THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE QUR’AN’S ONTOLOGY AND EPISTEMOLGY
“…The god of any non-Christian philosopher is a god constructed by the rebellious mind of man in the interest of suppressing the truth.” –Cornelius Van Til
“Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.”
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
“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.”
“Islam is proud to write on its banner, the Unity of God; but it is, after all, a banner of the Unknown God. Christianity enters every land under the banner of the Holy Trinity- the Godhead of revelation… There is no god but the Godhead.”
-Samuel Marius Zwemer
Introduction: Worlds in Collision
A surface level reading of the Qur’an and the Bible could lead one to believe that Muslims and Christians both serve similar, if not the same, god. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a difference between the teachings of the Qur’an and the Bible on the nature of God, his relationship to the creation, and the possibility man’s knowledge of him. Both cannot be true simultaneously if they contradict one another. These are not two ways of looking at the world which are equally valid as one another. They are worlds in collision.
Islam and Christianity are not two ways of looking at the same truth, but are two respective “totalizing” principles. By totalizing, we mean that Christianity and Islam are opposing comprehensive worldviews. They clash with one another most clearly on the level of presuppositions. Abraham Kuyper wrote, “Islam isolates God from the creature, in order to avoid the comingling with the creature. As antipode [to monistic paganism], Islam was possessed of an equally far reaching tendency, and was also able to originate an entirely peculiar world of human life.” As they are opposing totalizing systems, both cannot be true. This paper seeks to demonstrate the difference on the level of presuppositions, and then critique Islam at that same level.
This paper will describe the difference between what the Bible teaches about the Triune God and his relation to creation and what Islam teaches about Allah and his relationship to creation. The Bible demonstrates that the Triune God is both transcendent and imminently personal. This accounts for the relationship between God and the analogically ordered, and personally governed, creation. The Qur’an teaches that Allah is only transcendent and has no analogy in creation (Surah 6:100-104). Allah is so far distinct that he cannot be known, yet they claim to know about him. Islam is inconsistent on this point. This paper is a comparison of respective relationships between ontology and epistemology.
This topic clearly shows that Islam is inconsistent with itself, with the light of nature, and with the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible. Before proving this thesis, we must say a word about methodology. This paper will follow a presuppositional methodology. This methodology integrates ontology and epistemology. Christian Theologian, John Frame, has argued, “One’s view of reality will determine, to a great extent, his view of knowledge, and visa versa.” This was further explained by Frame’s student, Esther Lightcap Meek as integration between what we know to be and what we actually experience. What Meek means by integration is that we intuitively integrate the laws of nature in all actions or thoughts.
She gives the example of riding a bicycle. What happens when one rides a bicycle can be explained as conforming to the laws of gravity, inertia, and friction. However, when a child rides a bicycle he does not need to understand these laws in order to do the act himself. All mankind assumes these kinds of truths and others, but natural sinful man denies that God created and ordered these things analogous to his character. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Theologian, Greg Bahnsen, also made the case that all knowledge is an integration of what we know with how we know (ontology and epistemology). He wrote, “Everyone begins with an integrated worldview involving metaphysics and epistemology.” He argued this because “metaphysical [ontological] presuppositions are necessary for reasoning.” This means that all ideas are either true or false in light of some standard. For the Christian, all reasoning must come into the light of Holy Scripture as the final authority. Hebrews 6:13 says, “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” which means that God is the highest standard who has no equal. This same God has spoken truth in His word, the Holy Bible. Scripture gives us the highest standard, and clearest statement of truth, being that it is the very word of Truth Himself. It is the what we know that shapes the how we know.
Islam also holds to a self attesting authority, the Qur’an; however, the teachings within the Qur’an are inconsistent with itself, with the light of nature, and with the teachings of the 66 books of the Holy Bible. The point is that humans intuitively live out what they believe and yet may consciously believe something contrary to that truth. Is there a disconnection between knowledge and reality (epistemology and ontology)? There is (in one sense), and there is not (in another sense). People may be inconsistent with what they do and know. The truth lived out intuitively exists because God has created man in his image and the universe analogous to himself. For our thesis, we intend to show that Islam’s practices and confessed beliefs contradict themselves by borrowing intellectual capital from the Biblical worldview.
This borrowing of intellectual capital does not make Islam true. On the contrary, it makes Islam triply false because it is internally self contradictory, contrary to the light of nature, and contrary to special revelation in the Bible. Reformed theologian, Cornelius Van Til wrote, “…The god of any non-Christian philosopher is a god constructed by the rebellious mind of man in the interest of suppressing the truth.” The verse to which he alluded was Romans 1:18, which begins Paul’s argument against the pagan who constructs society and life based rebelliously against God’s created laws of nature, and image of God within them (vv. 19-20). Thought they live in a world of laws which assume God’s personal creative work, they deny His Lordship by worshiping creation (v 25). “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”(Rom 1:25). The verb here, “served,” assumes the whole pagan lifestyle (not only ceremonial idolatry, but all sorts of moral and intellectual unrighteousness and ignorance). For Van Til, who sought to follow Paul’s way of confronting the unregenerate mind, everything the unregenerate does intellectually, morally, and ceremonially is inconsistent.
The inconsistency is that the whole creation (especially man in God’s image) furnishes truth which the unbeliever assumes, but in rebelling against it he refutes himself. Van Til wrote, “Men generally seek to suppress this knowledge of God. They would gladly live where the searchlight of God’s revelation does not constantly expose them to themselves.” His point is that knowledge is always present, but men rebel against it. Islam is not different from any other un-Biblical religion on this main point; namely, that, “…The god of any non-Christian philosopher is a god constructed by the rebellious mind of man in the interest of suppressing the truth.” Inconsistency is part of man’s sinful nature. This is not only a Muslim problem, but the plight of all mankind alike.
Therefore, this paper will demonstrate the inconsistency of Islam. The point of contact will be the Qur’an’s teaching about God. This paper will argue that the Qur’an is inconsistent on the point of practicing knowledge of an unknowable God. The particular question concerning which Islam has the burden of proof is: is God knowable? Islam’s view of a fully transcendent god (ontology) accounts neither for creation’s orderly and personal nature nor for Allah’s communication by the prophet Muhammad.
Islam’s ontology does not account for its practical epistemology. The problem for Islam is that they believe God is unknowable, yet they act as if he is knowable. This paper will demonstrate this contradiction: that is, Islam practices and confesses things based on knowledge of an unknowable god. This paper will bring this internal inconsistency to the surface, and thereby refute Islam as incoherent in light of its own teachings, the light of nature, and in comparison to the Biblical worldview.
This paper will show the difference between these two systems of doctrine in order to convince the reader that the Christian system is the only truth. This paper will go about this end by analytically showing the difference from the primary texts (the Qur’an and Bible) and then will critique Islam on the level of its presuppositions. This will be done in three sections. The first section will describe the historical development of Islam’s view of God and Creation and its intellectual preconditions. The second section will show the difference between the teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an on this subject. The third section will demonstrate the basic inconsistency within Islam’s, and demonstrate that it has failed to account for any knowledge whatsoever, let alone its practical and revealed beliefs.
- 1. Islam’s Ontology in History
This first section will describe the history of Islam, so the reader will understand it in context. This section will explore Islam’s religious preconditions, the Church’s apologetic approach through history, and contemporary assessment for our purposes. The point of this section is to understand the context and meaning of the terms which Islam uses to describe Allah’s relationship to the world. This paper contends that Islam’s ontology does not allow its practical epistemology. This inconsistency makes sense when one considers the assumption that Islam is not a revelation of truth, but a man-made religion.
Islam’s theology was not created in a vacuum, but rose up as a schism from the Christian church. Muhammad was a product of the time in which he lived. This is evident from that he depended heavily upon the Nestorian Christians for his doctrine of the unity and inscrutability of God. One Christian apologetic resource argued, “There are many points of similarity between Muslim teaching and Nestorian Christianity, but the circle of ideas most prominent and characteristic, according to Tore Andre, is eschatology with its extraordinary stress on the day of Judgment. (Zwemer: Foreword to “Nestorian Missionary Enterprise” by J. Stewart, T. & T. Clark, 1928, p. 8)” The evidence for this is,
“Prior to A.D. 547 when the great Jacobite revival began, the only form of Christian faith known in the whole independant Arabia and Hirtha was that held by the “Church of the East,” the so-called Nestorians, and it is practically certain that every presbyter and bishop in the whole of that area recognized and acknowledged allegiance to the patriarch of Seleucia. When therefore, mention is found of Christians in Mecca and Medina and even in the tribe of Koreish, one is warranted in assuming that all such, prior to at least, the middle of the sixth century, were in communion with the same patriarchate. When the sudden rise of Islam took place it was the Nestorians who suffered most from the impact. (J. Stewart, op. cit., pp. 71, 72) ”
This assertion needs more analytical and primary text evidence. The Nestorian sect of Christianity separated the divine nature from the human nature of Christ. This is not the traditional hypostatic union which Christians hold, but is motivated by a denial of the ability of God to condescend and take on flesh. The Nestorian Christians are not responsible for Islam, but they did provide the dominant monotheistic background in the area. The Nestorians split off from the catholic church in the early 5th century A.D.
It is difficult to say how much influence Nestorian monotheism had on Muhammad. What can be said is what Samuel Zwemer wrote, “Islam is not original, not a ripe fruit, but rather a wild offshoot of foreign soil grafted onto Judaism.” We disagree with the assessment that Islam grafted onto Judaism alone, but could include the anti-catholic Nestorians. We must agree though, Muhammad’s monotheism was not original, but has obvious dependence upon the monotheism of the Jews and Christians.
Particularly, Islam’s religious roots, according to Samuel Zwemer, are Arab paganism, Judaism, and oriental (Nestorian) Christianity. Zwemer wrote,
“We are thus led back to the sources from which the Arabian prophet drew his ideas of Allah: namely (as for all his other teaching), from Arabian paganism, Talmudic Judaism, and Oriental Christianity. Islam is not original, not a ripe fruit, but rather a wild offshoot of foreign soil grafted onto Judaism. It will not surprise us therefore, if its ideas of God are immature and incomplete.”
Zwemer’s assessment rings clearly. Islam, obviously, borrows much, yet claims to be superior to and superseding of all prior revelation. The evidence lends to the obvious conclusion that Islam was the invention of Muhammad’s mind, and not a revelation; because it disagrees with prior Biblical revelation, was not accompanied by any of the Biblical tests of true prophecy, and has internal contradictions (particularly the disagreement between their ontology and epistemology).
Zwemer’s thesis seems likely because of several reasons. First, Muhammad was influenced by Nestorian theology by way of a man named Sergius, also known as Bahira (c. 600 A.D.). Second, there is internal evidence in the Qur’an which points to dependence upon Talmudic Judaism. Third, Nestorianism had sown the seeds of discontent with the catholic Christian faith by the time Muhammad began preaching. The former two elements were personal influences upon Islam. This is a more geo-political precondition. The eastern church was split over the issue of Nestorianism. These factors lead to the conclusion that not only did Muhammad have influences from these areas, but that the whole region was affected by it.
Islam not only developed out of its time, but developed out of heretical Christian, and heretical Jewish sources, not from the Scriptures. The dominant theme, which Zwemer and others have pointed out, is that Muhammad depended largely upon Talmudic Judaism. Presbyterian minister, Peter Leithart argued,
“…Islam is a global and systematic form of Judaizing. This is not just to say that Islam was shaped by Mohammed’s contact with Judaism, though that it is true enough that Islam’s debt to the Judaism of the Talmud is profound and fundamental. Judaism had had a marked presence in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries before Mohammed, and there was even a Jewish state among the Himyarites in Southwestern Arabia. Further, the Elkasite movement of the second century A.D. combined Jewish and Christian elements into a proto-Islamic system, though there appears to be no evidence of any direct link with Islam. Scholars who have investigated the sources of the Qur’an have noted similarities between its accounts and Talmudic and apocryphal renditions of biblical events.”
Leithart argued for Islam’s Talmudic foundation on the basis of several pieces of evidence. First, the rituals of Islam parody Judaism. For example, Muslim men practice a yearly sacrifice (Sura 5.97; 22:33-34), and the Qur’an proscribes certain meats (Sura 5.3; cf. Sura 23.51; Lev. 11), commands cleansings (Sura 5.6; cf. Lev. 15). Second, Islam denies that Jesus brought in the new creation in the New Covenant. Like medieval Judaism, Islam believes that Jesus did not make any real change in the world. Here, the similarities are more clearly linked to Judaism than to Nestorian Christianity. Leithhart argued, “Muslims look to Ishmael as their forebear, they are more Pauline than they realize, for Ishmael is the symbolic Judaizer (Gal. 4:21-31). Medieval Christians were strictly correct to speak of the heresy of the Ishmaelites or the religion of the Hagarenes.” And thus he concluded, “Islam is a parody of Christianity, and, more particularly, Islam is a Judaizing parody of Christianity.” This places Islam into its historical context, and shows the factors which influenced it. Now this section turns to the Church’s historic response to Islam.
The Church’s Response:
Historcially, the Church treated Islam as a heresy, not as a legitimate religion. Muslims believe, and the Qur’an claims, that Islam is superior to Christianity. However, its late date, and dubious start cast doubt on this. Therefore, the internal inconsistencies should be expected to appear when one analyses Islam.
The church has traditionally treated Islam as a heresy. Even Dante’ placed Muhammad in the part of hell reserved for “schismatics.” John of Damascus (d. 749 A.D.) argued that Islam was indeed a false prophecy, and schism from the Christian church. John of Damascus’ arguments all had to do with the validity of Muhammad’s revelation. He asked Biblical questions (no doubt based on Deut 18:15-22) like:
“But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases. ‘This,’ we say, ‘We know, but we are asking how the book came down to your prophet.’ Then they reply that the book came down to him while he was asleep. Then we jokingly say to them that, as long as he received the book in his sleep and did not actually sense the operation, then the popular adage applies to him (which runs: You’re spinning me dreams.)”
John’s arguments all draw upon the assumption that true prophets have accompanying signs, are in agreement with prior revelation, foretell Christ’s passion and the new creation, and are confirmed by fulfilled prophecies. All these criteria are biblically based. Muhammad fulfilled none of these requirements. Therefore, John argued that he was indeed making a man made religion.
John of Damascus’ apologetic was correctly Biblical, but should be pushed further. Not only does Islam disregard the Biblical pattern of prophecy, but it does not even makes sense as a system. It is inconsistent with itself. There are two diametrically opposed beliefs held simultaneously in the Qur’an, namely, revelation and God’s total transcendence. Islam holds the external form of a revealed religion, but the god it espouses makes no sense of the personal nature of the world, the moral code incumbent upon man, their rituals, or even their view of Muhammad’s reception of revelation. Islam is a parody religion, not the truth.
Compared to Christianity, which developed out of 1,500 years of revelation from Moses to the Apostle John, Islam developed suddenly. The founder of Islam, Muhammad received visions for 22 years (610-632 A.D.). These visions were recorded in the Qur’an. However, Islam did not just drop out of the sky. Evidently, Muhammad had a working knowledge of Christianity and Judaism. This is clear from the allusions the Qur’an made to Christian doctrines such as the Triunity of God (Surah 5:72-73). This Surah reads, “They do blaspheme who say, ‘Allah is one of three.’” He must have known of the doctrine of the Triunity of God in Christianity in order to make such an allusion. This leads to the conclusion that Muhammad had a polemic intent in his writing, which was particularly anti-Christian.
- 2. God and Creation in the Bible and Qur’an
The former section described the historical preconditions to the Qur’an’s teaching about Allah’s relationship to creation. This second section will show the difference between the teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an on this subject. Both the Bible and Qur’an (in general) assume that God is absolute and independent from the creation. However, they differ in that Christianity alone confesses that the Triune God is not only transcendent, but is also imminent, personal, and Incarnate in Jesus Christ. The combination of imminence and transcendence gaps the distance between the creator and the creature. The Triune God is unknowable in Himself, and man is unable to climb up to know God in that way. Yet, God has come down to man by way of revelation. Therefore, creatures can know the creator by analogy. Islam does not bridge this gap. This will be demonstrated by contrasting the two systems below. We will begin with Christianity, and then Islam.
Christianity’s ontology accounts for several components of reality such as the personal universe, the laws of nature, the imago dei, and the revelation in Scripture, because they are all analogical to God’s nature. Christian epistemology can account for knowing truth about the world, man, and God because all things were created and ordered by God analogous to his nature. Christianity can also account for the existence of sin and calamity because of the Covenant of Works and the curse which came as a result of Adam’s sin. In short, the Christian faith has revelation from a transcendent God. These two facts (revelation and transcendence) seem contradictory, but they fit together because the Triune God is both transcendent and imminent.
The Bible teaches the Lord’s transcendence. For example, Moses wrote, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29). This verse means that God’s providential will is secret. The “secret things” refer to God’s knowledge of all things. The knowledge God has f himself is not just infinitely more than man, but is infinitely higher than man. For example, Isaiah 55:8-9 reads, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isa 55:9). The kind of knowledge God has is not just quantitatively more, but qualitatively higher. The finite man cannot know the infinite God in the same way God knows Himself. This was also corroborated by Job, “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.” (Job 36:26). Because God is exalted, man does not know him. This is also applied to the age of God. God, unlike man, down not exist in time. Humans live in a space time continuum, but God does not. He is independent of time. God’s knowledge is thus infinite, as all of his attributes are infinite. The Apostle Paul exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?” (Rom 11:33-34). Finite man cannot know God as He knows His own nature.
However, Deuteronomy 29:29 also refers to God’s “revelation.” The word in the text “וְהַנִּגְלת” which means “the revealed things,” described the nature of the knowledge that creatures have. This word does not have any secret meaning, but refers to the way God makes himself known to his servants. God makes himself known by revelation. The nature of revelation is that to which we now turn.
The Bible teaches God’s imminence. Imminence does not mean that God is omnipresent (though he certainly is that). It refers to God’s ability to communicate himself to his creatures. There are several corollaries to imminence, namely Tri-personality, covenantal condescension, analogical ordering of creation, and the Incarnation.
The first corollary to the Lord’s imminence is that he is also Tri-personal. The Athanasian Creed (c. 400 A.D.) codified what the Bible teaches this way,
“And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.
The Christian church does not hold this view only because it makes sense of the personality the universe which God created, but because the Triunity of God is revealed in Scripture. For Example, the Bible describes three distinct persons, yet that God is one essence. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut 6:4). “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1Pe 1:2). Persons have interpersonal functions and distinct attributes about them. The three persons in the Godhead all receive titles, attributes, worship, and act as God (Isa 6:3-8, John 12:41, 1 John 5:20, Acts 5:3-5, Isa 9:6, John 2:24-25, 1 Cor 2:10-11, Col 1:16, Matthew 28:19). But they also have distinct roles (It is the Father’s to beget, the Son’s to be begotten, and the Spirit’s to proceed from both the Father and the Son), and properties (John 1:1; 17:5, Gen 1:1-3, Col 2:9, 2 Cor 13:14). The Christian church has continually confessed that God is one in essence, and Tri-personal. Therefore, the universe which God created analogous is personal. The unknown God may be known personally because this is consistent with his nature.
The Lord has condescended to reveal himself to man in two ways. These two ways are by way of general revelation and special revelation. General revelation refers to the order and structure of the creation. God has created a universe which functions according to laws which are analogous to His nature. Psalm 8:1 reads, “Oh Lord, our Lord, How Majestic is thy name in all the earth. Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens.” Creation points to the creative power of God, but also to the “display” of God’s order in the heavens. The creation gives forth knowledge of God which is sufficient for men to be responsible to God’s will (Rom 1:18-2:14). The Apostle Paul argued that, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20). God ordered the creation analogous to his attributes.
Special revelation refers to the Covenants God made with man. These are recorded in Scripture. Scripture teaches what man is to believe about God and how man is to worship God. This is that to which Moses referred when he said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”(Deut 29:29). The revealed things refer to God’s Covenant which he made with Israel, specifically the laws and the Gospel which he proclaimed to them through Moses. Special revelation is special in that it is verbal, not implicit as in creation. It is also special because it is infallible and inerrant, because God himself declares it, and it is as true God is.
The incarnation of Jesus was the culmination of God’s self revelation to is creatures. Jesus Christ is God himself who took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The second person of the trinity actually added a fleshly nature to himself in order to redeem man from sin and its consequences. This act of redemption was the clearest revelatory content of any of God’s communication to men. God spoke to, lived among, and died as Covenant mediator for the church. Hebrews said,
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”(Heb 1:1-3).
Jesus is not only by nature God, but His actions were revelations in themselves because all that he said and did was revelatory. He was the word of God made flesh. This principle, the Apostle John argued, means that though “no one has ever seen God” still, “the Only-begotten has made Him known.” (John 1:18). Though there is a distance too far for man himself to bridge, God himself came down and accommodated to man.
In sum, the Triune God’s knowability is based on these several doctrines of his nature. These doctrines are the Triunity of God, the imminence of God, and the revelation of God in nature and Scripture. All of these are corollary. The Triune God of the Bible is both inscrutable in himself but knowable by analogies in creation, Scripture, and the Incarnation. We know God, not because man is able to climb into the inscrutable mind of God; we know him because the Triune God has come down, and revealed himself. Thus, the Christian epistemology fits with the ontology which we confess.
The Triune God has made himself known in a way consistent with his nature. The Triune God is personal, therefore He has personal Covenantal relationships with his creatures. In order to have interpersonal communication, one must be personal. In contrast, Allah is not a person, so one would assume that he does not speak. The Qur’an is inconsistent on this point. Neither is Allah personal, nor does he speak, yet the Qur’an records communication from him (Surah 39:1). Surah 39:1 reads, “The revelation of this Book is from Allah….” But later in that same Surah (2:23) it says, “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true.” (Surah 2:23, emphasis mine) The royal “we” in this Surah refers to Allah. This is Allah speaking about his own revelation to Muhammad.
Allah’s relationship to the creation is total transcendence. Islam’s ontology claims that Allah is transcendent, and impersonal. Christian scholar of Islamics, Dr. Christine Shirrmacher, demonstrated that in Muslim theology “Allah is the creator of the universe and of each single individual, but he is transcendental, i.e., he is separated from creation. There is no connection between creator and creature (Sura 55,1-78; 6,100-101).” One of the Qur’an passages which she cited reads,
“100. Yet they make the Jinns equals with Allah, though Allah did create the Jinns; and they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! (for He is) above what they attribute to Him! 101. To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things. 102. That is Allah, your Lord! there is no god but He, the Creator of all things: then worship ye Him: and He hath power to dispose of all affairs. 103. No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things. 104. “Now have come to you, from your Lord, proofs (to open your eyes): if any will see, it will be for (the good of) his own soul; if any will be blind, it will be to his own (harm): I am not (here) to watch over your doings.’” (Surah 6:100-104, emphasis mine)
Here, the transcendence of Allah implies unknowability. Muhammad argues that Allah is inscrutable by the exclusion of attributing characteristics to God (101). This is because his theological opponents “have no knowledge” (101). This could mean that they are without understanding of the doctrines in the Qur’an, but in context it seems better to take this phrase to refer to Allah’s inscrutability. Notice for example, verse 103 reads, “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.” Here, the accent is on inscrutability. The distinction between Allah and the created men who seek to know him is equivocal. It is not like the Christian essence-energy distinction, where men can know God by his acts and attributes, but not as he is. Rather, Allah is unknowable because neither vision (presumably revelatory vision) not mental comprehension, nor attribution can explain him. Schirrmacher’s assessment of the Qur’an’s teaching is quite right. Allah is unknowable, because he is distinct from the created beings.
At the same time as being unknowable, The Qur’an assumes revelation. For example, Surah 6: 50. Say: “I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me.” Say: “can the blind be held equal to the seeing?” Will ye then consider not?” Here Muhammad narrated that he was but a man telling what was revealed to him. The unknowable Allah is made known by revelation.
This is an inconsistency. What is ironic is that Allah speaks about himself. Not only does he speak about himself, but also speaks about his own inscrutability. For example, Muhammad said, “Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create: but Glory be to Him! (He is above such things.) He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible” (Surah 39:4). Not only is this a polemic against incarnation, but also confesses that Allah is “an infinite eternal vast monad.” This concurs with the confession, “There is no god but Allah” and Surah 112:2 which mean that God is so distinct from creation that “Allah [is] the eternal, Absolute.” There is no answer in the Qur’an or Muslim teaching for the practice of knowing an unknown god. In fact, Muslims resort to negations in order to describe Allah because there is no analogy between Allah and creation.
This is an inconsistency. Islam claims that Allah is unknowable, yet they claim to have revelation from him. These two claims cannot both be true. What the Muslim theology suggests is that Allah actually is so unknown, that what Muhammad created was nothing more than the fiction of his own mind. In fact, the Allah described in the Qur’an is nothing different from deterministic pantheism.
Zwemer calls the Muslim view of Allah a “Pantheism of Force” Surah 6:18 reads, “He is the irresistible, (watching) from above over His worshippers; and He is the Wise, acquainted with all things.” What Zwemer argued was (in short): If Allah is inscrutable, and his will is irresistible, then there is no knowledge one could have of Allah other than in hindsight. All knowledge is a posteriori. After something happens one must say, it is Allah’s will. This is different from the Christian doctrine of concurere (that almighty God’s acts coincide with and cause humans act, but often works through second causes, and the brings forth the fruit of creation according to created laws). The phrase “pantheism of force” refers to the implication that everything is miraculous (but at the same time nothing is) because the irresistible direct action of Allah does not work through second causes.
This is clear from Surahs like Surah 6:18, “He is the irresistible, (watching) from above over His worshippers; and He is the Wise, acquainted with all things.” See also Surah 35, “If their spurning is hard on thy mind, yet if thou wert able to seek a tunnel in the ground or a ladder to the skies and bring them a sign,- (what good?). If it were Allah.s will, He could gather them together unto true guidance: so be not thou amongst those who are swayed by ignorance (and impatience)!”
There is another implication to this a posteriori theology. There is no way to verify that there is any difference between Allah’s will or a man made myth that explains all things that come to pass. If the will of Allah brings all things about, without mediation without second causes, then Allah is the creator of sin and calamity. Thus sin and calamity are natural for the world. Again, there is no way to tell the difference other than by a leap of faith that an unknowable God does indeed exist. The conclusion one should draw is not that Allah surely exists, but that Allah is the creation of the mind of Muhammad.
- 3. Islam’s Inconsistencies and the Bible’s Answers
The former section showed the difference between the Bible’s teaching about the analogical ordering of the universe by the Triune God, and the Qur’an’s teaching about Allah’s pure transcendent separation from creation. This third section will demonstrate the basic inconsistency within Islam’s, and demonstrate that it has failed to account for any knowledge whatsoever, let alone its practical and revealed beliefs. The medieval apology made by John of Damascus must be pushed further, not only was Muhammad a false prophet but he was also inconsistent with his own system of doctrine. Muhammad claimed that God was wholly transcendent, yet he revealed himself. This fundamental inconsistency leads to the conclusion that Islam, as a system, is false.
Islam claims that Allah is transcendent, but cannot account for reality, revelation, or for their acts of service to Allah. The Qur’an assumes a personal relationship with Allah, though it denies Allah’s personality. Islam assumes a personal relationship in its religious practices and moral demands. This tacit epistemology makes sense because we live in a personal universe, but it is inconsistent with their ontology. For example, worshipers are to call upon Allah in Surah 6:40-41, “Say: ‘Think ye to yourselves, if there come upon you the wrath of Allah, or the Hour (that ye dread), would ye then call upon other than Allah.- (reply) if ye are truthful! 41. Nay,- On Him would ye call, and if it be His will, He would remove (the distress) which occasioned your call upon Him, and ye would forget (the false gods) which ye join with Him!’” The point is, their tacit (practiced) religion does not fit with their confessed ontology.
Two more examples of their contradictory epistemology are service rendered to Allah and the final judgment. Service must be rendered to Allah sincerely, as Surah 39:11-13 reads, “‘11. Say: “Verily, I am commanded to serve Allah with sincere devotion; 12. “And I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam.” 13. Say: “I would, if I disobeyed my Lord, indeed have fear of the Penalty of a Mighty Day.’” In these passages Muhammad taught two things inconsistent with his view of Allah’s relation to the world. That is, Allah is personally offended as Lord (thus he will judge, 13), and men must personally and sincerely worship him (11). Christianity has categories to make sense God’s offense, human sin, and the need to worship the Triune God, but Islam does not. Therefore, when the Qur’an assumes these things, they are inconsistent, and even borrowing Biblical categories.
Why does Islam have (apparently) some true beliefs and practices? It should not be concluded that since Muslims have a great sense of religion and contains some truths, therefore their religion is truth itself. Rather, it should be concluded that because they are created in the personal and orderly image of God, they act in such a way which is natural to that ordering. What truths the Qur’an does teach are drawn from natural revelation and (as we have seen above) various pre-Islamic strands of Christianity and Judaism. Islam is based on falsified revelation, and borrowed intellectual capital. In short, Islam was the invention of Muhammad’s mind. Reformed theologian, Cornelius Van Til, argued that unregenerate mankind, because they do not take the scripture as the word of God and the authoritative standard of truth, “in consequence misrepresent the natural revelation of God.” What truth that exists in Islam may be explained by the fact that they tacitly experience the truth, but it is suppressed by sin and falsehood.
Islam is inconsistent in that it claims that Allah alone is to be worshiped, yet they, as personal beings, render personal worship to Allah. For example, Allah calls for worship, and even is jealous of other gods receiving worship. Surah 6:56 reads, “Say: “I am forbidden to worship those – others than Allah – whom ye call upon.” Say: “I will not follow your wain desires: If I did, I would stray from the path, and be not of the company of those who receive guidance.”” (cf., 6:61, 64, 88, 102; 1:5; 2:51, 64, etc). These passages command worship. If Allah is impersonal, then there is no need to worship him personally other than that his will demands it. The Qur’an clearly teaches that it is Allah’s will, not his nature a se that is being revealed, and that this will is equivocal to his nature (that is, it does not actually reveal him to man). However, to worship Allah requires an action that is personally conditioned. Unless Allah is personal, he cannot accept human praise in any way. Therefore, worship is entirely a capricious demand. This line of reason goes for any of the other four pillars of Islam. They are all inconsistent on this point.
Where Islam is inconsistent, the Biblical faith has an answer. Both have respective and contradictory views of the scrutibility and nature of God. This paper demonstrated that Islam holds two contradictory confessions. First, they believe that Allah is inscrutable. Second, they believe that Allah can be worshiped, judge, and speak to Muhammad through prophets. This paper contended that this is inconsistent because an unknowable and impersonal being cannot make himself known by speaking (that would be inconsistent with his character).
Islam holds to this inconsistency tacitly, and thus mixes truth (assuming the personal universe) with the lie (impersonal God). The universe in which Muslims live is personal, thus it is natural to express religion personally. The Qur’an denies this. Thus by mixing the truth and a lie, Muhammad exchanged the truth for a lie. The result is that Islam serves the creation, not the creator, because that is all they claim to know. Allah Speaks, but he cannot be known, so to whom does Muhammad speak? Since Allah is unknowable, everything is unknowable. But, they claim to know things, or act as if they know things, which is inconsistent with their ontology.
The conclusion one should draw from this analytical and presuppositional critique of Islam is twofold. First, Islam is not truth. The inconsistency is that the claims Islam makes to the truth are untrue. They are untrue because they contradict one another. One cannot hold to two contradictory propositions and yet still claim that both are true. Islam does this when it claims that God is unknowable and yet claims to know things about god, even if they are by way of negation.
Second, where Islam does have truths it is because they respond to the light of nature and the theological milieu in which Muhammad lived (particularly Judaism and Christianity). Therefore, Islam is an example of what Saint Paul called, “Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom 1:18). They take truths but pick and choose which ones serve the creation rather than the creator. In the final analysis, Islam serves the creation. The impersonal god Muslims worship could not (even in theory) receive service from personal finite creatures. Therefore, not only the root theology, but the practice of Islam is a man made and man serving venture. As Cornelius Van Til argued, “…The god of any non-Christian philosopher is a god constructed by the rebellious mind of man in the interest of suppressing the truth.” This is as much the case for Islam as any other manmade religion.
Bahnsen, Greg L. Pushing the Antithesis. Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007.
Bauckham, Richard. Bible and Mission. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 2003.
Clark, R. Scott and Daniel R. Hyde, eds. Christian Creeds and Confessions. Oceaside, CA: Oceanside URC, 2004.
Coulter, Ian T. Meetings for Better Understandings. Philadelphia, PA: Church Without Walls, 2010.
DeBres, Guido. Belgic Confession. 1976 Edition. 1561. Repr., Oceanside, CA: URCNA, 2004.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987.
Garlow, James L. A Christian’s Response to Islam. Eastbourne, England: Victor, 2005.
Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.
Meek, Esther Lightcap. Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003.
Muhammad. The Noble Qur’an. Edited by Yusuf [All Quotes From his edition Ali english typographical errors included]. Translated by Yusuf Ali. Amazon: Mobile Reference, 2010.
Schirrmacher, Christine. “The Qur’an and Bible Compared.” No pages. Cited 02/04/2011. Online: http://www.contra-mundum.org/schirrmacher/compared.pdf.
Travis, John J and J Dudley Wooberry. “When od’s Kingdom Grows Like Yeast: Frequently Asked Questions about Jesus Movements withing Muslim Communities.” Mission Frontiers (July-August, 2010): 24-30.
Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith and My Credo. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971.
Zaka, Anees and Diane Coleman. The Cry of the Heart and the Quest of the Mind. Philadelphia, PA: Church Without Walls, 2006.
———. The Truth about Islam: The Noble Qur’an’s Teachings In Light of the Holy Bible. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2004.
Zwemer, Samuel M. The Moslem Doctrine of God. Cornwall, UK: Diggory Press, 2006.
“Nestorians.” No pages. Cited 01/29/2011. Online: http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/N/nestorians.html.
Leithart, Peter. “Islam a Mirror of Christendom II.” No pages. Cited 02/01/2011. Online: http://www.leithart.com/archives/print/000996.php.
St. John of Damascus. Heresies. 1958, . Repr., Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, .
Van Gemeren, Willem A. Interpreting the Prophetic Word. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.
“The Athanasian Creed.” Pages 8-9 in Christian Creeds and Confessions. Edited by R. Scott Clark and Daniel R. Hyde. Oceaside, CA: Oceanside URC, 2004.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith and My Credo (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), 21
 Samuel M. Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God (Cornwall, UK: Diggory Press, 2006), 119-20
 Frequently Asked Questions about Jesus Movements within Muslim Communities,” Mission Frontiers (July-August, 2010): 29. This view was adequately dealt with by Samuel M. Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God (Cornwall, UK: Diggory Press, 2006), on page 18 made the argument that the etymology of names must not be the determiner of content which the terms express. See also Anees Zaka and Diane Coleman, The Truth about Islam: The Noble Qur’an’s Teachings In Light of the Holy Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2004), 97-98
 Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 2003), 10
 Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), 12
 John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 401-402
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 120
 Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis, 122
 Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003), 75-77
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 21
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 16
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 21
 null, “Nestorians,” n.p. [cited 01/29/2011]. Online: http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/N/nestorians.html.
 Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God, 26
 Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God, 26
 Leithart, “Islam a Mirror of Christendom II,” n.p.
 Writings, by St John of Damascus, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 37 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1958), pp. 153-160
 Willem A. Van Gemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 32
 “The Athanasian Creed,” in Christian Creeds and Confessions (ed. R. Scott Clark and Daniel R. Hyde; Oceaside, CA: Oceanside URC, 2004), 8-9
 Anees Zaka and Diane Coleman, The Cry of the Heart and the Quest of the Mind (Philadelphia, PA: Church Without Walls, 2006), 5, Anees Zaka and Diane Coleman, The Truth about Islam: The Noble Qur’an’s Teachings In Light of the Holy Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2004), 99 pp. Ian T. Coulter, Meetings for Better Understandings (Philadelphia, PA: Church Without Walls, 2010), 106
 Christine Schirrmacher, “The Qur’an and Bible Compared,” n.p. [cited 02/04/2011]. Online: http://www.contra-mundum.org/schirrmacher/compared.pdf.
 This same critique does not hold for Christian theology, because we confess that God is transcendent and unknowable a se, but he is knowable in his energies. This is based on the character of the Triune God, who is personal, communicable, revealed in nature and Scripture, acts in history, and took on flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God, 29
 The Qur’an and Muslim tradition holds that Allah mediated his message to angels who then mediated the message to Muhammad. However, this does not satisfy the problem at hand. Allah would still have to be communicable to some kind of finite, personal, created being like angels. Further, the Qur’an denies intercessors (Surah 39:3), and yet uses intercessors for revelation to man, and for recording sins for the day of judgment (Surah 43:80). So, we are back to square one.
 Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God, 64
 Van Til 11
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith and My Credo (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), 21