Is Christian Concept of God Wrong?

Description of God using poetic language

Muslims say that Christians have an imperfect understanding of God. God is portrayed more like a human being than an Almighty being.

These misunderstandings arise because one does not understand the poetry of the Jewish language.

Not true that Biblical writers do not have the right concept of God

It is not true that the Biblical writers have a limited understanding of God. The Biblical writers had a correct understanding of God.

God is portrayed as being all powerful…

(Jeremiah 32:17)  "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

…all knowing…

(1 John 3:20)  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

…present everywhere…

(Psalms 139:7-8)  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? {8} If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Using creative language to describe God

While the Jewish people had the correct understanding about God, they used creative language to describe Him. The Jewish language is rich in expression and poetry.

The righteous are compared to the palm or cedar, flourishing and productive even in old age.

(Psalms 92:12-14)  The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; {13} planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. {14} They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,

A family is blessed with a wife who is like a fruitful vine and children sprouting up like olive shoots around the table.

(Psalms 128:3)  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.

When the Biblical writers want to describe God, he uses no different language. When he wants to express God’s providence and guidance for his life, he speaks of God as his shepherd.

(Psalms 23:1)  The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

It does not mean that he thinks God is literally his shepherd.

When he wants to express God’s protection over his life, he speaks of God as a fortress.

(Psalms 59:16)  But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

It does not mean that he thinks God is just an inanimate object.

Use of anthropomorphic language in the Bible

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human form or qualities to that which is not human. In the history of religion, anthropomorphism refers to the depiction of God in a human image, with human bodily form and emotions, such as jealousy, wrath, or love. Anthropomorphism is also the depiction of natural objects, such as animals or plants, as talking, reasoning, sentient, humanlike beings. (Source : Encarta Encyclopedia)

We have an example of anthromorphism at work in the following passage.

(Psalms 18:7-10)  The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. {8} Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. {9} He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. {10} He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.

The earth is described as “trembling” before God. God is described as having “nostrils”, “mouth” and “feet”. Wind is descibed as having “wings”. No one who reads such a passage would deny that poetic language is in use.

The following verse is another example.

(Isa 55:12 NIV)  You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Anthropomorphism also involves the depiction of God using human emotions. The following are some examples.

(Genesis 6:6)  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

(Genesis 8:21)  And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

(Gen 2:2 NIV)  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

It does not mean that Christians believe God is tired when the Bible says He rested after the creation of the world. It simply means He ceased from that activity.

(Isa 40:28 NIV)  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Use of anthropomorphic language in the Quran

We have an example of anthromorphism in the Quran when the subjection of the creation to God is depicted in anthropomorphic language.

Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient. (Sura 41:11)

Knowing the poetic nature of the language of the Middle East, one must not conclude that because such language is used, the people had a wrong concept of God and reduced Him to nothing more than a man.

To Allah belong the East and the West: whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's face, for Allah is all-Embracing, All Knowing (Surat Al-Baqarah 2: 115).

Anthropomorphic language is also used to describe Allah in the Quran.

Allah has a face.

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YUSUFALI: But will abide (for ever) the Face of thy Lord,- full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour.

Allah has eyes.

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YUSUFALI: Now await in patience the command of thy Lord: for verily thou art in Our eyes: and celebrate the praises of thy Lord the while thou standest forth,

Allah has hands

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YUSUFALI: (Allah) said: "O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?"

Allah changes His mind

The quran  represents God as "annulling" certain verses, which the Bible never does.  As to His "repenting," you tell us that one of His ninety-nine "most excellent names" is , i.e. "He that is continually repenting," or "relenting," from the root of , repentance. 

"To repent" in Arabic is "to turn back," and in reference to God denotes that He "turned back" from punishing, &c.  It has no moral meaning as in the case of the repentance of sinners, where it denotes turning back from sin.

“Your Guardian Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six Days, and is firmly established (Istawa – mounted,sat) on the Throne[‘arsh] of authority.” Surah 7:54

God sat on the Throne not because He is tired or in need of rest after having spent 6 Days of hard work!  God sat on the Throne just as God rested on the seventh Day mainly to assert His sovereignty and Glory over Creation !

Description of the Godhead as Father and Son

Muslim think that the concept of Father and Son is anthropomorphic

Muslims say that Christians misunderstand that God is human and attribute to Him such concepts as “Father” and “Son”.

According to them, this is even prohibited by Paul.

Professing themselves wise they became fools and changed the glory of the
incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.." Romans
1:23

Muslims believe that having a Son is attributing human attributes to God because only humans can have sexual relations and conceive a son.

The concept of Sonship in the Bible is not anthropomorphic

But Jesus never taught that He is God’s Son as a result of a physical union between God His Father and His earthly mother, Mary. In fact, Jesus taught about his co-existence with His Father even before the world was made.

(John 17:5)  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

(John 8:58)  "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

No Christian understands the sonship of Jesus to be the result of sexual union between God and Mary. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and as a result of that she could conceive even though she had not had any sexual relations with a man.

(Luke 1:35)  The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

It is incorrect to think that the words “come upon you” has any sexual connotation. The Greek word used for “come upon” is “eperchomai” which carries no connotation of a sexual act. The same word is used when Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will “come upon” them.

(Acts 1:8)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

surah 42.7 Thus have We sent by inspiration to thee an Arabic Qur'an: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her,- and warn (them) of the Day of Assembly, of which there is no doubt: (when) some will be in the Garden, and some in the Blazing Fire.

Mecca called mother of cities. Who is the father.

Why take son of God literally?

An analogy can be drawn from the Malay and Indonesian languages. The word for a key was literally 'the son of a lock' and likewise the word for the digit of a finger or toe was literally 'the son of a finger or toe'. We used to suggest to our Muslin friends that we were surprised at such fearfully gross ideas. Fancy thinking that a lock takes a wife, who then gives birth to a key! Actually, of course, the term 'son of a lock' graphically describes the intimate connection between a lock and its key.

The term 'son of a lock' merely describes an intimate relationship. So also the Christian does not believe that God actually took a wife and she gave birth literally to a son. Jesus is not God's Son in that sense. But he is intimately related to God.

We realized that this get-out did not in any way adequately describe the relationship of Jesus to God the Father. But we found it useful to show that the Christian faith is not stupid, blasphemous and unworthy of consideration.

Why is Jesus described as God’s Son?

If Jesus did not become God’s son through a sexual union, why then did Jesus describe Himself as a Son? One reason could be because the idea of “sonship” carries with it the idea of “similarity with the father”. We have the expression “like father, like son”. Jesus described Himself as God’s son because of his utmost similarity with the Father. Jesus Himself talks about this similarity.

(John 10:30)  I and the Father are one (in essence, unity)."

(John 14:9)  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Bowing down to man-made images of God

Muslims say Christians make images of God and bow down to them. However, it is not true that Christians do this. The Bible clearly condemns this action.

(Exo 20:4-5 NIV)  "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. {5} You shall not bow down to them or worship them…

It is usually the Roman Catholics (and not the Protestant Christians) who keep images of Jesus in their churches and homes. If they bow down to these images, it is clearly wrong.