Some comment on Abdul Wahid's paper Divinity of Jesus. Much more could be said, but maybe at another time.
So, the Muslim seeks clarification of the teaching, and as it is explained to him he asks at every step, "How could that be so?" For example, we insist that the term son of God cannot have a literal interpretation. Sonship and divine nature would be necessary attributes. But these are incompatible. The first, sonship, describes someone who has received life, while the second, divine nature, describes someone who received his life from no one. These are mutually exclusive requirements. To be a son is to be less than divine, and to divine is to be no one's son.
The Muslim is starting to undestand but is not yet there... We fully agree. The term "son of God" cannot have a literal interpretation in the sense the Muslim understands "literal".
Sonship and divine nature are indeed attributes of Jesus according to the Bible and the teaching of the Christian Church.
But then Mr. Wahid goes astray. He speculates that sonship means "having received life". But maybe that is not what sonship necessarily means in the Bible? Each "image" or "analogy" is only legitimately used in for the intention it is given. Let me explain this with an example from the Qur'an. Allah is called "merciful" but he is also called "just". Furthermore, his attributes are eternal and he is both the merciful and the just at all times. Yet we observe that he forgives some and sends to Hell others. Is the act of sending people to Hell part of his eternal attribute of mercy? No. To receive mercy is to NOT get what we deserve. If we deserve Hell and get Hell, then we have not received mercy but justice. Does Allah's attribute of always being the merciful mean that he cannot send anyone to Hell? This might be our human conclusion, but then we have stretched our expectation of merciful to mean something that is not true.
In a similar way, "son" of God means something very specific, but not necessarily all that we might expect. We cannot transfer the human meaning of son to be in all aspects alike to the divine meaning of son. What then does "Son of God" mean when used for Jesus?
To understand this, please read the article Jesus as the Son of God.
It is the Muslim who must redirect the discussion. Our primary issue is more basic than resolving the difficulties of Trinitarian doctrine. Rather than ask how the Trinity can be so, we should ask why it must be so. We ask, "Why must Jesus be divine?"
This is a good and a bad question. Yes, we should ask why the Christians could not help but come to the conclusion that Jesus is fully divine. But no, it is not an outside pressure as Wahid imagines. It is the study of the holy scriptures which leads to this conclusion that it cannot be otherwise. It is a good question if the answer is sought in the word of God. We need to understand all our faith from the revelation that God has given.
It is a bad question, or rather a bad reaction to the question when this answer then is sought in pagan myths and social pressures etc since that is not the source of it.
If Jesus IS divine, then the above question is as misleading as "Why must God be God?" There is no reason for it. It is just a fact.
Or the question "Why must Muhammad be just a man?" is answered by the Muslim, "because the Qur'an says so". In the similar way, we only answer, "Jesus is God in the flesh, because the holy scriptures say so". For more detail, please study the articles in the sections Who is Jesus? and The Trinity.
There is a quotation that should be mentioned here also. At John 8:58, it is reported that Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." Even if Jesus meant to claim by these words that he was alive before Abraham was, is this sufficient ground to say that he is divine? If Jesus lived in Heaven then came to Earth it might mean something remarkable, but it would not be enough to establish him as God in the flesh. In addition, it should also be noted that these words are open to other interpretation. Christians do not imagine that the Prophet Jeremiah had a pre-human existence, but this is one way of interpreting the words in the book of Jeremiah 1:5. They portray a pre-human existence for Jeremiah if taken literally, but Christians find another explanation. Why not a similar understanding in the case of John 8:58?
The Biblical teaching is quite clear. God knows everything in advance, including who will be born and about our lives we will. In Jeremiah, God tells the prophet that he knew him before he was born. That does not mean that he had a pre-existence, but that God had a pre-knowledge about his existence. That is quite different from Jesus' statement about his pre-existence.
The Septuagint- This work translated the key phrase, "I am", of Exodus, as ho on. However, the words of Jesus, "I am", have been given to us in Greek as ago ami. If the gospel writer of this passage wanted to tell his Greek speaking audience that Jesus had imitated God, he would have used the familiar words of the Septuagint, otherwise the point would be lost. The evidence of this verse is far from conclusive.
This is sloppy scholarship. And maybe some Christians bear some guilt that you have not been better informed. Some Christians directly refer back to Exodus. But the fact that some Christians present a weak case does not mean that there is no strong case to be made. Please have a look at this article about the I AM sayings of Jesus.
Further down in his article Wahid states:
The second part of this talk concerns missionary tactics, and one in particular. There are many missionary tactics directed by Christians toward Muslims. Most of these stand immediately condemned by the Bible itself, because the Bible talks about their master's path being straight. Missionary strategies have included enticing Muslims with money, women, alcohol, and social status. These methods may lead people, but do they lead by a straight path? A complete exposure of such activities is a worthwhile investigation, but this is not our concern here.
This method of attack is called slander. I challenge the author to show that this is a missionary strategy. I have heard this accusation now many times from various Muslims, but never ever have I seen any of them bring forward some proof. The longer I observe this behavior the more I get the impression that slander is no big deal among Muslims.
In regard to the Qur'anic statement about the Bible, please have a look at these sites: , , , which do exactly what he is the author is writing about, but which might have a better argument than he might be willing to acknowledge. May each reader decide for himself.
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