A Catholic bishop from the Netherlands is being quite unhelpful today. He’s calling for Christians to start referring to God as “Allah.”
According to Australia’s Herlad Sun, Bishop Muskins said: “Allah is a very beautiful word for God . . . . What does God care what we call him?”
Well, He cares very much! He has revealed His name to Moses as “I am.” Jesus used this name in reference to Himself. Christ told us to pray to “Our Father who is in heaven,” thereby distinguishing Him from all other gods. Christians are told to baptize converts not in any name they wish to invoke, but “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The bishop’s statements are nothing less than an attempt to make the case that Allah and Jehovah are the same deity, and as such is an example of two deadly things. First, it is yet another slip in the theological moorings of liberal churches away from the truth of Scripture, generally, and the message of the Gospel, specifically. Second, as Gene Edward Veith points out, this amounts to a capitulation to “dhimmitude,” the submission that Islam demands of all other religions.
Al Mohler brings the issues squarely into focus when he writes, “This represents a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians. Allah is not a personal deity in the sense that the God of the Bible is. Furthermore, the Qur’an explicitly denies that Allah has a son and Islam considers the notion of a triune God to be blasphemy.
Thus, from its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim — the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father. If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion . . .and worse?”
He then adds:
“The Christian faith is essentially and irreducibly Trinitarian. The Bible reveals that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Jesus is not merely a prophet; He is God in human flesh. This is precisely what Islam rejects. If Allah has no Son he is not the Father.”
Christians and Muslims do not worship the same deity. We do not have the same views about God, Jesus, or salvation. Jehovah is not Allah. We do not worship the same God. If we did, then Muslims would have no problem bending their knee and confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and God (as Thomas did), or referring to God as “Father, Son, and Spirit.”
In response to the argument that the use of “Allah” is a generic term, please consider Al Mohler’s response (he makes it clearer than I could):
It is certainly true that the word Allah is the Arabic word for deity. Those supporting an argument like that of Bishop Muskens suggest that the Arabic word can be used as a generic term for deity.
In common English we use the word God as both a proper name and a noun. We differentiate between the two usages by capitalizing the word when we mean to refer to the specific personal God of the Bible, and by not capitalizing generic uses of the word. Thus, we might paraphrase the First Commandment like this: “God commanded His people to have no other gods before Him.” The correct interpretation of this sentence requires the use and understanding of the habits of capitalization.
Those making the case for a Christian appropriation of Allah must take their argument in one of two trajectories. The first trajectory is to argue that Allah can be used in a generic way to refer to any (presumably monotheistic) deity. This case will be very difficult to make. Language, theology, and worship are so closely intertwined that it is difficult, if not impossible, to argue for a generic use of Allah. Further evidence against this trajectory is the fact that non-Arabic speaking Muslims also use Allah when referring to their god.
The second trajectory presents even more of a problem. Those following this line of argument must make the case that Allah and God refer to the same deity. This represents a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians. Allah is not a personal deity in the sense that the God of the Bible is. Furthermore, the Qur’an explicitly denies that Allah has a son, and Islam considers the notion of a triune God to be blasphemy.
Even more specifically, he adds this addendum to his statements:
The particular question raised by Bishop Muskens was the use of the word “Allah” by Christians in the West as a means of lessening Christian-Muslim tensions. The question of using “Allah” to refer to god in a clearly missiological setting will raise other issues. If the word is understood as a generic term for God (and not exclusively as a proper name), the question would then be how a Christian must make clear that the God of the Bible–revealed as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ–is not the deity as described in the Qur’an (who explicitly has no son). The linguisitic root of Allah may well be connected to Elohim (a name for God found in the Old Testament). This fact may help to clarify the possible use of the word in a missiological setting. The clarity comes in understanding that, even in the Old Testament, the name Elohim is, in itself, quickly accompanied by other names and words to make clear that the God of the Bible is the personal, monotheistic, covenant-making God of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. The New Testament makes clear that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — indeed the God who in these latter days has spoken definitively through the Son [Hebrews 1].
In other words, it would seem best to think of Allah in this setting as a place to begin a conversation about God in a Muslim setting. The challenge from that point onward will be to make certain that there is no misunderstanding about the fact that the only true and living God is the Father of Jesus Christ the Savior.
The crucial questions here are these: First, can we assume that the deity central to Islam and known as Allah is, in fact, the same God worshipped by Christians and revealed in the Bible? The answer to that question must be negative. In that sense, Allah is certainly not the God of the Bible.
The second question is whether the word “Allah” can be understood, in Arabic and Muslim settings, as both a generic noun and a proper noun. Some credible Christian scholars and missionaries are certain that it can. The issue then becomes how contemporary Christians remain faithful to the Gospel in this setting even as the Apostle Paul remained faithful in Acts 17 when he visited Athens. Paul, we must remember, had to tell the religious Athenians that they had misunderstood the very nature and character of the true God. “”Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you” [Acts 17:23].
You can read Mohler’s entire article here.