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Saint Augustine
Christianity and Islam: The Differences in the Societies They Create - The First Major Difference: What is God?
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Article Index
Christianity and Islam: The Differences in the Societies They Create
The First Major Difference: What is God?
The Second Major Difference: What is Man?
The Third Major Difference: How does man relate to nature?
The Fourth Major Difference: How do people get to heaven?
The Fifth Major Difference: What is the ideal future?
The Sixth Major Difference: What is divine revelation?
Conclusion and Endnotes
All Pages

The First Major Difference: What is God?

The Christian concept of God is three persons in one essence, while the Muslim God is a single, autonomous unity. The English technical term for the three-in-one Christian God is "trinity."2 The Arabic technical term for the solitary singularity of the divine essence is tawhid.3

Muslim scholars claim that tawhid is the most important article of Muslim faith and that all other Muslim doctrine springs from it. Tawhid means not simply that there is only one God (one person who alone is the true God, not three-in-one); it also means that nothing in creation can be associated with God, and God cannot associate himself with anything in creation. Allah is entirely separate from creation and isolated from the material world. The dominant position of tawhid in Muslim thinking generates a spiritual void among the common people filled by Sufism, folk Islam, and rampant witchcraft.

In chapter one of He Is There and He Is Not Silent, Francis Schaefer writes,

The Persons of the Trinity communicated with each other and loved each other before the creation of the world…. This is not only an answer to the acute philosophic need of unity in diversity, but of personal unity and diversity. The unity and diversity cannot exist before God or be behind God, because whatever is farthest back is God. But with the doctrine of the Trinity, the unity and diversity is God Himself — three Persons, yet one God.

Honor, glory, love, integrity, morality, and truth demand relationships. These qualities cannot exist within a singularity. However, they can exist in a trinity. Eternity for glory, honor and love is possible because the persons of the trinity have been glorifying, honoring, and loving each other for eternity. Eternity for integrity, morality and truth is possible because the persons of the trinity have been holding each other accountable for eternity.

But if God is a singularity, then no interpersonal relationships exist within God, and moral qualities that depend upon relationships cannot be eternal. In that view, honor, glory, love, integrity, morality, and truth must be created. Therefore, God's glory and honor are not eternally innate to him but depend upon his relationship with creation. If God has no innate honor, then he cannot potentially have innate shame. If God can potentially do nothing by himself to shame himself, then his behavior has no moral boundaries. He can lie, cheat, and steal without shame because God is only accountable to himself. If there are no relationships within God, then God has no accountability.

Now, how do these two beliefs about God affect civic structures?

In Christian society, nothing and no one can embarrass or dishonor God. His honor and glory remain intact no matter how people treat him. They are part of his eternal essence and depend on nothing other than God himself. Nothing in creation can ever change or diminish God's honor and glory — even if God becomes a man and dies a humiliating death on a cross. Only God himself could even potentially shame himself, because the trinity has accountability within itself.

But in Muslim society, people must guard and protect God's glory. Nowhere on earth and at no time in history (even when theocratic governments had anti-blasphemy laws) do we find Christians violently protesting in the streets when people insult God, his prophet, or his holy books. People in Christian societies know that God does not need his honor protected. But Muslims around the world and throughout history are paranoid about the glory of God. "Allah Akhbar," the Arabic words for "God is Great," are constantly on their lips. Insulting the prophet receives a death penalty in many Muslim countries. Defiling a Qur'an instigates murderous protests around the world.4

In Christian societies, God's honor is certain and his integrity is an innate attribute. Christian doctrine holds that God's integrity constrains his behavior so that he cannot lie. If God were to lie, then he would shame himself. Therefore, in Christian societies, integrity is more important than honor, and society expects people to tell the truth even if it means embarrassing themselves, their families, their business, or their leaders.

But in Muslim societies the relative esteem for integrity and honor is reversed. According to Muslim doctrine and according to the Qur'an itself, "Allah is the best deceiver."5 In Islam, God's honor depends upon how creation treats him, and integrity is not an innate part of his eternal essence.

Power, as an attribute, can be independent of relationships. Not surprisingly, therefore, power rather than integrity is the most vaunted attribute of the Muslim God. As a result, in Muslim societies, honor is more desirable than integrity, and people are expected to deceive in order to protect themselves, their families, their businesses, or their leaders from shame. Among Muslims, the notion that God would stoop to become a man and suffer at the hands of men is one of the most offensive blasphemies to comprehend.6

Because of tawhid, the Muslim God can only be dishonored by his creation, and he cannot dishonor himself. However, because of the trinity the Christian God can only be dishonored if He choses to permit it, and He cannot be dishonored by creation. For example, no level of disobedience or idolatry in mankind can ever bring shame upon God, but Jesus became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), a curse (Galatians 3:13), forsaken (Mark 15:35), and shame (Hebrews 12:2) for us. As a result, Christian societies do not worry about protecting God's honor and care more about truth than honor, but Muslim societies are paranoid about God's honor and care more about honor than truth.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 April 2013 20:30