Friday, March 7, 2008

The Qur’an, Muhammad and polemical Evangelical apologetics.


As I pointed out in my Friday, February 15, 2008 post, “James White, during the last few months, has spent a considerable amount of time attacking Islam, and in particular, the Qur’an”. Subsequent to this post I noticed a thread at Beggar’s All which related the following to its readers:

"The Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima states Mary’s divinity. Mary is God, Mary is the Soul of the Holy Spirit....Mary is God, is the Final Dogma of the Holy Catholic Church…"

In the combox, I pointed out that the worship of Mary by Christians is nothing new, and linked to the above mentioned AF post. This precipitated a ‘firestorm’, a barrage of anti-Islam/Muhammad comments, spilling over into two subsequent threads on BA (HERE, and HERE), and a third at this BLOG (run by the BA poster known as “Turretinfan”).

The basic premise of our Evangelical polemicists (amateur and professional) is that the Qur’an/Muhammad taught that the “orthodox” doctrine of the Trinity consisted of the Father, the Son/Christ and Mary (the Mother), with Mary replacing the Holy Spirit as the third PERSON of the Trinity; and as such, was critiquing what was believed to be the “orthodox” position, not a heretical position. With this presupposition in mind, the next step involves the negative statement that NO Christian (“orthodox” and/or heretical) EVER believed this.

There are some problems with the above polemic (including the variations and nuances stemming from it), the rest of this post will delineate those problems.

Problem #1 – Most Christian Islamic scholars do not believe that the Qur’an is addressing the “orthodox” doctrine of the Trinity (in any of its numerous post-Nicene variations, e.g. Western/Catholic, Eastern/Orthodox, social, relational, et al.), but rather heretical conceptions, which may include one or more of the following: Origenism, Tritheism, Monarchianism (modalistic and/or adoptionistic), Collyridianism, and any notion of the one God comprising a combination of the Father, the Son/Christ and Mary (the Mother)—whether as a Trinity, or in a Tritheistic sense.

Problem #2 – All of the above heresies existed prior to the compilation of the Qur’an, including the last one; and there is NO historical data suggesting that any of them ceased to exist prior to the beginning of the 7th century.

Problem #3 – The failure to grasp the full context surrounding the selective ayat they invoke. For instance, when Surah 5.116 is interpreted by our polemicists, they neglect/ignore one of the most basic themes of the Surah: the condemnation of false practices and teachings. If one keeps this in mind, the efforts by the polemicists to portray Muhammad as being ignorant of what the varying sects of Christians “really” believed in his day becomes quite dubious.


To illustrate this point, I would like to now examine a few selections from Surah 5 (I will be using Marmaduke’s Pickthall's, The Meaning of the Glorius Koran – Dorset Press edition.)


15 O People of the Scripture! Now hath Our messenger come unto you, expounding unto you much of that which ye used to hide in the Scripture, and forgiving much. now hath come unto you light from Allah and plain Scripture,

16 Whereby Allah guideth him who seeketh His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He bringeth them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guideth them unto a straight path.

17 They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say: Who then can do aught against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth ? Allah's is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He createth what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things.
(Page 98.)

This passage is addressing either modalism or Monophysitism; both are considered heretical.

72 They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. (Page 103.)

Once again, the Qur’an is addressing either modalism or Monophysitism.

73 They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. (Page 103.)

This ayah is clearly addressing Tritheism, and not any form of Trinitarianism. Allah is not a “third” of “three” [gods]. (That the term “third” (thalith/thalithu) is referring one of three separate gods, is made clear in Surah 53.19, 20.)

116 And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah ? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden ?

117 I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things.
(Page 107.)

This passage, once again, is addressing Tritheism, and not any form of Trinitarianism. The Arabic is clearly distinguishing two [gods] beside/apart from Allah (min dooni Allahi). No amount of sophistry will morph this passage into a form of Trinitarianism.

Conclusion: All of the above passages are addressing heretical Christian doctrines, and not the “orthodox” Christian position.

Postscript: The purpose of this post is a simple one—an attempt to address certain erroneous methods employed by Evangelical polemicists in their dealings with Islam, Muslims, the Qur’an, and Muhammad. In is my sincere and prayerful hope that this attempt has been a God honoring and fruitful one.


Grace and peace,

David

9 comments:

Ken Temple said...

17 They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. . . .

This passage is addressing either modalism or Monophysitism; both are considered heretical.

David,
Interesting articles and discussion. I just now saw this; so I hope you don’t mind me jumping into this 2-3 month old discussion.

How exactly is this Modalism or Monophysitism?

I can see how it would be in the direction of Modalism if it said, "God the Father became the Messiah", but since Islam rejects the fatherhood of God, from day one in the early Meccan Surahs (Al Ikhlas, 112, etc.); it does not seem to be directly saying that - that it is modalism. Either way, Islam rejects all three, and Muhammad, being illiterate, and seeing that words like “Evangel” (good news, gospel in Greek), becoming “Injeel” when they came into Arabic, it is easy to see how Muhammad would confuse a doctrine like the Trinity.

How is it Mono-physitism, since the issue there is the nature of Christ, not the Trinity?

Monophysites (they prefer the term, Mia-physite) in Egypt, Syria (Jacobites), and Armenia, and Ethiopia believe in the Trinity.

My understanding is that they believe the human nature of Jesus was "swallowed up" by the divine nature and that Jesus is only one person with one nature, a divine nature. They rejected the Chalcedonian formula of "one person with 2 natures".

Further, Muhammad, as far as we know from the records and the Hadith, got his information from supposed "Christians", some of them named in the Hadith and Tarikh and Sirat -- Warqqa b. Naufal, who is said to have been a cousin of Khadija the Prophet's wife, and to have been a Christian (some sources say he knew Hebrew also), Bihira, and Abu Jaal (sp?- I need to look up the exact spelling and correct that later) and others, both nominal, orthodox, and heretical groups; and with the Marian beliefs of "Theotokos" (mother of God) and perpetual Virgin becoming more prominent; and with practices of praying to her and lighting candles to statues and pictures; it seems obvious that Muhammad mis-understood the doctrine of the Trinity; along with other heresies around in N. Arabia, (the Collyridians, per Ephiphanius' information, even if they survived until the 5-6th centuries) -- even today, when a Muslim looks at what the Pope and other Roman Catholics do with Mary -- icons, statues, praying to her, calling her "The Mother of the God", praising her; the Muslims see "worship", even though in official documents of the RCC, this is denied. The zeal of many "orthodox" Roman Catholics is easily interpreted by the Muslims as "worshiping Mary".

Seems like it was both, that Surah 5:116 was influenced both by
a. heresies
b. orthodox who, because of the icons and statures and Marian practices and piety, praying to her and praising her and bowing down in front of statues and icons; was a mis-interpretation of the Trinity

So it seems it was both heretical groups, Gnostic groups (The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, where Mohammad got the story of Jesus speaking from the crib and making a clay bird and then breathing into it and then it flew away, etc.; and the entry of legend of the Seven Sleepers in the Cave near Ephesus, into the Qu’ran. ); Monophysites, Collyridians, Nestorians, Arians, Ebionites, and the Marianites. This is in addition to many other garbled stories of Jewish writings and the twisting or changing at least one detail of every Biblical story mentioned in the Quran, and the other Jewish writings.

2. and also seeing the "orthodox" eastern Catholics at that time (later becoming a division between Eastern Orthodox and RCC) with their Marian practices.

A Muslim today, and all throughout history, looking at Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox from the outside, with all the Mary emphasis, prayers to her, statues, icons, bowing down, and praises in written prayers, would confirm in the Muslim’s minds that Surah 5:116 is right; the Christians actually worship God, Jesus, and Mary. They don’t even know who the Holy Spirit it.
Sincerely,
Ken Temple

Ken Temple said...

David,
I hope you don't mind me asking these questions.

How did you come to have so many books on Islam and what is your story in how you converted to the Roman Catholic Church?

Correct me if I am wrong; but are you a former evangelical/Protestant?

What was your background?

Sincerely,
Ken Temple

David Waltz said...

Hello Ken,

Welcome to Articuli Fidei! I would like to thank you upfront very for the email that you sent me yesterday, informing me of your comments.

You wrote:

KT:>>David,
Interesting articles and discussion. I just now saw this; so I hope you don’t mind me jumping into this 2-3 month old discussion.>>

Me: It is always a pleasure to dialogue with someone who is both knowledgeable and gracious.

KT:>>How exactly is this Modalism or Monophysitism?

I can see how it would be in the direction of Modalism if it said, "God the Father became the Messiah", but since Islam rejects the fatherhood of God, from day one in the early Meccan Surahs (Al Ikhlas, 112, etc.); it does not seem to be directly saying that - that it is modalism. Either way, Islam rejects all three, and Muhammad, being illiterate, and seeing that words like “Evangel” (good news, gospel in Greek), becoming “Injeel” when they came into Arabic, it is easy to see how Muhammad would confuse a doctrine like the Trinity.>>

Me: One can approach the Qur’anic statement, “Allah is the Messiah” in one of two distinct manners: first, Muhammad did not know what he was talking about; second; Muhammad was addressing heretical concepts and not the creedal doctrine of the Trinity. As you know, modalistic monarchianism taught that Jesus was God [the Father], and as such, was also termed Patripassionism—i.e. God the Father became incarnate as Jesus the Messiah, suffered and died on the Cross—this, IMHO, is clearly denied by the Qur’an, but this does not in and of itself lend clarity as to how Muhammad himself understood Catholic/Orthodox Christianity.

KT:>>How is it Mono-physitism, since the issue there is the nature of Christ, not the Trinity?

Monophysites (they prefer the term, Mia-physite) in Egypt, Syria (Jacobites), and Armenia, and Ethiopia believe in the Trinity.

My understanding is that they believe the human nature of Jesus was "swallowed up" by the divine nature and that Jesus is only one person with one nature, a divine nature. They rejected the Chalcedonian formula of "one person with 2 natures".>>

Me: Personally I am ‘split’ over whether or not the Qur’anic passage is addressing either modalism or monophysitism. If one identifies Allah as God the Father then I would say modalism; however, if Allah has reference to divinity as such, then monophysitism.

KT:>>Further, Muhammad, as far as we know from the records and the Hadith, got his information from supposed "Christians", some of them named in the Hadith and Tarikh and Sirat -- Warqqa b. Naufal, who is said to have been a cousin of Khadija the Prophet's wife, and to have been a Christian (some sources say he knew Hebrew also), Bihira, and Abu Jaal (sp?- I need to look up the exact spelling and correct that later) and others, both nominal, orthodox, and heretical groups; and with the Marian beliefs of "Theotokos" (mother of God) and perpetual Virgin becoming more prominent; and with practices of praying to her and lighting candles to statues and pictures; it seems obvious that Muhammad mis-understood the doctrine of the Trinity; along with other heresies around in N. Arabia, (the Collyridians, per Ephiphanius' information, even if they survived until the 5-6th centuries) -- even today, when a Muslim looks at what the Pope and other Roman Catholics do with Mary -- icons, statues, praying to her, calling her "The Mother of the God", praising her; the Muslims see "worship", even though in official documents of the RCC, this is denied. The zeal of many "orthodox" Roman Catholics is easily interpreted by the Muslims as "worshiping Mary".>>

Me: Once again, whether one proceeds with the belief that Muhammad was ignorant of creedal Catholic/Orthodox Christianity or not, both sides agree that Qur’an was NOT addressing the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. (BTW, another excellent source for Muhammad’s dealings with Christians is Ibn Ishaq’s The Life of Muhammad – which has been translated into English by Guillaume.)

KT:>>Seems like it was both, that Surah 5:116 was influenced both by
a. heresies
b. orthodox who, because of the icons and statures and Marian practices and piety, praying to her and praising her and bowing down in front of statues and icons; was a mis-interpretation of the Trinity

So it seems it was both heretical groups, Gnostic groups (The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, where Mohammad got the story of Jesus speaking from the crib and making a clay bird and then breathing into it and then it flew away, etc.; and the entry of legend of the Seven Sleepers in the Cave near Ephesus, into the Qu’ran. ); Monophysites, Collyridians, Nestorians, Arians, Ebionites, and the Marianites. This is in addition to many other garbled stories of Jewish writings and the twisting or changing at least one detail of every Biblical story mentioned in the Quran, and the other Jewish writings.

2. and also seeing the "orthodox" eastern Catholics at that time (later becoming a division between Eastern Orthodox and RCC) with their Marian practices.>>

Me: This may very well be the case; but I remain open to the other possibility.

KT:>>A Muslim today, and all throughout history, looking at Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox from the outside, with all the Mary emphasis, prayers to her, statues, icons, bowing down, and praises in written prayers, would confirm in the Muslim’s minds that Surah 5:116 is right; the Christians actually worship God, Jesus, and Mary. They don’t even know who the Holy Spirit it.>>

Me: I have no doubt that Marian devotions can/have and do exceed the limits RCC and EO official dogma; as such, I can concur with your assessment of “Muslim’s minds” (for the vast majority) as to what they think Christians actually believe.


Hope I have been of some assistance. Please feel free to continue our dialague ‘take-me-to-task’ on any issues you may feel I have been deficient on, and/or need further clarification.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

On to your second post; you wrote:

KT:>>David,
I hope you don't mind me asking these questions.>>

Me: I don’t mind in the least.

KT:>>How did you come to have so many books on Islam and what is your story in how you converted to the Roman Catholic Church?>>

Me: A very good Christian friend of mine converted to the Bahai Faith in the late 90’s; this event prompted my in depth study into Islam.

KT:>>Correct me if I am wrong; but are you a former evangelical/Protestant?

What was your background?>>

Me: I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness (4th generation). After 1975, I began to have grave doubts about the sect, and through some intense study and prayer, ended up officially leaving the JW’s in 1983. These events were the impetus behind the growth of my library and my deep study into the numerous aspects of Christianity: patristics, theology, history, denominationalism, et al.

This intense study that had its start back in 1975 eventual led to my entrance into the Catholic Church in 2002. However, my study continues, and I remain open to what God and His Word has yet to teach me—which includes the remote possibility that my 2002 choice may not have been the correct one.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken Temple said...

if Allah has reference to divinity as such, then monophysitism.

Thanks for your answers. I don't really understand the above phrase.

I still don't see how you get monophysitism out of the Qur'anic denouncements of "Allah is the Messiah".

Many Muslims understand us as saying "Jesus became God", like Adoptionism, a human becoming God or the Logos coming into the Messiah later, like at His baptism; -- many Sufi Muslims interpret things that way; and Sufism is very close to Gnosticism; a modern Middle eastern form of Gnosticism.

Ken Temple said...

I am glad you are not a Jehovah's Witness anymore.

Did you become Protestant for a while until joining the RCC ?

The Newman quote at the bottom of your blog would seem to indicate that.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the continuing dialogue. You wrote:

KT:>> I still don't see how you get monophysitism out of the Qur'anic denouncements of "Allah is the Messiah".>>

Me: Monophysitism teaches one person and one nature; that one nature being fully divine, fully God. Catholic/Orthodox Christianity accepts one person, two natures; as such, the Son of God’s human nature, his nature as the Messiah, was not fully divine, it was fully human. Once again:

Me: Personally I am ‘split’ over whether or not the Qur’anic passage is addressing either modalism or monophysitism. If one identifies Allah as God the Father then I would say modalism; however, if Allah has reference to divinity as such, then monophysitism.

KT:>> Many Muslims understand us as saying "Jesus became God", like Adoptionism, a human becoming God or the Logos coming into the Messiah later, like at His baptism; -- many Sufi Muslims interpret things that way; and Sufism is very close to Gnosticism; a modern Middle eastern form of Gnosticism.>>

Me: I learned early on that one needs to distinguish between what the Qur’an actually says, and the interpretations of differing Islamic sects. My study of Ismailism and some of the smaller Shia’ sects was a real eye-opener.

KT:>> Did you become Protestant for a while until joining the RCC ?>>

Me: Yes, Prot for 18 years.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken Temple said...

David,
Yes, I am enjoying this ongoing discussion.

I appreciated your honesty about Newman and sharing J.N. Darby's critique of Newman. Very interesting! I am looking forward to reading that very carefully. I read a few pages and get tired of the old syntax and way of writing; difficult to understand quickly; drains my brain a little; but I want to read all of it.

Do you think that was a better critique than Salmon, Whitaker, or Goode ?

On Monophysitism; yes, that is the Orthodox doctrine -- Jesus is one person in two natures; and Monophysitism believed the human nature was "swallowed up" by the divine, right? Did they not believe in Jesus' human nature while on earth?

Surely there were Byzantines/Chaledonians in Egypt, Syria, Levant, etc. -- Most church histories about that period say, "The persecuted Monophysites in Egypt and Syria and Nestorians in Mesopotamia welcomed the Arabs as liberators."

Is there any real proof of this?

Bishop Sophrinius in Jerusalem was Chalcedonian/orthodox and he did not seem to "welcome" Omar as a liberator.

But is there evidence in the first 300 years of Islam that Muhammad and the Caliphs after him really understood those distinctions within Christendom? (Chaledonian vs. Monophysite vs. Nestorian, etc)

yes, Ismaili Shiism is really weird, as is Alavie (Alawites - Shiites who believe Ali was a manifestation of Allah). Sufi'ism was a reaction against dry doctrinal, orthodox Islam (in its extreme form, Wahabism in SA and Taliban Afghanistan) for experience with God.

Grace and peace to you also - God is good - Romans 8:32-39

Ken Temple said...

Those links you gave to "Islamic Awareness" -- do you think they are being honest about their textual criticism?

Since you agreed that those books you cited were to defend the Uthmanic text; was not in the end, James White correct in his article?

Have you read Ali Dasti's 23 Years ?
(A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad) Ali Dashti was arrested at the time of the Islamic Revolution and beaten and interrogated and broke his thigh, according to the translator; afterward he mysteriously died with no details, except that he died.