Tag Archives: Islam

Reeves: The Triune God vs. Allah

One of the things I appreciate about Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity is how he interacts with Islamic theology.  In a number of places in the book he demonstrates the poverty of the Islamic Allah.  The single-person Islamic god simply does not measure up to the Triune God revealed in the Bible.  Here’s a sample:

Onenness for the single-person God would mean sameness.  Alone for eternity without any beside him, why would he value others and their differences?  Think how it works out for Allah: under his influence, the once-diverse cultures of Nigeria, Persia, and Indonesia are made, deliberately and increasingly, the same.  Islam presents a complete way of life for individuals, nations, and cultures, binding them into one way of praying, one way of marrying, buying, fighting, relating — even, some would say, one way of eating and dressing.

Oneness for the triune God means unity.  As the Father is absolutely one with his Son, and yet is not his Son, so Jesus prays that believers might be one, but not that they might all be the same.  Created male and female, in the image of this God, and with many other good differences between us, we come together valuing the way the triune God has made us each unique.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit…If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Cor. 12:4, 17-20)

So it is not just that the Father, Son, and Spirit call us into fellowship with themselves; they share their heavenly harmony that there might be harmony on earth, that people of different genders, languages, hobbies and gifts might be one in peace and love; and that one day, with one heart and voice, we might cry: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10).  And that is what the family of God — by its very existence — makes known to the world: that the God of harmony is the hope for world peace; that he can and will unite enemies, rivals, and strangers into one loving family under his fatherly care.  (pp.103-104)


Book Review: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an, James R. White.  Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2013.  Softcover, 311 pages.

More than ever, Christians need to be equipped to deal with the challenges posed by Islam.  We often live beside Muslims, work alongside them, and study with them.  It’s good to have helpful resources to inform our conversations with our Muslim neighbours.  Though it is now a couple of years old already, James White’s book on the Muslim sacred text is one of those valuable helps.

White is the author of numerous non-fiction books.  He’s well-known as an author, speaker, and debater.  Though it does not factor into this book at all, he is an elder in a Reformed Baptist church in Phoenix, Arizona.  He is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, an organization with a focus on apologetics (done in a Reformed, presuppositional manner).

Rather than summarize everything in this book, let me just highlight two points which stood out for me.  One has to do with what the Qur’an says about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  In chapter 4, White points out that the Qur’an says Christians believe the Trinity to consist of Allah, Jesus, and Mary.  Christians are alleged to believe that Allah and Mary had relations to produce Jesus.  This is important because:

Everyone affected would affirm that by the early decades of the seventh century, God Himself would have a perfect knowledge of what the doctrine of the Trinity actually says.  And if that doctrine does not accurately represent His own self-revelation, He would be in the perfect position to refute its falsehoods with devastating precision.  But is this what we find in the Qur’an? (76)

The Qur’an doesn’t describe the Trinity correctly, and so the Qur’an can’t be taken seriously as a revelation from God.

In chapter 11, White has a penetrating discussion about the text of the Qur’an.  Muslims claim that it is a perfect, immutable text.  Of course, that’s contrasted with the text of the Bible which, they allege, has been mutilated by Jews and Christians.  White gives a couple of examples from Muslim writers. This is one of them:

Muslims and non-Muslims both agree that no change has ever occurred in the text of the Qur’an.  The above prophecy [Surah 15:9] for the eternal preservation and purity of the Qur’an came true not only for the text of the Qur’an, but also for the most minute details of its punctuation marks as well…It is a miracle of the Qur’an that no change has occurred in a single word, a single [letter of the] the alphabet, a single punctuation mark, or a single diacritical mark in the text of the Qur’an during the last fourteen centuries. (250)

White demonstrates that this claim is patently false.  He notes that “even widely published editions of the Qur’an contain information indicating variations in the very text” (272-273).

He cites Yusuf Ali’s edition with its note on Surah 33:6.  In The Hidden Origins of Islam (ed. by Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Gerd-R. Puin), there is an essay by Alba Fedeli on variant readings in early Qur’anic manuscripts.  It is simply not true that there is a single immaculate Qur’an text preserved from the time of Muhammad.

One question I wish White would have addressed is whether these claims are made in ignorance or deliberately to deceive.  There is a doctrine in Islam known as al-Taqqiya.  This teaching says it is permissible to lie in order to advance the cause of Islam.  This is one of the things making Islam such a threat to western civilization in general, and Christianity in particular.  How can you tell when a Muslim is lying about Islam?

I would recommend this book to anyone who has regular contact with Muslims.  Be aware though: most, if not all, of the points raised by White in the book have rebuttals by Muslim apologists somewhere online.  The rebuttals are weak, but if you are going to use White’s material in conversations it would be advisable to prepare yourself beforehand for what your Muslim neighbour may bring back in response.


Book Review: How to Defend the Faith

How to Defend the Faith: A Presuppositional Approach, Riley Fraas.  Thaddeus Publications, 2018.  Softcover, 133 pages, $8.99 USD.

I first became interested in apologetics as a university student some 25 years ago.  Back then, we didn’t have a lot of books written about the theory or practice of Reformed apologetics.  I should qualify that:  we didn’t have a lot of books by others besides Cornelius VanTil (who was a prolific writer in the field).  Since then, we have seen a good number of volumes by other authors such as Greg Bahnsen, Scott Oliphint, and John Frame.  However, most of these books lean more towards the theoretical.  There’s still little in print showing how to put it into practice.

In this little guide, Riley Fraas does give a bare-bones summary of the ideas behind Reformed (or presuppositional) apologetics.  However, readers interested in going deeper will have to go elsewhere.  According to the author, “The intent is that this handbook will be a useful resource for the Christian layperson to have at his fingertips, to answer almost every kind of objection effectively:  a segue to the gospel” (131).  How to Defend the Faith demonstrates the principles of Reformed apologetics through a series of imagined dialogues based on the author’s real-life experiences.

Fraas spends most of his time on the objections of atheism.  He teaches readers how to reply to the atheist who says, “I believe that the important thing is to be a good person and empathize with fellow human beings.  As long as you do that, no god is needed” (46).  Or the atheist who says, “Show me evidence for any god” (62).  Most Christians will be tempted to immediately start laying out various evidences, allowing the atheist to be the judge of the evidence.  Fraas shows a better way — but to find out that better way, you’ll have to read the book for yourself!

One of the helpful features of this book is the attention given to various false religions.  Not much work has been done in showing how Reformed apologetics responds to the claims of Judaism or Islam, the so-called Abrahamic faiths.  Fraas fills in that gap.   He also addresses Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When it comes to Islam, Fraas notes that one of Islam’s weak points is its theoretical affirmation that both the Old Testament and New Testament are valid, while at the same contradicting these writings.  The classic example is Islam’s insistence that God has no son.  Fraas argues that this internal inconsistency makes Islam rationally indefensible.  He is correct on that, but more should be said.  What he doesn’t say is that Muslims also claim that Jews and Christians have corrupted the writings of the Bible, and thus the current text of the OT and NT are unreliable.  This is what any Christian will face if he challenges a Muslim on this internal inconsistency in Islam.  In reply to that, Christians must challenge Muslims to prove their claim.  Where is the proof that Jews and Christians have corrupted these writings so that they’re unreliable?

This is a handy little book, especially for those who have already had some basic exposure to Reformed apologetics and are convinced of its elemental premises.  It gives the reader a good idea of how to biblically defend the faith and then also point our unbelieving conversation partners to the gospel.  It’s not just an enjoyable read from front to back; it’ll also be a great reference to keep coming back to when engaged in giving a reason for the hope that is in us.


A Case Against Islam

Islam image

I’ve just finished reading K. Scott Oliphint’s Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practices in Defense of our Faith.  It was a refreshing and in some ways innovative approach to Reformed apologetics following the general trajectory of Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositionalism.  One unique feature of the book is its presentation of several “dialogues” between a Reformed (“covenantal”) apologist and various forms of unbelief or wrong belief.  Wrong belief is what we find countered in chapter 7.  Oliphint demonstrates how Christians might respond to the apologetic challenge of Islam, both exposing its weak points and presenting a better way with Christianity.  I found especially his presentation of the weaknesses of Islamic theism to be compelling.  He argues that we need “show how the religious system of Islam cannot stand of its own rationalistic weight” (258).  I’d like to share the best part of the dialogue between Covenantal Apologist (CA) and the fictional Ishaq Muhammad (IM):

CA:  …if I have heard you correctly, Allah’s will does not in any way constrain him.  Allah does now, and will always do, whatever he wants to do.  And what he wants to do later could be the opposite of what he has revealed through Muhammad.  This is why you can have no guarantees with respect to Allah’s will, which is the sum and substance of Islamic religion.  Is that correct?

IM:  Yes, theoretically, that is correct.  He cannot be constrained because he transcends all.  But Muslims have hope that Allah will delight in our deeds and so bring us to heaven.

CA:  I understand.  But that hope is only an empty hope.  And, like your understanding of mystery, it has no basis in knowledge.  It is, as we like to say, a blind faith.  Since the Qur’an is a revelation of Allah’s will, what he wills to do in the end may be the opposite of his will revealed in the Qur’an.  Correct?

IM:  Yes.  Allah be praised.  That is correct.

CA:  Well, Ishaq, if that is true, then it just may be that what I believe and what you believe are the same thing, though you could never know that.

IM:  What?  This is blasphemy.  I do not believe that Allah is three gods; I do not believe that he has a son.  I reject all that you hold to be true.

CA:  Yes, I know.  I did not say that you believe what I believe.  What I said is that it may be the case that what you believe and what I believe are the same.  Allah is free to will such a thing.

You will have to admit, Ishaq, that Allah is free enough to decide and to will that he will bring all Christians to heaven and reject all Muslims.  You will also have to agree that he may determine to have a son.  He may, if he so wills, determine that Christian belief is to rewarded eternally and Muslim belief is to be condemned.  If this were true, would you say, ‘Allah be praised’?

This, it seems to me, is the only ‘reasonable’ conclusion to your own religion.  There is nothing in the transcendent necessity of Allah, since that necessity includes his absolute freedom (except, as I have said, not the freedom to relate to anything), that hinders him from accepting all Christians.  So it just may be, based on what you have told me, that Christianity is the true religion and Islam is not, at least from the perspective of Allah’s absolutely free will. (247-248)

This is definitely one of the best examples I’ve seen of Reformed apologetics applied to Islam.

 


Life of Pi

Life of Pi

I mentioned this novel yesterday morning.  The recent release of the movie prompted me to have another look at the novel and make mention of it in my sermon on John 14:5-7.  The novel was first published in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2007/2008 that it became popular.  Around that time, I posted something about it on my old Xanga Yinkahdinay blog (now defunct).  This is what I wrote back then:

***************

I don’t read too many novels, especially outside of the summer months.  But it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I received some money and so I decided to head over to Chapters and splurge.  I bought this book because one of the members of our Mission Team to Quebec was reading it on the flight back and she said that it had been recommended to her by someone else.  I checked out the book at Chapters and it looked interesting, so I bought it and just finished it the other night.

I enjoyed it.  As far as the literary quality goes, this is good stuff.  It’s very well-written and it easily pulls you in.   It’s filled with many surprising turns and a few extraordinary literary devices.

But what I really wanted to comment on was the character of the book.  How would I characterize it?  I’d say that it’s a literary apology for buffet spirituality.  Pi, the main character of the book, virtually simultaneously becomes a Christian and a Muslim, in addition to being Hindu.   Pi sees these religions as being essentially the same, “…Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.” “Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’  I just want to love God.”  At another point he interacts with his mother and says he doesn’t see why he can’t be Christian, Muslim, and Hindu.  But the Jesus whom Pi believes in obviously never said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  And the Islam that Pi believes in obviously doesn’t confess, “There is no true god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.”  With his buffet spirituality, Pi actually attacks the heart of the religions he claims to hold.   He is neither authentically Christian nor authentically Muslim, though perhaps he could be authentically Hindu.

The main body of the novel is a shipwreck story filled with several unbelievable events.  When he finally lands up on the shores of Mexico, the ship’s owners send a delegation to interview Pi about the shipwreck.  He tells them the story, but they don’t believe him.  So, he tells them another story, one that might be more believable.  Then he says, “You can not prove which story is true and which is not.  You must take my word for it.”  He then asks which is the better story.  The delegation prefers the story with the animals.  Pi responds, “Thank you.  And so it goes with God.”  As I understand it, essentially this is the spirit of our age:  you create your own reality and your own truth, you select the story or stories that appeal to you.  According to this outlook, there is no such thing as public, objective truth that exists outside of ourselves.

It was interesting to read a novel that makes an apology (defense) for this worldview.  I’m sure that college and university English classes all over Canada are having a lot of fun with it.  But at the end of the day, this worldview is self-defeating and self-destructive.  Nobody can live consistently with this position.  And when they try, they sin against their better knowledge, for “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20).