Several years back I posted on the question, “Are Yahweh and Allah the Same God?” It was a relatively short article in which I suggested that the Muslim Allah is a fictitious character based on the real god, Yahweh. I compared this to the fictitious Santa Clause which it based on the real person, Saint Nicholas. That post did not attempt to go into any great depth as to how the fictional god is different from the real god.
To fully answer the question, we must first determine what is meant by “the same.” How much overlap in belief must there be to call them the same god, and how big a difference means they are not the same? The answer to this question frames how one will answer the first question. For an extreme example, we might ask if Catholics, Baptists, and Oneness Pentecostals worship the same god. If those different conceptions of God are acceptable, then do mainstream Christians (Catholic and Protestant), Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses worship the same god?
All of those groups mentioned accept the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, as the inspired word of God, even though there are significant differences in interpretation. The next step back would be to ask whether or not Jews, who consider the Tanach (Old Testament) as Scripture, worship the same god as Christians, who believe both the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired.
Andy Bannister goes back still one step further to ask if the god of the Quran is the god of the Bible.
IVP (InterVarsity Press) 2021
The author points out that the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – all believe in one god and have many common characters (such as Adam, Abraham, Mary, Jesus), so It would seem natural to assume they are all branches from the same tree. In support of this idea, he offers quotes from notable people, including US President Joe Biden, Christian theologian and author Miroslav Volf, and Pope Francis, noting that Francis was reflecting back some sixty years to the Second Vatican Council which stated that “Muslims, together with us adore the one, merciful God.”
Banister takes an in-depth look at four fundamental questions, coming to the conclusion that Islam and Christianity are not two religions that are broadly the same with only superficial differences, but rather that they are “fundamentally different, with mere cosmetic similarities.” And if they are truly different and one is true, then the other is not only different, it is false.
His four questions are:
1. Is there a god (and what is god like)?
2. Who and what are human beings?
3. What is wrong with the world?
4. What is the solution?
Over the next several chapters, the author determines both Islam and Christianity agree that there is one god, but have very different conclusions as to what that God is like. Both Islam and Christianity agree that human beings are created, yet what it means to be human and the relationship between God and humans is worlds apart. And out of that, the diagnosis of what is wrong with the world says very different things about God. This sets up the final point that the solution, especially as to how it involves God, is not at all the same between the two faiths.
The bottom line, the answer to the question in the title of this book, is “no.” The god of the Bible is relational, intimately involved in the affairs of humans, the problem and the solution. Using “scripture” – the Bible and the Quran, Bannister demonstrates that the god of the Bible and the god of the Quran cannot be the same god.
The author states these are “Two very different visions. Two very different gods. And for the Bible, the way that someone sees best what Yahweh is like is to look at Jesus, the ultimate expression in space and time of who God is.”
According to the biography at the beginning of the book, “Andy Banister is the director of Solas, and Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Center for the Study of Islam and Melbourne School of Theology and an Adjunct Faculty member of Wycliff College, University of Toronto. Unusual in being a Christian academic and public speaker with a PhD in Islamic Studies, Andy frequently speaks and teaches throughout the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. He regularly addresses audiences of all faiths (and none) on issues relating to faith, culture and society.”
With the author’s academic background one might expect this book to be a difficult read, one where it is sometimes necessary to go back over a sentence or paragraph two or three times. That is not the case. It is quite easy to read and made more enjoyable by the author’s wit and humor. In fact, for me the most difficult part of reading (if there was anything difficult) was having to pause once in a while because I, a midwestern American, didn’t quite get some Scottish and northern European humorous reference. The overall tone makes this presentation of a potentially divisive subject enjoyable.
What you won’t find here are pot-shots at Islamic beliefs. The author is respectful and factual. Some of the things presented seemed foreign and sometimes strange to me, just as I would guess what I believe might seem foreign and strange to a Muslim. Bannister, being intimately familiar with both Islam and Christianity, doesn’t exploit the “strange” things. He just tells it like it is, with a little levity at times that is never inappropriate.
Many of Dr. Bannister’s arguments do come from the Christian view of God as a trinity, and there are many references to Jesus from this perspective. He effectively shows how the god of the Bible is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, irrespective of what the reader believes regarding trinitarian theology.
He does not, however, specifically address the god of the Jews. And although there are many references to the god of Israel and the Tanach (Old Testament), I am not certain how someone of the Jewish faith who did not believe Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah might view his position. Even without the New Testament references, as one who sees Messiah in Old Testament passages I might be biased. In any case, the title does not suggest this as his goal. He is examining the Muslim god and the Christian god, and does not address the Jewish god.
This is a book I would highly recommend for a deeper understanding of this subject. It expresses one view, with which I happen to agree. There are, of course, other views worth considering.