Saturday, July 19, 2008

Part XI: Muslims' Main Objections to Christianity

In Part X of this series on Islam I wrote on four of the main things that attract Muslims to Christianity (The Bible, Dreams and Wonders, Charity and Kindness, and Christian Community or the Church), but now I want to outline the four main theological stumbling blocks for Muslims who are interested in the Christian faith. Note that I am talking about the ones who are interested, most Muslims actually have no desire whatsoever to learn about other religions, nor do they have any desire to ask hard questions about their book or the life of Muhammad. Islam does claim to be the supremely logical religion, but the ability to engage in critical thought in the Middle East is close to null.

In any case, here are the four theological topics which are most confusing and difficult for Muslims who are searching for truth. The four topics are born from Islamic caricatures or misunderstandings of genuine Christian teaching. I will make no effort in this article to show how Christians respond to these objections, though I am open to doing that if you are interested.

1) The Incarnation: How can God become a man? This has been scandalous since the very beginning of the faith, but it is absolutely essential to maintain this doctrine since without it God becomes further and further removed from our understanding. Also, our anthropology or understanding of what it means to be human, whether as individuals or as parts of a community, becomes degraded.

2) The Trinity: The period of Islam's growth and early spreading was marked by an extraordinary and effective policy of military subjugation which did not allow space for attempting to understand the Christian dogma of the Trinity, which was by then articulated in the language of Greek philosophy. Thus the rejection of the nuanced doctrine of God's triunity was firmly cemented as a form of tri-theism by the time Islamic scholars gained the skills whereby they could effectively dialogue with Christian theologians. Of course, by that time is was an article of faith for the Muslim scholars that trinity was somehow identical to tri-theism, so in spite of their academic abilities, it was simply not open to question: the Christians had to believe in three gods, even if the Christians said they didn't.

3) Corruption of the Bible: Muslims are taught that Christians and Jews corrupted the books which came down from heaven to such prophets as Jesus and Moses and David. This is, actually, not clearly supported by the Quran, but it is a common teaching today.

4) The Crucifixion: The prevalent interpretation of the Quran today indicates that Jesus was not crucified. Also, in Islam God's grace and favor must be identified with political and military supremacy, thus the idea that one of God's prophets could be reduced to such a humiliating death is fairly repulsive to Muslims. There are interpretations of the Quran which support that Jesus was crucified, but Islam refuses to or is unable to differentiate between the meaning of the Quranic text and the act of interpretation.


No_Angel said...

I think its slightly over bearing when you expect such topics that took centuries to actually flesh out to be known or argued fully but since i like this blog i'll play the part.

The first 2 (essentially its the trinity), those weren't established or agreed upon until the first council in necea mostly by augustine and then they were technically fleshed out by thomas in the 13th century to translate from platonic tools to Aristotelian ones. (the brigde and part of the argument was based on avicenna and Averroes discussion of the topic and thomas answers certain points raised up by Averroes, hell the guy was killed because he adopted Aristotelian interpretations) so your claims of lack of capabilities or understanding is unfounded actually, and discussion of the topic was dealt by early muslim philosophers too.

3) Actually its clearly mentioned in quite a few instances (the only argument point might be that it doesn't mention the christians )

4) i don't think its problematic for muslims to see prophets killed off, and its the jews that required warrior prophets not muslims. you only need to look at the demise of prophet john for that ... quite grotesque and humiliating (on the other hand it kinda clearly states that it appeared to them that jesus was crusified in the quran but he wasn't, it really is not up for interpretation and is pretty clear in 4:156-159, though i gotta say that a fringe view considers it to be not in spirit rather than being in body and spirit.)

Hat tip to you for allowing me to learn a new thing today, thanks

Abu Daoud said...

Hi No Angel:

:-) I am making no claim at being comprehensive, just accurate in a summarizing sort of way.

RE the Trinity: Christians are in the same place as Muslims here actually. Is the Quran eternal? Muslims said yes, it is (see the Mu3tazilite Controversy). How can the Quran be eternal with Allah? Is this not Shirk? It seems so clearly to me, to attribute eternality to something along with Allah but which is not Allah.

We do no such thing. We Christians maintain the integrity of Allah by asserting that the essence, that is the tawhiid or unity of God, consists precisely in relationship between the person (not individuals) of the Trinity. All praise be to him who in himself is lover and loved and witness of love!

I must mention, regarding the crucifixion of 3iisa bim Maryam (his peace be upon us)that the quran clearly says that Allah will put him to death (3:55): wa qaala, ya 3iisa, inni mutawafiika....that very clearly means the one who causes you to die. There is not way around the simple Arabic.

Why not just acknowledge stay a Muslim and fear Allah, and acknowledge the plain teaching of the Quran--that 3iisa bin Maryam was put to death by the Romans?

But all praise be to Allah who is all knowing and all powerful! He did not abandon his servant to death but, as the Quran says, lifted him up to him.

No_Angel said...

Anything that was created isn't eternal and muslims believe that the quran was created and preserved before it was bestowed on muhammed. so they don't believe its eternal. (to not go on a tangent am going with the mostly accepted thought rather than all the arguments in this case )
for the sora the continuation of that ayah is ..."raising you to Me, and ridding you of the disbelievers... " so in that sense death is by definition the cessation of life on earth since he was raised beyond that plane, it doesn't necessitate physical demise in our sense. plus you can't take it in this instance alone and you need nisaa(women) aya 157-158 for the full picture of how its viewed. since in the quran the usage of the verb tawafa was used in the instance of sleep and not just demise in the sense that all souls while asleep are in the limbo of death and then they are released once they wake up and the ones that die are held back.
take care and thanks for the replies

Abu Daoud said...

Thank you, no angel, for your comments. But why do summersaults and flips to explain away the clear and plain meaning of what the Quran says?

The wise man will receive the clear sign of Allah rather than the traditions of men. There are a plethora of words in Arabic for "put to sleep." Allahu akbar! or perhaps we should say Allahu awda7, that is, God is clear, he communicates to us clearly because he is merciful and compassionate and understands our lack of wisdom.

So complete your Islam (submission) to Allah by embracing the meaning of this sign, which is clear, rather than the traditions of men. Indeed, that would be the greatest sin, to associate them with Allah, shirk.

Where does the Quran use tawaffa as cause to sleep? I know of no such verse.

No_Angel said...

its not a requirement for god to be clear at all (if he was then he would have just one religion now ... wouldn't he ? actually everyone claims that they have it so never mind)

there are a couple of instances in quran where the word tawafa means the death while sleeping and the resurrection upon waking up ...

[6:60] He is the One who puts you to death during the night, and knows even the smallest of your actions during the day. He resurrects you every morning, until your life span is fulfilled, then to Him is your ultimate return. He will then inform you of everything you had done.

[39:42] GOD puts the souls to death when the end of their life comes, and also at the time of sleep. Thus, He takes some back during their sleep, while others are allowed to continue living until the end of their predetermined interim. This should provide lessons for people who reflect.

So its really not that complex at all, its just a reflection of a short coming in understanding the whole text and language rather than opaqueness of the meaning.