Friday

WHAT THE GOSPELS MEAN TO MUSLIMS ? PART 2

SON OF GOD, SON OF THE DEVIL
He doesn't congratulate them on their insight -- That they heard him right, it's too bad they don't like it. No, he goes back to show them that they cannot convict him according to anything he just said. Both the Jews and Jesus used the term son of God of themselves and one another. What did they mean? Did they both mean the same thing? Or did they mean differently? According to the 8th chapter of John, the Jews came to Jesus and said, "We are sons of God." He said, no, no, I'm the son of God, you're sons of the devil.
Well, why should the one be a great theological statement: "I'm the Son of God," capital "S", and, "You're sons of the devil" figuratively speaking, of course. Perhaps they were both talking about the same sorts of things, figuratively, at that time. In any case, as I said, the encouragement is to think these things through and there is a number of standard objections that are made. That is, if a person thinks too hard about these things he may be told, "If you are going so deeply into something you are forgetting something very important: the Bible is written for simple people."
Interestingly enough, the same people who say that really mean to tell me that your problem is you haven't consulted an expert. You see, on the one hand, you are told it is written for simple people, and in the same breath you're told the reason you don't understand it is because you don't know enough about it. You should go and ask this man, he studied it for years. Those are really quite contrary ideas.
TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK
Thinking will lead you astray people have often said. In fact, I've heard it said, "Thinking will lead you astray, I want you to think about that." Now, put that all together, you see, is the thinking going to lead us astray, that certainly is a subject for thought, right, that I might go astray, it's a tangled little knot, the common statement: This is a substitution of slogans for thinking. Another common statement is: "If you will surrender your own judgment, God will guide you." Well, maybe he will.
But maybe it works like this, maybe God says: "Surrender your own judgment, and I'll see to it that you go astray." That might be the way things work. That also makes a little more sense, to me. That is after all the view the scientists have, he says, "Set aside your personal preferences and use objectivity." That is keep your judgment when investigating something, don't be blinded by what you are sure must be the case or what you would LIKE to be the case. Set aside personal preferences. And that's such a good argument, such a good suggestion, that in fact it is used by some of the very people that I have the confrontation with. Their problem is they say, "Yes, set aside your personal preferences," but in the list of personal preferences they put using your personal judgment. "Your problem is you prefer to use your head. You should suspend your judgment."
THE GOD-MAN THING
The objective questions that at least I would suggest are maybe not the ones that people might expect. I think that most often a Christian feels he has a duty to convince the Muslim that Jesus is divine and the Muslim feels he has a duty to prove that he isn't. And that could be an endless discussion but I feel that's not a very worthwhile point to get into. I suggest that some of the problems become more apparent if the Muslim asks the Christian to prove the humanity of Jesus.
To say, whatever you say he was, I'll grant you that except for this one thing, prove to me that he was a man. How do you know he wasn't God and disguised like a man? Prove he was a man. What did he do that God can't do, that only a man can do? Prove he was a man. There's only one thing: What did he do that God can't, you have to be a man to do it. The Christian will tell you, "He died." See God can't do that. Only a man can do that. The problem then is that, that same death is supposed to be the saving act that man can't do only God can do. That is to say, if we crucify a man it won't save anybody from his or her sins, on the other hand you can't kill God, only a man can die.
As one Muslim put it, about 850 years ago, he said they have an idea about God, man, and a God-man. They'll tell you what we crucified is the God-man. A God-man -- What it really comes down to is that God lived and the man died. That's not really crucifying a God-man. Anymore than if I tell you I had a sandwich for lunch I had a piece of cheese. A sandwich is bread and cheese.
To kill a God-man, but to say only the man died, not the God, then that is what happened, not the God-man thing. And these are not novel ideas; these are things appreciated by the mainstream of Christianity. There has always been a doctrine of Incarnation that's well defined, there's never been a defined doctrine of atonement, how exactly it's suppose to work – YOU DON'T FIND THAT EXPLAINED IN ANY ANCIENT OR MODERN DOCUMENT. You find a lot of talk about it but there is no creedal statement on that idea because it has never really been figured out – how it is supposed to work. I'm not claiming that proves it doesn't work, I'm just saying that it is still an open issue.
HUMAN ACTION & SALVATION
I know that there is a great concern, and the Muslim who is pestered or annoyed by people who are anxious to have him come along to their church. He may feel annoyed but at the same time he has to appreciate that people may have a proper intention in all of this and that they are genuinely concerned. Their concern, though, is related to, often anyway getting someone to take an action, which brings about salvation. And there is an interesting point about salvation here, and human action. That is, suppose there is an act that is connected with salvation, a human act, and it has to do with a man being saved.
Well, according to the fundamentalist view, if there is such an act, and IT IS NECESSARY for salvation, then that same act cannot be sufficient for salvation. That is, if it is something that we must do, then it is, in itself, not enough for salvation. I'll explain why in a moment. Conversely, if there is an act which if you do it, IT IS ENOUGH to be saved, it is sufficient, then that same act is not necessary. That is, if it is enough then it is not required. It will do the job but so will something else: Don't NEED to do that thing.
The reason being that if there is a human act which is both necessary and sufficient for salvation, then you have a human act which is equivalent to salvation. That goes against at least one branch of Christianity in a basic tenet: There is nothing a man does that is equivalent to his salvation. But that is what you get when you have these two directions of the Aerial implication: It is necessary and sufficient. That means if and only if a man is saved, IF AND ONLY IF this or that means A is equivalent to B. It is a difficult position but it is a position that some have created for themselves.
APPRECIATING LIMITATIONS AND DUTIES
Salvation, as it happens, is not precisely the concern of the Muslim in the first place. That is, the Quran does not say anything about it: Salvation. It talks about men being lost but it draws as a contrast not that they are lost or they are saved. The contrast is that a man may well be lost or it maybe that he has gained something: He is successful to some extent, to varying degrees. He loses out completely or he gains something and maybe more than somebody else does. YOU LOSE OR YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL. It is not a question of black and white. IT IS NONE OR SOME, not all or none. So the Muslims' real concern is concerning his actions. He wants to appreciate his limitations and his duties. That's basically all.
It is interesting enough that it is the nature of proof that if something is impossible, it is theoretically, or in principle at least, subject to being proved. You can't always prove when something is possible. But if something is impossible that is always open to proof and it is always open to proof if something is necessary. You can't always prove that something is unnecessary. You can always demonstrate that something is necessary. So it is that it can always be established what it is a man cannot do and what it is he must do -- His limitations and his duties. That is what the Muslim is trying to find out about. Not so much about how to get saved, he's trying to find out which things are a waste of time because they cannot be done and which are things that I cannot overlook, that I must do.

TO BE CONTINUED ON PART 3

By Gary Miller, Ph.D. Mathematics, Kansas
Transcribed from a videotape