The idea of using “Allah” as the word for God is controversial in some Christian circles. It’s also controversial in some Muslim circles, as believers in Malaysia can attest.
But for me, I think that we can use Allah as the word for God and not make a big fuss over it. Now, I am not a degreed theologian. I am quite possibly theologically wrong in this regard. I am open to correction. And this should certainly be taken as my thoughts, not an official position of our organization. But the Baptist theologians seem to agree with me – see this.
Most Muslims I have encountered – and I will admit I have not encountered many, unlike people in, say, Frontiers – are just people who happen to be Muslims, usually nominal ones, just like most Christians are nominal Christians. They are mostly what their parents were. They have a few religious ideas often tied to family or friends or patriotism. And when they say Allah, they do not have a significant systematic theology worked out. They mean God.
Some will argue that because of what they think about God or how they approach him, they are not worshipping the same God as we are. But aside from the linked article above (which argues it thoroughly an academically) two biblical cases suggest to me it is possible.
The first is the Jews themselves. We worship the same God–but differently. Our understanding and approach is modified by our beliefs about Jesus and the result of salvation on the law. It’s not as if Jesus introduced a new God–just made possible a new approach. Second is Mars Hill where Paul spoke to the people about their statue ‘to an unknown God.’ he began to reveal who this God was to them. He equated their reference to God with God and then began making this unknown God known.
When a Muslim says Allah, who is indicated? A single all powerful all knowing all present God who made us and to whom in some way we must relate. It’s not as if there is a clear construct in their mind that there are two distinct monotheistic gods. It’s more like we hear God described and say ‘that is a false image of God’ and ‘that’s not the God I worship’ and ‘that God doesn’t exist.’
Wouldn’t it be much the same if someone told my kids some description of me and they said ‘that’s not my dad’ and then ‘I don’t known the person you’re describing’ and then ‘that Justin doesn’t exist.’ They aren’t denying that I am alive. They are just saying someone has a very false idea about who I am. They are interacting with a deceptive perception rather than the real me, which explains why their attempts to interact with me go bad. But it’s not like there are two Justin’s who are wholly different–a me and a different me.
I agree that there is deception at work in the Non Christian perception of God whatever religion is embraced. But I think the best way forward is to understand the Muslim wants to worship the One God–not multiple Gods as Hindus do, nor impersonal forces, nor karma, nor spirits etc–and we need to reveal to the Muslim who Allah–who God–really is, and how much God loves them. Most people it seems to me have less of a problem with the idea of the existence of God and find the idea that he loves them so much he would Incarnate in flesh and die for them to be the bigger challenge to accept.