Most of the more than seven billion people on Earth have a religious faith. There is some common ground between many of these faiths but there are also significant differences. On the face of it, it seems that three of the world’s main religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam worship the same God – the God of Abraham, the ancient Hebrew nomad, who lived in the Middle East about 4,000 years ago. But not all Christians share this view. Two of the other major religions have a different take on the idea of God: in Hinduism there are a number of gods and goddesses; In Buddhism, there is no god at all – believers follow the teachings of Buddha.
‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’.
It is central to Christianity that when absolutely anyone calls out to God, he hears and responds. Christians speak about God in a unique three-in-one way: he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – all at the same time. This is known as the Trinity. As Father he is creator of all things, all-powerful and all-knowing; as Son, he is Jesus Christ – God in human form who lived on Earth 2,000 years; as Holy Spirit he is invisible yet present in people and across the world. Christians believe that by following Jesus Christ, it is possible to know God and be forgiven for all the wrong things they have said and done. A close, personal relationship with God is possible only because of Jesus Christ – it is a gift, not something that can be earned. This way of understanding and experiencing God is unique to Christianity. The Bible book, John, quotes Jesus saying that he is the only way to God, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’.
Christianity grew out of the Jewish faith – both religions share the same roots. We also share a sacred text – what Christians call the Old Testament. We believe that the God we worship is the one that is revealed in the Old Testament, and therefore is the same God that Jews worship. However Judaism does not recognise the Trinity and rejects the idea of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The first converts to the Christian faith were Jewish people who began following Jesus and his teaching. Some Jewish people who become Christians, but retain their Jewish heritage, are known as Messianic Jews because they have come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah promised in the ancient Jewish writings of the Bible’s Old Testament.
Christianity grew out of the Jewish faith – both religions share the same roots.
In Islam, Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a prophet and a messenger of God – but not the Son of God. Within Islam, scholars debate how their holy book, the Qur’an, depicts Jesus’ execution and resurrection. Therefore, while Christians share some of Islam’s understandings of what God is like (e.g. merciful, all-mighty), there are important differences (Christians would not call God ‘the withholder’, ‘the deceiver’, which are both among the 99 ‘beautiful names’ of Allah). Most importantly Muslims believe the concept of God as a Trinity is a serious misrepresentation and a grave error, and likewise do not view Jesus as the Son of God.