Jesus 62 – The Question Of Mystery
Channel: Jamal Badawi
Series: Jamal Badawi - Jesus
File Size: 7.39MB
AsSalamu Alaikum and welcome once again to Islam focus. Today's programming shala will be our 62nd on Jesus delivered messenger of Allah.
I'm your hostess admission here once again from St. Mary's University. Is that the job? No. So I can look
at a summary of last week's program last week, focused on the Muslim alternative of the issue pertaining to sin, atonement and blood sacrifice, indicated that Muslims are no less concerned than their Christian brethren about the existence of sin in the world, but they are not so obsessed with it that can become the center of the faith.
We indicated that the Quran describes God as holy describes him as merciful, also
loving kindness, but to indicate also that the salvation, quote unquote, in Islam is an act of grace, like many of our Christian brethren believe, but to deserve that grace, they must be the correct belief, and not associating others with God in His divine attributes, and also to translate that belief into righteous deeds. And then we indicated that when we fall short, and all of us will fall short or make mistakes, the standard prescription for that is simply the direct repentance to God and seeking His forgiveness. And we indicated the best forgiveness, and the Muslim understanding does not really contradict justice of God, because as the the saying itself goes, My Mercy
is or prevails over my wrath.
And we indicated that this understanding on the part of the Muslim helps to avoid
the extremes, either the extreme of spiritual pride and sometimes illusion by claiming that because we believe in certain things we save, and also avoid the other extreme, which is rather pessimistic, that holds that no matter what belief or righteous deeds, the person will not get into paradise. That's not the Muslim belief. It falls
outside of the realm of those,
those extremes. And we finally indicated that what is even more important is that the Koran does not only speak about repentance, as a matter of just forgiveness of past sins. But it goes beyond that, to show that by believing in God by trying to return to Him, God will change one's heart and help him to resist even and become more righteous.
Jim, earlier in the series, you said that there was one more argument for the divinity of Jesus without the mystery. Now, since this was some time ago, would you refresh your memory as to how history relates to this question of our series? Okay, the basic series, as you know, from the title is Jesus below the Messenger of Allah, we try to look into that topic from competitive standpoint. We began by dealing with the story of Jesus and His nature, according to the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam. And then we started to discuss it in more detail, actually much more detail
from the standpoint of the Bible. And we indicated earlier in the series, that the main difference between Muslims and their Christian Brothers is not to believe in love or honor Jesus, but whether he was a human being and a great prophet or God incarnate to be this is the basic difference. And then he said that the issue of attributing divinity to Jesus peace be upon him, seem to have been based in my humble classification that we followed throughout this series. And one of basic five arguments. One is what has been said about him to what he claimed, or said to have claimed for himself three Americans that he did for the mission of redeeming love or autonomy through blood
sacrifice. All of these four foundations we have discussed in greater detail, especially the last one. So there's one of the one remaining
Common basis for this argument you might say, and that is that, even if we don't understand that it is basically an issue of mystery, whether the validity attributed to Jesus peace be upon him, whether it's the issue related to that, which is Trinity, the concept of vicarious substitutionary sacrifice are all connected, in fact that this issue, also on the mystery of personal experience,
that's very interesting. I'd like to ask you, what is the basis for the mystery and then the personal experience? And how is the case usually made, when what I heard from many Christians, rather than in dialogues and discussions before is that they say, Listen, you know, there is a testimony available
of testimonies, I should say,
a large number of people
whose life has been totally transformed and changed when they believe in Jesus as God incarnate. And then they say that the fact that their life has changed for the better after they were living in a terrible state,
seems to vindicate the idea of God incarnate, and that this essentially is a truth.
And I've heard that repeated some times that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So they say, you know, you've got to really feel that you have to experience it, you have to believe in its face book to understand that you believe in it first, and then the Holy Spirit will guide you in, in that understanding.
That's interesting, but
Well, what is your comment on that?
Well, let me first address the issue of personal experience. And then you can come this as to the issue of mystery, okay, personal experience and how people can be changed through this religious belief.
My response to that, that it is not difficult at all, to produce a large number of testimonies of people who followed all kinds of religions and sects,
many divergent in different religions, and they could possibly give testimony of the same
situation Exactly. We could say that, all right, we were living in a terrible state of affair we were feeling lost. After we believed in this religion, or that, or this some culture, even they said, our life has been totally changed. We felt meaning in life, we felt a great deal of improvement and spiritual fulfillment, and so on. Now, that's fine. I'm not saying it's not good for them, it's good. But what we're saying basically, is that that in itself, or the personal testimony, cannot be in itself be taken as a foundation. for truth, it cannot be an evidence of the validity of a certain set of beliefs that one accepted, because like I said, you hear the testimony from people
who have divergent types of beliefs totally different. They report the same thing. My humble explanation of this issue of personal experience is that there is an innate spirituality in every human being. And if the person is living without objective and life without direction, when there is a spiritual vacuum in the person's life, and then he follows any religion whatsoever, regardless, different as it may be, that may give him some answers, at least, to those pressing questions. Perhaps, he might really improve, but that doesn't mean that all of them are
necessarily truthful, in our
teach the ultimate truth because ultimate truth cannot be contradictory. With with each other, I think
we need some something beyond testimony and personal experience, if we were really trying to discern some of the Supreme Truth. How about the question of mystery itself? First of all, let me start off by asking what is mystery? What does it mean? And how does mystery relate to the nature of Jesus? When basically the argument goes like this, it says that there are things that relate to faith,
which cannot be understood, logically, issues like God incarnate Trinity, blood sacrifice, see these issues cannot suddenly be subjected to logic.
Because the human mind fall or fall short of understanding those supreme Secrets You might say. I have seen writings, for example of some evangelical Christian writers who say that
this matters or this kind of
is not really important that you understand them. What is more important is to be attractive to them
to be able to experience them. But it's not important to even understand what they are.
Some writers repeat the same meaning in a different way. They say, for example, that may admit that Trinity does not exist in the scriptures that it was not formulated, even when the last book of the New Testament was written. But they say the origin of Trinity, they admit, goes back to the the Christian experience, as they call it, the Christian experience of God's redeeming love.
And it is based on the conclusions arrived at by some early Christians on the basis of that experience. And again, the claim is made that this experience was through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is, as far as I can put it, of course, not accepting the doctrines themselves, I challenged myself to at least refer to those who stated from their standpoint,
or how would you react to this explanation? Well, I would say to start with Muslims do not really differ with their Christian president,
in the basic notion, basic notion that the human mind is imperfect, and that there are things Indeed,
for which the human mind is not capable, you can't really fully grasp, there's no question about that. These issues are just matters, perhaps can be called, like Supra national, surprise, rational, or something, which is beyond our limited reason, beyond our limited understanding. There's no question about that. And maybe that's what is meant by one of the meanings given in defining the term mystery. For example, referring to the Webster dictionary, one of the meanings, read like this, it says something unexplained,
unknown, or kept secret, as the mystery of life. So mystery, in that sense, then, is a common phenomenon. It is something which is related to things that we perceive all the time.
But we don't really fully understand how to perceive it. I mean, it is there, but we don't fully discern or understand the secrets, because of our limited abilities. But I would say, however, that it is not reasonable, in my humble understanding, to always take refuge in the concept of mystery, in order to justify or defend something which is inherently self contradictory and inconsistent. Something which cannot even be expressed. intelligible.
Mystery has its its area of operation.
Well, maybe you can give us just just to clarify it, an illustration of that, of issues which are inherently self contradictory. Based on my humble experience, also participating in a number of dialogues with Christian theologians and clergy. We start for example, discussing the one of the issues of difference between Muslims and their Christian brethren. And the question of, for example, Jesus, peace be upon him being full man, and full guard at the same time.
And the question is posed, how could Jesus be full man and full guards calculate the finite and infinite be one in the same?
And many times? Of course, I hear various answers. But again, rebuttals are not difficult. And we have discussed throughout this programs that this really doesn't,
doesn't. It's impossible, whatever explanation one attempt, it is an inherently self contradictory, seeming to say, the finite and infinite became one, the Nemesis and the unlimited become one. And we discussed that before. Usually, the typical response I get after some discussion is that well, after all, that is a mystery. Because our minds can't understand.
But the my question here, is this, is it really a mystery? Or is it something that we can put it in any infinity of returns a thought? Or is it something that really, like I said, the, you know, east and west are the same, for example, I mean, but he can tell you that that's history. You have to explain in what sense
this is true. A second example and we touched on that in previous programs, right?
very brief on that issue of Trinity.
How again, could three DS one?
Are you talking about differentiation of the three persons? Or are you talking about absence of any distinction between them?
Whichever case you take, it is an impossible to reconcile to say that the three are ones just like in the definition that they are three, the father is, is infinite, the sun is infinite, the Holy Spirit, infinite, but they are not three infinite, they are only one infant, two meaning
whatever explanation was given to you to explain charity, such as the person being Father, Son, and until at the same time, we discussed all of these issues, what has taken the form? And we have seen again that the analogy or this analysis will not really correct. But once you get into the discussion to that point, again, the typical answer here is that, well, it's, it is a mystery. I believe that these are examples of issues where one cannot really conveniently take refuge. In the concept of mystery, if you can't even express what is that mystery. If it is something that is inherently inconsistent, something that doesn't go with telling you the incident, and finances are
one in the same. You can either three persons or one in oneness, other than Of course, talking politically, in which case, of course, Jesus would be a human being politically being one with God. But that's not what the Trinity
that last point that you just made ashlea might need some further development, would you would you care to elaborate on okay, I just need to compare the issue of the ministry which is acceptable and versus something that one cannot really use to avoid explanation. Sure, something along those lines. Okay, let's take the definition that we started with from Webster's dictionary. And it says mystery is something that we cannot fully perceive or understand that it is a natural phenomena that's known. The example that was given in the dictionary, for example, is the mystery of life. Now, how does the fetus grow in the form of his mother?
How does he or she developed the various faculties, the human faculties? Now, definitely, and you know that as a physician, that there are things that we know, there are certain things we know. But I'm sure that we still admit as humans, that there are things that are rather difficult for us to imagine how six presents this wonderful miracle of creation. Still, there are things that are not fully known to us. That's why many people speak about, for example, the mystery of creation, not all of it is fully understood by us. Well, now, the existence of this kind of mystery is indisputable. It is there. It is, what I call a universal experience or phenomenon. We see babies growing gun are
born every second, several babies are born every second somewhere in the world. So if there is experience for all human beings, in all times, in all places, even though we may not fully understand what goes on.
But that's quite different from concepts like strategy, for example.
is not a universal phenomena that has been experienced by human beings everywhere and all time, some have, but it's not a universal thing, like birth of children, for example.
And we all know that these ideas were
made up by philosophers prior to Christianity, and as we discussed in previous programs, were adopted, changed and modified. And it became actually one of the basic pillars of the Christian faith after Jesus, but Jesus Himself never really spoke about that.
Now, with this evidence that we have,
I think it's quite reasonable to ask who came up with idea? What is his or their explanation of it? That it is very reasonable, instead of saying it is mystery to zero, right? How could we put that in some intelligible terms? I think that's the key word intelligible, something that at least makes sense. Even though we don't understand the admit, but just saying it in some way, that would not be inherently
contradictory. And this is not just an opinion of a critic who is not a Christian. Actually the same kind of information. The same kind of critique has been made by very well known Christian theologians and it's not something new, really
Could you give us some examples of opinions of Christian theologians? Well, okay, let me give you examples only from people that are recognized and specialized in theological studies, and at the same time sympathetic to Christianity, and practicing Christian principles, at least as they claim to be. So not people who just are nominally Christian, but they are atheists at heart or anything of that nature. The first example is from john Hess, which is basically the editor of the famous volume we refer to, and receives the message of God's incarnate
now in his introduction to the to the volume,
and by the way, he used to serve as a professor of theology in the University of Birmingham.
And he was also a visiting professor, I don't know whether it is visiting still. But I believe you're still in Claremont Graduate College in California, where I had the pleasure of meeting enduring Jewish Christian Muslim dialogue a couple of years back.
Now, what he's saying, basically, in the introduction of the volume is that Jesus peace be upon him was regarded at one time as a man approved of God.
And he says, actually, through the book of Acts, chapter two specifically illustrates when when best was mentioned, and then he says that the idea of incarnation of Jesus being God incarnate, has already developed as the mythological or poetic way of expression of the significance of Jesus to us, he is to us as Christians. Now the resisting clearly he was seen as a man approved of God, but gradually, the idea of incarnation was presented as a sort of phreatic way to praise Jesus or to explain.
So when a scholar like john Hicks say that this idea developed,
it implies that someone or someone's
sorts of intellectual pursuits in order to develop, when something is developed, are human beings who are responsible for, for that development. And as such, it would be quite fair to ask, who developed and what kind of development and what basis was these ideas into here's
the second example, in the same one is an advocate by Maurice Wiles, that the I ns,
who served by the way as a professor of divinity and canon of Christ Church, in Oxford, England,
under his chapter, titled, myth in theology, why is clearly indicates that the writers of the canonized gospels, were not nearly reporters, just report them what's happening. They were also as he says, interpreters of Jesus, they were interpreted of Jesus as a prophet, son of man, Messiah, the word that became flesh and so on. And as such, he says that the first three synoptic, gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke,
even then, they stopped short of what was developed later on as a fully fledged
incarnate God incarnate type of clip. So we find again, here, Mike Hicks, Professor wines, speaks about incarnation, not really as a universe and known mystery that was already there, that people didn't understand it. But as something which was dependent on the understanding, the interpretation, the understanding,
or explanation of human beings hundreds of years ago, almost 1000 years ago, and that this was subject to development, something that's evolved. And that's why he concludes that the idea of God is permanent, was an interpretation of Jesus appropriate to the age in which it arose, then the treated as an unalterable truth binding upon all subsequent generations. So he adds to this that, historically speaking, the cures as different from Jesus Himself, peace be upon him, the church was not really able to provide the convincing, as he called it convincing and consistent explanation. How can Jesus be quoted human and fully divine and matter which is, he says, impossible to combine.
And this is something of course, we've covered in previous books as well.
Would you say of a claim? And the common claim that that the such Creed's arrived that with the help of the Holy Ghost? Well, I try not to answer it myself. So that would be my
answer might be biased because of my particular convictions or views on the issue. But I listen to Christian theologians of the same caliber, again, people who are connected to their faith even
Professor Francis young, writing also in the same one, you know, God incarnate, Professor young is a lecturer of New Testament studies in Birmingham University. He quoted him before in some other programs,
in his chapters under the title, a cloud of witnesses,
when detected by believing that cloud of witnesses, he says that the development of the idea of God incarnate requires third intellectualization He says,
In other words, you have to use some reason or intellectual expense, and that's what they did. And he says that this development, he says, was culturally conditioned,
in accordance with the kind of common arguments that was going on at the time,
influenced by the social and political factors.
And he said that all of those
attempts to take a particular Christian theological position away, typically Jesus, were and I caught him on that court, upheld by inadequate arguments, distorting exegesis of the Scriptures, and compromise formula were devised, which did nothing more than restate the impossible paradox and leave it unresolved.
That's why he concludes that the matter really was not a sort of
gradual evolution of the truth, like the Chinese, for example, with the help of the Holy Ghost as some might argue, but rather than if it's something which is historically determined, as a development, which led to, as we call blind alleys of paradox, illegality in marriage equality, and docetism. Like I said, again, this is not my words. These are words of well respected, well known, specialist, Christian theologians who are committed to their faith, but they are honest enough to admit that
it's just an impossibility to talk about God's kindness or Trinity as something that the Holy Spirit
received is something that people intellectualized they sort of deliberately, so you can say it was above reason, when it was developed by reason.
Don't say it's about intellect. When it's word for God, intellectualized by God, well, did you know gurus to roses deny the role of history in religion?
Not really, I don't think so. Because, for example, if I refer again to another chapter of Maurice wines in the same book by edited by john, the method of carving planets, in the chapter, citing Christianity without incarnation, these puts it quite clearly said, we should not denounce is not denying the role of mystery in religion.
He says, not only mystery, isn't Isn't he said, We don't even fully understand the mystery of our existence. He admits that, and I agree with him on that. You can simply say there's no mystery in religion whatsoever. No. But he adds, and I quote him on that, he said, but when one is asked to believe, something, which one cannot even spell out at all? In intelligible terms? It is right to stop and push the question one stage further back. Are we sure that the concept of instantaneous being one who is both fully God and fully man is after all, and intelligible concept that's on page five? I mean, I just add, from my standpoint, as a Muslim, really, that
again, there is a big difference between saying that there are mysteries that we want to understand and this relate to God and God is a mystery.
Between saying, Trinity is a mystery because Trinity is not God. Yes, God is a mystery. We know that. But the idea of God incarnate, the notion of vicarious sacrifice are not. They are ideas made up by human beings, and they should be subject to intellectual understanding.
Well, thank you very much. Thanks. And thank you all for joining us here. Once again, this common focus. As always, your comments and your questions would be most appreciated. Our phone number and address will be appearing on your screen. For all of us here in this time and focus our ceremony