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Do All Abraham’s Children Worship Abraham’s God?

Pastor-scholar Tony Richie says there is no Jewish-Christian-Muslim God. Nor is there a simple answer to the “Same God” question.

When people realize I participate in interreligious dialogue and cooperative efforts they often ask me some version of the question in the main title of this post.[1] If I manage to mention that I have written a couple of books on Christian theology of religions from a Pentecostal perspective, I can almost certainly count on that question coming up. Actually, it usually centers more on two of the three “Abrahamic religions” (world religions tracing their origins to the biblical patriarch Abraham). They ask whether the Christian Trinity and the Muslim Allah is the same God. Almost always they want a simple, straightforward yes or no response. There is complexity implied in saying there is no Jewish-Christian-Muslim God, and it is not what they want to hear. To an extent, they are correct. There’s no such thing as a Jewish-Christian-Muslim God! Before unpacking what I mean by that bold statement I’ll briefly provide some important background.

Conceivably, one might argue that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God but don’t know God in the same way.

Correlating Yahweh, God of Israel, and the Christian Trinity can be critical even between Jews and Christians.[2] Although Judaism has a special parental relationship with Christianity, the two religions have far different understandings of God’s name and nature. Yet Christians believe that the God of the Jews and the God of the Christians is one and the same God. To suppose otherwise succumbs to an ancient heresy known as Marcionism (rejecting the world’s creator and Israel’s lawgiver as the God revealed in Jesus through the Spirit). The Early Church judged it better to deal with the tensions between Israelite and Christian conceptions of God than to dismiss them through dividing the deities. Therefore, two different religions with quite varied understandings of God nevertheless worship the same God—albeit obviously not in the same manner or mode. Of course, the Jewish-Christian historical and theological relationship is a unique case. Still, it calls for careful deliberation about how differing perceptions of God don’t necessarily preclude attributing an amount of authenticity to another religion.

Abraham’s well at Beersheba

Identifying or distinguishing a common deity is also important for Christian theologies of the other Abrahamic religion: Islam.[3] Islamist scholar Ataullah Siddiqui explains that “The divide between Islam and Christianity that most needs bridging derives from their different understandings of God and relationship with him”.[4] Christians may reasonably ask if it could be that just as Christians share with Judaism the worship of the same God, although through vastly differing faiths with different names for God and differing views of God’s nature, this same possibility exists for Islam. In other words, is it at least possible that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God? If so, then one thing is certain: they certainly have greatly different conceptions of God and how God ought to be served and worshiped.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2016

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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