Saint Thomas Aquinas: Reason does not lead to the Trinity

Saint Thomas Aquinas confirmed Islamic theology

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic church postulated rational argumentation for the existence of God in his so called quinque viæ (five ways). Saint Aquinas contends that with reason, one can be rest assured that God is absolutely one– the common denominator between Judaism and Islam. Although orthodox Christianity affirms the statement “God is One,” the church expanded the concept to include three persons (i.e., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) creating what is known as the Trinity. The Trinitarians adamantly insist that to believe in anything less than the Trinity is heretical and blasphemous. In orthodox Christianity, then, the fundamental concept of God is not simply that “He is One” but that “He is THREE in ONE.” Without getting into the complexities that such a doctrine entails in this short article, it is important to note that in Saint Aquinas’s rational postulation, he comes to the conclusion that through reason, one can only reach the conclusion that God is One but never that He is a Trinity.

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University Dr. Brian Davies writes:

“As I have noted, Aquinas claims that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be arrived by reason. His consistently upheld position is that reason can lead us to know that there is but one God, though it cannot prove that there is distinction in God as proclaimed by the doctrine of the Trinity.” [1]

According to Saint Aquinas, who is without a doubt one of the greatest of Catholic thinkers hence the title given to him by Saint Antoninus, i.e., Doctor Angelicus (Angelic Doctor), the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be proven or appreciated through reason. Since reasoning cannot bring us to the Trinity, it must be correctly regarded as an unreasonable doctrine.

Notes:

[1] Davies, B. (2016). Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles: A Guide and Commentary. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 445 fn. 14

Charity for non-Muslims according to Islam

Can Muslims be charitable towards non-believers?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Some unscrupulous missionaries accuse Islam of practising exclusivity in its treatment of the downtrodden. They claim that Islam only respects those that adhere to the faith while the alleged message to all those that do not believe is “abandon all hope.” This is a complete misrepresentation of what Islam stands for and history proves such calumny to be completely false. Unfortunately, there are also some elements within the Muslim community that share the same view as those missionaries. They think that Muslims should only be helping other Muslims and non-Muslims should fare for themselves. Such Muslims along with their Christian missionary counterparts should be given intensive lessons in the history of the religion.

First, we recall the great Potato Famine of Ireland and the intervention undertaken by the great khaleefah (caliph) of the Muslims of the time the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Majid I.

In the time of Queen Victoria of England and Empress of India, Ireland experienced the Great Hunger of the 1840s and it was dubbed the Potato Famine which caused the deaths of at least one million Irishmen. News of that great tragedy reached the court of the khaleefah of the Muslims Sultan Abdul-Majid I who did not waste much time to intervene by pledging to dispatch a humanitarian aid in the amount of 10,000 sterling pounds (equivalent to 1.7 million USD today). Hearing of the sultan’s proposal, the Queen of England chose to disrupt the aid by requesting that the Sultan reduce the amount to a meager 1000 pounds under the excuse that 2000 pounds had already been sent by her. The sultan acquiesced to Victoria’s intervention, but in secret, he sent five ships loaded with food. The English military tried to intercept the ships, but they safely reached Drogheda harbour and the aid was successfully distributed among the famine-stricken Irish. [1]

Anslem’s argument disproves Jesus as God

Saint Anslem of Canterbury proved Jesus isn’t God

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The celebrated Catholic Benedictine theologian and philosopher Saint Anslem of Canterbury proposed a fine ontological argument that God is “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” In other words, any candidate that is placed on a pedestal can only pass off as the ultimate and true God of the universe if he can be demonstrated to be the greatest there is. Should it be demonstrated that anything else is greater than said candidate, then he is disqualified as the one and only true God of the universe.

Putting Jesus Christ of the New Testament to the test

“…the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28)

In the above quotation, Jesus himself declares his inferiority to another and according to Anslem’s ontological argument, Jesus completely fails the test of incomparable greatness.

To reconcile the difficulty above, the evangelist will appeal to the Kenosis theory, which says that during Jesus’ earthly ministry he “emptied himself” of some of the divine attributes he had prior to his incarnation. So the argument has it that Jesus in his true and actual form would be absolutely equal to the Father in every manner and in every way. This trinitarian supposition is completely falsified by 1 Corinthians 15:28:

“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

The Kenosis of Jesus supposedly only spans between Mary’s conception of Jesus up to the point where Jesus suffers death on the cross. According to the Kenosis theory, Jesus receives back his full glory upon his resurrection but according to 1st Corinthians 15:28, which is post-resurrection, Jesus remains ultimately inferior to God, who is, in the end, above every single thing including Jesus. Once again, evidently, scripture in tandem with Anselm’s ontological argument lead us to the undeniable Islamic conclusion that Jesus is not God.

The Nameless Gospels

The Anonymous Gospels of the New Testament

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Dean at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Keith Fullerton Nickle informs his readers that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are anonymous literature. We simply have zero clue who wrote them.

“We must candidly acknowledge that all three of the Synoptic Gospels are anonymous documents.” [1]

The names given to the four gospels that everyone takes for granted were actually imposed upon documents that were literally nameless. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were names that were forced upon the documents by unscrupulous persons such as Iranaeus, who according to G. A. Wells was about the first individual to designate the gospels with those four apostolic titles which would have certified those anonymous documents, as was the patristic intention, as apostolic hence making them authoritative as divine scripture. Noting this most important point, Senior Lecturer in Studies in Religion at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Dr. Rick Strelan writes:

“The Gospels are anonymous texts — to say it again — but later authority issues among Christians forced them to identify Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as authors of the Gospels, and, in turn, to associate these names with apostolic auhority.” [2]

 

The late Jesuit priest Father Daniel J. Harrington, who was Professor of New Testament and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, has it that:

“All four of the Gospels are anonymous, that is, they themselves do not tell us who their authors were. The Fourth Gospel indicates, as we shall see, that “the disciple Jesus loved,” who figures prominently in the second half, was responsible for this Gospel, but even he is anonymous. In the second century the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were attached to the Gospels, and near the end of the century John was identified as the Apostle John. It is unlikely that the Fourth Gospel as we have it was written by an apostle, but it may embody a tradition of interpreting Jesus that originated with an apostle, and of course we can neither prove nor disprove that it was John.” [3]

Notes:

[1] Nickle, K. F. (2001). The Synoptic Gospels: An Introduction. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 43

[2] Strelan, R. (2007). Luke the Priest: The Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited. p. 11

[3] Achtemeier, P. J., Harrington, D. J., Karris, R. J. et. al. (2002). Invitation to the Gospels. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. p. 328

Is the Qur’an indeed in Arabic or is it a mixture of multiple languages?

Foreign Vocabulary in the Qur’an

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

In recent times, works such as Christoph Luxenberg’s Die syro-aramaische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlusselung der Koransprache (The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran) have have emerged that Christian missionaries feel pummels forward their agenda against Islam. Luxenberg’s proposal is that the Qur’an is not completely in Arabic but contains words, phrases and expressions in the Syriac language. Picking up on such views, the Christian missionary thinks he has found the silver bullet to end the Qur’an once and for all. Arguing that since the Qur’an is not in plain Arabic, the Qur’an fails on its own testimony:

إِنَّآ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ قُرۡءَٲنًا عَرَبِيًّ۬ا لَّعَلَّكُمۡ تَعۡقِلُونَ

“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.” (Surah Yusuf, verse 2)

Luxenberg’s work may seem rather impressive at first glance and the missionary argument may seem potent too, but sadly for both of them, they are horribly and embarrassingly wrong.

Yes, the Arabic Qur’an does contain foreign words that are not just taken from Aramaic but many other different languages as well. By Imam al-Suyuti’s count, the Qur’an incorporates vocabulary from eleven languages that includes Ethiopic, Greek, Persian, Indian, Syriac (Aramaic), Hebrew, Coptic, Nabataean, Turkish, Negro and Berber. Does this impressive list shakes the belief of the Muslim that the Qur’an is inimitable? Long before Luxenberg, whoever he is (the name is actually a pseudonym), was born or his great great great great grandmother was born, the polymath and prolific scholar of Islam Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti in the 1400s had already critically looked at the Qur’an and collected, classified and discussed the so called “foreign vocabulary” of the Qur’an. In fact, he wrote complete works on the subject such as ‘ al-Muhadhdhab fima waqa’a fil Qur’an min al-mu’arrab’ (The emendation regarding the foreign words and phrases in the Qur’an) and ‘Mutawakkili fima wara fi al-Qur’an bi al-lughat al-habashiyya wal farisiyya wal rumiyya wal hindiyyah wal siryaniyya wal ibraniyya wal nabatiyya wal qibtiyya wal turkiyya wal zanjiyya wal barbariyya’ (My reliance concerning words in the Qur’an in the Ethiopian, Persian, Greek, Indian, Syriac, Hebrew, Nabataean, Coptic, Turkish, African and Berber languages). Not only did he show that the Qur’an contains words that come from Aramaic, but that it has words from ten other languages too! And that certainly did not shake his belief in the inimitability of the Qur’an as he continued to write hundreds of other books and treatises on numerous different subjects of all branches of Islamic knowledge. But since the Qur’an has all these foreign words from many foreign languages, does it not in fact contradict Surah Yusuf, verse 12 above?

In linguistics, we have this phenomenon called ‘loanwords’ and that simply means that a language borrows words from another language or other languages and the speakers of that language use those “foreign” words as they speak their language. This rather basic definition informs us that once a word from one language is incorporated and is assimilated into another language, it becomes the property of the latter. And so, when an English man says “The Liverpudlians ran amok”, he is speaking perfect English and no fool would come up to him and ask, “Why are you speaking English and Malay in one sentence simultaneously, sir?” The word ‘amok’ is perfectly English even though it is borrowed by the language from the original Malay word ‘amuk’ which means “attacking wildly”. A novice of linguistics knows full well that the vocabulary of any language is built on many vocabularies of other languages. If one were to say “John read a magazine at the cafe near my house”, is he speaking English or some other language? A jester might come and say, “He is speaking Old English, proto-Germanic, Old Frisian, Old Norse, Dutch and Slavonic…” And that’s just for the word ‘read’. Is that how we think about speech and language? Of course not. The basic rule is thus: “A word belongs to that language as long as it is intelligibly used in it by its speakers.”

Revisting the question, “Is Jesus God?”

Is Jesus God?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The Trinitarians will unanimously sing “Yes” and if we were to ask notable Trinitarian personalities like the heavyweight Christian debater James White, he will surely tell you, “Yes, the Bible says so.” They will unhesitatingly and gladly tell you that Jesus is a member or one of the persons in the Triune Godhead. What is that? That is the belief held by the majority of Christians which says that “The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but they are not three gods, they are one God.” To some, this may sound like a rather wonderful formula, but however magnificent the human intellect, even an Einstein would find this theological equation rather taxing on the mind and indeed it is. So taxing is the doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church has for more than a thousand years relegated it to the realm of “mysteries” — one that the most brilliant of souls can never unravel. Ask a Catholic theologian what the Trinity is, a most typical answer that will be readily given is that “it is a mystery”. As “one of America’s most popular interpreters of the Catholic faith and the Bible”, Father Lukefahr writes, “That there are three persons in one God is a mystery we cannot fully understand…” [1]

Though the question “Is Jesus God” seems rather simple and straightforward, the answer or answers that follow — coming from the lips of Christians — are generally varied, many a time haphazard, complicated and even confusing. Is it only confusing to non-Christians and disbelievers of the Trinity? No, it is confusing for not only non-Christians but believers and disbelievers across the board. And this is rightly observed by Greg Deuble (a graduate of the Churches of Christ N.S.W. Bible College in Sydney with pastoral ministries experience around Australia): “To many Christians the doctrine of the Trinity is confusing but accepted “on faith” because the Church “has always taught it.” [2] As someone with a broad experience in evangelical ministries, there is no reason to doubt or contest Deuble’s observation. And Deuble is not alone in testifying to that fact. The great confusion that Christians suffer as they try to explicate the doctrine to themselves and others is perhaps no better articulated than by Professor Millard Erickson, who is one of the most respected Trinitarian systematic theologians of modern times:

Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and Revelation

Prophet Muhammad’s Reception of Revelation

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

According to Islamic records, whenever the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. received revelation, except when he dreams it or when the Angel Gabriel comes to him in the form of a man, he would be left with signs of physical discomfort or experience tremendous physical difficulty. To the disbeliever and those critical of Islam, these are signs of a person with psychological problems but to the believer and faithful in the divine, these are signs of a true prophet who walks on the physical plane of existence with a pure heart that is attuned to metaphysical reality whose sublime force leaves noticeable traces on his physical being.

Imagine that as a common man you suddenly receive a special letter or a message from your King or the President of your country, would you not experience utter trepidation as you process the information? Now imagine receiving a special message from the Supreme Creator of the unimaginable universe. What manner of emotional reaction would you experience in such a situation? If you think that you will not feel anything or experience any emotional distress, then you might as well become a wall or a statue of stone with no feelings and emotions.

The Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation:

“The first [kind] of revelation to which the Apostle of God was initiated was the true dream during sleep; and he never saw a dream but it came like the dawn of the mourn (with the clearness of light after darkness). Thereafter the solitude became dear unto him, and he withdrew into seclusion in the cave of Hira’ and there applied himself to ardent devotions. – that is worship – during many nights ere he went home and provided himself with food therefore; then he would return unto Khadijah and provide himself with food for a similar [number of days] – until the truth came unto him whilst he was in the cave of Hira: the angel came unto him and said: “Read! – He said: “I am not of those who read.”
He said [in his narrative]: Then he took me and pressed me until all the strength went out of me; thereupon he released me and said: “Read!” And I said: “I am not of those who read.” Then he took me and pressed me a third time; thereupon he released me and said: “Read in the name of thy Sustainer Who hath created – created man from a clot! Read! And thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful!”
And thus the Apostle of God returned, his heart trembling, and came unto Khadijah bint Khuwailid and said: “Wrap me up! Wrap me up!” And they wrapped him up until the awe left him. Then he told Khadijah what happened and said unto her: “Verily, I fear for myself.”- Thereupon Khadijah said: “Nay, by God! Never will God humiliate thee! Behold, thou fulfillest the duties of kinship, and supportest the weak, and bringest gain to the destitute, and art bounteous toward a guest, and helpest those in genuine distress.” [1]

In the Prophet’s first experience of revelation after “al-ru’ya al-salihah fi al-nawm” (the true dream during sleep), he felt like every breath had left him: “Then he took me and pressed me until all strength went out of me…” After the surreal and unearthly ordeal in the cave, he hurried back home to his wife with his heart trembling and he asked his beloved wife Khadijah to wrap him up.

It is clear that when the Prophet first received God’s Word, His revelation, it was truly a mentally and physically strenuous and even devastating experience for him. The detractor will query, “Why did the Prophet fear the divine? Is this not evidence that he actually experienced demonic possession rather than receiving God’s revelation?”

Renowned Christian writer and former nun, Karen Armstrong certainly does not believe so. To her, the Prophet’s s.a.w. reaction was completely natural for a human being on the physical plane. To her, when the divine was unveiled to him from the metaphysical reality, the weight was such that it was life shattering:

“He was able to hear the divine message. And it’s quite clear that revelation — some of the prophets of Israel had this experience too — is devastating. Not a nice peaceful experience, but something that racks them in every limb. Prophet Jeremiah cried aloud, “Ah God, God, “I can’t speak, I’m a child. Your revelation hurts me in every limb.” Isaiah, when he saw his vision of God in the temple, said, I’m dead. I have looked on the Lord of Hosts.” This is a lethal power because the impact of what’s coming through is shattering. Your world as it was before goes.” [2] *