A door to dialog with Islam

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A door to dialog with Islam

Postby pugiofidei » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:27 pm

I haven't been posting much here recently because I've been working on something I think is very important: a series of talks for YouTube in which I hope to build some evangelistic bridges between Christianity and Islam. To get the short story, just know that I'm trying to answer the charge of polytheism lobbed against traditional Christianity. For the long story, read the script:

This is no defense of the Qur'an. At the very least, it is not an attempt to say it is divine revelation. Rather, this is an attempt on the part of a Christian to re-evaluate what the Islamic scriptures say about the Holy Trinity. I also want to take special notice of what the Qur'an doesn't say about this central Christian doctrine.

Trinitarian theology is central to the Christian faith. Every one of our other doctrines can be shown to derive and depend upon the inner logic of the Trinity. It isn't a parenthetical. It isn't extraneous. It is the whole substance and source of the historic Christian faith.

We have to know what we mean when we say “Trinity” before we say anything about how the Qur'an relates to it. Words, after all, are only signs that point to an image or an idea. Their forms are ultimately arbitrary, and two people can mean two different things by the same word, or the same thing by two different words.

Let me establish my working definition. The traditional doctrine of the Trinity declares that God is one eternal substance who exists as three coequal persons—namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the contracted form, and is an accurate definition of the doctrine, but it doesn't go far enough. In fact, depending on how one defines the words contained in the definition, it could describe any number of different doctrines. We must, then, more thoroughly clarify it. This I will attempt without further dely.

Now, “the Son” in the Trinity refers to Jesus Christ. His title, “the Son of God” is from the Christian Scriptures (e.g., he is called this in the first verse of the Gospel of Mark). Another outstanding title for Christ is the “Word of God”, also from the Christian Scriptures. St. John the Evangelist begins his Gospel with this: “In the beginning was the Word”, and goes on to say in the 14th verse that this Word, Jesus, “became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

I draw attention to these to titles because of what they have in common: resemblance, or likeness. It is obvious enough that a human son is like and resembles his father, because a human father passes on his own human nature to his son. This isn't a perfect resemblance, but the two do at least share the same humanity. Less obvious to an English speaker is how “Word” could connote resemblance and likeness. Here we have to get into the logic of the Greek.

“Word” is, in this case, a translation of the Greek “Logos”. “Logos”, in the world of antiquity, meant more than a mere spoken word. It was a philosophical concept. St. John would have been fully aware of this when he chose to use it, and we should be, too, if we want to understand what he was trying to say.

St. John is actually identifying what is, in his opinion, the transcendent principle of rationality of the cosmos. “Logos” refers to this principle. It is related to the spoken word because the spoken word is the outward vehicle of the inner “intellectual word”—what we would call an “idea”.

Now, our idea of a thing resembles that thing to a greater or lesser degree. The greater its likeness to the thing itself, the better of an idea it is. I, for example, have an idea of what it means for a thing to be a wallet. The more closely that idea resembles the reality of a wallet, the more perfect it is.

Thus, when the Scriptures call Christ the Word of God, and further say that God is the word, they assert that Jesus is the idea of God, not as it exists in our minds, but as it exists in the mind of God Himself. Christ is God's Word, and God Himself is that Word.

Matthew 5:48 teaches that God is perfect. It follows then that God, in the Christian conception, cannot have an imperfect idea. Were His idea to deviate even the slightest from the thing itself, it would be imperfect. God's idea of Himself must then resemble Himself exactly. God's idea of Himself could therefore be nothing less than God. Otherwise, it would fail to resemble Him in at least some respects, and thereby be an imperfect idea—which is an impossibility in Christian theology. God's intellectual word of Himself must be entirely His equal—eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. In short, God's idea of Himself exactly fits the Christian definition of the word “God”.

At this point it becomes clear why the terms “Father” and “Son” come into play; the “Word of God” is generated from all eternity by means of a perfect intellectual likeness. God the Father generates the idea in His mind, and this idea is by an eternal transference of nature, the Son of God. The is the One Christians believe became flesh, taking the name “Jesus”, and dwelling among us.

This analysis leaves a lot unanswered—for instance, it doesn't begin to describe the Holy Spirit, and there are a few reasonable objections to be made to analysis above. I will try to answer those in the next installment. Until then, Pax!

I might post later scripts here as well. Or I might do you one better and post the videos when they're done. Either way, I hope you'll understand why I'm scarce.
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Re: A door to dialog with Islam

Postby Petros » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:51 pm

Well. Not a small project. One of my associates has been doing Christian / Muslim dialogue a long time. Not without complexity.

More power to you and through you. May you be steered into engagement with those sophisticated enough and open enough to listen and talk back.
The truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loincloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim - Basil Chamberlain
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Re: A door to dialog with Islam

Postby pugiofidei » Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:58 am

This has been forestalled because of some Mormon missionaries. Once my conversations with them have concluded, I'll be getting right back on this. It goes without saying, though, that it is more difficult prepare two in-depth theological arguments at the same time than it is to focus on one.
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Re: A door to dialog with Islam

Postby natman » Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:15 am


It is an EXCELLENT start and well written so far. We are discussing John 1, "The Word", on another site in which one of the posters has asserted that "The Word" (Logos) is Scripture and therefore that Scripture is Christ and visa-versa.

'Look forward to reading more and hope you are sucessful with your Mormon Missionary friends.
Nathan Powers

Get exposed to the sun, and get exposed to the Son.
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