At our regular dialogue evening, this point about God rears its head time and again. My imam friend frequently wants to insist that we worship the same God. We are always keen to point out that we do not worship the same God.
Let me share with you a short experiment that I ran at our dialogue evening to show that we do not worship the same God.
First, ask everybody in the room to raise their hand if they believe in God. Follow that up by asking everybody to keep their hand in the air if they believe Jesus Christ is God. All of the Muslims put down their hands whilst all the Christians keep theirs up.
Second, ask everybody in the room to raise their hand if they believe that God is one. Follow that up by asking everybody to keep their hand in the air if they believe God exists in three persons. All of the Muslims put their hands down whilst all the Christians keep theirs up.
Third, ask everybody in the room to raise their hand if they believe there exists a being we call God. Follow that up by asking everybody to keep their hand in the air if they believe God’s personal name is Yahweh. All of the Muslims will put their hands down while the Christians will keep theirs up.
Now, as I have done in the past, I have asked only the first of those and as soon as the Muslim hands go down, point out that we believe in different gods. Very rarely do we need to go any further to make the point.
Occasionally, our Muslim friends will protest. At that point, I move on to the second and third questions. Should they still protest, there are a handful of further questions you can ask along these same lines to tease out the point. But I have never had to go beyond the first two before there can be no argument that we clearly do not worship the same God and when we use the word ‘God’ we are clearly referring to two very different beings.
The purpose in stating this basic fact is that our conception of God affects how we respond to him. Our religions are not the same specifically because we worship two very different deities who relate to creation in very different ways.
More importantly still, our gospel rests on our conception of God. If Jesus is not God, our gospel is null and void. If God is not triune, our gospel has no power and we are, in fact, no different to any other religion out there. Whilst some want to make this a nice bridging point, nothing can be more important than saying – though we remain friends and we love our Muslims neighbours – we do not worship the same God because there can be no gospel without establishing this fact.