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What are some of the main differences between Islam and Christianity?
It is great that you have asked this question and are not simply settling to base your understanding on media stereotypes and the politics of the day. We hope this answer can go a little deeper to help you in your understanding between these two major world religions.
Since both Islam and Christianity both share a high regard for their scriptures as God-given, we will attempt to answer with an overview of the main teachings of their texts. It is important to note, though, that there are varied beliefs among both Christian and Muslim communities.
The biblical and quranic stories of God and people
The Bible describes how the first people, though created morally perfect, followed their own desires, not God’s. They and then their offspring became morally corrupt and it is this that continues to be people’s biggest problem. The rest of the story shows how God reconciles his justice – the need to punish sin – with his love for people. Gradually, God reveals that blood sacrifice is his chosen means. Throughout the Old Testament he promises to one day send a saviour. In the meantime, there are cycles of patience, judgement and mercy shown to sinful people by God. His grace is always based on his goodness rather than people’s righteousness.
In the Quran people typically fall into one of two camps: the righteous believers, for whom there is blessing or the wicked unbelievers, for whom there is judgment. There is a cycle of prophets, climaxing in Muhammad, who warn people to believe and follow the law. People are seen as weak, ignorant and in need of reminding to submit to God, but not fundamentally sinful. Many of these prophets are also found in the Bible, so there are many shared stories in both faiths. Jesus is one such prophet in Islam whereas in the Bible he is the promised chosen Saviour who brings God’s rule and takes upon himself God’s wrath for people’s rebellion against him. In Christianity He is the sacrifice and the solution for people’s biggest problem.
The Nature of God
Both faiths are monotheistic. ‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic for the English word ‘God’; it is used by Arabic speaking Christians and Muslims alike. However, the Christian and Muslim concepts are different. In Islam, God is a single entity, alone and apart from all his creation. He is, in many important ways, unknowable, as he cannot be compared to anything known. Muslims seek to know his will as expressed in his law.
The God of the Bible is ‘one’ in the sense ‘united’, but made up of three persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (The term ‘Son’ does not mean the offspring of God; he has always been with the Father.) What binds them together eternally is love. Faithful one to the other, God is always perfectly just. This love overflows toward people; it is expressed in His longing to identify closely with his people. While he is awesome in holiness, the Son, Jesus, also came to be with us, taking on our humanity and being punished for our sin. God’s desire for us is that he might be present with us. This is partially fulfilled now by the Holy Spirit. The Biblical view of the end times is that believers will be with God in heaven.
Now that we have outlined some theological similarities and differences, it is important to reflect on the fact that in God’s sight, the division is not between those labeled ‘Muslim’ and those labeled ‘Christian’, nor any other religious label. The question we must ask ourselves is, ‘am I in a good relationship with God?’ There are those who are and those who are not. That is the difference that matters.
In order to move beyond the academic question to this matter of the heart, it is worth taking time to read the Bible, which is always best done in company! Why not find out if a church or Christian Union near you has Bible study group so you can find people to discuss this book and help you come to a place where you can say, ‘I am in a good relationship with God; indeed, He loves me!’ To be able to say these words will bring life, joy and peace.
If you do not currently attend a church and would like to find one, the LookingforGod Church finder may help you. Click the following link for more information: www.lookingforgod.com/churchfinder
I do hope this general answer to your question goes some way to helping you find peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: www.lookingforGod.com
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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