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Other Religions > Christianity > Articles on > The Doctrines of Islam and Christianity by Ulfat Samad

The Doctrines of Islam and Christianity:
by Ulfat Samad

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Christianity, as understood and believed by the Christians of both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant persuasions, has been summarised in the doctrines and statements of the Three Creeds – namely, the Apostles’ Creed (c. third century CE), the Nicene Creed (fourth century) and the Athanasian Creed (c. sixth century). The fundamental doctrines of Christianity are:

  • The Trinity
  • The Deity of Jesus
  • The Divine-sonship of Jesus
  • The Original Sin
  • The Atonement

The religion of Islam has no place in it for any of these dogmas. It believes in the oneness of God (that is, the single Person of God) as against the Triune God of Christianity. It considers the Christian deification of Jesus to be a reversion to paganism. According to the Quran, Jesus was not the incarnation of God but a prophet or messenger of God, and, like all other prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he was every bit a human being. Islam also rejects the Divine-sonship of Jesus. He may be called a son of God in the sense in which all righteous and merciful human beings may be called the children of God, but not in a literal or unique sense. In the same way, Islam rejects the dogmas of the Original Sin, the Vicarious Sacrifice and the Atonement as being contrary both to reason and to the Divinely-inspired teachings of Jesus.

The fundamental doctrines of Islam are:

  • The unity and goodness of God.
  • The belief in the prophets raised by God in all the nations of the world.
  • The belief in the revelations sent down by God to the prophets to guide human beings to and along the path of truth and righteousness.
  • The sinlessness of man at birth and his capacity for unlimited moral and spiritual progress (through belief in God and by sincerely and faithfully putting into practice the inspired teachings of the prophets).
  • The personal accountability of every man for his actions.
  • The life after death.
  • The equality and universal brotherhood of man.

The Trinity:

Though Christians declare faith in one God, yet they also affirm that there are three separate persons in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – each one of whom is God: the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. The Athanasian Creed states:

"There is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated … the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God…. For like as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say, there are three Gods or three Lords" (George Brantl, Catholicism, pp. 69-70).

The doctrine of the Trinity is obviously self contradictory. If there are three separate and distinct persons and each is by himself God, then there must be three Gods. Christianity recognises the impossibility of reconciling the belief in the three Persons of the Godhead, each one of whom is by himself God, with the oneness of God, and hence declares the doctrine of the Trinity to be a mystery, in which a man must have blind faith. This is what the Rev. J. F. De Groot writes in his book, Catholic Teaching:

"The Most Holy Trinity is a mystery in the strictest sense of the word. For reason alone cannot prove the existence of a Triune God; revelation teaches it. And even after the existence of the mystery has been revealed to us, it remains impossible for the human intellect to grasp how the Three Persons have but one Divine Nature" (p. 101).

And this is what the Protestant author of What the Bible Teaches, William MacDonald, writes:

"The Bible teaches not only that there is one God, but also that there are three persons in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a mystery to the human mind, but although it cannot be understood, it can be believed because God’s Word says it is so" (An Emmaus Correspondence Course, p. 8).

However, in another book published by the Emmaus Bible Correspondence School we find the following on the same subject:

"The doctrine of the Trinity is not spelled out in the Bible, but it is the only logical solution to seeming contradictions therein (R.E. Harlow, Basic Bible Doctrines, p. 33).

It would not be irrelevant to point out that the "contradictions" referred to by the above author appeared in the Bible as a result of the efforts on the part of Paul and the Fourth Evangelist to deify Jesus after his passing away. However, the Christian Church has not resolved the contradiction between the oneness of God and the trinity of Divine Persons in the Godhead; it has merely declared it to be a mystery which must be accepted blindly by the believers.

Strangely enough, Jesus Christ himself never even mentioned the Trinity. He knew nothing at all about there being three Divine Persons in one Godhead. His conception of God was in no way different from that of the earlier Israelite prophets, each one of whom had preached pure, unadulterated monotheism. The doctrine that God is in three persons, each one of whom is by himself God, would have been strongly condemned by them as a compromise with polytheism. Jesus merely echoed the earlier prophets when he said:

"The first commandment is, ‘Hear, O Israil: The Lord our God, the Lord is one’: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Mark 12: 29-30).

He believed in One God: One Divine Person and One only:

"You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve" (Matthew 4:10).

"And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the Only True God" (John 17:3).

The theologian, Johan B. Hygen, Professor at the University of Oslo, admits that the doctrine of the Trinity is found nowhere in the Bible:

"Most theologians today recognise that this doctrine (that is, the Trinity) is not found in the Bible. The most conservative Region Prenter even says that it is altogether useless to look for it there" (Norsh Theologish Tidsshrift, Oslo, Issue No. 1, 1967).

The fact is that the doctrine of the Trinity was coined by the Christians about three centuries after Jesus. The four Gospels, written between 70 and 115 CE, contain no reference to the Trinity. Even Paul, who made Jesus into a Divine Saviour and imported many foreign ideas into Christianity, knew nothing of the Triune God. The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (bearing Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, indicating official Church approval and doctrinal soundness of its contents) admits that the doctrine of the Trinity was unknown to the Christians of the early centuries of the Christian era and that it was formulated in the last quarter of the fourth century:

"It is difficult, in the second half of the twentieth century, to offer a clear, objective and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution and theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity. Trinitarian discussion, Roman Catholic as well as other, presents somewhat unsteady silhouette. Two things have happened. There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely paralleled recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the fourth century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma 'One God in three persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought" (p. 295).

A little later the same Encyclopaedia says even more clearly:

"The formulation ‘One God in three persons’ was not solidly established into Christian life, and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the fourth century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title, The Trinitarian Dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective" (Ibid. p. 299).

So the doctrine of the Trinity was not taught by Jesus Christ; it is nowhere found in the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); it is completely foreign to the mentality and perspective of the early Christians; it became part of the Christian faith towards the end of the fourth century!

Rationally considered also, the dogma of the Trinity is unsound and untenable. It is not only beyond reason, it is repugnant to reason. As we said earlier, the belief in three separate and distinct Persons, each of whom is by himself God, is incompatible with the oneness of God. If there are three distinct and separate persons, then there must be three distinct and separate substances, for every person is inseparable from his own substance. Now if the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, then unless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Nothings, they must be three distinct substances, and, consequently, three distinct Gods. Furthermore, the three Divine persons are either infinite or finite. If infinite, then there are three distinct Infinites, three Omnipotents, three Eternals, and so three Gods. If they are finite, then we are led to the absurdity of conceiving of an Infinite Being having three finite modes of subsisting or of three persons who are separately finite making an infinite conjunctly.

The doctrine of the Trinity was developed as a consequence of the deification of two creatures, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and their association with God as partners in His Godhead. As explained by some Christian apologists, it amounts to the separate personification of three attributes or functions of God. However we may consider it, it is regression from revealed and rational theology to mythology. For, at the root of all mythologies lies the irrational tendency of the human mind to deify great men and personify non-personal forces and attributes and to present them as Divine Persons.

Islam preaches the pure and simple unity of God. It rejects not only the Plurality of gods, but also the plurality of persons in Godhead. It is free from all forms of anthropomorphism and mythological fancies. It affirms the uniqueness that He has no partners in His Godhead. He is One in substance and One in Person. He is Self-existing; the Self-sufficient One, on Whom all depend and Who depends not on anyone. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, the All-good, the Almighty, the All-knowing, the All-wise, the All-loving, the All-merciful, the Eternal and the Infinite. Nothing can emanate from Him and become His equal and partner in His Godhead. Says the Quran:

Say He, God, is One. God is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten; and none is like Him (112:1-4).

He is God besides Whom there is no God: the Knower of the unseen and the seen; He is the Loving-kind, the Merciful. He is God, besides Whom there is no God; the sovereign Lord, the Holy One, the Source of peace, the Granter of security, Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of every greatness. He is God alone, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth declares His glory, and He is the Mighty, the Wise (59:22-24).

So be careful of your duty to God, for God is Oft-returning to mercy, (Acceptor of repentance, Effacer of sins), Most Merciful (49:12).

The Deity of Jesus:

The second Christian dogma is that of the deity of Jesus. The Nicene Creed, adopted by the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE) and revised by the First Council of Constaninople (381 CE), states:

"I believe in … one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten not made; being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made" (George Brantl, Catholicism, pp. 175-176).

Christians (Roman Catholics, Protestants, and also Orthodox) believe that Jesus Christ is God from all eternity, the second person of the Holy Trinity, that nearly two thousand years ago he chose to appear in a human body and was born of the Virgin Mary, becoming thereby perfect God and perfect Man, that is, God-Man or God-incarnate.

The author of Catholic Teachings writes in this connection:

"The teaching about Christ’s divinity which is to be found in so many places of Scripture, has always been proclaimed by the Church as one of the most important truths of Catholic faith. The Council of Nicaea, which was the first General Council after the persecutions, solemnly condemned Arius who contended that Christ was not God but a creature" (p. 149).

The Protestant author of The Truth of Christianity, W.H. Turton, has the following to say on this subject:

"Evidently then this expression, the Son of God, meant to him (that is, John), and therefore presumably to other New Testament writers, who use it frequently, that Christ was truly God – God the son – my Lord and my God – in the fullest and most complete sense" (p. 507).

The Christian belief, according to R.E. Harlow of the Emmaus Bible School, is that "Christ is distinct from the Father, but He also is God," that he has all the attributes which God alone has, and that even when incarnate in a human body, he was omnipotent, omniscient, etc. (Basic Bible Doctrines).

This doctrine, that Jesus was God, also has no support of the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The truth is that Jesus strongly disclaimed even divine goodness, let alone Godhead. Here are his own words:

"Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18).

He spoke of God as "My Father and your Father, my God and your God" (John 20:17), showing that he stood in the same relation to God as any other man; he was a creature of God.

In his agony on the cross, Jesus cried out: "Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?" That is, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). Can anyone imagine these words coming out of the mouth of God? Here we have the words of a helpless man, crying in his agony and despair to his God and Creator.

The Christian theology declares that Jesus was perfect God and perfect man at the same time. Now God is omnipotent, whereas the power and capability of man are limited; God is omniscient, whereas man has strictly limited knowledge; God is perfect whereas man is imperfect. If Jesus were God-Man, then he must have been all-knowing as well as limited in his knowledge, almighty as well as limited in his power and capability, perfect as well as imperfect at one and the same time, which is clearly absurd. R.E. Harlow says that even when he was incarnate in a human body Jesus was omnipotent and omniscient. The saying of Jesus and the recorded incidents of his life, however, do not support this view. Jesus candidly admitted the limitations of his own power and knowledge, declaring that God alone was almighty and all-knowing: "I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me" (John 8:28); "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge, and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him Who sent me" (John 5:30); "For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father Who sent me has Himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak" (John 12:49); "But of that day and that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32). In fact, he frankly acknowledged his own inferiority to the Father, Who alone was God: "The Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

The divinity of Jesus is sometimes advanced in the Christian apologetic literature on the strength of his reported miracles. But Jesus himself confessed that he performed the miracles with the help of God: "It is by the finger of God that I cast out demons" (Luke 11:20). He always prayed to God for His help for helping him after performing a miracle and thanked Him for helping him after performing it. Besides Jesus, was not the only prophet to have performed miracles; similar miracles were, according to the Bible, performed by other prophets as well. Naaman was cured of leprosy by Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-14); Jacob got his eyesight when Joseph put his hands on his eyes (Genesis 46:4, 30); a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse were increased by Elijah to feed a family for many days (1 Kings 17:12-15). Jesus walked on the sea, but the elements obeyed the orders of others also. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and made it dry land and the waters were divided (Exodus 14:21-22). The greatest miracle of Jesus is said to be the raising of a dead man to life. According to the Bible, however, this very miracle was performed by at least two earlier prophets. The soul of a dead child "came into him again and he revived" by the words and miraculous acts of Elijah (1 Kings 17:20-24). Elisha also brought back a dead child to life (23 Kings 4:32-37). Moreover, according to Jesus, even false prophets could perform miracles. On the other hand, Jesus could do no "mighty work" where there was unbelief (Mark 6:5-6).

The fact is that Jesus never claimed to be "a God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God", but only a messenger or prophet of God. He was a man to whom God had revealed His message for the guidance of other men. To give his own words:

"Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God’" (John 8:39-40).

"And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent" (John 17:3).

These words of Jesus prove conclusively:

  • That there is only one Divine Person, and that Jesus knew nothing of the Trinity ("Thee the only true God").
  • That Jesus laid no claim to Godhead or divinity, for he referred to a person other than himself ("Thee") as the "only true God".
  • That Jesus claimed only to be a messenger of God ("a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God"; "Jesus Christ who Thou hast sent").

Like the Trinity, the doctrine of the deity of Jesus was also invented long after Jesus. In fact, the scholars have traced the various stages through which Jesus was progressively deified. In Q, the first written record of the sayings and deeds of Jesus, he was regarded as a prophet of God to the Children of Israel, a human being and nothing more. He faithfully observed the Law of Moses and advised others to do the same. In Mark’s Gospel, we find a deliberate attempt to idealise and glorify him and to attribute many miracles to him, but for Mark also, Jesus was a man and not God-incarnate. This process of glorification is taken a step further in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the letters of Paul, we find Jesus being presented as a sort of divine being, the heavenly son of God and the Lord and Saviour of man. But even for Paul, Jesus is not God in the full sense; he is not co-equal with the Father or of the same substance as the Father. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is declared to be the incarnation of Logos, the personified Reason or Word of God, through whom all things were made. John considered him to be the first emanation from God, but not the equal of God. He derived all his knowledge and power and authority from God, and his greatness lay in revealing the Father and doing the Will of the Father. During the second and third centuries, the different Christian factions held different views of Christ, but in the fourth century, the triumphant Catholic Church suppressed all the other views and formulated the Nicene Creed in which Jesus was said to be "God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God" and since his incarnation, "Perfect God and Perfect Man".

However, reason refuses to accept a man who was born of a woman, suffered from human wants, ignorance and limitations and gradually grew in stature, power and wisdom, like any other human being, as God. To put human limitations upon God and to believe in his incarnation in a human body is to deny the infinitude and perfection of God.

The dogma of the Incarnation was taken over into Christianity, like several other dogmas, from paganism. In the pre-Christian mythologies, we often read of the hero being regarded as God. The Hindus of India even today worship their ancient heroes, Rama and Krishna, as incarnations of Vishnu, the second Person of the Hindu Divine Trinity.

Islam has saved its followers from the superstition and blasphemy of taking a man for God by repudiating the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Quran rejects the divinity of Jesus:

They surely disbelieve who say: God is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah himself said: O Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord (5:72).

According to the Sacred Book of Islam, Jesus was a prophet of God – sinless, pure and godly, like all other prophets – but a human being and nothing more. It is significant to see that among Christians themselves, there are growing bodies, like the Unitarians and the Free Churchmen, who deny that Jesus at all regarded himself as being more than human. Among some accredited members of the Church of England, too, the doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus is being given an interpretation which is more and more in conformity with the teaching of Islam. Recently a book, entitled The Myth of God Incarnate, written by seven leading British Bishops, was published from England. In it the distinguished authors state on the basis of sound evidence that Jesus in his lifetime did not lay claim to divinity and that he was promoted to divine status through pagan and other influences surrounding the Christians in the early years of the Christian era. In the preface to the book, its editor, John Hick, Professor of Theology at Birmingham University and a member of the United Reform Church, writes:

"In the nineteenth century, Western Christianity made two major new adjustments in response to important enlargements of human knowledge…. The writers of this book are convinced that another major theological development is called for in this last part of the twentieth century. The need arises from growing knowledge of Christian origins, and involves a recognition that Jesus was (as he was presented in Acts 2:21) ‘a man approved by God’ for a special role within the divine purpose, and that the later conception of him as God incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity living a human life, is a mythological or poetic way of expressing his significance for us. This recognition is called for in the interests of truth; but it also has increasingly important practical implications for our relationship to the people of the other great world religions" (p. ix).

Later in the book, in the chapter "Jesus and the World Religions," he writes:

"It is clearly literally meaningful to say that Jesus was a man, part of the genetic stream of human life; finite in intelligence, information and energy; and conditioned by a particular cultural and geographical milieu" (p.177).

The Islamic view is that the prophets were all human beings. God chose them from among men and revealed Himself and His message to them for the guidance of men. Only a human prophet can be a guide and model for human beings. The prophets had the same nature as other men, they faced the same temptations and problems as other men face, and they overcame them with the means available to all human beings. A God-incarnate or an angel cannot be a guide and model for men, as the Quran says:

Nothing prevents people from believing, when the guidance comes to them, except that they say: Has God raised up a mortal to be a Messenger? Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about secure, God would have sent down to them from heaven an angel as Messenger (17:94-95).

The prophets, one and all, led a virtuous and sinless life in total submission to and harmony with the will and purpose of God. They not only conveyed to men the message revealed to them by God but also served as exemplars and models of godliness, by themselves practising what they preached. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared:

I am only a mortal like you. It is revealed to me that your God is one God, therefore follow the straight path to Him and ask His forgiveness (41:6).

Other Religions > Christianity > Articles on > The Doctrines of Islam and Christianity by Ulfat Samad


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