The following article is our response to Dr. Zakir Naik’s misguided polemic titled Concept of God in Christianity:
I Position of Jesus (pbuh) in Islam:
(i) Islam is the only non-Christian faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus (pbuh). No Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus (pbuh).
Bahaism is the only non-Muslim faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe not just in Jesus but believe in Muhammad as well. No Bahai is a Bahai if he does not believe in either Jesus or Muhammad. What does this prove? Absolutely nothing! ... apart from demonstrating the weakness of Naik’s logic and exposing his ignorance about even the simplest facts of other religions, this time the above claim to Islam's uniqueness in being "the only non-Christian faith, which ..."
(ii) We believe that he was one of the mightiest Messengers of Allah (swt).
Bahais also believe that both Jesus and Muhammad were two of the mightiest Messengers of Allah. Again, this proves absolutely nothing. In case Naik claims that Bahaism is nothing more than a heretical sect of Islam, we only need to remind him that there are those who feel that Islam itself is nothing more than a heretical sect of Christianity. If Naik denies that Islam is a heretical sect of Christianity but is a revelation from God, we only need to remind him that Bahais also deny that Bahaism is a heretical sect of Islam but a revelation given by God as well.
(iii) We believe that he was born miraculously, without any male intervention, which many modern day Christians do not believe.
Naik fails to inform his readers that many modern day Muslims also deny Jesus’ virginal conception and birth. The late Maulana Muhammad Ali of the Lahore sect of Ahmadiyya, itself a sect of Islam, states in regard to S. 3:43:
"... the whole history of Mary and Jesus was enveloped in darkness until the Holy Qur'an announced their right position as two righteous servants of God and rejected both extreme views, the Jewish view that Jesus was conceived in sin and was illegitimate and the Christian view that he was God or Son of God Who had entered Mary's womb. He was only what the Prophet described him to be in his controversy with the Najran deputation when he said to them: 'Do you not know that Jesus was conceived by a woman in the manner in which all women conceive? Then she was delivered of him as women are delivered of their children? Then he was fed as children are fed. Then he ate food and drank water and answered the call of nature (as all mortals do)?' The deputation replied to all these questions in the affirmative, on which the Prophet said: 'Then how can your claim (that he was God or Son of God) be true?' (IJ). The Prophet's clear argument which even the Christian deputation could not question settles the matter THAT JESUS WAS CONCEIVED IN THE ORDINARY MANNER AND THAT MARY BECAME A WIFE AND MOTHER IN THE ORDINARY WAY." (Ali, Holy Qur'an - Arabic Text, English Translation & Commentary [Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc. USA 1995], pp. 141-142, f. 422; bold and capital ours)
M. Ali also comments on S. 3:46 where the virginal conception of the Lord Jesus is mentioned:
"... Only her espousal had yet been decided, and perhaps she had not been informed of this when she was given the good news of a son being born to her. Hence she says that man had not touched her yet. And she was told in reply, 'Even so'; i.e., the child will be born by God brining about the circumstances which result in the birth of a child. The words do not show that she would conceive OUT OF THE ORDINARY COURSE OF NATURE, for there is no doubt Mary had other children, WHICH NO ONE SUPPOSES TO HAVE BEEN CONCEIVED OUT OF THE ORDINARY COURSE OF NATURE. Nor do the words that follow prove anything beyond the simple fact that Mary must give birth to a son in accordance with the prophecy. The whole of creation is brought about, we are told again and again, by the Divine word Kun, yet no one supposes that creation is not brought about ACCORDING TO THE LAWS OF NATURE." (Ibid., p. 143, f. 427; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Again, M. Ali's comments on S. 1920-21:
"... She conceived him in the ordinary way IN WHICH WOMEN CONCEIVE CHILDREN; see 422." (Ibid., p. 587, f. 1537b; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Keeping in mind that this is the official view of the Lahore sect of the Ahmadiyya movement implies that there are, at a minimum, many thousands in this group alone, which do not hold to Jesus' virginal conception and birth and still claim to be Orthodox Muslims.
Another prominent Muslim who denied Jesus' virginal conception and birth was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Dr. William Campbell notes:
"In his very evenly balanced book, Islam - A Christian Perspective, Michael Nazir-Ali of Pakistan writes as follows concerning the Muslim reformer Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, 'Theologically Sir Syed was of deistic inclinations and held that God was indeed the Ground of the Universe and it was he who had created nature and her laws...God does not, however, interfere in the course of nature, and occasional divine intervention in the affairs of man is ruled out altogether...
'Sir Syed denies the Qur'anic doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, holding that such a birth would be an interference in the course of nature and was, therefore, impossible. In order to reconcile this a priori attitude with the testimony of the Qur'an, he offers the somewhat feeble explanation that when the Qur'an speaks of Mary's virginity it really means that she had intercourse only with her husband! An examination of the Qur'anic texts show us the absurdity of such a position, and it is indeed true that no competent commentator of the Qur'an has attempted a denial of the fact that the Qur'an teaches her virginity.
'... Sir Syed repeatedly affirms his belief in the inerrancy of the Qur'an and pleads only for a correct interpretation of it. In some cases it is quite clear, however, that his deism will not be reconciled to the supernaturalism of the Qur'an.'" (Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History & Science [Middle East Resources 1992, ISBN 1-881085-00-7], pp. 92-93)
Furthermore, appealing to the masses of Muslims doesn't prove anything since the majority do not determine truth. Naik is therefore committing the fallacy of ad populum.
(iv) We believe he was the Messiah translated Christ (pbuh).
Bahais also believe that Jesus was the Messiah as well as affirming that Muhammad was the Messenger of Allah. And? Does this mean that Naik will now accept Bahaism as a revelation from God solely because Bahais believe in Jesus and Muhammad?
(v) We believe that he gave life to the dead with God's permission.
(iv) We believe that he healed those born blind, and the lepers with God's permission.
Again, Naik fails to tell his readers that not all Muslims believe in Jesus’ miracles. M. Muhammad Ali comments on Jesus' ability to create clay birds and breathing into them whereby the clay objects then come to life:
"... The act of khalq (creating) in the sense of creation cannot be attributed to any being except Allah. The Quran has laid the greatest stress upon this point. It again and again speaks of the Divine Being as the creator of everything, so that there is nothing of which any one else may be said to be a creator. And of those who are taken as gods by any people, it says in particular that they do not create anything, while they are themselves created (16:20; 25:3)." (Ibid., p. 144, f. 428; bold emphasis ours)
How then does M. Ali explain away the miracle of Jesus creating clay birds and bringing them to life? Ali tries to explain away the miracle by insisting upon an allegorical interpretation:
"To understand the significance of this passage it is necessary to bear in mind that the chief characteristic of Jesus' speeches is that he spoke in parables and preferred to clothe his ideas in allegorical language... It is perfectly intelligible if taken as a parable, but quite incomprehensible as a statement of fact. If on the one hand a prophet's dignity is much above such actions as the making of clay birds, on the other hand the act of creation is not attributable to any but the Divine Being." (Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)
Ali doesn't just stop with the creation of clay birds. Ali goes so far as to allegorize all the miracles attributed to Jesus in both the Quran and the Holy Bible. Ali even appeals to the liberal wing of Christianity, one that denies the supernatural from ever occurring, to support his case:
"... The miracle of Jesus' healing the sick has been rationally explained in the Enc. Bib. By the Rev. T.K. Cheyne, who has shown that all the stories of healing of the sick have arisen from the SPIRITUAL HEALING of the sick, as in Matt. 9:12: 'They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick": and as in Jesus' message to John the Baptist: 'The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them' (Matt. 11:5). The concluding words clearly show that the sick and the lame and the blind belong to the same category as the poor to whom the Gospel is preached, being the poor in heart. Compare also Matt. 13:15: 'For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.' Here the healing cannot refer but to healing of the spiritual diseases. The Holy Qur'an gives a similar explanation of the healing of the sick when, speaking of itself, it says that it is 'a healing for what is in the hearts' (10:57), i.e. for the spiritual diseases. The prophet's healing is spiritual, not healing of the physical diseases. The Qur'an speaks of the blind and the deaf frequently, but it never means those who have lost the senses of seeing and hearing. (Ibid., p. 145, f. 429; bold and capital emphasis ours)
"... Last come those who are dead. The Qur'an says plainly that those who die are not sent back to this world: 'Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not, during their sleep; then He withholds those on whom He has passed the decree of death and sends others back till an appointed term' (39:42). And again speaking of the dead: 'And before them is a barrier until the day they are raised' (23:100). But the use of the word mauta, i.e. the dead, and their being raised to life, is frequent in the Holy Qur'an in a spiritual sense: 'Is he who was dead, then We raised to life... like him whose likeness is that of one in utter darkness' (6:123). And again: 'O you who believe answer the call of Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to which gives you life' (8:24). Similarly we have: 'Neither are the living and the dead alike; surely Allah makes whom He pleases hear, and you cannot make those hear who are in the graves' (35:22). The prophets are raised ONLY for quickening to life those who are spiritually dead, and it is this quickening through Jesus Christ that the Holy Qur'an refers here." (Ibid., f. 430; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The late orthodox Muslim scholar Muhammad Asad also denied the miracles of Jesus and indirectly denied Christ's virginal conception and birth. Commenting on Jesus' ability to fashion clay birds and give them life in S. 3:49 Asad states:
"... The noun tayr is plural of ta'ir ('flying creature' or 'bird'), or an infinitive noun ('flying') derived from the verb tara ('he flew'). In pre-Islamic usage, as well as in the Qur'an, the words ta'ir and tayr often denote 'fortune' or 'destiny', whether good or evil (as, for instance, in 7:131, 27:47 or 36:19, and still more clearly in 17:13). Many instances of this idiomatic use of tayr and ta'ir are given in all the authoritative Arabic dictionaries; see also Lane V, 1904 f. Thus, in THE PARABOLIC MANNER so beloved by him, Jesus intimated to the children of Israel that out of the humble clay of their lives he would fashion for them the vision of a soaring destiny and that this vision, brought to life by his God-given inspiration, would become their real destiny by God's leave and by strength of their faith (as pointed out at the end of this verse)." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar, rpt. 1993], p. 74, f. 37; bold and capital emphasis ours)
"... It is probable that the 'raising of the dead' by Jesus is a METAPHORICAL DESCRIPTION of his giving new life to people who were spiritually dead... If this interpretation is - AS I BELIEVE - correct, then the 'healing of the blind and the leper' has a similar significance: namely, an inner regeneration of people who were spiritually diseased and blind to the truth." (Ibid., f. 38; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Asad also comments on S 19:30 regarding Jesus' ability to speak while still in the cradle:
"... Although the Qur'an mentions in 3:46 that Jesus would 'speak unto men [while yet] in his cradle' - i.e., would be imbued with wisdom FROM HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD - verses 30-33 seem to be in the nature of the trope, projecting the shape of things TO COME by using, for the sake of emphasis, the past tense to describe something that WAS TO BECOME REAL IN THE FUTURE..." (Ibid., p. 460, f. 23; bold and capital emphasis ours)
"... Since IT IS NOT CONCEIVABLE that anyone could be granted divine revelation and made a prophet before attaining to full maturity of intellect and experience, 'Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak - as quoted by Tabari - interpret this passage as meaning, 'God has decreed (qada) that He would vouchsafe unto me revelation...' etc., regarding it as an allusion to THE FUTURE. Tabari himself applies the same interpretation to the next verse, explaining it thus: 'He has decreed that He would enjoin upon me prayer and charity'. However, the whole of this passage (verses 30-33) may also be understood as having been uttered by Jesus AT A MUCH LATER TIME - namely, after HE HAD REACHED MATURITY and been actually entrusted with his prophetic mission: that is to say, it may be understood as an anticipatory description of the ethical and moral principles which were to dominate the adult life of Jesus and particularly his deep consciousness of being only 'a servant of God'." (Ibid, f. 24; bold and capital emphasis ours)
While commenting on the Quranic use of the title al-Masih in relation to Jesus, Asad claims:
"... Its application to Jesus may have been due to the widespread conviction among his contemporaries (references to which are found in several places in the Synoptic Gospels) that he was descended in direct - and obviously legitimate - line from the royal House of David. (It is to be noted that this COULD NOT HAVE BEEN RELATED TO HIS MOTHER'S SIDE, because Mary belonged to the priestly class descending from Aaron, and thus the tribe of Levi, while David descended from the tribe of Judah.)..." (Ibid., p. 73, f. 32)
Implicit in Asad's assertion is a denial of the virgin birth. To say that Jesus was a legitimate descendent of David yet not through his mother implies that Jesus had a human father from which Christ traced his Davidic lineage. This denial of Jesus' virgin conception and birth is further implied by Asad's note to S. 19:19-21 regarding Mary's response to the Spirit's annunciation that she will have a son:
"... In connection with the announcement of a son to Mary, the Qur'an states in 3:47 that 'when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, "Be" - and it is'; but since neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition tells us anything about the chain of causes and effects (asbab) which God's decree 'Be' was to bring into being, all speculation as to the 'how' OF THIS EVENT MUST REMAIN BEYOND THE SCOPE OF A QUR'AN-COMMENTARY..." (Ibid., p. 459, f. 15; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Much like Christians have to deal with a liberal wing of Christianity that denies the supernatural, Muslims are also forced to deal with liberals in their midst.
II CONCEPT OF GOD IN CHRISTIANITY:
1. Jesus Christ (pbuh) never claimed Divinity
One may ask, if both Muslims and Christians love and respect Jesus (pbuh), where exactly is the parting of ways? The major difference between Islam and Christianity is the Christians' insistence on the supposed divinity of Christ (pbuh). A study of the Christian scriptures reveals that Jesus (pbuh) never claimed divinity. In fact there is not a single unequivocal statement in the entire Bible where Jesus (pbuh) himself says, "I am God" or where he says, "worship me". In fact the Bible contains statements attributed to Jesus (pbuh) in which he preached quite the contrary. The following statements in the Bible are attributed to Jesus Christ (pbuh):
One may ask if in fact Naik has actually read the Holy Bible in context or simply plagiarizes the outdated arguments of his mentor, Ahmad Deedat. The real difference between Islam and Christianity is the Muslim insistence that the Christian Scriptures cannot unequivocally teach what they in fact teach, namely the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The answer to Naik's claim that Jesus never unequivocally states that he is God and that he is to be worshiped is rather simple. Jesus' statements must be understood within the historical setting of first century Palestinian Judaism. For Christ to simply come out and say that He was God without qualification would have implied that Jesus was claiming to be the Father in heaven, since to first century Jews the term "God" meant the One in heaven. Yet, Jesus is not the same person as the Father. Rather, both the Father and Christ are distinct Persons that share one essence and nature equally.
Christ had to first safeguard the distinction of Persons within the Godhead, that he and the Father are two distinct Persons, before claiming divinity. Otherwise, had Christ simply just come out and said that he was God the Jews would have thought that Christ was claiming to be the Father in heaven. The late NT scholar Raymond E. Brown states it best:
"The question concerns Jesus a Galilean Jew of the first third of the first century, for whom 'God' would have a meaning specified by his background and the theological language of the time. By way of simplification (and perhaps oversimplification) let me say that I think by a Jew of that period `God' would have been thought of as One dwelling in the heavens - among many attributes. Therefore, a question posed to Jesus on earth, `Do you think you are God?' would mean did he think he was the One dwelling in heaven. And you can see that would have been an inappropriate question, since Jesus was visibly on earth. As a matter of fact the question was never asked of him; at most he was asked about his relationship to God." (Brown, Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible [Paulist Press; Mahwah, N.J. 1990], p. 98; bold emphasis ours)
Once the distinction of Persons within the Godhead had been safeguarded, both Christ and his followers could allow for the term "God" to be used of Christ. It is interesting to note that the first time anyone addresses Jesus as God is only after the resurrection when Christ had already clarified the distinction of Persons within the Godhead and, more specifically, the distinction that exists between him and the Father:
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' The Pharisees challenged him, 'Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.' Jesus answered, 'Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of TWO MEN is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my OTHER WITNESS is the Father, who sent me.'" John 8:12-18
"Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, "I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God"'... Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said TO HIM, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:17, 24-31
"... I would say that by that time (i.e. the last decade of the first century), under the impact of their quest to understand Jesus, Christians had in a certain sense expanded the meaning of the word 'God.' It no longer for them simply covered the Father in heaven; it covered the Son on earth. They had come to realize that Jesus was so intimately related to God, so filled with God's presence, that the term God was applicable to him as it was to the Father in heaven. May I emphasize that this does not involve a change in Jesus; it involves a change and growth in the Christian perception of who he was." (Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)
Brown rightly concludes:
"Did Jesus have an identity which his followers later came to understand in terms of his being God? If he was God (and most Christians do agree on that), did he know who he was? I think the simplest answer to that question is yes." (Ibid., p. 99; bold emphasis ours)
NT scholar Murray J. Harris gives additional reasons why within the NT scriptures the term "God" is infrequently used for Christ:
"First, in all strands of the NT, theos generally signifies the Father... When we find the expression theos pater we may legitimately deduce that ho theos estin ho pater. And since pater refers to a particular person (not an attribute), the identity between ho theos and ho pater as proper names referring to persons must be numerical. 'God' must be equated with 'the Father.' If Jesus were everywhere called theos so that in reference to him the term ceased to be a title and became a proper noun like 'Iesous, linguistic ambiguity would be everywhere present.
"Another reason why theos regularly denotes the Father and rarely the Son is that such a usage is suited to protect the personal distinction between the Son and Father... which is preserved everywhere in the NT, but nowhere more dramatically than where the Father is called 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph. 1:17) or 'his God and Father' (Rev. 1:6) and where Jesus speaks of 'My God' (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 20:17; cf. Rev. 3:2, 12), or, in an address to Jesus reference is made to 'your God' (Heb. 1:9). God was the one to whom Jesus prayed, the one he called his Father (e.g., Matt. 11:25). It was ho logos, not ho theos, of whom John said sarx egeneto (John 1:14).
"Clearly related to this second reason is a third. The element of 'subordinationism' that finds expression not only in the four authors who use theos as a christological appellation but also elsewhere in the NT may have checked any impulse to use theos regularly of Jesus. By customarily reserving the term theos for the Father, NT writers were highlighting the fact, whether consciously or unconsciously, that while the Son is 'subordinate' to the Father, the Father is not 'subordinate' to the Son. One finds the expression 'the Son of God' where God is the Father, but never 'the Father of God' where God is the Son.
"A fourth reason that may be suggested for the comparatively rare use of theos as a christological ascription was the danger recognized by the early church that if theos were applied to Jesus as regularly as to the Father, Jews would have tended to regard Christianity as incurably deuterotheological and Gentiles would probably have viewed it as polytheistic. If theos were the personal name of the Father and the Son, Christians would have been hard pressed to defend the faith against charges of ditheism, if not polytheism, however adamant their insistence on their retention of monotheism.
(NOTE- This is precisely the charge leveled against Christians by Muslims, namely that Muslims claim that the Christian use of the term "God" for Christ proves that Christians invariably worship more than one God and are therefore polytheists)
"Fifth, behind the impulse generally to reserve the term theos for the Father lay the need to safeguard the real humanity of Jesus against docetic or monophysitic sentiment in its embryonic form. In the early years of the church there was a greater danger that the integrity of the human 'nature' of Jesus should be denied than that his divinity should be called into question, witness the fact that docetism not Arianism was the first christological deviation.
"Finally, the relative infrequency of the use of theos for Jesus corresponds to the relatively infrequent use of ontological categories in NT Christology which is functional in emphasis..." (Harris, Jesus As God - The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1998], pp. 282-283; bold emphasis ours)
Finally, to see the inherent weakness in Naik's statement that since Christ never said that he was God or that one should worship him Christians are therefore wrong in claiming that Jesus is God, we turn the tables against Naik. We challenge Naik to produce one unequivocal statement from the Quran where Jesus (allegedly) says that he is not God, the Son of God, that people should not worship him, or that he did not come to die for sinners. We will not accept anything but the alleged words of Jesus himself as recorded in the Quran. In case Naik tries to cite S. 5:116-117 where Jesus allegedly denies his divinity we only need to remind Naik that this verse actually proves that the Quran contains a gross error. Here is the passage itself:
And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, TAKE ME AND MY MOTHER FOR TWO GODS BESIDE ALLAH?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, 'Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord'; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things."
Since Christians do not believe and have never claimed that Jesus commanded his followers to venerate both him and his mother as TWO GODS APART FROM GOD, we see that the Quran is grossly mistaken regarding what historic Christianity actually teaches. Rather, the historical Jesus commanded his followers to honor him as they honor the Father:
"For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, EVEN AS THEY HONOR THE FATHER. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." John 5:22-23
Jesus doesn't say to honor him as a great religious figure or prophet. Rather, he demands to be given the very same honor that the Father receives. The way believers honor the Father is to both worship and make supplications to him. Amazingly, we find Jesus requesting that prayers be made directly to him:
"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask ME anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13-14
For Jesus to be able to hear and grant the request of prayers offered directly to him implies that he is both omniscient and omnipotent. Since these are qualities that are true only of God, this indicates that Jesus did claim to be God.
"But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant. 'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked him. 'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?"'" Matthew 21:15-16
Amazingly Jesus applies Psalm 8:2 to himself a passage where it is Yahweh who is receiving the praise of infants and children!:
"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:1-2
Jesus is claiming that to praise him is to praise Yahweh God! The only way for this quotation from the Psalm to count as valid justification for Jesus to confirm and encourage the praise of his own person from the children, is the assumption that Jesus was identifying himself with Yahweh God.
The Lord Jesus also taught his disciples that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit make up the unity of the one true God:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20
Three distinct Persons share the name (singular) of the one true God. Jesus also claims omnipresence, an attribute belonging to God alone. This again affirms that Jesus did in fact claim to be God.
Therefore, S. 5:116-117 cannot be used to answer our question regarding Naik finding a single verse in the Quran where Jesus denied being God Almighty, not where Jesus denies that he is another god apart from the true God. We eagerly await Naik's answers to the questions posed above.
(i) "My Father is Greater than I."
[The Bible, John 14:28]
(ii) "My Father is greater than all."
[The Bible, John 10:29]
First, Naik commits a categorical fallacy, confusing nature with position. Historic Trinitarianism based on the inspired word of God has always believed that the Father and the Son are equal in nature and essence, but not in position. Hence, they are equal in one sense yet in another sense the Father is greater than the Son. Robertson in his Word Pictures of the New Testament explains:
I go away, and I come (upagw kai ercomai), both futuristic presents (7:33; 14:3,18). If ye loved me (ei hgapate me). Second-class condition with the imperfect active of agapaw referring to present time, implying that the disciples are not loving Jesus as they should. Ye would have rejoiced (ecarhte an). Second aorist passive indicative of cairw with an, conclusion of second-class condition referring to past time, "Ye would already have rejoiced before this" at Christ's going to the Father (verse 12). Greater than I (meizwn mou). Ablative case mou after the comparative meizwn (from positive megaß). The filial relation makes this necessary. Not a distinction in nature or essence (cf. 10:30), but in rank in the Trinity. No Arianism or Unitarianism here. The very explanation here is proof of the deity of the Son (Dods).
Dr. Robert A. Morey continues:
"Subordination, in the context of the economical Trinity, does not pose any difficulty whatsoever for the Trinitarian. The Father is 'greater' than the Son by virtue of His office of being the Sender and Jesus the Sent (John 14:28). That the Father is greater in rank does not logically imply that He is better in nature." (Morey, Trinity - Evidence and Issues [World Publishing; 1996], p. 439; bold emphasis ours)
That the term "greater" (Greek - meizon) does not necessarily imply one who is greater in nature or essence, but rather greater in position, can be seen from the following passages where the same Greek word is used:
"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater (Greek - meizon) than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Matthew 11:11
The fact that John is greater than all those born of women does not imply that the rest were less human than John, or that they were inferior to John in nature. Here, the term "greater" refers to John's position.
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater (Greek - meizona) things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12
Jesus' disciples did not perform better works, but performed a greater number of works than Christ since they reached far more people than Jesus did while he was on earth. Hence, the term "greater" refers to quantity, the amount of works, as opposed to quality since the disciples performed the same type of works but in far greater number.
Second, Naik misapplies John 10:29 since the text does not say that the Father is greater than Jesus. Jesus' point is that the Father is greater than all those who would try to snatch the sheep out of the hands of both the Father and the Son:
"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; NO ONE can snatch them out of my Father's hand." John 10:29
The context shows that the Father is greater than any one who would try to oppose God's purpose in preserving true believers from perishing. This point actually demonstrates that Jesus did in fact claim to be God, equal with the Father in nature, since Christ claims to be able to do what God alone can do:
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28
Compare the claims made by Jesus with that made by Yahweh God in the OT:
"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39
"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:6
In light of the preceding citations, notice the following syllogism:
(iii) "I cast out devils by the Spirit of God..."
[The Bible, Mathew 12:28]
(iv) "I with the finger of God cast out devils..."
[The Bible, Luke 11:20]
Presumably, Naik falsely assumes that these verses rule out the fact that Jesus is God since Christ only performed miracles by the power and Spirit of God. Yet, Naik wrongly divides the word of God and does not read these passages within both their immediate and greater context. Had Naik done so, he would have discovered that the Holy Bible attributes the miracles to all three Persons of the Godhead:
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. John 10:10
"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and IN YOUR NAME drive out demons and perform many miracles?'" Matthew 7:22
"'Teacher,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons IN YOUR NAME and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle IN MY NAME can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.'" Mark 9:38-40
"And the seventy returned with joy, saying, `Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name '... 'Behold I HAVE GIVEN YOU AUTHORITY to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.'" Luke 10:17, 19
"Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!' So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.' Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God... 'By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.'" Acts 3:2-8, 16
Jesus is able to empower others to perform miracles in his name. This is something that only God can do, demonstrating quite clearly that Jesus is God.
The Holy Spirit:
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28
This is precisely what a Trinitarian expects to find, but a Muslim does not want to discover.
(v) "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." [The Bible, John 5:30]
Naik shows that he actually has no clue what Trinitarians actually believe. The doctrine of the Trinity also entails believing that there are three eternally distinct yet inseparable Persons who do not act independently from the others, but in perfect unity. The three Persons of the Godhead do not function separately and apart from the other members. Rather, they always work in perfect harmony. Hence, historic Trinitarianism does not teach that the three distinct Persons seek out their own personal initiatives since to do so would destroy the perfect and inseparable unity of the Godhead.
Had Naik read this passage in context, as opposed to manhandling it in order to fit his Islamic presuppositions, he would have realized that this is precisely Jesus' whole point:
"Jesus said to them, `Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, THE SON DOES LIKEWISE. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, SO ALSO THE SON GIVES LIFE TO WHOMEVER HE WISHES... I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted THE SON TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS VOICE and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:19-21, 25-29 (cf. John 16:13)
Jesus does nothing on his own, but everything that his Father does he can do also. Much like his Father, Jesus is able to give eternal life, raise the dead and judge all men, and is self-existent. In order for Jesus to be able to do all the works that his Father can do, he must be God since the Father does things that only God can do.
2. The Mission of Jesus Christ (pbuh) – to Fulfill the Law
Jesus (pbuh) never claimed divinity for himself. He clearly announced the nature of his mission. Jesus (pbuh) was sent by God to confirm the previous Judaic law. This is clearly evident in the following statements attributed to Jesus (pbuh) in the Gospel of Mathew:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." [The Bible, Mathew 5:17-20]
First, this passage does not teach that a person who breaks the least of Christ's commands shall lose his salvation. Rather, the person shall be least in the kingdom, implying that the person is still saved. The person suffers a loss of rewards, not a loss of eternal life. Paul beautifully expounds upon this point in his first epistle to the Corinthians:
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
Second, Christ demands that a person's righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees in order to attain salvation. The righteousness that Christ demands is that of perfection:
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48
The only way to attain such perfection is to follow Christ. The Lord Jesus is able to justify men by his perfect righteousness that is then imputed to the believer:
"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified BY FAITH IN ME." Acts 26:17-18
Hence, the righteousness demanded by Christ is a righteousness that only comes from following him. This righteousness is humanly impossible to attain, and is something received solely by faith in the Lord Jesus.
Third, Naik has grossly misunderstood Jesus' meaning that he came to fulfill the Law. Fulfillment did not just entail Christ's perfect observance to the precepts of the Law, but also included the spiritual completion and perfection that Jesus gives to it. This is precisely what Jesus goes on to do in the verses that immediately follow. (Cf. Matthew 5:21-48)
God designed the Law/Prophets to find their true completion and perfection in the Messiah. Hence, Jesus' meaning was not that he had come to fulfill in the sense that he came to simply obey, which he certainly did. Rather, it entailed fulfillment in the sense of both interpreting and exegeting the Law, as well as fulfilling the predictions made about the coming Messiah:
"Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Luke 24:44
"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life." John 5:39-40
"Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me. For he wrote about me." John 5:45-46
"For being ignorant of the righteousness that God ascribes (which makes one acceptable to Him in word, thought and deed), and seeking to establish a righteousness (as means of salvation) of their own, they did not obey or submit themselves to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the Law- the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose in which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. - That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him - as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him." Romans 10:3-4 Amplified Bible
The OT itself predicted that all the nations would put their hope in the Law that the Messiah would bring when he arrives:
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruise reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." Isaiah 42:1-4
Hence, it is the Law of the Messiah as defined by the Lord Jesus, which is binding upon all believers. This is the sense in which Jesus fulfills the Law, bringing it to its desired goal. In order for Christ to bring the Law to its spiritual perfection, it became necessary for him to both reinterpret and reinforce certain aspects of it, purifying it from the false interpretation that had evolved around it by the religious sects of his day.
Messianic Jew, David H. Stern, elaborates:
"It is true that Yeshua (Jesus) kept the Torah perfectly and fulfilled predictions of the Prophets, but that is not the point here. Yeshua did not come to abolish but 'to make full' (plerosai) the meaning of what the Torah and the ethical demands of the Prophets require. Thus he came to complete our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets, so that we can try to more effectively be and do what they say to be and do... The remainder of chapter 5 gives six specific cases in which Yeshua explains the fuller spiritual meaning of points in the Jewish Law. In fact, this verse states the theme and agenda of the entire Sermon on the Mount, in which Yeshua completes, makes fuller, the understanding of his talmidim (students) concerning the Torah and the Prophets, so that they can more fully express what being God's people is all about." (Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Clarksville, Maryland; Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996], pp. 25-26; bold emphasis ours)
Finally, Naik must have forgotten that the Quran affirms that part of Jesus' mission was to abrogate certain aspects of the Law:
"(I have come to you), to attest to the Law which was before me and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you..." Sura 3:50
According to Wahb bin Munabbih, Jesus came to "relieve" the Jews "of some of the hardships" which the Torah imposed on them. (Mahmoud M. Ayoub, The Quran and Its Interpreters, Vol. II- The House of Imran, p. 149; bold emphasis ours)
"The [Law] with which Jesus came was much more lenient than that which Moses brought. The Law of Moses made unlawful for them to eat the flesh of camel, the fat covering the stomach of an animal, and some birds and fish." (Ibid.)
These commands were made lawful by Jesus according to al-Qummi (Ibid., p. 150)
In the view of Ibn Kathir, the Quranic injunction indicates "that Jesus did indeed abrogate some of the precepts of the Torah." (Ibid., p. 149)
3. God Sent Jesus' (pbuh)
The Bible mentions the prophetic nature of Jesus (pbuh) mission in the following verses:
(i) "... and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me."
[The Bible, John 14:24]
(ii) "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent."
[The Bible, John 17:3]
Naik presumes that since Jesus was sent by God and speaks the words of God, Jesus therefore cannot be God. First, Naik is again assuming what he has yet to prove, namely that God is a uni-personal Being. He also assumes that the Father alone is the true God. Therefore, anytime God the Father is being distinguished from Jesus this is automatically taken to mean that Jesus is not God. All this simply proves is that Jesus is not the Father. It does not prove that Jesus is not God in nature. Trinitarians believe that Jesus is not the Father, but rather is equal to the Father in nature. Both the Father and Son are God in nature, but they are not identical in person.
Second, being sent or told what to say implies personal distinctions, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons. This argument actually establishes the Trinitarian view, namely that the One that is sent cannot be THE SAME PERSON AS THE ONE WHO SENT HIM, precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. Since there are three distinct Persons they can communicate and have fellowship amongst themselves. This communication and fellowship is eternal since all three Persons have coexisted together from eternity as the One God. Cf. John 1:1-3; 8:23-24, 56-59; 17:5; Hebrews 9:14
The distinction in Persons also allows for one member of the Trinity to send another to fulfill a specific task. Therefore, Naik again presents a straw man argumentation since he is either misrepresenting or simply misunderstands what the actual doctrine of the Trinity teaches.
Finally, these passages also refer to Christ's earthly ministry where he assumed the role of a servant. Therefore, Jesus is using terminology suitable in highlighting his role as the Father's servant who perfectly obeys his master's will.
4. Jesus Refuted even the Remotest Suggestion of his Divinity
Consider the following incident mentioned in the Bible:
"And behold, one came and said unto him, 'Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' And he said unto him, 'Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.'"
[The Bible, Mathew 19:16-17]
Jesus (pbuh) did not say that to have the eternal life of paradise, man should believe in him as Almighty God or worship him as God, or believe that Jesus (pbuh) would die for his sins. On the contrary he said that the path to salvation was through keeping the commandments. It is indeed striking to note the difference between the words of Jesus Christ (pbuh) and the Christian dogma of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus (pbuh).
First, Jesus does not say "I am not good, only God is good." Rather, he asks the rich man, "Why do you call me good?" The purpose behind Jesus' question was to make the rich man aware of the implications of calling Christ good. To call Jesus good is to make him God since only God is absolutely good. If the rich man really believed this, he should be willing to abandon everything, including his riches, for Jesus. This is precisely what Jesus goes on to say:
"Jesus answered, 'If you want TO BE PERFECT, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, FOLLOW ME.'" Matthew 19:21
Jesus demands a devotion that is to be given solely to God. It should be stated that this request from Jesus was made right after the man had indicated his total devotion to the Mosaic Law. For Jesus to then come back and demand that the man should abandon all he has and follow him is either blasphemous, or affirms that Jesus believed that he was God. That Christ did in fact believe he was absolutely good, and therefore God, can be seen from the following statements of Jesus:
"I am the GOOD Shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep... I am the GOOD Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me." John 10:11, 14
Not only is Jesus affirming his absolute goodness, but also applies a title of Yahweh God to himself:
"Yahweh is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Psalm 23:1
"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!" Psalm 80:1 NRSV
Jesus also claims to be absolutely sinless, having no unrighteousness within him whatsoever:
"Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him." John 7:18
"And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." John 8:29
"Which of you convicts me of sin? ..." John 8:46
No one was able to point to a single sin that Jesus committed. For Jesus to be absolutely good strongly argues the case that he is God. Note the following syllogism:
Second, Jesus clearly claimed that eternal life is a gift granted only to those who believe in him as the Son of God who came down from heaven to die for sinners:
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45
"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'" Matthew 9:1-2
"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment." Matthew 9:20-22
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" Matthew 26:26-28
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them... Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.' Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' The other guests began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' Luke 7:36-38, 44-50
"In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'" Luke 22:20
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:14-18
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24
"'Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed HIS SEAL OF APPROVAL.' Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" John 6:27-29
(NOTE- Jesus claims here that he is God's seal, refuting the Quranic claim that Muhammad is the seal of prophethood in S. 33:40.)
"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. FOR I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.' At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, 'I am the bread THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN.' They said, 'Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, "I CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN"?'" John 6:35-42
"I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:47
"'I am the living bread THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:51-58
"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." John 7:37-39
"And He was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.'" John 8:23-24 NASB
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" John 11:25-26
It is indeed striking to note the difference between Naik's false assertions regarding Jesus' view of salvation with what Christ actually taught. Hence, we discover that unlike Naik the Church has faithfully preserved and completely agrees with Jesus' own view that salvation comes through faith in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of lost sinners.
5. Jesus (pbuh) of Nazareth – a Man Approved of God
The following statement from the Bible supports the Islamic belief that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet of God.
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."
[The Bible, Acts 2:22]
Naik is guilty of both misrepresenting what Trinitarians actually believe and what Peter actually taught in context. First, Trinitarians thoroughly believe that Jesus was fully human, the epitome of human perfection, man as God intended for man to be. Yet, the Lord Jesus was fully God at the same time.
Secondly, the apostle Peter does not deny that Jesus is God, nor does the text state that Jesus was ONLY a man approved by God. Peter is emphasizing Jesus' role as Yahweh's servant, fulfilling the predictions made by the Prophet Isaiah. (C.f. Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-7, 52:13-53:12)
Had Naik read Peter in context, he would have discovered that Peter proceeds to acknowledge Jesus' Deity, his death on the cross for sinners, his bodily resurrection, his ascension to heaven and that salvation comes by faith in Jesus alone:
"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."' Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:23-36
"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author (archegos - Captain, Prince, Originator) of life whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." Acts 3:13-16 NKJV
To Peter, Jesus was not only a man but also the very Source of life itself.
"When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." Acts 3:26
"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: 'Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.'" Acts 4:8-12
"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.'" Acts 15:7-11
To summarize, Peter affirms:
The preceding points imply that Peter clearly believed that Jesus is Yahweh God! This fact is solidified by what Peter elsewhere writes about the Lord Jesus:
"To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ... for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:1, 11 NKJV
For Peter to identify Jesus as the Sovereign Lord God and Saviour of all believers affirms that to the Apostle Jesus was in fact Yahweh God. Therefore, contrary to the assertions of Naik, Peter was quite explicit in affirming the perfect and absolute deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. The First Commandment is that God is One
The Bible does not support the Christian belief in trinity at all. One of the scribes once asked Jesus (pbuh) as to which was the first commandment of all, to which Jesus (pbuh) merely repeated what Moses (pbuh) had said earlier:
"Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adonai Ikhad."
This is a Hebrew quotation, which means:
"Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord."
[The Bible, Mark 12:29]
Correction. The Holy Bible doesn't support Naik's gross misrepresentation of the Trinity. It is therefore not surprising that Naik does not find the biblical evidence for the Trinity seeing that he constantly attacks a straw man. The heart of Trinitarianism is that God is in fact absolutely one. Yet, Naik confuses oneness with singularity. He wrongly assumes that one by necessity precludes any type of plurality. Not only is Naik's definition unbiblical, it is also wrong in light of the modern use of the term one. Notice the manner in which the following dictionaries define the term one:
ONE - IN PREGNANT SENSES. ONE made up of many components, a united. (The Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition Moul-Ovum, 1989, p. 804)
ONE - Being a.) a single unit, object or entity. b.) Forming a single entity OF TWO OR MORE COMPONENTS.
UNIT - An individual, group, structure, or other entity regarded as an elementary structural or functional constituent of a whole. A group regarded as a distinct entity within a larger group.
GROUP - An assemblage of persons or objects located or gathered together: Two or more figures COMPRISING A UNIT or a design, as in sculpture. A number of things or individuals considered together because of similarities. (Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary 1984.)
Hence, one can imply either a singularity or to a plurality within unity. The Holy Bible clearly teaches that God is a plurality of Persons coexisting as one Being, having one nature and essence. In fact, had Naik continued reading further into the text he would have found the Lord Jesus affirming this point:
"While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, 'How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'" David himself calls him "Lord." How then can he be his son?' The large crowd listened to him with delight." Mark 12:35-37
The Lord Jesus identifies two Persons as Lord, the Messiah and God. Christ also affirms the personality of the Holy Spirit since it is the Spirit that spoke through David, inspiring the latter to write the passage cited by Jesus, Psalm 110:1.
Therefore, when Mark 12 is read within its intended context we discover that Israel's one Lord is a multi-personal Being, refuting Naik's position.
It is striking that the basic teachings of the Church such as Trinity and vicarious atonement find no mention in the Bible. In fact, various verses of the Bible point to Jesus' (pbuh) actual mission, which was to fulfill the law revealed to Prophet Moses (pbuh). Indeed Jesus (pbuh) rejected any suggestions that attributed divinity to him, and explained his miracles as the power of the One True God.
Jesus (pbuh) thus reiterated the message of monotheism that was given by all earlier prophets of Almighty God.
NOTE: All quotations of the Bible are taken from the King James Version.
The only striking thing is Naik's misquotation of the Holy Bible and willful neglect of the context of Scripture, which clearly affirms the Trinity and Jesus' vicarious suffering. Therefore, the Church has clearly understood the message of the Holy Bible, while Naik has distorted it to his own destruction:
"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16
III CONCEPT OF GOD IN OLD TESTAMENT:
1. God is One
The following verse from the book of Deuteronomy contains an exhortation from Moses (pbuh):
"Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adonai Ikhad."
It is a Hebrew quotation, which means:
"Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord"
[The Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4]
2. Unity of God in the Book of Isaiah
The following verses are from the Book of Isaiah:
(i) "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour."
[The Bible, Isaiah 43:11]
(ii) "I am Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me."
[The Bible, Isaiah 45:5]
(iii) "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me."
[The Bible, Isaiah 46:9]
We are glad to see that Naik realizes that Isaiah teaches the unity of God. Yet, this very same Isaiah also affirms that the one true God of creation is indeed a multi-personal Being. In fact, Isaiah clearly teaches that God is a tri-unity of Persons. Note the following passages:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Father of Eternity (abi ad), The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7
According to Isaiah, a child will be born who will be the Mighty God himself, the Father or Source of eternal life. Isaiah takes the same titles of the child and applies them elsewhere to the true God Yahweh:
"A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God." Isaiah 10:21
"O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done WONDERFUL things; Your COUNSELS of old are faithfulness and truth." Isaiah 25:1 NKJV
"LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." Isaiah 26:12
"This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance." Isaiah 28:29
This means that Isaiah clearly believed that the one true God Yahweh is multi-personal as opposed to being an uni-personal Entity.
In case Naik tries to claim that Isaiah 9:6-7 does not refer to the Messiah, we present the following ancient Jewish commentary, one that thoroughly embraces the messianic interpretation of this passage:
"For to us a Son is born, to us a Son is given; and His name is called from of old, Wonderful, Counselor, Eloha (God, Arabic - Allah), The Mighty, Abiding to Eternity, THE MESSIAH, because peace shall be multiplied on us in His days." Targum Jonathan
This clearly demonstrates that Christians are not the only ones that have interpreted Isaiah 9:6-7 messianically, since even non-Christians viewed the text in the same manner also.
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us - yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, 'Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, AND THE ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE (Hebrew - face) SAVED THEM. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and GRIEVED his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people - where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses' right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name." Isaiah 63:7-14
This passage attributes the redemption of Israel to Yahweh, the Angel of his Presence/Face and to the Holy Spirit. Dr. Robert Morey comments on the significance of the Angel being identified as God's presence:
"There are three distinct persons in this passage. There is the Speaker who sent the Messenger. That makes two Persons. Then the Holy Spirit was grieved. That makes three Persons.
"In the Hebrew text of verse 9, the words 'the Messenger of His presence'... literally translates as 'the Messenger of His face.' It was an idiomatic expression which meant that the Messenger who is His face, i.e. who is the outward expression of His essence. The classic German commentator Carl Wilhelm Nagelsbach explains:
For by 'the angel of His face' who saved them, the suppliant evidently intends... by whom the redemption of the people from Egyptian slavery was effected. The expression... refers immediately to Ex. xxxiii. 14,15, where to the request of Moses that the LORD would let him know whom He intends to send with them (vers. 12,13), the answer is given... Moses thereupon rejoins: 'If... (thy Face) go not, carry us not up hence.'
"Because Moses wanted to know whether God Himself would be with them, he asks whether God's 'face' would be with them. The divine Messenger who appeared to Moses and the Patriarchs was the 'face' of God. As Delitzsch rightly points out:
'the face of God' is His self-revealing presence. The genitive..., therefore, is not to be taken objectively in the sense of 'the angel who sees His face' but as explanatory, 'the angel who is His face, or in whom His face is manifested.'
"This has been pointed out by modern commentators as well. E.J. Young comments:
This angel (the word means messenger) God had promised to send to His people (Ex. 23:20-23) and actually did send to them (Ex. 14:19; Num. 20:16). He is the Lord's angel (Ex. 33:14, 15) and is actually the Lord (Yahweh) Himself (Ex. 33:12).
"The 'Messenger of His face' is clearly the 'Messenger of Yahweh' who is Yahweh in human form. Who else could be described with such terminology? Even the pre-Christian Jews understood this quite clearly. Thus, the Septuagint renders Isaiah 63:9 as:
ek pases thlipseos ou presbus oude angelos all autos kurios esosen autous dia to agapan autous
... out of their affliction; not by an ambassador, or an angel but the Lord himself saved them through His love.
"The Alexandrian Jews in their paraphrase of this verse pointed out that the 'messenger of His face' was not a human ambassador (presbus) or a mere created angel (angelos) but Yahweh himself." (Morey, The Trinity - Evidence and Issues [World Bible Pub Co; September 1996 ISBN: 0529106922], pp. 200-202; bold emphasis ours)
Therefore, we discover that this Angel was not a mere creature, but rather the eternal God himself appearing to the Israelites on behalf of Jehovah their God. The Angel was both distinct from Jehovah and fully God in nature, since he himself is Jehovah God that appeared in visible form.
Furthermore, The Holy Sprit is viewed as a Person since the Spirit can be grieved and grants rest to God's people. These are traits belonging to a Person, not to a force.
Add to this Isaiah's statement that Jehovah alone saves and is the sole Savior of all creation, we end up with the conclusion that the God of the OT is a triune Being:
"'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.' " Isaiah 43:10-11
"Declare what is to be, present it- let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other." Isaiah 45:21-22
And in the words of Hosea:
"But I am the LORD your God, [who brought you] out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, NO SAVIOR EXCEPT ME. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat." Hosea 13:4-5
Therefore, these passages thoroughly endorse the teaching of the Trinity, since the one God of Israel that redeemed them from Egypt is seen existing in three distinct Persons: Yahweh, the Angel who shares his nature fully and equally, and the Holy Spirit.
3. Old Testament condemns idol worship
(i) Old Testament condemns idol worship in the following verses:
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:"
"Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
[The Bible, Exodus 20:3-5]
(ii) A similar message is repeated in the book of Deuteronomy:
"Thou shalt have none other gods before me."
"Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth."
"Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
[The Bible, Deuteronomy 5:7-9]
These verses actually incriminate Muhammad as an idol worshiper. This therefore means that Muhammad falls under the righteous condemnation of God. Islamic Tradition states that Muhammad venerated a black stone, claiming that it was an ancient relic that Abraham placed in the Kabah:
Narrated Salim that his father said: I saw Allah's Apostle arriving at Mecca; he kissed the Black Stone Corner first while doing Tawaf and did ramal in the first three rounds of the seven rounds (of Tawaf). (Sahih al-Bukhari 2:673)
Narrated 'Abis bin Rabia: 'Umar came near the Black Stone and kissed it and said "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither benefit anyone nor harm anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Apostle kissing you I would not have kissed you." (Sahih al-Bukhari 2:667, 675, 676, 679, 680)
The reason behind Umar's reluctance in kissing the black object is that the pagan Arabs also performed this ritual. Muhammad kept this pagan practice, a practice that Umar reluctantly observed. Yet, since he saw his prophet kissing it, he was obligated to follow suit.
Sheikh Sha'rawi says:
"The kissing of the meteorite is a firm practice in Islamic law because Muhammad did it. You must not ask about the wisdom behind that because this rite is (an expression) of worship in spite of the obscurity of its wisdom." (Sha'rawi, Legal Opinions, pt. 3, p. 167 as cited in Behind the Veil, p. 287)
Some try to justify this practice by claiming that kissing the stone is no more idolatrous than the kissing of one's wife or children would be classified as idolatry as well. Hence, it is argued that kissing does not necessarily imply worship, but simply demonstrates affection. The only problem behind this logic is that showing affection to one's wife or children is never condemned in the Holy Bible, yet the showing of affection of any kind to stones or idols is condemned completely. Therefore, this argument commits the fallacy of equivocation and of false analogy.
Muhammad also permitted Christian icons of Jesus, Mary and Abraham to remain within the Kabah.
[After the conquest of Mecca] "Apart from the icon of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus, and a painting of an old man, said to be Abraham, the walls inside [Kaaba] had been covered with pictures of pagan deities. Placing his hand protectively over the icon, the Prophet told 'Uthman to see that all other paintings, except that of Abraham, were effaced." (Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, p.300; ref.- al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi 834, and Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah vol. 1, p. 107. Martin Lings is a practicing Muslim.)
"... pictures of the prophets and pictures of trees and of angels. Among them there was a picture of Ibrahim as of an elderly man, drawing lots with arrow lots, and the picture of Jesus, the son of Mary, and of his mother and a picture with angels." (al-Azraqi according to the Arabic text edited by Ferdinand Wuestenfeld, Chroniken der Stadt Mekka, Band 1, Leipzig 1858, reprint Beyreuth 1964, p. 110)
"On the day of the conquest of Mecca the Prophet entered the House (= the Kaaba; my comment)and sent al-Fadl ibn al-Abbas ibn Abdalmuttalib to get water from the well of Zemzem. He ordered to bring pieces of cloth and to imbue them with water and then he commanded to wash off these pictures, as it was done. He stretched his arms, however, over the picture of Jesus, the son of Mary, and of his mother and said: 'Wash off all except what is under my hands!' But eventually he took away his hands away from Jesus, the son of Mary, and his mother." (al-Azraqi p. 111, cf. p. 76) (Source: soc.religion.islam newsgroup posting)
The true God of Abraham would never send a black stone for his followers to kiss, nor would he permit the fashioning and veneration of an idol of Mary and Christ. These things find no biblical precedence. Both the New Testament and the early Christians never fashioned images of Christ or Mary. This practice was adopted centuries later by pagans converting to Christianity who integrated pagan customs into the Church. This is precisely what we find Muhammad doing with the religion of Islam. Therefore, Naik's appeal to the biblical condemnation of idolatry backfires against him, since these biblical citations expose Muhammad's idolatrous inclinations and practices.
Our examination of Naik's article should make it obvious to any open-minded individual that Naik is unqualified to comment on the biblical concept of God. Dr. Naik claims that he is a student of comparative religion. His research shows that he is a rather poor student of comparative religion and often misrepresents and misquotes religious scriptures to suit his theological presuppositions. We advise Naik to refrain from lecturing on issues that he is unqualified to speak on. Naik is neither a Muslim scholar nor an honest student of comparative religions.
This concludes our rebuttal. In the service of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
Responses to Zakir Naik
Further articles by Sam Shamoun
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