Saturday, February 9, 2013

Casting Down Imaginations


One of the reasons Islam appeals to some people is because of the vaunted simplicity of its conception of Allah, i.e. what Muslims call tawheed or Allah’s absolute oneness. This most important part of the Islamic creed (aqidah) is supposedly so simple that even a child can understand it.

Contrast this with the doctrine of the Trinity, the teaching that God is tri-personal. In some ways this doctrine is so abstruse and mysterious that even the most powerful intellects throughout history have had great difficulty and no success in completely wrapping their minds around it.

While the simplicity of tawheed can be called into serious question, for arguments sake and for the sake of the following observations, this otherwise dubious claim may be granted.

Assuming, then, that Allah is so effortlessly apprehensible and comprehensible that juveniles can understand him, and that with the kind of ease they understand other things in ordinary, everyday human experience, how is this supportive of the conclusion that Allah is the God who made heaven and earth rather than unsupportive of it? Doesn’t this observation really impinge on such a conclusion? That Allah would no more tax our mental powers than other created things that are amenable to man’s limited noetic faculties is surely problematic. In fact, while there are things in human experience or creation that are relatively easy to understand, there are also a great many realities and factualities that are not. Since some things in human experience or creation transcend comprehensive rational scrutiny, Allah would not only be on the level of the multitude of created things which our minds can penetrate; he would even be beneath those created things which our minds have not been able to get to the bottom of. If Allah does not boggle our minds, then he can hardly be the creator and maker of the apparently limitless but yet still finite universe that continues to stupefy the world’s brightest intellects. All of this suggests, nay, strongly argues for the fact that Allah is a product of a/the human mind instead of being the one who made the complex world of men and things. A god who fits neatly into our creaturely categories of understanding loses all claims to be the one who is the transcendent ground and source of all things. Water can’t rise higher than its source, and an effect can’t be greater than its cause.

Muslims then have no reason to glory in the observation that Allah is subject to man’s powers of intellection, and Christians have no reason to recoil from the observation that the triune God of prophetic revelation is unfathomable in His being and ways. Muhammad’s Allah is the kind of deity that a man could and would make up; the triune God is not.  The former is clearly a projection of one man’s mind; the latter just as clearly isn’t.

12 comments:

Radical Moderate said...

I have always said that Muslims have a simple god for the simple minded.

Justin said...

John Calvin said, "Finitum non capax infinitum."

That is, "The finite cannot grasp the infinite."

I appreciate your line of reasoning here.

simple_truth said...

Radical Moderate said...

"I have always said that Muslims have a simple god for the simple minded."

I have to agree.

Christians should really challenge Muslims on what exactly is Allah's oneness. Once the interrogation begins, the Christian can just as easily refute the simplicity of their claim since such a question would inevitably lead to the Muslim having to resort to more complex descriptions of him.

Radical Moderate said...

Simple truth,

Exactly the "simple oneness" of tahweed when examined leaves allot to be desired.

For instance how did Allah demonstrate his attributes before creation. Who was Allah slaves before he created.

Not to mention who was Allah speaking to with the eternal quran.

simple_truth said...

The most obvious refutation of Allah's oneness deals with the question of whether the Qu'ran, which is suppose to be eternal with Allah, is separate or part of Allah. The premise is of course that both are said to be eternal; so, how can they both exist and not be part of his oneness?

Joe Daniels said...

I like the line of reasoning of some orthodox Jews who say that God is so "other" (kodesh) that nothing within our ambit of experience can apply to him. Therefore, to say that God exists and to say that God doesn't exist are equally meaningless statements because they both depend from our conception of existence and do not describe God. i think it's another way of saying that life is our responsibility and God should not be used to justify our failings, be that the Holocaust or Jihad.

mikeyh428 said...

What is interesting to me is that their own Quran states that God is beyond comprehension. Sura 6:103 - "No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things." So is allah simple to understand or beyond comprehension?

Granted, the doctrine of the Trinity is abstruse (Leave it to Anthony to force me to get out my dictionary to look up a word!), requiring one to explore the nature of God, the incarnation, the nature of man (God-man), understanding the hypostatic union, etc. But its in exploring these things that we learn more about who God is - even if we never fully grasp Him. God invites us to explore Him. Thus our God is knowable. As Jeremiah said, "for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Jer 31:34) If allah is unknowable, distance, and above any comprehension, then He obviously cannot be the God of the Bible. Knowing God is the central ensurer of salvation (John 17:3) - something Muslims cannot never do. Hey, but at least they know he is "one."

Traeh said...

Something that is several yet one is supposed to be difficult?

Is the rainbow one, or many? The spectrum flows continuously and without break through an infinite number of shades, so the rainbow is one. Yet red is not orange is not yellow is not green is not blue is not violet.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Unknown said...

I have not been a big fan of this web site or of Anthony Rogers.

However, this is a very cogent argument put forward by Anthony Rogers. It ask, no, it demands a response from Muslims.

As a Muslim I know after delving deeper into Islamic theology that our history is just as fraught with debate out the nature of the divine, as was Christian history.

So what Anthony Rogers presents here is needless to say very interesting.

MP said...

"Finitum non capax infinitum", unless the infinite grants the finite that capability.

Deleting said...

Unknown said, "As a Muslim I know after delving deeper into Islamic theology that our history is just as fraught with debate out the nature of the divine, as was Christian history."

Thank you for posting.

simple_truth said...

Unknown said...

"I have not been a big fan of this web site or of Anthony Rogers."

If you are a Muslim, we wouldn't expect you to be, now would we?

If I were you, I would be more interested in the content rather than my feelings, emotions, or need to protect the interest of my beliefs at any cost.

"However, this is a very cogent argument put forward by Anthony Rogers. It ask, no, it demands a response from Muslims."

I am glad that you at least think that it is cogent. Now, can you defend it? Are you able to explain the simplicity of Allah's oneness instead of a more complex understanding of God, which is expected since God is suppose to be impossible to explain simplicially.

"As a Muslim I know after delving deeper into Islamic theology that our history is just as fraught with debate out the nature of the divine, as was Christian history."

It's different arguing amongst Muslims as it is outside of your religious paradigm. I believe you will get a more robust and meaningful dialogue from those outside of your religion. You stand to learn more, IMO.