A Muslim view of Jesus; summary of mtg on 4th March
Tuesday 10th April 2018
A MUSLIM 'CRITIQUE' OF THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF JESUS
This was based on a leaflet picked up at the Grand Mosque in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
It begins by criticising Christians who say that Jesus is God, using some quotes from the Bible such as Matt 26, v.39, Matt 21, v.10,11 and John 14, v.28.
However, if you look at John 10, v.30 ("I and the father are one"), John 14, v.9 ("Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father") or John 8, v.58 ("Before Abraham was born, I am"), you see how some Christians assume that Jesus is God. Commentators make clear that this is the wrong interpretation of these passages. The first refers to the bond of love or unity between God and Jesus, the second to the channel by which God is revealed to people and the third to the timeless nature of the life that dwelt in Jesus.
It was agreed in discussion that most Christians have not claimed that Jesus is God.
Similarly the Muslim leaflet assumes that when Christians say Jesus is the Son of God, they mean it literally. Thus it says surely God is far removed from having a physical son; "cats have kittens, what does it mean for God to have a child ?" Muslims say it is the same meaning as in the Old Testament or in usage by others at the time to describe a righteous person. We would say that Christians use it to describe the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and God.
Christians say Jesus is Lord; according to Muslims that is simply a term of respect and does not mean the divinity of Jesus or that Jesus should be worshipped. I have never taken it to mean worship of Jesus and omit verses in hymns that say that.
On the matter of the virgin birth the leaflet gives away something of the simplistic literalistic thinking behind the leaflet, because up to this point I found myself largely agreeing with it. It says "Some claim that his miraculous birth is evidence of Jesus' divinity. However, Jesus was not the first to come into existence without a father...If Jesus is worshipped due to having no father, then surely Adam is more deserving of worship since he was created without either parent."
In the section on miracles, it says that "Jesus was miraculously conceived with no father and also performed great miracles by the will and permission of God. He spoke as a baby in the cradle to defend his mother against the people who accused her of fornication."
The whole criticism of some Christian views seems to be based on a literal interpretation of Christian statements and on the concept of God as a separate all-powerful being outside of humanity, who is able at will to do all sorts of miracles. God cannot do ungodly acts (which most Christians would agree with), so "if God became man he would necessarily no longer be God" !
Islam cannot conceive of God entering human life in any way; hence their inability to find any truth in the doctrine of the Trinity. It says "Islam teaches that God is always perfect. To believe that God became a man is to claim that God is or was at some point in time, imperfect. A Christian must ask him/herself does the idea of a god who was once a weak helpless child, one who could not survive without food, drink or sleep, be the same Almighty God described in the Old Testament ? Surely not."
In the discussion it was said that whatever your view, we are all talking about what human beings have said they think about God. We may all be wrong.
The leaflet is clearly an attempt to convert Christians, because it goes on to give the Islamic view of Jesus as a prophet who will play the main role in judgement at the end of time. Hence Christians can become Muslims in the knowledge that Jesus is still the one to follow if we are to be saved from eternal hell.
In that connection we remember the hills outside Cambridge called Gog Magog. This refers in Ezekiel and Revelation, to the leader of evil forces that will sweep the world, near the end of time, but Jesus will save the righteous from this. Muslims are taught this.
We also noted what is said in a book by the American Muslim, Yahiya Emerick, called "The Complete Idiot's guide to Understanding Islam". He says that there will be Christians and Jews in Paradise. What matters at the end of time is not so much to which religious group you have claimed to belong, but rather whether or not you believe in God and the Last Day and do what is right.
This is not a complete summary of what Islam says about Jesus, but I end with another quote from the leaflet.
"Islam teaches us to love and respect all the prophets of God, but that does not mean worshipping them because worship is due only to God. Acknowledging Jesus as a prophet of God and becoming a Muslim does not mean changing or losing your Christian identity. It is about going back to the original and pure teachings of Jesus."
I am sure that does not end the discussion.
Nigel Jones (22 March 2018)