Common Elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Article excerpt

In the past, when people were comparing religions, they tended to focus on the differences between them. That tended to emphasize the distance between religions. More recently, we have come to understand that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--the so-called Abrahamic religious heritage--have common roots and many common elements. Thus, we are nowadays looking also at the similarities and common elements of these religions. Here are a few major ones:

1. Belief about God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions; they believe that there is only one God. Jews and Muslims greatly stress the oneness and unity of God. The affirmation of the oneness of God by Christians is sometimes misunderstood, because Christians believe that the one God is triune (the Holy Trinity). However, this is not a denial of monotheism but an affirmation of the complexity of the Divine Being. All three faiths believe that this God is the origin and source of all that exists. God cares about the entire creation and desires the well-being of all. God is just and has provided basic rules for our guidance so that we might be good and righteous, according to God's intention. God is also merciful; by God's grace we are given strength to be more like what we ought to be.

2. Understanding Human Beings. The three faiths believe that human beings are the highest creatures on earth. God created us full of mystery, which means we have potential for continuous growth, both as a species and as individuals. We are capable of both good and evil. When we grow in goodness, righteousness, and love, we become more like what God intended human goodness to be. When we abuse our freedom and do harm to other people, ourselves, and the environment, we are going against God's plans, as we become evil-doers. Each person is able, with God's help, to turn away from evil, to repent, and to do good. We owe God our devotion, glorification, and obedience.

3. The Future. No matter how difficult the past and present may be, the three religions are hopeful about the future. Evil and suffering cannot ultimately prevail God has provided a condition (or state of being) for which our three religions have different names, but we agree on the term "Paradise." This future will bring about God's unchallenged rule and unconditional bliss for all who live with God.

4. Divine-Human Encounter. The three Abrahamic religions believe that God and human beings can and should communicate with each other. God communicates to people by revelation, one of the most important of which is revelation through prophets. Their revelations are recorded in the Holy Scriptures of each religion. While the Holy Scriptures of the three religions are not identical, the younger two religions acknowledge God's truth as found in their predecessors, and they encourage respect for all the Holy Books. While each of the three religions does not focus on merely one set of writings, the key scripture of Judaism is the Torah; the key scripture of Christianity is the Bible, which consists of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament; and the key scripture of Islam is the Qur'an. It is the duty of people to read or listen to God's Holy Writings and to respond with prayer, praise, and an appropriate acceptance of God's commandments for how we live.

5. God's Guidance. God did not leave us without guidelines for behavior but provided us with sound basic rules to live by, as well as a rational mind to learn how and when to apply those rules to our everyday life. All three religions, for example, abhor murder, the arbitrary killing of innocent people. Similarly, God wants us to tell the truth and not to take from others what rightfully belongs to them. We are to respect the dignity of every person and to help especially those who are not capable of helping themselves, such as widows, orphans, and the poor. …