Friday, May 23, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 7 - the last one!

Here are the final paragraphs. The paper itself runs around 4.5 pages single-spaced, excluding works cited.

Finally, let us examine the fourth, final Qur’anic requirement for godhood: the claimant must be absolutely unique. This is the strictest in the eyes of Muslims, who have claimed that, since Jesus Christ was a man, He could not possibly have been God too, since God does not look like anything or anybody a person can imagine or see. However, this allegation becomes somewhat shallower upon closer examination. Following, but by no means complete, is a short series of attributes of the Christian God that, when taken individually, may not be unique; however, when taken together, they make the total triune God absolutely unique.

· The Christian God is love and loves everyone unconditionally (e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

· The Christian God chose to manifest Himself as a man (e.g. Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 3:17).

· The Christian God is at the same time three Persons and yet one Godhead (e.g. Matt. 28:19).

· The Christian God commands believers to actively love their enemies as Jesus Christ demonstrated, not only to turn the other cheek (e.g. Matt. 5:44-47; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16, 23; 4:19).

· The Christian God sent Jesus Christ to sacrifice Himself in the place of all people because of His sinless life (e.g. Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:14-18; Qur’an 3:35-36; 19:13, 19).

Although this list only scratches the surface of Christianity, it is clear that the Christian God is like no other, for no other, man-created deity has all of these attributes. Thus, surveying the results of the examinations of the other three conditions for godhood as described in Sura 112 of the Qur’an, one sees that the God of Christianity meets all of the given requirements. If this is true, then it leads to several other possible conclusions: (1) that Allah and the Christian God are the same; or (2) that, if the Qur’an is false on this point, then the Bible is also false; or (3) that either Allah or the Christian God is the true one if they are not the same; or (4) that the Qur’an testifies about Christianity here, not about Islam. Each of these possibilities is controversial and has serious implications; all of them cannot be simultaneously true. Since numerous sources demonstrate that conclusion (1) is false (e.g. M.; “Adam”) and Rhodes, not to mention many other scholars, casts doubt on conclusion (2) (“Inspiration”; “Manuscript”), that leaves only conclusion (3) true and (4) as having a good possibility of being true.

Continuing with this logic, the crux is to demonstrate that, since the Bible has been reliably transmitted (Rhodes), then conclusions (3) and (4) are both true. If they are both true, then the religion of Islam is proved false. If conclusion (4) is false, however, then logic and the Bible count for nothing. Since logic does not count for nothing but rather works in a great variety of circumstances, it follows that conclusion (4) is likely true. This may startle many; however, it is as Jesus Himself said: “…[S]earch the Scriptures…which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Even if the Qur’an is not wholly deserving of being classed with the other texts of the “People of the Book” (i.e. Jews, Christians, and Muslims), it may here unwittingly testify of Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God.
What do you think? None of you have ventured to comment on the paper so far.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 6

The following paragraph, as usual.
The third criterion, that God (or Allah) has neither parents nor children, is a very thorny issue, especially since the Qur’an insists that the Jesus of Christianity is the physical or literal son of God. However, this stems mainly from a misunderstanding of Jesus Christ’s conception (especially the Greek for “begotten”), primary title (“the Son of God”), and frequent references to “the Father” (e.g. John 8:18), not to mention the confusion about Mariolatry, as mentioned earlier. The perpetually inadequate (at least in English) translation of the Greek word for “begotten” in such verses as John 3:16 may be ameliorated by noting that the word, monogenes, connotes “unique” or a metaphorical meaning, not necessarily a physical birth (“Does the Bible”). Also, as is clear from a contextual reading of the passages foretelling and narrating Christ’s conception and birth, He has no genetic relation to Joseph (e.g. Luke 1:35), but rather proceeds from His Father (again, a metaphorical, not physical, relationship; see John 8:42). To summarize, the Qur’an looks at the Father-Son relationship of the Christian God as physical and therefore idolatrous, while a Biblical reading supports a more metaphorical relationship, thus fulfilling the third standard.
I think the author handled this issue quite well. There is indeed much confusion about "begotten" when one does not consider the Greek. Do any readers have arguments against this concise treatment of ayah number three?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 5

Here is the next paragraph:
Having finished (though by no means exhausted) dealing with the first criterion for godhood, we move on to the second: that God (or Allah) is eternal and omnipotent. Again, both the Bible and the Qur’an claim in numerous instances that their respective deities have these attributes. Several Qur’anic references include 2:255; 3:2; 16:70; 20:111; 35:44; 42:29; and, of course, 112:2. Likewise, there is overwhelming support in the Bible for the Triune God to meet this criterion. Each Person of the Trinity is ascribed each of these attributes. God the Father is eternal and omnipotent by such passages as Ps. 90:2; 93:2; 115:3; and Matt. 19:26. Similarly, Jesus (God the Son), much to Muslims’ chagrin, has these attributes: Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5, 24; Phil 3:20ff; Col 1:17; Heb 7:3; and Rev 1:8; 3:7, to name a few. Finally, God the Holy Spirit has both characteristics by such verses as Heb. 9:14 and Luke 1:35. Will Muslims claim that every single one of these Biblical texts has been corrupted? Or will they accept compelling historical evidence that the Bible has been as well preserved as the Qur’an – for instance, the fact that “if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [quotations of the early church fathers] would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically the entire New Testament” (Bruce Metzger, qtd. in Butt)?
This appears to be a fairly simple criterion, nicely explained. It appears to be based on merely the scriptures of Christianity and Islam, and so might be argued by some to consist of only subjective evidence. Then again, however, one could throw in the wrench (for some) of the Bible's historicity and survival of more than a few millennia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 4

Part 1 is here, part 2 here, part 3 here.

The first claim, that the Christian Trinity is really God the Father, Jesus, and Mary, is wholly unsupported by Scripture but claimed to be true by the Qur’an (5:116; 4:171). This allegation likely originated from “ignorant ‘Christians’ in Muhammad’s time” who committed what is termed Mariolatry, or asking Mary to “intercede with her Son” (“Islam”). Muhammad, seeing this, reasoned as any human would and put one and one and one together, so to speak. Ahmed and Saifullah deduce from these misunderstandings that “whether the ‘Holy’ Trinity composed [sic] of the Father, Jesus(P), and the Mary(P) or the Father, Jesus(P) and the Holy Spirit are equally condemned in the Qur’an,” effectively dismissing the entire doctrine as some silly Christian notion.

The second major accusation is that Christians made up the doctrine out of thin air, and that there is no clear Biblical support. Granted, the word ‘Trinity’ is mentioned nowhere in the text of the Bible. But, one can counter, neither is the word ‘Tawhid’ (Arabic for the concept of God’s oneness) in the actual Qur’anic text. If one accepts that a concept can be strongly present even if it is not mentioned by its exact name, then demonstrating the Trinity from both the Old and New Testaments becomes much easier. Ediger logically demonstrates this humanly incomprehensible doctrine thus: There is one God (Deut. 4:35; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; and 1 Tim. 2:5). The Father is God, from John 17:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:1; Phil. 2:11; Col. 1:3; and 1 Peter 1:2, to name a few. A notion abhorrent to Muslims, the Son is also God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-18; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col., 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8-12; and 2 Peter 1:1). Finally, the Holy Spirit is also God, explicitly stated in Acts 5:3-4 and 2 Cor. 3:17-18; implied in Mark 3:29; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; and Heb. 9:14.

Leading on from this, Ediger gives passages in both Testaments strongly implying that God is three in one: Gen. 1:1-3; 12:7; 48:15-16; Ex. 31:3; Isaiah 48:12-16; and many other Old Testament passages. New Testament references include Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19 (singular ‘name’ with three persons); Luke 1:35; John 3:6-16; 15:26; Acts 2:32-33; 5:29-32; Rom. 8:16-17, 26ff; Eph. 1:1-14; 2:17-22; 1 Thess. 1:2-5; Heb. 9:14; 1 John 3:21-24; and Jude 20-21, naming only a few. In addition, there are allusions in Isaiah 63:7-11, 6:3 and Rev. 4:8, especially in the triple “Holy.” The above references demonstrate that the God of the Bible is beyond human logic – since, as Muslims contend and Christians partially agree, God cannot be known, why should they expect Him to fit inside the mind of a human?
This is, I think, a fairly good treatment of the first issue. In the very last sentence the author raises a good point. I would complain about the source imbalance; however, the author is not concerned with proving that Allah (of Islam) fulfills the criteria, since it is unstated that he does. The author is rather concentrating on God (of Christianity) and proving that case, which I have not seen addressed. We are getting into weighty material here; I hope you look forward to the upcoming posts in this series.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 3

Part 1 is here, part 2 here.
The first condition that a claimant to godhood must meet, according to the Qur’an, is to be the only god in existence, or the only true God. Shakir’s translation perhaps conveys the singular nature of Allah best; this closely corresponds to the Great Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one!” (Deut. 6:4). An alternate rendering of this verse says, “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (that is, the only one). In another place, God says, “I, [even] I, [am] the LORD, / And besides Me [there is] no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). The Bible makes indelibly clear that God is singular; it condemns any form of taking any god besides the true God, whether that other god is on par or of lesser power. Likewise, the Qur’an in numerous places condemns shirk, or associating “partners” with Allah. Muslims also emphasize that Jesus quotes Deut. 6:4 in Mark 12:29-30.

Muslims do agree that the God of the Bible is singular. However, they do this by denying the deity of Jesus Christ, claiming that Christians have made up that concept and that any verse showing His godhood has been corrupted from the original text. In addition, they promote several misunderstandings about the doctrine of the Trinity, the main ones being that (1) it consists of God the Father, Jesus, and Mary; (2) there is no Biblical support for the doctrine, or that the support is ambiguous; and (3) God cannot be three in one, and that the Trinity is really three. This paper will briefly deal with each of these.
The next paragraphs deal with those misconceptions. That part is key to the paper. Muslim claims of corruption are likewise a weighty issue; the author plans to address those in a major future paper.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 2

Here are the next two paragraphs of the paper (part 1 is here):

First, the text of Sura 112 in three translations:

“Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; / Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; / He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; / And there is none like unto Him.” (Yusuf Ali)

“Say: He is Allah, the One! / Allah, the eternally Besought of all! / He begetteth not nor was begotten. / And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Pickthal)

“Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. / He begets not, nor is He begotten. / And none is like Him.” (Shakir)

Each of these translations agrees in essential parts of the translations; from these we can garner that the Allah of Islam is (1) singular and exclusive[1], (2) eternal and omnipotent, (3) having neither parents nor children, and (4) unique. Muslims claim that only Allah satisfies all four of these criteria and that the God of Christianity fails the test. However, this reveals an inaccurate understanding of the teachings of Christianity about God. This paper will explore each criterion of the sura and demonstrate from the Old and New Testaments that the God of Christianity meets all four of the requirements.

[1] An interesting topic for a further paper would be to discuss whether the Arabic grammar supports this. The word for “one” in the first ayah, or verse, is ahad(un) in Arabic, literally meaning “one of” (e.g. Shamoun). This deserves an in-depth treatment.

A good start, I think. As may be seen from the footnote, the author has several bones to pick with Quranic doctrines. I hope we will see more papers from this person in the future.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sura 112 and the Trinity, part 1

A friend just sent me a research paper that she had done on her own time, exploring the relationship of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to Sura 112 (The Purity of Faith). I will be reproducing and analyzing the claims of this paper in this and upcoming posts (it is fairly long), and I invite you readers to join in the dialog. Sources cited in each paragraph are linked here. Here is the introduction.

"Is Allah the Only God? How the Triune God of Christianity Satisfies Sura 112"
The title of this paper makes a drastic claim indeed. Muslims pride themselves on having a unique god, Allah, and his final revelation, the Qur'an, in preserved form. They contend that all other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, have been annulled and all other scriptures corrupted. Several scholars, not to mention countless Christians, have disputed these claims. One especially telling fact is that the third caliph, Othman, assembled one version of the Qur'an that he deemed best and burned all other existing variants around A.D. 650 ("Preserving"; Warraq). However, the question of preservation is not the focus here; rather, this paper will explain Sura (chapter) 112, The Purity of Faith, in the Qur'an and demonstrate that Christianity's triune God meets the four criteria.
It certainly promises to be an exciting paper. However, the author appears to be engaged in a little bait-and-switch. We will see if this affects the rest of the content. Seeing as this paper was written by a non-Muslim with thorough knowledge of the Bible and a moderate knowledge about the Quran, I wonder how Muslims would respond to this.