Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Run of the Mill Attack on Calvinism

Part Three

For Part One and Two, see here and here

More knowledgeable writers than Mr. Mills on Calvinism and Islam recognize the disparities that obtain between the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination set forth in the previous post and its Islamic counterpart, the latter of which is more appropriately seen as a version of fatalism. No less an authority than Samuel Zwemer, appropriately dubbed the Apostle to Islam, noted the differences between the two and sought to elucidate them:

THE sixth great point of faith in Islam is Predestination, and it has important bearing on the Moslem idea of God. It expresses God's relation to the creature and to man as a moral agent. Although the terms used in describing predestination by Moslems and Christians (especially Calvinists) have much similarity the result of their reasoning is as far apart as the East from the West. It has often been asserted that the Mohammedan belief in God's eternal decrees and foreknowledge of good and evil is a sort of Oriental Calvinism. This, as we hope to show, is not the case. [Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God: An Essay on the Character and Attributes of Allah According to the Koran and Orthodox Tradition (New York: American Tract Society, 1905), pp. 93-94. This book can be read in its entirety at the following link: here]

Zwemer goes on to demarcate the differences, noting, among other things, that Christianity fully affirms the reality of secondary causes and agents while Islam tends towards their denial. That is, in Christianity, God ordains not only that certain ends will be realized or actualized; he also ordains that they will come to pass by certain means. Moreover, while God ordains the means just as surely as He ordains the ends, the secondary causes or agents, particularly in the case of human beings, always act in accord with their own nature and desires. The Biblical or Calvinistic view on this has already been presented. On the other hand, Islam’s denial of human responsibility for what has been decreed is pointedly set forth in the following hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Adam and Moses argued with each other. Moses said to Adam. 'O Adam! You are our father who disappointed us and turned us out of Paradise.' Then Adam said to him, 'O Moses! Allah favored you with His talk (talked to you directly) and He wrote (the Torah) for you with His own hand. Do you blame me for action which Allah had written in my fate forty years before my creation?' So Adam confuted Moses, Adam confuted Moses," the Prophet added, repeating the statement three times. (Bukhari, 77.611; see also Muslim 33.6409, 33.6411)

The disparity between the Christian and the Muslim view on these points is well-captured and illustrated by Lorraine Boettner:

Practically, Mohammedanism holds to a predestination of ends regardless of means. The contrast with the Christian system is seen in the following story. A ship crowded with Englishmen and Mohammedans was ploughing through the waves. Accidentally one of the passengers fell overboard. The Mohammedans looked after him with indifference, saying, “If it is written in the book of destiny that he shall be saved, he shall be saved without us; and if it is written that he shall perish, we can do nothing”; and with that they left him. But the Englishmen said, “Perhaps it is written that we should save him.” They threw him a rope and he was saved. [Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Philippsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932), p. 320.]

And so, while Calvinistic Christianity, which is just to say, Biblical Christianity, holds man to be fully accountable or responsible for his actions, the logical conclusion of the Islamic system is that man is not properly spoken of as being responsible for his actions, though he is still subject to Allah’s whims and punishment.

Hence, Mr. Mills' claim that Calvinism naturally leads one to Islam since the two teach the same thing regarding divine sovereignty and human responsibility is far from the truth.

In addition, while it is true that there are Muslims who believe in predestination, it is also true that many Muslims reject this doctrine in favor of something more akin to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism and/or Arminianism. For example, Yusuf Ali, the famed commentator of a very popular translation of the Qur’an, claims to find proof for free will all over the place, albeit man’s free will is limited in some respects by Allah’s choices regarding at least “big” matters (such as maintaining the stars in their orbits), something readily affirmed by Semi-Pelagians.

For instance, the following verse of the Qur’an states:

Say: “The Truth is from your Lord”: let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it): for the wrongdoers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames) like the wall and roof of a tent will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass that will scald their faces. How dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on! (Q. 18:29)

In his commentary on this verse, Yusuf Ali says:

Our choice in our limited Free-will involves a corresponding personal responsibility. We are offered the Truth: again and again is it pressed on our attention. If we reject it, we must take all the terrible consequences which are prefigured in the Fire of Hell. Its flames and roof will completely enclose us like a tent. Ordinarily there is water to quench the heat of thirst: here the only drink will be like molten brass, thick, heavy, burning, sizzling. Before it reaches the mouth of the unfortunates, drops of it will scald their faces as it is poured out. (Footnote #2371.)

(For more comments from Yusuf Ali on the Qur’anic support for free will, see the following footnotes for starters: #186, 628, 860, 866, 1333, 1392, 1490, 1503, 1622, 1802, 2057, 2133, 2229, 2247, 2252, 2253, 2395, 2573, 3557, 3644, 3788, 4012, 4233, 4267, 4556, 4593, 4855, 4952, 4963, 5480, 5688, 5832, 5996, 6004, 6168. If the reader wants further garish descriptions of hell, read the Inferno by Yusuf Ali’s Roman Catholic counterpart, Dante Alighieri.)

Predestination is also denied by Muslims of the Ahmadiyya sect, as well as by Shiites, the followers of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, et al.

Since Muslims also have their “Semi-Pelagians” and "Arminians," and since examples of Semi-Pelagians and Arminians converting to Islam are ready to hand, perhaps like Mr. Mills I should say of someone like John Walker Lindh: “It should not surprise us when a Roman Catholic becomes a Moslem.”

To be continued…

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