Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Doctrine - Muhammad on Jesus - Son of Mary (part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Muhammad's denial that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God was absolute and incontrovertible.
"God has not taken to Himself any son [begotten offspring]" (Koran 23:93)
"and He has not taken [begotten] to Him a son" (Koran 25:2)
I believe that Muhammad's difficulty in believing in Jesus as the Son of God was because he did not understand what it meant to be the Son of God. Muhammad disbelieved because he misunderstood. There are several ways in which Muhammad misunderstood the concept of the Son of God. First, he did not understand the eternal nature of the Son.
"Say: 'He is God, One [alone], God, the Everlasting Refuge [the eternal], who has not begotten, and has not been begotten, and equal to [like unto] Him is not any one." (Koran 112:1-4)
In Muhammad's understanding, Jesus' existence began when He was begotten by Mary. One day, there was just God and He was alone, then the next day He begat a Son through the virgin Mary, and now there was two gods. Certainly, if this is what happened, many of us would disbelieve too. We have all heard of the Greek gods and how they gave birth to the greater and lesser gods, yet few, if any, of us believe those stories today. However, Jesus' life was not that of an ordinary man who was born into this world. Jesus existed eternally with the Father and was begotten into this world for a short time and now continues to live in eternity with the Father in heaven. John, speaking of Jesus as the Word says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." (John 1:1-3) John says that Jesus existed with God from the very beginning and was, in fact, God. Paul confirms this saying, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17) There has always existed the Son of God. This is why, from the very beginning, God always speaks in the plural, even in the Koran. "You who have been given the Book [the Scriptures], believe in what We have sent down, confirming what is with you [confirmatory of the Scriptures], before We obliterate faces, and turn them upon their backs, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-men [sabbath-breakers], and God's command is done." (Koran 4:50)

Secondly, Muhammad saw in the need of God to "take a son" a sing of weakness with God and a sign that God needed something when, in fact, God was already owner of everything and is in need of nothing.
"And say: 'Praise belongs to God, who has not taken to Him [begotten a] a son, and who has not any associate [partner] in the Kingdom, nor any protector out of humbleness [weakness].'" (Koran 17:111)
"Had God desired to take to Him [have had] a son, He would have chosen whatever He willed [pleased] of that He has created." (Koran 39:7)
Truly, God is in need of nothing and has no need that one should be His helper, concealer, or protector. However, Muhammad failed to understand that the Son is not separate from the Father but rather that the Son is God in union with the Father and the Spirit. It's not that God was adding to Himself, for He is and will ever be one. However, it is God's nature to be plural and the Son is a part of the nature of God just as much as the Father and the Spirit are as well. In the birth of Jesus, nothing was added to God, only something was added to us. God did not "take" a son unto Himself, rather he "gave" a son to us. "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV) The birth of Jesus was the incarnation of the Son who previously existed from all eternity with the Father in heaven. Nothing changed or was added to the Godhead. However, something radically did change for us in His incarnation.

Finally, Muhammad could not understand how God could have a son without starting a family.
"He -- exalted be our Lord's majesty! has not taken to Himself either consort [spouse] or a son [any offspring]. The fool among us spoke against God outrage [that which is unjust]," (Koran 72:3)
"The Creator of the heavens and the earth -- how should He have a son, seeing that He has no consort, and He created all things, and He has knowledge of everything?" (Koran 6:101)
"What, has your Lord favoured you with sons [prepared sons for you] and taken to Himself from the angels females [daughters from among the angels]? Surely it is a monstrous [dreadful] thing you are saying!" (Koran 17:42)
"Or has He taken to Himself, from that He creates, daughters, and favoured you with sons?" (Koran 43:15)
I myself have heard such objections from Muslims today. When it came to being the Son of God, Muhammad could, or would, only interpret it as meaning a son born into a family. Muhammad could not understand how God could begat a son without first having a wife from which to procreate their son. The question I've been asked by Muslims is, "Why did God decide to start having a family?" The problem is that Muhammad failed to understand what God meant by the "Son of God."

One of the greatest difficulties we face when trying to understand God is in trying to understand Him in human terms. Some try to understand God, and the Son of God, in terms of having children and starting a family. Though we call Him the Son of God it is not as if God one day decided to take a wife and start having children. If this were the case then God would no longer be unique and no different form the rest of His creation. To properly understand what is meant by the term "Son of God" we must first understand this term in its context.

Often the scriptures use the same term to mean multiple things, each which must be understood by its context. For example, what the scripture means by being born or begotten is different based on its context. When the scripture says that "Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers." (Matthew 1:2 NKJV) it means that Isaac, Jacob, and Judah were born of natural means with a father and a mother. When the scriptures speak of Jesus saying "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) It does not mean that Jesus was born in the normal human since but that the Word of God was incarnated in human flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary. And, when the scripture says that Jesus, "is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." (Colossians 1:18) it is obviously not speaking of normal child birth or the production of a human family since no one has ever created a family by giving birth from the dead.

Similarly, when Jesus is call the "Son of God" we do not take the term "Son" to mean and stand for normal sons and daughters as we might have them. The scriptures speak of Adam this way, "the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." (Luke 3:38) Although Adam was in no way birthed as a normal child, yet he is called the son of God because he was directly made and fashioned by the hands of God. Similarly, Job refers to the angles as the sons of God, not because they were birthed, but because they were created. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." (Job 1:6) Also, believers are called the children of God, not because we are born so but because we are made so by the salvation of God. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12) So Jesus is called the Son of God, not because He was made or because he was birthed, but because He came from the Father and entered this world through the womb of a virgin.

Finally, we must realize that, even as Jesus was born into this world, it was not as if He never existed until His birth. Jesus told this parable of Himself and His mission on Earth.
"At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'" (Luke 20:10-13)
Here, Jesus shows us that when He was sent from the Father to enter this world as a child, that He already existed with the Father. Jesus' birth was not His creation. He was from eternity with the Father and will for all eternity continue to be with the Father. John says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 14) John clearly states that Jesus always existed with God as the Word of God and was, in fact, God. His coming forth as the Son of God was his appearance upon Earth but not His creation as the Son. Paul writes of Jesus, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17) Things that can only be said of God. Similarly, "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8) Showing clearly that Jesus existed as God long before He ever became a man and walked among us. Perhaps if Muhammad had understood this, he would have come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

David Roison

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