Mohammedan and Christian Conceptions of God

James Levi Barton

A fundamental requisite for the evangelization of Islam is an understanding of the Mohammedan idea of God on the one hand and the Christian idea on the other. This is necessary in order that the Christian may know the basic elements of religion that Mohammedans already possess, and may know what he himself has of value to add.

Foremost among the features of the Moslem conception of God is his unity and aloneness. This was a fundamental doctrine with Mohammed. It is asserted in the Koran often and in many ways. The 112th Sura is called the Sura of the Unity. It reads:

In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
Say, He is God alone?
God the Eternal!
He begets not and is not begotten!
Nor is there like unto him any one?
The aloneness and eternity of Allah could not be more forcibly stated. The sura is probably an early one. The statement "he begets not and is not begotten" was probably addressed in part to the heathen Koraish of Mecca, as Sura 53 shows, but it was also directed in part against the Christians. Mohammed was strongly prejudiced against the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the Christian beliefs about the divinity of Christ; he did not understand them. Some other statements of the oneness, aloneness, and supremacy of Allah in the following:

Your God is one God; there is no God but he, the merciful and compassionate. (Sura 2:187)

Verily Allah is mighty over all. (2:168)

Power is altogether Allah's (2:169)

Allah bears witness that there is no god but he, and the angels and those possessed of knowledge standing up for justice. There is no God but he, the mighty and wise. (3:18)

Were it necessary such quotations could be greatly multiplied, for the assertion of the aloneness and supremacy of Allah was often on the lips of the Prophet. But it is superfluous to assemble proof-texts, when Mohammed made the confession, which constitutes one a believer and also forms the beginning of the call to prayer which rings out from every minaret in the Moslem world five times ever day, the assertion: "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." In the face of evidence so patent and so well known it needs no demonstration to prove that Islam, like Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity is a monotheistic religion. It only remains to inquire into the character of its monotheism.

The name Allah does not help us much. It is made up of the definite article al and the root 'ilh "god," derived from the same root as the Hebrew 'eloah, sometimes employed in Hebrew poetry for "God"' the plural of which, 'elohim, is the most common general designation of deity in the Old Testament. Etymologists sometimes debate whether 'ilah may not be derived from the verb 'ilaha, which means "to fear," "be perplexed," "to adore." In all probability the root was at first the name of deity, signifying "the terrible one," and the verb was derived from the noun. All this, however, lay far back in Semitic heathenism. In the Old Testament Elohim means "God" (sometimes "gods") and in Moslem parlance Al-lah simply means : "the God", i.e., " the One True God."

Later Mohammedan tradition recognized ninety-nine names for Allah. These names are descriptive epithets, but by no means all of them are found in the Koran. Of those that go back to the Prophet the two most frequently employed are "the Merciful" and "the Compassionate." From these we should infer that one attribute of God as Mohammed knew him was mercy. We should err, however, if we supposed that Allah's mercy was akin to the graciousness of the Christian God. It is rather compassion or an indulgent pity for the shortcomings and foibles of men. When put thus, the statement is only a misleading half truth. To obtain Mohammad's idea of God's mercy and compassion, one must inquire toward whom these qualities were exercised and whether they were offset by opposite attributes. Light is thrown on this in Sura 2:103 where we read "Allah is compassionate to his servants." It would appear from this that in order to experience his mercy one must be his servant. This is in reality the teaching of Islam. Allah showers his favors upon those who believe. Thus Sura 23:1 begins:

Prosperous are the believers who in their prayers are humble, and who from vain talk turn aside, and who in almsgiving are active. Again, Sura 3:13-14 declares:

For those who fear are gardens with their Lord, beneath which rivers flow; they shall dwell therein for aye, and pure wives and grace from Allah; the Lord looks on his servants who say "Lord we believe; pardon our sins and keep us from the torment of the fire."

Towards those who do not believe Allah exercises no mercy. For them are prepared the lurid torments of the Moslem hell Thus in Sura 22:55 we find:

For those who do not believe is shameful woe. And in verse 71: The fire Allah has promised to those who do not believe. Similarly, in Sura 39:33: Is there not a hell for the unbelievers. The nature of the punishment which is inflicted in hell for this heinous sin of unbelief is set forth in Sura 22:20: Those who are unbelievers, for them are cut out garments of fire, there shall be poured over their heads boiling water, wherewith what is in their bellies shall be dissolved and their skins too, and for them are maces of iron. Whenever they desire to come forth therefrom through pain, they are sent back into it: "and taste ye the torment of the burning."

Allah, then, was believed to possess such a character that for the mere intellectual defect of unbelief he would subject men to such barbaric torture. It ill becomes Christians to speak harshly of Mohammed for thus conceiving God, for the conception entertained of him by some theologians bears a strong family resemblance to that of Mohammed, but it must be said that in Christianity such conceptions form no large part of the New Testament teaching, while in Islam the Koran itself iterates them again and again. Indeed it was with such terrifying threats of barbaric visitation of the divine displeasure upon unbelievers that Mohammed sought to bear down all opposition to his mission. In Islam, therefore, God is conceived as not primarily interested in the conduct of men, but in their attitude of belief or unbelief towards him and his Apostle. His mercy is limited to those who believe. It is to them only that he is indulgent. Thus in Sura 39:44 we find:

Say, O my servants, who ham been extravagant against their own souls, be not in despair of the mercy of Allah; verily Allah forgives sins, all of them; verily Allah is forgiving, merciful.

It appears from the evidence here adduced that according to the Mohammedan conception Allah is not bound by any standard of justice. Rather he forgives and indulges those who, by accepting without question the Mohammedan teachings, flatter him. It is not strange that, as Mohammed conceived God thus, he should not think of him as a loving Being. One who is so self-centered as to be always thinking of the attitude of men toward himself, not as a test of moral qualities, but as a recognition or non-recognition of his own power, has no place in his heart for love. There are but two or three passages in the Koran where the love of God is spoken of. One of them is Sura 5:59. It runs:

O ye who believe! whoso is turned away from his religion. - Allah will bring instead a people whom he loves and who love him, lowly to believers, lofty to unbelievers, strenuous in the way of Gods fearing not the blame of him who blames.

It seems that here God is not really said to love men, but to love certain qualities of some men.

In Sura 3:140 Allah is said to love those who are patient. Also in 3:163 we read:

As for what thou hat resolved, rely upon Allah; verily Allah loves those who do rely.

Finally in 3:29 occurs the following:

Say, if ye would love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, for Allah is forgiving and merciful.
Say, Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if ye turn your backs Allah loves not unbelievers.

These are all the passages in the Koran known to the writer which speak of God's love. The word seems to be employed rather in the sense of "approval" than of "love." Such as Allah's love is, it is enjoyed only by those who have faith, patience, reliance upon God, or who exhibit a certain type of life. The Koran furnishes in it utterances about God no parallel to " God so loved the world." Allah's love is limited to those of whom he can approve.

The Koran has much to my of God's relation to nature. Some Of Mohammed's ideas on this subject were dearly borrowed from the Old Testament as is the statement in Sura 6:72.

He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in truth; and on the day when he says, "BE", then it is1. Of a like nature are the following:

We did create the heavens and the earth and what is between the two in six days, and no weariness touched us. (50:57)

The last statement in the verse just quoted is intended to contradict the statement of Gen. 2:2 that God rested on the seventh day - a statement that seemed to Mohammed to imply that God possesses infirmity.

Another passage that has been thought to contradict Sura 50:37 is Sura 41:3:

Do ye really not believe him who created the earth in two days?

It is not fair, however, to charge Mohammed with inconsistency on this point (though in many other respects there are contradictions in the Koran), for he may have been thinking of that part of the story of creation which related to the seas and the dry land on the second and third days according to the account in Genesis.

In Sura 16:2-16 Mohammed refers to the creation of the heavens and earth, of men, of cattle, horses and mules, of the rain, grain, olives, palms, grapes, and other fruits, of night and day, the sun, moon, and stars, of fishes and of mountains. He argues that as Allah has made these things for man, men should give him their allegiance.

Allah sustains the heavens without columns (13:2). In Sura 6:95-99 Allah is said to carry on all the processes of nature such as the sprouting of grain and the date-stone, the sending down of rain, and the growth of fruits. His activity is constant and unwearied. We learn from Sura 113:2 that Mohammed, like the prophet Amos, thought of God as so exclusively responsible for all that goes on on the earth, that evil as well as good is his creation.

On the whole Mohammed's conception of the relation of God to nature is borrowed from the Old Testament. It is that of the Hebrew prophets and lawgivers modified a little here and there to suit Mohammed's peculiar ideas.

If we turn to Mohammed's conception of the relation of Allah to men we find that his conception is but an expansion of the early Hebrew idea of Jehovah unrelieved by later Jewish and Christian modifications of the conception of God. Pre- exilic Hebrew prophets believed that Jehovah was responsible for both good and evil. Amos says (ch. 3:6): "Shall evil befall a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?" In Isaiah 45:7 we read: "I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I am Jehovah that doeth all these things." The Hebrew prophets took this point of view because Satan did not emerge in Hebrew thought to relieve Jehovah of the responsibility for evil until after the Babylonian exile.2 This phase of prophetic thought Mohammed transplanted to a later age and gave it far-reaching theological consequences. Thus he Says (Sura 6:125):

Whomsoever God wishes to guide, He expands his breast to Islam; but whomsoever He wishes to lead astray, He makes his heart tight and straight, as though it would mount up into heaven; thus does Allah not set his horror on those who do not believe.

It appears from this passage that Allah predestines men to unbelief. Men are accordingly not responsible; in the last analysis Allah is each an arbitrary ruler that all responsibility even for the unbelief of infidels rests upon him. This doctrine is reiterated in Sura 39:24:

That is the guidance of Allah! He guides therewith whom he will. But he whom Allah leads astray then is no guide for him.

Monotheism carried to this extreme becomes uncontrolled, absolute, all-absorbing will. That will overbears all other wills in the universe. Man is reduced to a cipher. Human agency and human freedom are nullified. Right is no longer right because it is right, but because Allah wills it to be right. It is for this reason that monotheism has in Islam stifled human effort and progress. It has become a deadening doctrine of fate. Man must believe and pray, but these do not insure salvation or any benefit except Allah wills it. Why should human effort strive by sanitary means to prevent disease, when death or life depends in no way on such measures but upon the will of Allah? One reason why Moslem countries are so stagnant and backward in all that goes to make a high civilization is owing to the deadening elects of monotheism thus interpreted.

It is doubtless true that the Mohammedan doctrine of the sovereignty of God can almost be paralleled in Christian theology by the conceptions of St. Augustine and John Calvin. Nevertheless even in the most extreme forms of the Augustinian and Calvinistic system: there were always present in Christianity other elements which prevented the conception of the divine sovereignty from paralyzing the healthy activities of life as the Mohammedan doctrine has done. Moreover the Augustinian and Calvinistic emphasis upon the sovereignty of God was never accepted by the whole of Christendom as the Mohammedan doctrine has necessarily been accepted by Islam.

There are passages in the Koran which seem at first sight to allow some freedom to the human will and to recognize a corresponding degree of human responsibility, but such passages are delusive. Usually in their context one finds in some form an expression of the doctrine of the all-controlling will of Allah. Thus in Sura 34:32 occurs this:

We will put fetters on the necks of those who are unbelievers Shall they be rewarded except for that which they have done?

In vs. 36 of the same Sura there is also the following:

For them (i.e., those who do right) is a double reward for what they have done, and they in upper rooms shall be secure.

Between these two verses, however, there is the assertion (vs. 35):

Verily my lord extends provision to whom he pleases or doles it out, but most men do not know, -

an assertion that is repeated again in vs. 38. Man has then, according to the Koran, no real freedom. God ostensibly rewards the good for their belief in Allah and his prophet, for their faithfulness in performing the proper religious ceremonies, and for their good deeds, such as almsgiving. In reality this is all a delusion, for they have no real merit. They are all done because Allah has decreed that they should he done by these people. Similarly God appears to punish unbelief, the neglect of the required religious ceremonies, and the violation of certain moral requirements. In truth the men who receive punishment for these things are not responsible for what they do, Allah having decreed from the beginning that they should do these things. Under his decree they could not do otherwise. This doctrine is the early prophetic conception of monotheism, divorced from its Hebrew setting, and carried to a pernicious extreme.

In the Old Testament Jehovah is often called "holy." To the Hebrew mind holiness was one of his most characteristic attributes. While in early times holiness designated terrible qualities of divinity that could not brook ceremonial impurity - a kind of divine wrath that manifested itself against all those who did not observe the proper forms of politeness in approaching Jehovah - on the lips of the prophets it came to denote moral qualities. Jehovah was pure; Jehovah was just. This thought echoes through all the later Jewish literature, and, as we shall see, became a potent thought in Christianity. This attribute of deity Mohammed failed almost, if not altogether, to perceive. The word "holy" is applied to Allah but once in the Koran. Sura 59:22 reads:

He is Allah, beside whom there is no god; he knows the unseen and the visible; he is merciful and compassionate. He is Allah, beside whom there is no god; he is the king, the holy one, the peace-giver, the faithful, the protector, the mighty, the repairer, the great.

The Arabic word qudus, "holy," here applied to Allah, may mean either ceremonial or moral purity. It is an interesting fact that Mohammedan commentators on the Koran take it here to denote ceremonial purity. Allah is characterized by those absences from ceremonial defilement which he demands of his followers. While it is possible that, when Mohammed applied the word to Allah, he meant more than this, the context in which it stands does not require more. An the other attributes referred to in the verse have to do with Allah's external dignity and work. It is probable, therefore, that in the mind of Mohammed Allah's holiness no more than it does on the pages of his commentators. But even if one grants that the Prophet did intend here to my that Allah is morally pure, the text would be one lone utterance in the whole Koran. Taking Mohammed's teaching as a whole no emphasis is laid on the holiness of God. Indeed holiness and justice, in the sense in which most Christians think of them as existing in the divine nature, are necessarily absent from a deity such as we have seen that Mohammed conceived Allah to be. A God, who predestines men to unbelief and sin, and then punishes them for doing what they could not help doing and what he had ordained that they should do, lacks the elements of that exalted morality which constitutes holiness.

Indeed Mohammed appears to have thought of God as possessing about the same morality as an Arab. In Sura 3:47 he says:

They were crafty and Allah was crafty, and Allah is the best of the crafty ones.

The same words occur again in Sura 8:30, though the context there favors the rendering:

They plotted and Allah plotted, and Allah is the best layer of plots.

Strange as the idea here expressed is to a Christian, it is not without parallel in the Old Testament, for in Psalm 18:25-26 we read:

With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful;
With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect;
With the pure thou wilt Show thyself pure;
And with the perverse thou wilt show thyself forward.

It is accordingly evident that in his conception that Allah was more crafty than men and would surpass them in trickery, Mohammed was still on the plane of thought of the Psalmist.

This conception of the craftiness of Allah naturally leads one to think of Mohammed's anthropomorphism in his conception of Allah. Mohammed really conceived of God as a gigantic man. While it is not easy to adduce particular texts from the Koran to prove this statement, degrees of anthropomorphism are implied in many statements. It is frequently said that Allah "sees," "knows," "wills," "decrees," etc. In all these cases the Arabic is personal. It says "the seeing one," "the knowing one," etc. It seems to have been impossible for Mohammed to conceive personally except in terms of extreme anthropomorphism. The Wahabites, who have endeavored to revive the pure Mohammedanism of the Koran, are frequently accused of thinking of Allah as a great man, and there much justice in the charge. If the Koran does not think and speak of Allah's hands, eyes, and ears, later. Mohammedan writers did. Indeed, when the moral qualities of Allah were thought to be simply those of a powerful, unscrupulous despot - or at least a despot whose reasons could not be understood and so did not commend themselves to man's sense of justice - it was inevitable that in other respects he should be anthropomorphically conceived.

It is of course true that if men think of God an anything more than an unknowable Absolute, they necessarily think of him in some degree in human terms. Anthropomorphism is, accordingly, always a question of degree. It must nevertheless be confessed that in Islam the degree of anthropomorphism manifested in the conception of God has on the whole been, and still is, very great. Much more might be said of the Mohammedan conception of God, but in the characteristics named above we have the essential elements of the Mohammedan idea. All else that might be said would be by way of elaboration and tracing details.

Moslems think of Deity, then, as an anthropomorphic Being, whose aloneness and apartness from all other creatures cannot be too strongly stated. He controls all nature and rules the world so absolutely that noting happens except by his decree. Even the unbelief and sins men an due to his will. God is so exalted that freedom of the human will is practically denied. God is controlled by no ethical standards; good is good because he wills it; evil is evil for the same reason. While the Koran once applies to him the term "holy," it is clear that his holiness does not consist of moral perfections. He is not a loving being. Such love as he manifests is simply approval. This conception of God can, as has been pointed out, be paralleled at almost every point by conceptions of Jehovah entertained by one or more Old Testament writers. It should, however, be noted that none of these conceptions, except the oneness and aloneness of God, ever commanded general assent among Hebrews. The others were not entertained in Judaism to the exclusion of opposite views to the same degree as they were by Mohammed and in Islam. Jewish thought has never pushed the divine will to such a logical extreme as to destroy human freedom; to the Jew Jehovah's holiness has always, since the days of the great prophets, been essentially an ethical quality. To them also Jehovah's love has meant more than approval; it possessed the passionate yearning of a father or a husband. While Mohammed's conception of God was derived from Judaism, it was so changed by the elimination of some characteristics and the exaggeration of others as to become in many respects quite different.

It should be noted also that Mohammed's anthropomorphism led him to deny to God fatherhood, and made it repugnant to him to think of God in the way that Hoses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel thought of Jehovah as loving like a husband. To Mohammed this would imply sexual relations on the part of Allah3, and the thought was repugnant to him. Thus Islam lost from its idea of God the tenderest conceptions, and those most fruitful in the religious life. It must not be supposed that the conception of God outlined above has always satisfied Mohammedans or has gone unchallenged in Islam. One of the earliest manifestations of dissatisfaction produced the sect of Qadarites, who insisted that man possesses qadar, or power over his own actions, or, as we should say, free will. Men are everywhere conscious of the power of sell-determination, and in Islam as elsewhere this consciousness asserted itself. In Islam it brought men into conflict with the doctrine that everything happens by decree of the will of Allah. As early as the year 80 after the flight from Mecca a man lost his life for championing this doctrine.

Later, at Bagdad, the Qadarites were succeeded by the Mutazellites or Seceders. They flourished especially in the reign of the Caliph Mamun, 813-833 A.D., and applied to the fundamental conceptions of Islam the Aristotelian dialectic as it was understood by Persians and Arabs at the Caliph's court. According to one of these Mutazellite teachers, "we could not say that God had knowledge. For it must be of something in Himself or outside of Himself. If the first, then there was a union of knower and known, and that is impossible; or a duality in the divine nature, and that is equally impossible... If the second, then his knowledge depended on the existence of something other than himself, and that did away with his absoluteness4."

Another Mutazellite taught "that God could do nothing to a creature, either in this world or the next, that was not for the creature's good and in accord with strict justice. It was not only that God would not do it; he had not the power to do anything evil5."

In such ways as these the orthodox doctrines of Islam vanished before the alchemy of thought, much to the scandal and alarm of the faithful. Even the Caliph became a heretic! Orthodoxy was, however, in the end made triumphant by such men as Al-Ashari (874-933 A.D.) and Al-Ghazali (1059-1109 A.D.), who, by the use of dialectic, repelled the attacks of dialectic, and made the older unreasoned views triumphant, so that they rule in the greater part of Islam today.

To a people whose conception of God is in some ways so true, but in many ways so unsatisfactory, the Christian missionary has to bring a conception of God that has, through the agency of Jesus Christ, grown from the same Hebrew root, but which has flowered into a form beautiful, and adequate to human needs.

In spite of such schoolmen as Duns Scotus, who taught that good is good because God wills it, and that evil in evil for the same reason, the Christian conception of God has never lost the great truth grasped by the prophets of Israel, that God is essentially just - that he is controlled by innate laws of right and wrong. He is bound by the same ethical life as men.

"Nothing can be good in Him
That evil is in me."

Hosea and Jeremiah had taught that Jehovah loved Israel as a tender father loves and as a fond husband loves. Jeremiah had even gone beyond this and declared that God cared for the whole world. These great truths, somewhat obscured in later centuries by Jewish legalism, were revived and extended by Jesus Christ. He gave new vividness to the conception of the Fatherhood of God. Jesus' own love, his tireless service to the down-trodden and suffering, gave new depth and a new catholicity to love. After he lived men dared to believe that God was like him. The nearness of God, his human interest, his tireless and unchanging love, were realized as never before. Nothing of the old conception of God's holiness was lost. Instead, the lofty teaching of Jesus gave to this a new moral content in the thought of Christians. God the Father, Holy, Loving, Just, Tender, Near, as well as Creator and Ruler, became the Christian conception of God.

At the end of the first century the great religious genius who wrote the Fourth Gospel declared that in Jesus God's Word became flesh. The term "Word" had had a long history both in Jewish and in Greek thought. It had come to stand for something like God's power of self-expression or self-revelation. By applying it to Jesus its meaning was transfigured. The Word was no longer a philosophical abstraction; it glowed with life; it palpitated with love.

This writer, too, records for us a saying of Jesus overlooked by earlier evangelists, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." The Christian God is a God whose love goes out to all the world and is of such a degree that he voluntarily suffers for all the world. The religious value and depth of this conception of God as compared with the kind of love which the Koran portrays God as possessing is like noon-day compared with the first glimmerings of dawn.

The Johannine writings also give us our best definitions of the divine nature. God is spirit; God is light; and God is love. In these writings light and darkness have a moral significance. God is thus declared to be metaphysically spirit; morally, perfect; religiously, the loving Personality that attracts the hearts of men. Such conceptions satisfy men. To demand higher conceptions would require faculties that as yet our race does not possess.

The earthly life of Jesus was brief; his ministry much more brief. He promised to his disciples that the Spirit Of God would come to be their Comforter and Guide. The fulfillment of that promise the Apostles experienced. At first they had baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus," but before the close of the first century they began to baptize "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Thus there came into Christian consciousness the Trinitarian conception of God. Two or three centuries later the Councils of the Church attempted to define this doctrine in creeds. The problem before them ins to maintain the unity of God, and still believe that he had come into human life in Jesus Christ; to hold to his transcendence, and yet not to lose his presence from the world; to retain faith in the richness of the divine nature as it is revealed in nature, in the person of Christ, and in human experience, and yet avoid tritheism. The result of these efforts was the creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon.

These creeds may be held in various ways. They may be considered as definitions to be grasped by the mind. They may be regarded as finalities. They may be considered as dogmas to be accepted whether one understands them or not. The wise missionary, especially a missionary to Islam, will assume to them a different attitude. He will bring them into connection with the historic process that brought them into human consciousness; he will try to relate them to such religious experiences as those from which they sprang; he will dwell less on metaphysical details, and more on the spiritual significance for life which the doctrine symbolizes. If the Trinitarian conception of God is taught simply as a revealed metaphysics, it may easily degenerate, as Mohammed thought that it had done, into tritheism. If it does not do this, it may become to the mind a mere mathematical paradox, baffling to the intellect, and uninspiring to the heart. Thus conceived it appeals with little force to any one, least of all to Moslems.

We would suggest a better way. Let the doctrine not be dissociated from the Person of Jesus of Nazareth as he lived in Palestine. Let it always palpitate with the pulses of that love for men that spoke so eloquently in him. Let it not be regarded as a final expression of all that can be known of God, but as a symbol of elements in the constitution of the nature of God that are of vital importance to religion, to human experience, and to human hopes.

It has been pointed out above how a Mutazellite (his name was Ma'mar Ibn Abbad), in thinking about God as Islam conceives him, was compelled to deny that God had knowledge, or that he could will. He might equally have denied that God could love, for love, too, depends on an object to love. When a skilled thinker turns his mind upon the Mohammedan conception of God, he is compelled, as was Ma'mar Ibn Abbad, to reduce him to an indefinable something. In contrast with this, as has been pointed out by several writers6, the doctrine of the Trinity, standing as it does for the conception that there are distinctions of personality in the nature of God, guarantees the eternity both of his knowledge and his love. It symbolizes to the human mind the fact that God represents in himself both subject and object, both lover and loved. From eternity the Father could love the Son and the Son the Father with a love, not selfish, but suffused with divine altruism. The greater the number of personalities in the Godhead, the greater the possibilities of unselfish love. Nevertheless the Christian conception demands such union of will and purpose on the part of Father, Son, and Spirit, that in a real sense they are one God.

The Trinitarian conception stands, therefore, for faith that the nature of God is eternally social. If it is not true, God could not be nobly loving until he bad created some object to love. In that case his love is not eternal; it is an acquired attribute. What is acquired may be lost. If his love is not eternal, the firm basis is cut from under the grounds of religious appeal.

Similarly the act of knowing presupposes a subject and an object, a knower and the thing known. If God represents in himself both subject and object, his knowledge, like his love, is eternal. Thought compels one to see that far back in the eons of time before other beings were created, a God such as Islam conceives was a lone Monad in an uninhabited universe - the most pitiable of all existence7. God as the Christian conceives him was, on the other hand, then as now and forever, the All-wise, the All-knowing, the All-loving, Spirit, Light and Love.

God as conceived by Islam offers no social hope or social goal to the world. Once a lone Monad, now an inscrutable Despot, predestining men to Paradise or to Hell according to mere whim, - faith in him is not calculated either to warm and inspire the heart of the individual or to guarantee to man the realization of a social ideal, or even inspire him the desire for it. The Christian conception of God, on the other hand, not only inspires in man social aspirations and calls forth in him social qualities, but guarantees the final attainment of the social goal. If the nature of God was social from all eternity and will be social to all eternity, the "stars in their courses" are fighting on the side of the social ideal. The fundamental structure of the universe must, in that case, be social, not anti-social. In the end God will not suffer force, selfishness, plunder, murder, lying, and deceit to triumph. He will rather give the eternal victory to honor, unselfishness, altruism, and love.

The Christian conception of God affords the ground for a richer and more inspiring faith, as well as for a happier and more fruitful religious life, than the conception of God afforded by any other religion in the world. It gives to Christian missionaries to all lands a message of glad tidings to their hearers, no matter what religious truth those hearers already possess. It supplies the missionary to Islam with riches that his hearers sorely need, since the Mohammedan conception of God, while springing from the same root as the Christian, has been so blighted and distorted in its development as to produce in personal experience and social evolution a Sahara in comparison with the harvest-laden plains produced by the Christian faith at its best.

1 "BE and it is" also occurs in Sura 2:111.

2 Satan is mentioned but three times in the old Testament. In Job 1 and 2 written perhaps during the Exile. Satan is still an angel, though becoming skeptical. In Zech. 3:1 and 1 Chron. 21:1, both post-exilic passages, we have the only Old Testament references to a Satan at all like that of later times.

3 This is at least the opinion of the commentator Zamakhahari in his comment on Sura 112:6 "He begets not."

4 See D.B. Macdonald, Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence, and Constitutional Theory, New York, 1903, p. 143.

5 See Macdonald, Ibid., p. 140f.

6 See John Caird, Fundamental Ideas of Christianity, Glasgow, 1899. Lecture III: George A. Gordon, Ultimate Conceptions of the Faith, Boston, 1903, pp. 370ff.; and George A. Barton, The Heart of the Christian Message,2d ed., New York, 1912, p. 202.

7 Compare Gordon, op. cit., p. 371.

The Christian Approach to Islam, by James L. Barton, Pilgrim Press 1918, Chapter IX (pages 132-150).

Essays by James Levi Barton
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