Talking About Logic
Reason, is quite the wonderful thing and used properly, it is one of the most potent gifts that God has bestowed on us. Now reason is directed towards, and finds its end (i.e. its telos) in, truth. Hence why, man being a rational animal, ought to use this faculty above all else to guide his life choices. For if the end of reason is truth, then the end of truth must be God, for God is truth (John 14:6). So it is always with great pleasure that I tend to read works of the religious sort which place a stringent emphasis on logical thinking. Whether these works favour a Christian viewpoint or not, I must say that I quite enjoy the intellectual stimulation.
This then is how I found myself reading the blog post entitled, Talking About God, by one Mohamed Ghilan. The article, as one would expect, discusses the subject of God from an Islamic perspective and in the course of the work, touches on many things—one being Christianity and its alleged incompatibility with logic. Now, longtime readers of this blog will know that I have already shown how this is not the case and refuted the various examples that Muslims (and other non-Christians) will invariably bring up here (I would certainly recommend this article to Muslims seeing as it features a discussion between myself and Muslims on a Muslim forum), here, here, and here. I intend to make reference to the aforementioned posts and more throughout this article. It goes without saying that reading each post on its own would certainly prove beneficial as well.
The blogger, Mohamed Ghilan, seeks to pit Christianity against logical thinking and by such a manner attempt to prove how vastly superior Islam is. The fact of the matter is that it is precisely Islam that is contrary to reason and the general Muslim position that is unschooled in the proper use of thought. Granted these words can be deemed hurtful and for this fact I must apologize. We will go nowhere if our intent is to willfully denigrate the beliefs of others and this is sincerely not my intention. I say the things I say not because I want to anger Muslims, but rather because I honestly think them to be wrong and their beliefs false. At this time, let us examine the claims of Mohamed Ghilan and see who actually misconstrues logic—whether the Christian or the Muslim.
The problem with an anthropomorphic God is in the floodgates of inquiry such a proposition opens. To explain what I mean I’ll need to pre-empt you with a very brief explanation about the Law of Non-Contradiction in logic. It simply means that two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. For example, if I say that something is black and it’s not black, I would not be making very much sense. The two propositions here are mutually exclusive; it’s either black or it’s not. — Mohamed Ghilan
The concept of an anthropomorphic God is indeed troublesome. As a Christian, I join Muslims and Jews in stating emphatically that God, as he is in himself, is not anthropomorphic at all. Furthermore, that it is impossible for the divine nature to change and finally, that God is not a god of contradictions. With that out of the way, we should turn to the author’s words; particularly his definition of the law of non-contradiction. This is one of the three fundamental laws of thought and already we see that this individual has not formulated it completely and as such has paved the way for his first error. The complete rendition of the law is as follows: “two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time, in the same sense or way.” The section which Mr. Ghilan failed to include (i.e. the part which I have underlined) is in fact quite crucial for the simple fact that two contradictory facts can be true of an object as long as these are not to be understood in the same sense. Let us take the example that the author provides: that of a piece of paper. Assuming that the sheet of paper is divided wherein half of the sheet is black and half of it is white, it would in fact be entirely correct to say that this thing is “black and it’s not black” at the same time. For it all depends on what ‘black’ and ‘not black’ are referring to. It is here that we begin to see the great error with Islamic thought—a misformulation and misunderstanding of the law of non-contradiction.
Where this matters with the “God” conversation is in the propositions put forth according to Christianity. On the one hand, God is the Alpha and Omega without a beginning or an end. He was not created and He does not die. He’s transcendent beyond His creation. Yet on the other hand man is made in His image. — Ibid.
Once again we are introduced with a string of alleged contradictions as proof for why Christianity is a blight to the human mind and yet the irony of the matter is that the very individuals who accuse Christians of violating a fundamental rule of logic are themselves the ones who should be studying logic at our knee! First off, the author wishes to drive a wedge between God being eternal, infinite, omnipotent and man having been created in his image according to the Holy Bible (Genesis 1:27). Such a thing could only be problematic if we understood the phrase “in his image” as meaning “exactly like God” and this is not the case. It merely means that man possesses qualities which, albeit infinitely removed from God’s majesty, are nevertheless similar to God’s own. If the matter is understood in such a fashion, then there is absolutely no contradiction present. Of course the unbiased individual would quite easily have understood the text in question in this manner for the Bible is emphatic that there is no one like God (Jeremiah 10:6, Isaiah 46:9). If this weren’t enough, it would seem that Mr. Mohamed Ghilan is not well-versed in the teachings of his own religion for Islam actually does teach that mankind was created in the image of God!
“When any one of you fights with his brother, he should avoid his face for Allah created Adam in his [or His own] image.” — Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4731
“Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said: ‘Allah created Adam in His Image.’” — Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, Hadith no. 246
Here is how a Muslim source explains the above hadith. Notice that one of the resolutions to the problem is that which I (and indeed all of orthodox Christianity for over 1, 000 years) have proposed? If then both Islam and Christianity supposedly teach the same thing, and both make use of a similar response to resolve an alleged contradiction, why then are Muslims so quick to overlook this fact and accuse Christians? It is either through ignorance or sheer deception.
Yet still Mr. Ghilan might disagree. He may maintain that the above answer to this supposed problem is faulty for how could anything be like God? In assuming this position, he would have to deny that there is any sort of resemblance—however vague—between man and God. Such a position is intellectual suicide for it would reduce one to being unable to know anything about God at all. Such that when one might say that Allah is merciful, the truth of the matter would be that this phrase would become completely unintelligible. If nothing indeed is similar to God (even in the vaguest sense), then so too will the words we use to express certain concepts lose all meaning when referring to God (seeing as there can exist no similarity whatsoever between our understanding of a concept, and the concept as embodied in God). This would net out to Mr. Ghilan’s holy book, the Qur’an, being a useless book seeing as it couldn’t possibly tell us anything worthwhile about the divine. The Muslim couldn’t possible understand what the phrase, “God is merciful” is supposed to mean seeing as his understanding of mercy could have no relation whatsoever with whatever the sentence,”Allah is Merciful” is supposed to mean. Whatever option that the author, to whom this response is directed at, chooses, the end result will still be one in which he is in error and his reasoning faulty.
Not to mention the mystery of the Trinity that requires one to believe that God is 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. He’s the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. But the Father is not the Son and the Holy Spirit is neither. […] Basically, if I were a Christian I would have to hold some contradicting beliefs at the same time. — Mohamed Ghilan
In the above, the author wants to imply that a contradiction immediately implies a falsehood and as in the matter of our paper example, this is not the case. Seeing as the author had wished to argue his point by way of logic, we cannot let his misuse of logic go uncontested. It is in fact quite easy to disprove the Islamic argument (for it never functioned on logic in the first place) and so here is a portion of my, Of Gods and Men, post (as always, I would encourage a full reading of the text to see how badly Muslims misconstrue logic) which deals with the Hypostatic Union:
In laymen’s terms, this is the doctrine which stipulates that the eternal second person of the Trinity, in entering his creation and being born a man, took on a second nature he did not previously possess—that of a human. It must be noted that the divine nature did not become finite. Absolutely not, God as he is in himself did not become finite, rather he added onto himself the nature of humanity (and everything that comes with this nature) without divesting himself of divinity (that itself being impossible) so that within the one Christ there exist simultaneously two natures without the dilution of one into the other. […] The question then becomes, whether it is logical for a person to be both God and man at the same time seeing as to be God means to be infinite and to be man is to be finite. While in truth, this question has already been answered by the verbiage above, I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to go over it again in far simpler terms.
Keeping in line with my wish for simplicity, let us imagine a triangle. Now we all know the nature of a triangle i.e. it’s attributes, the things that make a triangle a triangle as opposed to a rectangle or circle. Good. Now let us at this point imagine a box. Once more we know what is the nature of a box and furthermore, we are also aware that the nature of a box is in direct contradiction to the nature of a triangle. Now suppose that we were to place the triangle within the box, would we then have a confusion, a mixing, an intermingling of the two essences/natures? No, we would possess one unit (the Triangle-Box if you would like) with the essences of both objects intact. The triangle would not cease to be a triangle and neither would the box cease to be a box—on the contrary we would now have a unit that possesses in its being the very attributes of both in that it is not half a box and half a triangle but rather a full (perfect) triangle and a full (perfect) box. A veritable Triangle-Box, wherein the unit is one but the essences are two. In just the same manner does the Christian speak of God becoming man. God did not cease being God, he did not convert the divine essence into a human essence; instead he took on a second nature aside from his divine nature. As such in the unit that is the individual, Christ Jesus, there are two natures with contradicting attributes simultaneously present. As with the Triangle-Box, Jesus can claim the otherwise mutually exclusive prerogatives that come with each nature because of them being simultaneously existent in his being. Such that he can increase in knowledge as man, but always have known all things as God. Such that he can pray to the Father as man, yet have no need to do so as God. Such that should he will it, he is able to give his life unto death as man, and yet death never having any power or hold over him as God. He does everything as the God-Man—mystery upon mystery. In short, He is both three-sided and four-sided at the same time.
The gripe that Muslims have with the doctrine of the hypostatic union is that it supposedly teaches that God (that is, as he is in himself/inherently) underwent change and yet this is impossible, for God is supposed to be unchanging. What the Muslim however fails to understand is that Christians do not teach such blasphemy. Just as in the example above, in adding the triangle into the box, we did not change the nature of the triangle nor the box. Whatever was true of each essence before the joining together into one unit, is still true after the event (i.e. placing the triangle inside the box). As such the unit that is the Traingle-Box, would retain all the attributes of both natures without such violating the law of non-contradiction. This really is basic logic.
As the above readily displays, the divinity of Christ is not an illogical doctrine. Muslims are simply unaware of the teachings of Christianity and the little that they do know is horrible caricature. I understand that I am speaking rather boldly, yet I do so in the hope that these words will lead even one Muslim to think of the matter seriously. I have never met a single Muslim who did not believe the Christian conception of God to be a violation of the law of non-contradiction and yet the truth is that this is not the case at all. So in reality, the overwhelming majority of Muslims—if not all Muslims altogether—simply are incapable of possessing a mastery of logic. So hopefully, the Muslim can begin to understand the Christian’s frustration when it is claimed that what we pander is base sophistry.
Dear Muslim, and I certainly do not mean this to be offensive, but please ask yourself why it is the case that you have been unable to see how erroneous your understanding of reason has been? How is it that such an entire demographic can commit such an error wholesale? If then I cannot trust Islam concerning truth that I can know through simple reason, how then could I ever trust the religion of Muhammad when it comes to truth that I could not possibly know short of a revelation from God (e.g. how to establish a relationship with him)? Once again, if I cannot trust Islam with my intellect, why then should I trust it with my eternal soul? Islam truly does darken the mind and if one need see specific proof of this claim, one simply ought to read the various discussions I have had with Muslims—particularly on the issue of whether the Bible teaches the divinity of Christ. Please don’t take my word for it, simply read through the conversation and judge for yourself, dear reader.
I have not made a logical defense of the Holy Trinity within this article for the simple reason that I have done so elsewhere (please follow the links) and at the moment can’t really be bothered to repeat myself once again. If one thought that the above article was an excellent exposition concerning the matter of the Muslim and logic, one really needs to see what happens when Muslims are actually taken to task on the subject of the Trinity and the oneness of God. It is my hope that Muslims, and Mr. Ghilan in particular, will have the intellectual fortitude to at least listen to the Christian understanding of these doctrines.