As promised (*), we resume with our response to Bassam Zawadis criticism (1, 2) of Gods love being an argument for his multiplicity, specifically his Triunity. (*)
It may be helpful at this point to repeat the argument so that our readers can understand what the issues are. If God possesses the attribute of love, as the Holy Bible says he does:
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:8, 16
And if God is perfect, as the Holy Bible says he is:
"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." Deuteronomy 32:4
"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." Psalm 18:30
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48
With perfection implying that that God lacks nothing and is immutable:
"I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." Malachi 3:6
"And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." Acts 17:25
"He also says, In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Hebrews 1:10-12
"Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged." Hebrews 6:17-18
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:4
Then God must be perfectly loving.
Yet a perfectly loving Being cannot perfectly love if he is not sharing that love with at least one other, since perfect love exists between at least two distinct entities. After all, love demands a subject who loves and an object that is loved. Moreover, a belief in Gods immutability and self-sufficiency (his aseity) requires that his love be not dependant upon the existence of creatures.
Thus, if Islam is correct that God is a solitary deity, a unitarian monad, then he would not be perfectly loving since there was a time in which this God was not expressing perfect love since there was no one for him to love.
Hence, the Christian concept of God as a Triune Being comports perfectly with this philosophical understanding of Divine love since there are three eternally distinct, yet inseparable Persons of God that love one another completely:
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17
"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three sheltersone for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus." Mark 9:2-8
"Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him. But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. This is the heir, they said. Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." Luke 20:13-14
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 18 NASB
"The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands." John 3:35
"For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these." John 5:20
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." John 15:9-10
"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:5, 24
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:3-7
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him," Colossians 1:13-19
As noted Christian philosopher and theologian Richard Swinburne puts it:
"There is something profoundly imperfect and therefore inadequately divine in a solitary divine individual. If such an individual is love, he must share, and sharing with finite beings such as humans is not sharing all of one's nature and so is imperfect sharing. A divine individual's love has to be manifested in a sharing with another divine individual, and that (to keep the divine unity) means (in some sense) within the Godhead, that is, in mutual dependence and support." (Swinburne, The Christian God [Oxford University Press, USA, November 24, 1994], p. 190)
With the foregoing in mind we can now turn to Zawadis claims:
This logic is very weak. Because then I could argue the following:-
There was no one for the Unitarian God to love in the beginning and therefore he was not All Loving. But also, there was no one for God to forgive before he created us, so that also means that God is not All Forgiving!
Anyone can see this fallacious argument crumbling already. Are Christians trying to also say that since God is triune then that means that each member of the God head forgave the other so that God could be All Forgiving? Of course not. For someone to be forgiven he would have had to commit a sin right? Well does any member of the God head commit sins? Christian will respond back and say no.
For any event of "forgiveness" we do need the subject who forgives, we need an object which is forgiven, and we need an expression of this forgiveness in some way, i.e. an interaction between the first two.
I could also argue that God was not a creator before he created anything. I could also argue that God was not many things before he created anything if I were to use this fallacious and illogical missionary way of thinking.
SO JUST BECAUSE GOD DID NOT EXHIBIT OR IMPLEMENT HIS ATTRIBUTES BEFORE HIS CREATION THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT HE DID NOT HAVE THOSE ATTRIBUTES. SO JUST BECAUSE GOD HAD NO CREATION TO LOVE BEFORE HE CREATED THEM THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT HE DID NOT HAVE THE ATTRIBUTE OF BEING ALL LOVING. IT IS JUST THAT HE DID NOT EXHIBIT OR IMPLEMENT IT YET.
By using such false analogies Zawadi exposes his fundamental ignorance of this specific philosophical argument. For instance, being able to create doesnt necessitate a relationship between two parties. After all, God doesnt have to create something in order to be all-powerful or self-sufficient since his ability to create doesnt depend on the existence of more than one entity. It merely depends on his having enough power to create whatever he pleases.
Divine love, however, is different in that love presupposes a relationship with more than one party. Hence, if God werent sharing his love with someone then he wouldnt be perfectly loving since perfect love only exists between at least two persons, i.e. the Lover and the Beloved.
Furthermore, forgiveness is a result of God being love, i.e. that God is willing to forgive those who offend and hurt him on the grounds that he is love and, therefore, loves them:
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes, declares the LORD." Hosea 11:1-11
"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 3:16-18
"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:5-11
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7
Yet forgiveness is not required for God to be perfectly loving provided that those he loves are living in perfect union and fellowship with him. It is only when such persons sin that God would need to show forgiveness, provided that he does love them. Thus, Zawadis counter-arguments fall to the ground and fail to refute anything.
There is a way in which Zawadi can avoid all these problems, namely by simply admitting that Allah doesnt perfectly love and isnt required to be perfectly loving. Or he can admit that Allah isnt self-sufficient and totally independent of his creation, but does in fact need them, which is what Muhammad basically taught (1, 2).
Yet either position leads to the inevitable conclusion that Islam presents a morally inadequate conception of God, since it portrays Allah as an imperfectly loving deity. This is in stark contrast to the Holy Bible which presents a perfectly loving God. As noted Christian debater, apologist and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig put it in his debate against Shabir Ally (*):
In fact, I like to finish out my first contention by offering an argument for why I think its plausible to think that God is a Trinity. To begin with, God is by definition the greatest conceivable Being; if you could think of any thing greater than God then that would be God.
Now as the greatest conceivable being God must be perfect if there were any imperfection in God then he would not be the greatest conceivable Being. Now a perfect Being must be a loving Being for love is a moral perfection. It is better for a person to be loving than unloving. God, therefore, must be a perfectly loving Being.
Now it is of the very nature of love to give oneself away. Love reaches out to another person rather than centering wholly in oneself. So if God is perfectly loving, by his very nature he must be giving his love to another.
But who is that other?
It cannot be any created person since creation is the result of Gods free will, not a result of his nature. It belongs to Gods very essence to love but it does not belong to his essence to create. God is necessarily loving but he is not necessarily creating; so we can imagine a possible world in which God is perfectly loving and yet no created persons exist. So created persons cannot be the sufficient explanation of whom God loves.
Moreover, we know from science that created persons have not always existed from eternity, but God is eternally loving. So, again, created persons alone are not sufficient to explain who the other is to whom Gods love is necessarily directed. It follows, therefore, that that other to whom Gods love is necessarily directed must be internal to God himself.
In other words, God is not a single, isolated individual as Islam holds; rather God is a plurality of Persons as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds. On the Islamic view God is not a Triad of Persons, he is a single person who does not give himself away in love essentially to another. He is focused essentially only upon himself, and hence he cannot be the most perfect being.
But on the Christian view God is a Triad of Persons in eternal, self-giving love relationships. Thus, since God is essentially loving the doctrine of the Trinity is more plausible than any unitarian doctrine of God, such as Islam. Why? Because God is by nature a perfect Being of self-giving love.
It is time to summarize all the points that we raised in both this article and in our previous one so as to help our readers see the utter inadequacy of the Muslim doctrine of monotheism in contrast to the Christian conception of Gods multi-Personality.
Even though both religions claim that God is perfect in every way, and is independent of all wants and needs, it is only the Christian position that adequately explains how Gods core essential attributes such as love do not undermine his Divine perfection and self-sufficiency. If, as we have argued throughout our articles, perfect love is one which gives itself away to another then the Islamic view of God inevitably means that Allah wasnt always perfectly loving since he didnt have anyone to love other than himself. To put it another way, there was no one to whom Allah could give himself away in unconditional love before creation which, therefore, shows that he was imperfect, at least in regards to one of his attributes.
This, perhaps, explains why Muhammad believed that Allah needed to create sinners whom he could show love to by forgiving them, since he seems to have realized that perfect love can only exist between persons who love one another, among a community which gives itself away in love. This also may explain the following Quranic statement:
I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. S. 51:56 Pickthall
I.e. Allah created since he needed someone or something to worship him.(1)
On the other hand, the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity completely solves this dilemma since it fully meets the definition of perfect love as well as establishing Gods self-sufficiency, his full freedom from all wants and needs. God existing as three eternally distinct Persons means that even before creation the Divine members of the Godhead were giving (and continue to give) themselves away to one another in perfect, selfless love and do not need any one or thing outside of Gods own eternal Being to love in order to be perfectly loving. This further implies that the Biblical God didnt have to create anything, but was free to create whatever he pleased.
We hope that this discussion was helpful in bringing out some of the problems posed by the Muslim conception of Divine unity, problems which the Biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity solves. We pray that the readers can see more clearly why the Islamic doctrine of Tauhid is one of its greatest weaknesses since it fails to satisfy Gods self-sufficiency and perfection, whereas the Christian concept of God as Triune happens to be one of its greatest, or even its greatest, strengths.
For more on this issue, please see the article Divine Love: A Biblical and Quranic Perspective
All Biblical quotations taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Holy Bible, unless noted otherwise.
(1) There is actually a narration where Allah claims that his reason for creating was so that he could be known:
3. Allah says, "I was a hidden treasure, and I wished to be known, so I created a creation (mankind), then made Myself known to them, and they recognised Me." (Source)
Although the authenticity of the chain of transmission for this report has been questioned by Muslim scholars there are some that accept its veracity on the grounds that its meaning is supported by Q. 51:56:
3. Ibn Taimiyyah says, "It is not from the words of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and there is no known isnad for it, neither sahih nor da'if"; al-Zarkashi (d. 794), Ibn Hajar, al-Suyuti and others agreed with him. Al-Qari says, "But its meaning is correct, deduced from the statement of Allah, I have not created the Jinn and Mankind, except to worship Me, i.e. to recognise/know me, as Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) has explained." These statements are mentioned by al-'Ijlouni, who adds, "This saying occurs often in the words of the Sufis, who have relied on it and built upon it some of their principles."88 (Source; italic emphasis ours)
88. Isma'il b. Muhammad al-'Ijlouni, Kashf al- Khafa' (2 vols. in 1, Cairo/Aleppo, N.D.), no. 2016. (Source)
Thus, here we find additional corroboration that Allah was in dire need of creatures that could love and worship him! Allah is clearly not like the God of the Holy Bible in this regard, and in many other aspects as well.
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