In March of this year, Pope Francis said the following words to a gathering of Catholic religious leaders, Muslims “worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon him in prayer.” The ensuing weeks were filled with praise and disparagement from religious people across the globe. Let’s think for a moment on his words.

First, the apologists of the Pope and Catholic denomination have stated that the Pope’s words were stated with “a pastoral rather than doctrinal purpose. Their aim is to build interreligious bridges by generously acknowledging whatever can be found to be truth in other faiths – not to make precise pronouncements about their theology” (http://www.catholic.com/blog/todd-aglialoro/christians-muslims-and-the-one-god). Think about that for a moment…The “Catholic Answers” page states that the Pope was not intending to make a doctrinal statement, but rather a pastoral? – What is the difference? Is not the pastor of the church also expected to be the leading theologian? Then one is told that his intention was to “build interreligious bridges”…But what is the cost of such “bridges”? To be clear, people of faith should find bridges, should show love and compassion, and to care for those of another faith, different faith, or no faith. But is the Pope asking us to sacrifice the exclusivity of the gospel (that Jesus is the only way to God the Father) for the purpose of building bridges? This would seem to be an awfully high price to pay…one that will be paid eternally.

Second, to the question…are the Christian faith and Muslim faith the same? Do we worship the same God? The answer is obviously “No”. Devout Muslims would never suggest such a position, nor should Christians. The similarities end with the monotheistic (one god) overtones of both faiths. For example, the Christian faith espouses a Trinitarian God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), which Muslims find reprehensible – they would say it is not true monotheism. The Christian faith proclaims the divinity of Jesus Christ…Islam disagrees. The Christian faith affirms the Bible’s historicity, accuracy, and inspiration….Muslims deny such claims. The Christian faith affirms the Abrahamic promise through his son Isaac…Islam blesses through Ishmael. All of these do not begin to scratch the surface of the differences between the Christian faith and Islam…indeed, beloved, we do not worship the same God.

Therefore, with respect to the Pope, he is wrong on this one. We live in a time when the divide between Islam and Christianity is continually in front of us. We live in a time when unfortunate things are said about our fellow humanity, by both sides of the debate. But to strip Christianity of the exclusivity of the gospel and to accept the Muslim god as being equal or the same as the Christian God is too great a price to pay for bridges…Truthfully, Christians who would espouse the Pope’s position make matters worse. The gospel of Christ is the only hope for me today…and it is the only hope for the Muslim. The Christian should not seek to convince the Muslim that our faiths are the same or equal, we should affirm the uniqueness of Christ and lovingly defend the gospel so that our Muslim brother or sister may be won to Christ – this should be our ambition. By denying the exclusivity of Christ, we have surrendered to defeat. The gospel calls for compassion and love, but that love must be girded by truth. The Christian must love people of all faiths and people of no faith. But we are never to sacrifice the call of Christ.  

This is an important matter of our time. I pray the Pope can find the right position on this matter.

Held by Grace, Pastor Chris