Islam's Bizarre Philosophical Problem
When attacking an epistemological structure, it is a often a waste of time to attack the consequences of a belief system when one can cut it down at the root. Islam has such a bizarre problem. And Muslims avoid it, for fear it would cause the whole religion to collapse.
Islam, like Judaism, is monadic. It only admits of a hard absolutely unitary deity.
However, Islam makes an amazing contradictory statement: the Koran is eternal.
This introduces a real problem. Anything which is eternal is, by definition, deity. And that strikes at the very core of Islam's claim to a hard monotheism.
[T]he Noble Quran, as is, is forever Preserved by Allah Almighty, and therefore Its Holy Words are Eternal. -- Answering Christianity, an Islamic site.
This... sums up the doctrine of the massive majority of the Muslims, namely the People of the Sunna and the Congregation, concerning the pre-existent, pre-eternal, beginningless, and uncreated nature of the Divine Speech Allah Most High has named al-Qur'an -- Sunnah.org
Here is their disaster. If the Koran is uncreated, the Koran is a deity. Think about it. But if the Koran is God, and Allah is God, the Islamic doctrine of hard monadic monotheism falls apart.
This is no mere sleight of hand. A few early Muslims noted the inconsistency and met an unhappy fate for bringing it up.
He said about someone who said that the Qur'an is created, "He is an unbeliever, so kill him." He said in the version of Ibn Nafi', "He should be flogged and painfully beaten and imprisoned until he repents." In the version of Bishr ibn Bakr at-Tinnisi we find, "He is killed and his repentance is not accepted." -- Answering Islam, a Christian site.
To understand this issue, one must put on his thinking cap, and use it for more than superficial speculation.
Anything, whether thing or thought, which is good, must ultimately be a mere reflection of some aspect or quality found in the deity. If something exists, whether thought or thing, which is totally independent of the deity, then it stands apart from the deity, and must be co-divine.
Of course, someone will answer, what about horses? Are you saying horses are divine?
No! But think for a second: Why are horses admired? Because they are a reflection of simultaneous gracefulness with power. The latter two: grace and power, are aspects of the divine, and if the deity wanted to create something which reflected His grace and power, He could not do better than to make a horse. The concept of the horse, and the horse itself, do not stand as fully independent from the deity, even though the horse, itself, is clearly not divine.
But what about love? Isn't love eternal?
Herein lies the problem. If love exists apart from the deity, love would be a deity. The Christian scripture says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but it does not say Love is God.
So even love is not eternal, except that it is an aspect of God.
Herein lies the next problem. If love is an aspect of the deity, it signifies that there must be someone to love. If there was no one to love, then love would be a concept that stood apart from the deity itself. Hence, a philosophical argument for the existence of “the other to love” inside the deity, itself. And, if one is paying attention, we have just backed into a philosophical proof why the deity cannot be a hard monad… or in layman's terms, we have just laid the philosophical foundation for more than one person or personality within the deity; hence, the justification for the Trinity. This is the major difference between present day Judaism and Christianity as well as between Islam and Christianity.
Coming back to Islam, this bizarre monadic view of the deity strikes at the very Koran they claim to revere. If their Word of Allah (the Koran) is eternal, then the Koran is deity.
In Christianity, we see a reflection of this tension; but unlike Islam, we draw the proper conclusion.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. -- John 1:1 (KJV)
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us... -- John 1:14 (KJV)
Christianity admits that if God's Word is eternal, he is co-deity, a personality: Jesus Christ. And we understand a difference between the personal Word of God (Jesus) who is eternal, and the written word of God (The Bible) which is not eternal, but whose books had a point of creation in time.
There will be those who ask, didn't Jesus say, “My words will never pass away?” (Matthew 24:35 – NIV). However, forever is not eternal. Eternal is apart from time. Forever means without end in the future. Jesus said his words would live on. He did not say they were eternal.
This is not mere word games. The whole gospel of John depends on this. It is written in Greek to a people who were the founders of philosophy. (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.). John was walking into a minefield when he wrote. The Romans might give the gospel a glance, and take it or leave it; but Greeks would dissect it and tear it to shreds, if it was not logically consistent. The Greeks understood such problems. So John dealt with them right up front, in the opening of his gospel.
Paul understood this, too. Early in his ministry, he walked onto Mars Hill in Athens (See Acts 17:22-31), where the Greeks had set apart a place for philosophers and wannabe philosophers to contest in their ideas. In Rome, if a philosopher stood up and started speaking, a centurion would have stepped over and said, “Move on, citizen. You are blocking the forum.” In Greece, they prided themselves on listening. In America, our discussions are more inside, but I believe London has a similar area at Speaker's Corner.
So Christianity, aware of the root foundational issue, addressed it head on. In Paul's case, he walked right into ground zero for world philosophy: Mars Hill, while John started off his gospel with the declaration of the Word in the first verse.
Islam, however, is so sloppily constructed that they probably did not realize the problem until later on, when some intellects among them -- almost certainly schooled in Greek philosophy -- stood up to say, “Hey, habibi! We have a real problem, here.”
The Muslim response, as ever, was to kill the messenger.
This is not a mind game. If properly stated, one can explain this to a Muslim in two to three minutes; and one can then tell them that Christianity solves the problem by having an Eternal Word, who is co-deity: Jesus Christ.
The reader will ask: Isn’t the Christian promised eternal life, and the Christian is not deity?
Yes: but the life promised is Christ’s life, not our own. Hence we are Christ’s body.
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (NIV)
Col 1:27 … Christ in you, the hope of glory.
By the way, it would be fallacy to conflate this Islamic problem with Mormonism. Though both Mohammed and Joseph Smith both claimed to have been told to read tablets from angels, Mormonism never said the Book of Mormon was eternal. That is a uniquely Islamic problem.
The astute will notice that Judaism is also monadic, and will ask: “Doesn't Judaism have the same problem?”
Not exactly! Judaism never said that the Tenach (Old Testament) was co-eternal with God; and they admit that the written word had a creation point in history.
Ah, but some will say: “You're fudging. Okay maybe Judaism does not have the problem of an eternal text, but what about the problem of love that you brought up earlier? If God is a monad, then where did love come from?”
Well, that is a major reason why I am Christian, not a Jew nor a Noahide.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago. He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com. He also just started a website about small computers at http://minireplacement.com.