In a recent post, I began to respond to David French‘s claim that Christians and Muslims must worship different gods, since the Christian God is a Trinity and the Muslim God is not. I argued that if he is correct, then it would be necessary to argue that Jews and Christians worship different gods, too. He cites Albert Mohler, who acknowledges that Jews have the same objections to the Trinity that Muslims do. An online apologist, Mark Slick, accepts the implications, and says clearly Jews and Christians worship different gods.
They argue that God is inseparable from our theological beliefs about him. He is contained by our theological formulas. Thus, if there is a crack in the theological structure, or a brick is missing, you don’t have an incomplete view of God, or a defective view of God, you have nothing–you have an idol, a false god.
But the example of Jesus and the apostles contradicts them.
Jesus didn’t suppose the Jews worshiped a different God–he prayed to his Father, whom he acknowledged as the one who had spoken to Abraham, and who had revealed himself to Moses, and who had freed Israel, and who had brought them into the land, and who had spoken to the prophets. He prayed in the synagogue. He worshiped at the temple. The God of Israel was his Father.
When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, she said to him, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
He responded, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
He pointed beyond Samaria and Jerusalem. He acknowledged she worshiped the Father, but in ignorance.
I noted in my previous post that Paul, on Mars Hill, used this same idea of worshiping in ignorance to tell the Greeks that he was preaching to them the “Unknown god” they worshiped. Now, he did not go to their temple and worship, but he started with that to preach Jesus.
His approach to the Jews was different. He went to their synagogues to worship. He went to the temple to worship. Years after the resurrection, Paul, in Acts 21, went to the temple to worship and to offer a sacrifice for believers who were ending a vow. He worshiped and he offered sacrifice to appease some of the believers who were still doing that, and who were afraid that he was preaching that this was irrelevant and was wrong. His actions assured them that he had no problem with Jewish Christians still worshiping the God of Abraham in the place and in the manner that Jesus himself had done.
So obviously, Jews and Christians were worshiping the same God in the time of Jesus. Jews and Christians were worshiping the same God in the time of Paul. Jews didn’t stop worshiping him. Christians saw that the Father had raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus had then sent the Holy Spirit to the community, but they didn’t see this as changing God, or revealing a different God.
When Mohammad began to speak of revelations that he claimed to receive, none of those revelations said that Jews and Christians worshiped a god other than the God of Abraham. Not at all. He honored them, but called them to faithfulness. He honored their books, but felt distortions had come in. He honored the prophets, and claimed to stand on their shoulders in denouncing idolatry, and corruption, and faithlessness, calling all to worship the God who had revealed himself to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, and to Jesus.
God promised Abraham that he would bless him and his descendants, through both Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 17). Monotheism was retained by the children of Ishmael. This is what Mohammad called the people of Arabia back to.
Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same god? Most certainly, though we differ in some of the things we say about him. But God is not bound by our formulations of him–all we know of him is what he himself has revealed. And that revelation remains truth, even if it is known partially, or clung to mixed with error. He remains himself. He remains the God who called Abraham, and who freed Israel; he remains the Father Jesus addressed, and worshiped.