Are all religions worshipping the same God?
It is central to Christian belief that when anyone in the world, no matter what their circumstances or religion, cries out to God, he hears and responds. It is also true that three of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Judaism (Jews) and Islam (Muslims) – all worship the God whom Abraham worshipped approximately four thousand years ago. In that respect it is absolutely certain that no faithful adherent of any religion has put himself or herself beyond the reach of God.
However, Christians speak about God in ways that make their faith completely unique. The Bible speaks of God as Father, creator of all things. It also speaks of Jesus Christ, the historical figure who lived about two thousand years ago, as God. And it speaks of God as Spirit, active in humans and in the world – the Holy Spirit (known in past centuries as the Holy Ghost). When seen in this complete way, it is clear that not all religions worship that God.
Christians never talk of their three experiences of God as if they were three separate Gods. They always speak of one God. They worship a Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – one God with different characteristics. It is the very great reverence that Christians have for Jesus, not only following his teaching but submitting to him as God, that makes the difference between Christianity and other faiths most clear.
The question of how Christians relate to those of other religions is becoming increasingly pressing. Television and migration have swept away the ignorant assumptions of Christians in former times that those of other faiths were wicked or benighted. More and more evidently there is a willingness of good people of all religions to work together to address racism and poverty. However, it is undeniable that there are groups within all religions (including Christianity) whose extreme opposition to the cultures which have been shaped by other religions has led them to violence. Nothing whatever in mainstream Christian belief suggests that this is acceptable.
Dialogue between people of different faiths is at its best when it seeks understanding, rather than agreement. Jesus commanded his followers to love their neighbours in the same way that they love themselves. Most Christians seek to live positively with their neighbours while being true to the most important parts of their faith. But they also want to be open with others about their beliefs, sharing what they have found to be life-enhancing.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west...
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made...
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no saviour.
Where to find it:
About these words:
Many centuries before Jesus, the book of Isaiah puts these words in the mouth of God. They are a vision for a kingdom in which people of all nations and religions gather in peace to worship him, and him alone.
And they said...
Sir Michael Caine, Oscar-winning actor:
My father was a Catholic and my mother Protestant. I was educated in a Jewish school, and my wife is a Muslim. I’ve watched the way they all ill-treated each other, so I rather feel outside of all that. But I certainly believe in God. It’s just God and me, watching all the rest. I don’t usually say prayers; I say thank you. If you’d had my life you’d spend more time saying thank you than asking for things.
Professor Eric Priest, mathematician and solar magnetohydrodynamicist, St Andrews University:
What we understand about the nature of God is so minute that we have to understand that other people and other faiths might get other glimpses, which will be valuable to us. We can't be arrogant about what we understand about God. So I think it's wrong to force our views on someone else: their views may be just as important as ours.
Tom Hollander, star of the BBC comedy series Rev, on why playing a vicar has led him to become a churchgoer:
I believe in the idea of God now. Since doing Rev I believe in what the idea of God represents, but I can't say anything more concrete than that.
Max Warren, Christian leader, 1904-1979:
Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may be treading on men’s dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was here before our arrival.