Theological differences between Islam and Christianity


I gave my response to Ben, when I referred him to my essay God and Freedom on the website.

However one thing that became clear was his dualistic, non-Trinitarian view of God the Father and God the Son. If as Jon says we have a strictly Simple, Monistic understanding of God as One as Islam has, then God is responsible for everything that happens, good and ill.

However the OT separates God from the Creation, and the NT speaks of One God in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This frees God and us to live free and full lives when we live in right relationship with the universe, ourselves, and others.

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Roger, if you’re going to use a phrase like “if as Jon says…” it would be less offensive if you followed it with something at least vaguely resembling what I actually said.

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I apologize if I misunderstood or misquoted you. The fact is as you pointed out that we have three monotheistic faiths, none of which can allow the disconnect between God the Father and God the Son that FMW suggests, but they are all different.

Allah for Islam is Absolutely Simple, and the Quran criticizes Judaism for its understanding of YHWH and esp. the Christian view of the Trinity because it is Complex/One. I would disagree that the God of Israel is the God of the NT, unless you are saying that the God of Israel is the Trinity. The God of Israel/Judaism is not the Trinity.

One God, three theologies. The best theology is the Christian one that says that Reality is not black and white, but a challenge to follow God the Father’s Will for us by salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and receive grace and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit.


The Evangelical Missiological Society just published a special bulletin where contributors weigh in on this very issue. It has some good articles (not all by Evangelicals either, one is by an Eastern Orthodox missiologist and one is by Lamin Sanneh of Yale, who is Roman Catholic.)

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It’s a funny thing, Roger - I’ve been studying theology for fifty years, and have never come across any councils, bases of faith or even theological treatises that say the Trinity is Complex/One - except you. The very same theologians who formulated the Trinity also believed in divine simplicity. From Internet Encyclopedia of Philsophy:

Divine simplicity is central to the classical Western concept of God.

Christian theological speculation from the beginning views simplicity as essential for preserving God’s transcendence. The second-century Christian apologist Athenagoras of Athens argues that the Christian God by definition has no beginning; thus God is utterly indivisible and unchangeable. The Church Fathers—including Sts. Clement, Basil, and Cyril—see simplicity as preserving God’s transcendence and absolute perfection. Etc…

Neither has any branch of the historical Church denied that the God of Israel is the God of Jesus - if you don’t count Marcionism (why do I keep having to bring that up here?). The response to Jesus’s healings was praise for the God of Israel (Matt 15.31). Jesus himself proves the resurrection against the Sadducees by showing that Moses calls the Lord “The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” He (the God of Jacob=Israel), he goes on, is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Lk 20.37-38).

But what’s the point of proof texts, when the whole message of the New Testament is that the covenant with Israel has been fulfilled in Jesus (the Messiah promised for Israel by her God) and graciously extended to the gentiles? That the God they knew as Yahweh is, and always was, Unity in Trinity? Every orthodox theologian from the Fathers onwards has known this - to deny it is like denying that the New Testmanent mentions Jesus.

Thirdly, I know of no historic expression of orthodox Christianity that says “Reality is not black and white” - I doubt any of them would have made such a vague and meaningless statement, preferring statements with specific application like those in theNew Testament itself: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” or " God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light," or “What fellowship can light have with darkness?”

My previous post, of course, was not to enter in the current silly debate about whether Allah is really the same God as Jesus’ Father - merely that they claim him as the God of Abraham, and of course the Qu’ran is full of biblical rehashes.

You are, of course, entitled to believe whatever you like - but you’re not entitled to claim that your own particular interpretations and vocabulary are Christianity. Some of us here are more widely read.

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Your remarks are spot on - I feel that it is also needful to point out the bizarre statements that “Relates” makes regarding Hellenic (at times Western) philosophy - there needs to be a limit set on serious sites like BioLogos on how much nonsense is permitted before moderators step in.

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I think that Reality is just, um, reality.


Thank you for your response.

I must admit that Complex/One is a new word for describing God. However it says that same thing as the Trinity. I have seen the word Triune also used to convey the meaning of the Trinity.

God is One. No problem. God is also Three, correct or not? Three is the number that indicates complexity. Also personhood indicates complexity. If God is personal, God is both One and Three, has unity and complexity.

This seems to be the philosopher’s problem with the Biblical God. The philosopher wants God to be simple Being and thus impersonal, but the Biblical God is not. The Trinitarian God of the Bible is both Complex and One.

Divine simplicity may be central to the classical Western concept of God, but it is not basic to the Biblical concept of YHWH, I AM WHO I AM.

Yes, God the Father is the God Who Jesus prayed to and was the God of Israel, but this confirms that the God the OT is different from the God the NT, because Jesus does not pray to Himself. Jesus prayed to His Father.

We seem to disagree on one very important aspect of theology. I say that the New Covenant is not just an extension of the Old Covenant to the Gentiles. I and the basic Christian tradition says that the New Covenant is something new that God did in the world.

John 3:16 God so loved the world that He sent His only Beloved Son into the world, so that whoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." That is not the covenant with Israel. That is not how God the Trinity worked in the OT.

Yes, Christians believe that the God of the OT was the same God as the NT, but the fact is the NT Trinitarian God revealed Godself differently in the NT than in the OT.

That is why I said before that God the Father is the God of the OT, while God the Son is the God the NT. I did not mean that they are two different Gods, since I indicated that they were members of the Trinity (whereas FMW did not.)

We learn from the Bible that our understanding of God evolves, which does not mean that God changes, but we do, because we are limited, mortal creatures.

We believe that there is God, but we have three faiths that define Who God is very differently, including Islam. How can we determine which is correct, because the future of our world depends on it?

As it happens, I have written a book, The Complex ONE and The Simple ONE, Relational Christianity and Absolute Islam in Today’s World, which compares the two faiths side by side so anyone and everyone can see how they are alike and different, and determine for themselves.

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It would be a waste of time pointing to primary sources on divine simplicity. There are, of course, hundreds within Judaism from Philo on through Maimonides, and in Christianity from Irenaeus in the second century though John Wesley, but the universal nostrum “led astray by the Greek philsophers” conquers them all.

My objection is not that someone should argue against simplicity, but that they should present it in a philosophically crude kindergarten form that no theologian in either faith would have considered for a moment, and then oppose it to “the Christian view” as if divine simplicity hadn’t been the predominant position in every theistic tradition for two millennia, until Duns Scotus raised a hand against it and the eighteenth and nineteenth century Enlightenment theologians began to find it objectionable on the grounds of their rationalistic logic

I’m reminded (often, on BioLogos) of an anecdote about an interdenominational conference at which some such deep doctrine was being discussed. The Catholic representative answered, “Well, the Ecumenical Councils of A & B settled this, the doctors of the Church including Augustine and Aquinas said thus and so, and Pope X the 47th pronounced on it in his encycylical…”

The Orthodox representative answered, “Yes, we concur, for the Church has always taught this, as we read in Gregory of Nyssa: and Maximus the Confessor teaches us…”

The Calvinist representative said, “We agree on this too - the unified witness of Scripture in passages like Ephiscans 5.23, and the whole thrust of the doctrine of the Cross make it a theological necessity - which is why, when the Westminster Assembly considered, it they made it a tenet of their Confession of Faith.”

Then the chairman turned to the spokesman for American Evangelicals. He considered for a moment, and then said, “Well, I think…”


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Eddie, thank you for that clarification. If so why is there a problem with the use of the Complex/One for the Trinitarian God?

I think we have a serious problem when our words, particularly our theological words are misleading. God is Simple or God is not. God is Complex or God is not. To say that God is both Complex and One is paradoxical, but that is what the Trinity says, and we have real life examples of complex/one beings in humans who are created by God in God’s Own Image, or so it says in my Bible.

My point is that today people are killing each other in serious numbers over theological issues, in particular: Is God (Allah) Simple or not? To me this makes this issue serious and not to be brushed off with a joke.

Muslims know what they believe even if we do not. We cannot oppose their strong beliefs with our indefinite theology.

What utter nonsense!!!


If you think that the sectarian and interfaith wars in the Mideast and Africa are not based on theology and worldview, What is their source?.

You start with utter nonsense and counter with vacuous generalisations - that is my comment, so you should not divert from it.


I’m sorry you won’t bless us with your wisdom.

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Well now … in all fairness to the brash American evangelical of your anecdote, Jon, the others too were fully exercising their own prerogative in referring back to all the various authorities, even if it was all just in deference. The fact that there would be any such kind of discussion over some deep issue at all must be because … well… it must have been a present issue in the first place. There is no sense in affirming someone for their veneration of ancient authority unless there is the possibility (or at times maybe even necessity) that they not do so.

Still, that anecdote found its mark, and stings for all of its truth. :smile:



It appears that you too are not going to grace us with your insight into the theological basis of Islam. That is too bad.

Your anecdote about the conference does reveal the deep divisions and brokenness of the Body of Christ at a time when the New Atheism and Militant Islam are raising new challenges to our faith and the world order.

In light of this and for my own sanity I felt it was important to develop a renewed understanding of Who is Jesus Christ. I found one based on the Augustinian Trinity, also called the Egalitarian Trinity, and a renewed reading of the scripture using a relational understanding of YHWH, I AM WHO I AM.

We discussed this at length some time back, when I was new to BioLogos and at that time I offered to share by book, The GOD Who RELATES with Eddie, who refused. I will be glad to send you a copy if you are interested.