Friday, October 17, 2014

Is Allah God?

Many Christians reject the idea that the term "Allah" could ever possibly refer to the God we love and serve. Although there is linguistic commonality between Allah and the Hebrew word "EL," it is hard for us to imagine anything good associated with the word.
And the fact is, American Christians have good reasons for a strong emotional reaction. The news has burned this word into our consciousness on the lips of angry crowds shouting  "Allah Akbar!"
But this week I was reminded that we are not the only ones whose feelings are evoked by this ancient Semitic word.
During a seminar about reaching Muslims in Russia, a dispute arose about using the word Allah. Some church leaders said they could not believe that any Christian would want to use the term Allah as they spoke to their heavenly father. 
Then a brother stood up. He is from a small tribe in the Caucasus mountains who have been Christian for over 800 years. He said, "All my life I have read a Bible that tells me about Allah who created the world. All my life I have prayed to Allah, our father in heaven. When I hear this name I have a warm and safe feeling because this is the One who sent his Son to save us."
Perspective is everything. Of course, it would be bizarre for someone in an American church to refer to the father of Jesus as Allah. But can we also see that it would be a sad twist of Christian truth to deny the same word to brothers who have all their lives known Allah as the name for the true and living God? To what word would we have them turn?


Don Perry said...

Thank you for this posting. This is a favorite blog of mine.

I think that the best answer to this question is, "It depends." This post gives a great answer that many people need to carefully consider.

Trouble is, for many people, the only conceivable meaning of this question is this: "Is the 'orthodox' Islamic theology of the nature of the god they call Allah the same as our theology of God?"

When that is the only admissible meaning of the question, we have a long way to go.

Warrick Farah said...

Good point, Don.

Felix P. said...

I agree that the character behind the name trumps which name is used.

Arab Christians have been using Allah for a loooong time and all Arabic-speaking believers I know today have no problem with the term (though they do identify the referent differently than their Muslim counterparts). It's the same term used in the most used Arabic Bible translations (such as SVD). The only people I'm aware of that are offended enough to not use Allah (in Arabic contexts) are Christians that come from the West and perhaps take the term with additional baggage.

English borrows the term God from a pre-Christian Germanic word thought to be used in reference to spiritual being(s). The German word Gott is still used by Christians referring to the triune God. Seems this etymology is not as big of an issue as it's fairly unknown and archaic words are not as threatening as current religio-political issues.