Jesus the avatar ? – a short muslim critique about God incarnate

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Jesus christ as the shaktyavesha avatara an empowered god incarnate in modern hinduism

The trinitarian belief system which  holds that Jesus was the real God Almighty who incarnated into a human body and thus taking on 100% human nature while retaining 100% divine substance, was and always the most notorious point at issue between Christianity and Islam.

Amazing it may seem, as christians love to tell us that God incarnated into a man in order to show God’s love to human and to save them from hell (1), but this, to muslim ears, are out of touch the true Semitic concept of deity and does sound intuitively wrong. God, the ultimate reality of all being, surely must be always be singular, unseen and undivided deity without any imagery (2).

From the muslim viewpoint who see themselves as the true heirs of semitic monotheism, this desemiticising of God into a concept more like  Sanskrit Avatara resulted in dire consequences.

The Quran stated:

مَّا الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ

‘The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers the like of whom had passed away before him… (Surat al-Ma’ida, 75)

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ قَدْ ضَلُّوا مِن قَبْلُ

O people of the Book – Do not exaggerate in your religion other than the truth, and follow not the vain desires of a people who went astray before you.’ (Surat al-Ma’ida, 77)

The Qur’anic term for ‘exaggeration’ used here, ghuluw غلو, became a standard term in Muslim heresiography for any tendency, Muslim or otherwise, which attributed divinity to a revered and charismatic figure (3).

On the Question about God who incarnate into a man

According to christian belief :

God, as creator, to whom all things are possible, can, if He wishes, join a human nature to himself.  The resulting person would be fully human and also fully divine.(4)

This is the crux where Islam (and also Judaism) disagree. Islamic scholars provide a clear demarkation that although God posses absolute power (Al Qudraatu القدرة) to do all things (5), but he cannot do things that are logically impossible (Maa yastahiilu haqillahu ta’ala ما يستحيل في حق الله تعالى).  In other words the fact that God possesses ultimate power does not mean that God will perform something which does not have the possibility of actualization (6):

  • God cannot create a two dimensional shape that is both square and round.
  • God cannot create a man who is both married and a bachelor.
  • God cannot add a human nature on to his divine nature, and the resulting person be both human and divine which is logically impossible.

Of course God could enter into a human body. He could even share consciousness with a human person inside a human body. But these beings would never be ‘fully’ divine and ‘fully’ human, but some kind of mixture. Because if God become a man and God become 100% it mean God become equals with man (and share human weakness such as wrongful, dependent on others which is impossible for God (7).

Trinitarian would normally say that muslims try to keep God in a very small box, and limits Him to abilities that only the finite mind can comprehend. However this argument put the idea of God outside the realm of the logicality and deviates into unintelligible, meaningless philosophical speculation if not a logical fallacy.

Using jewish scriptures, trinitarians are keen to point to the burning bush which Moses encountered at Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4) and the cloud covers the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) to show that God can manifested in many forms,and surely God can also incarnate into man. But the jews believe those manifestation were the works of God’s agent: the angels (throughout jewish scripture, visions of God are accompanied by the sighting of angels).  The jewish interpretation  are more in line with semitic monotheism that the Angel(s) of the Lord who was commissioned to speak God’s words throughout the Scriptures. Sometime He  is called “Lord” on behalf of conveying God’s message to Prophets of God Nabī Āllah نبي الله, but the Angel of the Lord is not God incarnate as trinitarians insist.

But even if for argument sake, it was really God who manifested in various incarnation forms in the jewish Bible, why do not trinitarians maintain the same relationship between Jesus and God as the relationship between God and the burning bush or between God and the tabernacle cloud etc. Why trinitarian theologian limit only three members of godhead instead of five (- add the bush and the cloud )?.

If anything, trinitarian concept of God becoming a man mixes semitic monotheism and paganism. To worship YHWH through “human nature” for it breaks away with biblical  principles that God is not a man (8)  and we should not put trust in “son of man” in which there is no salvation (9).

ALLH knows best.

Notes:
  1. Catechism: The Son of God Became Man
  2. The essence of Judaism: Unity of God 
  3. Sh. Abdal Hakim Murad’s The Trinity: a Muslim Perspective 
  4. I take the stance by the adherence of calvinists “classical” orthodoxy like the apologist James White in his debate with brother Abdullah Kunde on the topic “Can God become man
  5. إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ “Allah has the perfect Power over all things” [Q 2:109]
  6. Medieval Sunni theologian Abu Ishaq al-Isfara’ini recorded this narration in his Islamic jurisprudence: (my own translation)

    رُوي أن سيدنا إدريس عليه الصلاة والسلام جاءه مرة إبليس في صورة إنسان وكان سيدنا إدريس يخيط وفي كل دخلة وخرجة يقول سبحان الله والحمد لله، فجاءه إبليس اللعين بقشرة وقال له: الله تعالى يقدر أن يجعل الدنيا في هذه القشرة؟

    فقال له سيدنا إدريس: الله تعالى قادر أن يجعل الدنيا في سَمّ هذه الإبرة أي ثقبها، ونخس بالإبرة في إحدى عينيه وجعله أعور

    “Narrated that  prophet Idris peace be upon him received Satan as visitor in the form of man  at that time when prophet Idris is sewing (his clothes) while he is praising Allah. Satan ask whether God with His power is able to put the world in the (egg) shell.
    Prophet Idris replied : ” God is able to put the world into this needle hole” while at the same time he puncture one of the man eye so he then became one-eyed.

    <The moral story is the Satan like to mock God’s power by saying inappropriate illogical aspect of His ability>

  7. Islamic theologians call this impossibility of God’s attribute as  Mumatsalatu Lil Hawadits (مماثلة للحوادث) means “Equals with God Creations”.
  8. Lo eesh El“– לֹ֣א אִ֥ישׁ אֵל֙ “God is not a man” that He should be deceitful, not a “son of man” that He should relent » Numbers 23:19 .  It is argued that the verse can not be used as an argument against the Incarnation because it is meant that God is not like a sinful, deceitful human not about the substance of God whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood, I would argue this is still the case. If anything, it is the acquired human nature after the incarnation that oddly makes god-man a 100% human. To be a human in fulness he has to have the shortcomings of change his mind or lying .  Worshipping a hybrid but unseparated god-man constitutes worshipping a human and that is certainly something guilty of idolatry.
  9. אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ בִנְדִיבִ֑ים בְּבֶן־אָדָ֓ם ׀ שֶׁ֤אֵֽין ל֥וֹ תְשׁוּעָֽה

    Put not your trust in the great, in son of man who cannot save. [Ps 146:3]

    Interestingly the very root of hebrew word teshuah תְּשׁוּעָה  used in that verse means salvation. It does seem to me that this verse prophesies a danger of worshipping the “son of man” ben Adam בֶן־אָדָ֓ם  a man mistakenly thought as god incarnate thus a warning for believing in false salvation.

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