Monday, September 24, 2007

Theological difference between islam and christianity in a nutshell

Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch has been for the past couple of months blogging the Quran in series on HotAir. In his latest entry he discussed verse number 64 from the fifth surah(chapter) which goes like this:

The Jews say: Allah's hand is fettered. Their hands are fettered and they are accursed for saying so. Nay, but both His hands are spread out wide in bounty. He bestoweth as He will. That which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord is certain to increase the contumacy and disbelief of many of them, and We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguisheth it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loveth not corrupters.

Spencer, combining islamic commentary with his own continues:

Ibn Kathir comments: “Allah states that the Jews, may Allah’s continuous curses descend on them until the Day of Resurrection, describe Him as a miser. Allah is far holier than what they attribute to Him.” He is also absolute will, with hand absolutely unfettered: Allah’s unfettered hand is a vivid image of divine freedom. Such a God can be bound by no laws. Muslim theologians argued during the long controversy with the heretical Islamic Mu‘tazilite sect, which exalted human reason beyond the point that the eventual victors were willing to tolerate, that Allah was free to act as he pleased. He was thus not bound to govern the universe according to consistent and observable laws. “He cannot be questioned concerning what He does” (Qur’an 21:23).
Accordingly, there was no point to observing the workings of the physical world; there was no reason to expect that any pattern to its workings would be consistent, or even discernable. If Allah could not be counted on to be consistent, why waste time observing the order of things? It could change tomorrow. Stanley Jaki, a Catholic priest and physicist, explains that it was the renowned Sufi thinker al-Ghazali who “denounced natural laws, the very objective of science, as a blasphemous constraint upon the free will of Allah.” The great twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides explained orthodox Islamic cosmology in similar terms, noting that Islamic thinkers of his day assumed “the possibility that an existing being should be larger or smaller than it really is, or that it should be different in form and position from what it really is; e.g., a man might have the height of a mountain, might have several heads, and fly in the air; or an elephant might be as small as an insect, or an insect as huge as an elephant. This method of admitting possibilities is applied to the whole Universe.”
Relatively early in its history, therefore, science was deprived in the Islamic world of the philosophical foundation it needed in order to flourish. It found that philosophical foundation only in Christian Europe, where it was assumed that God was good and had constructed the universe according to consistent and observable laws. Such an idea would have been for pious Muslims tantamount to saying, “Allah’s hand is fettered.”

I also would like to add my own example. When pope Benedict XVI uttered his now infamous Regensburg speech he actually recounted an argument between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a Persian muslim by the name of Ibn Hazn about God and religion. Ibn Hazn claimed that Allah is bound by nothing but his own will depending on the moment and that "were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry". Imagine, a god so transcedent he denies his own self just for the fun of it! What is true today, according to islamic theology, can be deemed a lie tommorow if it were the will of Allah. Such attitude inevitably discourages any scientific research and curiosity since, according to islam, no natural law or order exists and everything is shaped by the will of Allah. This also, to a great extent, explains the contradictions found in the Quran and their explanation.

Christianity, on the other hand, insists that God is a reasonable being and that acts purely lead by reason. He is true to his word and consistent. His established laws are for all time and can not be changed even by his will. That is why being a scientist does not exclude being a devout christian and vice versa. It is also a theological attitude that refutes the liberal leftist notion that you can not be religious and reasonable at the same time.

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