Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Worship the Same God?

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God? Broadly speaking, there are three major positions:

  1. Yes. All three worship the God of Abraham. That doesn’t mean that the three are equally right in what they teach about God, but there’s a difference between being wrong about the true God, and worshipping a false God.
  2. No to Muslims, yes to Jews. The Jewish Scriptures (which are the Christian Old Testament) are all true revelation from God, and in following this they follow true religion. The Islamic Qur’an is false revelation, with Muhammad merely pretending (or mistaken) that it came from God.
  3. No. Christians worship the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Muslims and Jews deny that the Son, Jesus Christ, is God, and refuse to worship Him.

Vatican II, in its constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), seems to take the first view, describing the relationship between Christians, Jews, and Muslims this way:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.

So Jews and Muslims “have not yet received the Gospel,” but are still “related in various ways to the people of God.” The line about Muslims is particularly cryptic: do they hold the faith of Abraham, or simply profess to hold the faith? At the very least, the text seems to say that the acknowledge the Creator. Nostra Aetate, the Council’s declaration on the Church’s relation to non-Christian religions, is a bit more explicit, saying that Muslims “adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men.”

A lot of Christians have balked at these and similar statements. How can we say that Jews and (especially) Muslims worship the Christian God? The question of whether Jews and Muslims worship God is complicated, and I’m not going to try to examine every angle. But I do want to answer what I see as the two biggest arguments for the other two positions.

Against Position #2: You Can Have False Revelation and Still Worship the True God

The argument for position #2 (that Jews worship the true God, but Muslims don’t) is generally rooted in the idea that Jews have true revelation (the Jewish Scriptures / Christian Old Testament) while Muslims don’t. That’s not a particularly strong argument. Obviously, anyone trying to follow the true God will want pure revelation. But if there’s an admixture of error, does that automatically invalidate your following the true God?

By this logic, shouldn’t Protestants regard Catholics as worshipping a false God, simply because we recognize Books like 1 and 2 Maccabees and Tobit and Wisdom are Scripture, and they don’t? If you’re going to hold that, you’ve got to be prepared to reject the early Christians. And shouldn’t Catholics reject Orthodox who accept 3 Maccabees?

 

The early Christians often disagreed with one another over which books belonged in the Bible and which didn’t. But they didn’t declare that everyone they disagreed with stopped worshipping the true God. No, they recognized that you could be worshipping the true God and have bad information about Him.

Plus, consider the question more broadly. Instead of just considering public revelation like Scripture, think about private revelation and the quiet way that God communicates His Will towards us in the silence of our hearts. How many times have you wondering whether God was calling you towards something, or whether it was your own will or ego or fears getting in the way? Are you really prepared to say that if you mistake your own voice for God’s even once that you no longer worship God?

Against Position #3: You Can Have False Doctrines and Still Worship the True God

Joe Carter at First Things makes one of the clearest cases for the third position, that neither Jews nor Muslims worship the true God:

1. P — The Gospels of Matthew and John make accurate claims about what Jesus said.
2. Q — Everything Jesus said was true.
3. R — Jesus said that he is the begotten son of God. { John 3:16 , 1, 2}
4. S — Jesus said that you can know the Father, if and only if you know him first. { John 8:19 , Matt. 11:27 1, 2}*
5. T —> U — If you deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God then you do not know Jesus. {Modus Ponens, 1, 2, 3}
6. U —> V — If you do not know Jesus then you do not know the Father. {Modus Ponens, 4}
7. T —> V If you deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God then you do not know the Father. {Hypothetical syllogism, 5, 6}
8. W — Muslims deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God. (Qu’ran (Sura 112) — “Say: He is God, The One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none Like unto Him.”)
9. T & W — You deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God and Muslims deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God. {Conjunction, 5, 8}
10. W —> V — If Muslims deny that Jesus is the begotten son of God then Muslims do not know the Father. {Simplification, Modus Ponens, 7, 9}

I believe this argument is a solid case for why Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians. I suspect they would agree. But does is also apply to modern followers of Judaism (i.e., Jews after the time of Christ)?

One implication of Carter’s argument is that if you’re going to say that Muslims don’t believe in the true God because they don’t believe in the Trinity, you’ve got to be prepared to say the same for Jews. Carter recognizes this:

At the very least, this is what Christians (or at least Christ) claims to be true. So when making the claim that Jews and Christians worship the “same God” we are forced to choose one of the following three positions:

1. The Trinity is not an essential aspect of God. A person can therefore reject Christ without rejecting the Triune God.

2. Christians and Jews worship the same God, but Jews are confused about an essential nature of God (namely, the Trinity). Though they think they are rejecting Jesus they are really worshipping him.

3. To say that Christians and Jews worship the “same God” is technically true since Jesus is God and Jews do not worship Jesus.

Position #1 must be rejected by Christians. Position #2 is, I believe, what most of us Christians are really saying when we say that we all worship the same God. What concerns me is that it might be more insulting to Judaism to say that then to hold Position #3.

Of course, whether a particular logical conclusion is more or less “insulting” to members of a particular than another conclusion just isn’t a relevant inquiry. In other words, Position #2 can’t be false simply because it might be awkward to talk about. And no matter what we say the answer is, there’s necessarily going to be some sort of sensitivity. Jews say that Jesus isn’t God; we say He’s God and the only Way to salvation (John 14:6). Both sides are naturally going to be a bit uncomfortable with the other side’s claim.

So what should we make of Position #2?

Imagine a Jew of the first-century, hearing this itinerant preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, for the first time. He’s not asking “is this God?” Rather, he’s asking, “is this Man a true Prophet?” And one of the ways he might seek the answer to that is through prayer. In praying, he’s praying to the Triune God… meaning that he’s praying to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even though he doesn’t know this. It’s not as if the Trinity started to be true in the New Testament. God was always Triune. So in a very real sense, our hypothetical Jew is praying to Jesus about Jesus. But of course, if you asked him, “Are you praying to Jesus?” he would say no.

So if praying to the Triune God requires a theological awareness of the existence of the Trinity, then we’d have to say that there was no true worship of God prior to the full revelation of the Trinity in the first century A.D. And that’s obviously wrong, and no Christian can hold that. To see the exact points at which Carter goes wrong, it’s at 4. He says:

4. S — Jesus said that you can know the Father, if and only if you know him first. { John 8:19 , Matt. 11:27 1, 2}*

But look at those verses:

  • John 8:19, “They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.””
  • Matthew 11:27, All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Carter uses these to say that you need to have a full theological grasp of Jesus of Nazareth before you can know the Father. But neither of those verses (nor any other verses in Scripture) say that. They say instead that Jesus reveals the Father. But He’s been doing that even before the Incarnation. The Son revealed the Father in the Old Testament before the Jews realized that the Second Person of the Trinity existed. Likewise, the Holy Spirit (through Sacred Scripture) reveals Jesus to us. That doesn’t mean we have to understand the Holy Spirit theologically before we can know Jesus.

In fact, that’s the opposite of the order of revelation. Rather we know the Father first because the Son reveals Him to us, and we know Jesus second because the Spirit reveals Him and the Father to us. We know the Revealed before we know the Revelator, and know the Revelator through the revelation. St. Gregory Nazianzen (329-390 A.D.), in an oration quoted in the Catechism recounts salvation history this way:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated. For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues. And indeed it is little by little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully. I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth. This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority. Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name. He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send, then again, I will send,—His own dignity. Then shall come, the authority of the Spirit.

So to say that the Jews couldn’t know the Father until they knew the Son is historically and theologically backwards.

Carter’s second error is to equate “knowing Jesus” with theological orthodoxy. But it’s a huge jump from “believing something false about Jesus” to “not believing in Jesus” or “not knowing Jesus.” If you say that Jesus began His public ministry at 40, you seem to be talking about the right Jesus but getting your information wrong. If you say that Jesus is a first baseman for the Brewers, you probably mean a different Jesus.

How serious does a theological error have to be before we say “I think we just worship different Gods”? I won’t presume to posit a guess. But I think it’s worth bearing a few thoughts in mind on that score:

  1. There were heretics within the early Church who denied the Trinity, and the early Christians treated them differently than they did the pagans. There was a recognition that, for all of the horrible theology of these heretics, both sides were still talking about the same God.
  2. This should be a reminder to us about the importance of good theology. Christianity is about having a right relationship with God. That’s a lot harder to do if you don’t know Who He is, or if your knowledge of Him is mixed with error.
  3. “Same God” is not the standard we should be shooting for. Vatican II, while acknowledging that Jews and Muslims worship the same God that we do, also says that they haven’t received the Gospel.

So given all of this, why should we even care about the question of whether or not Jews and Muslims worship the same God we do? Partly, because it’s a starting place for sharing the Gospel. We can and must affirm the good that they have (e.g., belief that the God of Abraham is the true God, belief that He has revealed Himself through Sacred Scriptures, etc.) and still recognize what’s missing.

This is the approach that St. Paul takes in Acts 17:22-25, in which he says to the Greek pagans (who knew less about the true God than do Jews or Muslims):

So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-op′agus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.

That is, Paul affirmed that they already worshipped the true God (as unknown), but he doesn’t say “therefore, good enough.” He uses that as a launching point to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel. That’s an example we Christians can learn from: yes, Muslims and Jews strive after the God of Abraham, and they do rightly. But we Christians have fuller, purer revelation, and should assist them towards their goal.

33 Comments

  1. Great analysis, but…If God, the Creator, is the Alpha and Omega then he is everyone’s God. He has always been there and will be forever. So there is only one God. There is nobody else “out there but Him.” How we get close to him is through Jesus Christ. This understanding is a gift of Grace.
    All peoples are born knowing their creator and their particular culture draws them in closer to Him or estranges them from the Truth. I’m certainly no theologian, just an average person with reasoning skills. All the analitics are great for theologians and professional apologists. I just know there is but one God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit complete the communal Trinity. I pray that through God’s mercy and love, with the power of the Holy Spirit heresies and honest errors will be evident to the adherents, and we will all be one in Christ someday. In the meantime, they all have the same God, but define him wrong unless they are Christian. It’s not meant as an offense,but rather a conviction.

  2. An argument of especial interest for Catholics:

    In Book VII of his ‘Confessions,’ St. Augustine seems to quite plainly suppose that Neoplatonists worship the same God as Christians. That is, he treats his worship of the Neoplatonist God as worship of the true God, even though at the time he didn’t believe in Christ’s divinity.

    An argument of interest to all Christians:

    The Samaritans use an altered version of the Pentateuch (called the “Samaritan Pentateuch”), worship God according to their own rites, and reject all later revelation. But what did Jesus say to them? “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know” (John 4:22). Granted, the differences between the Samaritans and the Jews aren’t as large as the differences between Christians and Muslims–but there is still a basis for argument here, because they are a people who reject part of God’s general revelation and consider some things to be revelation which are not.

    To speak generally, the chief problem underlying this debate seems to be that many people are conflate “knowing” God (having an epistemically founded, correct belief in God) or “having” God (being in supernatural relation with God) with “worshiping” God (directing an act of worship–whether or not it is accepted–toward the God who actually exists).

    To speak more specifically (and actually enter the argument), those who say that differences in Trinitarian or Incarnational belief settle the question are pretty plainly wrong.

    God can be worshiped naturally, as St. Paul affirms in Romans 1 and as any classical theist would agree–and it is not possible, naturally, to know of the Trinity or the Incarnation. Therefore the real God can be worshiped in ignorance of those things.

    Is it possible, furthermore to be in error even about some naturally-knowable truths about God yet still worship Him? If St. Augustine is right, the answer is “yes.”

    It seems, then, that one must look, for, so to speak, the most basic truth about God: one without which one’s acts must perforce “refer” to some other entity. This would seem to the fact that He is uncreated and unchanging: so long as one directs one’s acts of worship to the source of all that is, one is worshiping God, since nothing else fits that bill.

    The only proviso it occurs to me add is that the act of worshiping requires, by its nature, reverence and self-oblation. So there does seem to be a case that people whose acts of “worship” involve transgressing the first principles of natural law (which are known to all) cannot be worshiping the true God, since their acts themselves prove that they do not honor Him as the source of all that is.

  3. An interesting article indeed full of references!! However, I am somewhat confused. The Holy Trinity is composed of three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is it possible for Christians, and whoever it maybe, to believe/to accept one of Them and discard the others?? Although they are three persons, yet the make ONE GOD – no more and no less. This is a fundamental mystery of our Christian faith; even St. Augustine could not comprehend how this could be so!! No, in my opinion, although I am not a theologian and without any sense of disrespect to any religion, only Christianity accepts and adore the One and only God. If other Religions deny this, then they must surely follow and observe the Ten Commandments, acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete of Christianity.

  4. Very good essay here Joe. I have wondered what do the muslim think about the same question. Do they think that we worship Allah?

    1. Yes … Muslims refer to
      Jews and Christians as “people of The book”…those who worship the Same God. Allah is simply the Arabic word for God… the God of Abraham. I am half Maltese, the Maltese are a catholic people but the language is 80 % Arabic… the Maltese word for god is also “Alla”

  5. Can you please cite authoritative Church sources or writings of the saints from before Vatican II? I don’t mean that as a knock against Vatican II or an angle against the council. However, considering how long Islam has been around, I think it’s perhaps a glaring omission to not include anything else and really does not do justice to the issue. It kind of reminds me of the recent news story about a student quoting St. John Bosco about Islam and the local Catholic school hurriedly saying the saint’s writings don’t represent the teaching of the Church.

    Also, I think the example of St. Paul should be flipped in its meaning. That the pagans knew less about the true god vis-a-vis the generic inscription on that altar is more beneficial to their case. Islam has a theology built up around Allah that makes it clear that Allah has attributes that Our God does not, and vice versa. The way the whole creation works, and thus the understanding of natural law, is also quite different. So while I can appreciate the logical flow you have above, I think it’s just incomplete.

    Finally, I thought the classical definition of worship is that it required a sacrifice. The Jews used to have it, but now they do not without the temple; only Catholics (and Orthodox) have a sacrifice. I’m not sure if there’s an analogue in Islam, but even then it would be false. So while they may profess to worship, it’s not actual worship.

    As an afterthought, I think it’s interesting the Church has recently gone to such great pains to try to make this work, while Muslims and Jews generally are not trying to make the same claim on our behalf from their point of view.

    Pax!

  6. I agree with the quote from Gregory Nazianzen, that God is understood in either a closer or more distant way according to the capacity of each individual person, town, church or nation. The problem here, is HOW WELL KNOWN does God need to be, or, HOW DETAILED does the theology need to be, to qualify as a clear portrayal of the One Almighty Creator and Lord of the Universe? And even Jesus describes a level or DEGREE of knowledge or DEGREE of obedience necessary to God, when He uses light as a metaphor for knowledge of God. For example the Gospels teach:

    “And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.”
    [John 3:19]

    “For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved.”
    [John 3:20]

    “He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.”
    [John 5:35]

    “Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
    [John 8:12]

    “Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while, the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not. And he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth.”
    [John 12:35]

    “You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.”
    [Matthew 5:14]

    “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.”
    [Matthew 5:15]

    “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
    [Matthew 5:16]

    “The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.” But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!”
    [Matthew 6:22]

    ************

    So, all of these metaphors of light communicate that the light of God can be either closer or farther away. According to Jesus, Christianity provides the strongest and most shining light, and this should be visible in the lives and beliefs of it’s members. But rays of this life are also found in the less brilliant light of ancient Israel. And this is proven by Jesus’ statement: “You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.” [John 4:22]

    Regarding Islam, I think the light is much weaker, but light all the same; not like the Sun or Moon, but maybe like a distant star. Some of this light probably came from ancient Christian monasticism that the disciples of Mohammend learned while sojourning in Ethiopia. It seems that they were exposed to the seven periods of daily prayer that is very similar to the ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ practiced in Christian monasticism. This, and other items of the Christian faith might have been adopted during that time of Islamic history.

    So, again, like St. Gregory, I think it is the degree or strength of ‘the light’ described by Christ, that is needed for calibrating whether all of these three faith religions believe in the same God. Moreover, it’s also sort of like a great jigsaw puzzle of 1000 pieces….where one faith might provide 200 pieces, the other 500 pieces and the last 1000 pieces. And then each individual of that religion needs to start putting all the pieces together(with the number he’s provided) to see if he can figure out what the image actually reveals. However, ‘exactly’ how many pieces are needed for clear understanding of God suitable for the attainment of ‘eternal life’ is still a mystery, and apparently known to only God alone.

    1. Hi Al,

      Your puzzle intrigues me! Individuals with the faith of 1000 pieces (presumably containing all the correct and finely detailed pieces) may still not obtain clear understanding. Do you think the individual probably lost or misplaced one or more pieces? Maybe he needs to compare his picture with the one in the good book. Then call the authorities. Finally, be humble and take the medicine or pray for healing. If all else fails, nothing is left but to pluck out the eye! (or is that the “I”?)

      1. Those are the pieces of the puzzle that to be assembled, that is, all of the elements are there for assembly. But the individual needs to 1. want to assemble it, 2. Be good at putting things together and match parts up, 3. have the time to do it, and 4. Get help from others when one comes to a road block. All of these aids are provided by a typical Catholic parish.
        In the Mass, the Gospel is read daily for inspiration, and many other pieces are provided such as the Eucharist (which is a ‘big chunk’). A priest is available to explain the Scriptures, and offers his homily as well. To continue with interest in putting the puzzle together, others are also there that have got their puzzles more advance than yours, and can encourage you. The parish also keeps you on schedule so that you don’t ignore the puzzle, making you think about it at least on Sundays.

        So, little by little one grows deeper, and his vision grows clearer of who the Holy Trinity is. And He has all this help via the helps that the Church provides: Liturgy, Scripture, Sacraments,Canon Law, Examples of Saints, and may other aids.

        1. But, of course, the other religions are missing many pieces, and maybe even help from others to inspire them to keep on going. So, only God knows how difficult it will be for them to come to a competent understanding of the One True God. And that is what evangelization is all about: to offer additional pieces to others’ puzzle, and to point them towards the the store house that has all 1000 pieces in plenty, plus instructions (i.e.. Catechism)…The Catholic Church.

      2. OK Margo, I’m going to try to answer your questions one by one…not to say I have perfect answers, or even a perfect analogy to begin with. But I think we can start with Jesus’ saying to Philip, “…if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” So, to see Jesus…. is to see the Father…. is to see the ‘beatific vision’. This then is the image that the puzzle reveals: God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Unity of the Trinity.

        “Do you think the individual probably lost or misplaced one or more pieces?”

        Yes, I think this is possible. Maybe in an ecstasy of sorts a person gets a glimpse of a ‘great chunk’ of the puzzle, such as we read in the lives of the saints. And then, it only remains as a memory with little detail afterwards, but can still have some lasting effects. This is the nature of inspiration. And, I think that serious sin can disassemble some of the pieces so that they are not understood as before, and some work needs to be done to get them back together, but of course the first step to take is true confession. Penance, also is a way to put the pieces together again, and saints such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux says we must ascend in the same way that we descended, like a ladder. And, moreover, it might be possible to actually loose pieces forever, as St. Bonaventure relates of St. Francis concerning this subject :

        “…the marvelous light which shown forth from his body bore glorious testimony to the illumination of his mind. Here again, as was proved by manifest signs, all the uncertain and hidden things of the divine wisdom were revealed to him, which he divulged not to others, unless when the charity of Christ urged, and the profit of his neighbor required it. For he was won’t to say that it is easy to lose for a little price as thing so precious that no price can purchase it, and thus to provoke the giver not to give it to us again.”

        So, this is good to consider, and which is why it is very good to study the words of ‘the saints’.

        “Maybe he needs to compare his picture with the one in the good book.”

        Yes, everything that Jesus said is eminently important. As mentioned above, Christ says this is how we see ‘The Father’. But, an important item is that Jesus also says that we must ACT on His words and not just listen to them. So, for instance, we really can’t be satisfied with reading about the ‘Good Samaritan’, but actually have to ‘be’ a ‘Good Samaritan’ in our lives. And, in putting the words of Christ into practice, maybe a new dimension, or clarity, is added to the puzzle. So, for instance, we can read about ‘serving the homeless’, but actually serving them will give insights not provided by mere reading. And this is why St. Francis was such a great Saint, because he put into practice the Gospel of Christ in his life to the ‘Nth’ degree, as did St. Paul also, and so they became an imitators of Christ in this world, and great teachers of faith for others also. St. Paul also says “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ”. So it is good for us to both ‘compare our picture with the good book’… and with the saints also.

        “Then call the authorities. Finally, be humble and take the medicine or pray for healing.”

        Yes, people should definitely reach out to others to help them when the puzzle is all mixed up. Maybe he will find an authority to help him get a few pieces back together again. As mentioned above, confession is a start, and then ‘penance’ is needed on some level to help us not to commit sin again, which disassembles the puzzle for us. And after this, daily Mass will benefit immensely, and on multiple levels. Praying the rosary also, and the more scrambled the puzzle, the more rosaries should be said, even many in one day. St. Louis de Montfort, in his book “The Secret of the Rosary”, said that this was an unfailing way to conquer sin (and thereby get some pieces of the puzzle put together ), and we should listen to him when he says it. He’s very wise and believable. And St. Alphonsus Liguori says, commenting on the value of spiritual reading (find it on line by google): ‘When you don’t have a father or spiritual advisor available find a holy and spiritual book to guide you, as this has been the example of countless saints throughout the ages. (paraphrased).’ And St. Philip Neri says on the same subject: “Whether for prayer or for study, always choose those authors whose names which begin with “S”…that is the lives and writings of the Saints.”

        “If all else fails, nothing is left but to pluck out the eye! (or is that the “I”?)”

        This is too deep for me. 🙂 But Jesus said it also. In the end, I think you are on to something. A self love can definitely lead one away from God, and therefore should be ‘plucked out’, as you say. We need to remind ourselves that we, of ourselves, are very boring creatures, and we will be bored for all eternity if we choose ourselves over the Creator. We can barely stand ourselves for two weeks alone, much less for an entire eternity! And for this reason, ‘solitary confinement’ is one of the worst punishments dealt to criminals on this Earth. So, this is what ‘self love’ does to us, it focuses our attention on ourselves, making us ‘self centered’, as opposed to ‘Christ centered’. Christ is infinitely more interesting than ourselves… interesting enough to fascinate us for all eternity. Ourselves, lacking close union with God, are so boring (especially over time) to really deserve a description similar to that of ‘Hell’. Only God can satisfy us for such an immense time as eternity, without us growing miserable. St. Augustine writes of this also, stating that since our souls were created for God, we are miserable without Him (paraphrased).

        Best to you always in the Lord,

        – Al

        1. HOLY SPIRIT, AL!

          How on EARTH can I ever repay you that giant smiling face? I only recently learned to make an emoji!!!

          Peace, love, and all gifts and fruts (without the “I”) be with you today, tomorrow, yesterday, always and forever, AMEN.

          I still have to return to read the remainder, the remnant, the rest, the littlest piece of the puzzle of your reply which I seem to have neglected.

          Best of all to AWLMS and to all the rest.
          God bless on this glorious of glory-filled days. Alleuliah.

          1. On the same theme as the “I” dilemma, and it’s relation to understanding the image of God ( the same which image humans are also fundamentally created ), we know that humility/meekness is the virtue that is the most praised in the scriptures, either explicitly or implicitly and pride the most condemned, even to terming it ‘evil’ or ‘wicked’… for instance, in the saying: “The Lord lifteth up the meek, and bringeth the wicked down even to the ground.” [Psalms 146:6]

            And also, of Moses it was said:

            “For Moses was a man exceeding meek above all men that dwelt upon earth”
            [Numbers 12:3].

            And of Mary, Mother of Christ, who spoke of herself:

            “He has looked with favor on His lowly servant, from this day all generations shall call me blessed”

            And of Jesus who spoke of Himself:

            “Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:28)

            So, humility/meekness certainly pertains to the “I”, even as a sort of enemy of it. And in this regard it would be interesting to study the three major religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity regarding their emphasis, or place, of this virtue in their doctrines. That is, whether it is a significant element of their faith practice, and to what degree it is focused on and promoted. And then also to refine the study, to find out where classical Protestantism (Luther/Calvin) places the virtue of humility, and again to what degree is it an essential virtue to attain salvation?

            There should be plenty of proofs, both in writings and in deeds, to be able to see the place that humility has in these religions, and it might also be a proof for the authenticity of the proclaimed religions, and to what degree they understand and worship the ‘One true God.’

    2. I think this article is addressing at what point does your knowledge of God get so murky that you aren’t thinking of God. One could see a castle more or less clearly on a foggy day — but at some point, someone’s pointing to a stretch of mist, not the castle.

      It would have to be incredibly murky for that.

  7. Those who subscribe to argument 3 don’t seem to grasp the implications of such an assertion. The end result of their assertion is Marcionism. If the God of the Jews is not the God of the Christians, why did Jesus need to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament?

    One can worship the One True God, and worship him wrongly. In fact, I can say that many times my own worship of God is lacking.

    Thanks for the analysis.

    1. Tim, I don’t believe either of your statements is quite accurate.

      1) I don’t agree with your conclusion to the interpretation of position 3. It doesn’t seem to be Marcionism, because it is the Jews who changed, not God; Marcionism would dictate the reverse. God was revealing Himself, and when He completed His revelation via the incarnation, many of the Jews refused to believe. Thus they rejected the fullness of the faith. It was not God who changed.

      2) I’m not sure that your own worship of God being lacking (hypothetically speaking if that were the case) is relevant to the greater argument. You still go to a Catholic Mass, which is the only true form of worship, the results of which don’t hinge on your activity in the worship.

      Hope you are well.

  8. If one believes there is only one God, then yes, all persons worship the same Him. Do men worship what we think of as God or do men worship what He reveals Himself to be?

    Only Christian worship includes Jesus Christ. Jesus says that it is the Father who reveals Jesus as God. Both Jewish and Muslim religions contain ideas about Jesus, but both deny the revelation of Jesus as God.

    Christian believers joyfully know the largesse of God in his gift of Jesus and so sadly and sorely perceive the other conceptions as less full, lacking the depth and splendor of truth.

    1. Couple thoughts from blue sky:

      Social scientist Kubler-Ross posits denial as the first stage of postmodern man’s coping with grief and loss. Denial of the best gift of God then leads to a vicious spiral of more grief and loss. Need we wonder why Islam seeks a caliphate and an imposition of shariah law? While Judaism waits. Has Israel had a prophet since Jesus?

      The Trinity reveals God’s love in relationship. Does denial of the Incarnation reveal the absence of even a wish for relationship? Acceptance of His Spirit is acceptance of freedom to love and be loved.

      Any and all thoughts or inspirations are welcome. Thanks.

      1. Christ wants us to reach out to all of these people who suffer from lack of faith, even as He did on countless occasions… even with His enemies the Pharisees. And the reason is that some of these might not be as lost as one thinks. Disciples of Christ must at least try to help them, thinking carefully how to ‘fish’ their souls out of their current state of unbelief and misery.

        The problem comes when Christians just want to mind their own business, thinking nothing can be done, so they don’t do anything. But, this is NOT how either Jesus Himself, or the myriad of saints that imitated Him acted. They, at least, ‘tried’ to find the lost sheep, even if many times they couldn’t indeed find them…but they kept trying with other lost sheep, and yes, some at least were indeed found. So, we should never give up on anybody, but keep looking and keep fishing. (This is the Legion of Mary attitude.)

  9. Great article.

    I have two questions:

    1- Do mormons worship the true God, then?

    2- What do you think about Bishop Athanasius Schneider on this topic? (I think his distinction between natural/supernatural worship is interesting). I qoute his words:

    “We adore God always as a Trinity…our adoration is an adoration of supernatural faith. To worship God as Creator only or one God only, there is no need of faith. The use of your reason is sufficient. This is a dogma of the First Vatican Council, that every human person is able only by his reason, natural light of reason, without the light of faith, to recognize the existence of one God as Creator. Consequently, to worship Him according to his knowledge of natural reason. These are the Muslims – they have no supernatural faith and therefore they have no supernatural act of worship. Even the Jews who rejected Jesus as God, as Trinity, they rejected Him they have no faith. Therefore their worship is also natural, not supernatural.”

    http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com.es/2013/07/athanasius-schneider-clarification-of.html

    Thank you!

    1. Hola Hoja,

      The site you gave shows this LG quote:

      “…the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God.”

      God’s plan of salvation presumably includes those who adhere to a religion which refuses His historical and objective revelation. Just as his plan of includes those who shall be saved, it presumably includes those who shall NOT. He may well hold us responsible.

      A certain bishop once expounded upon his ‘spirit’ of Vatican II, proclaiming from the pulpit that Catholics and other Christians were in communion with Muslims and Jews. That statement was a bit hard to swallow, and many of us didn’t. That bishop was given an early retirement (or perhaps he chose it).

      I

    2. Almost all you need to really know about the validity of Mormonism as a religion can be found in their “Book of Abraham”.

      By a brief study of it’s history, you can easily understand that Joseph Smith was a complete fraud; and this is revealed by his translations of 3 Egyptian papyrus hieroglyphs that he made before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. What it turns out, is that his translations of the hieroglyphs were completely wrong and filled with bogus information. Some results of this are that many Mormons have left their Church when presented with this evidence, and some of these same same Mormons are now the chief apologists AGAINST Mormonism. It takes only about 20 minutes of study to get the idea of how Smith duped countless members of his own Church. Those interested can go here for a compressive review of the case against Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Abraham:

      http://www.mormonthink.com/book-of-abraham-issues.htm

  10. So where does this leave Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny the Trinity? Christadelphians? Oneness Pentecostals? Unitarians? They all profess the one and same God yet deny the existence of the Trinity.

    1. Religions born America in the 1800’s, including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are pretty much what I term ‘cowboy religions’, designed for populations devoid of intelligent theological literature and higher education. The ignorant populations might follow any number of these self proclaimed prophets, as long as they had a Bible in their hand.

      But what of them? Jesus says something about this in a dialog with John the Apostle, who was annoyed that they didn’t care to associate themselves with the other apostles and disciples of the Lord (…maybe scriptural evidence of the very first Protestants! 🙂 )

      “John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, who followeth not us, and we forbade him. [38] But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me. [39] For he that is not against you, is for you. [40] For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in my name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. ” (Mark 9:37)

      1. I might add that Christ gives here a good example of His saying: ” Give, and it shall be given to you: good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”

        So, He is giving His disciples a lesson on how to treat others who might not believe enough to follow His disciples, but never-the-less are charitable and patient with them, and support them with their friendship; even if it is as little as offering a small cup of water to them.

        And in actuality this same thing happened with Jesus, with the woman at the well. she charitably gave Jesus water to drink, and through that ha received His friendship wherein He spent two days teaching the Samaritans about eternal life. So, He shows wha kind of reward can be given to those who do charity to Christ’s servants: “…good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom.”

        So, regardless of which people worship the true God, every disciple of Christ who ‘keeps Christ’s word’ should do what the Lord says, and to imitate Him in ‘giving and receiving’ from others when the opportunities arise.

  11. Doesn’t Catholicism teach us that God is ever present in all times and places? This is what I recall from my Catholic upbringing.

    If it’s true that God is ever present everywhere, then God _IS_ everything everywhere, and not a something separate from something else. Thus, any attempt to define God will fail because definitions are an attempt to distinguish one thing from another. Even the word God becomes an argument with Catholic teaching, given that as a noun it presumes the existence of a separate thing.

    The implications of this teaching would seem to be that we can’t define or explain God, which if true renders theology largely bankrupt. What then???

    All that’s left is to experience God. Experiencing God is something altogether different than the attempt to craft ideas about God.

    A key challenge for a thought intensive religion like Catholicism is that thought is the primary obstacle to experience of the single unified reality called God, given that thought operates by a process of division. We can’t EXPERIENCE the unity called God in an electro-chemical information medium whose fundamental nature is to divide reality in to conceptual parts, and it’s a fool’s errand to try. Thought is not bad, but just the wrong tool for this job, that’s all.

    Imho, when Jesus walked the desert for 40 days he overcame the illusion that God is one thing and he was another, and thus declared himself God. Which was a true claim, for him, and for us as well.

    And then the theologians, those who hadn’t had that experience, but only thoughts about that experience, divided Jesus/God from us and everything else, for division is the nature of thought. This fantasy division created the apparent need to “get back to God” which propels religion to this day.

    But the thing is, one can’t “get back to God” because there has never been and never will be any other place that one could be.

  12. For Catholics this is easy. Both Jews (modern day, after Christ) and Muslims are called infidels because both lack fidelity to Christ. Both reject Christ as God. Like St. Paul even the Old Testament Israelis only know God “through a veil”. God is the Blessed Trinity. Both Jews(after Christ) and Muslims reject the Blessed Trinity.

  13. The god of the Muslims “hates unbelievers”, permits polygamy (Sura 4.3), denies the Divine Sonship and Deity of Christ. These details alone are enough to prove that the Muslim god contradicts the NT and its teaching. Such a god cannot be the God made known in Jesus Christ.

    Vatican 2 taught falsely about Islam, and so does the quotation from it in CCC 841, by teaching ambiguously. Both sources are in error, and deceive Catholics about Islam. There will be Hell to pay for this. Indeed, we are already paying.

    1. Hi James,

      In an article posted shortly after this, a professed ‘Christian’ made some outrageous claims. He literally wrote that God, with ‘malice aforethought,’ taught on the Eucharist for this purpose: It was the test whereby He would consign to hell those who would believe the literal words of Christ re eating his flesh and drinking his blood (i.e., Catholics). Read the posts if you doubt.

      What is the ‘Plan of Salvation?’ Is it not the One True God judging all persons? There He shall judge some worthy to enjoy his beatific vision, and He shall judge others unworthy. Aren’t all Christians, good and bad alike, included in the ‘plan of salvation.’ Why ought not our one God judge Muslims? What about a person who has never heard of Christ? Is there more than one God who shall judge non-Christians? I don’t think so. Do you?

      The teaching of Vatican II is not false, but our conception of “The Plan of Salvation” may need nuance.

        1. There perception of God may be sick and distorted but they do believe in One God like us. For example calvinists say God predestines people to hell but a Catholic would reject that statement but we dont say they worship a different God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *