Friday, January 15, 2016

Islam, Christianity, and liberalism again (Updated)


Hope you won’t mind submitting to one more post on Islam (the last for a while, I hope).  What follows are some comments on some of the discussion of Islam and its relationship to Christianity and to liberalism that has been going on both in my own comboxes and in the rest of the blogosphere in the weeks since I first posted on the subject.

Referring to God and worshipping God

In my recent post on the debate about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I made it clear that all that I was there addressing was the philosophical question of whether Christians and Muslims succeed in referring to one and the same thing when they use the word “God.”  In other words, I was discussing an issue in the philosophy of language.  That’s it.  In response, lots of people wanted to get into a debate about the merits of Islam as a religion, the consequences of Muslim immigration into Western countries, universal salvation, political correctness, etc.  All of that is simply irrelevant.  Someone could take an extremely negative attitude about Islam and still agree, consistently with that, that Christians and Muslims are, despite their deep disagreements about the divine nature, referring to the same thing when they use the word “God.”

That should be obvious from what I said in my later post on liberalism and Islam, wherein I discussed Hilaire Belloc’s view, developed in his book The Great Heresies, that Islam is a kind of Christian heresy.  Because Belloc regards Islam as a Christian heresy, he thinks that Muslims are talking about the same God Christians are, even if they go on to say false things about his nature.  Because Belloc regards Islam as a Christian heresy -- and he develops his interpretation in the context of what is essentially a book of Catholic apologetics -- he is by no means taking a positive view of Islam, any more than he takes a positive view of any of the other heresies he discusses in the book.  You can consistently say that Christians and Muslims refer to the same thing when they use the word “God” -- despite their differences over the doctrine of the Trinity -- and then go on to criticize Islam harshly, just as you can consistently say that Catholics and Arians refer to the same thing when they use the word “God” -- despite their differences over the doctrine of the Trinity -- and then go on to criticize Arianism harshly.

Notice that Belloc, who was writing in the 1930s and whose work is popular with Catholic traditionalists, can hardly be accused of political correctness, theological liberalism, belief in universal salvation, etc.  Nor was he saying anything that would have been considered the least bit remarkable in his day.  Consider what the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia -- not exactly a liberal document -- has to say when it discusses the God of Islam.  In its article on “Monotheism,” it says:

The Allah of the Koran is practically one with the Jehovah of the Old Testament… The influence of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, on Mohammedan Monotheism is well known…

In its article on “Allah,” the Encyclopedia says:

It is certain, however, that before the time of Mohammed, owing to their contact with Jews and Christians, the Arabs were generally monotheists.

The notion of Allah in Arabic theology is substantially the same as that of God among the Jews, and also among the Christians, with the exception of the Trinity, which is positively excluded in the Koran…

In response to doubts about whether the nomadic tribes of Arabia were truly monotheistic, the article remarks:

It is preposterous to assert… that the nomadic tribes of Arabia, consider seriously the Oum-el-Gheith, “mother of the rain”, as the bride of Allah and even if the expression were used such symbolical language would not impair, in the least, the purity of monotheism held by those tribes.

And in its article “Mohammed and Mohammedanism,” the Encyclopedia says that though “to the doctrines of the Trinity and of the Divine Sonship of Christ Mohammed had the strongest antipathy,” nonetheless “the doctrines of Islam concerning God -- His unity and Divine attributes -- are essentially those of the Bible.” 

Overall, the Encyclopedia’s treatment of Islam is hardly positive or politically correct.  Indeed, it is very critical.  But it never occurs to its authors to suggest that “Allah” must be the name of some false, pagan deity or that Muslims fail to refer to the true God when they use the word “God.”  The reason this doesn’t occur to them is that it simply does not at all follow from the critical things the Encyclopedia does say about Islam. 

Consider also that St. Thomas Aquinas is able both to find great value in what Muslim philosophers have to say about matters of philosophical theology -- Aquinas’s doctrine on essence and existence, which plays a central role in his account of the divine nature, was famously influenced by Avicenna -- while at the same time saying some extremely harsh things about Islam.

Really, the point isn’t difficult to see.  It seems that one of the things some readers get hung up on, though, is the word “worship.”  They seem to think that if you say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, then you are insinuating that Christianity and Islam are both salvific, or that the differences between Christian and Muslim theology and ethics are not very important, or something along those lines.  But none of that follows at all.  To “worship” something as divine is to acknowledge that it has the highest possible status or dignity and consequently to give it the highest reverence, devotion, or adoration.  To say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is merely to note what follows from the facts that (a) they refer to the same thing when they use the word “God,” and (b) they both worship that to which they refer.  Nothing at all follows about whether Muslim worship is sufficient for salvation, whether it is mixed with egregious theological and moral errors, etc.

Why any Christian would find this mysterious or puzzling, I have no idea, because the New Testament itself makes it clear that it is possible for a person to worship the true God and still be so deep in theological and moral error that his salvation is in jeopardy.  For example, in chapter 7 of Mark’s Gospel, Christ quotes Isaiah against the Pharisees, saying: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”  He doesn’t say: “Well, since you’re a brood of vipers and a bunch of whited sepulchres, you don’t really worship the true God at all.”  Rather, he says that even though they do worship the true God, their worship is “in vain,” because of their grave moral defects.

So, there simply is no necessary connection at all between, on the one hand, saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and, on the other, taking a politically correct attitude toward Islam, affirming universal salvation, etc.  Some people have such difficulty seeing the point, or even acknowledging, much less answering, the arguments for it, that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that their thinking here (or lack thereof) is driven by non-rational factors.  It’s pretty clear with some of them that their hatred of Islam is so visceral that they desperately want it to be the case that “Allah” is the name of some demon, pagan god, or idol.

This is intellectually dishonest, pointless, and harmful.  It is intellectually dishonest because it simply isn’t true to the facts.  It is pointless because acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God in no way whatsoever commits one to political correctness, to universal salvation or theological liberalism, to taking a positive view of Islam, etc.  And it is harmful because it gives aid and comfort to those who want to shut down even the most sober and dispassionate critical thinking about Islam by shouting “bigot.” 

Conversion from Islam?

Bill Vallicella links to Alain Besançon’s excellent 2004 Commentary article “What Kind of Religion is Islam?” (an article I’ve cited myself several times over the years).  The whole thing should be read, especially by those who want to explore further the nature of Islam’s philosophical and theological departures from Christianity.  But there are two passages to which I want to draw special attention.  First, Besançon notes that:

[T]wo facts about Islam… always astonished medieval Christians… : the difficulty of converting Muslims, and the stubborn attachment to their faith of even the most superficially observant. From the Muslim point of view, it was absurd to become a Christian, because Christianity was a religion of the past whose best parts had been included in and superseded by Islam. Even more basically, Christianity was anti-natural: … its moral requirements exceeded human capacities, and its central mysteries defied reason.

End quote.  Belloc, in The Great Heresies, also commented on the difficulty Christianity has had historically in converting Muslims, and on the tremendous “marketing” advantage Islam’s simplicity gives it over Christianity.  But properly to understand the significance of these points requires attention to another observation made by Besançon:

Even if we decline to credit the Qur’an as an authentic revelation, we are still obliged to account for its unique sense of virtue; and especially the “virtue of religion”... What complicates this task is that, under Islam, and notwithstanding what I said earlier about the moderateness of the [Islamic] religious life, the domain of one’s duties can be pushed beyond what biblical religion considers appropriate.

In the latter, man is responsible for conducting his affairs within the framework of a universe -- natural, social, political -- that operates by internally consistent rules. The performance of one’s religious and moral duties is thus confined to a rationally definable area.  In Islam, by contrast, the will of God extends, as it were, to the secondary causes as well as to the primary ones, suffusing all of life.  Religious and moral obligation can thus take on an intensity and an all-encompassing sweep that, at least in Christian terms, would be regarded as trespassing any reasonable limit…

End quote.  What Besançon is talking about here is in part what I described in my post on liberalism and Islam as Islam’s absorption of the natural order into the supernatural.  And the moral and theological simplicity of Islam cannot properly be understood except in light of this absorption.  As Besançon notes, the Islamic ethos is earthy or sensual compared to the Christian moral ethos, which is at least by comparison ascetic.  But that earthy or sensual ethos is nevertheless seen as having an essentially supernatural foundation rather than a natural one.  Hence though Islamic morality is in a sense less demanding in terms of its content, its imperative force is nonetheless at the same time felt more strongly insofar as it is taken to come straight from God rather than through nature, and insofar as every aspect of life is seen entirely in the light of revelation rather than reason, the supernatural rather than the natural. 

Now, here’s one implication of this combination of views.  Our buddy Matt Briggs notes in a recent post at his own blog that Western progressives are prone to the delusion that Muslim immigrants are likely to succumb to the lures of secular consumer society, just as so many Christians have.  The idea is that over time, Muslim immigrants will, like even most conservative Catholics and Protestants, become so absorbed in acquiring the latest cell phones, watching the latest movies, ordering lattes at Starbucks, chatting with their secular friends about the latest episode of Modern Family by the office water cooler, etc., that after a generation or two they won’t care so much about converting non-believers, much less working to make the laws of Western countries conform to the moral code taught by their religion.  

The reason many liberals are prone to this delusion is that they often foolishly suppose that religious people are pretty much all the same, so that if Christians commonly succumb to the lure of secular liberal consumerist society, so too will other religious believers, including Muslims.  The reason this is a delusion is that the Christian and Islamic systems simply differ radically, and in a way that makes Christians more liable to succumb to the lures in question than Muslims are.

In particular, Christians are far more likely to be tempted by liberal secular society for three reasons.  First, what is distinctive in Christian morality is relatively ascetic and otherworldly, and liberal secular society promises a release from its demands.  Second, Christianity nevertheless does affirm the existence of a natural order distinct from the supernatural order.  Thus, as I noted in my previous post, Christianity itself allows that at least some measure of moral behavior and political justice is possible even apart from Christian revelation.  Hence, a Christian is liable to be tempted by the thought that he can still be a morally decent person, or decent enough anyway, even if he forsakes some of the demands of traditional Christian morality.  Third, liberal secular society was an outgrowth (even if, as I noted in that previous post, essentially a “heretical” outgrowth) of Christian civilization.  Hence succumbing to the lures of secular liberal society can seem to Christians a natural transition rather than the adoption of something alien. 

None of these factors are present in Islam.  First, since Islamic morality is not in the first place as ascetic or otherworldly as Christian morality -- even if it is still austere by liberal standards -- there is much less temptation for the Muslim to seek to be liberated from its demands.  Second, since for Islam there is no clear basis for morality outside divine revelation, a Muslim is much less likely to be tempted by the thought that he can still live a morally decent life if he forsakes the traditional moral demands of his religion.  Third, since liberal secular society arose outside the Islamic context and has made inroads in Islamic countries only when imposed from outside, the Muslim is much more likely than the Christian to see it as something alien and hostile, whose mores he cannot adopt consistently with maintaining his religion.

Hence, if liberals believe they are more likely than Christians have been to succeed in converting Muslims to their point of view, they are gravely mistaken.  Certainly their position, where not grounded in basic misunderstandings about the nature of Islam or in fallacious generalizations from a few secularized Muslims they can think of, appears to be “faith-based” rather than supported by actual evidence. 

Natural versus supernatural

Bonald, at the blog Throne and Altar, comments on my post on liberalism and Islam.  Though he agrees with much of it, he suggests that since (as I there argued) liberalism and Islam both collapse the distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, they are not quite opposites, as I claimed they are, but “really are closer to each other than either is to Christianity.”  Writes Bonald:

Christianity posits two orders, each largely defined by the opposition of the other.  Liberalism takes one, Islam the other, but if you’re just left with one order which covers everything, does it matter so much what you call it?  It’s just like we know whenever somebody starts going around teaching that everything is sacred, one knows with certainty that anyone who believes it will promptly lose his sense of the sacred entirely, since the sacred only exists for us in opposition to the profane.  Or take the idea of a “theocracy”.  What’s the difference between a priest declaring himself king and a king declaring himself priest?  We call the first “theocracy” and the second “Erastianism” and label them opposites, but they are the same thing.

I think Bonald is mistaken, though, and that what he overlooks is the way in which (as I have argued many times before) reductive claims are always implicitly really eliminative.  His analysis would be correct only if this were not so.

Hence, consider, for example, the claim that mind and matter are identical.  You could read this as saying that what we call mind is really something essentially material.  Or you could read it as saying that what we call matter is really something essentially mental.  The former is a materialist reading of the claim, the latter an idealist reading.  Now, materialism and idealism are hardly the same view.  To say that matter alone is real and that what is irreducibly mental is an illusion, and to say that mind alone is real and what is irreducibly material is an illusion, are incompatible claims.  Hence, those who identify mind and matter are not all saying the same thing, because what they mean by this claim is very different.  One side is really saying something like “Matter alone is real, and mind doesn’t exist” while the other is saying “Mind alone is real, and matter doesn’t exist.” 

Or consider the claim that God and the world are identical.  You could read this as saying that what we call God is really just the physical universe.  Or you could read it as saying that what we call the physical universe is really God.  The former is an atheist reading of the claim, while the latter is a pantheist reading.  Now, atheism and pantheism are no more the same view than materialism and idealism are.  Atheism essentially says that the contingent, finite, material world is all that exists, so that (from this point of view) if someone claims that God is identical to that world, then he is therefore implicitly saying that God (who is essentially necessary, infinite, and immaterial) does not really exist at all.  Pantheism, meanwhile, essentially says that God as the necessary, infinite, immaterial ground of all being is all that exists.  In claiming that the world is identical to God, then, pantheism is really implicitly saying that the world (which is essentially contingent, finite, and material) does not truly exist at all.  (Hence the tendency in pantheistic religion to regard the empirical world as illusory.)  Those who identify God and the world are thus not all really saying the same thing.  One side is saying something like “The world alone is real, and God doesn’t exist,” whereas the other is saying “God alone is real, and the world doesn’t exist.”

This sort of result follows whenever someone tries to identify two things, A and B, which are in fact distinct.  He will always implicitly either be affirming A and denying B, or affirming B and denying A.  And someone who affirms A and denies B is taking a position which is definitely incompatible with, and opposite to, that of someone who affirms B and denies A.  The fact that they may both say “A = B” simply doesn’t entail that they are really at the end of the day saying the same thing, because each of them means something radically different by this. 

So, from the fact that liberalism and Islam both collapse the natural and the supernatural, it simply doesn’t follow (as Bonald seems to think) that at bottom they are really just riffs on the same view and not clearly opposites.  That’s like saying that materialism and idealism are really at bottom the same view, or that Richard Dawkins’ atheism and Hindu pantheism are really at bottom the same view.  For the nature of the collapse is in each case radically different.  Liberalism (to oversimplify) essentially collapses the supernatural into the natural, and thus implicitly denies the supernatural.  Islam, meanwhile, essentially collapses the natural into the supernatural, and thus implicitly denies the natural.  These positions are as opposite and incompatible as materialism and idealism, or Dawkins’ atheism and Hindu pantheism.

UPDATE 1/17:  I noted above that, long before Vatican II, Catholic writers who by no means took a “politically correct” or otherwise positive view of Islam nevertheless did not deny that there is a sense in which Muslims worship the true God.  Reader Br. Matthew kindly calls my attention to a couple of other texts relevant to this issue.  In the 1908 Catechism of Pope St. Pius X we read:
 
Infidels are those who have not been baptised and do not believe in Jesus Christ, because they either believe in and worship false gods as idolaters do, or though admitting one true God, they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ, nor as to come; for instance, Mohammedans and the like.

Note that Pope St. Pius X -- not exactly a liberal, a modernist, an indifferentist, a fan of interreligious dialogue, etc. -- here distinguishes Muslims from those who worship false gods, and labels them “infidels,” not because they worship a false god but rather because, though they “admit one true God,” they deny that Jesus is the Messiah.

Pope Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum (1896), after addressing Protestants, goes on to address non-Christians and says:

Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father. Let such as these take counsel with themselves, and realize that they can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother, and at the same time the Church as their mother.

Note that though he says that they cannot be counted as truly among the children of God if they remain outside the Church, nevertheless he allows that they do indeed “at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father.”  Obviously, then, Pope Leo did not suppose that a rejection of Trinitarianism prevents non-Christians from even referring to the true God when they use the word “God.”  That they at least know God as “Creator of Heaven and earth” makes it possible for them to seek Him as their Father despite their grave theological errors.

165 comments:

ralspaugh said...

It seems to me that the basic problem you are fighting against is people assuming that the object of reference or worship is a concept or other mental reality, rather than God. Either we all fall victim to that, and no one worships God, or there is some special pleading that Catholics (or whoever) are somehow exempted from the problem and alone worship God.

Jeffrey S. said...

Ed,

All three of your Islam posts have been great, even if I like the last two more than the first.

You say,

"So, there simply is no necessary connection at all between, on the one hand, saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and, on the other, taking a politically correct attitude toward Islam, affirming universal salvation, etc. Some people have such difficulty seeing the point, or even acknowledging, much less answering, the arguments for it, that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that their thinking here (or lack thereof) is driven by non-rational factors. It’s pretty clear with some of them that their hatred of Islam is so visceral that they desperately want it to be the case that “Allah” is the name of some demon, pagan god, or idol."

That is a fair criticism and might even apply to some of the things I said on your first post. But I don't think it applies to most of my concerns with your position -- I just am not convinced by your argument. Instead, I find Bill V. and his 'descriptive language' theory more compelling, as well as Lydia's latest contribution to the debate:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-same-god-debate-is-too-important-to-leave-to-philosophers

We will simply have to agree to disagree! But you certainly opened my eyes to the world of philosophy of language in a serious way, some wonderful old Catholic writing (including Belloc) and awakened me to some great stuff about the problems with liberalism.

Ismael said...

"prone to the delusion that Muslim immigrants are likely to succumb to the lures of secular consumer society, just as so many Christians have"

As I have met many Muslims, from personal experience alone I can report this:

They WILL 'succumb' to the "western pleasures" (i.e. many of them drank alcohol, had sex with many girls, etc...) but they NEVER succumbed to renouncing island. At the end of the day they still identified strongly as Muslims.

So it's basically different than the "bible boy" who goes to college and loses his faith over the debauchery of frat parties.
Muslims seem to be more than willing to participate to the debauchery (in my experience), but will not renounce Islam.

I have seen this with many 20-something and 30-something Muslims in Europe and Singapore.


Now I think this is related to the way we view sin. Christians, like Jews I think, view deeds part of the faith. Even the staunchest "Sola Fide" protestant will agree that if you act against the faith, such faith does little good. Indeed puritanism is mainly a Calvinist phenomenon.


Muslims I think take the Sola Fide to an exasperation. At the end of the day, as long s you are Muslim, Allah will smile upon you.

Yes, yes, I am sure theologically Imams will prove me wrong, but what it comes down to is not theology (which most people are ignorant of anyway) but the basic belief preached to people.

Anonymous said...

This issue came up in the context of a particular controversy involving a Wheaton College professor. Now I haven't noticed Feser make any explicit comment about the professor or any explicit comment taking sides over what happened. The article given was just making points about the use of language.

Nevertheless, because a particular controversy has stirred up this issue, we could easily read Feser as taking an implicit position in support of the behaviour of this professor. (Whether or not that's a correct reading of his intentions.)

As I see it, the professor in question is quite correctly subject to scrutiny; she not only said that Christians and Muslims "worship the same God", but also said that they were both "people of the book". She seems to want to borrow or half-borrow an Islamic concept with that second part. (And is she giving some sort of endorsement to the quran?)

I think it's fair to ask what exact kind of theology she holds to and the *precise* meanings she intended by her statement. Even just the "worship the same God" comment in isolation could be questioned. Feser makes a perfectly good case imo that it may well not be a problem to say something like that, but I'm thinking it would depend on what exactly the particular individual meant at the time. i.e. you could make that statement in an acceptable way, but it's also possible you could make that statement with heretical meanings in play.


Mr. Green said...

Jeffrey S.: Instead, I find Bill V. and his 'descriptive language' theory more compelling, as well as Lydia's latest contribution to the debate: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-same-god-debate-is-too-important-to-leave-to-philosophers

There is certainly something relevant about descriptivity, but I still think that any argument concluding a difference in this case will inevitably prove too much: that Christians do not worship the same God as Christians! As for "leaving" things to philosophers... oh, my. What a depressingly anti-intellectual headline. Ah, but to be fair, authors often get saddled with sensational headlines not of their own choosing. So I'd better see what Lydia says herself. Oh, there it is in the article. And once more. And yet again. Ouch. We can but hope that nobody will be so crass as to suggest that giving philosophy the old heave-ho is an implicit admission that one's argument can't stand up to the scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

"And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed! the hearing and the sight and the heart - of each of these you will be questioned." [Q017.036]

I suggest doing actual research into the religion of Islam from its own sources (its primary which is the Qur'an, and its most authentic secondary ones) and from those who are most knowledgeable about them, rather than relying on secondary opinions on it, or how certain Muslims behave which may not necessarily be in conformance with authentic religious dictates, before one discusses aspects about it. After all, this would be the rational thing to do. This is a religion followed by over 1.6 billion people who span many different cultures, "races", countries, levels of knowledge, intelligence, and socio-economic positions.

If interested, a good introduction is the following website: http://quransmessage.com/

While Aquinas was indeed a philosophical giant, he was also quite ignorant about the religion of Islam, and its primary source in particular. He didn't know the language of the Qur'an at all, and from what I know, he only refers to Islam twice in Summa Contra Gentiles. His primary objections to the religion are that Muhammad performed no miracles and that Islam spread by a show of force, a motivating factor of which was the promise of heavenly carnal delights (the latter of which is simply wrong but doesn't need to be discussed here). Such superficiality on understanding is quite strange coming from such a person who dedicated much of his life philosophically arguing for the rational foundations of religion, but it is also understandable due to his dedication to his own religion. He primarily focuses on defending against Muslim objections to Christian concepts - of which he obviously had the most knowledge concerning - such as the Trinity and incarnation.

Thanks.

Jeffrey S. said...

Mr. Green,

Over at our own blog, a couple of commenters raise the very question you do about descriptivist theories of language and Lydia responds as follows:

"Actually, Tony, descriptivists usually say that the person or the linguistic group (whatever one is talking about) have certain aspects of the description that are treated as essential for usage of the word and others that aren't. This will drop out of the fact that one will say, "Well, I just wouldn't say it was so-and-so anymore if you changed that." So it isn't necessary that two descriptions be identical for sameness of reference. So, for example, I'd say that if you said that my mother was really a shape-changing alien from Mars whose "normal" shape was that of an octopus, you are not really talking about my mother anymore. On the other hand, if you thought that my mother had green eyes when she really had blue eyes, you could still be talking about my mother. So descriptivist theories aren't as wild and rigid as perhaps it has sounded to you at first blush."

[and]

"You ask why the Calvinist/Arminian differences shouldn't be regarded as same-God-destroying differences.

I would answer that it's at least a legitimate question, and that I would like to see a lot more people discuss _those_ questions rather than thinking they can settle the same God question by rolling their eyes, naming somebody, and saying, "Oh, then I bet you wouldn't think that you and Thomas Jefferson/William of Ockham/etc. worship the same God," as if "Oh, come on" is an argument.

I answer you, concerning Calvinists and Arminians, that they share a mass of distinctively Christian creedal content, including the Trinity, the death of Jesus for sin, the simultaneous transcendence and miraculous working of God, and much more that I do not have time to list. In other words, the agreement between Calvinists and Arminians concerning the nature of God is extremely robust, not thin."

Brandon said...

In other words, the agreement between Calvinists and Arminians concerning the nature of God is extremely robust, not thin.

One wonders how often she talks to serious TULIP Calvinists about Arminianianism; I've known a great many strict Calvinists who would regard this as blatantly false, since they hold that Arminianism introduces serious distortions into every single one of the things she lists as shared, and thus would certainly say that Calvinists and Arminians share these things in only a thin sense.

But, of course, this is part of the problem of trying to get 'thin' and 'robust' to carry any heavy weight here; they are entirely relative terms.

Chad Handley said...

Certainly their position, where not grounded in basic misunderstandings about the nature of Islam or in fallacious generalizations from a few secularized Muslims they can think of, appears to be “faith-based” rather than supported by actual evidence.

I've personally known and been friendly with upwards of 50 Muslims in my lifetime (I went to college with a lot of people from Muslim communities in Michigan, and in college worked for a charitable organization run by Nigerian Muslims.)

My dispute with your position isn't just that I can think of a few secularized Muslims, it's that I can't think of any American Muslims I've met who weren't secularized.

I think people severely underestimate the unprecedented power of American pop culture. I'm just not worried about anyone who grows up in America with a television and internet access not assimilating.

And frankly it's hard to read your comments and not think back to many similar articles written around the turn of the century about the impossibility of Italian and Irish Catholic assimilation.

Justin Gatlin said...

. Two people who have both seen an animal are describing their experiences. One might ask: “Does yours have legs like tree trunks?”

“Yes! Does yours have a trunk like a giant rope?”

“It sure does! What color was yours?”

“Kind of grayish. And it made loud noises.”

“Mine too! It must be the same animal!”

But then imagine they both had taken photographs of the animal. One shows a picture of an elephant and asks “This is it, right?” But imagine is the second replied “Oh, no.” and produced a picture of a dinosaur. They are not describing the same thing differently, they are describing different things similarly. Christians and Muslims can engage in a similar exchange: “Is your God holy, eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent?”

“He is! They must be the same God!”

In Colossians 1:15, the apostle Paul describes Jesus as the “image of the invisible God.” Jesus’ disciple John, in 1 John 2:23, writes that to know Jesus is to know God and to reject Jesus is to reject God. In Jesus of Nazareth, who became a man, lived a perfect life, died on a cross and rose again on Easter morning, the Christian sees God in full color. At that same critical point, when looking at the “picture”, the Muslim says “that isn’t who I’m talking about.”

We might argue about whether the man drinking the martini/water was well dressed, but if I show you a picture of the shabbily dressed man, we find out that we were talking about different people the whole time. Abraham and Moses did not understand God as trinitarian, but had they seen Jesus, they would have said "That is who I have been worshiping the entire time." The Pharisees point of reference did not magically change at some point from the true God to a false God; further refinement showed they had never known the true God at all.

Brandon said...

The Pharisees point of reference did not magically change at some point from the true God to a false God; further refinement showed they had never known the true God at all.

This simply muddles things by conflating very different senses in which we know God. Jesus' responses to them regularly assume that they know God in some sense -- the God to which they referred was the one Moses talked about, and Moses certainly did know God. This is entirely consistent with their not knowing God in some deeper sense. Even with human beings you can know someone without really knowing them. We even use exactly the same kind of locutions you are using: 'She never knew the true John.' But it would absurd to go around claiming that therefore Sue must have never known John in any sense or that she could only ever have known an imposter John. Indeed, failing to grasp this will inevitably lead one to misunderstand what it means to know God in this sense, which can only really be understood in relation to other senses.

Justin Gatlin said...

"Jesus' responses to them regularly assume that they know God in some sense -- the God to which they referred was the one Moses talked about, and Moses certainly did know God."
That proof texting of "in vain they worship me" is a real stretch and definitely not the traditional interpretation. It doesn't men that they worshiped him to no avail, but that they tried in vain to worship Him. Justin, in Dial. 140, Ch CXL writes: "And we are such; but you cannot comprehend this, because you cannot drink of the living fountain of God, but of broken cisterns which can hold no water, as the Scripture says. But they are cisterns broken, and holding no water, which your own teachers have digged, as the Scripture also expressly asserts, ‘teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’" That is certainly the sense of Isaiah 29 in the first place: their honor and worship of God is superficial, because they were not really worshiping him at all. Again, Sue and I may have different understandings about John, but if I walk up to him and ask "Is this the man?" we may have the same referent if she says "Yes," or "I don't know." But if she denies that John in the flesh is who she was talking about, it is obvious we are talking about different people.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous wrote:

Nevertheless, because a particular controversy has stirred up this issue, we could easily read Feser as taking an implicit position in support of the behaviour of this professor. (Whether or not that's a correct reading of his intentions.)

It is nowhere near a correct reading. In fact I think her wearing of the hijab as a political statement etc. is just eye-rollingly silly. Indeed, worse than silly, in the context of Paris and San Bernardino. I think the idea that there is some massive backlash against Muslims in the face of which a special expression of solidarity is called for is just asinine. Etc. As far as I can see, apart from the "same God" stuff -- which her critics are quite stupidly making a big deal out of -- her position is just another case of the kind of naivete I described in my post on liberalism and Islam.

But I haven't commented on that particular controversy because:

(a) I'm not interested enough in it to read up on all the details of the case so as to comment in an informed way about Wheaton's actions, all of Hawkins' actions, etc. I just have no opinion about the case other than that as far as I can tell, it's just somebody engaging in the usual silly political correctness, and other people at least partially overreacting to it and saying silly things in response to the silly political correctness.

(b) I probably wouldn't have anything to say that other people aren't already saying anyway. In general, I tend not to comment on political controversies du jour unless I have something to say that isn't already being said. There's no need for me to come out every time e.g. Obama does this or that and say "Hey everyone, listen up, I think it's stupid too." What's the point? There are many blogs that already do that. Everybody knows my politics anyway and can guess that my position on some issue is bound to be conservative, whatever the details.

So, the fact that I don't comment on this or any other controversy of the day entails exactly nothing about what I must "really" think about it. And anyone who thinks that what I've written in the last couple of weeks must be some wink-wink nudge-nudge way of taking sides on the Wheaton thing is an idiot.

Every now and again when some outrage occurs, I get readers frantically asking me to "say something!" Well, when I've got something to say that 1,234 other right-wing or Catholic bloggers aren't already saying, then I'll say something. Otherwise, I usually don't. This is a personal blog, not a magazine with a commission to make a Big Official Statement expressing its Editorial Stand on what's going on in the world. The only thing anyone should ever feel sure of when reading something here is that I am writing about something I happen to feel like writing about at the moment. That's all.

Minion said...

Although your recent blogposts have been pretty great (coming from a Muslim living in the US), and I hope in fact you do some more posts on this topic, I do think you are (unfortunately) wrong about the incapability of Muslims to convert to secular liberalism in mass.

Firstly, facts on the ground suggest that in fact a large part of the Muslim world may in fact be atheist or agnostic. A few years back, there was a poll showing up to 5% of the Saudi population being actual atheists, and from the likes of it, other places like Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, are not that far behind in terms of their irreligiousity. Atheism, of the Western secular humanist variety, has seen an unprecedented surge in the Arab world since the so called "Arab Spring", with many Arabs professing their love for Western values and mores. Whether this holds up, due to the Arab Spring's abject failure in transforming Arab countries (except Tunisia, but that could be credited to the statist liberalism of Ben Ali preconditioning Tunisians to accept secular liberalism on more democratic terms).

Secondly, the geopolitcal reality is that the secular, atheistic, liberal West is the dominant force in the world today, and thanks to the globally popular Western media, it also possesses huge amounts of soft power over society throughout the world, including the Muslim world. This will mean that Muslims are increasingly attracted to the secular liberal culture of the West, equating material superiority with metaphysical truth (or at least, evidence thereof), and think of Islam as the culprit for the material backwardness of the Muslim world (which, again, is being evidenced in the wake of the Arab Spring). While Islam views material power to be simply a test of faith and character (rather than some unqualified blessing), it may very well be in human nature to side with the winning side, which in materialistic terms (even if not spiritually), the West is winning.

Thirdly, thanks to Western Islamophobia (by that, I mean kneejerk and often ignorant hostility towards Islam, rather than the reasoned criticism of our religion that you express on this blog) by the American Right, Western, and especially American, Muslims have been driven to the arms of the Left. While the older generation of Muslims understood this alliance with the Left to be purely on pragmatic terms - where Muslims keep their conservative values, while voting Leftists into power so as to prevent politicians with anti-Muslim agendas into power- younger Western Muslims have in large part embraced the secular liberal values promoted by the left, including feminism and gay rights (many Muslim men have complained that it is virtually impossible to find a decent Muslim woman to marry them as they are almost all feminists these days). The embrace of the younger generation of liberalism has even lead many of them to ultimately apostatize and abandon Islam altogether, once they come to to terms of liberalism and Islam are utterly incompatible (and therefore choose liberalsim over Islam). In fact, one of the primary reasons why ex-Muslims (almost invariably atheists or agnostics of some sort or another) left Islam was due to Islam's rejection of gay rights, feminism, and other pet causes their Leftist allies/masters favored (I also speak as an ex-apostate liberal humanist myself). The irony of the Right's Islamophobia is that it just creates more and more actual enemies (atheist liberals) for them, while alienating a minority that largely agrees with the Christian Right on many issues (such as gay marriage, abortion, casual sex, etc).

Edward Feser said...

Guys, lest we get sidetracked, let’s keep in mind what is at issue. The question is whether it is likely that large populations of Muslims (whether living in Western countries or elsewhere) will both retain their religion and also agree to adapt it to liberal political principles, especially the separation of religion from politics. I have argued that that is not going to happen, given the nature of the two systems (liberalism and Islam).

That some Muslims living in the West like to watch Friends reruns, listen to rap, indulge in casual sex, drug use, etc. while still remaining Muslims, is irrelevant. That some Muslims end up abandoning their religion altogether is also irrelevant. That some particular individual educated Muslims here and there are keen to reformulate Islam so as to make it compatible with liberal political philosophy is also irrelevant. All of that is perfectly consistent with what I have said. None of it entails that (say) a “Rawlsian Islam,” or a “libertarian Islam,” or a “Lockean Islam,” is ever going to appeal to more than a handful of people who believe in Islam. Not gonna happen. Certainly, “But Ed, I know a guy…” is not an argument to the contrary.

scbrownlhrm said...


THICK or too THIN?

E. Feser stated, in his comment in this thread time-stamped January 16, 2016 at 10:07 AM, the following:

“……..It is nowhere near a correct reading.”

Fallaciously equating *reference* to all sorts of *other* claims and sightlines may cause both Feser and other “Same God Reference” folks to be *mis*interpreted.

Therefore:

Theses and theories which claim the “Different God Reference” take what Scripture affirms to be ontologically thick and absolute and foist it as ontologically thin and irrelevant.

While such was discussed in more detail over in the Christians, Muslims, and the Reference of God thread, the “Different God Reference” folks often appeal to this notion of “Too Thin”. Given that Scripture defines such as Ontologically Thick, such deserves a few comments.

The Bill-Lydia Thesis (borrowed term) and others go beyond reference and into “People of the Book” into the Quran and into what is intended to count as the fullness of genuine worship which successfully goes through as all such lines are fallaciously equated to the degree which *reference* claims to reach. It is unclear if the College Professor in question intended any of “that”, or if she intended, instead, something along the lines of:

[1] E. Feser
[2] Romans 1
[3] Kalam 101
[4] Genesis 1
[5] Reference amid Referent (the only concept this comment is concerned with)
[6] Christ amid the Jewish reference as the Jew rejects the fullness of countless Divine Contours

The college Professor will have to clarify and quantify her own intended reach. No further comment on her intentions – proximal, distal, or otherwise – are of any relevance to *reference* as such relates to items 1 through 6.

Continued……

scbrownlhrm said...


THICK or too THIN?

It is crystal clear that the college Professor’s respondents (not the Professor herself for she will have to clarify her own intended reach) over in the “Different God Reference” *do* fallaciously equate *reference* and the reach thereof to all those other claims (Trinity, fullness of goodness, Quran’s origins, Quran period, fullness of Christ, fullness of worship which successfully goes through, Triune, fullness of love, fullness of Moral Ontology vis-à-vis Christ and Trinity, and so on).

Given those fallacious and false identity claims of the “Different God Reference”, let’s clarify:

[1] *None* of this is about any other some-thing outside of or distal to “reference which goes through” – which is different than “Know” and different than “accompany” and different than “worship which goes through”, and so on.

[2] *None* of this is about what happens *after* that actualization of that reference as all things Genesis 1 and as all things Kalam 101 and as all things Romans 1 converge upon the One True God according to Scripture’s terms and definitions. What happens *after* said actualization of said successful reference is a *different* topic.

[3] *None* of this is about some non-existent “reference that is the Quran”, for no such reference is claimed by the “Same God Reference” folks. Rather, this is about Scripture’s terms and criteria as to what counts as a “reference which goes through”. If the Quran happens to meet or happens to fail to meet said criteria has *no* impact on *other* references which *do* cohere with Scripture’s terms and criteria as we unpack the Adamic’s various intellectual and emotive motions amid all things Genesis 1 and hence amid all things Kalam 101 and hence amid all things Romans 1

[4] *None* of this (reference) is about what counts as Knowing God nor about what counts as the fullness of genuine worship nor about the metaphysical fullness of moral goodness nor about the instantiation of All Sufficiency as we discover in and by Christ the transposition of timeless self-sacrifice within the immutable love of the Necessary Being as All Sufficiency (literally) pours and by pouring (literally) fills mutable and contingent insufficiency to the bitter ends of (literal) time and (literal) physicality.

Continued…….

scbrownlhrm said...


THICK or too THIN?

[A] All things Genesis 1 and hence all things Kalam 101 and hence all things Romans 1
[B] “The Different God Reference” folks
[C] Those in [B] look at [A] and implicitly (some even explicitly) declare: “It’s all TOO THIN to count – regardless of what Scripture states

Never mind Christ amid the Jew’s (successful) reference amid their own failure to embrace contours (plural) of the Divine’s fullness.

Amid the intellectual and emotive motions described in Romans 1 we find all the interfaces of these:

[1] natural theology
[2] the created order
[3] the reasoning and logic of the Adamic
[4] God’s claimed modes (plural) of revealing Himself to the Adamic
[5] the intellectual and emotive response of the Adamic to said sightlines in perceiving the reality and power of the One True God in and by the contours of creation

Then, in the array of interfaces therein, Scripture lays claim to that which sums to the Ontologically Thick.

Romans 1 requires very little of the Adamic in response to those interfaces before Truth/Lie begins to emerge. “Kalam” means “Islamic Theology” and we today still follow all things Kalam 101 and all things Romans 1 and all things Genesis 1 into the lap of Pure Actuality, into the lap of the I AM.

Hence:

Reference which goes through: To point at a Golden Calf, or a Tree, or any other mutable and contingent form and ascribe to it all the proper properties of Pure Actually is to embark on the delusional. It is no accident that Pure Actuality requires the mind of the Adamic to land on nothing short of The I AM That I AM and specifically remarks about the line-in-the-sand found at shifting towards mutable and contingent vectors and forms, not only “Pre-Law”, and not only *in* the Law, but also once the Law is superseded by Christ (in the definitions of Romans 1 etc.).

Hence:

Narrative which goes through: Scripture's definitions and criteria sum to the only narrative there *is*. There is not more than one reality. There is not more than one metanarrative.

Continued…….

scbrownlhrm said...


THICK or too THIN?


We have a choice as to how much weight to give to the ontological real estate which God claims there in Romans 1 and what Scripture expressly lays claim to over in the intellectual and emotive motions of Man as Man spies in and by the created order He Who not only transcends but also funds said created order.

According to the “Different God” folks Romans 1 fails in that there is no reference in Romans 1 which goes through (according to them) because that sightline is just too thin.

Romans got it wrong (according to the “Different God” terms, conditions, and criteria).

Scripture got it wrong (according to the “Different God” terms, conditions, and criteria).

According to the “Different God” terms, conditions, and criteria, all things Genesis 1 (full stop), all things Kalam 101 (full stop), all things Romans 1 (full stop), all things Christ affirming the Jew’s successful reference evan as the Jew rejects the Trinity and the fullness of goodness and more (full stop) – indeed *that* is a reference which fails to go through.


According to the “Different God” folks Romans and Scripture got it wrong and fail to provide a successful reference *because* it’s just not triune (and they are correct, it falls short of the Triune) and it’s just not the fullness of goodness (and they are correct, it falls short of said fullness) and it’s just not the fullness of love (and they are correct, it falls short of said fullness), and it’s just not the fullness of X (and they are correct about all their X’s)……. The Jew rejects the Triune and therein fails to embrace the fullness of goodness, the fullness of love, the fullness of God, the fullness of Ought, the fullness of……. even as the Adamic which Romans 1 finds embracing the One True God also fails to embrace the fullness of……and the triune….. and…. and…

Yet Scripture is clear: such metaphysical real estate is ontologically thick rather than thin.

Continued…….

scbrownlhrm said...


THICK or too THIN?

Romans 1, Genesis 1, Kalam 101, and so on all find the Adamic atop the stage in motion amid those interfaces claimed by Scripture landing here: It is Power and it is Author and it is Being and it is Thou Art and it is -Tis God and it is the felt-ought towards the ominous, and it is Full Stop.

“TOO THIN!” is the cry of the “Different God” folks despite the fact that Scripture finds the Adamic therein amid the full actualization of a reference which successfully goes through to be Ontologically Thick.

What is in question is the thickness and enough-ness of Scripture’s terms and definitions which in fact require very little of the Adamic in response to those interfaces before Truth/Lie begins to emerge. “Kalam” means “Islamic Theology” and we today still follow all things Kalam 101 and all things Romans 1 and all things Genesis 1 into the lap of Pure Actuality, into the lap of the I AM.

That is to say, well, this: What is in question is whether or not Scripture’s terms and criteria for what counts as an actualization of a reference which goes through actually does count as the terms and criteria for what counts an actualization of a reference which goes through.

The statement from the “Different God” folks of, “But the overlap is just too thin” is a statement which expressly guts Scripture of the express ontological real estate which Scripture expressly lays claim to. That is to say, well, this: It is a move which tries to insert itself in between God and what is His, namely all things Adamic, and expressly tries to gut God of the express ontological real estate which God expressly lays claim to.

Christ Himself, the God of Romans 1, all things Genesis 1, all things Kalam 101, the many modes (plural) of revelation claimed by Scripture, and Scripture's many claims upon the metanarrative of God and Man, Man and God, fortunately inform us of where to look for God and His many modes (plural) of interfacing with all things Adamic.

End (Rejoice oh weary eyes!)

Chad Handley said...

I personally am not saying: "But Ed, I know a guy that defies your prediction." I'm saying: "Ed, I don't know any guys who don't defy your prediction." Not only do I not personally know a single Muslim who isn't, for lack of a better term, a typical American kid, I don't think I know a Muslim who doesn't lean slightly left in their politics (at least with regard to economic and foreign policy issues). I can say with certainty that I don't know any American Muslims who believe in the kind of absolute unity between Islam and the state that you describe. And I feel like I've personally known and befriended more Muslims than your average American.

At some point, no matter how well reasoned, an argument that has a near 100% failure rate when compared to observed reality has missed the mark somewhere. Can you cite any major Muslim political groups, NGOs, or organizations advocating the adoption of Sharia Law or something of the like in his country? Groups making such demands appear to be in the extreme minority within Muslim communities in America, which is the opposite of what we'd expect if your thesis were true. It's less that the people disagreeing with you "know a guy..." who defies your prediction than it is that you've "read about a guy..." who doesn't. If we know any Muslims at all, we know far more ordinary, law-abiding, separation-of-Church-and-State Muslims than we know Muslims who fit your thesis. We can pretty much point to the United States' population of about 3 million peaceful, secularized, mostly Democratic-leaning Muslims and say "thus I defy you."

My personal belief is that people who complain of a lack of assimilation in immigration groups lack for patience and do not have sufficient respect for the fact that American pop culture is the most powerful persuasive force in human history. There is no religion or philosophy that can long withstand exposure to a television set and the public American school lunchroom. General American consumerism is the most powerful cultural influence not only in America but arguably in the world, and to be immune to its charms, Muslims would have to be superhuman. Luckily, they're not.

Brandon said...

Again, Sue and I may have different understandings about John, but if I walk up to him and ask "Is this the man?" But if she denies that John in the flesh is who she was talking about, it is obvious we are talking about different people.

This entire example shows that you are again conflating different senses of knowledge. Walking up to John and saying, "Is this the man?" will tell us nothing about whether Sue knows God in the stronger sense of knowing the true John or really knowing John. Likewise, if Sue denies it, it could just because she does not know John in this particular role -- everyone has the experience of not recognizing people we know because of an unexpected context, or because we knew them long ago when they looked differently, or because we've only seen them in bad photographs, or because we weren't looking closely enough, or any number of other reasons.

If you show the descriptions of God in his interaction with Moses to the Pharisee and say, "Is this the God you are talking about?" the Pharisee will say, "Yes, haven't you been listening?" If you show them to the modern rabbinical Jew and ask the same question, the Jew will say, "Yes, obviously." If you show them to the Muslim and ask the same question, the Muslim will say, "Obviously yes; Moses was a true prophet of the one and only God, who spoke only the truth about God to the Jews, even if the Jews occasionally misunderstood what Moses was trying to say." From any of this does it follow that they know God in any deeper sense? No. But does it give reason to think that in some real and basic sense they know and worship God? Yes.

Interestingly, to relate the matter to another comment, I know from experience that if you show Calvin's descriptions of God to Arminians, you can find plenty who will say, "That looks more like a devil than like God," and deny that the Calvinist God is the Christian God at all.

That is certainly the sense of Isaiah 29 in the first place: their honor and worship of God is superficial, because they were not really worshiping him at all.

This seems to suggest that you're applying the same kind of conflations you've made about knowledge to worship. If they are honoring and worshiping God superficially, they have to be honoring and worshiping Him; that's a logical requirement. It thus means that they really worship Him. Now, just as with knowledge, we can use the phrase 'really worship' as a figure of speech to indicate some deeper or more important kind of worship that is not merely superficial, so that one could reasonably say that they worship Him but do not really worship Him, just like it's perfectly legitimate to say that they know Him but do not really know Him; but we cannot conflate this figure of speech with the literal expression -- it's the entire point of the figurative expression that it's not the same as the literal expression.

Anonymous said...

As someone ( Chad?) already pointed out, Feser's argument resembles the ones some Protestants and/ or liberals made about Catholicism as recently as the Kennedy campaign.

I think it is a mistake to focus too much on the supposedly unchangable principles of some religion or political philosophy. People often unconsciously adapt their belief system to their surroundings. This can work both ways -- fundamentalists may think they are following an age old tradition that started last Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Changes are the American Muslim community is very different from the European ones. In Europe these communities are the result of a colonial past, or because temporary cheap laborers suddenly realised themselves to be immigrants, with families reunited, and firm plans to move back to Morocco by the time they were eligible for pensions.

And the Left, in particular the Social Democrats, saw them as a new group to emancipate and as a new voter base, with the traditional Labour voter base evaporating during the eighties. The Right never minded them much until it was becomimg clear during the nineties that there was no integration taking place and that Islam was not compatible with Liberalism, the European kind.

This anon is called Sander.

Tim Finlay said...

Ed,
The article by Alain Besancon that you approvingly refer to in the OP, What Kind of Religion is Islam?, states: "Such outsiders may well be struck by the religious zeal of the Muslim toward a God whom they recognize as being also their God. But this God is in fact separate and distinct, and so is the relation between Him and the believing Muslim. Christians are accustomed to distinguish the worship of false gods—that is, idolatry—from the worship of the true God. To treat Islam suitably, it becomes necessary to forge a new concept altogether, and one that is difficult to grasp—namely, an idolatry of the God of Israel." Do you agree with this? And if so, would it be fair to say that in one sense Muslims worship the same God as Christians do and that in another sense their worship is idolatrous? That does seem to be the implication of the article you cite.

Anonymous said...

Ed,
I forgot to thank you for pointing me to the article, What Kind of Religion is Islam, by Alain Besancon. Its subtitle states "The third 'religion of the Book' [Islam] is utterly unlike Christianity and Judaism." The substance of the article very much supports my contention in a response to a previous post that the label Judeo-Christian legitimately designates a certain ethical system shared by Judaism and Christianity but not Islam, and that there is no correspondingly useful "Peoples of the Book" system.

Tim Finlay said...

Ed,
The above post by Anonymous regarding Besancon's article was actually me, forgetting to put my name in. The article backed up the point I made that the Judeo-Christian understanding of Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, Satan etc. is very different from that understood by Islam.
And it is in agreement with what I said about Islam and voluntarism, and the supposed ahistoric aspect of the Quran compared to the historical nature of the revelation of Torah and Gospel.

Daniel D. D. said...

Church Father and Doctor of the Assumption St. John Damascene, who lived and even served under Muslim rulers:

Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God… And again we say to them: ‘As long as you say that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit, why do you accuse us of being Hetaeriasts? For the word, and the spirit, is inseparable from that in which it naturally has existence. Therefore, if the Word of God is in God, then it is obvious that He is God. If, however, He is outside of God, then, according to you, God is without word and without spirit. Consequently, by avoiding the introduction of an associate with God you have mutilated Him. It would be far better for you to say that He has an associate than to mutilate Him, as if you were dealing with a stone or a piece of wood or some other inanimate object. Thus, you speak untruly when you call us Hetaeriasts; we retort by calling you Mutilators of God.

This passage from The Fount of Knowledge makes no sense unless contextually St John believed Christians and Muslims reference the same God.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

It is notable that St. John is the first Christian to reference Islam whose writings have survived. It is also interesting that St. John thinks that Muhammad was associated with Arians. Without dout, St. John, like Belloc, believed Islam to be a Christian heresy.

His opinion I take to be very authoritive, because of his personal experience with early Muslims, and his Authority as a Doctor of the Church. Furthermore, St. John is also a Scholastic of high caliber.

Christi pax.

Edward Feser said...

Two things:

First, there is a serious problem with the attempt to draw an analogy with U.S. Catholics, which should be obvious from what I said in the post on liberalism and Islam. The problem is this: The reason people up until JFK's day doubted that Catholics could accept the separation of church and state was because of the teaching of the 19th century popes. (And this was a good reason to doubt that they could accept it, by the way. It wasn't merely bigotry for non-Catholics to wonder about this. They had grounds in the Church’s own theology to doubt it.) Now, this teaching was already widely unpopular by JFK’s day and some people were looking for a way to circumvent it. But more importantly, it more or less officially went down the memory hole after Vatican II. Now as I have indicated, its precise status has in fact never actually been clearly addressed, and it is by no means obvious that it has been or can be simply chucked out wholesale. People have just treated it as a dead letter. What matters for present purposes, though, is that because the Vatican itself has treated it as a dead letter, U.S. Catholics have been able to take that as an official “go ahead” vis-à-vis separation of church and state and accommodation to liberal political principles. The pope is the ultimate doctrinal authority in Catholicism, and if he at least seems to have reversed his predecessors, then that is bound to have an effect on how most Catholics end up seeing things.

Now, there is nothing like this in Islam, nor could there be. For one thing, there is no widespread movement within Islam to alter 1400 years of Islamic self-understanding in order to take on board liberal political principles, and there are not internal to Islam the resources by which this might naturally be do-able (the way that there is in Christianity at least a distinction between church and state, even if not necessarily a separation). But second, and more importantly, there simply is no central authority which could make such a movement “stick” even if it existed. There is no parallel to the papacy, nor even to church councils and the like. What there is is the Quran, the hadith, the example of Muhammad, the example of 1400 years of Islamic history -- all of which point away from political liberalism -- and that’s it. There is nothing equally authoritative -- like a papacy -- to counteract or balance those older authorities and centuries of history. So there is simply no mechanism by which what happened with U.S. Catholics might happen with Muslims. The analogy is just superficial.

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

Second thing: It seems that, while in college, Chad got to know upwards of 50 Muslims (a) who had not abandoned their religion, (b) with whom he had extensive discussions about political philosophy, and the church and state issue specifically, and (c) whom he was able to determine constituted a representative sample of Muslims in the U.S., and perhaps worldwide. Or at least, he would have to have done so in order for his remarks to be relevant to the question at hand. However, I must confess to doubting that those three conditions were actually met. And if not, then his reply amounts to “But Ed, I know 50 guys…” which, in the absence of conditions (a)-(c), isn’t much better than “I know a guy…”

Also, “leaning left” on this or that issue or group of issues doesn’t by itself mean anything. There are plenty of traditionalist Catholic types who “lean left” on matters of economics and U.S. foreign policy and yet whose views on matters of church and state would absolutely terrify any liberal.

Finally, it is ridiculous to expect that my thesis entails that mainstream Muslim groups in the U.S. would be calling for the establishment of sharia law. For one thing, there are not enough Muslims in the U.S. for this even to be on the radar screen as a realistic possibility. For another, even if there were, it would be ridiculous especially in the U.S. context and under current circumstances to talk about it openly and frankly.

More relevant would be to see whether Western countries with much larger Muslim populations have seen calls for sharia law. And of course, that has indeed happened, e.g. in the UK, where even Rowan Williams -- no right-winger or Islamophobe -- famously said that adopting elements of sharia in the UK was “unavoidable.”

Anyway, a serious response, Chad, would require you actually to engage with the substantive points about liberal and Islamic principle spelled out in my earlier post, and to show how a synthesis of Islam and liberal principle can be achieved in a way consistent with both systems. All this anecdotal stuff simply won’t do.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Tim,

Well, Besancon also says in the article that "Christianity and Islam are paradoxically but radically separated by the same God." Furthermore, to say, as he does in the passage you quote, that Muslims are engaged in "an idolatry of the God of Israel" hardly entails that they are not worshiping the God of Israel. On the contrary, it entails that they are worshiping the God of Israel but in an improper way. So, I don't think there is anything in Besancon's article that conflicts with the idea that Christians and Muslims are referring to and worshiping the same God -- a question he isn't really addressing anyway.

As to whether I agree with that passage of his, well, it certainly needs qualification. A phrase like "idolatry of the God of Israel" is striking because of its flavor of paradox -- the kind of thing a certain kind of writer really likes to write and a certain kind of reader really likes to read, but which isn't very rigorous philosophically and thus needs careful unpacking.

What is true in it, I would say, is that part of the danger of absorbing the natural into the supernatural is that it can lead to a religious fanaticism that is impatient with clear thinking, rational argumentation, or any attempt to find common ground with non-believers, and opts instead for fideism and authoritarianism. (This can happen in a Christian context too, of course -- e.g. witness some of the nuts who showed up in the Throne and Altar combox, to which I linked in the original post, to bash the scholastic notion of pure nature and insist on an absorption of the natural into the supernatural. Can't any of these anti-Scholastic guys ever formulate an actual argument, or even a coherent thought?)

John said...

"The idea is that over time, Muslim immigrants will, like even most conservative Catholics and Protestants, become so absorbed in [worldly goods]... that after a generation or two they won’t care so much about converting non-believers, much less working to make the laws of Western countries conform to the moral code taught by their religion."
Well, people don't think that merely from thinking analogically from Christianity, people think that because we experience it.

In my life I've known a few dozen Muslims, and I would say the range of religiosity is very similar to the range in my Christian friends.

Some are closet atheists who don't mention it so as not to start an argument in their family. Some are "cultural Muslims" who are basically agnostics but keep the cultural traditions like observing the holidays as they do the non-religious traditions of their cultures. Some barely observe their religion but pick and choose a few lines they won't cross (for example, not observing dietary laws at all except they won't eat pork). Some are the equivalent of Christmas and Easter Catholics- if you asked them, they'll say they believe, and they do observe a few of the less rigorous requirements and holidays, but they don't do much else. A few are really religious, but still extremely integrated into Western society-the equivalent of a Catholic family that is well-educated in the faith, attends church weekly, observes the rules of fast and abstinence, etc., but still do all the secular things you mention. Only a small minority of the Muslims I know are very religious, very conservative, and very traditional, and it's about the same number as the percentage of Catholics I know who self-label "Rad-Trad."

Granted, violent extremism in Islam is more widespread than violent extremism in Catholicism today, but I imagine that for 99% of Americans who know Muslims, including myself, the number of violent Muslims you have met is equal to the number of violent Catholics you've met- zero.

I realize it's all anecdotal, but if a lot of other people have been experiencing the same as I have, which can't be that unusual, I would think that would be the basis for the idea, rather than "thinking that all religions are the same."

Chad Handley said...

More relevant would be to see whether Western countries with much larger Muslim populations have seen calls for sharia law. And of course, that has indeed happened, e.g. in the UK, where even Rowan Williams -- no right-winger or Islamophobe -- famously said that adopting elements of sharia in the UK was “unavoidable.”

But if your thesis is correct and there is an inherent and insurmountable incompatibility between liberalism and Islam, then wouldn't you expect a majority of Muslims in Western countries to call for sharia law? And from the polls I can find, there isn't a single country where that is the case, even in majority Muslim Eastern European countries like Albania and Kosovo.

I did find a poll where 40% of Muslims in the UK desired "some" aspects of Sharia Law be enacted in "some" parts (presumably the majority Muslim parts) of the UK, but even that's far from sufficient support from your thesis of inherent and insurmountable incompatibility.

And while I don't claim that my encounters with Muslims is sufficient for a representative sampling, I do think it counts against your position that I've never met a single Western Muslim who would vindicate your thesis. Since your theory is one of absolute incompatibility, I still think that's a problem.

But my larger point is that I disagree with the theory of human behavior underlying your thesis, that people in their behavior are largely guided by a consistent application of the underlying philosophy of their worldview. I don't think people are like that. I think human nature is particularly susceptible to what Western consumerist societies offer (money, leisure, entertainment, easy sex, etc), and no worldview can compete with its power head-to-head, especially in America.

You put any group of people with any underlying philosophy in front of an American television set, and in 20 years their children will be behaviorally and politically indistinguishable from anyone else's children. This has happened to every ethnic group that American nativists have ever been terrified of, and I just don't see Islam being the exception. Indeed, my personal experience, limited and unrepresentative as it is, tells me they are definitely not the exception.

Anonymous said...

But what/where is the origin and purpose of the religious impulse?

True religion is the product of the inherent human biological, or total psycho-physical, urge to the evolutionary fulfillment and ultimate self-transcendence of Man in the Radiant Reality, or Life Principle, in which he and the cosmos are arising. Religion is not a matter of belief in the presumed or evidence or results of religious activity on the part of a certain few supposedly unique human individuals.
Religion is not exclusively a matter of "revelation" in the sense of the specific historical communications made by rare and prophetic individuals. Rather religion is the PROCESS itself - the evolutionary and self-transcending process of the psycho-biological transformation of Man (male and female).

The Process of true religion is inherent in the psycho-biological structure of every human being, except that it is only more or less developed in each individual. The structures of the religious process are already in the biological anatomy of the human individual. But the development of those structures depends upon CULTURAL adaptation.

The problem is that religion is not commonly understood as a native psycho-biological function in Man. Religion is usually associated with symbolic cosmologies, archaic belief systems, and illusions of mystical flight from the world. In that case, the that case, true religious acculturation is suppressed and obliged to remain at an infantile level. And the more adolescent movement of scientific materialism has gradually and now almost completely, and also rightly, destroyed the credibility of such childish religious culture.

The phenomenon generally and popularly known as religion is a childish, even infantile, expression of our possible higher acculturation and evolution. It is always associated with childish cultism (God as "father"), symbolic rituals, and irrational belief systems than can never be penetrated to the point of establishing the true and universal inherently non-sectarian religious process.

Religious cults, especially Christianity and Islam, are nearly always antagonistic to one another. Each claiming some kind of righteous superiority for its specific historical "revelation". And the level of participation in the limited cultures of such cults is largely a matter of uninspected beliefs, external rituals, and superficial codes of social conduct. There is nothing morally, humanly, or spiritually superior about such "religious" consciousness.

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear John:

Would it be possible that most Muslims in the middle East are cultural Muslims, that is, they are Muslims simply because they follow the breeze of their society? And that, Muslims that come to the West, might begin to change due to the different cultural environment, with their children basically fully converting to Western culture, because they didn't grow up at all in middle Eastern culture?

Christi pax.

James said...

Arab monotheism stems not from Jewish and Christian "influence," but simply from Abrahamic monotheism--the line of Ishmael and not of Isaac. Immediately prior to Islam, Arabs generally were no longer monotheists, but had fallen into pagan polytheism--the sufficient reason for Islam, precisely.

If Islam is taken to be a Revelation, as the Muslims insist, then it is not a Christian heresy, but an entirely different perspective, resulting from a different archetype. Obviously, this is not a thesis acceptable to Christian exoterism, including such saints as Saint Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas, but nonetheless accepted sporadically on the margin by some Christian contemplatives. Conversely, the Muslims accept that Judaism and Christianity are of Divine origin.

***

Pantheism, which posits a substantial identity with the cosmos is of course a metaphysical error. One should not say, however, either that God "exists" or "does not exist." Metaphysically, Divine Reality transcends the cosmos, hence it "is" but does not "exist." Existence pertains to the created, while Divine Reality pertains to the uncreated.

Quite different from the pantheist error is the metaphysical doctrine of the degrees of reality. The Real is necessarily essentially one, which by no means precludes it from affirming itself by degrees. Now if the Real is one, then there is no such thing as an "absolute nature": it is necessarily essentially one with the Divine Real, but not substantially one. The Transcendence of the uncreated implies a substantial discontinuity with the created. At the same time, since "there is no place where Being is not," "in Him we live, and move, and have our being." The Transcendent is also immanent, otherwise the created could not subsist for an instant. But its transcendence is a "transcendent immanence" and an "immanent transcendence." If the essential identity between the degrees of cosmic or created reality, angelic, animic, corporeal, are not essentially one, then they are autonomous in relation to Divine, uncreated reality, which is absurd, since the uncreated and pure Act of Divine Being is principial in relation to the creation; there could not be an absolute discontinuity between them. Essential Unity is metaphysically true, while substantial unity is metaphysically a fundamental error.

***

Regarding the relationships between Christianity and Islam from a rigorously metaphysical standpoint, by far the most profound works on the subject are those of Frithjof Schuon, such as "Understanding Islam," "The Fullness of God," "Form and Substance in the Religions," "Christianity/Islam."

James said...

Correction: "If the essential identity between the degrees of cosmic or created reality, angelic, animic, corporeal, are not essentially one,"

should read: "If there were not an essential identity between the degrees of created reality...then the creation would be autonomous in relation to Divine, uncreated Reality..."

SK said...

@Edward Feser

The majority of Catholics in the United States support gay marriage even though gay marriage is clearly condemned in Catholicism.

http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/majority-catholics-support-gay-marriage/story?id=18684305

This seems like an instance where follows of Catholicism, a religion that is widely opposed to modern liberalism, are largely influenced by the culture instead of the Church. Even though the Church has a clear prohibition against gay marriage, it still looks like the culture can overpower one's religion to the point where the majority of its adherents disobey its own religion. It's not just a small amount of people that do this.

Also the vast majority of Catholics are okay with birth control too. Although of course birth control is not bad if it is for medical reasons (there is an option in the poll that includes this choice that says "depends on situation"). I covered that just in case someone objects that the poll doesn't capture that group.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/154799/Americans-Including-Catholics-Say-Birth-Control-Morally.aspx

This seems like a clear instance where many Catholics try to combine Catholicism and liberal principles (that breach Catholicism). If this can happen with Catholicism, then why not Islam?

Daniel D. D. said...

I agree with Chad, but with a qualification: I think that Dr. Feser is correct that "off the boat" Muslims will not fully integrate into Western culture, but at the same time Chad is correct that Muslims will eventually collapse into the consumer, emotive culture, for the reasons he gives.

The qualifier: the Muslims that convert to Western culture will be the children of the immigrations, as young people are much more subject to the spirit of the world, temptations of the flesh, peer pressure (from non-Muslims), and most importantly the children of immigrants are not growing up in a Muslims culture, but rather one that defines itself on the eschew of tradition and the denial of the need to discipline the passions. These children may continue some kind of culture Islam, but only in the same sense that Game of Thrones is Medieval: they may dress up as Muslims, and go through some of the motions, but at heart they really are modern Westerners, and only participate in Islam if it doesn't contradict the current fads, which is how Muslims who grow up in the US actaully seem to be acting (and how most Christians act, sadly).

As a young person myself, until I was exposed to philosophy, I was truely wisped around by the direction the culture moves. Chad's correct, most people of any nation or culture make decisions more on culture than on philosophy (or, a person's philosophy is basically one formed by their culture, which is probably why modern psychologists tend to think that morals are social constructs, because most people learn them through culture, and never learn the reasons behind them). I say this because most philosophers of all ages seem to complain about the "mob". Again, this is my personal experience with myself and my peers, so maybe I'm just too inexperienced with life.

Christi pax.

Tim Finlay said...

Ed,
First, I am glad that you commented on the Wheaton controversy. I did not understand you as implicitly supporting the behavior of the Wheaton professor in question, but I am sure that many people, perhaps most of those who were reading your blog for the first time, would have understood it that way. People understand different things by "Christians and Muslims worship the same God."
Second, I agree completely with your responses to Chad. I knew several Muslims at university in England, had a Muslim roommate in America for over a year who frequently had his friends over, took two (very good) courses under a Muslim professor with many Muslims in the class, and while some were as Chad described, about half most certainly were not. More importantly, as you note, the Muslim demand to be treated under Sharia law is a serious problem in England and in several other European countries.
Third, regarding your last reply to me, you claimed that Besancon's "idolatry of the God of Israel" does not imply that they were not worshiping the God of Israel but instead that they were "worshiping the God of Israel in an improper way." This phrase sounds to me like some type of speech act infelicity, perhaps like baptizing someone in orange juice or without the trinitarian formula. If so, in at least one sense, it fails to ascribe true worth to God, to worship God. Am I wrong?

Edward Feser said...

Tim wrote:

This phrase sounds to me like some type of speech act infelicity, perhaps like baptizing someone in orange juice or without the trinitarian formula. If so, in at least one sense, it fails to ascribe true worth to God, to worship God. Am I wrong?

Do you meant that Besancon's description itself involves a speech act infelicity? Or that the error he is attributing to Muslims involves a kind of speech act felicity? I assume the latter.

Anyway, I'd say that an improper worship of God need not involve a failure to ascribe true worth to God, but can involve some other sort of error. For example, suppose someone had a superstitious tendency to interpret all kinds of innocuous events as divine signs. E.g. I knew a guy many years ago who asked God to make it rain the next day in answer to a question he had. It did rain, and he interpreted this as a "Yes" answer. (Maybe he would have taken a thunderstorm as an emphatic "Yes"!)

This is nuts, but it doesn't involve a failure to ascribe true worth to God. There was no idolatry or devaluation of God or anything like that. Rather, it was a simple misunderstanding of how God works in the world. If a guy interprets all kinds of ordinary things as God's answers to his prayers, he's engaged in a kind of worship -- for prayer is a kind of worship -- but one that improperly attributes divine messages to rain, etc.

Now, that is obviously not exactly the sort of thing Besancon is attributing to Islam, but it is somewhat similar in this sense: if you think of everything as a supernatural event rather than as a part of the ordinary natural order that God conserves, then everything starts to take on the character of a miraculous act. It's like everything comes to have the special significance that the voice from the burning bush or the parting of the Red Sea or the Resurrection does. Everything becomes God speaking in a special way.

Naturally, this can lead to a kind of fanaticism. It's like the romantic lover who always takes every action of the beloved as some special sign, and becomes either unrealistically elated if he thinks it's a good sign or unrealistically despondent if he thinks it's a bad sign. You want to say to such a lover: "Jeez, mellow out, man! It's not a sign of anything!" etc. The lover overdoes everything, not because he devalues the beloved but because he misunderstands the nature of beloved's actions.

It seems to me is that it's that tendency toward a kind of frantic intensity and overdoing that Besancon is attributing to the Islamic swallowing up of nature into the supernatural.

Edward Feser said...

Eh, should have proofread that before posting. Anyway, you get the idea.

Tim Finlay said...

OK, then a follow-up question regarding this swallowing up of nature into the supernatural. From what you said about the Throne and Altar bloggers in parentheses in a previous reply to me, am I correct in saying that a similar worship in an improper manner occurs with the disciples of de Lubac, say, in a Catholic context and the disciples of Barth, say, in a Protestant context?

Anonymous said...

Chad Handley said...

"My dispute with your position isn't just that I can think of a few secularized Muslims, it's that I can't think of any American Muslims I've met who weren't secularized."


A couple of videos people may find interesting. The first one is from a 'peace conference' in Europe. This is pretty amazing I think. How can they think they have a good line of argument?

It's Not the ''Radical Shaykh'' it's Islam - Fahad Qureshi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV710c1dgpU

Now turning to America...

Ami on the Street: America or Somalia - you might be surprised
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfmywzjdtRM

Anonymous said...

From Pew Research Centre:

http://people-press.org/files/2011/08/muslim-american-report.pdf


Looking at it, it seems that 10% of "native born" Muslim Americans have a "Favorable View of al Qaeda".

Foreign born was lower at 3%. (Both groups taken together you have 5%.)





42% of Canadian Muslims Admit Islam and West 'Irreconcilable'

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/193969#.VSzN_pPAqXF


Two polls that received very little fanfare were released late last month, and found that the majority of Christian and Jewish Canadians think Islam is "irreconcilable" with the West - it also found 42% of Canadian Muslims agree with that assessment.

The polls, conducted by Leger Marketing, were published in the Vancouver Sun and found 63% of Protestants, 62% of Jews and 60% of Catholics felt Islam cannot coexist with Western culture.

That assessment was shared by 46% of non-religious Canadians, and in a large admission, by 42% of Muslims who felt their religion cannot be reconciled with the country they live in.

Anonymous said...

This poll comes from a right-wing source/polling company and people may wish to complain about that. If anyone has a different source saying something different then please post it.


http://www.wnd.com/2012/10/guess-who-u-s-muslims-are-voting-for/

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “WND/WENZEL POLLS” conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.



“Almost half of those Muslims surveyed – an astonishing 46 percent – said they believe those Americans who offer criticism or parodies of Islam should face criminal charges,” said pollster Fritz Wenzel in an analysis of the survey’s results.

“Even more shocking: One in eight respondents said they think those Americans who criticize or parody Islam should face the death penalty, while another nine percent said they were unsure on the question,” he said.

Wenzel said even the 9 percent “undecided” on that particular question is alarming.

“Seldom in survey research does a response of ‘not sure’ carry such significance, but the response to this question certainly is a surprise, given the severity of the question, and offers insight into the conflict that some Muslims appear to face in making the ideals under-girding American society fit into their religious lifestyle,” he said.

Wenzel’s poll said 7.2 percent of the respondents said they “strongly agree” with the idea of execution for those who parody Islam, and another 4.3 percent said they somewhat agree....




While 9 of 10 of the Muslim respondents said they agree with the First Amendment, they are also in conflict with it, Wenzel said, citing evidence in answers to “another question in the survey which found that one-third of Muslims – 32 percent – believe Shariah should be the supreme law of the land in the United States,” Wenzel said.

“Another shocking finding from the survey is how Muslims view the religious freedoms of Christians. Asked whether U.S. citizens who are Christians have the right to evangelize Muslims to consider other faiths, just 30 percent agreed Christians have such a right. Another 42 percent said they do not have such a right, while 28 percent said they were unsure on the question.”

Anonymous said...

Chad Handley said...

"Can you cite any major Muslim political groups, NGOs, or organizations advocating the adoption of Sharia Law or something of the like in his country? Groups making such demands appear to be in the extreme minority within Muslim communities in America"



This may not be exactly what you are asking for, but it's still quite revealing I think. As part of a refutation of "ISIS ideology", American Muslim leaders endorsed some extreme elements of Islam--


Quote:

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/24/14) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in cooperation with the Fiqh Council of North America, today joined a number of national and local Muslim scholars and leaders at a National Press Club news conference in Washington, D.C., to release a first-of-its-kind open letter in Arabic (with English translation) signed by more than 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders refuting the ideology of the terrorist group ISIS and urging its supporters to repent and "return to the religion of mercy."...


https://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12663-muslim-leaders-open-letter-refutes-isis-ideology.html


Quoting:

http://lettertobaghdadi.com/index.php


16. Hudud (Punishment): Hudud punishments are fixed in the Qur’an and Hadith and are unquestionably obligatory in Islamic Law. However, they are not to be applied without clarification, warning, exhortation, and meeting the burden of proof; and they are not to be applied in a cruel manner. For example, the Prophet avoided hudud in some circumstances, and as is widely known, Omar ibn Al-Khattab suspended the hudud during a famine. In all schools of jurisprudence, hudud punishments have clear procedures that need to be implemented with mercy, and their conditions render it difficult to actually implement them. Moreover, suspicions or doubts avert hudud; i.e. if there is any doubt whatsoever, the hudud punishment cannot be implemented. The hudud punishments are also not applied to those who are in need or deprived or destitute; there are no hudud for the theft of fruits and vegetables or for stealing under a certain amount. You have rushed to enact the hudud while, in reality, conscientious religious fervour makes implementing hudud punishments something of the utmost difficulty with the highest burden of proof.


22. The Caliphate: There is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah. The Ummah has lacked a caliphate since 1924 CE. However, a new caliphate requires consensus from Muslims and not just from those in some small corner of the world....




So yeah, that's an endorsement of sharia law in its most extreme form (e.g. amputations) even if they want to be cautious about implementing them. They may not have been explicitly calling for it to be introduced to America at that time; but if these people believe in sharia law and a caliphate, why wouldn't they ultimately want it to come to America?

I can only think that those sorts of views look very traitorous.

Nathan said...

Edward,

"Why any Christian would find this mysterious or puzzling, I have no idea, because the New Testament itself makes it clear that it is possible for a person to worship the true God and still be so deep in theological and moral error that his salvation is in jeopardy. For example, in chapter 7 of Mark’s Gospel, Christ quotes Isaiah against the Pharisees, saying: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” He doesn’t say: “Well, since you’re a brood of vipers and a bunch of whited sepulchres, you don’t really worship the true God at all.” Rather, he says that even though they do worship the true God, their worship is “in vain,” because of their grave moral defects."

Good point here. It seems to me that the "grave moral defect" at issue here is replacing the commandments from the word of God with one's own. Still, I think we also do need to consider that Jesus talks in John 8 to some of his own people about having the devil as their father. That also should be taken into consideration here.

-Nathan

HAA said...

I don't know where this (false) idea of Islam swallowing (or whatever) up the natural into the supernatural comes from. Muslims believe in God, the angels, revelation, etc., which are all concepts that belong to the classification "supernatural". The Qur'an also distinguishes between the dunya (the natural world), and the akhira (the next world): "Nay, you prefer the life of this world (dunya), although the hereafter (akhira) is better and more lasting." There is a clear distinction between sanctifying what is in the natural world with the supernatural, i.e., performing actions by remembering God prior to embarking on them, e.g., saying "Bismillah..." (In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful) before one starts some worldly endeavor, and swallowing up - whatever that means - two clearly delineated realities.

This idea of a separation of church in state is a tenuous dichotomy as far as beliefs impacting rule of law is concerned. Anyways, all this principle states is that the government will not favor the practice of one religion over another. The whole point of law is that it reflects the moral code of society. If religion isn't defining someone's values, something else must be. An individual is just a component of a community, and a community is just a component of a city, and a city is a component of a county, etc. all the way up to the country, and eventually world level.

I would assert that the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible that are often used to support the principle of separation of Church and state has nothing to do with it: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." Jesus rebutted the Pharisees with this clever response when they attempted to trap him in an act of sedition against the Roman government, and simultaneously destroy his authority to speak on behalf of God. In so few words, he satisfied the Roman representative, and demolished the Pharisees attempt to cast doubt on his mission. Jesus - like any true believer in God - knows ALL THINGS in fact belong to God, so the latter part of the statement implicitly subsumes the former. Even though the pagan Romans didn't and couldn't understand this distinction, the Pharisees and Jewish followers of Jesus understood it all too well.

Islam is a way of life. However this doesn't mean Muslims can't live in a secular society. The most important thing to a Muslim is the free and unimpeded ability to privately practice his faith. This whole idea that as Muslims immigrate into a Western secular society and they become larger components of it, they will begin to call for the implementation of an extreme version of Sharia law, or even Sharia law in general as if it must be imposed on others within and even outside of their own faith, is fear based nonsense. Sure, there are some who think this way, but they are a fringe minority, at least in the USA, where I reside. The fact is, most of the Muslims who come to the West - in addition to seeking all the practical benefits of a secular society such as economic advancement - want to escape the authoritarian (some of them religiously so) regimes that exist in their own countries. Islam has since its inception recognized the freedom of religion (or way of life). If it didn't, Christian and Jewish communities wouldn't still exist in the Muslim world. But like any other society, the moral code of the majority typically defines the overarching public behavior of it and the laws reflect it. So, in Muslim societies, pornography would never grow into an institution that falls under the category "freedom of speech" as it has in Western societies, or homosexuality wouldn't be accepted as not a sin or an error, and in this sense liberalism conflicts with Islam, just like it does for ANY conservative religious weltanschauung, e.g., Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.

scbrownlhrm said...



Having defended the coherence of the fact that the Christian and the Muslim do in fact share in reference which lands on the One True God, perhaps a bit of a move (then) to ask something from the Muslim Community in return, rhetorically speaking of course. Hence: Another discussion with some overlap here dealing with Tolerance, Respect, Disrespect, and Seeking Clarity as such relates to various issues.

scbrownlhrm said...


Hmmm...... it seems the link landed in the com-box rather than at the top of the OP. My mistake for not checking the copy/paste beforehand. This link to the item on Tolerance, Respect, Disrespect, and Seeking Clarity should land at the top of the OP now.

Apologies.

Step2 said...

Jesus - like any true believer in God - knows ALL THINGS in fact belong to God, so the latter part of the statement implicitly subsumes the former.

The question posed to Jesus was whether it was morally obligatory to pay a poll tax, a tax which had instigated a revolt in Galilee . If the answer was, as you assert, all things belong to God and therefore nothing belongs to Caesar, it was a rather oddly worded answer. His answer specifically took the face and inscription on the coin to be indicative of who it should be rendered to, meaning in some real sense it belongs to Caesar. A more probable interpretation is that your money belongs to Caesar but your life belongs to God, evidenced by his opposition to money-changers in the temple and speaking against mammon.

Chris Giles said...

On separstion of church and state and how thinking on thst changed between Vatican I and II, has anyone read Emile Perreau-Saussine's book Catholicism and Democracy?

His idea-biography of MacIntyre was outstanding, but C & D is still on my "to do" pile.

laubadetriste said...

@HAA: "I don't know where this (false) idea of Islam swallowing (or whatever) up the natural into the supernatural comes from."

The idea comes from the claim that in Islam, "[T]here is no moral and political sphere grounded in a purely natural order distinct from the supernatural order, knowable in principle by unaided reason from the study of that natural order, and having a legitimacy of its own whether or not God specially reveals a distinct supernatural end to which the natural order might be raised," as Dr. Feser put it in his last post, together with the claim that "(as I have argued many times before) reductive claims are always implicitly really eliminative," as he put it here.

Dr. Feser did not greatly expand on the first claim, but it has been developed elsewhere, both in the context of Islam specifically, and (e.g.) in the context of the non-Islamic occasionalism of Malebranche. The second claim he has indeed argued for here ad nauseum. Perhaps you could start examining it regarding (say) the materialism of Alex Rosenberg.

"Anyways, all this principle states is that the government will not favor the practice of one religion over another. The whole point of law is that it reflects the moral code of society. If religion isn't defining someone's values, something else must be. An individual is just a component of a community, and a community is just a component of a city, and a city is a component of a county, etc. all the way up to the country, and eventually world level."

These are claims that sound superficially plausible if one reads them very rapidly once only, and avoids any attempt to fit them coherently together either with each other, or with one's other beliefs. But ask a question about any one of them, and like a house of cards, the whole paragraph collapses.

(That's *all* the principle states? *That's* the point of law? [What, *all* of it?]--and the *whole* point? Religion *defines* values? An individual is a *component*?--is *just* a component? A community is a *component* of a *city*? "...all the way up to the country, and eventually world level"?

What a queer mix of inadequate history, legal positivism, and reverse mereological nihilism.

I will now make some phone calls and inform the ACLU that they are out of business, the priests that they can cede their duties to the lexicographers, and the UN that its Wilsonian project has been accomplished by linguistic fiat...)

laubadetriste said...

"Islam is a way of life. However this doesn't mean Muslims can't live in a secular society."

No one said it did.

"This whole idea that as Muslims immigrate into a Western secular society and they become larger components of it, they will begin to call for the implementation of an extreme version of Sharia law, or even Sharia law in general as if it must be imposed on others within and even outside of their own faith, is fear based nonsense. Sure, there are some who think this way, but they are a fringe minority, at least in the USA, where I reside."

Re-read these sentences, and then re-read the antepenultimate and penultimate paragraphs of Dr. Feser's post, and then re-read these sentences again. If necessary, repeat several more times.

"Islam has since its inception recognized the freedom of religion (or way of life). If it didn't, Christian and Jewish communities wouldn't still exist in the Muslim world."

This of course ignores *every single reason* but one why Christian and Jewish communities could exist in the Muslim world.

"freedom of religion (or way of life). If it didn't, Christian and Jewish communities wouldn't still exist in the Muslim world. But like any other society, the moral code of the majority typically defines the overarching public behavior of it and the laws reflect it. So, in Muslim societies, pornography would never grow into an institution that falls under the category 'freedom of speech' as it has in Western societies, or homosexuality wouldn't be accepted as not a sin or an error, and in this sense liberalism conflicts with Islam..."

Re-read these sentences, and then re-read the sentence from your second paragraph, "This whole idea that as Muslims immigrate into a Western secular society and they become larger components of it, they will begin to call for the implementation of an extreme version of Sharia law, or even Sharia law in general as if it must be imposed on others within and even outside of their own faith, is fear based nonsense." If necessary, repeat several more times.

laubadetriste said...

↑Edit: in the penultimate paragraph above, the quote from HAA should begin with "But like any other society..."

Scott said...

Step2 writes:

"A more probable interpretation is that your money belongs to Caesar but your life belongs to God[.]"

Indeed. The coin, He implies, belongs to Caesar because it bears his image. If there were something that bore God's image, to Whom would it belong?

Nathan Cline said...

Doesn't saying worship is in vain mean it is empty, a farce, a lie, merely self serving etc... ? Like if I say my worship of God is watching football on Sunday, I'm not really worshiping God but merely deceiving myself; so my worship is in vain. I might be claiming to worship God but that is just a pretence for something else.

HAA said...

laubadetriste, I don't know what your point is in being so confrontational, but I didn't post here to argue. I posted to express some of my understanding of the religion of Islam from the perspective of a Muslim who was born and raised in the USA, and who considers himself somewhat religious. I see it was a mistake. One comment I will make concerning this alleged idea that "[T]here is no moral and political sphere grounded in a purely natural order distinct from the supernatural order, knowable in principle by unaided reason from the study of that natural order, and having a legitimacy of its own whether or not God specially reveals a distinct supernatural end to which the natural order might be raised" in Islam. I don't believe this to be true at all. The Qur'an uses words derived from the word "aql" (translated as "reason" or "intellect", i.e., what distinguishes a human being as a rational animal) numerous times, of which the rhetorical question "afala ta'qilun" translated as "Will they not use their reason/intellect?" occurs many times among them. The Qur'an is an alleged revelation that is not just a list of commands and moral stories dictating what a believer should and shouldn't do. It is a revelation that speaks - after all, it was an oral communication prior to being thought of as a "book" - from the perspective that nothing within it defies the Intellect of man, since it was God who endowed mankind with it: "And We taught Adam the names of things", i.e. abstract thinking; "Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error."; "Do they not ponder over/deeply think upon the Qur'an? Had it been from anyone other than God they would have found much discrepancy in it." It presents argumentation for what it presents, and there are numerous books written on the subject that evidence this, including Tafseers (commentaries) on the Qur'an. One can search the internet for them if interested by typing in "aql" and the "Qur'an" in Google and you will see. The Qur'an is a book that asserts its truth based on the validity of man's intellect. That is all.

Edward Feser said...

Readers may want to check out the update to the original post.

laubadetriste said...

@HAA: "I don't know what your point is in being so confrontational, but I didn't post here to argue. I posted to express some of my understanding of the religion of Islam from the perspective of a Muslim who was born and raised in the USA, and who considers himself somewhat religious. I see it was a mistake."

Your *perspective* is welcome. In fact, as I said to someone else on the last post, I think we could use some regular Muslim contributors here.

But shoddy argument is unwelcome. When "express[ing] some of [your] understanding of the religion of Islam" includes that in bulk, well, do not expect a politeness that refrains from noticing.

If you think I was confrontational, you should see me when I am confrontational. Why, I might go beyond suggesting you re-read certain of your own sentences together with each other, and together with some of the post you purported to reply to, and so far as to add further a piquant description of your sentences' tendency to subvert your intentions.

"The Qur'an is a book that asserts its truth based on the validity of man's intellect. That is all."

Of course, that is not all. But it is a start. Develop that, and you may have the makings of a reply to the "(false) idea of Islam swallowing (or whatever) up the natural into the supernatural..."

HAA said...

There was nothing shoddy about my explanation. There was only something shoddy in the way you responded to it; and condescending; and unbecoming. And the phrase "that is all" was not used in reference to the immediately preceding statement. It was used to finally terminate the comment I proceeded to make on the quote by Dr. Feser as I stated prior to restating it. Perhaps I should have put it on its own line and been less "shoddy".

[rolleyes]

That is all.

Anonymous said...

http://www.whatthewestneedstoknow.com/index.asp

MediaMogul said...

We get it, you don't like Islam, which is going to take over the world. Like Communism was. And Hitlerism. And... well, whatever demon is being sprayed over the news today to scare people into fighting wars or justifying huge government spending, the expansion of powers or whatever.

Muslims have certainly personally insulted you, deprived you of your rights, deprived you of your freedom at some point in your life or done something to you to justify your brave intellectual assault online or in print against their religion. Or something. But they are this day's allowed-to-hate. Don't you find it funny Dr. Feser how "liberal" News organizations like CNN are the first to broadcast the most graphic crimes of "ISIS/ISIL/IS [insert news acronym here]" yet simultaneously condemn Islamophobia? What's the logic in that? There isn't, of course, because propaganda is anti-logic.

When a real Muslim in the name of his religion does you some injustice, let the courts and police know. He will be brought to justice. But until then, think of all the hate spewed at them by so many people who have never suffered by them in the slightest and wonder why.

MediaMogul said...

@ Chad,

You wrote,

"But my larger point is that I disagree with the theory of human behavior underlying your thesis, that people in their behavior are largely guided by a consistent application of the underlying philosophy of their worldview. I don't think people are like that."

That's ridiculous. Of course people are animated in their behavior by their underlying worldview. Or do you seriously believe people are animated by the opposite of their deepest held beliefs? Do people who believe in gravity jump of cliffs in the expectation they will fall upward?

Get a grip. Philosophy is, to be sure, in the West an advanced area of study few will formally study; however, when Aristotle wrote that every man is a philosopher, he didn't mean everyone was studying at the Academy or the Lyceum. He meant by the very fact we all end up making choices (whether to do or not to do) that we expressed the underlying beliefs we had that we believed were best for us, even (yes) if it was but for the moment or even contradictory to our highest aspirations or ideals.

laubadetriste said...

@HAA: "And the phrase 'that is all' was not used in reference to the immediately preceding statement. It was used to finally terminate the comment I proceeded to make on the quote by Dr. Feser as I stated prior to restating it. Perhaps I should have put it on its own line and been less 'shoddy'."

I am afraid a new line would not help. But that comment you proceeded to make was indeed "a start. Develop that, and you may have the makings of a reply to the '(false) idea of Islam swallowing (or whatever) up the natural into the supernatural...'"

"There was nothing shoddy about my explanation."

Very well. First let me reiterate my rhetorical questions expressing astonishment at your idiosyncratic explanations severally of the separation of church and state, law, "defining," the individual, and so on. Since there was "nothing shoddy about [your] explanation", I am sure you will be able to back them up clearly and with ease.

Next, I reiterate my notice of your non sequitur about Muslims being unable to live in a secular society, and my notice that you missed every *other* reason why Christian and Jewish communities could exist in the Muslim world.

Lastly, let me set your sentences some against some others, and some against the post you tried to reply to, as that was the task I recommended to you.

1) January 16, 2016 at 2:05 PM, Dr. Feser pointed out that "it is ridiculous to expect that my thesis entails that mainstream Muslim groups in the U.S. would be calling for the establishment of sharia law," as Muslims are too few in the US for that to be realistic, and it would be unwise to do so openly "under current circumstances." He then noted that "Western countries with much larger Muslim populations have seen calls for sharia law," and that "a serious response... would require you actually to engage with the substantive points about liberal and Islamic principle spelled out in my earlier post..."

January 17, 2016 at 6:29 AM, you wrote, "This whole idea that as Muslims immigrate into a Western secular society and they become larger components of it, they will begin to call for the implementation of an extreme version of Sharia law, or even Sharia law in general as if it must be imposed on others within and even outside of their own faith, is fear based nonsense. Sure, there are some who think this way, but they are a fringe minority, at least in the USA, where I reside."

laubadetriste said...

The shoddiness there consisted in your 1) Dismissing those Muslims who call for the implementation of Sharia on the grounds that they are a fringe minority in the US, when Dr. Feser had explained that one should not expect calls from mainstream Muslim groups for the implementation of Sharia, because Muslims are few in the US; 2) Not considering the example of other countries with larger Muslim populations, which Dr. Feser brought up as counterexample; and 3) Not engaging his substantive points about liberal and Islamic principle.

(Note that I did misidentify *which* post of Dr. Feser's on this page had the paragraphs I referred to.)

2) January 17, 2016 at 6:29 AM, you wrote, "This whole idea... [as quoted above] is fear based nonsense." A few sentences later, you wrote, "...in Muslim societies, pornography would never grow into an institution that falls under the category 'freedom of speech' as it has in Western societies, or homosexuality wouldn't be accepted as not a sin or an error, and in this sense liberalism conflicts with Islam..."

Now, in *Muslim* societies, Muslims comprise greater than a fringe minority of the population. They have "become larger components of it," as you said, perhaps even the majority. In those societies, you say pornography "would never" (would never!) fall under the category of "freedom of speech" (which is a legal category), nor would ever homosexuality be "accepted as not a sin or an error". The question presents itself: What is it that results from a society being Muslim, and Muslims being the preponderance of it, that fixes the legal category of certain practices, and determines the moral and intellectual status of others?

The shoddiness there consisted in your describing as nonsense that which you then went on to say is certain.

"There was only something shoddy in the way you responded to it; and condescending; and unbecoming."

If it's any consolation, you should see how before I criticized shoddy atheists, shoddy New Agers, and shoddy Christians. I've been mild with you, perhaps because of the sometime bigotry evidenced here.

laubadetriste said...

@MediaMogul: "We get it, you don't like Islam... Muslims have certainly personally insulted you, deprived you of your rights, deprived you of your freedom at some point in your life or done something to you to justify your brave intellectual assault online or in print against their religion."

What boring Bulverism.

"...when Aristotle wrote that every man is a philosopher..."

Where did Aristotle write that?

MediaMogul said...

@ lauba,

Please do yourself a favour and everyone with a brain and just disappear.

Anonymous said...

HAA said...

"Islam has since its inception recognized the freedom of religion (or way of life). If it didn't, Christian and Jewish communities wouldn't still exist in the Muslim world."



That's a misleading statement in my view. Islam didn't historically believe in anything like the modern principle of "freedom of religion". It's correct that Christian and Jewish religious worship was allowed to some degree, but there were various restrictions imposed which forced Christians and Jews into being second class citizens under Muslim rule. Also, Muslims didn't have freedom of religion. They couldn't change their faith. And with e.g. Hindus I believe it depended on the school of Islamic law whether or not they would be offered the option of the jizya. They may just be killed for their religion.

Anonymous said...

But the questions remains as to where did the now world dominant ideology/paradigm of secular/materialism come from?
It is the ultimate human demonstration of the inherent fault of all forms of Creator-God religion. And of all modes of the ego-based, and ego-serving culture of world-idealization, and body-idealization, and mind-idealization. Resulting in the secular re-visioning of a merely political, social, and economic consumer-culture.

For many centuries humankind has collectively suppressed and repressed the primitive, but also natural, ecstatic urges and potentials of humankind, including the magical urges of the human psycho-physical ego.

Both institutional exoteric religion and secular scientific materialism are magic-paranoid and, altogether anti-ecstatic traditions, rooted in fear of the magical-power potential of the individual human ego. Both have, for many centuries,especially in the Western world (and Islam too), been actively instructing or propagandistically coercing humankind to DISBELIEVE, or, without or apart from actual experience and the exercise of true discriminative intelligence, to dissociate from modes of association with magical, and metaphysical, and even Spiritual, and, in general ecstasy producing ideas and activities.

The process of negative indoctrination to which humankind, and especially the Western world, has long been subjected by both its secular and "sacred" authorities (including the "catholic" church) has, actually, been a magic-paranoid political, social, economic, and cultural effort to enforce a worldly or gross-realist, or thoroughly materialist - and, altogether, anti-ecstatic, anti-magical, anti-metaphysical, and anti-Spiritual - model of human life upon all individuals and collectives.

But, also, and profoundly more importantly, the anti-ecstatic, anti-magical, anti-metaphysical, and-Spiritual, and altogether gross-materialist-realism enterprise has deprived ALL of humankind of its necessary access to Intrinsically egoless Truth Itself.

Anonymous said...

Here is a question:

Are there any major American Muslim organizations that have ever apologized for the history of Islamic jihad warfare? Obviously Muslims today aren't personally responsible for those sorts of historic crimes; but I mean, the Catholic Church has apologized for various things in its past:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apologies_made_by_Pope_John_Paul_II

So have there been apologies from the Muslim world, or Muslim organizations in the Western world, for their history of violent jihad?


And are American Muslim organizations today trying to spread freedom of religion to places like Saudi Arabia? And are they speaking out against the use of sharia law in Muslim nations?

Raymond Albert Ng said...

Thanks so much for all your diligent work, Ed.

Raymond Albert Ng said...

Thanks a lot for all your diligent work, Ed.

Michael C said...

to MediaMogul - I think you've created wonderful satire here. You associate yourself with the media via your pen-name, you open up with sarcasm I would have admired greatly when I was 12, and when Laubadetriste responds, you go straight to personal abuse. You are an exemplar of the standards displayed by a lot of the media. Wonderful satire.

Mr. Green said...

Nathan Cline: Doesn't saying worship is in vain mean it is empty, a farce, a lie, merely self serving etc... ?

Doing something in vain doesn't mean you didn't do it; it means you did do it but it didn't work. If you try to keep your sinking boat afloat by bailing out the water but it sinks anyway, you really did bail, but in vain. If you decided to tell people you were going to worship God by watching football instead of going to church so you could sleep in Sunday morning, you wouldn't be worshipping God at all, only pretending to.

Of course, if somehow you sincerely got the idea in your head that watching football really was a good way to worship God, then it would count, although presumably it wouldn't count for much. (In fact, watching football does count as worship, if we do it — as we ought to do everything we do — for the glory and honour of God. But it wouldn't replace the formal and explicit worship of God that (as Ed notes) is called for even under purely natural religion.)

The Masked Chicken said...

"Hence though Islamic morality is in a sense less demanding in terms of its content, its imperative force is nonetheless at the same time felt more strongly insofar as it is taken to come straight from God rather than through nature, and insofar as every aspect of life is seen entirely in the light of revelation rather than reason, the supernatural rather than the natural."

I suppose this imperative force will exist in any situation where a person is guided more by (or invested more in) revelation than reason. There are certain non-mainstream Christian religious groups as well as non-Christian cult-like groups where the leader's word is seen to be a direct revelation from God and, hence inarguable. The situation, also, can exist in certain schizophrenics who claim their voices are directly from God. On the other hand, St. Joan of Arc, also, refused to deny her, "voices."

Islam, of course, then, is not unique in seeing its revelations as having a strong imperative force.

My point has always been, and at some point I would like to see a discussion about it, assuming that both Christianity and Islam reference the same God, given that it is the supernatural content of each religion and their relationships of the supernatural to the natural that clash, should there not be a discussion on how to distinguish truth claims arising from supernatural revelations? If I understand Ed, Christianity can use natural arguments in reference to supernature more easily than Islam, so can there even be common grounds for such a dialogue? Obviously, for two groups that reference the same God, somewhere down the line there has been divergence and this is of no small consequence in the affairs of the world. If that divergence is due to revelation, then that needs to be confronted, but is there a common technique that both sides would even accept for determining the truth of their revelations? If Islam is a Christian heresy, then the answer is, probably, no. Few heresies have ever been overturned by reasoning with the other guy. The thing is, I don't think that Christianity and Islam will ever have an Edict of Nantes between them, which seems to be the goal of many.

In any case, I am learning a great deal from the posts on this subject from this blog and around the blogosphere. Thanks, to Ed and the commenters on this site.

The Chicken

Nathan Cline said...

Mr Green, I think 'in vain' means you failed to accomplish what you intended, your goal or purpose. you bailed your boat in vain just means your boat sank; you failed to accomplish your goal. Of course, you still bailed and it did not work, but the objective was to keep the boat above water, which you didn't do. That's why it was in vain.

If I said : my attempts to save her were in vain. That means i didn't save her (my attempts were still real, of course.)

Or if I said : in vain I looked for my keys. That means I didn't find my keys (although is still looked)

Likewise, saying worship is in vain means my prayers or songs (to Allah) didn't accomplish their objective or goal. I still prayed and sang (as I would have still bailed water, in your example) but I failed to worship God (as I failed to keep the boat above water) if it was in vain.

Weouro said...

None of the quotes ever actually say that the god of Islam is God. They say that the god of Islam is "practically" or "substantially" the same, or that the Mohammedans "seek to have" the true God, or "admit" one true God. That we can infer that Hillaire Belloc or Thomas Aquinas believed the god of Islam is God because Belloc believed Islam is a Christian heresy and because Aquinas was a classical theist. Where is the quote from Belloc that just says the god of Islam is God or a proof produced by Aquinas that says the god of Islam is God? Why are there always qualifiers? The only place I know of where it says it plainly is today's catechism.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who is ok with ANY people who both worship and model the behavior of a pedophile mass murderer, thief, and torturer - is an idiot"

from hesperado.blogspot.com/

RQM

Glenn said...

Nathan Cline,

I think 'in vain' means you failed to accomplish what you intended, your goal or purpose. you bailed your boat in vain just means your boat sank; you failed to accomplish your goal.

That is pretty much what Mr. Green was saying when he wrote, "Doing something in vain doesn't mean you didn't do it; it means you did do it but it didn't work."

If bailing one's boat in vain "just means your boat sank", then there is much work to be done to successfully establish that bailing one's boat in vain also means the bailing of one's boat was or is "empty, a farce, a lie, merely self serving etc..."

Tim Finlay said...

Ed, your update to the original post has clarified the sense in which it is true that “Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God” and the sense in which it is true that “Jews and Christians worship the same God, but Muslims do not.” [Christians might also understand worship in a still thicker sense that includes worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.] In the update, you cite Pope Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum: “Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father.” If Muslims do not seek to have the true God as their Father, they are not included in this.
According to Besançon’s article which you linked to in the OP, “Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and even more so to the Christian conception of God, is ‘Father’—i.e., a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relation with men. The one God of the Qur’an, the God Who demands submission, is a distant God; to call him ‘Father’ would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege.” I know that the Avinu Malkenu (“our Father, our King”) prayer is important in Judaism; and the “Our Father” prayer in Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” is even more central to Christianity. I do not know of a parallel in Islam, but I am willing to acknowledge evidence to the contrary. If such evidence be lacking, however, then Muslims are not among those who seek to have the true God as their Father. If this is correct—and I acknowledge that I and Besançon may be wrong about this—and if worship is understood as seeking to have the true God as one’s Father [which would not be too far from how many Jews and Christians understand the concept, and I think Leo’s statement is a reflection of this], then Jews and Christians worship the same God, but Muslims do not. Of course, I grant you that there is a thinner sense of “worship” involving merely making appropriate and sincere statements concerning “the uncaused cause of everything other than Himself” but without seeking that uncaused cause as Father, and in that thinner sense, Christians and Muslims (and Jews) do worship the same God.

laubadetriste said...

"Anyone who is ok with ANY people who both worship and model the behavior of a pedophile mass murderer, thief, and torturer - is an idiot"

↑See? Now *that's* being confrontational. Luckily, few people here will respond to it, because:

1) It misses the main point under dispute in Dr. Feser's posts.
2) It misses the secondary points under dispute among the commenters.
3) It confuses one's regard for people with one's regard for what they believe and do.

and

4) It's clearly a drive-by written by someone unwilling or unable to craft an argument.

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous January 18, 2016 at 2:24 AM: "And are American Muslim organizations today trying to spread freedom of religion to places like Saudi Arabia? And are they speaking out against the use of sharia law in Muslim nations?"

Yesterday I heard a good interview with the founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, about her efforts in Malaysia.

Brandon said...

Where is the quote from Belloc that just says the god of Islam is God or a proof produced by Aquinas that says the god of Islam is God? Why are there always qualifiers?

Because there is only one God in the first place, and no Christian holds that Islam gets everything right about Him. This is not the same as saying that they do not say anything right about the one and only God, nor is it the same as saying that they do not say anything about the one and only God. These points have all been noted before.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Tim,

That seems pretty much correct to me. As I’ve said here before, and as I’ve been saying to Lydia McGrew (with whom I’ve been having an exchange over in the WWWtW combox), in addressing the recent debate on this issue I have not myself been much interested in the “worship” part of the phrase “worship the same God,” but rather in the “same” part. I mean “worship” only in a thin sense.

In answer to your earlier question -- which I’ve been meaning to get to, sorry -- I wouldn’t say that what is going on with Christians who tend to absorb nature into grace is exactly the same, though there are some similarities. The similarity is that they also tend toward fideism and voluntarism. The difference is that, because there is so much in Christianity that points away from such an absorption, the absorption is never very thorough or consistent. (As I often complain, Christian thinkers who tend to collapse the natural into the supernatural are not very clear or rigorous thinkers anyway. Not surprising since they tend to hate Scholasticism.)

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous January 18, 2016 at 2:23 AM: "For many centuries humankind has collectively suppressed and repressed the primitive, but also natural, ecstatic urges and potentials of humankind, including the magical urges of the human psycho-physical ego. / Both institutional exoteric religion and secular scientific materialism are magic-paranoid and, altogether anti-ecstatic traditions, rooted in fear of the magical-power potential of the individual human ego. Both have, for many centuries,especially in the Western world (and Islam too), been actively instructing or propagandistically coercing humankind to DISBELIEVE, or, without or apart from actual experience and the exercise of true discriminative intelligence, to dissociate from modes of association with magical, and metaphysical, and even Spiritual, and, in general ecstasy producing ideas and activities."

I am sympathetic to the claim that some "natural, ecstatic urges" (notably, those aided by entheogens) have long been wrongfully suppressed. But there are better explanations for the cessation of the "magical urges of the human psycho-physical ego" than that "exoteric religion and secular scientific materialism" have "for many centuries... been actively instructing or propagandistically coercing humankind to DISBELIEVE..." For example, one may say of magic what Lecky said of fairies (setting aside, for this purpose, his Whiggishness):

"[W]e may take an example in a sphere which is happily removed from controversy. There are very few persons with whom the fictitious character of fairy tales
has not ceased to be a question, or who would hesitate to disbelieve or even to ridicule any anecdote of this nature which was told them, without the very smallest examination of its evidence. Yet, if we ask in what respect the existence of fairies is naturally contradictory or absurd, it would be difficult to answer the question. A fairy is simply a being possessing a moderate share of human intelligence, with little or no moral faculty, with a body pellucid, winged, and volatile, like that of an insect, with a passion for dancing, and, perhaps, with an extraordinary knowledge of the properties of different plants. That such beings should exist, or that, existing, they should be able to do many things beyond human power, are propositions which do not present the smallest difficulty. For many centuries their existence was almost universally believed. There is not a country, not a province, scarcely a parish, in which traditions of their appearance were not long preserved. So great a weight of tradition, so many independent trains of evidence attesting statements perfectly free from intrinsic absurdity, or even improbability, might appear sufficient, if not to establish conviction, at least to supply a very strong prima facie case, and ensure a patient and respectful investigation of the subject. It has not done so, and the reason is sufficiently plain. The question of the credibility of fairy tales has not been resolved by an examination of evidence, but by an observation of the laws of historic development. Wherever we find an ignorant and rustic population, the belief in fairies is found to exist, and circumstantial accounts of their apparitions are circulated. But invariably with increased education this belief passes away. It is not that the fairy tales are refuted or explained away, or oven narrowly scrutinized. It is that the fairies cease to appear. From the uniformity of this decline, we infer that fairy tales are the normal product of a certain condition of the imagination; and this position is raised to a moral certainty when we find that the decadence of fairy tales is but one of a long series of similar transformations."--*History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne,* v. 1, ch. 3.

Anonymous said...

...they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ, nor as to come; for instance, Mohammedans and the like.

Note that Pope St. Pius X -- not exactly a liberal, a modernist, an indifferentist, a fan of interreligious dialogue, etc. -- here distinguishes Muslims from those who worship false gods, and labels them “infidels,” not because they worship a false god but rather because, though they “admit one true God,” they deny that Jesus is the Messiah.


This isn't true. The Qur'an indeed attributes the title of Messiah to Jesus. What Muslims deny is the Trinity: the three in one divine person hood status of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:

"O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about God except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of God and His Word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in God and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, God is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is God as Disposer of affairs." ~ Quran 4:171

Tim Finlay said...

Ed,
Your comments are extremely helpful. I agree with you that the collapse of nature and supernatural revelation in favor of the latter has a tendency toward fideism (certainly in Barthians) and voluntarism. Regarding de Lubac, I think that Lawrence Feingold's The Natural Desire to see God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and his Interpreters demonstrates that the neo-Scholastics have the upper hand over de Lubac on this debate (although Aquinas could certainly have been clearer).
I agree with you concerning the same God; my concerns were more on the worship aspect. Regarding the same God, I have defended the use of Allah as the etymological equivalent in Arabic to the Aramaic Elah and the Hebrew Eloah--the latter two are both found in the Tanak/Old Testament. It is an extended form of El, also used in the Tanak/Old Testament. Some have suggest that Allah derives from al-Lat, the name of a moon god worshiped in Arabia prior to Muhammad. Whether this is true or not, it is irrelevant to the question of whether Allah is a suitable designation of the true God. [I have heard people make this argument.] Allah is a generic name for God. In the Canaanite pantheon, El was worshiped as the father of Baal, but this was irrelevant to the Israelites correctly using El as a name for the one true God.

Nathan Cline said...

Glenn, Above when I asked doesn't worship being in vain mean it is: empty, a farce, a lie, merely self serving etc...? I was asking about Mark 7 (specifically about worship not bailing boats). Of course, bailing your sinking boat is probably none of those things, which shows things can be in vain for any number of reasons. still ‘in vain’ itself means that the objective, goal, or purpose didn't not happen (why it didn't happen: it was a lie; there was too much water to bail etc. depends on the example) I think that is where I was disagreeing with Mr. Green... That ‘In vain’ does mean your objective or purpose (worship God or keeping your boat above water) didn't happen although the means you tried (praying to Allah or bailing) still did.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Your argumentation is sound, although the explanation is not comprehensive. Some say "Allah" is the personal name for God. I don't believe this to be the case. Etymologically it is the combination of the Arabic definitive article and the Arabic word for god, transliterated as "al" and "ilah", respectively. When al is combined grammatically with a noun, it forms the definitive of the noun. In this case, "al" combined with "ilah" becomes "al-lah", with the initial "i" in the noun for god elided by the conjunction. So "al-lah" is literally "the god", as in The God. The idea that Allah is derived from al-Lat, the name of a moon god is preposterous. Arabic Christians and Jews use "Allah" when referring to The God as well.

Omer said...

"Note that Pope St. Pius X -- not exactly a liberal, a modernist, an indifferentist, a fan of interreligious dialogue, etc. -- here distinguishes Muslims from those who worship false gods, and labels them “infidels,” not because they worship a false god but rather because, though they “admit one true God,” they deny that Jesus is the Messiah."

Pope St. Pius X made an error about Muslims denying Jesus is the Messiah.

The Qur'an refers to Jesus as the Messiah nine times.

Quran 3: 45, 4: 157, 4:171, 4:172, 5:17, 5:72, 5:75, 9: 30, 9: 31.

The important caveat is that the Qur'anic understanding of the "messiah" is identical with the understanding in the Old Testament which is the understanding of the Jews...and not the understanding developed decades and centuries after Jesus Christ (peace be upon him...of course Christ is just the Greek word for messiah which simply means annointed...annointed as the last one sent to the Children of Israel.

The best source to understand Islam is the Qur'an itself. The Qur'an says it is a miracle that one who is open minded and open-hearted can evaluate for themselves in the here and now.

A good commentary is the one just published last month by Harper Collins called The Study Qur'an.

Here is a Catholic Monk urging all Catholics and all Christians to read The Study Qur'an.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsXFQTI-xEk

Scott said...

Nathan Cline:

"That ‘In vain’ does mean your objective or purpose (worship God or keeping your boat above water) didn't happen[.]"

I don't think so. "In vain do they worship Me" means that the worship doesn't achieve its desired result (presumably God's favor). The activity analogous to worship in the boat-bailing scenario is bailing out the water, not keeping the boat from sinking; the latter is the end at which the former was unsuccessfully aiming.

Nobody would say it was in vain that we kept the boat from sinking. What we did in vain was bail. And the fact that we didn't keep the boat from sinking doesn't mean that we didn't genuinely bail.

Tim Finlay said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for adding to the etymology question. I was skeptical of the al-Lat derivation but even if it had been true, it would have been irrelevant, just as the fact that 'el was used to designate the father of Baal is irrelevant to the legitimacy of its usage as the generic name for God. I was not sure whether the Al in Allah was the definite article al or not, but it makes sense. I did know it was used in Arabic Bibles by Arabic Christians and I should have added that, so thank you for doing so. I agree that Allah is not the personal name.

Neil Parille said...

Scott:

This is an interesting issue, and I'm glad it seeing it get some attention.

As far as Scripture goes, my knowledge of biblical languages is quite limited. But take John's Gospel for example: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4).

One could read this and other passages in John as implying that soon (from John's time) true worship will be a highly unique thing and more or less limited to worshiping Jesus.

I do think this has become an issue because of unrelated things, such as Islamic immigration, joint prayer services, etc.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Omer,

Fair enough, but I imagine the pope had in mind more than what Muslims would be willing to allow in calling Jesus "Messiah," i.e. he had in mind all the Christological implications that Christians would derive but which Muslims would reject.

Scott said...

Neil Parille:

"One could read this and other passages in John as implying that soon (from John's time) true worship will be a highly unique thing and more or less limited to worshiping Jesus."

Sure, but that has to do with correct worship and doesn't seem to me to say that incorrect worship isn't worship at all.

In fact, if anything, it seems to imply that there is such a thing as worshiping wrongly. At the very least it surely implies that the ones who don't worship truly are aiming at the right God, whether or not anything short of "true worship" counts as worship.

laubadetriste said...

@Omer: "The Qur'an says it is a miracle that one who is open minded and open-hearted can evaluate for themselves in the here and now."

Ok. So how is that done? A number of people here have evaluated it and claim to have found--how shall I say--*things you don't like.*

In my first response to you, I said, "[Y]ou quote passages a, b, and c. But you give no reason whatsoever why they should outweigh passages x, y, and z, or doctrines α, β, and γ. These things fit into a greater structure, after all, and some parts take precedence over others."

You replied, "Please note that there are verses in the Qur'an that instruct the reader as the hermeneutics that help to interpret it correctly. / I will try to look a few up."

I then wrote, "That would be a helpful start." Which it would.

If you provided them, you would then be at the beginning of a problem that has often been discussed here, namely that "(a) [the Qur'an] alone can never tell you what counts as [the Qur'an], (b) [the Qur'an] alone cannot tell you how to interpret [the Qur'an], and (c) [the Qur'an] alone cannot give us a procedure for deriving consequences from [the Qur'an], applying it to new circumstances, and the like." This was in fact brought up tangentially earlier today on another blog, where a long-ago post of Dr. Feser's was brought up, which applied it to Islam, among other things.

Neil Parille said...

Scott:

But then what exactly is the difference between "not worshiping" and "worshiping wrongly"?

It's kind of like arguing that "Neil Parille and Albert Einstein are both physicists" because I took two semesters of college physics.

BTW: You are cited in the new Companion to Ayn Rand.

Nathan Cline said...

Scott, gaining favour through worship is not the Christian view. Christians worship because God is worthy of worship. The goal or reason Christians enact their liturgy is just because God is unsurpassable great and therefore worthy of worship. There may be consequences beyond or with worship but worship itself has no other objective beyond recognizing the worthiness of God.

I think we do actually say that it was in vain we tried to keep the boat from sinking. It is the goal whereas bailing is not the goal – unless you're bailing for the love of bailing or something.

Scott said...

Nathan Cline:

"Scott, gaining favour through worship is not the Christian view."

I think my point was clear enough. We most certainly do hope that God will look favorably on our worship and find it pleasing.

Scott said...

"I think we do actually say that it was in vain we tried to keep the boat from sinking."

Yes, "tried." By bailing.

Scott said...

Neil Parille:

"But then what exactly is the difference between "not worshiping" and 'worshiping wrongly'?"

Well, that's pretty much what the discussion is about.

"BTW: You are cited in the new Companion to Ayn Rand."

Heh, thanks for the news; I had no idea. Not favorably, I expect. ;-)

Neil Parille said...

Scott:

Basically, had you understood where Rand was coming from you'd be smart enough to realize that Rand wasn't talking about what you are talking about when it comes to universals, relationships, etc.

Scott said...

Yes, I should have happily and uncritically accepted her understanding of those terms without argument even though she neither evinced any awareness that there was anything remotely controversial about them nor employed them with consistent meanings. Mea culpa.

Nathan Cline said...

Scott, I agree we hope, as you clearly say, but, I think that hope is a consequence of our recognition of Gods Greatness and worthiness; Or at most compatible with the real reason/objective for worship, which is Gods worthiness. Worship is the appropriate response to God. it isn't a means to some other end like: Gods favour; staying on his good side; keeping our ledgers in good order etc… so worship being in vain can't mean our worship didn't work in achieve some other end.

Scott said...

Nathan Cline:

"[W]orship being in vain can't mean our worship didn't work in achieve some other end."

It can, however, mean that our worship fell short (very short) of achieving its intrinsic end—much as (to borrow a favorite illustration of Ed's) a three-legged squirrel is still a squirrel even though it falls short of Full Squirrely Goodness, and much as someone who sings a song is still singing that song and not some other even if he can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Scott said...

(And I'm going to leave off right there, as I don't have anything to say that isn't just more going in circles and I'm very busy this week. I don't think we're disagreeing as much as you seem to suppose, especially if you read my earlier statement to mean what I thought it pretty obviously meant and at any rate have explained since then.)

Glenn said...

Nathan Cline,

According to Mark 7, it seems to be the case that it is not how closely or not one follows the etiquette of worship which determines whether one worships correctly or in vain, but how near or not one's heart is to Him during one's worship.

Nathan Cline said...

Thanks for the comments, Scott. I'll be busy too, trying to figure out how much loss a squirrel can take before it losses its squirreliness

Omer said...

Hi Ed.

Thanks much for reading my comment and for your reply.

Hi laubadestriste,

Thanks for following up with me.

Before I reply, I want to mention that one reason why I emphasize the Qur'an itself as the key source to understand Islam and on which to accept or reject Islam is the Qur'an.

I don't mean to casually read it and if it does not come to one's liking to reject it throughout life. Nor do I mean to not read secondary Islamic texts and commentary on the Qur'an, etc.

It is just that the Qur'an itself repeatedly points specifically only to itself as being the evidence for it's Divine origin.

It is as if Jesus is still alive and willing to talk to anyone who is seeking the truth and instead of non-Christians going to Jesus and being able to talk to him and cross-examine him, etc, if they instead read writings by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant scholars, then they would amiss big time.

I am late in sending you the Quranic verses because I don't remember where all of them are.

I don't even remember all the content of the different verses.

One key verse is 3:7 in which God (so Muslims believe) says that there are allegorical verses in the Qur'an as well as clear verses but that it is important to interpret the allegorical in light of the clear verses.

Near the beginning of the Qur'an (in first verses of chapter 2), it says that it is a guidance for those who are conscious of and revere God (in other words for those who are not seeking the truth and concerned about their relationship with God), the Qur'an will not yield up its wisdom to them.

There is a verse in Chapter 29, saying that people are striving to get close to God will be guided by Him (and thus by the Qur'an).

There is verse in chapter (surah 56...chapter is not a good word for it misleads one in thinking that the Qur'an is meant to be chronological but I am using chapter since people are not accustomed to surah(s))...anyhow the verse in surah 56 says that none but the purified will have access to the Qur'an.

There is a verse in Chapter 39 which might in a subtle way point to ring composition in the Qur'an.

There is one or a couple of verses that criticize accepting (or only reading) parts of the Qur'an rather than the Qur'an holistically.

There are a couple verses in the Qur'an which indicate that one part(s) of the Qur'an interprets other part(s) of the Qur'an.

There is another verse verse in Chapter 39 that indicates that then there are multiple ways to read (interpret) something they hear (it may be referring to the Qur'an), the good people are those who read it in the best way to extract the most wisdom.

There is the verse in chapter 29 ( I will look that up) that says the Prophet did not read texts in the past and neither was he a writer...thus dispelling the notion that he simply copied the large and detailed information from the Bible on his own before presenting it to his overwhelmingly pagan community.

There is a verse in chapter 11 that says that the community did not know of these details in the Biblical stories, thus refuting the idea that the Biblical stories were already known in the community.

There is a verse in chapter 10 that says that Prophet Muhammad was not aware of these (detailed) Biblical stories that were mentioned in the Qur'an.

There is a verse in chapter 27 that says that the Qur'an clarifies many issues of confusion for the Children of Israel.

(cont)

Omer said...


(cont.)

There is the verse in 4(82) which says that the fact that there are no (real) contradictions in the Qur'an should point to its Divine origin...this can mean contradictions with science (despite some 750 verses addressing natural phenomena in detail), verses on prophesies (they came out true such as the beginning verses of Chapter 30 on the reversal of the Byzantine and Persian war (this prophesy stunned Edward Gibbon on how accurate it was despite others not expecting such an outcome when the verse was revealed), contradictions with other Quranic verses (despite it was revealed over 23 tumultuous years and differing conditions), contradictions with facts (such as historical facts which it mentions), contradictions with moral and ethical truths, and other types of contradictions.

There are other verses that deal with hermeneutics but I will try to find them.

Thanks for asking.

Peace to you.

Omer

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Tim:

Melkite Christians have actually gotten into conflicts with their Muslims rulers because they use "Allah" in their Arbic Liturgies. These Muslims apparently believed only they have a right to use that word in their worship.

Christi pax.

laubadetriste said...

@Omer:

Thank you for the verses. I will now go read the whole Qur'an. Of course I have no idea how long that will take, but likely it will not be quick.

Do take a look especially at that link I mentioned above↑. The topic will come up later, and it will be important.

Scott said...

Nathan Cline:

"I'll be busy too, trying to figure out how much loss a squirrel can take before it losses its squirreliness"

Heh. The answer may shed light on the question of how bad worship has to be before it ceases to be incorrect worship of the true God and becomes worship of a false god.

And I think most of the active parties to the discussion agree that there is such a transition somewhere. Pax, bro.

Omer said...

Dear laubadetriste,

Thanks much for engaging with such important issues.

I did read those links.

I find that Ed's excellent points in that link you supplied and the other links on Sola Scriptura have less applicable and have less force with respect to the Qur'an.

If needed, I hope to explain sooner (or later).

scbrownlhrm said...


Scott/Nathan,


It seems S's analysis has the luxury of allowing the Jew of the OT to worship by degree, before Christ and Father/Son and New Birth and Resurrection and etc. Whereas N's criteria of On/Off and All/None accuses the Jew in the OT of Off/None. N's criteria then carries that into Christ's affirmation of the same reality of Higher/Lower and More/Less Fullness in worship as the New Creation obtains. Also, Romans 1 ascribes worship (vs. trading for a lie) to the response of the Adamic, Gentiles included, to the (genuine) realization that "God Is!" vis-à-vis Creation and the Transcendent. N's criteria seem to conflate or blurr:

- Reference 
- Worship
- Salvific
- Degrees of Fullness

Romans 1 is meager, scant, and proximal, but ontologically *thick* by Scripture's definitions. It counts as reference certainly, worship is specified expressly despite the scant reach (*unless* the revealed is rejected), the salvific not so much, and fullness sums to a few drops in a huge NFL Gatorade container.

Worship is what God says it is. Romans 1 is *not* the fulness of "In Spirit and in Truth", but it is the Adamic *post*-ressurrection. It seems unavoudable that choosing the revealed couple of drops (there) over the lie of some "X" is a "response" which the Created in fact has towards some mode of revelation claimed (by Scripture) for the One True God -- which Scripture defines as (some degree of) worship. 

Salvific and Fullness are not arenas which the Christian needs to feel compelled to "defend" in any of this.

Why?

Because Scripture's definitions and criteria *differentiate* those two from these other two. 

It is also worth noting that reference is not ipso facto worship. They're different.

The Golden Calf is an error which the God of Romans 1 and the God of the OT calls truth-trading for a lie and seems to get rid of reference too. Mutable and contingent vectors just won't do. Same God, same diagnosis on said error.

But that is not an error which Judaism-Islam-Christianity make.

Also, we must not lose sight of the God of Whom we speak and of His Metanarrative.

God loves all men.

The nit-picking and hair-splitting God Who cannot see, or won't see, the uneducated victim of circumstance who shouts to the sky which he knows God built, and who knows no more, is not the God which Scripture's definitions and criteria reveal.

This is all far, far simpler than we are making it.

laubadetriste said...

@scbrownlhrm:

What do you mean by "the Adamic" as such? (As opposed to "the Adamic [x, y, or z]"?)

"Also, we must not lose sight of the God of Whom we speak and of His Metanarrative. / God loves all men."

I take you to be saying something like, *Don't miss the forest for the trees,* where *the forest* is God's love for all men. But...

"This is all far, far simpler than we are making it."

...I would love to hear--and I suspect others would love to hear--*how* ↑that is true. I have no dog in that fight myself, of course, and I don't pretend to know that it *isn't* true, but you know, watching it from the sidelines, I gotta say most of the complexity seems to be occasioned by substantive disagreement.

Perhaps you reviewed the *how* in your posts. But those didn't seem very simple, either. Analysis, the Jews of the OT, New Birth, Resurrection, Romans 1, the Adamic, the Transcendent...

"...and fullness sums to a few drops in a huge NFL Gatorade container."

But I gotta say, first time I remember your using a folksy metaphor. It suits you. :)

scbrownlhrm said...

laubadtriste I've heard that there's a 70 gallon drum out there for Gatorade. Or maybe it was Powerade? Not sure who the manufacturer is. It can hold, well, the proverbial ton. Rumor has it that it can hold from zero, to 0.00005, to 0.1, to 1, to....70 gallaons ;)

laubadetriste said...

@scbrownlhrm: "I've heard that there's a 70 gallon drum out there for Gatorade. Or maybe it was Powerade? Not sure who the manufacturer is. It can hold, well, the proverbial ton. Rumor has it that it can hold from zero, to 0.00005, to 0.1, to 1, to....70 gallaons ;)"

Heh. :) You're all right. Good on ya.

@Scott: "If there were something that bore God's image, to Whom would it belong?"

Now *that's* suggestive.

Yeah, not going anywhere in particular with that, but I was looking for books on the Imago Dei, and I find that thought draws me up.

Nathan Cline said...

Scbrownlhrm,

I don't think I’m accuse the Jews of the OT of not worshiping. If you don't reject what God has revealed through general or special revelation and your response to God is heartfelt gratitude and reverence for what he has done then you worship God. So worship is by degrees, which are set by history/ revelation

As for blurring reference & worship. They are connected, but I'd distinguish 1) reference, as requiring elements of casual/historical & the descriptive together, and 2) worship as gratitude etc.. for Gods work in creating, sustaining and saving us.

As for salvation, I think, if you have real adoration, reverence, trust & gratitude etc. (That is worship) You would be saved. the problem I have with Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God (I'd probably grant reference) is that if the Muslim religion is 1) a way to worship God yet 2)You aren't saved if you reject the death of Christ for sins (a Muslim belief) then Muslims may worship yet not be saved, which brings Gods goodness and love into question.

To say people could show gratitude, adoration etc. For God yet be lost is a problem created by saying the same God is worshiped. There may be a theological solution, but it is not simple or clear, at lest to me...

Forrest said...

"God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them."
- A. W. Tozer
http://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-author/a-w-tozer-quotes/#ixzz3xfgMrYRC

scbrownlhrm said...


Nathan,

You seem to be saying that there is no such thing as worship without the salvific also being present.

[1] That contradicts the express terms of Romans 1.

[2] It also causes us to say that, today, Judaism and Christianity do not worship the same God (because the salvific is not present in the Jew, presumably). However, today, Jews worship YHWH, as does the Christian.

[3] In Romans 1 there is no understanding of Christ (by definition) while in today's Jew there is an awareness of Christ (presumably).

[4] Thus Romans 1 entails no outright rejection of any revelation, while today's Jew does (often) entail such.


It seems unnecessary to comment on the salvific being present/absent in either case, as it does not seem to be necessary to comment on it in order to delineate worship. As for God's rightful prerogative to His Own modes of "The Salvific" (which just is "Himself") easily, even necessarily, outdistancing flimsy and mutable contingencies such as Time and Circumstance, that also has, by definition here, no real comment. I have no scriptural reason to deny such outright. The "everyman dies once and then the judgment" is speaking of Covenant, Wills, Law, and Death, which is a separate topic.


I only mention that because your criteria seems to carry us to this: If one of the requirements is "No revelation is rejected" then the victim of circumstance who knows nothing more than Kalam 101 and who properly responds vis-à-vis Romans 1 is both worshipping and also finds the salvific present, whereas today's Jew, who spies Christ, and who rejects Him, has neither worship nor the salvific.

scbrownlhrm said...

Clarification:

All of this has left the proximal reach of reference behind and has moved into more distal vectors.

James said...

St. Augustine: "That which today is called the Chistian religion existed among the Ancients and has never ceased to exist from the origin of the human race until the time when Christ Himself came and men began to call Christian the true religion which already existed beforehand."(Retract. I, xiii,3)


Eusebius: "That which is called the Christian religion is neither new nor strange, but-if it be lawful to testify the truth-was known to the ancients" (Hist. Eccl. lib. 2, ch. v.).


Adam said...

I have not followed this long comment box, but have read Dr Feser's posts including this one.

I am interested to hear what you think about the reality and term "worship." In one sense it can be taken on the natural level, on that of natural religion, that is, man's search for God. But in another, in the order of revelation, true worship is a participation in the very inner life of God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--via the sacramental economy/liturgy of the Church. In this latter sense could a Muslim be said to be worshiping. Having read some of the other Christians who are up in arms, this concern (though not from the Catholic perspective) seems to be present. I am really interested in your thoughts, have not seen you address this distinction. Thanks!!

scbrownlhrm said...



Adam,

Romans 1 pulls in the term worship as it relates to very meager revelation. In that chapter it is little more than an intellectual, emotive response of the Self towards, upon, or to "He Who is the One True God". It is an upward ascent, or concession, to a downward movement of the Divine. Scripture defines that upward motion of the Self in acquiescence as some form or degree of "worship" even as Scripture defines God's mode of revelation in and through the created order as a movement that is not "pure reason" but is in fact a mode of the revelatory, of the Divine, downward into the Adamic.

Now, that is all meager, proximal, un-whole, un-full.

But it is, ontologically speaking, "thick" and not "too thin" as those of the Different God zone often state.

Your terms carry us past that, into something more whole, more full, less meager.

As in:

Love just does constitute a triune topography of vertices as the I/You, or as the Self/Other as such begets the singularity that is unicity's Us and finds the Triune contours of the Divine instantiating within God and Man, Man and God, Imago Dei.

The question on the table is not worship.

It is the veracity of degree that is on the table.

The All or None, the On or Off "approach" to that question takes the stance that Romans 1 gets it wrong, that the Jew does not give praise nor thanksgiving to YHWH.

The fear is as you described (in that crowd) in that they are giving up too much.

But nothing is given up, nor lost, nor diluted. For Scripture does not define Romans 1 nor the Jew as "The Fullness Of....." and in fact ushers in far more which is far more distal to those meager movements amid the Uncreated/Created.

God has the right to claim those meager movements as His, to do with what He wishes, to define as His Own interplay amid Man, or whatever, and He does lay claim to such.

Then, He also travels further, wider, into deeper waters. He claims *that* as His Own interplay *too*.

Whatever is Good, in any degree of Goodness, comes from Above.

On the question of degrees:


"Evil is not a thing. God is the creator of everything that exists but evil is not itself a thing. It doesn’t have any positive ontological status. Rather, evil is a privation; it’s a deficit in being. A good example of this would be cold in physics. In physics, cold is the privation of heat. It has no positive reality. It is simply the absence of heat. Or think of darkness. Darkness has no positive ontological status; it’s the privation of light. And similarly, I think we would say that evil doesn’t have any positive ontological status, it’s just the privation of right order in the creaturely will. Rather than being oriented toward God as the greatest good, the summum bonum, the creaturely will is oriented often toward lesser good, finite goods, and therefore falls short of the correct order it should have. There’s a deficit or privation of correct order in the creaturely will, and that is the origin of evil – it originates in the free will of creatures. So, in short, evil is not some sort of a thing that God had to create, God created creatures with free will and that is good. My philosophy professor Norman Geisler used to put it in this very provocative way: ".....every thing about Satan is good. That is to say, Satan has properties like existence, power, intelligence; these are all good things. But the evil that he is characterized by is a privation of right order in his will, and is not a positive thing." (W.L. Craig)

Evil never will motion in acquiescence in an upward ascent, or concession, to a downward movement of the Divine.

Should any such motion ever be spied, in whatever degree, well there we spy two wills in motion. Meager is not Thin. Meager is Thick.

Ontologically speaking.

George LeSauvage said...

@Adam: There's a problem with identifying worship with the sacraments, as it is possible for Catholics to have to make do without them. The classic case is Japan, where after the Portuguese were expelled, some continued to worship even until until Perry arrived. They had baptism and marriage as the only sacraments possible to them. (And marriage is somewhat questionable; by then the requirement of a priest witnessing it was in force. I've never heard of an exception being made, and even if it were, how would they know, cut off as they were?)

The whole argument sounds very polytheist to my ears. "Our Baal is greater than yours." If you are speaking of monotheists, there just aren't enough Gods to make for this; there's just the one. Indeed, there can be only one. Alan Arkin's theology in Joshua Then and Now is fun, but it just ain't right.

(And since I'm quoting Sean Connery, I forgot to mention, in an earlier thread on this topic, what the perfect brain bleach was, that some said they needed. Just google "Bond Girls". Works like a charm.)

Chad said...

Mr Feser
I've had a thought bouncing in my head on the subject for awhile, and would like to bounce it off you.

For me, it's obvious that to reference something you must have an idea of that thing. To reference a triangle, I must have a concept of what the position or aspects of a triangle are. Even if incredibly wrong in my head, there must be some link to thr concept - if I think a triangle is a geometrical object with four sides, four corners, and must come to a total of 360 degrees of sum of the interior angels; this does not negate the reference to triangles.

Someone can come along and tell me how the references in my head to what a triangle truly is, and my false idea of what it is, are similar or different. They can explain each have sides, each have corners, and each much always total a sum of interior angles. But triangles have 3 sides and corners instead of 4, and a sum of 180 degrees. No amount of ignorance on my part will make an object I'm pointing at, or the square visualized in my head, a triangle. This does not negate the fact that every time I make a reference, I do successfully reference the concept of triangles, but neither it does not turn either the concept of squares into triangles nor any drawn squares into triangles. If I am explained what a triangle really is, agree, and then continue to insist squares are triangles due to similarities between key parts of the two concepts; this makes me not correct, but insane. Yet I still correctly reference triangles.

While I do not deny that Muslims refer to the concept of God, and have gotten some of his aspects right, I have not seen any demonstrations that they are not falsely ascribing aspects of God onto another being - be it an idol or demon or simply nothing at all. Such an act logically can happen, and is backed by scripture in which Jeroboam erected idols keep people from journeying to The Temple. Scripture calls this act worshipping idols, and I think you would be hard pressed to say the Jews did not correctly reference God in the same act of worship to those idols.

This seems to be the correct way of looking at it - the human mind can hold aspects of God, but never the full thing. It can be correct and incorrect in those, and still point towards God. It can be correct and incorrect in those, and point to a different being.

Thus, the case of heretics is as a child that of pointing at the triangle, without knowing it well enough to say what the geometrical laws defining triangle are, and maybe so badly warped that the child cannot even draw a triangle. A muslim is as a man pointing at a square, claiming its a triangle, and insisting it is a triangle whether he knows the laws of geometry as relate to triangles or not. He may even, as some Muslim theologians seem to, know the laws well enough to correctly describe a triangle, yet still point at a square as a triangle when it is placed before them. Thus you can have correct philosophy about what an omnipotent God must be, yet still ascribe those traits to the wrong being.

The Masked Chicken said...

"To “worship” something as divine is to acknowledge that it has the highest possible status or dignity and consequently to give it the highest reverence, devotion, or adoration."

There is a difference between acknowledging something as divine (i.e., the same God in this discussion) and giving it the highest reverence, devotion, and adoration (worship, proper). Worship, shachah, in the OT and proskyneo, in the NT, has an aspect of not just devotion, but obedience and obedience requires revelation of the one being reverenced so that one can know that one has got the reverence right and that it truly counts as an act of justice towards the one being worshiped.

This was the understanding among the Church Fathers: that worship implied some form of revelation: (1)"The Fathers stressed the one sure way of gaining access to God through prophecy. Though Cicero rightly criticized superstitious means of divination, which claimed to have knowledge from the gods through dreams, séances,
and ecstatic trances, he went even beyond that to even exclude the possibility
of any supernatural communication. Cicero may seem to be justified given the vain religious practices with which he was surrounded, yet his limited view of providence guided him to rule out even the possibility of expecting divine aid for right knowledge and practice in religion. Even though nature speaks clearly of humanity’s moral ordering to God, the weakness of sin had normalized idolatry to the point that, according to [St.] Justin, “in no other way than only from the prophets who teach us by divine inspiration, is it at all possible to learn anything concerning God and the true religion.”...

(2)"This is how Augustine describes the religion of the masses and the political religion used by rulers to manipulate them. Nevertheless, Augustine also goes to great lengths to criticize another form of religious perversion, that of the philosophers. While he praises the Platonists in particular “because they have been able to realize that the soul of man, though immortal and rational (or intellectual), cannot attain happiness except by participation in the light of God, the creator of the soul and of the whole world.” However, these philosophers who have arrived at this knowledge have not engaged in the true worship of God. Therefore, Augustine makes clear that not only must the object of worship be true, but so also the means of worship as well."

continued...

The Masked Chicken said...

continued...

(3)"For Augustine worship ultimately does not stem from nature and reason, though it may make use of them, but must flow from a graced interior relationship with God. Augustine insists so strongly about the priority of the internal relation that he put forward this maxim from his Enchiridion: “God is to be worshipped with faith, hope and love.... For these must be the chief, nay, the exclusive objects of pursuit in religion.”

(4)"nevertheless there is some mode of justice, according to which the lord renders to the servant what it owed to him, or vice-versa: which is called the justice of the ruled. And this way latriais joined to justice, because it consists in that
what is rendered to God is owed Him. Whence it is reduced to justice not as a species to a genus, but as a virtue annexed to a principal one, which participates in the mode of the principal."


Religion as a Virtue: Thomas Aquinas on Worship through Justice, Law, and Charity, Robert Jared Staudt diss. Ave Maria University, 2008, (1) pg. 33; (2) pg. 43; (3) pg; 50 (4) pg. 116.

Thus, I think the revelation of both Christianity and Islam has to be factored into the question of worship in a fuller sense when one passes beyond mere worship of a divine entity to a worship of God as a dynamic process, human-to-God. Since latria has a sense of service, God owes it to us, in justice, to tell us if we are, in fact, serving Him correctly (the, "justice of the ruled," which St. Thomas mentions in his Commentary on the Sentences). Adoration and worship are not quite the same thing. Adoration does not need revelation; worship, does, I think.

The Chicken

Jason said...

Muslims believe that Allah is
1. Uncaused cause
2. Creator of the universe
3. Omniscient
4. All powerful
5. Eternal
6. Merciful
7. Great Judge
8. Loving
9. Loves good works and weighs them against bad works.
10. Big on following rules

Christians believe that God is
1. Uncaused cause
2. Creator of the universe
3. Omniscient
4. All powerful
5. Eternal
6. All Merciful
7. Perfect Judge
8. All Loving
9. Loves you unconditionally without compromising Justice
10. Big enough to change a person’s heart without compromising free will.

In my humble opinion, there are similarities at least till the first 5 points and then there are differences even though this list is by no means complete but in terms of reference I think they seem to be pointing to the same Being but in terms of revelation they do not seem to.

Glenn said...

Well, well, well; my, my my. St. Augustine to the rescue.

He seems to have ostensibly disarmed and nullified, and even rejected, one not uncommon and (pardon my saying) boring 'proof' that X and Y do not worship the same God.

o [I]f any one insist that he worships the one true God -- that is, the Creator of every soul and of every body -- with stupid and monstrous idols, with human victims, with putting a wreath on the male organ, with the wages of unchastity, with the cutting of limbs, with emasculation, with the consecration of effeminates, with impure and obscene plays, such a one does not sin because he worships One who ought not to be worshipped, but because he worships Him who ought to be worshipped in a way in which He ought not to be worshipped. **

This, of course, in no way means that X and Y do indeed worship the same God, or that the probability or likelihood that they do somehow is now increased.

o But he who worships with such things -- that is, foul and obscene things -- and that not the true God, namely, the maker of soul and body, but a creature, even though not a wicked creature, whether it be soul or body, or soul and body together, twice sins against God, because he both worships for God what is not God, and also worships with such things as neither God nor what is not God ought to be worshipped with. **

It's just that it is rather difficult, if not nigh impossible, to prove that X and Y do not worship the same God by showing that one of the two worship Him as He ought to be worshipped, and the other does not.

And this is to say that that one of X and Y worship Him as He ought to be worshipped, and the other does not, is (or certainly appears to be) insufficient, indeterminate and of dubious relevance when seeking an answer to the question of whether X and Y worship the same God.

- - - - -

** City of God, Book VII, Chapter 27 (here).

Glenn said...

(Ach, there I go again; posting as a comment what should have been an entry in a private journal. Sorry.)

Nathan Cline said...

Glenn,

So we can honor God by doing what is dishonorable according to God? And, I suppose, we could show gratitude to God by rejecting what He did to save people from their sins?

it is a Strange view of worship (to say the least) that says in disobeying what God commanded; doing what we ought not do; rejecting what God said we must accept could be ways to show honour & gratitude toward (worship) God rather than rebellion against God.

Glenn said...

Nathan Cline,

When St. Augustine explicitly writes "such a one does not sin because he worships One who ought not to be worshipped, but because he worships Him who ought to be worshipped in a way in which He ought not to be worshipped," he is saying implicitly that it is sinful not to worship God as He ought to be worshipped.

Glenn said...

("...is saying implicitly..." s/b "...is implicitly acknowledging...")

Josh said...

Still don't know how your views aren't directly contradicted by Aquinas in ScG 3.118.4:

Besides, whoever is in error regarding something that is of the essence of a thing does not know that thing. Thus, if someone understood irrational animal with the notion that it is a man, he would not know man. Now, it would be a different matter if he erred concerning one of man’s accidents. However, in the case of composite beings, the person who is in error concerning one of their essential principles does know the thing, in a relative way, though he does not know it in an unqualified sense. For instance, he who thinks that man is an irrational animal knows him according to his genus. But this cannot happen in reference to simple beings; instead, any error at all completely excludes knowledge of the being. Now, God is most simple. So, whoever is in error concerning God does not know God, just as the man who thinks that God is a body does not know God at all, but grasps something else in place of God.

Brandon said...

Josh,

As I pointed out in the previous comment thread when you brought it up, the explicit conclusion being considered is whether we have an obligation to believe the right faith (which no one has denied is a universal obligation); thus the terms Aquinas's argument uses are relevant to this end. nullo modo cognoscit Deum, for instance, pretty clearly is using 'cognoscit' to mean, as it often does, the kind of knowledge or awareness that involves familiar recognition; we could just as easily translate the passage: "...who believes God to be a body, in no way recognizes God, but apprehends something else in God's place." This is pretty obviously true -- if someone thinks God is corporeal, they obviously don't know Him in the sense of being familiar with Him or recognizing Him. But Ed hasn't said anything inconsistent with this; he's not claiming that Muslims have an intimate familiarity with God Himself. What's more Aquinas, is quite clearly thinking of the familiar recognition that comes with the true faith -- it's the specific topic under discussion. But Ed hasn't claimed that Muslims have true Christian faith. And St. Thomas's argument quite clearly does not rule out the possibility that someone who does not know God in this sense could still think about Him or pray to Him (perhaps badly).

In fact, Aquinas's idea here quite clearly is connected to the discussion of knowing God in I John -- who who does not love does not know God; it's that kind of knowing that's at stake here. But John's claim is not that people who do not love do not think about God or talk about God; he explicitly says otherwise.

Santi said...

Feser writes: "[I]f liberals believe they are more likely than Christians have been to succeed in converting Muslims to their point of view, they are gravely mistaken."

In other words, Feser is saying that Islam is not really capable of evolving. But, of course, it is--and is doing so as we speak.

Islam is evolving for the same reason that organisms evolve: it contains variations on which selection can act.

Islam isn't monolithic. It's not one thing. Nor is it static. Feser is forgetting Islam's capacity, like any religion, for change and variation (much like an organism that evolves through time). As with viruses, there are virulent and more benign forms of Islam available for selection right now, in this very moment. And, as with any variation in a living thing, there are opportunities for selection. And selections are being made right now, and will go on being made.

Feser underestimates the capacity of science, liberalism, and democracy to effect change in Islam by mere contact with it. As the global environment changes around religions, religions adapt. Islam is not immune to this process. The violence and fundamentalist reactions of extremists within Islam are actually a sign that change is indeed occurring, not that it has been arrested. The broken wheel squeaks loudest.

Santi said...

Immigration is one way that less virulent forms of Islam are being brought into the world right now. For an analogy, think islands with birds. Some nations function for Muslims like islands do for birds, accelerating their evolution. America, for instance, is a Galapagos Island for Muslim "birds" that fly here. They can be moderate here without fear of certain predators (like ISIS).

Santi said...

So bringing Muslims into Western countries is one way for moderate forms of Islam to thrive in the world--and for liberalism to win over fundamentalism. Democratic safe-havens for free speech create an island for moderate Muslims to assert themselves. Think (by analogy) of Voltaire coming to England. What he couldn't say in one country, he could say in another. From intellectual safe-havens, extremist forms of Islam can be countered. It's true that some Muslims (a minority) use free speech in the West to promote extremism, but the majority use it to model moderation and adjustment to modernity.

By contrast, ISIS enthusiasts in Syria call moderate Muslims "hypocrites," and attempt to create mayhem among them. Moderate Muslims in Syria are as under threat from ISIS as are infidels. But in the United States, they are safer, and can thrive (and do).

This doesn't mean that the "real Islam" is in Syria and represented by ISIS, and that moderate forms of Islam in the United States are indeed "false." This concedes too much to fundamentalists, extremists, and medievalists, and not enough to the power of historical and cultural evolution to generate robust new species of religion.

Another quick example: In 1979, a fundamentalist revolution swept Iran, and mosque attendance was high. In 2016, less than 10% of the Iranian population attends Friday prayers. Who are the real Muslims--the enthusiasts of 1979, or the secularized, highly educated, non-practicing Muslims pervasive throughout Iranian society today? Is secular liberalism advancing or retreating in Iran?

Nathan Cline said...

Glenn,

That sounds Right, but Sinful worship seems like: drawing a square wrong, with only three sides; or pseudo science, which really isn't science, at all; or an invalid proof, which isn't proof at all. In all these examples you don't really perform the action or goal in question. That seems like the sense Augustine has in mind here.

Anonymous said...

Language is a flexible thing. If a Christian says, "Muslims worship a false god", I think we can make perfectly good sense out of that statement. On the other hand, we can also make sense out of a Christian saying, "Muslims worship the same God".

So it just depends on the indiviudal speakers meaning.

Glenn said...

Nathan Cline,

That sounds Right, but Sinful worship seems like: drawing a square wrong, with only three sides;...

There is something to that, yes. But the mere fact that a square was wrongly drawn with only three sides is not enough to tell us whether the drawer incorrectly drew a square, or correctly drew what he wrongly thinks is a square. Indeed, it could be that what the drawer thinks is a square is what others know to be a hexagon, so that not only did he wrongly draw a square, he wrongly drew what he incorrectly thinks is a square. We need more information before we can correctly ascertain which of two or more possible cases is the actual case in fact.

(Lest we start to go in a circle here (or in a oval (or in what appears to be an oval, but in fact is a tilted circle)), let it be noted that it has been clarified multiple times over several posts that the objective of raising the question "Do 'X' and 'Y' worship the same God?" was to call attention to and address the subject of reference rather than that of worship. (The subject of worship is a meaningful subject itself. Certainly. Of course. It's just not the subject the question was used to introduce.))

Glenn said...

(It's just not the subject the question was used to introduce. What I mean to say is that the question was asked in order to introduce the subject of 'reference' rather than the subject of 'worship'.)

Step2 said...

I was wondering if a musical analogy may work. If God's classical theism relation to the cosmos could be represented as the universal music, the guiding harmony of all creation, then as long as someone is playing many of the same chords in a familiar order and pattern then the reference is maintained (trigger warning for musical purists). If instead of a general shift in key, pace, genre, or instrumentality there are unfamiliar rhythms and transitions then it changes the reference point to a different musical song and produces dissonance instead of resonance between listeners.

laubadetriste said...

This has no relevance whatsoever to the proper arguments going on here, but just as a tonic, I saw this cross my dash today:

Muslims donate 30,000 bottles of water to Flint, Michigan, during water crisis.

Josh said...

@Brandon,

My apologies for missing your response in the earlier thread--so many comments on Feser's posts (a good thing, I suppose)!

I certainly agree with you that the chapter in question is about one's obligation (by divine law) to fides catholica, but what I'm interested in is a philosophical point that is embedded in the passage. I see that you read Latin, so I'll just give it specifically: "In simplicibus autem hoc non potest accidere, sed quilibet error totaliter excludit cognitionem rei."

We can both successfully "refer" to finite beings with contradictory descriptions because finite beings are not identical with their essences and accidents (Thomas gives the example of human beings). As I read him, for Aquinas we cannot successfully "refer to" or "consider" (accipere) the "same God" using contradictory descriptions because God is identical with his essence and has no accidents. Thus, "quilibet error [not just mistaking God for a body] totaliter excludit cognitionem rei."

Indeed, I agree with Bill Vallicella that the very idea of "referring" to God is already a difficult, if not mistaken notion. But I'd be interested in your response!




Brandon said...

We can both successfully "refer" to finite beings with contradictory descriptions because finite beings are not identical with their essences and accidents (Thomas gives the example of human beings). As I read him, for Aquinas we cannot successfully "refer to" or "consider" (accipere) the "same God" using contradictory descriptions because God is identical with his essence and has no accidents. Thus, "quilibet error [not just mistaking God for a body] totaliter excludit cognitionem rei."

The issue seems to be any kind of error, not just contradictory descriptions, and I think my point still stands: in the context Aquinas is pretty clearly talking about the kind of knowledge meant when we are talking about the kind of thinking that involves being acquainted enough to be familiar with what we are thinking of-- indeed, familiar enough to love what we are thinking of for its own sake. There is, of course, no comparative element in Aquinas's discussion; if there's any error at all, knowledge of God in the sense required for the love of God which alone fulfills us is not something we have, so we are all obligated without exception to seek the true and right faith. But there are a great many kinds of thoughts in Aquinas's account of the mind that do not seem to have the kind of close association with love that would be required for the argument -- suspicion, for instance -- that just don't seem to be on the table as relevant in this passage, although they would have to be considered in the context of the same-God dispute.

Perhaps I'm not looking in the right place, but I'm not seeing the accipere to which you are referring; but accipere often has a very strong meaning in Aquinas, and seems to me is usually translated better by 'receive' and its cognates than by 'consider'.

Indeed, I agree with Bill Vallicella that the very idea of "referring" to God is already a difficult, if not mistaken notion. But I'd be interested in your response!

To be entirely honest, I have no idea what this kind of position is even supposed to mean. Vallicella makes a number of very specific theological assumptions in his discussion whose rationale I don't understand and regard as simply false, like the claim that Christians can only successfully refer to God if 'God' includes in its sense being triune. What's more, like a lot of analytically trained philosophers, Vallicella wants to treat reference as freighted with metaphysical significance, when in reality it's a notion invented for talking about meaning -- namely, to talk about the about-ness of using a name to talk about something. That's just determined by actual language use, and all consideration of theories of reference is merely consideration of what account best captures this aspect of meaning that we determine by actual language use. There is no reason to talk about theories of reference in the first place except that we actually experience the kind of thing we call 'referring' in discourse; and it is that grounding source, not theories of reference in general, that will be the key issue here. It's as if one were to argue that we can't be sure that the moon is gravitationally attracted to the earth because we haven't yet figured out what the right theory of gravity is.

Josh said...

@Brandon, thanks for your response.

in the context Aquinas is pretty clearly talking about the kind of knowledge meant when we are talking about the kind of thinking that involves being acquainted enough to be familiar with what we are thinking of-- indeed, familiar enough to love what we are thinking of for its own sake.

Maybe I'm still not clear on our differences here. Let me state my case more formally so you can point out where I'm going wrong.

1. Successful reference demands some knowledge of the thing being referred to.
2. Thomas is saying that any mistake about a simple being excludes all knowledge of that simple being. There is no reason to think that "all" doesn't mean "all" here, as far as I can see. Thomas is clearly making a purely philosophical point about knowing, as is evidenced in his examples.
3. God is a simple being.
4. Therefore any mistake about God excludes all knowledge of God.
5. Therefore successful reference to God is impossible if we are mistaken in any way about his attributes.

Vallicella wants to treat reference as freighted with metaphysical significance, when in reality it's a notion invented for talking about meaning -- namely, to talk about the about-ness of using a name to talk about something. That's just determined by actual language use

Not sure what you mean by "reference" here, because reference as I understand it clearly does have metaphysical import. If I'm hallucinating and my friend assures me that the pink elephant I see in the middle of the room doesn't exist, then I know that I'm not successfully referring to anything at all when I talk about it. Because the pink elephant does not exist, I fail to refer. There's obvious "metaphysical freightedness", as I see things. But maybe you mean something different about reference?

Brandon said...

Hi, Josh,

(1) is only right if we are using 'knowledge' in a very weak sense. (2) is only right if we are understanding that Aquinas in context has to be taking knowledge in a fairly strong sense to mean familiar acquaintance. (3) is right, and (4) is right in the relevant sense of knowledge; to get (5) requires equivocating about knowledge.

But maybe you mean something different about reference?

No, I mean precisely the sort of thing you are talking about; I see no reason to think that a notion designed to capture a certain aspect of how we talk about things will have any implications at all for what exists. What I suspect is happening in both your case and Bill's is packing a lot of implicit assumption into 'successfully' that's never made clear. When one talks about successful reference, it sounds like the opposite is not succeeding at referring (as you assume in your description); but it's hardly clear that success at reference requires that the referent be existing, or that the standards of success in the latter sense would at all be the standards of success in the former sense. For instance, it suppose it did exist, but no longer does. I talk about Socrates' cloak; am I referring to Socrates' cloak, which certainly doesn't exist anymore? Why not assume that you successful refer incorrectly, for instance? And what about uncertain or ambiguous reference, both of which certainly exist? How do they carry this metaphysical weight? There seems a great deal of arbitrariness in how the problem is set up.

Josh said...

Brandon,

Right, so it looks like the only way to move forward would be (1) to clarify what we mean by the multiple senses of knowledge; and then (2) to show why Thomas is talking about the "familiar acquaintance" kind of knowledge as opposed to another kind.

My position is to understand quilibet error totaliter excludit cognitionem rei in the strong sense. That is, I see no reason why Thomas isn't clearly saying that error about God excludes all knowledge of him--including whatever knowledge we need in order to refer to him in the first place. You say that this "totaliter excludit" has to be relativized, but I'm not seeing why.

Maybe this would be a way to help the discussion along. When Thomas says "whoever is in error concerning God does not know God, just as the man who thinks that God is a body does not know God at all, but grasps something else in place of God," I take him to mean that the person who says "God is a body" is not referring to God, but rather an idol (unbeknownst to him, perhaps). Do we agree on this?

Thanks again.

Brandon said...

Hi, Josh,

Aquinas's Latin has several different words that cover the ground we have for 'knowledge'; they can sometimes overlap, but need not. This is a pretty clear linguistic fact. Given this, my view is that the words used here tend often to be used in Latin in contexts involving some kind of familiarity or intimate acquaintance, as opposed, for instance, to merely knowing about something, and I think are usually used in this way by Aquinas. I see no reason to take them as applying to everything we would call knowledge, much less everything we would call thinking about something. And the context is specifically about knowledge in the sense that the term can be applied to faith (the question being answered is whether everyone should seek the truth faith) and love (the argument being specifically about the kind of knowledge that is needed for love -- we have an obligation to love God, so it follows that we have an obligation to have the kind of knowledge of God required for loving God Himself).

I take Aquinas to be saying that if someone is in error about God so as to think God is a body, he clearly isn't familiar enough with God to be loving God Himself. I don't see any reason to take Aquinas to be making a general point about reference, which is a matter of talking and thinking things about God, rather than the kind of knowledge required in order to love someone for their own sake.

Josh said...

Brandon,

Fair enough. I definitely agree that there are a lot of Latin words in Aquinas that could be translated as "knowledge" or "knowing" (e.g. intellectus, scientia, apprehendere, comprehendere, cognoscere, etc.), but I guess I just have to disagree on the particular interpretation here. All the words related to knowing/knowledge in the ScG passage are regularly used in purely philosophical contexts such as the Aristotle Commentaries (e.g. cognoscere, apprehendere, accidere). There is no reason to think that these words are especially set aside for the act of faith.

Yes, the larger context is about the conditions necessary for loving God for his own sake, but that larger context does not exclude the possibility of a more properly philosophical point embedded within that larger context (the argument is from Aristotle's Metaphysics, after all, as the cross-reference ST 2-2.2.2 ad 3 makes clear), i.e. the point about knowing simple beings.

Brandon said...

There is no reason to think that these words are especially set aside for the act of faith.

But this is not my claim at all; my claim is that the Latin words used do not typically cover all kinds of knowledge, and that in this particular context the knowledge in question for which they are used is explicitly that knowledge relevant to faith -- otherwise, the entire argument would be completely irrelevant.

Anonymous said...


" ... the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the other of ends-justify-the-means brutality sponsored by counterinsurgency specialists. Normally the specialists carry out their actions in remote locations with little notice in the national press. That allows the public to sustain its faith in a just America, while hard-nosed security and economic interests are still protected in secret. ": Robert Parry, investigative reporter and author

=
Our men . . . have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of 10 up... Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to "make them talk," and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later. .. stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.": Philadelphia Ledger newspaper in 1901, from its Manila [Philippines] correspondent during the US war with Spain for the control of the Philippines


"The only place you and I disagree . . . is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I (in contrast) don't give a damn. I don't care.". . . "I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. . . Does that bother you? I just want you to think big." : Richard Nixon to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the Watergate tapes


"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Josh said...

>>in this particular context the knowledge in question for which they are used is explicitly that knowledge relevant to faith<<

You've given no evidence to support this claim (other than vague, oracular pronouncements about the subtleties of Thomas' Latin). I've shown that the philosophical point made in ScG 4.118.4 and ST 2-2.2.2 ad 3 comes from Thomas' reading of Metaphysics IX. The point about knowledge of simple beings stands on its own. If it didn't, then it wouldn't be in Metaphysics IX.

Besides, the point can be put systematically; for how would two or more people be able to refer to the same being while disagreeing on its attributes? In order for there to be a situation in which two or more people could be mistaken about a being's attributes, but still be talking about the same being, we would have to be referring to the same suppositum while disagreeing on the attributes of that suppositum. But Thomas' point, following Aristotle, is that this is precisely what can't happen when it comes to God. Why? Because his attributes just are his suppositum! To be mistaken about God's attributes is to fail to talk about God. And sure enough, this is exactly Thomas' point regarding the person who mistakenly suggests that "God" is a body. The point is that he is not talking about God at all, even if he thinks he is.

Glenn said...

Ruminating out loud...

1. Aristotle wrote in Metaphysics IX, "About the things, then, which are essences and actualities, it is not possible to be in error, but only to know them or not to know them. But we do inquire what they are, viz. whether they are of such and such a nature or not." (See at the end of the second paragraph under Part 10 of Book IX here.)

Two phases are implied:

First phase: "About the things, then, which are essences and actualities, it is not possible to be in error, but only to know them or not to know them."

Second phase: "But we do inquire what they are, viz. whether they are of such and such a nature or not."

To know or not know is one thing, and to inquire whether this or that about what one knows is another.

2. Aquinas' commentary has it this way, "Therefore, regarding all those things which are really quiddities and actualities, it is impossible to be deceived about them, but one must either know them or not. But concerning them we may ask what they are, namely, whether they are such and such or not." (See at the end of 818. under Lesson 11 here.)

Again, two phases are implied:

First phase: "Therefore, regarding all those things which are really quiddities and actualities, it is impossible to be deceived about them, but one must either know them or not.

Second phase: "But concerning them we may ask what they are, namely, whether they are such and such or not."

Again, to know or not know is one thing, and to ask whether this or that about what one knows is another.

3. So, I cannot see how when Aquinas wrote...

...So, whoever is in error concerning God does not know God[.] (SCG 3.118.4), and...

...the Philosopher observes (Metaph. ix, text. 22) "to know simple things defectively is not to know them at all." (ST 2-2.2.2 ad 3)...

...the second phase was included in what he had had in mind.

4. That is, it seems to me that once I know that X -- where X is an essence, quiddity or actuality -- it is legitimate to inquire into or ask about X.

Aristotle does say that we do so, but doesn't say that it is illegitimate for us to do so.

Absent his indicating that it is illegitimate to inquire into or ask about the X that I know, it seems reasonable to conclude that any inconsistency, defect or error on my part about X is sealed off from my correct, error-free knowledge that X.

Which is to say, if I may crudely put it this way, that Aquinas -- when he writes, e.g., "whoever is in error concerning God does not know God" (SCG 3.118.4) -- seems to be commenting on that-knowledge, rather than on about-that-knowledge.

Glenn said...

(s/b "See at the end of 811...")

Brandon said...

You've given no evidence to support this claim (other than vague, oracular pronouncements about the subtleties of Thomas' Latin)

No, this is not right: I have given specific evidence to support the claim that in this context the knowledge involved is that associated with faith: the question that is being answered in context is explicitly and specifically about faith (namely whether we have an obligation to have the right faith), and the specific argument in which it comes up is explicitly and specifically about the kind of knowledge required for love, and needs to answer the question about faith. I've made no "vague, oracular pronouncements about the subtleties of Thomas' Latin"; I've noted the widely recognized fact of basic Latin that Latin uses a wide variety of terms for distinct things that are often just thrown together under the English word 'knowledge', from which it directly follows that one must be careful not to assume that when Latin uses one set of knowledge-terms it necessarily has any implications at all for other knowledge-terms, despite the fact that English might call them all knowledge. I've noted that the terms Aquinas uses here often indicate intimate familiarity or recognition in Latin, which you can check against any Latin dictionary; and that this fits the fact that the argument in which this claim is embedded is specifically and explicitly about the kind of knowledge required to love something in its own right. That's the whole reason it was brought up in the first place -- we have an obligation to love God, so if we need a certain kind of knowledge to love God, we have an obligation to love God, and if this kind of knowledge is the kind of knowledge we get with the right fight, we have an obligation to have the right faith. That's the overall structure of the argument in which the claim is found.

Nor is this a particularly reasonable response to my comment; yes, you gave a very quick argument having to do with the Metaphysics, but in the course of making your argument, you completely misrepresented the argument I had made, and I was simply pointing out that you had done so. In response to which you've misrepresented it again.

On your Metaphysics argument, Glenn is entirely right that we have to be careful about what, precisely, is meant by knowledge in this context, for the reason noted above about Latin, which is obviously true of the Latin into which Aristotle was translated, and is in fact true of Greek as well. But because of the beginning of the term, I haven't had the time to go back to Aquinas's actual discussion in the Commentary of Metaphysics, which would obviously be relevant here, so I can't say much one way or another about this line of argument.

to be continued...

Brandon said...

continuing:

Besides, the point can be put systematically; for how would two or more people be able to refer to the same being while disagreeing on its attributes?

How can they be disagreeing on the attributes of that being if they are not both referring to it? If I say my actual friend Tom Swift is hairy and you say the fictional character Tom Swift is not, we haven't disagreed, because we aren't referring to the same person. We are only disagreeing about the attributes of a thing if we are both talking about that thing; otherwise, by definition, we're not attributing the opposed attributes to the same thing, and there is no contradiction and thus no disagreement.

To be mistaken about God's attributes is to fail to talk about God.

This is not what Aquinas says, though; he says that to be mistaken about God's attributes is to fail to know God. As I have previously noted, there seems no particular reason to think that we can only refer to or talk about things we know; there are other kinds of mental thinking that aren't in any way at all knowledge. You seem to want to cut out suspicion and opinion and investigating whether something exists as if they were in no way relevant to questions of reference or how we are able to talk about the same thing. If the claim being investigated, i.e,. to be proven if possible, is "God exists", and it doesn't refer when I'm investigating (since I don't know God then), but it does when I've successfully investigated the question and reached a proof of the claim (or whatever is required for knowledge in the relevant sense), then how can we hold that the claim that was proven was the same claim that was supposed to be proven? And we can do similar things with suspicion that something exists and opinion that something exists, neither of which are knowledge.

Sean said...

I reread one of my old books from my Jesuit high school course called Introduction to the Great Religions compiled by Jean Danielou, S.J., with a specific chapter on Islam by Joseph Hours which explains and contrasts Christianity with Islam. It agrees with Dr. Feser’s arguments.

In my mind I tend to think that the conception of God in this discussion, as it relates to Islam and Christianity, can be broken down into “philosophical” and “theological” concepts of God.

With regard to the philosophical, the Islamic God, an uncreated creator who is one and omnipotent does reference Jehovah of the Old testament and Jesus’ God the Father of the New testament. There’s no doubt that the main attributes are referencing the same idea.

However, there is a point where the concept of Islamic God from a theological point of view takes on a radical departure from the Christian concept. Islam is in conflict with the modern world because it lacks a consciousness of the natural order, and reasoning based on morality. They may use the same words describing their religion and God which are similar, and share a connection to the Old Testament, but as Joseph Hours puts it: “The meaning of the words and of theology can only be attained through historical, political, social reality”.

In Islam, there’s an unresolved tension between human freedom and God’s omnipotence and a tendency toward predestination. This manifests itself as conflict with non-believers and the modern world which don’t share this austere and one-dimensional theological concept of God.

Anonymous said...

Have those who dispute about whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God here not heard of the "Nostra Aetate"?