Friday, 8 August 2014

The Triune God – The Greatest Conceivable Being that Exists, Part 1

Sam Shamoun

Evangelical Christian apologist and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig presents a rather powerful philosophical argument for why the Christian conception of God is vastly superior to the Islamic doctrine of unitarianism that is based on God’s attribute of love. He says:

As the greatest conceivable being, God must be perfect. Now a perfect being must be a loving being. For love is a moral perfection; it is better for a person to be loving rather than unloving. God therefore must be a perfectly loving being. Now it is of the very nature of love to give oneself away. Love reaches out to another person rather than centering wholly in oneself. So if God is perfectly loving by His very nature, He must be giving Himself in love to another. But who is that other? It cannot be any created person, since creation is a result of God’s free will, not a result of His nature. It belongs to God’s very essence to love, but it does not belong to His essence to create. So we can imagine a possible world in which God is perfectly loving and yet no created persons exist. So created persons cannot sufficiently explain whom God loves. Moreover, contemporary. cosmology makes it plausible that created persons have not always existed. But God is eternally loving. So again created persons alone are insufficient to account for God’s being perfectly loving. It therefore follows that the other to whom God’s love is necessarily directed must be internal to God Himself.

In other words, God is not a single, isolated person, as unitarian forms of theism like Islam hold; rather God is a plurality of persons, as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity affirms. On the unitarian view God is a person who does not give Himself away essentially in love for another; He is focused essentially only on Himself. Hence, He cannot be the most perfect being. But on the Christian view, God is a triad of persons in eternal, self-giving love relationships. Thus, since God is essentially loving, the doctrine of the Trinity is more plausible than any unitarian doctrine of God.

A particular Muslim apologist named Abdallah al-Andalusi has written a
reply to Dr. Craig where he tries to show that Craig’s argument is philosophically unsound.

In this article we are going to examine Andalusi’s reply to see whether he was able to refute the soundness of Dr. Craig’s position.

Andalusi begins by arguing that,

Merely possessing love, is not a moral perfection in of itself, because love is just an emotion and even a greedy person possesses love (i.e. love for money). Furthermore, love only becomes incumbent on us because we are created, and our creator ordained upon us that we should love each other as a worship of Him. Since God does not worship anything (since he is God, the only), he is not subject to morals, but rather, he defines the morals which others must follow according to his will.

Furthermore, God is no more ‘likely’ to possess the attribute of ‘loving’ as he would possess the attribute of hating.

Andalusi is distorting Craig’s position and therefore attacking a strawman. Craig didn’t say that the mere possession of love, any kind of “love,” is a moral perfection but rather loving others is, i.e., note Craig’s repeated emphasis that a perfect being must be a loving being. Craig clearly stated that it is the very nature of love itself to give oneself away to another.

What makes this rather ironic is that Andalusi’s analogy actually confirms Craig’s point. Andalusi brings up the example of a greedy person who loves money to illustrate the fact that love in and of itself is not a moral perfection. However, the reason why Andalusi could see that the person’s love for money is greedy is because such love was focused on the person himself and not on others. A person’s love for money may and often does cause him to turn a blind eye to those who are in need, making him selfish and callous towards the pain of those whom he could be of benefit to if he was simply willing to use his money to help others. Thus, Andalusi’s own example confirms Craig’s argument that loving others is better than loving oneself, and since this greedy person’s love was centered towards himself such love was morally objectionable.

Even without looking at the behavior of greedy people towards other people, Andalusi’s attempted counter-example of “love of money” also fails because it is an entirely different “love” (more appropriately called desire or lust rather than love) since it is a “love” that wants to HAVE, to GRAB, to POSSESS and is thus the opposite of the self-giving love which Dr. Craig was speaking about.

The other problem with Andalusi’s claim is his assertion that love is only incumbent upon us because we are created. But that’s not true at all, since he also says:

The Love between people is merely the manifestation of the human species bonding instinct, which normally moves us to have compassion with our fellow human being (and anthropomorphised pet!). God is not part of a genus of species that requires him to possess an instinct which bonds him with other gods – this is because God is unique and the only one, and more importantly, he is not created.

Anyone can see the problem with such statements. How does Andalusi know that this is what love is? Where is he getting this definition from? Did God personally reveal this to him? Is he getting this from the Holy Bible or the Quran? If so where is this stated in the Holy Bible or the Quran? He obviously isn’t getting it from the Quran since, as we shall shortly see, even the false prophet Muhammad agreed with Craig’s argument!

Moreover, Andalusi should have asked himself who placed this instinct to bond within creatures if not God? But then why would God create this instinct within creation if it doesn’t somehow reflect God’s nature in some sense (albeit to a vastly limited extent)?

But let us assume for argument’s sake that his assertion is correct, is Andalusi willing to accept the logical outcome of his position?

For instance, the Quran says that Allah is also a loving being, even though he only loves Muslims who do good:

And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good. S. 2:195

Say: “If you love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” S. 3:31

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. S. 60:8

Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure. S. 61:4

This means that according to Andalusi’s logic Allah must be a creature who is part of a genus of species which requires him to possess an instinct that bonds him with other members of that said species!
Notice the following:

- Loving others is only incumbent upon us because we are creatures whom the Creator has ordered us to love as an act of worship to him.
- Allah is a being who loves others.
- Therefore, Allah is a creature who is subject to another whom he is obligated to worship by loving others.

- Love is an instinct that species possess which binds them together.
- Allah loves others according to the Quran.
- Therefore, Allah must be part of a genus of species that possesses an instinct to love in order to bind him to others.

More importantly, Andalusi’s objections again confirm the validity of Dr. Craig’s argument even though he doesn’t see it. In saying that love is an instinct which moves us to show compassion Andalusi is acknowledging that it is the nature of love to give itself away to another! Besides why would God command creatures to love one another if it is not the very nature of love to do so? And why did God even bother coming up with such a command for his creatures if he himself was not a loving being who also gives himself away in love?

The other mistake in Andalusi’s reasoning is that he erroneously assumes that morals is something that one has to be subject to and since God isn’t subject to anything he is therefore not subject to any morals. It is rather unfortunate that Andalusi does not see that if his reasoning is sound then this means that he is positing a God that is amoral, a being who is neither good nor bad, and is therefore not necessarily holy and doesn’t act righteously because of his nature. Rather, such a God acts righteously simply because he chooses to (assuming, of course, that he has chosen to act righteously)!

Yet such a view means that God is capricious and can decide at any moment to act wickedly or commit immoral acts. After all, there are no morals that such a God is subject to so what’s to stop him from being wicked and deceitful? What prevents such a God from inflicting the greatest harm and cruelty upon his creatures for no other reason than simply because he feels like it? The scary thing about this is that according to Andalusi’s position there is absolutely nothing which prevents him from doing so!

In fact, Andalusi pretty much admits that his god doesn’t have a nature, at least not one that is defined, and can simply do whatever he wants:

The correct and rational conclusion, is that God possesses no needs or any kind, because he has no ‘nature’ or instincts that motivate him to do actions (i.e. are a first cause before himself). Thus God is not a creature which is moved by its own nature; rather God does not have a defined nature, since no one defined him. But rather, he defines his will BY WHATEVER HE PLEASES. (Emphasis ours)

Andalusi’s statements confirm the following observation made by noted Evangelical Christian apologist and philosopher Norman L. Geisler and his co-author:


There is a certain mystery about God’s names. Cragg affirms these names “are to be understood as characteristics of the Divine will rather than laws of His nature. Action, that is, arising from such descriptives may be expected, but not as a matter of necessity.” What gives unity to all God’s actions is that he wills them all. As willer he may be recognized by the descriptions given him, but he does not conform to any. The action of his will may be identified from its effects, but his will of itself is inscrutable. This accounts for antithesis in certain of God’s names that will be discussed below. For example, God is “the One Who leads astray” as well as “the One Who guides.”


Since everything is based on God’s will and since his effects are sometimes contradictory and do not reflect any absolute essence, God’s nature is really unknowable. Indeed, “the Divine will is an ultimate beyond which neither reason nor revelation go. In the Unity of the single will, however, these descriptions co-exist with those that relate to mercy, compassion, and glory.” God is named from his effects, but he is not to be identified with any of them. The relation between the Ultimate Cause (God) and his creatures is extrinsic, not intrinsic. That is, God is called good because he causes good, but goodness is not part of his essence. (Geisler & Abdul Saleeb,Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross [Baker Books, A Division of Baker Book House Co, Grand Rapids, MI, updated and revised 2002], p. 138; bold emphasis ours)

To say that such a view of God is problematic would be a wild understatement. For instance, how can anyone ever love and rely upon such a God when he can’t be truly known, can’t be trusted, who can simply change his mind and decide to harm and lie to his creatures since he doesn’t have a nature which insures that he will always act in a certain righteous manner? How can a person love a God whose nature remains unknowable and whose actions do not reveal his character but only his will? Can a person love someone who is essentially unknowable and doesn’t care enough for his creatures to make his nature known to them?

Notice the marked difference between Andalusi’s god and the God revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus:
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” John 1:18
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word…I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:3-6, 26
“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ —but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-16
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20
And not only can the God of the Holy Bible be known he also has an immutable nature, and as such he can only act in accord with it:
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” Galatians 4:8

This presupposes that the true God has a Divine nature, unlike the false gods who do not.

And seeing that God by nature is perfect, loving, merciful, holy, righteous, pure etc.
“I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:44-45 – cf. 19:2; 1 Pt. 1:15-16
Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” Deuteronomy 7:9
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
“This God — his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” Psalm 86:15
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.” Psalm 116:5
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” Psalm 145:17
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4 – cf. Rev. 4:1-8
For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15 – cf. Rev. 15:4; 16:5
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” Habakkuk 1:13
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 – cf. Isaiah 49:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:24
“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure… But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin… Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” 1 John 3:3, 5, 7

He therefore cannot lie, cheat, be tempted by evil etc.

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.” Hebrews 6:17-18
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;” James 1:13

Moreover, Andalusi’s view pretty much destroys moral absolutes since morality is whatever this god arbitrarily decides and chooses. This means that such a god could have easily decided to command adultery, lying, murdering, stealing etc. and decreed that such acts are morally good while classifying virtues such as honesty, fidelity, self-sacrificial love etc., as morally objectionable.

Andalusi continues to say:

How does Dr Craig know that God is not the perfect hating being? Dr Craig would probably retort ‘but what need would God have to hate if he has no rival?’, thus the same could be said of love.

In the first place, the reason Dr. Craig knows that God is a perfectly loving Being is because the Holy Bible says that, a) God is perfect (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Matthew 5:48; Acts 17:25; 1 Corinthians 13:10) and that, b) he is love meaning that it his nature to love (cf. 1 John 4:8, 16). The Holy Bible, on the other hand, never says that God is hate.

Secondly, this is nothing more than a false analogy since God’s hate is not an attribute in the same sense that love and holiness are. In fact, hate is actually a manifestation of God’s qualities of justice and holiness. According to the Holy Bible sin is breaking God’s law which was given to reveal God’s everlasting righteousness, goodness etc.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” Psalm 19:7-9
Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules.” Psalm 119:37
Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it… Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth… Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live… The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” Psalm 119:140, 142, 144, 160
“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good… But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.” Romans 7:12, 16

Therefore, every time a person sins s/he is breaking God’s law which is an assault against God’s own character. And because God is righteous and just he hates all violations of his law and will therefore punish the wicked:
The LORD judges the peoples; Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.” Psalm 7:8-12
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” Psalm 11:4-7

The foregoing makes it clear that God’s hatred is a manifestation of his characteristics of justice and holiness, and as such God is not required to hate if there are no sinners who violate his law. In other words, God doesn’t have to express hate in order to be perfectly holy and just. And since all three Persons of the Godhead are perfectly just and holy there was never a need for God to exhibit hatred towards anyone before creation existed.

Perfect love, however, is different in that it doesn’t wait for someone to do something deserving of love in order for it be expressed towards another. This point is perfectly illustrated by Jesus’ teaching on God loving even those who are unworthy and commanding his followers to do the same:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

Thus, the very nature of love as explained by the Lord Jesus is to love even those who are undeserving.

Continues on Part 2



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