Response: The Triune God – The Greatest Conceivable Being that Exists
There have been many philosophical arguments developed to explain and rationalize the theology of the Holy Trinity. One such philosophical argument, revolves around the concept of the inter-personal relationship between the members of the Godhead. For a quick recap, the Trinity is defined as One God, quantified by Three Persons, who are co-equal, co-existing with each other in the Godhead (the Godhead in itself is undefined and beyond human reasoning but it is that which unites the three persons). In explaining the nature of the relationship between the persons in the Triune Godhead, Sam Shamoun referenced famed Christian Apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig in his article, “The Triune God – The Greatest Conceivable Being that Exists“. The argument is presented as such:
As the greatest conceivable being, God must be perfect. Now a perfect being must be a loving being. For love is a moral perfection; it is better for a person to be loving rather 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 Himself in love to another. But who is that other? It cannot be any created person, since creation is a result of God’s free will, not a result of His nature. It belongs to God’s very essence to love, but it does not belong to His essence to create. So we can imagine a possible world in which God is perfectly loving and yet no created persons exist. So created persons cannot sufficiently explain whom God loves. Moreover, contemporary. cosmology makes it plausible that created persons have not always existed. But God is eternally loving. So again created persons alone are insufficient to account for God’s being perfectly loving. It therefore follows that the other to whom God’s love is necessarily directed must be internal to God Himself.
The above argument can be summarized as such:
God is perfect.
One of the perfect God’s attributes is love.
Love is divergent (it is expressed towards others).
From this we see:
Nothing exists but God.
If God is perfect and He is, then He has to Love.
If He has to Love and He does, He must Love someone.
Since no one else exists, God’s love is internal to God.
Since it’s internal to God, it means God is comprised of multiple persons.
The love of God, goes towards one person in the Godhead to another person in the Godhead.
Generally, Dr. Craig is saying that since love is something that is conveyed towards (it is given to), but nothing existed with God in the beginning, then love must have been conveyed towards Himself, but it can only be conveyed if God comprised of persons, so the love flows from one God-person to the other God-person. If God was not comprised of persons, then God could not love, as love is something that is conveyed towards other things.
In assessing this form of reasoning, we see that zealot fundamentalists refer to this philosophical construction as evidence for the, “The Greatest Conceivable Being that Exists“. However, upon closer inspection, one is left to wonder whether or not a serious study of such a claim can be necessitated or qualified. Love is one attribute of God, common go the Abrahamic faiths. Another attribute of God is that He is The Creator. Let’s break Dr. Craig’s reasoning down to a formula:
If there exists an attribute of God, then it must be exercised for it to exist.
It can only be exercised if there is something to exercise it upon.
Therefore, the God-person composition of God is needed for His attributes to exist.
Let’s apply this to the original argument given by Dr. Craig:
If God is Love, then He must Love someone or something.
He is not Love, if He doesn’t Love.
Therefore, He Loves because He can Love the other persons in the Godhead.
In reading the above, we can see that we’ve constructed a simple, yet easy to manipulate formula using constants as established by Dr. Craig’s arguments. We can now insert the attribute of being the Creator into the formula to see the results we’ll achieve:
If God is the Creator, then He must Create someone or something.
He is not the Creator, if He doesn’t Create.
Therefore, He is the Creator because He Created the other persons in the Godhead.
This spells trouble. Why is this a theological problem? It’s a problem because Dr. Craig places a condition for the existence of God’s attributes. That being, God’s attributes can only exist for the perfect God, if that attribute is exercised. This however, is fallacious reasoning and in using his conditional reasoning, we see that if we attempt to insert the other attributes of God into the philosophical flow of Dr. Craig’s argument, we come to see that God ends up having to create Himself!
Some might argue that I’ve used an attribute which would throw a wrench into Dr. Craig’s reasoning, so I should perhaps try to use another attribute of God (a divergent one). Let’s then examine the attribute of being The Giver of Death (1 Samuel 2:6).
If God is the Giver of Death, then He must Give Death to someone or something.
He is not the Giver of Death, if He doesn’t Give Death.
Therefore, He is the Giver of Death because He Gives Death to the other persons in the Godhead.
According to the formula again, here we have a problem, a perfect God who controls death, can only control death if He kills something which lives, and since nothing exists with God, then He has to kill Himself in the beginning. The logic which Sam Shamoun espouses and which Dr. Craig formulated, means then that God at the beginning, before nothing else existed but God, He had to give death to Himself. However, we know that God didn’t give death to Himself in the beginning (according to Christian theology) because He would cease to exist, and if we consider the God-person, the death of a God only occurred during the life of Christ, the God-person (Son). That in itself is a problem, since God who is co-eternal, cannot die. So the problem persists, how can co-eternal persons of the Godhead, give death to each other, if none of them actually die? The formula therefore does not hold up and creates the impression that God is a suicidal God who cannot have any attributes due to the very silly conditioning of Dr. Craig in his philosophical dogmas.
Let’s remind ourselves of Dr. Craig’s condition for God’s to be a perfect God:
God’s attributes can only exist for the perfect God, if that attribute is exercised.
God cannot be the Creator, if He did not Create. God cannot Love, if He did not Love. As I have demonstrated using Dr. Craig’s reasoning, this is very unsound reasoning and leads us to theorize that God had to create Himself and then give death to Himself.
The Islamic reasoning, is drastically different. God’s attributes don’t need to be expressed in order for God to have those attributes. This is a very strange condition that Dr. Craig has invented. Rather, we understand that God is absolute in His nature, He is all powerful and He does not need to exercise power to have the attribute of being all powerful. God is also eternal and timeless. Since He is absolute in His nature, eternal and existing out of time, then we all accept that His attributes have always belonged to Him and will always belong to Him:
And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. – Qur’aan 7:180.
In the beginning when nothing existed but God, He did not need to create so that He could claim the attribute of being the Creator. This is what Dr. Craig argues, rather God has always had this attribute. God is the Creator, it is not an add-on to Him, it’s not an attribute which He has to earn, God is eternal and so are His attributes, He has always had the ability to create. He does not need to create anything to be considered the Creator, rather He can create because He is the Creator. He can Love because He is the Most Loving, He can Give Death because He is the Giver of Death.
The difference between the Christian thinking and the Muslim thinking, is that Dr. Craig and Sam Shamoun have compartmentalized God. To them, God is a collection of powerful attributes which manifests itself into a being called a perfect God. Whereas in Islam Allaah is absolutely one and His attributes are not add-ons to Him, He is His attributes, He is already perfect. He does not have to qualify His attributes to justify Him capable of them. In other words, the attributes of God are not Lego bricks which build up a God, rather God is His attributes. So it’s not God who Loves, it’s The Most Loving God. It’s not the God who Creates, it’s The Creator. Imam Tahawhi explains in points 13 to 17:
He has always existed together with His attributes since before creation. Bringing creation into existence did not add anything to His attributes that was not already there. As He was, together with His attributes, in pre-eternity, so He will remain throughout endless time.
It was not only after the act of creation that He could be described as `the Creator’ nor was it only by the act of origination that He could he described as `the Originator’.
He was always the Lord even when there was nothing to be Lord of, and always the Creator even when there was no creation.
In the same way that He is the `Bringer to life of the dead’, after He has brought them to life a first time, and deserves this name before bringing them to life, so too He deserves the name of `Creator’ before He has created them.
This is because He has the power to do everything, everything is dependent on Him, everything is easy for Him, and He does not need anything. `There is nothing like Him and He is the Hearer, the Seer’. (al-Shura 42:11)
In explaining Imam Tahwahi’s Creed, we read from Qari Muhammad Tayyib’s Sharh al Aqeedah at Tahawiyyah (pages 30 – 34):
“The meaning of the word “Allaah” which appears in the Qur’aan, is that Being in Whom is combined all the excellent and perfect qualities, which are known as the “Asmaa-ul-Husna” (names and attributes of God). In Qur’aanic terminology, the word “Allaah” denotes to His Complete Being with all His qualities, and not a being which is void of any qualities. It is a necessary corollary (in the belief in Allaah Ta’ala) that His qualities are not created. it is not possible for any quality to be absent from the Being of Allaah Ta’ala at any point in time. Since Allaah Ta’ala Himself was always existent, and this is unanimously accepted throughout the ages and nations, it follows that His qualities were also always existent, and are an integral part of His being. It is part of His being and cannot be separated. This Ayat (verse – Qur’aan 59:22, “He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”), proves that indeed Allaah Ta’ala’s Being was always existent with His qualities. Just like He was existent since time immemorial so too were his qualities.
When He created the creation, He was Allaah, Alone. This is the claim of the Qur’aan. Naturally, the Creator comes before the creation, otherwise nothing would be found, if it were not created before. If you were to find them without having been created, then it would be necessary to accept that they were uncreated, and that they are independent of being created. This is impossible and contrary to the obvious. This confirms that it is necessary for the Creator to have been there before the creation. And since He was always existent, He was so with all His qualities, since they are inherent with His Being, and are not able to be separated from Him. Therefore, it is confirmed that indeed Allaah Ta’ala’s qualities alwaus were existent in Him, just as He was always existent. Also, for these qualities to be separated from Him or for Him to be free of them is impossible. Similarly, it is more impossible to accept that new qualities are created in Allaah Ta’ala as time goes on. Hence, He is the Creator before the creation (came into existence) and He is the Creator after the creation (is annihilated). When we say that He was the Creator before the creation, it means that He was able to create and He had this Power and Knowledge. He brought the creation into existence when He so desired and Willed. Just as the quality of creation was always with Him, so too were all His other perfect qualities.
All His qualities were always there in His Being, regardless of whether they were made apparent or not. He was (is and will be) able to show what He wanted of His qualities when He desired. He does whatever He wills. He gives life to whom He pleases and gives death also to who and when He pleases. Just like a writer, at the time of writing, is regarded as a writer by his action (of physically writing). His quality of being a writer will not be removed from Him when He is not in the act of writing, because He is a writer by his mere ability. That is, the quality of writing is an integral part of His being. He will act according to i,t when and how He desires.
We have therefore established that Allaah Ta’ala was always with His qualities and will always remain with them. Just as we would not call a writer, a writer, only when he does the ac of writing, but the title of ‘writer’ will be given to a person who had the quality of writing even before he actually does some writing and after he writes.”
One must wonder why Christian theologians place such philosophical delimitations upon God, which leads them to negate their own God’s very existence!
and Allaah knows best.