This will be the first of a series of articles examining the differences between the God of the Bible and Allah of the Koran. It is my hope that rather than appealing to emotions, it engage the reader’s intellect. Much is said in common parlance of “blind faith”, separating faith from reason. But few stop to think of what that really means.
By definition, faith is blind. Christians walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But that doesn’t mean we aren’t to use our reason. Are blind people mentally deficient? Of course not. God invites us, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). The greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37) includes loving God with all our mind. How do we do that, if not by using the intelligence God has given us? That is what I attempt to do here.
Psalm 24:8 asks the question, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle!” And again, in verse 10, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” Who is this King of glory? Who is your God?
The sermon title on a church marquee read, “Jesus is God, Allah is Satan, Joshua 24:15”. To understand the context of this verse, read the whole chapter. Joshua is addressing the leaders of Israel. Verse 14 is the “set up” for the “pitch” of verse 15: “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” “LORD” here means God, not just any god, but the one, true God. And the implication here is that all other gods are false.
When we read “LORD” in all capital letters in English language Bibles, it specifically refers to the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters used to denote the name of God. In English, these letters are translated YHWH or JHWH, from which we get Yahweh and Jehovah, by inserting the vowels found in the word Adonai (Hebrew for Lord) between those consonants. The ancient Jews purposely did not render God’s name to be spoken aloud. They considered it too holy. To this day, devout Jews do not even write the word God. Out of reverence for “The Name” (HaShem) which is the Tetragrammaton, they write “G-d”.
This is the “God” referred to in the passage cited from Joshua. Joshua was reminding Israel that Abraham’s family had left Ur of the Chaldeans, on their way to the land of Canaan, settling in Haran (Genesis 11:31). This was before God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. God called Abram out of Haran to go to “the land I will show you”, as he put it. Verse 5 tells us he took his people to Canaan. Even though verse 7 tells us God would give that land to Abram’s offspring, they did not stay long, but continued journeying south (verse 9) and ended up sojourning in Egypt because of a famine (verse 10).
The record of these events is very important because they are what Joshua was referring to in the passage cited in that church marquee. The point Joshua was making was that in all those places (Chaldea, Canaan, Egypt and all points between) people served false gods. But Israel was to serve the one and only true God, and no other. That is why it is of utmost importance to properly identify who this God is. And throughout the Hebrew Bible we see him so identified. Perhaps the most well-known passages are the first of the ten commandments and the first two verses of the Shema:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” — Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:6-7
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” — Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Even considering this brief Biblical explanation, Christians need to understand that while Muslims may claim to believe in chosen portions of the Bible (the Torah, the writings of David, the Psalms and the Gospel) they actually believe in their own (unbiblical) reinterpretations of them. They claim those portions of Scripture were true and accurate in their original form, but that the text of the Bible we have today is “corrupted”, meaning it does not reveal God’s truth and is therefore not reliable or authoritative in presenting that truth. Christian scholars consider this presumption completely refuted by the historical evidence.
So, when Muslims claim to believe the gospel and revere Jesus, it is not the gospel we read in our Bibles that they are referring to. The so-called “reverence” Muslims have for the Bible or Christianity is based on misrepresentations of what they are. In other words, they believe in a lie. The Jesus they revere is not the Jesus of the Bible, not the Savior of mankind, not God the Son, whose sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins makes it possible for believers to become children of God, no longer separated from him by sin, but knowing and loving God in an intimate relationship. This relationship, taught in Christianity is essentially different from what we might call “religion”, and so is often misunderstood by non-Christians.
Returning to that church marquee, I have touched on two of its three points: 1) that Jesus is God, a belief held by Christians, according to Scriptural authority; and 2) that Joshua was reemphasizing to Israel’s leaders that they were to serve the God of the Bible, and no other gods.
The third and glaring point on the marquee, that Allah is Satan, must be dealt with soberly. As someone who has seen mobs of chanting Muslims on TV screaming, “Death to America” and calling us “the Great Satan”, the only message I heard is that they hate us. I didn’t hear a theological issue that drew me to ponder the validity of their statement. I was simply struck by the fact that they hated America and Americans.
So, I wonder how I would feel if I were a Muslim and saw that a Christian pastor was preaching that my god was Satan. Quite possibly I would assume that all Christians hate Muslims. And that might even cause me to feel some justification for violent jihad against Christians.
Satan is the archenemy of God, once the most highly regarded angel, who rebelled against God, taking many fallen angels with him and becoming the god of this world, working and fighting against God, ever since enticing Adam and Eve into our original sin. Saying Satan is Allah narrows him down to something smaller than what he is. Remember, God said to have no other gods before him. That’s because worshipping any false god will lead us to destruction. And there are many, many false gods, each one drawing people away from God. And while that pleases Satan, it doesn’t justify calling a false god Satan.
But, using the reasoning on that church marquee, any false god can be Satan. You could say Hindus worship Satan. And since Buddha statues are called idols, even though he was a person, and not a god, you could say that Buddhists believe in Satan. Then there are the atheists. They don’t believe in the existence of any god. But, using the same reasoning, you could say that atheists actually worship Satan because they are their own gods. My point is, there is a difference between pointing out the errors of Islamic theology and telling Muslims they worship Satan. A false god doesn’t have to be Satan to lead people to hell. For this reason, I consider the statement, “Allah is Satan” to be an unnecessary overstatement. It is enough to say Allah is a false god.
An additional point: There are many churches that claim to be Christian or claim to believe in the Bible. Some of the more well-known of these “Christian Cults”, or churches outside the historical doctrinal mainstream of Christianity, are groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science and Unity. The errors in the theology of all these groups lies in their teachings regarding the identity and work of Jesus Christ. Their doctrinal errors, as in the doctrinal errors of Islam, cause them to worship contrary to the teachings of the Bible, which in the reasoning of the church marquee, means that their god, the God of the Bible, must also be Satan.
The church marquee didn’t say anything about the God of Christian cults being Satan, even though their error and destination is no different from the error and destination of Islam. The “goats” of Matthew 25:33’s “sheep to the right, goats to the left” will be made up of all who do not follow the Son, not that they worship Satan. Being deceived by Satan isn’t the same as worshipping him. You don’t have to worship Satan to go to hell. All you need to do is reject Christ, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
John 8:44 records Jesus as saying to a group of Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” These were fellow Jews he was speaking to — men who ostensibly believed in the same God preached by Jesus. But notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “Your god is the devil”. Christian apologists need to get this right. When we say that Muslims are going to hell, we need to remember that everyone is going to hell, until they receive Christ and enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Muslims are no different from anyone else. They aren’t perishing because they seek to worship Satan. They are perishing because they haven’t yet received the truth. If we are concerned about the truth and accuracy of our doctrines, we need to clearly teach and preach what we believe, so that those who have ears may hear, those who have eyes may see, and those who have minds may understand and turn to the LORD (repent). Christians believe that Scripture reveals that truth. And it is that truth — not just a religious opinion — that should be reflected in our theology.