Rudolph Boshoff | 25 May 2020 | 8 min read
Christians and Muslims currently comprise about 60% of the World’s population. Individuals, both in Churches and Mosques, rejoice at the idea that most of the world’s inhabitants are religious. However, being religious is not the point. What we believe, and the merit of these beliefs are vital to both our faiths, most especially our beliefs about God. In Sura 29:4 the Qur’an laments that;
“We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One [or the same], and unto Him we surrender.”
Theologian A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy mentions the following:
“What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, a man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
Tozer’s thesis is that our view of God will reflect in our identity, philosophy, culture, and morality. There is no doubt that Christianity and Islam have deep seated differences, especially when it comes to their understanding of God. When considering the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, theologian Gerald Bray mentions that:
“To be Christian is to believe that it is possible to know God. More than that, it is to believe that God has made it possible for us to know Him by revealing Himself to us… To believe in God, a Christian would say, is to know God, and if we know God, then it is inevitable that He will change our lives and become the most central part of our life-experience.”
The “knowability” of Yahweh is essential to the Judeo-Christian faith. For the Christian, personality demands personhood, and through personhood we conceive of Yahweh in community. This is what makes Christianity’s claim fundamentally different from Islam. In John 17:3 Jesus of Nazareth said:
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
In his turn John, the beloved apostle, emphasises the following in John 1:18:
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
The climax of God’s revelation comes because of the relationship between the Father and the unique Son. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Father communicates an understanding of the Divine essence which is very different from the Allah of Islam.
In Islam, the central priority is submission to Allah, not knowledge of his essence and character. Islamic scholar Al Faruqi for example says:
“He [Allah] does not reveal Himself to anyone in any way. God reveals only His will. Remember one of the prophets asked God to reveal Himself, and God told him, ‘No, it is not possible for Me to reveal Myself to anyone.’… This is God’s will and that is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Qur’an… [Allah] does not reveal Himself to anyone. Christians talk about the revelation of God Himself—by God and of God—but that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam. God is transcendent, and once you talk about self-revelation, you have hierophany and immanence, and then the transcendence of God is compromised. You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”
We can know Allah only through what He attributes to himself, but not as a personal deity that is known through self-revelation. In the Christian revelation, we see that there is an expressed reality that God, the transcendent, became immanent by taking on a human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Islam leaves its adherents without any real indication of God’s being. Now, we know we cannot exhaustively conceive of God in His fullness, for that we must be God, and as finite beings, we are not. In Matthew 11:27 Jesus therefore claims:
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Islam is ostensibly bankrupt in its estimation of the Divine, and the reason very simply is that there is no mediating Son who reveals the Father. This estimation of and proximity to the Divine is one of the key reasons why I am a Christian and not a Muslim.
Gilchrist, John. Facing the Muslim Challenge: A Handbook for Christian – Muslim Apologetics. Cape Town: Life Challenge Africa, 2002.
Qureshi, Nabeel. No God But One: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam & Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.
Reilly, Robert, R. The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis. Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2011.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.
 “Christians remain the world’s largest Religious group, but they are declining in Europe” by Conrad Hackett and David McClendon, available at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/, accessed May 22, 2020.
 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1961), 11.
 Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God: Our knowledge of God (Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 14.
 Al Faruqi, Christian Mission and Islamic Da’wah: Proceedings of the Chambesy Dialogue Consultation (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1982), 47-48.
 What we find in the Qur’an is that Allah is utterly unique and whatever you conceive him to be, he is not (al-Shura 42.11). Even though it is mentioned that He is “with you wherever you are” (al-Hadid 57.4) and “nearer” to humans than their “jugular vein” (Qaf 50.16) the Creator/creature distinction remains clearly defined. Sura al-Ikhlas (112.4) declares, “none is like unto Him [Allah].” To be sure, Christianity also maintains the Creator/creature distinction, but Christians can know something of God’s character, being, and will through God’s revelation reaching its climax in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is the God who condescends.
 This is clearly communicated in John 1 and Colossians 1-2.