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On a number of questions about Muslims' dealings with Christians or Christianity, someone will say something like, "Not all Christians believe Jesus is God or the Son of God." While that statement is technically true, it's important to get a handle on just how many Christians believe it, and how incredibly unlikely it is that you'll ever meet a Christian who doesn't believe it.

According to Pew (as of 2011), there are about 2,184,060,000 Christians in the world. Of those, 2,155,630,000 (98.7%) identify as either Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. All three of those groups explicitly believe the doctrine of the trinity, which means (among other things) they believe Jesus is God.

Of the 1.3% (28,430,000) of Christians who are "other," it's mostly Mormons (who believe Jesus is literally God's son) and Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians (who believe Jesus is divine, and an incarnation of the angel Michael). There are also modalists, who believe in the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but deny that they are three persons. Then there are unitarians, who are eclectic in their beliefs, but are united by their disbelief in the deity of Jesus -- however, most unitarians are not exactly practicing Christians and may even identify as atheists (it's similar with Quakers). Then you've got Armstrongists, who believe God is a "family," and that Jesus is God and so are we. A good overview of nontrinitarians can be found on Wikipedia. As you can see, even among the very few Christians who don't believe the trinity, there are no notable sects that don't believe Jesus is either God, the Son of God, or "divine" in some way.

You may be able to find individual people who self-identify as Christians while believing Jesus was merely a man, but such people will generally identify as members of one of the groups I mentioned -- just liberal ones. It's analogous to people who identify as Muslims without believing that the Qur'an was actually dictated by Gabriel to Muhammad.

The situation may have been slightly different in Muhammad's time, but not much. The Ethiopian king his followers sought shelter from would have been Ethiopian Orthodox, a subgroup of the "Orthodox" mentioned above. Sources are inconsistent about what sect Bahira the monk and Khadija's cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal belonged to, but they mention these possibilities:

  • Mandaeanism, which does not identify as Christian since they believe Jesus was a false Messiah and false prophet

  • Nestorianism, which affirms Jesus' deity, though it has an idiosyncratic view of how his deity and humanity coexist in his person

  • Arianism, which denied Jesus was God but did say that he "subsisted before time" and is "as perfect as God"

  • Syriac Orthodox, another subgroup of "Orthodox"

So even in Muhammad's time there don't seem to have been a significant number of Christians denying Jesus' identity as God or God's Son or in some way divine.

These are just things you should be aware of if you're writing a question or answer about Islamic-Christian relations. If you would like to make a correction or ask for clarification or evidence, please do so below.

If you see someone claiming that not all Christians believe Jesus is God or the Son of God, it may be useful to point them here.

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Your numbers are very good Mr Bultitude, but as you know each one us is trying to proselytize (both u & me), it is all about capturing the minds of people, implanting in them our views, forcing them to look at things from the angle we look at, suggesting them with trends, etc. That's all fine. Although it is technically true, since this is an academical site of Islam, since Qur'an says out of those 2,184,060,000 Christians, only a few, maybe a few of today's, or maybe not, or maybe a few of those who might have faded away, are assured that they don't have any problem.

Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Qur'an 2:262)

So, I don't think there is nothing wrong in letting the technically true statement "Not all Christians believe Jesus is God or the Son of God." remain true.

May the creator guide us all.

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    The main issue I have with it is when it comes to practical matters, like marriage. Someone will ask, "Can a Muslim marry a Christian?" for example, and the answer given is yes. Later someone asks, "What if that Christian believes Christ is God?" and the answer becomes no. Since virtually all Christians today do believe that, it's highly misleading to initially say yes to such a question. – Mr. Bultitude Apr 2 '15 at 6:17
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    Sorry there @Mr.Bultitude, I took some time to swallow the fact that today average Christian is unfit for marriage to a Muslim man, same thing explained here only with your help, due credits... The thing is, abandoning our stupid desires is kinda hard(so much wishing to marry a Christian), but have to swallow it and search for good things. Done! Agree with your summary. – servant-of-Wiser Apr 9 '15 at 7:33
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    @Mr.Beatitude Its actually not highly misleading to say yes. Christians are Christians whether or not they believe Christ is God. According to the Hanafi school of law (one out of the four main schools of Sunni law), it is permissible to marry a Christian regardless of whether or not they are Trinitarian. You may want to check this: questionsonislam.com/question/… (The website belongs to Hanafi scholars). I'm not really sure what the other three schools say about this though. – Artus Jun 19 '15 at 14:44
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The Christians with whom the Prophet Muhammad is likely to have had contact where probably mainly Jewish Christians who believed in a trinity consisting of God the Father, his son Jesus, and Jesus’s mother (not Mary, but the female Holy Spirit). This view is not (of course) followed by any Christians at the present time.

If you have access to jstor there is an interesting article on this here: http://www.jstor.org/discover

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  • By the prophet's time, there weren't many Jewish Christians around anymore. – Daniel Mar 22 '15 at 1:27
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    @Daniel I do suggest you read the article which I linked. The author makes a strong case for the presence of Jewish Christians in Central Arabia. – aasheq Mar 22 '15 at 8:33
  • I don't have access to that article, but see Wikipedia which says, "Early Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism during the first two centuries and established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire." – Daniel Mar 22 '15 at 13:59
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    @Daniel It is your choice. You can believe wikipedia or you can read the cutting-edge academic research. The BSOAS should be in your university library, or accessible through jstor. – aasheq Mar 22 '15 at 14:35
  • I made a jstor account, but I don't see where in that paper it discusses this. It seems to be a paper about linguistics. – Daniel Mar 22 '15 at 15:12
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    I think you need the whole thing, but the main argument seems to begin on p. 12. There is also a section called "conclusions" at the end. – aasheq Mar 22 '15 at 15:27
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    On page 12, the author says the exact opposite of what you are saying: "For another, at the time of Muhammad, even if 'Jewish Christianity' had not died out completely, it was very much a marginal phenomenon." He continues to postulate that maybe there was a small group of Jewish Christians in Arabia in the 7th century, but concedes that to prove this would require significant re-evaluation of the facts. – Daniel Mar 22 '15 at 15:31
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    ...which the author then proceeds to do, with quotations from the Qur'an. As I said, you need to read the whole argument. – aasheq Mar 22 '15 at 15:41
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    No he doesn't. I read the whole thing. He gives an explanation of why it could possibly be true, but he never proves it to be true. In any case, even the author concedes that this position is in opposition to the mainstream historical opinion that Jewish Christians were pretty much nonexistent by the time of Mohammad. But anyway, this point isn't really relevant to the discussion proposed by the OP. Even if this article is correct, the OP says that nearly all Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus, and your article simply agrees with that assessment and doesn't really add anything. – Daniel Mar 22 '15 at 15:47
  • The point that I am really trying to make is that when Mr Bultitude says that so and so many billions of Christians TODAY believe in such and such, this has no direct relevance for what the Christians at the time of Muhammad believed. You need to look at Christianity in the 7th century. – aasheq Mar 22 '15 at 15:55

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