When Christianity met Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat
Gauging the monotheism of Christianity
Introduction to Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat
There is a very interesting (and stringent) concept in Islam with regards to monotheism; it is called as Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat, often translated as monotheism or uniqueness of God’s attributes and names. According to this criterion of monotheism, the attributes and names of God are unique to Him alone and as such cannot be shared by any creature. On the same corollary, the attributes of creatures cannot be invested on Creator.
We assume that as far as monotheism is considered, there should not be any objection with any person who claims to be a monotheist, even more so, when s/he follows Bible, as Bible explicitly teaches this concept. Consider one such biblical instance:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exodus 20:4, King James Version)
Quite obviously Bible is denying that attribute of any creation can be imputed upon the Almighty. This is logical since such restriction differentiates One God from rest creation lest obvious elements of polytheism, if not pantheism, would creep into monotheism. So far so good! However, just at this point we want to analyze the stand of Christianity, especially of the Trinitarian strand, and its take on this criterion of monotheism.
Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat in Trinitarian Christianity
As claimants of monotheism it is highly expected that every Trinitarian would support the concept of monotheism with God’s names and attributes. No wonder to prove the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him), Trinitarians (mis)use the Old Testament titles which were used for the God of the Old Testament. Consider a typical Trinitarian polemics:
For instance, Jesus applied an Old Testament title “I Am” to himself, which is significant since he was basically making himself out to be the OT figure known as the Angel of the Lord, the “I Am” of Exodus 3:14! There were many different Jewish strands at that time that already maintained thatthis figure was God and yet distinct from God.(2) Thus, by using the title “I Am” Jesus was affirming both His deity as well as His distinction from the Father since in the Old Testament “I Am” was applied to both God (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:13) and the Angel of the Lord (cf. Exodus 3:14). (Keith Thompson)
The argument is very simple: Jesus (peace be upon him) was applied the “divine” titles of the Old Testament and since only God can take up those divine titles therefore Jesus (peace be upon him) ought to be “God”.
The argument looks good on the surface but a further bit analysis exposes the inconsistency which is inherently practiced in it:
By now we know that in Trinitarian Christianity divine titles could only be given to Jesus (peace be upon him) and to nobody else since God’s divine titles cannot be shared by creatures, and, Jesus (peace be upon him) is not a creature – he is “God”!
On the same reasoning, Jesus (peace be upon him) cannot be imputed with some of the attributes which ill-fits a “God”, say like, Jesus (peace be upon him) of Trinitarians would not marry. Here are the words of another Trinitarian Christian on the same issue:
“Although Christians do not believe that God is literally a father in the crude way presented in the Qur’an, where divine fatherhood implies a consort, copulation, and possibly even cohabitation with a female deity, one of the signal proofs that the author(s) of the Qur’an couldn’t escapethinking in terms of pagan categories”
“The point here is that the authors of the Qur’an could not hear any mention of things like divine paternity (i.e. the fatherhood) or filiation (i.e. sonship) without interpreting them in the sense that the pagans intended by such words.” (Anthony Rogers)
It is understandable why Trinitarians object to such notions; whatever proceeds after marital pledges befits humans (or let us say animals) but it certainly does not behoove that God be imputed with such connections of marriage and whatever entails with it. Quite obviously the monotheistic side of Trinitarians well understands the absurdity if the “Son of God” would procreate his “Son”!
However, if attributes of procreation, connubial connections etc cannot be attributed to God then, consistently, we cannot apply other attributes also upon God. For example,
1) God being procreated out of the womb of Mary “in the crude way”.
2) God contained inside His “mother’s” womb
3) God sucking his life of his mother.
4) God producing biological waste.
5) God almost made naked on cross.
6) God made to bleed and wounded.
7) God being spat on his face.
8) And, on top of all of that, “God” dying on the cross
9) And, “God’s” dead body being enshrouded and placed in cave.
So on and so forth. Is not all of the above just a mockery, if not blasphemy, in “monotheism”?
What is disappointing in all of this is that Bible strictly speaks against any such idolatrous humanization of God. Consider the following Old Testament verse:
Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, (Deuteronomy 4:16, King James Version)
Quite obviously with the premises of monotheism in God’ attributes, the above Old Testament verses makes it very clear that true God cannot assume (or have) any similitude to any of His creation which includes humans – “males or female”. The Qur’an reverberate the same:
(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (The Qur’an 42:11, Yusuf Ali)
Once the Bible states that the God cannot have “similitude of any figure, the likeness of male…” included; or, when the Qur’an asserted that there is “nothing whatever like unto Him” – they quite explicitly reject any concept that God would have/take a male/human form and then roam around in the streets of Palestine as Mary’s biologically sired – “in the crude way”!
Trinitarian scholar have a standard approach, albeit, inconsistent when dealing with Old Testament verses of the order as cited above. Consider the following two scholarly comments:
The likeness of male or female – Such as Baal-peor and the Roman Priapus, Ashtaroth or Astarte, and the Greek and Roman Venus; after whom most nations of the world literally went a whoring. (Adam Clarke’s commentary on the Bible)
the likeness of male or female; of a man or a woman; so some of the Heathen deities were in the likeness of men, as Jupiter, Mars, Hercules, Apollo, &c. and others in the likeness of women, as Juno, Diana, Venus, &c. Some think Osiris and Isis, Egyptian deities, the one male, the other female, are respected; but it is not certain that these were worshipped by them so early. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
As we have been stating that Trinitarians as claimants of monotheism denounce worship of false gods who were in the likeness of men; however, why to be flagrantly biased and inconsistent to denounce only some particular human-gods like Apollo and Hercules etc whereas Jesus (peace be upon him), another human, is easily accepted as the “God”.
In all these fast and loose, Trinitarians miss out on the spirit of Deuteronomy 4:16 (and other verses of the order) that it denounces any humanization of God be it in the form of Apollo and Hercules of the European cultures or, Jesus (peace be upon him) of the Middle Eastern setting!
We would be dumbfounded if at least a monotheist claims that concept of Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat or monotheism with regards to God’s attributes and names is illogical or too complex to understand. It is simply that God’s attributes cannot be vested on any of His creation nor the attributes of His creation be imputed on the divine God. We saw how both Qur’an and Bible expressly speak against it.
Very truly Trinitarians apply it, however, only on selected areas and personalities. As an instance, they do reject the notion that God could or would sire offspring since this is “thinking in terms of pagan categories”. Nevertheless, they have no qualms when they ring their church bells about “God” being delivered out of Mary’s womb “in the crude way” or, “God” being poked on cross while he was almost naked or, still more weirdly, a dead “God” hanging on the cross with probably scavenger hovering over “His” head until his “dead body” was to be placed in a cave. Out of definite Trinitarian agenda, Trinitarians somehow see all these “in terms ofmonotheistic categories”.
Trinitarians would easily accept it as “monotheistic” that their god had birth right to produce biological waste and relieve “Himself” off it. Yet when Qur’an criticizes Christians that God cannot sire offspring, Trinitarians like Anthony Rogers would become monotheistically prude to comment that, “The point here is that the authors of the Qur’an could not hear any mention of things like divine paternity (i.e. the fatherhood) or filiation (i.e. sonship) without interpreting them in the sense that the pagans intended by such words.” In the name of “divine paternity”, Rogers and the likes do not hesitate to sell the idolatry and blasphemy with regards to “Son’s” humanity.
Finally, we would quote from the Qur’an where, we believe, Allah (SWT) is insinuating towards the same biological nature of Jesus (peace be upon him) which ill-fits God:
Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth.They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (Qur’an 6:75, Yusuf Ali)
We don’t think that it needs to be expressly stated what Allah (SWT) wanted to allude by stating that Christ (peace be upon him) ate food.
That was for consistency and “monotheism” of Trinitarian Christianity.