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Every culture and religion has its own unique traditions, views, and ways of living and as such, it comes as no surprise that such a divergence would also include unique perspectives on God and his inherent relationship with humanity.
In this paper what will be explored are the different perspectives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism regarding God and how these views factor into their fundamental understanding of their relationship with God. It is expected that by the end of this paper readers will be able to learn of unique facets of each individual religion and how their views are formed in light of their individual interpretations of the Almighty.
Rejection of the Holy Trinity and Jesus as the Son of Man
One of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith is its focus on the holy trinity which is composed of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit each aspect, while separate, is part of God as a greater whole and thus comprises the fundamental interpretation of God under Christian Theology. For Islam, such an interpretation goes against its fundamental concept of monotheism referred to as tawhid.
This is not to say that the Christian faith is centered on a belief in a triumvirate of three distinct Gods rather under Christian theology the holy trinity is the manner in which God chooses to reveal himself to humanity and each aspect delves into a particular nature of his being. For Christians the Holy Trinity cannot be considered distinct separate parts of the whole but rather a combined being with aspects that are beyond human comprehension to successfully interpret and are thus perceived as three distinct aspects of one single entity.
Under the Islamic faith such a view can be considered blasphemous since it is an affront to the Muslim concept of Shahadah which is a creed in Islam which states that God is a unique and indivisible being (Volf, 20).
In this case the Holy Trinity is thus viewed as polytheistic since under Islam God cannot be separated into different aspects but rather is a unique whole that cannot be separated (Volf, 20). In fact, it is based on this particular view that Islam rejects the idea of Jesus Christ as the son of God since under the tawhid there is but one God and is thus incomparable, indivisible and is not part of humanity at all.
Judaism has a similar stance regarding God being indivisible and not having multiple persons within the same deity, in fact, such a view reflects the same tenets as the “oneness” described in Islamic texts which place an emphasis on the “oneness” and uniqueness of the Lord (Novak, 17). Such a view may explain the initial reaction of the Pharisees regarding Jesus as the son of God since for them God cannot be divisible into different aspects (The Gospel according To St. Mark, 1 – 50).
This particular view goes against the Christian view that Jesus was the son of God that died for our sins and thus redeemed us all (The Gospel According To St. Mark, 1 – 50). To accept the Islamic view regarding an indivisible God is to reject the very basis of Christianity which is largely based upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity as the basis for its faith (Sumney, 329). For Christians, Jesus really was the son of God born through the miracle of Immaculate Conception in order to redeem the sins of humanity.
Christianity and Islam actually do agree that Jesus was sent by God but Islam argues that Jesus was merely a messenger and not divine while Christianity focuses on the divinity of Jesus as the cornerstone of its faith (Chappel, Woelfel, Auerbach, Buller, Chapter 7). To accept the Christian view is to call into question the “oneness” or indivisible nature of God which is also at the core of the Islamic faith.
The Presence of God in All Things
It is at this point that the divisiveness of both faiths is apparent and is even more pronounced when examining their individual interpretations over the presence of God. Under Christian theology it is stated that God is present in all things and in fact dwells within us all.
On the other hand Islam states that God is independent of his creation and thus is not present within our worldly domain. While both religions acknowledge the fact that God has no beginning and has no end (as seen in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Qur’an) the fact remains that each has a different way of perceiving how God brought about all of creation.
The Islamic faith in a God that is independent of his creation has actually been conceptualized in the clockmaker theory which specifically states that while God created the Universe he is actually not actively involved in its operation which is similar to how a clock works independently of the clockmaker that made it. Such a theoretical perspective can actually also be seen in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas which advocates the intelligent design of creation and the first mover theory.
In this particular approach the complexity of creation itself as well as its overall functionality entails intelligent design in its creation, thus, if there is an intelligent design there must be a designer. Furthermore the assertion of St. Thomas Aquinas that all objects are in motion because they were set into motion by another action or entity entails that there must have bene a first entity that set everything into motion yet he himself must not have been moved.
Taking this into consideration, the Christian perspective entails that creation comes from God, is caused by God and thus God is a part of it (Navone, 24). Under Islam while God may have conceived of creation he did so independently from directly acting on it and merely willed it (commanded it in some interpretations) into being (Chappel, Woelfel, Auerbach, Buller, Chapter 9).
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Thus, from the Islamic point of view, the first mover theorem is somewhat altered in that God never directly interacted with matter but rather willed it into being which is drastically different from the Christian perspective of direct interaction.
This particular difference is important to point out since it sets the tone for how Christianity and Islam interpret God in creation. Since God was the first mover in Christianity and under the Christian perspective God created the Universe in stages God is thus present in every aspect of creation including ourselves (Navone, 24). Such a viewpoint is similarly reflected in Judaic theology and as such shows how both religions have similar origin stories.
Under the Islamic perspective, since God willed (or commanded) the Universe into being he may have created it but he did it all at once and did not directly interact with it, thus he is not present within creation. In fact, when looking at the various accounts written within the Qur’an it can be seen that Allah chooses to make his message known through intermediaries rather than through direct interaction which further solidifies the notion that God does not interact with this plane of existence (Chappel, Woelfel, Auerbach, Buller, Chapter 9).
Based on this the Islamic faith calls into question the divinity of Jesus since from their perspective God doesn’t directly interact with creation since he is independent of it. On the other hand since Christianity believes that creation came from God and is a part of God then it makes sense that he would choose to directly interact with it.
Alternatively when examining the Judaic concept of God it can be seen that it holds a similar concept regarding the creation of the Universe and God’s role in it. Judaic text specifically indicate that God is able to intervene in the world and as such this places the Judaic view regarding creationism and God’s place in the universe as being quite similar to the Christian understanding of God.
It must be noted though that large aspects of the Jewish tradition were in fact, borrowed by Christianity as the basis of its religion and this can be seen in the old testament of the Bible itself. The difference begins starting from the New Testament onwards and how Christianity views God as a being composed of the Holy Trinity while Judaism outright rejects such a concept.
As such, it can be seen that in all three religions there are aspects which are both similar and dissimilar. These particular views set the stage for interpreting Gods relationship with humanity since the difference in the presence of God in all things or the absence of God in our reality changes the interpretation of our relationship with God.
God Created Man in His Image
Within Christian theology, it is often said that man was created in God’s image and it due to this that man is unique among all other creatures within creation. In fact, it is this “uniqueness” that sets man apart from everything else that becomes the basis by which man has justified his domination over all aspects of the world today.
For Islam God is incomparable and independent of creation and thus man has not been created in his image since God is beyond comprehension and thus cannot possibly resemble anything he created in any way. It is due to this that Islam outright rejects the ideas of Christianity regarding the resemblance of man to God.
On the other hand Christian theology states that “created in his image” does not necessarily mean looking exactly like God but rather it can be described more along the lines of possessing his characteristics. Such a view is actually also expressed in Judaic texts and as such shows the theological basis of the Christian interpretation over what the statement “created in his image” means.
Image can thus be interpreted as possessing qualities that God himself exemplifies such as being merciful, charitable, kind, compassionate, loving, creative, innovative and constantly seeing the good in people. In this regard Christian theology clarifies such misconceptions regarding the difference between “physical resemblances” to “mental resemblance” in that to be created in the image of God is to have the capacity to utilize his “image” or “model of behavior” in our daily life.
Interpreting God’s Relationship with Man based on Religion
One of the current misinterpretations regarding Islam is the allegations by non-Muslim groups that Allah can be described as a stern and cruel God whose rules and messages need to be obeyed fully and without alteration. Such a view is actually quite far from truth and in fact, evidence to the contrary is reflected in the Qur’an in nearly all chapters where they state that Allah is kind, merciful and compassionate.
In a manner of speaking the relationship between God and Muslims is one akin to a kind master and dutiful servant wherein the rules are expected to be followed and as a direct result God rewards such actions in the afterlife. It is not necessarily a relationship of constant prostration, subservience and fear but rather one where it is understood that for each action comes either a reward or punishment and as such it is better to follow the rules as stated by Allah rather than anger him.
In the case of Christianity, aspects related to mercy, forgiveness and reward are also apparent however instead of a master and servant relationship it seems more akin to either a Sheppard and his sheep or a kind father to his children. In this particular case it is seen God has an open heart towards sinners wherein forgiveness is readily given and that God loves all whether that individual may be a devout follower or sinner.
While Christianity does share several aspects related to Islam regarding following the set rules established by God the difference lies in how stringently such aspects are applied and how emphasis is placed on the fact that despite violations to the set rules God, in Christianity’s eyes, is all too willing to forgive and bring the lost sheep back into the flock, a common theme in many bible stories.
Under Judaism it is stated that humans have a direct relationship with God in that God cares about humanity in the same way that humanity cares about God however in a distinct departure from both Islamic and Christian text it is stated by Judaism that people’s actions do not actually affect God positively or negatively. This particular view has its basis on the fact that since God is so mighty and omnipotent how can the actions of one man affect him positively or negatively?
Thus, from this particular view a person’s actions will lead him to good or bad ends and it is better to follow the teachings of God and be good in order for one’s life to be full of blessings. From this particular perspective the relationship between God and man is seen to be somewhat different than a master and servant, or Sheppard and sheep but seems to be more along the lines of a teacher and student.
Chappel, Sarah, James Woelfel, Stephen Auerbach, and Rachel Buller. Patterns in Western Civilization. 4th. Kansas: 2007. Print.
Navone, John. “The Creator’s Presence And Activity In Creation.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review 111.2 (2010): 24. MasterFILE Complete. Web.
Novak, Michael. “Another Islam.” First Things: A Monthly Journal Of Religion & Public Life 127 (2002): 17. Academic Search Premier. Web.
Sumney, Jerry L. “The Place of 1 Corinthians 9…24-27 In Paul’s Argument.” Journal Of Biblical Literature 119.2 (2000): 329. Academic Search Premier. Web.
The Gospel According To St. Mark : Authorized (King James) Version. Project Gutenberg, n.d. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web.
Volf, Miroslav. “Allah and the Trinity.” Christian Century 128.5 (2011): 20. MasterFILE Premier. Web.