“Abrahamic Faiths”?

I confess to great irritation at the terms “Abrahamic Faiths”, “Abrahamic Religions” and/or “the Children of Abraham” when referring to Christians, Muslims and Jews, the latter term was used in the “God after Ground Zero” on ABC radio national program The Spirit of Things last Sunday.

These terms are used to characterize together the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions and refers to their having a significant commonality.

But I question the validity of these terms. In my view, the level of difference between these three religions is so great as to make meaningless their description as “the Children of Abraham.”

This difference is stated clearly in  the Qur’an 3:65-70:

“Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian. He was an upright man, who submitted to God. He was no idolater. Surely the men who are nearest to Abraham are those who follow him (Abraham), this Prophet (Muhammad), and the true believers. God is the guardian of the faithful. Some of the People of the Book wish to mislead you; but they mislead none but themselves, they may not perceive it.”

Islam claims Abraham as a Prophet of Islam as described in the Qur’an. This is a significant minimization of the claims of both Judaism and Christianity on the person and role of Abraham.

Judaism clearly claims Abraham to be the Father of the Nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1 ff; Genesis 17:5-6; Isaiah 51:2).

Christianity claims Abraham not only to be the Father of the Nation of Israel, but to be the Father of Faith (Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19).

Moreover, the Qur’anic record has a very different version of the story of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Qur’an 37:104-109 gives an account of Abraham’s sacrifice that omits the name of the son (most Muslims believe it was Ishmael) and the emphasis on the passage is not on Abraham’s trust in God’s promises (as in Judaism and Christianity), but in his submission to God’s will. Islam means submission. A Muslim is one who submits (to God/Allah).

For Judaism and Christianity this profound religious moment is recorded  in Genesis 22:1-19. For both these faiths it is Abraham’s confidence in God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises to bring from Abraham a great nation, that is paramount.

The difference between Islam and the understanding of Jewish and Christian people is epitomized by  Islam’s ignorance and rejection of the sacred text of the Old Testament. Despite the historicity of the Genesis account,  Islam declares these texts corrupted and the Qur’anic texts the final and irrefutable revelation.

We see in these differences a significance that renders the description of  Christians, Muslims and Jews as “the Children of Abraham”, “Abrahamic faiths” and/or “Abrahamic religions” meaningless. Please do not use them. 🙂

See also a link to my blog “Fanaticism and Faith” and “God after Ground Zero” 9/11

“Christianity Alongside Islam” by Bishop John Wilson pp 327-345 gives a very full and excellent account of this issue.


“Abrahamic Faiths”? — 2 Comments

  1. If a man has three sons, and the sons swear black and blue that they are not brothers, does this change the truth?
    Have you watched Tim Keller’s “Prodigal God”? Tim describes a man with three sons. One was prodigal, one was self righteous, and the third (the true elder brother) knew the Father’s heart and sought to reconcile.

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