After I corrected my comments, I asked the Protestant readers on the Beggars All blog to point me to the reasons for their view that Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, noone has deigned it important to respond to my request. Thus, I am doing my own research. It appears that there are Protestant groups who do believe as Catholics do that Muslim worship the same God as Christians and there are some groups which do not believe so, primarily, although not exclusively, of the Calvinist bent. See e.g., Catholics Blurring Lines with Muslims and Same God?
These links suggest various reasons why some Protestants (and most schismatic Catholics for that matter) espouse such a view. It would appear that the most cited to reason is the fact that Muslims do not recognize the Holy Trinity. Muslims do not recognize either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit as part of the God-head. Muslims do claim to recognize Jesus as a prophet and claim to accept His Gospel as the Word of God (although they contend that Christians corrupted it).
However, once I saw what the Catholic position actually is (as opposed to what I thought it was) I see how this Protestant and schismatic Catholic view is illogical Just as the Muslims do, the Jewish people of the Old Testament recognized God the Father, the creator of heaven and earth only as God and rejected Jesus as the Son of God and God Himself as well as the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Noone, from Jesus to St. John the Evangelist, ever once suggested that they worshiped a different God than the Christians. Likewise, to my knowledge, not a single Early Church Father, from St. Athanasius on down, claimed that Arians worship a different God because they did not accept the either the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Trinity.
If one were to follow Eklektos’ logic to its reasonable conclusion, I could argue as a Catholic, that Protestants do not worship the true God as I do because Protestants have a different understanding about God than Catholics do and because Protestants do not recognize the sacramental nature of Christ's incarnation or the fact that He resides in the Church in the same way Catholics do. To be even fairer, exercising Eklektos' logic, I would have to say that each of us actually worship a different God than anyone else because each of us has a slightly different view about how God operates in our lives. I don’t think so . . . .
Since my Protestant internet acquaintances have yet to respond to my request, I thought it would be helpful to share some things that I have uncovered thus far as to why Catholics are to believe that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God.
Pope St. Gregory VII wrote a letter in 1076 to a Muslim ruler who resided in present day Algeria or Mauritania:
“Almighty God, who wishes that all should be saved and none lost, approves nothing in so much as that after loving Him one should love his fellow man, and that one should not do to others, what one does not want done to oneself. You and we owe this charity to ourselves especially because we believe in and confess one God, admittedly, in a different way, and daily praise and venerate him, the creator of the world and ruler of this world.”
This statement, which by happenstance is referenced to in a footnote in Nostra Aetate, tends to undermine the notion that this belief was an invention of Vatican II. Given this papal pronouncement, one would have to conclude that the Catholic Church has taught for the last ten centuries or so that Muslims do worship the same God. Thus, the minority Protestant position is real novelty.
Given that Catholics do acknowledge that Muslims do worship the same God, how do Catholics view the Islamic faith. Simply put, the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is a heresy of the worst sort.
Modern-day Catholic philosopher and apologist, Peter Kreeft, in an article titled The Uniqueness of Christianity opines that by Catholic standards, the religions of the world can be ranked by how much truth they teach.
1. Catholicism with Orthodoxy, the Church of the East and several others of the same sort, being equal except for the one issue of papal authority.
2. Trinitarian Protestants and any "separated brethren" who keep the Christian essentials as found in Scripture.
3. Traditional Judaism, which worships the same God but not through Christ.
4. Islam, greatest (worst) of the theistic heresies
5. Hinduism, which has a mystical pantheon
6. Buddhism, pantheism without a theos
7. Modern Judaism, Unitarianism, Confucianism, Modernism, and secular humanism, none of which have either mysticism or supernatural religion but primarily teach an ethics-based theology.
8. Idolaters and pagans
Apologist Jimmy Akin notes that there are a number of important characteristics of God that Muslims profess:
1) Is an uncreated being
2) Is the creator of the universe
3) Appeared to Abraham
4) Is just
5) Is merciful
6) Will raise the dead
7) Is not a Trinity
8) Is not incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth
Of these eight characteristics, I think it fair to say that Christians agree with Muslims on the first six and disagree on 7 and 8. However, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses , Oneness Pentacostals and other neo-Arians likewise disagree on 7 and 8. We Christians contend that these folks are in serious heresy, but most Christians would not go as far to say that they worship a different God. Instead, we would argue that their beliefs about God are false or even argue that they were demonically led astray. As Mr. Akin notes, “This is what enables the Catechism to state that Muslims "acknowledge the Creator" and that "together with us they adore the one, merciful God" (CCC 841).”
It would appear from St. Paul's writings, he would share the Catholic position. At Acts 17, St. Paul claims that the “Unknown God” of the Athenians that shared the pantheon with Zeus, Apollo and Athena was actually the God of the Christianity. Thus it is stated:
“21 (Now all the Athenians, and strangers that were there, employed themselves in nothing else, but either in telling or in hearing some new thing.) 22 But Paul standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. 23 For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you: 24 God, who made the world, and all things therein; he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is he served with men's hands, as though he needed any thing; seeing it is he who giveth to all life, and breath, and all things: 26 And hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation. 27 That they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and are; as some also of your own poets said: For we are also his offspring.”
Likewise, recall the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob record at Jn. 4:21-24 where He said:
“Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, not in Jerusalem, adore the Father. You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.”
Can not it be said that Muslims worship what they do not know like the Samaritan woman? Jesus did not tell the woman that she worshiped the wrong God, but only that she did not worship in spirit and in truth. Is not the same thing true of Muslims?
One more thing that I wish to note here at this time is about how God’s plan of salvation does include Muslims as I documented in my last posting. Inasmuch that Islam shares truths with Christianity, such truths prepare Muslims for receiving the Gospel. I came across some recent articles that would substantiate this very point.
In an article that can be found at ChristianityTodayLibrary.com here, a survey was conducted by the Fuller Theological Seminary which found five predominant reasons for Muslims converting to Christianity. The article lists them as follows:
1) The lifestyle of Christians. Former Muslims cited the love that Christians exhibited in their relationships with non-Christians and their treatment of women as equals.
2) The power of God in answered prayers and healing. Experiences of God's supernatural work—especially important to folk Muslims who have a characteristic concern for power and blessings—increased after their conversions, according to the survey. Often dreams about Jesus were reported.
3) Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the Qur'an, emphasizing God's punishment over his love. Others cited Islamic militancy and the failure of Islamic law to transform society.
4) The spiritual truth in the Bible. Muslims are generally taught that the Torah, Psalms, and the Gospels are from God, but that they became corrupted. These Christian converts said, however, that the truth of God found in Scripture became compelling for them and key to their understanding of God's character.
5) Biblical teachings about the love of God. In the Qur'an, God's love is conditional, but God's love for all people was especially eye-opening for Muslims. These converts were moved by the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The next step for many Muslims was to become part of a fellowship of loving Christians.
Similar reasons for converting to Christianity was given by Magdi Cristiano Allam, a prominent formerly-Muslim writer who was baptized at the Basilica of St. Peter this past Easter. Here is the entire letter he wrote about his conversion experience:
It is easy to see from these two articles how the truths of Christianity that can be found in Islam prepared individual Muslims to convert."Benedict XVI tells us that we must conquer fear"
by Magdi Cristiano Allam
Dear director, what I am about to tell you concerns a decision I have made regarding my religious faith and personal life that is not intended in any way to involve "Corriere della Sera," which I have been honored to be part of since 2003 with the title of vice director "ad personam." I therefore write to you as the author of an action as a private citizen.
Yesterday evening, at the Easter vigil, I converted to the Catholic Christian faith, renouncing my previous Islamic faith.
Thus, by divine grace, there finally came to light the sound and mature fruit of a long period of gestation lived in suffering and in joy, between deep and intimate reflection and deliberate outward expression.
I am particularly grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who imparted to me the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist – in the basilica of Saint Peter, during the solemn celebration of the Easter vigil. And I took the simplest and clearest Christian name: "Cristiano." So, as of yesterday evening, my name is Magdi Cristiano Allam.
For me, it was the most beautiful day of my life. To receive the gift of the Christian faith during the commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ, at the hand of the Holy Father, is for a believer an unmatchable privilege and an inestimable good.
At almost 56 years of age, in my own small way this is an historic event, exceptional and unforgettable, marking a radical and definitive break with the past. The miracle of the Resurrection of Christ has resounded through my soul, freeing it from the darkness of the preaching in which hatred and intolerance toward those who are "different," uncritically condemned as the "enemy," prevail over love and respect for one's "neighbor," who is always and in any case a "person"; just as my mind has been liberated from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimizes deception and dissimulation, the violent death that induces murder and suicide, blind submission and tyranny, permitting me to adhere to the authentic religion of Truth, Life, and Freedom. In my first Easter as a Christian, I discovered not only Jesus, but I discovered for the first time the one true God, who is the God of Faith and Reason.
My conversion to Catholicism is the arrival point of a gradual and profound interior meditation which I would not have been able to avoid, since for five years I have been trapped in an entrenched and guarded lifestyle, with fixed surveillance at home and a police escort wherever I go, because of the death threats made against me by Islamic extremists and terrorists, both those living in Italy and those active abroad.
I have had to wonder to myself about the attitude of those who have publicly issued fatwas, Islamic juridical declarations denouncing me, who was a Muslim, as an "enemy of Islam," a "hypocrite, because he is a Coptic Christian who pretends to be a Muslim in order to harm Islam," a "liar and defamer of Islam," legitimizing in this way my condemnation to death.
I have asked myself how it could be possible that someone who, like me, has fought with conviction and determination for a "moderate Islam," taking on the responsibility of exposing himself personally to the denunciation of Islamic extremism and terrorism, should then end up being condemned to death in the name of Islam and with the justification of the Qur'an.
I therefore had to take note of the fact that, beyond the contingency of the flourishing of Islamic extremists and terrorism on a worldwide level, the root of the evil is situated in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual.
Parallel to this, Providence introduced me to practicing Catholics of good will who, by virtue of their witness and their friendship, gradually became a point of reference on the level of their certainty of the truth and solidity of values. First there are my many friends of Communion and Liberation, chief among them Fr. Juliàn Carròn; ordinary religious like Fr. Gabriele Mangiarotti, Sister Maria Gloria Riva, Fr. Carlo Maurizi, and Fr. Yohannis Lahzi Gaid; the rediscovery of the Salesians thanks to Fr. Angelo Tengattini and Fr. Maurizio Verlezza, culminating in a renewed friendship with rector major Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva; to the embrace of other prelates of great humanity like cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the bishops Luigi Negri, Giancarlo Vecerrica, Gino Romanazzi, and, above all, Rino Fisichella, who personally accompanied me in my spiritual journey of accepting the Christian faith.
But undoubtedly the most extraordinary and meaningful encounter in my decision to convert was with pope Benedict XVI, whom I admired and defended as a Muslim for his mastery in presenting the indissoluble bond between faith and reason as the foundation of authentic religion and of humane civilization, and to whom I adhere completely as a Christian in order to be inspired with new light in the fulfillment of the mission that God has reserved for me.
Mine is a journey that began when I was four, and my mother Safeya, a believing and practicing Muslim – in the first of a series of "coincidences" that would reveal themselves as something entirely other than fortuitous, but rather an integral part of a divine destiny to which we are all called – entrusted me to the loving care of Sister Lavinia, of the Comboni order, convinced of the quality of the education that would be given to me by the Italian Catholic sisters transplanted to Cairo, my birthplace, to bear witness to their Christian faith through activities meant to foster the common good.
I thus began the experience of life in the boarding school, which continued with the Salesians of the Don Bosco Institute at middle school and high school, who integrally transmitted not only intellectual knowledge, but above all the understanding of values. It is thanks to Catholic religious that I acquired a deeply and essentially ethical conception of life, in which the person created in the image and likeness of God is called to carry out a mission that is situated within the context of a universal and eternal plan, aimed at the interior resurrection of individuals on this earth, and of all humanity on the Day of Judgment, which is founded upon faith in God and in the primacy of values, and based upon the meaning of individual responsibility and the meaning of duties toward society. It is by virtue of a Christian education and a shared experience of life together with Catholic religious that I have always cultivated a profound faith in the transcendent dimension, just as I have always sought for the certainty of the truth in absolute and universal values.
There was a period in which the loving presence and religious zeal of my mother brought me closer to Islam, which I periodically practiced on a cultural level, and in which I believed on the spiritual level according to an interpretation that at that time, the 1970's, corresponded overall to a faith respectful of the person and tolerant toward one's neighbor, in a context – that of the Nasser regime – in which the secular principle of the separation of the sacred and profane spheres predominated.
My father, Mahmoud, was completely secularist, like the majority of Egyptians who took the West as their model on the level of individual freedom, social custom, and cultural and artistic fashion, even if unfortunately Nasser's political totalitarianism and warmongering ideology of pan-Arabism, which aimed for the physical elimination of Israel, led to catastrophe for Egypt and cleared the way for the resurgence of pan-Islamism, the rise to power of Islamic extremists, and the explosion of globalized Islamic terrorism.
My long years at boarding school also permitted me to understand thoroughly and from up close the reality of Catholicism and of the women and men who have dedicated their lives to serving God in the bosom of the Church. Already at that time, I was reading the Bible and the Gospels, and I was particularly fascinated by the human and divine figure of Jesus. I was able to attend Holy Mass, and it also happened, although only once, that I approached the altar and received communion. It was an action that clearly signaled my attraction to Christianity and my desire to feel myself a part of the Catholic religious community.
Following this, upon my arrival in Italy at the beginning of the 1970's, amid the student uprisings and the difficulties with integration, I lived through the period of atheism paraded as faith, which was nevertheless also founded upon the primacy of absolute and universal values. I have never been indifferent to the presence of God, even if it is only now that I feel that the God of Love, of Faith and of Reason, has fully reconciled me with the heritage of values that is rooted within me.
Dear director, you asked me whether I am not afraid for my life, in the awareness that my conversion to Christianity will certainly obtain for me yet another condemnation to death for apostasy, and a much more serious one.
You are perfectly right. I know what I am going up against, but I will face my fate with my head held high, with my back straight and with the interior firmness of those who have the certainty of their faith. And I will be all the more so after the historic and courageous gesture of the pope who – from the very first moment when he found out about my wish – immediately agreed to personally impart to me the sacraments of Christian initiation.
His Holiness has launched a clear and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been excessively prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in Muslim majority countries, and remaining silent about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of being unable to protect converts in the face of their condemnation to death for apostasy, and the fear of retaliation against Christians living in Muslim countries.
And so, now Benedict XVI, with his testimony, is telling us that we must overcome fear and have no qualms in affirming the truth of Jesus with Muslims as well.
For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the presumption and violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice.
In Italy, there are thousands of converts to Islam who live peacefully in their new faith. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their new faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists lurking among us. For one of these "cases" that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, my first article written for "Corriere della Sera" on September 3, 2003, was entitled: "The new catacombs of the Islamic converts." It was an investigation of some of the new Christians in Italy who denounce their profound spiritual and human isolation, in the face of neglect from the institutions of the state that do not ensure their security, and of the silence of the Church itself.
And so, I hope that from the historic gesture of the pope and from my witness they may derive the conviction that the time has come to emerge from the darkness of the catacombs, and to confirm publicly their will to be fully themselves.
If we are not capable in Italy, the cradle of Catholicism, of guaranteeing complete religious freedom for all, then how will we ever be credible when we denounce the violations of this freedom in other countries of the world? I pray to God that this special Easter may bring the resurrection of the spirit to all of the faithful in Christ who still live under the yoke of fear. Happy Easter to all.
March 23, 2008 (Source found here.)
I would be interested in hearing from some who do not believe that Muslims believe in the same God as we Christians do and give an explanation as to why they believe that Muslims are not heretics, but pagans.