Sunday, March 25, 2007

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.

13 comments:

Hilarius said...

Abu Daoud:

To what extent do you believe that old Nestorian views on Christ may have influenced the perception of Christianity on Islam in the earliest days? Here, I think of the fact that there was a flourishing Nestorian Christian diocese and monastery in Bahrain, one of the earliest adopters of Islam outside of the peninsula,and one could imagine that this was the predominate initial contact with Christian thought at least until the conquests in Greater Syria and Egypt.

LinZ said...

Abu Daoud, these are the same objections (along with other variances)presented by the Western Muslims and the so-called "ex-Christian" converts to Islam who are propagating error on YouTube. Sadly, the Western Church has failed to clarify to those in Her own sphere the teachings of the virgin birth, the essence of GOD's triune nature, the Deity of Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and prophecies, et al. Western Christians are too busy trying to pit grace and free-will against each other, and promote the superiority of denominational preferences... or worse they are competing with secular industries and happily assimilating into the surrounding culture.

Abu Daoud said...

Hilarius: So sorry for the long delay in posting a response. These old articles still get read from time to time, I'm happy to say :-)

You are asking a complex question really. The reason is that we know very little about Christianity in the Arabian Penn. during the time of the birth of Islam. So could he have been influenced by Nestorians? The Christians he met would probably have been Nestorians, indeed. Maybe their emphasis on the humanity of Christ, and Mary as the mother of Christ, but not theotokos, did indeed influence Muhammad. Maybe he was, so to speak, throwing a bone to the local Christians so they would get on board with his new imperial program?

But that is all we can do, guess. It seems clear from reading the Qur'an that Muhammad knew almost nothing about Christianity. Also, there were no permanent Christian communities in either Mecca or Medina.

Hope that answers your question. --AD

Abu Daoud said...

LinZ: I think you are very correct in what you have said. The fact is that while these debates about election and the nature of baptism and church membership are not unimportant, they are within the family, within the Church.

The Church needs to be outward focused...Thanks for dropping by the blog.

Amos L. Shah said...

Rain is here and Almighty God Isa-Al-Masih is Good!

Amos Shah

Amos L. Shah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

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.

Where is the proof for this?
Even if this was true, this does not solve the confusion.


The Catholic Encyclopedia states that:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm#IV

the truth that in the unity of the
Godhead there are Three Persons,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit, these Three Persons being
truly distinct one from another.

Thus, in the words of the
Athanasian Creed: "the Father is
God, the Son is God, and the Holy
Spirit is God, and yet there are

not three Gods but one God."



BTW, it wasnt only the Muslims who couldn't understand this.
The same article of the Encylopedia also says.


The Vatican Council further
defined that the Christian Faith
contains mysteries strictly so
called (can. 4).

All theologians admit that the
doctrine of the Trinity is of the
number of these. Indeed, of all
revealed truths this is the most
impenetrable to reason.

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...


Corruption of the Bible: ... This
is, actually, not clearly
supported by the Quran, but it is
a common teaching today.




See this link and decide for yourself what Islam's position is on the issue.

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/evidence_that_islam_teaches_that_there_was_textual_corruption_of_the_christian_and_jewish_scriptures





This isn't just a Muslim position:
See a renowned Biblical scholar discuss this topic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPgO3Jl0dUI

See particularly after 4:30 time slice



You can verify the authenticity of the
video at the scholar's website:

http://www.bartdehrman.com/flv_biblemisquotejesus/doesbiblemisquote.htm

(see the last 12 minutes for the significant part)

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

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.


Are you saying Islam does not know how to interpret the book it based on? Were Prophet Muhhamed (PBUH), his Companions and students all just wrong?
I dont think anyone can agree to that.


Profesor Robert Funk, even though he states most scholars believe in the Crucifixion of Jesus, he nonetheless says:

The crucifixion of Jesus is not
entirely beyond question.


(Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium
By Robert W. Funk
Page 219---- e book can read on book.google.com)

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

it is absolutely essential to
maintain this doctrine since
without it God becomes further
and further removed from our
understanding.

Actually for us Muslims it is the opposite.
For example:

The quran argues:


----The Messiah , son of Maryam , was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a truthful woman. They both used to eat food. Look how We make the Ayat verses, clear to them, yet look how they are deluded away.----


Can you picture what happens to a human that is deprived of food for a few days?
Or what happens when a man is nailed to a cross?
Do you say this is God?

All this summarized in a beautiful poem you can see here

http://call-to-monotheism.com/o_christ_worshippers___by_ibnul_qayyim_al_jawzia

Abu Daoud said...

Abdul, I'll take your questions one by one. First, tell me where the Qur'an says that Jesus was crucified.

You will answer, 4:157. But you are wrong. That verse only says that the Jews did not crucify Jesus, which is correct--the Romans did. Other than that you have nothing.

The tradition that Jesus was not crucified is not in the Qur'an at all. Sorry buddy.

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

Thanks for your question.

Lets quote the verse the next verse

------Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is Exalted in Power, Wise----- (4:158)


Based on this verse and its preceding one, there consensus has been that Jesus was not crucified.

(As mentioned by Shiekh Abdullah Al-Faqih on his website:
http://www.islamweb.net/womane/nindex.php?page=showfatwa&FatwaId=84206)

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

The Quran also states:


--------Behold! God said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee of those who blaspheme; ----- (3:55)


Ibn Taymiyyah commented

--------Such a verse gives an evidence that Jesus did not die normally, since if that was the true meaning, then Jesus died like all other believers whose souls Allah takes and then causes them to ascend to the heaven. As a result, such an incident would not be a peculiarity to Jesus .-------



There is also a hadith which comments on 4:157:

----"Jesus will descend, in body and soul. And if he died, Allah would not state: (they killed him not, nor crucified him)"----




All the above was taken (with some modifications) from

http://www.islamweb.net/womane/nindex.php?page=showfatwa&FatwaId=84206