According to Pew Research, if current trends continue then by 2050 there will be nine billion people living on the planet. Approximately three billion will be Christians, three billion will be Muslims, and three billion others will represent various beliefs (both religious and secular).1

Since Christianity and Islam are the two largest (comprising about 55% of the world’s population2) religions in the world people often wonder where they disagree and how significant the differences are. A brief look at six doctrinal contrasts will help address this question.

First, it is important to note that Islam shares common ground with historic Christianity. For example, both religions are:

  • theistic in philosophical orientation
  • monotheistic in doctrinal belief
  • Middle Eastern in origin
  • biblically oriented Abrahamic faiths (they connect to the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament)

However, the differences between the two religions are profound. Since Islam emerged about six centuries after Christianity, we’ll outline how Islam reacts to essential Christian truth claims. As you’ll see, traditional Islam denies the essence of historic Christianity.

Six Systematic Doctrinal Denials

  1. Islam denies the Trinity (i.e., tri-unity: One God in three persons). Muslims instead affirm a form of unitarianism where Allah is a single, solitary being (tawhid) with no partners, equals, rivals, or companions. Allah is not begotten nor does he beget; therefore, he has no son.
  2. Islam denies the incarnation (i.e., Jesus Christ was God in human flesh: a single person with both a divine and human nature). In contrast, Muslims assert that Jesus was a mere human being. Yet Islam does concur that Jesus was virgin-born, performed miracles, and lived a sinless life.
  3. Islam denies the crucifixion (i.e., Jesus’s atoning death on the cross). Muslims instead declare that Jesus either didn’t actually die on the cross (though he may have been impaled) or that someone else took Jesus’s place on the cross. But either way, Islam is not a redemptive religion.
  4. Islam denies the imago Dei (i.e., human beings bear God’s image). In contrast, Muslims affirm that such an image would put creatures too close to Allah (the heresy known as “shirk”). Thus in Islamic theology, human beings are not made in Allah’s image.
  5. Islam denies original sin (i.e., that human beings are born with a sinful nature and a natural propensity to sin). Instead, Muslims assert that people are born morally good. So Islam rejects the Christian doctrine of the fall.
  6. Islam denies salvation by grace (i.e., that human beings are reconciled to God by God’s unmerited favor apart from works). In contrast, Muslims proclaim that personal submission is required to earn paradise. So both paradise (reward) and divine wrath (punishment) are earned.

Both Can’t Be True

While we live in a time that prizes religious pluralism, nevertheless the laws of logic are stubborn things. Given these six systematic doctrinal denials it follows logically that if Islam is true, then Christianity is patently false and vice versa, for Islam denies the very essence of Christian doctrinal truth claims.

Reflections: Your Turn

Why do you think Islam and Christianity are such popular religions? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. Pew Research Center, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, April 2, 2015,” https://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/.
  2. Wikipedia, s.v., “List of Religious Populations,” updated May 28, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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