Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Refuting the Christian Concept of Salvation
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
It is important to first define what Salvation is from a Christian point of view before refuting it. There is little point in quoting the Qur’an since a Christian would rightly not accept it as a credible source. It is therefore necessary to take a look at it from their own writings. Salvation in Scriptural language has the general meaning of liberation from sin, taint and other evils, and of a migration into a state of spiritual freedom and security. We are considering this from a Trinitarian perspective since Trinitarianism is the prevalent doctrine in Christianity today.
In the Old Testament, Salvation was expressed as God’s Help against the enemies of the Israelites.
1 Samuel, 11:13
13 And Saul said, “No man shall be killed this day: because the Lord this day has Wrought Salvation in Israel …”
1 Samuel 14:45
45 And the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan then die, who has wrought this great salvation in Israel? This must not be: As the Lord Lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has wrought with God this day.” So the people delivered Jonathan that he should not die.
2 Samuel 23:10
10 And when the men of Israel had gone away, he stood and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and grew stiff with the sword: and the Lord Wrought a great victory that day: and the people that were fled away, returned to take spoils of them that were slain.
2 King 13:17
17 … and said, “Open the window to the east.” And when he had opened it, Eliseus said, “Shoot an arrow.” And he shot. And Eliseus said, “The arrow of the Lord's Deliverance, and the arrow of the Deliverance from Syria: and you shall strike the Syrians in Aphec, until you consume them.”
At other times, it was the Divine Blessing Bestowed on the produce of the soil.
8 Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour: and let justice spring up together: I the Lord have Created him.
Since sin is the root and source of all evil, Scripture uses the word ‘salvation’ mainly in the sense of liberation of the humanity or of the individual from sin and its consequences. Christianity as a whole does not dwell much upon the possibility of the Salvation of mankind by God by Pardoning sins without having recourse to the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus (a.s.) the Christ. Rather, much of its scholarship has been focused in justifying the need for the Vicarious Sacrifice. Christians need to believe the Incarnation of the Word is the most fitting means for Salvation and that it is even necessary, in case God Claimed full satisfaction for the injury done to Him by sin. This is of course, contentious, since it implies an inadequacy in the nature of God; that He is subject to whims. A god that can be hurt is does not have omniscience and omnipotence. We are hurt when things do not turn out the way they are expected to. God cannot be hurt since nothing to be except as He Wills. He is free of needs and wants.
Christian doctrine holds that though the office of the Saviour is one, it is virtually multiple: since there is a need for the atonement of sin and damnation, an establishment of the Truth to overcome human inadequacy and a perennial source of spiritual strength aiding man in his struggle against darkness. These are the offices of Jesus (a.s.) as the Incarnate. Trinitarian Christianity is adamant that there can be no doubt Jesus (a.s.) the Christ fulfilled these three functions. The failure to accept this constitutes heresy. It is held that he saved mankind from the consequences of sin. In his capacity as the Guide, Rabbi, he established the reign of Truth, supplied strength to his subjects, reconciling sinful man with an angry God.
It is important to distinguish the Christian Christ from the concept of Christ as understood by Muslims. The English ‘Messiah’, the Hebrew ‘Maschiach’, the Greek ‘Christos’ and the Arabic ‘Masih’ all mean the same thing - Anointed. From a Biblical perspective, the kings of Israel were anointed; Cyrus the Great, ruler of Persia; was anointed and so was almost every ruler in the Near East. The priests of the Temple were anointed. And Jesus (a.s.) was Anointed. From a religious context, it denotes someone Chosen by God for a mission. It does not necessarily indicate godhood of any sort. With regards to Jesus (a.s.), it is the same basic eschatological role in Islam and Christianity. He is to lead the fight against the anti-Christ, also referred to as the False Messiah or al-Masih ad-Dajjal.
Christian theology holds that “Jesus (a.s.) the Christ is constituted God’s Own Son by the substantial unction with the Divine Nature; the ordinary is therefore made holy, though not impeccable, by his consecration, while Christ is separated from all sin and sinners by the hypostatic union.” This is a bombastic contradiction. God is God and man is man. The finite could never hold the infinite in the same vein that a hole in the sand could never hold the ocean. If Jesus (a.s.) is God, then God has Limited Himself in time and space. He is no longer Omnipresent. It may be argued that this is only a portion of God’s Divine Essence since God the Father is still Omniscient. If that be the case, Jesus (a.s.) is no longer Perfect God and Perfect Man as Athanasius and the early Church Fathers would have us believe.
The Levitical priesthood that Jesus (a.s.) is supposedly descended from since the genealogy in the Gospels are unverifiable and therefore, unreliable, was temporal and carnal in its origin. Christ’s (a.s.) priesthood is allegedly eternal, heavenly and spiritual. The sacrifices offered by the temporal priests were either lifeless or irrational animals, distinct from the person of offerer. The Christian Christ offered a victim included in the person of the offerer. They hold that his living flesh, animated by His rational soul, a real and worthy substitute for mankind, on whose behalf Christ offers the sacrifice. The Levitical priesthood inflicted an irreparable death on the sacrifice within the intention of a religious rite. Christian believe Christ’s sacrifice is the immutation of the victim brought about by an internal act of His Will.
17 Therefore does the Father Love me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
The victim’s death has become the source of a new life to himself and to mankind. It is as much of a gift of God to man, as a sacrifice of man to God. However, it neglects to explain in no uncertain terms that if the Christian god is merciful, why is there a need for a vicarious sacrifice in the first place? And if the Christian god is just, why should an innocent pay for the sins of others. And more importantly, in the nature of god, the Christian god has become inadequate since it needs to be accountable to Himself through himself and to man.
Notwithstanding the various Christian understandings of God the Father and God the Son, much of Pauline Christianity hold that he is Perfect God and Perfect Man. Firstly, perfection cannot be limited. Neither can perfection be in contradiction to its very nature. If Jesus (a.s.) is God and Jesus (a.s.) was crucified, did God die? Because if God died and the world exists, then such a god is not the Sustainer. He is therefore, not the God. If Jesus (a.s.) died and God did not die, then God may be God, but Jesus (a.s.) is definitely not God.
Christianity holds that the perfection of the salvation wrought by Christ for mankind offered to God a satisfaction for man's sin not only sufficient but superabundant on God's part.
15 But not as the offence, so also the gift. For if by the offence of one, many died: much more the Grace of God and the gift, by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one sin, so also is the gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation: but grace is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift and of justice shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation: so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life. 19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just. 20 Now the law entered in that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound.
Pauline Christianity asserts that God Agreed to accept man’s redemption through Christ via the work of the Redeemer. That He was bound by His promise and His Justice to Grant the Remission of sin to the extent and in the manner intended by Christ. In this way, salvation has won back for humanity; not just any salvation but the essential prerogative of the state of original justice. It is the sanctifying grace which will restore the minor prerogatives of the Resurrection. However, it is not the blanket forgiveness of every individual sin, only the procurement of the means thereto. This means it is not restricted only to the predestined or to the faithful, but extended to all men.
1 John 2:2
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
1 Desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men: 2 For kings and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, 4 who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
In essence, it is God Who is alleged to have bribed Himself through the person of Jesus (a.s.) the Christ. If salvation has to be won back in such a convoluted fashion, it raises questions of the Christian concept of God’s Mercy and Compassion. The Mercy of God is not limited and it is not the place of man to limit it. Also, what is essentially won is not the blanket forgiveness of sins for all men but the removal of the Original Sin which is only fully realised in those who accept Jesus (a.s.) as their Saviour. It is an inadequate God that would be so unjust as to condemn man for the sins of a distant father.
Individual salvation refers to the repentance of sinners from sin. It is conditional upon the Salvation of Humanity and is realised with the acceptance of Christ as the Saviour. Individual salvation is irrelevant if Christ is not accepted as the Saviour. The Council of Trent described the process of salvation from sin for an adult with great minuteness in Sess. VI, v-vi. The process of Salvation “begins with the Grace of God which touches a sinner's heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the Love and Mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God; he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man's free will.” It is by this Divine Assistance that “a sinner is disposed for salvation; he now believes in the revelation of God, fears God's Justice, hopes in His Mercy, trusts that God will be Merciful to him for Christ's sake, begins to love God as the source of all justice, hates and detests his sins.”
In a nutshell, a Pauline Christian generally holds the below. There are slight differences between the various Churches of the Protestant movement, such as the nature of baptism; the Catholics and the Orthodoxy. As per the words of the Church itself, “Catholics especially believe that the initial grace is truly gratuitous and supernatural; that the human will remains free under the influence of this grace; that man really cooperates in his personal salvation from sin; that by justification man is really made just, and not merely declared or reputed so; that justification and sanctification are only two aspects of the same thing, and not ontologically and chronologically distinct realities; that justification excludes all mortal sin from the soul, so that the just man is no way liable to the sentence of death at God's judgment-seat.”
The above applies only to the salvation of adults. Children, and those not of sound mind can only be saved by cleansing. For Pauline Christians, it is some variation of the sacrament of Baptism since they do not have the use of a mature, reasoned thought. Because of the problem of Original Sin, humanity is in a state of damnation by default. It is only through Salvation that they may be saved. What happens to those who did not have the opportunity to witness Jesus (a.s.) as their Saviour? It would make God capricious since those who by the accident of fate are born in circumstances where they have had no access to these teachings are doomed to the fire.
In Islam, we are meant to return to the Divine Presence. Heaven is just a stopover.
Who say, when afflicted with calamity, “To Allah we Belong and to Him is our Return.” (Surah al-Baqarah:156)
Every person is by default saved. Allah (s.w.t.) is in no need for intermediaries or a vicarious sacrifice. With regards to the Mercy of Allah (s.w.t.), the following hadits qudsi sums it best: “O son of Adam, as long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I have Forgiven you for what you have done and I do not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you would seek My Forgiveness, I would Forgive you. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins that are close to filling the earth and then you would meet Me without ascribing any partners with Me, I would certainly bring to you Forgiveness close to filling it.”
Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah Forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah az-Zumar:53)
The verses of Forgiveness in the Qur’an and hadits are Addressed to all mankind, Islam does not make professing the Kalimah Shahadatayn the condition for Salvation. The declaration is the most assured Path to it. With regards those who are not Muslims, the Qur’an Says thus:
To every people (was Sent) a Messenger: when their Messenger comes (before them), the matter will be Judged between them with justice and they will not be wronged. (Surah Yunus:47)
It is a simple straightforward matter: know the nature of God, believe that He is One and obey the Messengers Sent to them. In the case of every Christian, it would be to discover the message of Jesus (a.s.). And perhaps, that discovery will lead to Islam.
And behold! Allah will Say, “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’” He will say, “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have Known it. Thou Knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou Knowest in full all that is hidden.” (Surah al-Ma’idah:116)