Because of the world geopolitical situation, and largely in great part by a news media that continually perpetuates the divisions between Christian and Islamic culture, it is important to note that Christianity and Islam are not are as different as they may seem to the uninitiated. Firstly, it is important to stress the clear commonality between Christianity and Islam in their belonging to the tradition of Abrahamic monotheism, alongside Judaism, a worshipping of the One God. But, secondly, it is also important to note the important status of Jesus Christ in Christianity as well as Islam. It is often said that Jesus Christ is a prophet in Islam who is held in high regard, but it less mentioned that Jesus Christ is also the Messiah in Islam just as he is in Christianity, which means that Jesus Christ will return to the world at the end of the battle of Armageddon. Certainly, it is true that key difference is that Jesus Christ is not God in Islam, as he is in Christianity, but this shared monotheistic heritage and also the idea that Jesus Christ is the Messiah are two key points of similarity.
Christianity and Islam, as mentioned in the introduction, are both parts of the Abrahamic monotheistic tradition, with Judaism the third great religious tradition that is a part of this group.
As Catalin Negru reminds us, “Judaism, Christianity and Islam are generically called ‘Abrahamic religions’ due to the crucial role Abraham has in their holy books” (Negru, 65), above all because Abraham is recognized in all three books as the one who “praises an exclusive God.” (65) The key role of Abraham in both Christianity and Islam can therefore be summarized as follows, which shows how the religions come together. On the one hand, both Christianity and Islam make a key reference to the story of Abraham, who is called by God to worship the One, monotheistic God. This is known in the famous story where Abraham is told to sacrifice his son. On the other hand, This story shows how monotheism does make the believer not confuse any type of idols in place of God. The Abrahamic story thus shows precisely what is at the core of Christian and Islamic beliefs, namely, that is there is a One unique God who is the foundational stone of the monotheistic religions. Christianity and Islam both look towards Abraham and chase their lineage to him to show their clear faithfulness to the monotheistic cause.
However, a clear difference between Islam and Christianity is demonstrated in the role of Jesus Christ in relation to the monotheistic idea. The clear difference is found in that Christianity worships Jesus Christ as God, as part of a triune God, alongside the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is not just a messenger of God, someone who tells the world of the monotheistic God just like Abraham, but he is instead God incarnate, God walking the earth in the flesh. John Schwarz summarizes this key difference as follows: “First, in Islam God is transcendent and removed; in Christianity God is likewise transcendent, but also immanent and personal, and it possible, through Jesus to have a relationship with God.” (228) There are conceptions of God, which are different because the Christian concept of God takes Jesus Christ himself as an immanent form of God, a God who walks among the people, while in Islam, but also like Judaism, this is not the case. The important conceptual difference is not therefore in the monotheistic God which is shared by both Islam and Christianity, but the idea in Christianity that God has also taken a human form and walked among us.
Nonetheless, the fact that Christians and Muslims both share a monotheism that is only differentiated by the idea of a human God, this does not mean that Muslims do not have a key role in their entire theology for Jesus Christ. It is often said that Jesus Christ is a prophet in Islam, much like Abraham and Muhammad, who tells the world about the truth of the monotheistic God. But it is also not often mentioned that in Islam Jesus Christ is also the Messiah, the hero who will come at the end of the world to kill the Antichrist. In Islam, Jesus Christ is also the son of the Virgin Mary, and his arabic name is Isa ibn Maryam, which means in English Jesus, son of Mary. As Kerry Anderson notes from the Quran Sura 3:42-55 teaches that (1) Mary was chosen by, (2) Jesus was born of a virgin, (3) Jesus is the Messiah, (4) Jesus has power over death, and (5) Jesus knows the way to heaven. Charles Upton also emphasizes the point that in Islam, when the Messiah Jesus Christ returns he will “slay Antichrist.” Even though Islam and Christianity do not share the same view that Jesus Christ is God, they both believe that he is the Messiah and they believe that he has “power over death”, and of his purely virgin birth, and Jesus will also a return a second time. It is important to note this, when people say Christianity and Islam are incompatible, that Judaism has no importance whatsoever to Jesus and do not believe that he is the Messiah or the son of a Virgin or that he will return ever again. Christianity and Islam are much closer.
Thus, we see that some of the differences between Christianity and Islam that the mainstream media likes to play up, most likely to make state propaganda for more wars, does not hold up. Both are monotheistic faiths. Certainly, they disagree over the issue as to whether Jesus is God. But they both believe that he is the son of the virgin, the Messiah and will return to kill Antichrist. Christianity and Islam are truly friends in Jesus.
- Anderson, Kerby. A Biblical Point of View on Islam. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995.
- Negru, Catalin. History of the Apocalypse. New York: Lulu, 2015.
- Schwarz, John. A Handbook of the Christian Faith. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 2004.