The story about the man who may be executed in Afghanistan for his conversion to Christianity got me to thinking. I found myself wondering why it is that if Christians and Muslims actually do believe in and worship the one, true God, a person can be put to death for worshipping Christ, instead of Allah in Muslim nations that follow strict Islamic law? And for that matter, if Muslims do in fact believe in and worship the one, true God, why should we be concerned if people are Muslim instead of Christian? Sometimes we hear people say something like this: “The Muslim God is also the true God (there is only one true God, right?) but worshiped in an inadequate way.”
Finally I had to ask myself, “Was Jesus wrong when He said ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ “(John 8:19; ESV)? If it is true that Jews do worship and believe in the one true God, though they deny Christ as Messiah and Lord, then Jesus must have been wrong. If it is true that Muslims and other non-Christians actually do believe in and worship the one true God, even while rejecting Jesus Christ, then Jesus was a liar.
The operative words here are “believe” and “worship” and “one, true God.” Let this much be clear, as one would hope it would be. Muslims absolutely do not believe in, or worship, the one true God. To say this is not in any way to deny the natural knowledge that there is a god. But as Paul makes clear in Romans 1, this natural knowledge is corrupted by sin and men turn to the worship of false gods (Romans 1:21 “Although they knew
God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they
became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were
darkened”). This is precisely what happens when you believe in and worship any god other than the One, True, God. In other words, the corruption of the natural knowledge of God is dramatically evident when people do not worship the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity, but turn to false gods, such as the Muslim “Allah.”
Here are a few Luther quotes on the subject that I find particularly instructive:
“When the Turks go into battle their only war cry is “Allah! Allah!” and they shout it till heaven and earth resound. But in the Arabic language. Allah means God, and is a corruption of the Hebrew Eloha. For they have been taught in the Koran that they shall boast constantly with these words, “There is no God but God.” All that is really a device of the devil. For what does it mean to say, “There is no God but God,” without distinguishing one God from another? The devil, too, is a god, and they honor him with this word; there is no doubt of that. Therefore I believe that the Turks’ Allah does more in war than they themselves. He gives them courage and wiles; he guides sword and fist, horse and man. What do you think, then, of the holy people who can call upon God in battle, and yet destroy Christ and all God’s words and works, as you have heard?” (American Edition 46:183).
“All people who say that they mean the true God who created heaven and earth are lying. They do not accept His work and Word but place their own thoughts above God and His Word. If they truly believed in a God who created heaven and earth, they would also know that as Creator this same God is also above their thoughts and possesses the same authority to make, break and do as He pleases. But since they do not let Him be the Creator above them and their thoughts in so small a matter, it cannot be true that they believe [Glaube] Him to be the Creator of all creation.” (Walch 10.I.1:241)
“It does Jews, Turks, and heretics no good to profess a very great devoutness and to boast against us Christians that they believe in the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and also call him “Father” with intense earnestness. For all that, their worship consists of nothing except futile and useless words that they use to take the name of God in vain and misuse it, against the Second Commandment. . . Here you see that when they do not know who God is; and when they call Him “Creator” and “God” and “Father,” they don’t know what they are actually saying…Therefore they have no God, but they misuse the name of “God” in sin and shame and invent their own god and creator, who is supposed to be their father and whose children they profess to be.” (St.L 3:1932)
“Jews, Turks, and Tartars all esteem Christ and His mother Mary very highly. But they do not believe [glaube] that He is the Son of God, in whom one must believe and through whom all are saved. . . . Therefore, the faith of the Jews and the Turks is nothing but sheer blindness, for they exclude the Son and want to retain only the Father. This is the chief article of our Christian faith: that the Son is eternal and true God, and also true man, sent into the world for its salvation. This article annuls the belief [glaube] of the Jews, the Turks, and all others who renounce the Son and thus worship another god and look to another source for help. The Turk is not able to pray the Lord’s Prayer or the articles of the Creed. Faith, to which God alone is entitled, is the chief type of worship. For we are not to believe in angels, prophets, or apostles. No, this divine honor is due the Son alone; for He is true God with the Father. John treats this article very intensively. . . . If I earnestly believe that Christ is true God and that He became our Savior, I will never deny this but will proclaim it publicly against the Turks, the world, the pope, the Jews ,and all the sects. I will confess that it is true. I would rather forfeit my life or jeopardize my property and honor than disavow this. Wherever faith is genuine, it cannot hold its tongue; it would rather suffer death. Such faith will also confess God’s Word before tyrants. To be sure, it will encounter all sorts of trials and temptations from the devil, as the martyrs amply demonstrate.” (AE 22:392-393).
“Turks and Jews boast a lot about God and claim to have a better faith than we Christians. They say they cannot be wrong. They say that they believe [Glaube] in one God, who created heaven and earth and everything else. This kind of faith certainly can not be wrong, they think. Christ, however, here concludes: ‘He who hates Me, hates my Father.” Now, since Turks and Jews hate Christ and persecute His Word, they certainly also hate the God who has created heaven and earth. They do not believe [Glaube] in Him and they do not honor Him. For Christ is the same one God.” (StL 13a, 1285).
Here are some quotes from Luther’s Large Catechism on the subject:
“As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, p. 365).
“You can easily judge how the world practices nothing but false worship and idolatry. There has never been a people so wicked that it did not establish and maintain some sort of worship. Everyone has set up a god of his own, to which he looked for blessings, help, and comfort… Everyone made into a god that to which his heart was inclined. Even in the mind of all the heathen, therefore, to have a god means to trust and believe. The trouble is that their trust is false and wrong, for it is not founded upon the one God, apart from whom there is truly no god in heaven or on earth. Accordingly the heathen actually fashion their fancies and dreams about God into an idol and entrust themselves to an empty nothing. So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, pp. 366-377).
“Whoever knows that in Christ he has a gracious God, truly knows God, calls upon him, and is not, like the heathen, without God. For the devil and the ungodly do not believe this article concerning the forgiveness of sin, and so they are at enmity with God, cannot call upon him, and have no hope of receiving good from him.” (Tappert, p. 44).
“For pagans had something of a knowledge of God from the law of nature, but at the same time they did not truly know him nor did they truly honor him (Rom. 1[:19-32]). (Kolb/Wengert, p. 585.)
Let’s let God’s Holy Word have the final say here:
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” John 8:41
Again, Holy Scripture: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you.” John 17:25
Again, Holy Scripture: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ Rom. 10:14-15.
Again, Holy Scripture: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. 2:14
Again, Holy Scripture: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:8-9
Again, Holy Scripture: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13
Again, Holy Scripture: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do
not know God. I Thess. 4:3-5
Again, Holy Scripture: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. I John 2:22-23
Again, Holy Scripture: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does
not know us is that it did not know him.” I John 3:1
Again, Holy Scripture: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” I John 4:1-3
Again, Holy Scripture: “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” I John 4:6
Again, Holy Scripture: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I John 5:19-21
“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes,
you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but
he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I
am from him and he sent me.” John 7:28-29
Again, Holy Scripture: “Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you
would know my Father also.” John 8:19 .