- A Muslim's Analysis
Dr. Gary Miller
Let there be
no misunderstanding of our intentions. This booklet is not an assault
on Christianity. Instead, we intend to clarify vagueness, supply
neglected information, and finish incomplete thoughts found in the
usual presentation of the Christian missionary. The Qur'an encourages
the discussion of religious matters but according to a vital principle:
both sides are supposed to discuss truth. (Qur'an 3:61). Where the
missionary has left matters vague or has hidden some information,
or has not finished a thought the truth has not been presented.
Since our goal
is a careful analysis, let the reader consider his own response
carefully. Any disagreement must be specified as a disagreement
with something actually stated in the following material . It must
also be said that nothing written here can be applied to all Christians.
Christian belief covers a wide range. We are concerned with the
style described in the first paragraph.
some common Christian objections to Islam. The Christian points
to corruption and bad behaviour in so-called Muslim lands; he cites
the warfare Muhammad waged; he denounces polygamy. In response,
it must be said that bad Muslims condemn Islam only if bad Christians
condemn Christianity; warfare disqualifies Muhammad as God's spokesman
only if it also disqualifies Joshua; polygamy condemns Islam only
if it condemns Christianity. (It is Christian culture, not the Christian
religion, which has prohibited polygamy. In the Bible Paul has recommended
monogamy for bishops and Jesus has spoken of the sanctity of the
union but no Bible verse prohibits the practice.)
objections are of this nature. They are the same kind of charges
that national groups or political parties might make against each
other. They are built on those things which one person dislikes
about another person. The attacker does not ask the other man to
justify his position. He simply announces his disgust. By contrast,
a Muslim is concerned that the Christian should justify his position.
that God is "immutable", i.e. unchanging. How then can it
be said that He passed through the state of death? How could He
grow in knowledge? (Luke 2:52). When we forgive a debt it means
that we expect no payment. "The Lord's Prayer" asks God to
forgive our debts the way we forgive our debtors. Why then does
Jesus' have to pay a price for our sins? The usual answers: The
many paradoxes of a God-man, a being simultaneously mortal and immortal
are said to be resolved by the phrase "with God all things are
possible." The "debt of sin" is explained as a misunderstood
term so that the crucifixion was not so much a payment as a necessary
demonstration of God's justice.
As will be shown,
these responses illustrate the Christian difficulty: while he seems
to respond to every question, there is no way to form an explanation
consistent with all those things he has said. Instead, the total
of the answers is a contradictory system. This fact is itself incorporated
into the total. That is, where a logical investigation finds a conflict,
this is covered over by insisting that the love of God is more important,
doubt is a dangerous tendency, and these difficulties are "divine
mysteries" If a person is satisfied with this kind of rationale,
no logical presentation is likely to change his mind. However, for
those who would be motivated by exposure to facts, this booklet
describes the situation in brief. If the Christian feels that a
logical discussion is more than we should expect when considering
religious matters, let him be encouraged by the Biblical passage
at Isaiah 1:16: " . . . come let us reason together."
the responses, the second then the first. The missionary is most
concerned that the non-Christian "take advantage" of the
"ransom sacrifice" of Jesus - otherwise a man is "lost".
But this urgency is based on a price being paid. If we acknowledge
that God is just, we do not need a demonstration of His justice.
But the Christian insists that we must acknowledge the crucifixion
itself, not God's justice, or be lost. Despite his answer, we are
required to acknowledge a debt as paid not forgiven. Even though
the phrase "with God all things are possible" are from the
words of Jesus in the Bible, this proposition actually turns against
Christian belief. It is self-destructive because it says that God
can do "un-Godly" things (act foolishly for example). It
demolishes arguments where it is used. For example:
"The true nature of God is a Trinity."
Muslim: "How can 1+1+1=1?"
Christian: "With God all things are possible."
Muslim: "Then the Trinity is not His nature, how He must
be. It is an option. He could have been 3, 5, 9 or whatever."
These are two
examples of the difficulties which we promised to expose. In general
the pattern is this: A question is asked and an answer is given.
But the answer conflicts with another article of faith or practice.
So, in fact, the original question is not really answered because
the response has not come from Christian belief. Instead it has
come from something in conflict with Christian teaching.
There is a more
basic issue than all that has been discussed so far. If we are only
concerned with the analysis of explanations, we have skipped a point.
The fact is, explanation is not proof. Ask a man why he believes
something and he will usually respond by explaining his belief -
not why it must be true. Whatever a missionary explains to a Muslim,
our first question is really: "Where did you get your explanations?"
On this matter, the missionary almost always holds a minority view
among Christians. The majority of Christians believe the same as
Muslims regarding the Bible.
STATUS OF THE BIBLE
We believe that
the Bible contains the words of God and other material besides.
The "fundamentalist" Christian insists that: all of the Bible
comes from God, without error, at least in the "original manuscripts".
So the Muslim does not attack "God's Word". Rather, he rejects
attributing the status of "God's Word'' to writings which
do not qualify. In recent years the missionary has sometimes tried
to fool the Muslim on this point. The Qur'an talks about "the
Book" of the Christian and Jews. The missionary has told us
that this Book is the Bible.
IMPORTANT QUR'ANIC VERSE ON THE SUBJECT
In fact, the
Qur'an refers to the authentic scriptures and the forgeries in their
possession (See Qur'an 3:77). At least one Qur'anic verse has been
misquoted in missionary literature. By quoting the first half of
Qur'an 5:48 they hope to convince Muslims that we must accept the
total Bible. The verse in its entirety refers to the Qur'an as a
confirmation of previous scriptures and a control. The word translated
control is used to describe quality control in normal Arabic. This
involves rejection of the disqualified. The Qur'an is called the
criterion for judging the false in other scriptures (Qur'an 3:3).
Another verse which is complimentary to those that charge forgery
is, the verse which explains that the Qur'an will make clear much
of that which Christians have concealed or passed over (Qur'an 5:15).
have been made to prove the divine origin of the Bible. These fall
into two categories: an appeal to accuracy and an appeal to miracles.
In the first case we are given a number of historical or scientific
points mentioned in Bible verses. What is left vague is why accurate
statements should imply the work of God. The Bible makes contact
with reality, but so do works of fiction. In fact, a man has to
tell us some truth before he can lie to us. We do not mean to label
the Bible as totally fictitious, but only to point out the weakness
of an argument for divine origin of the Bible which is based on
assorted accurate statements made in Bible verses. There are attempts
made to dazzle us into belief by those who cite miracles performed
by the Bible! For example, Ivan Panin spent 50 years writing over
43,000 pages investigating Bible numericd. There are however, basic
flaws in such an approach. First, Panin builds schemes around the
numbers seven and eleven, and he the position value of letters and
other devices. But the Bible does not state that these things have
any relevance. Nowhere has God said: "Behold the miracle of seven
and eleven!" Second, "numerical miracles" are cited especially
in regard to their the Bible "perfectly preserved" accuracy.
Yet the Bible also contains numerical inconsistencies. Various statistics
in the Biblical books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah
are in conflict and this is excused as being only minor details
which were lost over the years. Preservation of numbers is praised
while the lack of preservation is excused. Third, the "discoveries"
of these researchers tend to be self-reinforcing. For example, Panin
himself revised the New Testament based on his ideas. Where some
text is faulty or doubtful, he decides on the basis of that which
fits his scheme. One author of "theomatics" maintained that
the anonymous book of Hebrews was written by Paul because this would
mean the total number of books in the Bible credited to Paul would
then be equal to fourteen -a multiple of seven.
And there is
the "miracle'' of personal experience: "The Bible is true
because it changed my life." Of course, any piece of literature
is supposed to change the life of a thoughtful reader. To be fair,
believers in the dazzling sort of miracle are less common than those
who appeal on grounds resembling personal experience. In any case
the "miracles" are unrelated to the conclusion that they
are supposed to establish - the divine origin of the entire Bible.
Meanwhile, the appeal to accuracy is also an insufficient premise
to establish this conclusion.
IS THE BIBLE?
As it happens,
the title "Bible" is a name not found in the Bible. Nowhere
does the Bible name itself as a unit. Actually it is at least 66
separate writings which have been bound as one book. The earlier
catalogue of contents that agrees with the present text dates from
the fourth century. This indicates that the Bible has no internal
claim of unity. Of course, the writings speak of other writings,
scriptures and books but not as the unit of today's collection.
Almost the last verse in the Bible commands that "nothing should
be added to or subtracted from this book". While this has been
quoted as a unifying statement, any Christian source will verify
that the last book in the Bible was not the last book written. Thus
the statement can only apply to this particular small book of the
the Bible sum itself up as totally God's word. However, the missionary
argument proceeds this way. At 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that all
scripture is inspired of God. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter says that
Paul is correct because Paul too is a writer of scripture. Surely
this is not supposed to convince anyone! "Paul says so and Peter
says he is right." This kind of argument would not satisfy us
if we were investigating any matter. Moreover, we have Paul's denial
of his own total inspiration at 1 Corinthians 7:25. Here he states
that he writes without God's inspiration on a subject.
About one third
of the books in the Bible claim to be divine revelations while the
others make no such comment. Because of this lack, the Fundamentalist
type of Christian has tried to find other justification for maintaining
his claim, as mentioned above.
ARTICLE OF FAITH
professes: "I believe the Bible to be totally inspired of God,
inerrant in the original manuscripts." On the one hand, this
is a statement of his belief, while on the other hand it is the
basis of his belief: the first because this is said to be his conviction;
the second, because the miraculous aspect of the Bible's inerrancy
convinces him that God is the author. However, the statement cannot
do either job. First, he believes that God ordered the writing of
all the Bible. This must include 1 Corinthians 7:25 where Paul writes
without the command of God - a contradiction. Second, the miraculous
inerrancy of the Bible is something he has never seen. Many Biblical
errors are excused as being copying errors. That is, the original
manuscripts, which are lost forever, are said, to be inerrant but
not those manuscripts which we have today. The statement (intended
to serve as both an article of faith and the justification for such
faith) fails because it is not universally applied in the first
usage and it cites evidence which cannot be produced in the second
Many of the
verses in the Bible seem to contradict each other. However, these
are often matters that can be reconciled by better understanding
of translation and context. This kind of reconciliation is the subject
of many Christian books and is a healthy process. But some have
deceived themselves into thinking that this means every Biblical
contradiction is only apparent and can be explained. Actually there
is another category of contradictions which is not explainable by
consideration of translation or context. It is the existence of
this type of discrepancy that has caused the words "in the original
manuscripts" to be added to any claim that the Bible is free
of error. These are the so-called copying mistakes (e.g. Ezra 2
and Nehemiah 7). Here again the believer in total Bible inspiration
neglects to apply his belief universally. At Isaiah 40:8, the Bible
states that God's word stands forever - it does not get lost in
the re-copying. If the Christian takes this part of the Bible as
inspired how can he admit that other portion have not stood till
now, let alone forever?
At this point
the Christian redefines exactly what he means by God's word. He
says that it is not so much the individual words of the Bible, these
were chosen by the human writers, but the message which is God's
word. So small statistical errors do not invalidate the Bible's
totally divine authority. Once more we have an answer which opposes
a previous claim: it was the supposed amazing accuracy of the individual
words themselves that testified to the divine quality of the Bible.
Now these words are said to be only human efforts under a more vague
"in breathing" (inspiration) of God.
a principle of reliability at Luke 16:10, "He who is faithful
in a very little thing is faithful also in much: and he who is unrighteous
in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." Now the
missionary excuses small mistakes while maintaining that there are
no big mistakes in the Bible. But Jesus' words do not allow for
this separation of small and big errors. So the last Christian answer
is used again: the missionary says that the message is one subject
and it contains no errors big or small, but the actual words of
the Bible might possibly contain error. Both the Muslim and the
Christian should take note of this distinction. The Qur'an talks
about the Injeel of Jesus, meaning the particular message he delivered.
Both the missionary and the careless Muslim may believe that this
Injeel is the same as the four gospels - the Biblical accounts of
the life of Jesus. The Muslim should realize and the Christian should
be ready to admit that the exact words of the four gospel accounts
are not the same as the message of Jesus. The gospels narrate the
events of his life and at times quote him. More correctly, the words
of Jesus are paraphrased in the gospels. His sayings are recast
but not directly quoted necessarily. In fact, the famous "Lord's
Prayer" will be found in two different versions at Matthew 6
and Luke 11. In a similar way, the Qur'an mentions the Torah of
Moses. Again, it must not be imagined that the message of Moses
survives verbatim in today's Bible. A claim like this was made in
the prophet Jeremiah's day, but we read: "How can you say, 'We
are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? Rut behold, the lying
pen of the scribes has made it into a lie." (Jeremiah 8:8):
In the following, we are concerned with the words of Jesus, not
with the things people wrote about him. We do not pick and choose
from the Bible according to what we like, but grant that the fundamentalist
Christian likes all of the Bible. Therefore he should be willing
to discuss any quotation made here, although the Muslim is not conceding
We intend to
use the methods already illustrated to deal with the most basic
issue between Christians and Muslims. The method has been to clarify
what is vague, to expose neglected information, and to finish incomplete
thoughts. This method enables us to turn to the words attributed
to Jesus in the Bible and we can then determine where his words
have been "over specified" - made to say more than
they mean - or where his words have been "twice sold" - given
issue is finally, not whether Jesus was divine, but whether he said
that he was. Let us illustrate and then summarize the method of
investigating the missionary's claim.
In the over
specified category we have such passages as John Chapter 6, John
3:16 and the tenth chapter of John. At 6:41 Jesus says: "I am
the bread that came down out of heaven." In this chapter, he
compares himself to the manna eaten by the Israelites in Moses'
time. Quoting scripture he calls the manna "bread out of heaven",
(Psalm 78:24). The vagueness in this argument is the fact that the
Christian has not stated that he intends to make an exact parallel
between Jesus and the manna: if one comes from heaven, so does the
other. The information he has neglected involves the origin of the
manna. Of course it was not prepared in heaven and then transported
to earth. According to Numbers 11:9, it came from the same place
as the dew. So a thought must be finished. If the Christian maintains
that Jesus literally came out of the heaven where God lives, he
forces a literal meaning from the words while allowing a figurative
meaning for the same words in the case of the manna out of heaven.
John 3:16 is
where the Christian says Jesus claimed status as not just a figurative
son of God but as God's actual "only-begotten" son. Not all
Bible translate the passage with this key word because some translators
have seen the difficulty this causes. At Hebrews 11:17, the same
Greek word is found in the original language. But in this place
it refers to Isaac who was at no time, strictly speaking, Abraham's
only-begotten son. In the case of Isaac the Church explains that
"only-begotten" is not to be understood strictly but must
he modified. However, no such modification is allowed in the case
of John 3:16 when it is over-specified as being literally true.
In the tenth chapter of John we read about the Jews trying to stone
Jesus and saying that he had made himself equal to God. The Christian
agrees with the Jews and overlooks Jesus' reply. He proceeds to
tell them that their own scriptures refer to certain evil men as
"gods". Therefore, he argued that it was even more appropriate
that one actually sent by God should be called a "son of God".
He had also said that it was appropriate to call a peacemaker a
"son of God" (Matthew 5:9). The Jews and Christians over
specify his words when they insist that he has claimed divinity.
There is another poorly conceived argument which is related to this.
Where the Jews have understood Jesus to blaspheme - i.e. claim divine
authority - the Christian says he has proof that Jesus did claim
divinity. The incorrect assumption however, is that the Jews understood
Jesus. For example, they understood him to seize divine authority
when he told a man that his sins were forgiven (Mark 2). But the
verse at John 12:49, among others, shows that Jesus denied any personal
initiative. He spoke only what God commanded him to say.
Still more badly
thought through is an argument based on common Christian misunderstanding.
Muslims agree that Jesus was "the Messiah". Although modern
Bible translations hide the fact, many individuals are called "Messiah"
in the Bible. Christians have come to believe that there is a connotation
of divinity in the word, however. So when they read that Jesus admitted
to being the Messiah and the Jewish High Priest declared it blasphemy,
they feel that they have still more proof that Jesus claimed divinity.
The High Priest could only protest what he thought was a lie - a
slander against God. The Jews were awaiting the Messiah. Were they
also ready to kill the first man who said that he was the Messiah
because such a claim is blasphemous?
In the "twice
sold" category, we have verses like John 10:30 and 14:9. The
first one reads: "I and the Father are one." The Christian
leaves vague exactly what this sentence itself leaves vague: one
what? The overlooked information is found in the Seventeenth Chapter
of John where the same idea occurs more than once and includes the
disciples of Jesus in this oneness. (See John 17:11, 21-22). The
thought that should be finished is this: If Jesus meant to say that
being "one" means being divine then are the disciples also
divine in the same sense as Jesus since the same expression includes
them? As it happens the phrase has been sold twice. The Seventeenth
Chapter verses are quoted in support of unity of purpose while the
Tenth Chapter verse is used to support the claim that Jesus announced
of the Bible have an understanding of scriptures which is quite
reasonable. However, these same students forget their interpretation
at times and sell another one to the Muslim. They do not seem to
notice this double standard. A clear illustration is the case of
John 14:9. Ask where Jesus claimed divinity explicitly and one is
most often shown this verse: "He who has seen me has seen the
Father." Clarification of the argument exhibits the difficulties.
The Christian means to say that if one's eyes sees Jesus, they see
God because Jesus is God. Even this clarification cannot be stated
without trading on something left vague, namely, the Trinitarian
distinction between Father and Son. Jesus said that seeing him was
seeing the Father, yet Jesus is the Son. So they tell us: "read
God for Father." In any case, the argument is self-defeating.
If seeing Jesus is seeing God (or the Father) because they are one
and the same then how could Jesus tell people who were looking at
him that they had never seen or heard God (the Father)? This is
his statement in John 5:37!!! Now the Christian responds to a question
which has not been asked! We have not said that John 14:9 is in
conflict with 5:37 and asked for an explanation. But he proceeds
to explain that the verses are in harmony because they refer to
Jesus as one who reveals what God is like. People who did not receive
Jesus did not "see" God. But our question is how the first
interpretation of John 14:9 can be harmonized with John 5:37. They
have provided a second interpretation for John 14:9 and yet the
next time someone asks them to show a Bible passage where Jesus
claims divinity, be sure that they will go to the first interpretation
and quote this favourite verse: "He who has seen me has seen
STATUS OF THE BIBLE
In such discussions,
several things should be noted. First, the Muslim does not have
to reinterpret Christian scripture. Our duty is to insist that a
man state his case clearly, not in vague terms. We must ask for
all information related to the matter (Where else do we find key
words and phrases in the Bible?). We must demand that thoughts expressed
are carried to their logical conclusion. Let us illustrate again
with another familiar example. An all-purpose quotation is John
14:6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes
to the Father, but through me." Exactly what this verse is supposed
to prove is left vague. Does it prove the divinity of Jesus? Is
it supposed to mean that God listens to no one except Jesus or those
who call on Jesus ? If either of these ideas are to be based on
the verse, we have to consider all the available information. The
dictionary shows that the words "way", "truth", and
"life" do not automatically carry connotations of divinity.
So the Christian insists that the structure of the sentence stresses
the way, the truth, and the life, as though Jesus is unique for
all time. Bill Clinton may be the American President but he is not
the first and probably not the last. So language usage alone does
not do the job. Then another thought must be brought to its conclusion.
"The life" is said to be a state of affairs: one either has
"the life" or not. In this way the verse is used in support
of the redeeming power of Jesus. Yet Jesus himself says: "I came
that they might have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10).
In this passage life is not a state of affairs, either positive
or negative, with no other possible states. Jesus speaks here of
something that can be measured. The verse John 14:6 is used by the
missionary with the vaguest of intentions. Ironically enough, when
his meaning is questioned, this verse becomes probably the most
over-specified of all Bible texts.
are certain non-issues that cannot be treated as though they were
issues. Where the Christian and Muslim agree, there is no argument.
For example: the Qur'an states that in spite of appearances the
crucifixion of Jesus was unsuccessful, that God saved Jesus. The
Christian says that Jesus died and three days later showed himself
to be alive. Where the Christian exceeds his authority disagreement
begins. He does not have proof that Jesus died. He has some anonymous
writings (the Gospels) which say so. However, it was common belief
in the first century among Christians that Jesus was not even crucified.
But this was only one school of thought. Another is represented
in the Bible and it has become the only Christian school of thought
on the matter. The only facts that bear up well under historical
examination are simply these: Jesus appeared to be crucified but
was seen alive a few days later. Insisting that his death is proven
is actually ludicrous. On the one hand we are told that this man
healed cripples, lepers, the blind, and raised the dead. On the
other hand, beating him,, stabbing him and nailing him to a cross
is said to be quite sufficient to kill him. While portrayals of
the crucifixion today tell of a great civic event, there are Bible
references that indicate otherwise. A small gathering in a garden,
where his followers were forced to stand at a distance is indicated
in Luke 23:49 and John 19:41. The Bible describes his post-crucifixion
appearances as an attempt to tell his disciples that in spite of
what they had seen he was alive, not a ghost. If the Christian does
not try to prove the death of Jesus and the Muslim does not try
to prove his own theory of how Jesus avoided death, there is nothing
left to disagree upon. This is precisely the point made in the Qur'an
Third, let us
not be led into believing that certain issues can be treated as
non-issues. More than one missionary has asked Muslims: "What
do you gain by denying the divinity of Jesus?" The questioner
hopes to evade an issue by treating it as unimportant. The answer
to his question was given by Jesus who said, "You shall know
the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Spelling
out the precise disadvantages of belief in any particular falsehood
is a worthwhile exercise, but the general principle of Jesus' words
is sufficient motivation for rejection. The truth is, claiming divinity
for Jesus is based on what people said about Jesus not on what Jesus
himself said. Here is a place to explain the Muslim view of world
religions. Islam is not a competitor among religions. The Qur'an
states that in ancient times every nation had its messengers of
God. Many peoples possessed the truth, but have to varying degrees
added to this knowledge with unsupported claims. So the Muslim believes
that virtually any of the old religions stripped of its excessive
points any thoughtful person towards Islam.
missionary must be consistent. If he admits that Jesus' words were
expanded into Trinitarian doctrine by later generations, then he
is either claiming that Jesus taught his disciples more than is
actually recorded in the Bible, or he is saying that God brought
us knowledge of the Trinity gradually. The first case cannot be
reconciled with Jesus' words at John 18:20, " . . . I spoke nothing
in secret." As for the second case, if the Trinity became known
only to later generations, then one must not insist that Jesus preached
cannot increase content. Deduction is a process of seeing more clearly
that which was already indicated by the evidence. We cannot deduce
more than the evidence contains. This is why we say that the Trinity
cannot be deduced from scripture. The definition of the Trinity
requires a vocabulary not found on the lips of Jesus. At best, the
Christian can point to a verse and say that it is in agreement with
his ideas, but no verse is conclusive evidence of the divinity of
Jesus. The so-called "fallacy of the converse" is the logical
mistake most often made. This means turning the "arrow of implication"
backward, e.g. rain means wet streets but wet streets do not mean
rain. Another example: the appearance of the horizon on the ocean
might be cited as being in harmony with the idea of a flat; earth,
but it certainly does not prove the earth to be flat. Similarly,
some Bible statements might harmonize with the idea of a divine
Jesus but no verse proves the claim.
NATURE OF PROOF
is a very misused word. Proof refers to the establishment of a proposition.
Proof withstands challenges and satisfies tests. But phrases such
as "more proof", "better proof", or "stronger proof"
are abuses of language or misunderstandings. "More proof"
is a deceptive phrase that might lead us to believe that proof is
measured and that people might have proofs of opposite things, but
the winner is the one with more volume of proof. In this case proof
has been confused with evidence. We may have another proof, but
not more proof. When logicians speak of better proof, they are referring
to something called elegance -a quality denoting clarity and simplicity.
They do not refer to validity by this word. Proofs are either valid
or invalid - or occasionally doubted by some until a more elegant
version appears. The expression "stronger proof" describes
not the proof but its assumptions. In general, the fewer the initial
assumptions, the stronger the proof.
This brief explanation
is intended to dispel the notion that proof depends on a man's ability
to say a lot of things which sound plausible. It is content and
quality, not appearance and quantity, that really matter. When the
missionary produces his "proof" it can be shown to be unsatisfactory.
He often concedes this fact but prefers the word "insufficient".
He then claims that God can supply the insufficiencies. This raises
three important points:
1) Proof is
not the sort of thing that we can simply patch over the gaps with
and then call it legitimate. In fact, any valid information contained
in an unsatisfactory proof is unrelated to the conclusions that
one has attempted to prove. For example, the apparent motion of
the planets approximately fits the theory of epicycles which is
part of the theory that puts the earth in the center of the universe.
But the theory is false, which means the trajectories of the planets
in no way support the idea that the earth stands stationary at
the center of the universe.
2) When the
Christian claims that God will "help one to believe" he
argues in a small circle. His claim is based on his proof and
his proof is based on his claim. The dialogue is something like
"I have proof."
Muslim: "But there are gaps in your argument."
Christian: "Ask God to help you believe."
Muslim: "Why should I?" (Claim based on proof.)
Christian: "Because of things I, have shown you."
Muslim: "But these things do not prove anything." (Proof
based on claim.)
3) And finally,
once again the Christian puts himself in a position where he must
contradict his own behavior. When a preacher claims that he has
proof for his beliefs, he should be talking about the kind of
thing one man can give to another -the facts and arguments for
his case. Instead, he admits that his belief is not built on evidence
and analysis, but rests on the faith which God gave him! If faith
is a gift from God then it is not something that one man can give
another man. Missionary efforts would be more honest if it was
stated that the Christian only intends to describe his religion
and invite converts. But much of missionary literature suggests
that Christian belief is built on the kind of evidence that could
win a court case.
Christian has two views of "faith". Faith is said to be a
gift of God, but there is another thought he expresses when confronted
as in the last paragraph. Speaking from personal experience: We
tell a man that his evidence will not stand a thorough examination
and he hurls an accusation that we are stubborn. As mentioned already,
he carelessly interprets historical accuracy in the Bible as proof
that it speaks only the truth on every matter. Turning the confusion
backwards, he then says that if we doubt any passage in the Bible,
we must doubt every book of history. But history is not our opponent.
We are opposed to a particular doctrine built on the interpretation
of a very small collection of quotations of Jesus. But before we
can make this point, the second view of faith occurs to him. "If
all things could be proven, where is the merit in believing?",
he asks. In other words, he does not want final proof. He feels
that a pledge of loyalty - a bold leap into belief is actually the
act that brings salvation. So having faith means an effort that
brings reward and yet faith is a gift from God that we do not deserve.
Resolving this irony is the Christian's business. Our point here
is only "honesty in advertising" If the foundations of Christianity
are loyalty to the interpretation of scripture, it should not be
advertised that Christianity stands on that which has been established
in clarity - i.e. proven explicitly.
Of course one
might ask if the points raised in this article cannot be applied
to Islam. So in the same order as above, let us consider Islamic
doctrine and the status of the Qur'an subjected to similar arguments.
What could be
identified as theology in Islam contains no contradictory mysteries
for the simple reason that the Qur'an reveals God by revealing His
attributes and His will. That is, descriptions of God and worship
given to God are due to Him because of His position as God. There
is no incarnation doctrine leading to the combination of Godly and
un-Godly attributes in one individual. Islam does not ask one to
believe in anything outside of reason. The resurrection of the dead,
for example, is no more than today's researchers in biology have
considered. Soviet scientists once reproducing an extinct species
of elephant by the use of a microscopic unit of long dead gene material.
A subtle point is found in the precise grammar of the Qur'an's description
of God's power. We do not read: "With God all things are possible."
More correctly, we read instead: "Over all things, God has power."
These things are the things He created. These things include good
and evil since these words are relative descriptions. For example,
the good of the vulture is good for the vulture, but evil for a
man. This is the contrast in Islam between Good and Evil: beneficial
versus harmful. All things originate with God including the rules
which bring harm on the evildoer. So it is that the Qur'an states
that God rewards, but wrong done brings harm on the doer in the
settling of accounts.
The Qur'an does
not present us with mysteries of faith. Instead it is a guide. Left
to ourselves we could not reproduce its contents because our research
is largely trial and error. The error would prove disastrous - before
we accomplished the project. So while the Qur'an is beyond reasoning,
it is not beyond reason - given the guidance, we can verify its
OF THE QUR'AN
the Qur'an announces itself as a sufficient sign (e.g. 29:49). Although
the Muslims of Muhammad's time were a persecuted minority, their
opposers never answered the challenge of the Qur'an, as it says:
"And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from
time to time to our servant, then produce a chapter like it. And
call your witnesses or helpers besides God if you are correct."
OF THE QUR'AN
The Qur'an promises
its own preservation (15:9). It mentions itself by name about seventy
times. The Arabic word "Qur'an" means "recitation".
Reciting the Qur'an is part of a Muslim's daily prayer. In addition
to careful writing of copies, there has always been this double
checking of its contents. Gather any small number of sincere Muslims
together and it is possible to repeat the Qur'an from their collected
memories. Some centuries ago an aberrant group claimed that there
was more to the Qur'an than now available. Their embarrassment has
been the fact that even in this century there are copies of the
Qur'an that date from centuries before the time of this controversy.
Recently a prominent missionary dishonestly challenged the authenticity
of Qur'anic manuscripts. He claimed that twenty different people,
governments or institutions claim to possess the oldest copy of
the Qur'an. The thought he wants his audience to finish is that
there are twenty versions of the Qur'an. The truth is, all the ancient
copies agree letter for letter with today's text. Which one happens
to be the oldest is irrelevant to considerations of authenticity.
The very words
of the Qur'an are the message of the Qur'an. The speaker is God,
not His spokesman recasting matters in his own words. Islam was
not founded by Muhammad. God's message was given by prophets in
every nation since at least the time of Adam. The particular religious
observances of Islam and use of the term Muslim were well known
in the time of Abraham. (See the Qur'an at 22:78; 2:135; 3:67-68;
16:123.) While the Prophet Muhammad is said to be a good example
for us (33:21) the same is said of Abraham, word for word, at 60:4.
The vital point here is that Islam is not the cult following of
a man. Muhammad himself was told to make all his judgments by referring
to the Qur'an (5:48-51). The Prophet was also told to ask for forgiveness,
especially when he knew his death was approaching, for it is God
alone that must be called on and asked for forgiveness (Chapter
110 and 40:12). The Prophet himself was corrected by admonitions
in the Qur'an (e.g. Chapter 80).
In spite of
an abundance of such considerations that show the Qur'an and the
practices of Islam as something separate from the man Muhammad,
the Christian insists that the Qur'an was his own invention. They
simultaneously maintain that he was a forger and a psychotic - that
he deceived and was deceived on the same issue. They say that he
lied about being a prophet and yet they say that he himself believed
that he was a prophet! Of course, a man cannot be both true and
false to himself regarding precisely the same point: If he believes
he is a prophet, he does not fool people into believing him. The
Qur'an itself denounces forgery (10:15-18).
difficulty is that they need both hypotheses: the forger and the
psychotic, to begin to explain the existence of the Qur'an. They
need to name the Prophet as a forger because he had an outside source.
For example, the Qur'an recites material unknown to the Arabs and
yet recognized as correct by a learned Israelite in the Prophet's
time (11:49; 10:94; 26:197). They need to name the Prophet as a
psychotic because he obviously was moved to behave as though he
was a prophet. For example, against everyone's better judgment,
the Qur'an announces the behaviour of Muhammad's worst enemy - Abu
Lahab. This man used to contradict every item of Islam, but in ten
years never seized the chance to contradict the Qur'an's contents
(Chapter 111). Until now there are similar statements in the Qur'an;
the very instructions are given to those who wish to demolish the
Qur'an; e.g. 5:82 tells Jews how to prove the Qur'an false.
As a last resort,
there is a third hypothesis made by the missionary. Given an outside
source for the Qur'an and Muhammad's sincerity, they suggest that
he was deceived by Satan. The missionary steps deeper into difficulty
with this suggestion. The Qur'an itself tells us that we should
seek refuge in God from Satan before reading the Qur'an (16:98).
Satan has undone himself here, if he is the author. (Compare Jesus'
words at Mark 3:26). In any case, the biggest complaint against
mankind voiced in the Qur'an is his unsupported claims "let them
produce their proof" is the repeated admonition. A direct challenge
regarding this last hypothesis is found at 4:82: "Have they not
carefully considered the Qur'an? If it came from other than God,
surely they would have found in it many inconsistencies."
OF THE QUR'AN
Now the Muslim
would not consider using as an excuse that some of the Qur'an has
been lost in recopying. He will only insist that the Qur'an is the
Arabic text and not a translation. The Arabic text is complete.
A small effort has been made to produce contradictions in the Qur'an.
The points made are fatuous. We have to wonder about the mental
capability or the honesty of those who have brought forward these
items. Some examples follow:
* The Bible
reports that the Jews sarcastically addressed Jesus as "Messiah"
(or the Greek equivalent "Christ") at the crucifixion
(Mark Chapter 15). Despite this, one Toronto group of missionaries
has insisted that a Jew would never do this and so the Qur'an
must be in error at 4:157!!!
* The Qur'an
commands that a man provide equally for each wife should he
marry more than one. An active religious propaganda center in
Rochester, New York, claims that this contradicts the fact that
a man is restricted to four wives at most. They have mistaken
the contrapuntal for the contradictory.
common challenge is that the Qur'an states that God does not
guide the wrongdoers. This is said to contradict the statement
that God guides whom He pleases (28:50; 35:8). Actually the
verses are complimentary, telling us that God chooses not to
guide the wrongdoers.
Related to this
kind of thing we have the charge made that the Qur'an does not have
an understanding of Christianity. As it happens, the Qur'an denounces
many beliefs which are considered heretical by Christians. Instead
of rejoicing that Muslims reject the same heresies as Christians,
the missionary insists that Muslims have been given only a misunderstanding
of Christianity. This claim can only be made by deliberate hiding
or careless ignoring of the facts. The Qur'an deals in detail with
the most precise points of Christian doctrine.
misunderstanding concerns the so-called doctrine of abrogation.
At: 16:10, "And when We change any Ayah for an Ayah - and God
knows best what He reveals - they say: 'You are only a forger'.
Nay, most of them know not." The word Ayah here can mean
sign, message, or verse. So it is that many Christians have imagined
that some verses of the Qur'an were changed. Some Muslims seem to
agree when they say that some verses cancel other verses. Their
difficulty is with language. The Christians misunderstand (or misinterpret)
the word cancel (actually the Arabic word "naskh"). For example,
the Qur'an commands one not to pray when drunk. Since the Qur'an
was revealed gradually over a period of twenty three years, a later
verse forbade intoxicants. But this later verse does not cancel
the earlier one. Compare restricted drug laws in most countries:
There are laws giving penalties for possession, but other laws penalizing
those who sell these drugs. Yet the first kind of law does not cancel
the second kind. The missionary trades on this misunderstanding,
hoping to cause confusion. However, he seizes the opportunity too
quickly. All charges of abrogation are said to apply to legal matters.
However the verse of 16:101 refers to something that had already
happened. Yet this verse was revealed in Mecca. All verses relating
to legal matters were revealed later in Medina. There is no inconsistency
in the Qur'an - remember, this is the claim of 4:82.
The best explanation
of the Qur'an is the Qur'an itself. The clarification of 16:101
is found at 2:106. Here the same thought is expressed but this time
the context shows that the Jews were being addressed. The word Ayah
refers then to previous messages of the prophets. In particular,
some of the Jewish Law was supplanted by the Qur'an. (Compare the
words of Jesus reported in the Qur'an at 3:49.)
interpretation of the Bible. Is the Qur'an subject to misinterpretation?
Certainly it is, and for the same reason that the Bible is - namely,
the isolating of certain passages from those verses which explain
them. Our point was not that the misinterpretation of the Bible
was to be blamed on the Bible itself. Rather, the origin of the
problem is the carelessness of men.
In the preceding
section, the first three points have already been addressed to both
Christians and Muslims. The fourth and the fifth may be dealt with
by simply mentioning two points. First, the only "evolved"
item in Islam is judicial decision. New circumstances bring new
problems which must be ruled upon by the original principles. This
is a body of knowledge that grows. Second, the most intelligent
of Muslim scholars have always been ready to admit where they have
crossed over into speculation. No mental consideration has ever
led to the widespread acceptance of a theological doctrine which
was unknown to the Muslims of Muhammad's time.
GOOD NEWS OF ISLAM
Muslim really has something that one man can give to another: the
Qur'an. This Book speaks to each reader asking him to consider the
things that every man must admit. The reader is asked to arrange
this collection of facts into a coherent whole and think on it.
By reminding us of facts the Qur'an makes contact with reality as
the Bible does. But the key difference in Christian and Muslim thought
appears in the next step. The facts are not simply a feature of
the Qur'an. The things we come to believe in are directly based
on these facts, deduced from them in the legitimate sense of the
word. The good news of Islam is that a man who loves truth, detests
falsehood, and fears only God has moved toward Islam and thus ultimate