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Is Allah the God of Christians?

29 July 2009

Is Allah the God of Christians?

Not according to the Malaysian government, which has sought to ban Christians from using Allah as the name of God.

What’s in a Name? | Christianity Today:

Agnes Monica is the Miley Cyrus of Southeast Asia. The Indonesian teen singer s face is ubiquitous. Her performances are packed out. But in Selangor Malaysia no one is allowed to play her song ‘Allah Peduli’ ‘God Cares’ . Monica is a Christian and Malaysian law bans non-Muslims from referring to God as Allah.

The ban on ‘God Cares’ is one application of state laws widely opposed by the island nation’s Christians and other non-Muslims. Few question whether Allah is the God of the Bible—to Malaysian Christians Allah is simply the word for God.

I’m a bit puzzled by the “island nation” bit, but the rest of it is fairly familiar stuff.

But I recently came across some Anglophone Christians, who seemed to be mostly American, in an online forum who appeared to agree with the Malaysian government, and insisted that Allah is not the Christian God, and not the God of the Bible.

They appeared to think that English is the only language in which to address God, so their attitude seemed to be shaped by extreme Anglo-chauvinism and racism — English, they seem to believe, is the language of heaven, and God does not listen to prayers addressed to him in Arabic, or presumably any other language but English, or possibly Dutch and Afrikaans, since those language also use the word “God” for God, thought it is pronounced differently.

The ridiculous thing about this is that, if one is to believe them, God is not the God of the Bible. If it is wrong to use Allah in Arabic Bibles, then it must surely be wrong to use Bog in Russian Bibles, Dieu in French ones, or Modimo in Sotho ones. And it then follows that one cannot use God in English Bibles, because, according to their reasoning, God is not the God of the Bible either; the only names one could use for the God of the Bible would be YHWH or O Theos, which are used in the original languages of the Bible.

So racist chauvinist Americans seem to have a lot in common with racist chauvinist Malaysians.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 July 2009 12:39 pm

    Good post Steve. This is an issue with much confusion in western christian circles. We in the west have our judgement clouded by mistrust and fear of Islam so when ‘Allah’ appears it can only mean one thing! If only people would pull aside the blinkers and think!

    As to the Malaysians, I think that is just down to a desire to remove Christianiy from the public square.

    • 29 July 2009 1:33 pm

      Hi there,

      What you write makes a lot of sense Steve.

      I’m just thinking though, sometimes, when translating into a language, the most logical word for a Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic word might not be appropriate because the word might lend to a tainted understanding of the original intended meaning.

      I’m guessing it could be argued that the word Allah is ‘loaded’. I know that’s not the point you were trying to argue against but it made me think.

      In Christ,

      Mark

  2. 29 July 2009 2:19 pm

    If, as monotheists claim, there is only one God, then (as a minimum) anyone who is worshipping a supernatural creator God must be worshipping the same one, particularly when you are talking about the 3 Abrahamic faiths.

    If you were feeling particularly liberal, you could include pantheist definitions of the Divine, and the NeoPlatonist concept of the Divine source, and the Hindu Brahma, etc.

    Personally I’m a polymorphist so I think there is one Divine with many forms or faces (i.e. distinct deity-forms within the Great All).

  3. 30 July 2009 4:48 am

    Dear Steve,

    I know whom you are talking about, Agnes Monica was once study in the same university with me here. And for the song “Allah Peduli [God cares]“, I am quite familiar to hear it in my campus. Even in the Indonesian bible, the word “God” always corresponded with Allah. In the psalms mostly, as well as the Great Commandment “Kasihilah Allahmu…..”. So I strongly agree with what you stated in this post :)

    Yudhie

  4. 1 August 2009 3:46 pm

    Very interesting post, Steve! I think we are stuck with only two viable options: either we proclaim the inadequacy of language to denote the divinity (and use G*d, or “the nameless one” or some such phrase), or we acknowledge the inadequacy of language and use whatever we want (whether God, Allah, Dieu, etc.), knowing that it fails to measure up to the reality it describes. When we are rendered speechless, does it really matter which word we don’t say?

  5. 2 August 2009 11:45 pm

    You’re right, they do have a lot in common.

  6. pastormadsen permalink
    19 March 2010 6:23 am

    I get your point but I’m willing to bet, (without reading the forum posts you refer to), you’re misunderstanding the American Christians.

    Linguistically, sure, every culture and language uses different names for God. And if an Arabic culture used Allah for God’s name – in the Bible itself – that would be understandable.

    The problem however is that Allah, for Muslims, is specifically associated with the god of the Koran. The Koran is not the Bible, though it speaks some similar but many different doctrines. In other words, the god of the Koran is not the God of the Bible for most Christians.

    For the Malaysians therefore, and probably, I would assume, for the American Christians who agree with them, it’s not about racism at all. It’s about doctrine. Doctrinally, in the Bible, there is only one God and only one Bible. Any other document mentioning a god or gods is not recognized as legitimately proclaiming the One True God.

    Jesus himself said in the Bible that no one goes to the father except through Him. Though Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, they do not recognize Him, nor does the Koran for that matter, as the way to the Father. That right there eliminates the Koran and its god (Allah) from being the same True God (Allah) of the Bible (plus we could find so many more references too.)

    Because of this, many Christians, like the Malaysians, might see a danger in confusing the two religions by using the same Arabic name for God. Not that it’s wrong for Christians to use Allah for God – even though the Allah of the Koran is not the same God- but you can see how this might quickly begin to confuse people and could be dangerous to the Christian faith.

    So, since it’s linguistics, I’d probably say that Arabic speaking people might consider adopting clarifying words such as: Christian Allah and Muslim Allah. Honestly, we do this here in America. Because there are so many religions in our country, we naturally have to clarify what someone means when they say “god.” Which god? The God of the Christians? The god of the Muslims? The Mormon god? etc.

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