Andy Bannister, the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, addresses a classic apologetics question in his new book: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? To many the notion that the Allah of the Islamic faith and the Yahweh of the Christian faith could ever be the same is ridiculous, but Bannister sets aside part of his first chapter to illustrate just how pervasive this view still is. It remains a live and important question for many people. This new book tackles the question head on in a witty, readable style, Bannister provides a succinct answer. Though by no means the first to respond to this question well, in nine entertaining chapters Bannister offers the reader a wonderfully written bit of apologetics.
Do all religions lead to God, as I am often asked? No. But more than that: not every religion promises to lead you to God. Some offer to lead you to oblivion, or to a higher state of consciousness, and some, like Islam, claim to lead you to paradise. But only one that I know of dares to claim it can lead you to God – and that’s Christianity.p129
As the book will show, the two faiths actually offer a radically different teaching. After a few well written introductory chapters where Bannister establishes the parameters of his study whilst simultaneously building up a fresh and at times quite amusing rapport with the reader, the book turns to address four key sub-questions. Bannister believes these four questions help us challenge our world views, and compare contrasting world views against one another.
- Is there a god (and what is God like)?
- Who and what are human beings?
- What is wrong with the world?
- What’s the solution?
These four questions form the structure for the body of the work, as each is answered in turn. Each chapter examines the Muslim and Christian answers with a thorough and generous treatment of both the Qur’an and the Bible.
In answering these four questions Bannister shows that not only do all religions not lead to God, even just these two claim to offer wildly different things. This reviewer was particularly struck by the discussion of God in Chapter Four: ‘Will the real God please stand up? Comparing the Bible’s and the Qur’an’s views of God.’ The God of the Bible is deeply relational, Allah is fiercely distant. Where the God of the Bible is shown to be wonderfully loving, through a short analysis of the language of love in the Qur’an, Bannister concludes (63): “The Qur’an simply has no conception of Allah offering anything remotely like an unconditional love to humanity.”
Time and again Bannister holds up the Biblical answer to his four questions against the Qur’anic answer, and displays the clear discrepancies between the two. As his argument develops the answer becomes clear: the two faiths by no means worship the same God. The book closes with an in depth look at Jesus in both holy books, once again illustrating the cavernous differences between the two, before inviting the reader to hear the Christian message in full in the final chapter.
Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? is a really helpful read, and this reviewer certainly learnt a lot as both sides were fairly treated by an author who clearly knows his stuff (holding, as he does, a PhD in Islamic studies.) What stood out as I read this book was the beautiful and unique simplicity of the Christian Gospel. Jesus is someone wholly different to any man who has ever lived, and the offer of salvation He holds out to a needy world is the most incredible act of gracious mercy. Bannister invites us to embrace this Jesus, the true Jesus, in his closing chapter, and this appeal poses a challenge to any reader – whether Christian or Muslim. Written in an entertaining, self-depreciating style (with most footnotes given over to jokes rather than jargon) and displaying a knowledgeable engagement with both the Bible and the Qur’an, this will be a helpful read for both interested Christian and searching Muslim.
If anything was lacking it was an engagement with the original languages of the Christian Scriptures, to match the thorough treatment of the Arabic of the Qur’an. (Understanding the nuances around this particular point I do not think the study is particularly worse off having not included this.) Overall a helpful read, and by no means a dry or academic treatment of a question that has been answered many times before. This was a fresh and warm-hearted approach, that ought to be widely read and shared.
Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? is available from IVP in both paperback and audiobook formats, as well as from most other Christian retailers.
Thanks so much for this great review, Ed!
Thanks Andy, very much enjoyed the read!