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

Jews, Christians, and Muslims have greatly different conceptions of God and how God ought to be served and worshiped.

An important point arising out of the above possibility is that Christians needn’t consider either Jews or Muslims as inevitable idolaters (or vice versa). There is only one God. Yahweh, the Holy God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, that is, the Holy Trinity, this is God.[5] There is no other God. The question is not whether there is some other God but whether there are those who in some sense worship this one true and living God albeit with different understandings. As a Christian I believe the full and final revelation of God’s nature and character has been definitively and decisively made known in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians, with our understanding of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, articulate a distinctive theology of God as communal or relational. Thus, the life of faith is primarily a loving relationship with God and with one’s neighbor. Relating to God in terms of intimacy or interpersonal fellowship is foreign to the radical monotheism of both mainstream Islam and Judaism. Islam emphasizes devotion to God through total submission to the divine will. Jewish devotion to God is expressed through righteous observance of the Torah (Law). This is not to imply that Christian perceptions of God don’t include obedience and submission. Quite to the contrary! Nor is it to imply that Jews and Muslims have no perception of God’s personal nearness. Of course not! But it does affirm that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity implies communal and relational realities not found in Judaism or Islam.

As a Christian I believe the full and final revelation of God’s nature and character has been definitively and decisively made known in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conceivably, one might argue that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God but don’t know God in the same way. This statement is not merely semantic.[6] As a Christian I fully believe the New Testament revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Further, I fully believe that Jesus Christ alone is Lord and Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). However, I’m not ready to say that Jews know nothing of God. I’m not ready to say Muslims know nothing of God either. If I did say that, I’d be going beyond the biblical authority itself. The Bible teaches that the God of Abraham blessed Ishmael, the acknowledged progenitor of the Arabic people among whom Islam arose and to whom Muslims trace their spiritual ancestry, and that the Lord was with him (Genesis 16:7-16; 21:17-21). Of course, the New Testament clearly connects the God of Abraham with Jesus Christ (Acts 3:13). Yet these sentiments can only be properly understood in the context of unswerving commitment to the central truth of Christianity that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who provides eternal life to anyone who comes to him in faith” and that Jesus is “the true revelation of God” (1 John 5:20).[7]

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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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