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We Do Not All
Worship the Same God

Natalia J. Garland

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President George W. Bush recently told a reporter from Al Arabiya T.V. that all religions worship the same God. Bush said, "Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace." Although Bush did not declare a belief in Jesus Christ, only stating that he believed in an "almighty God," it is common knowledge that he is a Christian. Is Bush's generalization correct? Is there an almighty God that encompasses all methods of worship and all definitions of deity? Or, is Christianity fundamentally different from other religions?

The God of the Christians is a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The only "almighty God" is the Father Almighty. Other religions might recognize the person of Jesus Christ as an important historical figure, perhaps as a prophet, but not as the only-begotten Son of the Father Almighty. It is especially their belief in Jesus Christ that differentiates Christians from followers of other deities. And, the teachings of Jesus Christ differentiate Christianity from other religions, bearing connection only to Judaism.

Followers of Jesus Christ accept Him as their Savior from sin (i.e., failure, error, incompleteness, darkness, wickedness), worship Him in terms of relationship and communion, and consequently are members of the community of believers (i.e., the Church). People who do not follow Jesus Christ are outside the community (i.e., they are not saved). Since Jesus Christ lived in complete fulfillment of His human nature, it will be totally within His authority and mercy to judge mankind, including what will happen to people who walked on other spiritual paths.

This does not mean, however, that all paths equally lead to completion in the same God. Care must be taken not to fictionalize God or to detract from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In every way, Jesus Christ surrendered to the Father's purpose: even unto death by crucifixion as an act of divine and incomprehensible love for fallen mankind. To say that we all worship the same God is to say, therefore, that Jesus Christ died in vain. If other paths led to the Father Almighty (that is, to the same inclusion versus to separation in eternity), then there would have been no need for an incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Although Bush's remark might be interpreted as ecumenical ingratiation, political diplomacy, personal outreach, or just a faux pas, his remark nevertheless presents an example of theological absurdity and impossibility. Unless people follow Jesus Christ, they do not worship the same God as the Christians. This does not imply that others are not seekers of truth, that their religions do not contain positive instruction, or that they cannot have friendly relations with Christians. This is only to stress that Christianity is different from all other belief systems, particularly because of Jesus Christ who is the perfect expression of God. People can disagree with it, deny it, misunderstand it, reject it, hate it, outlaw it, persecute it--but it is a matter of doctrine and faith.

Bush went on to emphasize freedom of religion in America, to discuss his quest for democracy in Iraq, and to define Americans as a compassionate people. He continued, "Our country is a loving country. It's hard for me to believe that people can't look at America and say, wow, what a compassionate group of people--because we are. And yet I understand the images of my country have been distorted. And I understand people say things about me personally that simply aren't true. And so I appreciate the chance to come and talk to you directly and to talk to your viewers directly about what's in my heart and about the fact that my country is a country of peace."

If Bush had restricted his focus to the administration of government and to international relations, and kept his personal views on religion out of the conversation, then he could have done his work as President of the United States without stepping on theological ground--an area in which he seems not to be an expert. It is not necessary to say that we all worship the same God in order to gain political allies. By doing so, Bush risks greater loss of credibility at home. (Written 10/22/07)


What happens to people who follow other spiritual paths, or to people who have disagreement within Christendom? Since the days of Jesus Christ's ministry, Christianity might be viewed as an ongoing movement of schism. This has resulted in branches of the same tree, as well as sects and cults. No church today is exactly like the Early Church (if that could or should be used as a model). Each church system claims to be the true-church, using pivotal biblical passages, theological concepts and traditions, or historical lineage to assert legitimacy. And, each church regards the others as containing falsehoods.

Protestants tend to focus on the spiritual experience of the believer, usually in the form of a born-again and/or baptismal event. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox tend to focus on the establishment of an organizational hierarchy. Roman Catholics claim to be founded on the primacy of St. Peter, while Eastern Orthodox claim the apostolic succession of their priesthood. Simply put, the Protestant movement began in protest against the corruption and the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast, both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox regard Protestants as disobedient heretics, while also having structural, theological, and cultural discord with each other.

How does this correlate with Bush's remark that we all pray to the same God, and with the afterlife destination of worshippers and seekers of truth? There seem to be three explanations (excluding Bush's universalist approach since it has already been shown to be impossible).

(1) There are members in every branch of Christianity and in every sect and cult who believe that only the members of their particular system (i.e., their version of the one-true-church) will be saved. Members of other Christian systems and followers of non-Christian religions will not be saved, period. It is, of course, impossible that all churches can be the one-true-church.

Some believers feel that if a seeker of truth is sincere, then God will lead that individual to the real one-true-church. So, if Church-A is indeed the one-true-church, then Church-B and Church-C are false and their followers are insincere. Theological and historical accuracy are certainly vital. Otherwise, God becomes myth. This approach, however, is diffused by its members' parallel search for psychological self-assurance and stylistic pleasures, and their assertions of cultural superiority and jurisdictional dominance.

(2) There are some pro-Israel Protestant churches which believe that God (the Father Almighty) will not break His covenant with the Jews. This could, for example, result in two separate judgments: one for Christians and one for Jews. Or, it could mean that there will be a great spiritual event in which Jews will accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This approach provides for continuity of the Judeo-Christian connection, but leaves open the question of whether other non-Christians can be saved.

(3) There are some Christians who allow that God's authority and mercy extend beyond earthly comprehension. Nobody tells God what to do. God must be true to His own essence--for example, He cannot lie--but God is not limited to human interpretations and quotas. God can have mercy on whomever He chooses. This still does not mean that all people worship the same God, but rather that only God knows the heart of each individual. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). This approach is affirmative but not generic. It requires that Christians walk in faith, hope, and charity. (Written 10/29/07: bibliography available.)

[NOTE: For another essay on a similar topic, see Delusion and Worship (written 08/24/07). For an essay on the definition of true faith (in contrast to the concept of a true church), see Post-Iraq Views on the New Year, Part III (written 01/19/09).]

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2007 Natalia J. Garland