanists demonstrate. There are even people who don’t believe in any kind of morality yet still desire to care for people. Ultimately, though, such ungrounded altruism is a sentiment, something a person just wants to do. Unless one believes in a transcendent basis for altruism, one’s desire to care for people is unanchored and ephemeral, little more than a whim. According to this amoral worldview, nothing behooves a person to be kind. Even though someone might wish to be altruistic, in the next moment it would be entirely consistent with their worldview if they chose to be selfish.

The question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God is complex, and there is much more that could be said. Ultimately, when we understand the Trinity, we realize that the doctrine is not just a theological curiosity. It has far-reaching implications for how we ought to live and how we see the world, and it makes the Christian God categorically different from the Muslim God. It is what makes God relational, what makes His love eternal. It is how God can be in us, through the Holy Spirit, while being over us, as the Father, and suffering for us, in the Son.

And it is the Son that most distinguishes the Christian God from the Muslim God. We need to learn about Him not only in light of the Trinity but also in light of His life on earth.

As you have studied Islam and Christianity, how has objectivity affected your research?

I want to share something that took me years to really grasp: It is virtually impossible to study these matters objectively. Not only do we all have a vested interest in defending the faiths we and our social circles have believed for years, but our beliefs also color the way we receive information. The same data will be interpreted differently by people from disparate worldviews. When we investigate Islam and Christianity as devout believers in one or the other faith, our Christian or Muslim presuppositions affect the way we interpret the evidence, and we often see what we want to see.

When I started investigating the data, I came to the table with the presupposition that Islam was true, and I interpreted the data accordingly. No matter what facts provided, I either made them fit my Islamic paradigm or I found some way to dismiss them. It is not difficult to defend what you already believe, and anyone who sets their mind to it will be able to do so, whether Muslim or Christian.

What is difficult is pursuing the truth about your faith and assessing it honestly. This feat requires one to be introspective and self-critical at frequent intervals. Although we can never completely overcome our biases, the most important step we can take is to pursue fair-mindedness with intentionality. While considering the data, we need to repeatedly ask ourselves the question: “Would an objective observer find the arguments compelling?”

What is it that truly ails mankind, and is there a cure?

From my perspective, the gospel resonates with reality: People are broken in their hearts and souls, and no matter how educated or self-reflective we become, it does not appear that following rules will be enough to address the problem. The problem lies deeper than what we do; it is embedded in who we are. Having spent some time working with the dejected and downtrodden, such as those whose lives have been ravaged by various addictions, I do not think ignorance is their problem. It is brokenness. Having seen families be torn apart by abuse or anger, the answer does not appear to lie in knowledge or following rules, but in transformed hearts.

This leads me to a second observation: Mankind seems incapable of saving itself. In our natural selves, we perpetuate cycles of destruction. Our hearts are broken, so we break other hearts. We were abused, so we abuse in return. Our families were fractured, so we leave fractured families in our wake. When loved ones are killed, we kill in revenge. This is the way of humanity, and we need an otherworldly solution—something radical to break these cycles. We need God to save us.

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