"Well, it doesn't really matter what religion you follow or what name you call him, we all worship the same god anyway."
Really? What makes you say that?
Listen carefully for the reply. What do they say? Really listen. You need to in order to follow through with your next question:
How did you come to that conclusion?
These are the two basic, conversational apologetic questions. They're conversational, because we're asking our friend to open up and share even more. They're apologetic because we're using them not only to understand our friend's worldview, but to also defend and explain our own faith based worldview in Jesus Christ.
So, is it really true that we're all worshiping the same god?
We looked at one aspect of this in the previous blog Eat Your Fingers Off and Other Adventures in Mistranslation: Do all roads lead to [the same single] god? And, in summary, we saw how even a brief, logical look at the various major religions of the world shows we can't possibly be worshiping a single god: Not all of those religions even worship anything close to our concept of a personal, relational and redeeming God. Some worship no god at all. Others' concepts of god are so radically different and diametrically opposed that they can't possibly be the same god.
It is a common question posited among Christians, among Muslims, and between the two groups as well: Is Allah of Islam the same and the God of the Bible? This arises out of the contention that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all "Abrahamic" religions, or faiths that originate with the Patriarch Abraham. If they all have the same root, are they all not worshiping the same god?
Entire books have been written on this subject, including Allah: A Christian Response by Miroslav Volf. His is a largely philosophical approach in which he says (I'm summarizing and paraphrasing grossly here) that both are aiming at worshiping the same philosophic "object." While philosophically that might be true, a character comparison shows a different picture.
The most basic and generic characteristics of the God of the Bible and Allah look essentially similar: Eternal. Creator. Judge. All powerful. As soon as you go beyond these, however, the divergence becomes more and more obvious: Both will say God is merciful, but that mercy is demonstrated in vastly different ways. And then there are the completely opposed character qualities: In Islam, God is both deceiver and the source of evil. In the Bible, this is inconceivable. And, the God of the Bible personally makes Himself - his own personality, emotions, and interactively - known to mankind. This is ultimately done in the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. Muslims deny all of these, saying Allah is never known personally - they know only his will, not his person, and further that he would never stoop to know any of mankind (that's too far beneath him). Further, the Trinity is blasphemy to them (though in my experience they totally - perhaps willfully - misunderstand what we actually teach on this central Christian doctrine. Thus, Jesus in Islam is not the personal revelation of God Himself. Just a man. No atoning sacrifice.
How can these two be the same deity?
Yet these difference don't change one thing: God's love for Muslims, and our love for Muslims.
I love being with Muslims. I find their desire for God refreshing, and their willingness to discuss things of religious import invigorating in the sterility of secular North America's selective topical suppression. And it is the love of the Personal God, made know to us in His written Word, the Bible, and His personal Word, Jesus Christ, that compels us to love them.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love," 1 John 4:8-9.
For the full, detailed exploration of this topic, ask for the sermon CD from Jan. 17, 2016 (Yes, we're working on getting our sermons online!)