Do all Christians really worship 3 gods

Theme week "My God"

It's a regular slogan: “Oh, we all believe in the same God. The small differences are irrelevant. ”The problem: The first sentence of the slogan is correct. The second didn't.

Christians, Jews, Muslims - do we all pray to the same God? Photos: KNA

The first answer to the question “Do we all believe in the same God?” Is as banal as it is understandable. Yes, we all believe in the same God - because there is only one. “If God were only 'our God',” writes the well-known Czech sociologist and priest Tomas Halik, “he would be a tribal god with limited competence and not the creator of heaven and earth, the lord of the whole world, the visible and the invisible. ”All three religions at issue here confess that he is: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Christians and Jews

A tribal god who competed with the gods of neighboring countries, this is how the god of Israel was initially seen - many passages in the Old Testament make this clear. The first commandment “You shall have no other gods besides me” (Exodus 20: 2-3) shows this as an example. Especially in the time of the Babylonian exile (from 587 BC) the view then prevailed that this unique position applies to all peoples. "Thus says the Lord: I am the first, I am the last, there is no God besides me" (Is 44: 6). God becomes the universal God for all peoples, the Creator and Lord of the whole world. That God was the God of Jesus. Mercy, charity and the address “Father” are firmly anchored in the Jewish image of God.

Because this God was the God of Jesus, he is also the "God of Christians". Pope John Paul II, for example, spoke of the Jews as "our older brothers" and of the "never-revoked covenant" of God with his people Israel. And in a Lutheran declaration from 1999 it says: "That is why Judaism has a special relationship with its God, whom we also confess as our God."

Do the Jews see it that way too? One thing is clear: it is more difficult for them. Because the reproach that Christians made three gods out of one god weighs heavily. For Jews, Jesus can be “brother” (Schalom Ben-Chorin) or “a great Jewish rabbi” (Pinchas and Ruth Lapide), but not “Messiah” or “Son of God”. “The faith of Jesus unites us, the faith in Jesus divides us,” writes Shalom Ben-Chorin. Despite this fundamentally different point of view, the declaration “Dabru Emet” (“Speak truth”) by Jewish theologians from the year 2000 clearly formulates: “Jews and Christians worship the same God.”

Christians and Muslims

Creator, Merciful, Almighty, Judge - this is how Muslims also describe God. “Allah” is not his special proper name, “al-ilah” - “the god” or “the deity” - is simply the term that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews have also adopted. Even if Muslims have the same problems with the Christian Trinity as Jews, they do not deny that we believe in the same God. With regard to Christians, the Koran says: “We believe in what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to you. Our God and yours is one. We are devoted to HIM ”(Sura 29:46).

This “theory” does not change the fact that Christians and Muslims have long viewed each other as “godless”. On the magisterial side, this changed in the Second Vatican Council. In the constitution on the church it says: "The will to salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, among them especially the Muslims who ... worship with and the one God ..." (Lumen Gentium 16). Pope John Paul II has quoted and continued these and similar statements from the Council over and over again. For example, at the opening of a Catholic-Muslim symposium in Rome in 1985, he said: "Your and our God is one and the same."

Equal and not equal

We all believe in the same God. But we don't all believe in God alike. Jews and Christians, for example, believe in the God who can suffer. This is a strength of Christians who see God in the suffering crucified. For some Jews, compassion for God was a way of enduring the disaster of the Shoah as believers. For Muslims, on the other hand, God's omnipotence is in the foreground, not powerlessness. A suffering God is unthinkable.

These differences do not only exist between religions - they also exist between the believers of the individual religions. Orthodox Jews see God as someone who pays attention to the observance of very strict diet or Sabbath rules - liberal Jews see it differently. Muslim extremists believe that if they kill “unbelievers” in His name, God will greet them with open arms - the vast majority of Muslims do not believe this. Some Christians believe that God sends homosexuals to hell, others believe that hell is rather empty - if it even exists. And still others believe that little can be said about God's properties because he is always the other, greater, all-encompassing; that the mystery of God is always greater than our knowledge of him.

Is everything equally valuable?

In the end, doesn’t everything matter, does everything have the same value? “When evaluating the other religion, every religion will always start from its own creed”, writes the religious scholar and theologian Andreas Renz in his book “Are we all praying to the same God?”. For the Catholic Church it is a statement of faith that salvation lies in Jesus Christ and only in Jesus Christ. "According to the Catholic understanding there is no coexistence of equal paths of salvation, rather people outside the visible church are included in the salvation order of the Triune God."

Renz, lecturer in Catholic theology at the University of Munich and advisor for interreligious dialogue in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, is therefore against any naivety in the field of interreligious prayer, for example. “Christians pray through Christ in the Holy Spirit,” he says. Jews and Muslims should not be co-opted for this. On the other hand, he considers it important that representatives of the different religions pray side by side in their own way to the one God. “We cannot go back to the tradition of prayers for peace of the world religions in Assisi,” he says. “In this way, Jews, Christians and Muslims who pray side by side experience a community that deepens their relationship and trust in one another. They experience each other together ... as brothers and sisters before God, who is always greater than all our understanding and stammering. "

By Susanne Haverkamp