Seeking common ground, the religiously naive look at all of the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians and ask, "Don't we all worship the same God?" Their question is not really a question. Stating a chirpy, popular worldview, the "Same God" testimonial comfortably summarizes the contemporary spirituality of toleration, inclusion, and reduction to absurdity.
In an America where 70% of church-goers no longer read the Bible regularly (see last week's bulletin), this kind of statement satisfies the uninformed need for bumper-sticker religious explanations and reduces important differences to indifference. Understanding the God of the Bible, understanding the competing gods of false religions, and understanding the difference is challenging. Courageously practicing the difference is even more challenging. Far easier is falling for easy-breezy clichés.
The Old Testament and the One God
"Other gods" are nothing new. The Old Testament world was filled with Ashtoreth and assorted other pagan deities just as today's religious discussions are filled with Allah. Many of these gods came complete with massive temple complexes, extensive priesthoods, and detailed moral and ritual systems. In short, they were not fly-by-night religions of fly-by-night gods.
Responding to these gods, Commandment #1 was "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3). In the presence of many gods, Israel's unique declaration was, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut. 6:4). As the Psalmist wrote, "You are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God" (Ps. 86:10).
Repeated in the New Testament as "There is only one God" (Rom. 3:30), this great foundational truth eliminated Ashtoreth and eliminates Allah.
The New Testament and the Triune (Three-Personality) Godhead
Starting with the Old Testament's elementary grasp of God, the New Testament continues with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Presented at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry (i) as Jesus was baptized, (ii) as God spoke from heaven, and (iii) as the Holy Spirit descended (Matt. 3:16-17), the Godhead is also presented at the conclusion of Jesus' ministry as the Great Commission teaches baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt. 28:19-20; see also Eph. 4:4-6).
Paul used the term Godhead (Rom. 1:20, Col. 2:9) to describe the unique Christian doctrine of "God in three persons, blessed trinity." Thus the Christian God has one God in three persons, with each personality distinct and having a distinct roles, but with the unity of the "One God" maintained through common purpose and complete agreement. The Christian understanding of the Godhead is thoroughly offensive to Muslims who think of us as being practically pagan.
The "Worship the same god" cliché fails to grasp the deeper theology of the New Testament and fails to properly honor Christ. Christ is the "one mediator between God and man" (I Tim. 2:5). Any worship of God that does not also acknowledge Christ is incomplete at best. Further, any baptism that does not acknowledge to important role of the Holy Spirit is inaccurate (Acts 18-19).
Do They Think We All Worship The Same God?
Hindus do not get very technical about theology, but do react against Christian theological systemization. With the Hindu scriptures claiming that there are330 milliongods, the saying is true among Eastern religionists that "If you think its a god, its a god." Accordingly, Hindus allow Christians to think whichever way they want to think about God, but honestly believe that we are legalistically limited in our views, even our Trinitarian view. Curiously, many of today's "Same God" and "Doctrine is not important" sympathies borrow heavily from Hindu toleration of competing religious ideals and inclusion of contradictory religious teachings.
Muslims are not so charitable. Muslims consider the plural Christian God to be a stark denial of monotheism. Muslims have rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity from the earliest years of Islam. They consider Christians to be blasphemers and polytheists and not true believers because of it. Further, they argue that the doctrine of the Godhead is illogical and makes no sense. In fact, the most notorious sticking point separating Muslims and Christians is the doctrine of the Trinity. Stated simply: Muslims do not believe that we all worship the same God.