(8) How does Christ in Christianity differ from Christ in Islam?
(8) How does Christ in Christianity differ from Christ in Islam?
Host: Welcome to a new episode of our program “Questions About Faith.” It’s our pleasure to answer all your questions and respond to all the thoughts that come to your mind. It honors us to have the Rev. Father Zekaria Boutros here with us to answer all your questions. Welcome Father.
Father: Thank you very much.
+ Host: We will resume our discussion about “God the Incarnate Word.” Please review what we have already discussed, so the viewers are able to keep up with the discussion.
Father: Actually the whole topic developed, and the discussion revolves, around the question of, “Who is Christ in the Christian thought?” And we’re also looking into it, in the Islamic thought. Are there differences about, the person of Christ, in the Christian, and the Islamic thoughts? That was the topic of discussion, throughout the several previous episodes.
The problem, our Muslim brother faces is, “How can we say, that Christ is the Son of God?” It is income/prehensible, unacceptable. Why? He has an objection, with the expression “Son of God”. How could Jesus, possibly be the Son of God? But the reason he objects is, because he understands the Son of God, in the literal sense; that is physically. And therefore he can’t accept it. But why doesn’t he discuss it with us, and ask us, what we mean by the term Son of God?
Well, they don’t. Some of our beloved Muslims, don’t want to discuss. They only want to object, saying: "you Christians are wrong" and that’s it. But I am a hundred percent sure, that many of our beloved Muslim friends, want to understand the truth, regardless of anything else. They want to know the truth. And so, as long as, the mind works, it wants to find the truth. Well, you say such and such, about certain facts. Are these true things or not? What do the Christians say about it? Is that, what they really mean? And as long as you think, you must enquire.
+ Host: Certainly.
Father: And if you enquire, you will search, and if you search, you’ll most definitely arrive at…
+ Host: Truth.
Father: The truth. And therefore we’re always ready to, answer everyone, who asks about the reason, for the hope, that is in us, with love, and pleasure (1Pet. 3: 15).
Your question to me, from the beginning was: What is our doctrine about Christ? What is this matter about the Son of God? And what, is it about Christ? Is He God, or is He man? Is He the Son of God, or the Son of Man? And of course, the issue in the Muslim’s mind, is a bit confused. And who can blame him. Because he neither researches nor reads; he just hears what is being said,
+ Host: Not just hears Father. He is fully saturated with what he hears. And they have implanted in him complete rejection of what we say.
Father: Of course, you can identify, and express this better than me, because you come from the same background. But we have never lived in, the atmosphere of a Muslim family, but you lived in one. They inculcate them as children; and they poison their minds. This is all out of fear, lest the children should leave Islam. And if they forsake Islam, then, the Islamic state would fall apart. And then, the infidels- the Christian Crusaders- would come, as well as, the Zionists, and occupy Arab countries.
+ Host: There are many other wild ideas that have no grounding in reality.
Father: And the Crusaders as you know, came to occupy our countries, But for صلاح الدين الايوبى Salahuddin Al-Ayyuby the defender of Islam, the Crusaders, would not have been vanquished. Of course the Crusaders never went out, in the name of Christ, or the cross, because the cross is the guillitine, so to speak, upon which Christ was killed. The cross is never a weapon, to stab others and put them to death. Even the very concept of the Crusades was contrary to Christianity. The cross has nothing to do with it.
+ Host: The very name is wrong.
Father: They were based on, colonial aspirations, that are absolutely remote…
+ Host: From Christianity.
Father: From the spirit of Christianity. And as evidence, Christ says the following: “Whoever desires to come after me. Let him deny himself, and take up, the cross; that is his guillitin and follow me.” Do we then bear the cross, in order to stab people with it? And again Christ said to Peter, on the night, they arrested Christ. Peter drew out his weapon, his sword, and he wanted to strike them all, dead. But because of his lack of skill, in terrorist acts, all he could do, was he cut off, the ear of that guy. That’s all he could do.
+ Host: It’s like he completely missed what Jesus had tried to teach him all those years.
Father: He was shaking, as he struck, because he wasn’t trained. Had Christ intended them, to rely on weapons, He would have trained the disciples, but not so. He lived with them, in peace, and in love. He said in (Math. 5: 44) “Love your enemies; bless those who curse you.” Not “Fight your enemies.” And even after Peter, had cut off, the man’s ear, Christ healed it. He glued it back on, and said to Peter, you listen well to me. This sword, will never be used again, in my religion. (Math. 26: 52) “Return your sword back, to its place; for all who take the sword, will perish by the sword”. We do not depend on the sword. Remove it. My sword is the Word of God, the tender, kind-hearted, sweet word which expresses God’s love, and peace not the sword. So the Crusaders were not Christians; they were colonialists, using that name simply to gather people around them. You know like what? It’s like Ireland. The war, going on between the Catholics, and the Protestants. Although Catholicism, and Protestantism, have nothing to do with this war, because they are simply, two political parties, not religions. For example in Germany, there is a party, called the Christian Democratic Party; it’s a party, and not a religion. The same way in Ireland; it’s not about religion, it’s not about two churches, clashing with one another.
+ Host: You know our beloved Muslims are confused about this issue.
Father: We are talking about principles. In our Bible, which is our constitution, there is no war. In the Bible, Christ taught us about peace: (Rom 12: 18) “As much as you can, live peaceably with all men.” And on the cross, even though, they were crucifying Him, He said, “Father, forgive them.” And again when Peter wanted to cut off, the man’s head, Jesus said to him, “hold your horses. If I want it, to turn into a battle, I would have sent for, twelve legions of angels, to (annayelate) them, to lay it all to waste. But this is not our style, this is not our policy.” But when people take on, such names – Crusaders - to hide their nationalistic, or colonial aspirations, Christianity is absolutely innocent, of such claims, totally innocent.
+ Host: Shall we move on to the next question Father? One of our Muslim brothers asks: Is it proper to say this about God? Is it proper to say He is the Son of God?
Father: Well. It’s really the same subject, and the same objection, and it’s the same old story, where the Son of God, is misunderstood, to be born out of, a sexual union, having to do with procreation, and marriage. Actually it’s the same idea. But what I want to say here, to my Muslim brother, whom I truly love, and desire that, he would understand the truth, is “why don’t we come, and look into Islam. Let's see what it says, about God, Is it proper to speak about Him that way or not? Here are some common Islamic sayings: God says: “The poor are my children.”
+ Host: What is this Rev. Father? Is it a divine tradition?
Father: Yes, it’s a divine tradition. You could find it in this site:
“The poor are my children.” But where did God, give birth to them? So when the divine tradition says “The poor are my children” it is acceptable, but when we say: Christ is the Son of God, it is unacceptable! One must be fair. You’ve got to be fair, and consistent in your thinking. If the one is logical, so must the other be. There are other passages as well. In (Sura 20 verse 5) it says “The Mercy-giving, is settled on the throne.” I believe we discussed this in a previous episode. What throne? What throne is it, that God would sit upon? How big is it? How big must it be, to fit Him?
Host: What is the size of this throne?
Father: God is unlimited. Can they provide an unlimited seat for Him, in order for Him, to sit on? Well, when we take things literally, it doesn’t work. Also, does God physically sit? Would God then have legs, and buttecks, and that sort of thing? And Muslims find fault with us, when we say that God was incarnated. And they make a chair for God and He sits on it. We can’t take things literally. When talking to Muslims, they ask “Is it proper for God, to have a Son?” But then, is the word “buttocks” proper for God? because it says “The Mercy-giving is settled on the throne.” This means He is seated and it can’t be. It cannot be taken literally, but purpose/fully. And what is the implication? What does it denote? What does it symbolize? What’s the point of that comparison? What is the point of this metonymy? And then take the meaning, not the letter. And of course the Quran means here that God reigns. So the simily here, is taken from a king, seated on his throne, at his coronation. So it simply says, that God most high is the King, of the universe who reigns, praise be to Him, a King. But this is a figurative expression. He is seated, on the throne of His sovereignty.
+ Host: It cannot be applied literally.
Father: That is right. And that’s exactly what we are saying. My beloved Muslim brother, do not take things literally, because in the Quran, you have literal things, that are also inappropriate for God.
+ Host: Unacceptable.
Father: Yes. In (Sura 57 verse 39) it says, “Bounty lies in God’s hand.” Does God have hands? Well, since we are sticking to literalism, how long are these hands of God? Would those hands, have fingers too? Do they have muscles and joints, bones and flesh? If we take it literally, it just won’t fit. It won’t be acceptable. But we must derive an implication, from this expression, and it is that the hand of God means the power of God. “Bounty is in God’s hands,” means He is the one to be credited. He is the Owner, the Giver of bounty.
+ Host: And we cannot take it literally as if we’re talking about a physical hand that has fingers. It just wouldn’t fit.
Father: Yes, because God is a Spirit, He’s immaterial to start with, so He wouldn’t have hands.
+ Host: So He wouldn't have hands and fingers and such things.
Father: Sure. In (Surah 2 as well verse 115) it says, the following: “Wherever you may turn, there will be God’s face.”
+ Host: Now, He has a face!
Father: If it is taken literally. What does this face of God look like? How do His eyes look? Would He also have a nose? Or does He not breathe? Does He also have a respiratory system; lungs and all that? Does He have a mouth in His face? Does He have a digestive system? Well, does He have ears? Does He have an auditory system? Well, does He have hair? Well, if you are a stickler to the letter, and keep telling us what is appropriate, and what is inappropriate, then tell me about the face of God? But we know this is a metaphorical expression implying that God is everywhere. Wherever you turn your face, you will find Him. The same applies to the Son of God. I do not mean physical procreation, but rather a refined meaning. Sonship, denotes His issuance from the Father, and manifestation to mankind. The same way my idea is manifested to people, we call it: a brain child. We say he is the father of the idea. He is the father; he embodied the idea. And that’s fatherhood.
Okay then, who is the Father of Christ? Did He have a physical Father? He didn’t have any. He was rather attributed to God. “The poor are My children” because they don’t have a father, to look after them. Christ did not even have a father, who begot him? So, whose Son is He? Just to put it simply, by this analogy, I want to show, there are expressions in the Quran itself, if taken literally would be unacceptable, and inadmissible. Alright then, we must take it by its implications, and its meaning, and similarly when we talk about God in Christianity, Christ is the Son of God, He is attributed to God, issuing from God, God’s revealed mind, the manifested Word of God in a human being. In this sense, of course these things are logical. When we discuss them they are correct logically.
Yet I want to say again, that this logic may convince the mind, but it cannot convince the spirit.
+ Host: Right, right.
Father: So in spite of our attempt, to simplify the idea, or at least to remove its complexities, we still cannot say “That is it.” Why? Because, we must be touched, by God.
+ Host: This is very true Father, because in Islam God, Most High, is so elevated and, if I might say: distant. There are so many barriers between man and Him. But for us in Christianity, God is a loving Father. God is inside me. He’s closer to me than myself. And here lies the difference. That’s why our Muslim brothers consider it unlikely to be children of God who call God, Our Father.
Father: Yes, He’s considered too far exalted.
+ Host: Yes, He’s so exalted. He’s fearsome.
Father: Too far above. We have nothing to do with him. You know, I remember, one time there was, a very famous author whose name is توفيق الحكيم Tawfiq Al-Hakim. I remember in his last days, he wrote in Al-Ahram newspaper. I really liked what he had to say. He is a refined philosopher.
+ Host: Very much so.
Father: Yes. He wrote the following: “From now till I die, I will not use my pen, except in conversations with God.” That was after the death of his son. His son was named Ishmael. And he started to write in Al-Ahram Newspaper “Communing with God.” He started to say, that God is love, and that He loves us, and there is a love relationship. And he has a nice narrative style which is called “The intellectual theatre,” in the sense of, "I said, and he answered, and so forth. For example: my donkey said, so I talked back to him." So he used this theatrical style in communing with God. I said to God such and such and such, and God said to me, “I love you.” And I said to him, “How do you love me?” So God said to me such and such. The world was turned upside-down.
+ Host: Most definitely.
Father: How possibly could you talk to God, and God talk to you! Are you a prophet, that God would talk to you?
+ Host: You know, these are the exact barriers that keep the Muslims away from God.
Father: They called him an infidel
+ Host: These barriers are nonexistent.
Father: Had it not been for some nice folks, such as صلاح منتصر Salah Montasser and others, who defended him and they made him write articles, that are pleasing to the masses and so forth…
+ Host: They might have killed him…
Father: and he gave up, this business, about communion with God, and it was over. So the idea is, exactly as you said: There is a barrier, a partition that separates man from God. This is impossible. In Christianity it isn’t so. Without God I can not live; because His love fills me; His Spirit strengthens me, and He gives me life; God is so near to me.
The Bible says (Rom. 10: 6-10) “Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend to heaven? that is to bring Christ down from above, or Who will descend to the abi/ss? that is to bring Christ up from the dead, for God is near you, in your heart, the word of faith, that if you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, you will be saved”. There can be a sense, of the closeness to God and this is also, in the book of Revelation (Rev. 3: 20) “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come to him, and dine with him, and he with Me”. He stands at the door.
+ Host: Would you please clarify for us the meaning of opening the door? We need to understand that this too is not literal. We are talking about the door of one's heart not an ordinary door.
+ Father: The door of the heart, means the will of man, with his will, with his desire, he should open, with the longing of his heart, and say to the Lord, “Lord, my life is open to You. Come into my life Lord, and enlighten me and lead me, and bless me.” But there must be 1- first, in true faith, that He loves you, 2- and in sincerity for the Lord to come into your life, sincerity not playing around. 3- And the other thing, is to trust that the Lord will answer.
+ Host: Yes Father, the trust. Trust that God hears and answers.
+ Father: Quite true, and that God is near.
+ Host: Sometimes this trust is almost nonexistent. How could one trust?
+ Father: This is exactly what I mean; I plead with my beloved Muslim friends. God has given you a mind to think with. Think and don’t be afraid, because God will guide your mind, to the truth.
+ Host: Certainly.
+ Father: This is my appeal
+ Host: But we receive so many other questions. One of them is: Was heaven empty of God, when God was incarnated in Christ?
+ Father: It’s a logical question. It’s a question, that really constitutes, a complex in ones mind. How come? And as a matter of fact, the answer to these things, is very simple, and it's really easy, because we can reason it out - we can reason things out.
Host: How could you reason it out?
+ Father: First of all (Surah 24 verse 25) says the following: “God is the light of heaven and earth, His light may be compared to a niche in which there is a lamp” -niche meaning an opening in a wall, I explained that before- “…the lamp is in a glass, the glass is mounted on the lamp” Will it block the light? And then it goes on to say “…the glass is, as if it is, a glittering star.” The glass is supposed, to suppress the light. It covers it; it should block it, but this is not the case, nothing could block the light. Light penetrates transparent glass. “…and the glass is tinted, as a glittering star.” God equals light; He is the light of heaven and earth. The simily here means, that nothing could limit light; the light is in a glass, but nothing could limit it. Right? God is the light of heaven and earth. Was manifested in the body of Christ? Appeared in Him! The body of Christ is like this glass of a lamp, which does not block the light; it proceeds from it and radiates everywhere. We are now seated in the Studio, and we have lighting. This lighting comes from a lamp. Don’t the rays proceed out of the lamp to give us light? Aren’t we illuminated by it? Or has the lamp, blocked the light, and dimmed the lighting? It is Impossible. God is light, and nothing absolutely nothing, could block Him, or limit Him; He was manifested in the flesh, but He still radiates everywhere, because He is infinite.
Host: this is good illustration. Is there anything else?
+ Father: Something else: in (Sura 28, 27, and 20) the ones we talked about before, regarding God’s conversation with Moses through the tree, where He says “I am God; there is no other Deity but I, blessed be whoever is in the fire and whoever is around it.” Since God was manifested in this tree, who was in heaven? It is exactly the same question, right? Well He was manifested in the flesh the same way He was manifested in the tree and earlier in (Sura 7) “His Lord manifested Himself to the mountain.”
+ Host: Was heaven empty then when He was on the mountain?
+ Father: Impossible! Of course not. He was not out for an ex/cursion.
+ Host: Of course not.
+ Father: Here is another thing. In the (Sahih Al-Bukhari volume 4 page 68) the prophet says - “Our Lord descends” “Our Lord- may He be blessed and exalted- descends every night to the lower heaven -that’s the one here below- …when one-third of the night is left -that is the final third- and says ‘Whoever calls upon Me that I may answer him’”
+ Host: This is a call to prayer? Salat el Fajr.
+ Father: Ok. What about the upper heaven? Was it empty from His presence, when He descends to the Lower heavens?
+ Host: No, certainly.
+ Father: Well then, the whole issue is metaphoric. It is just an expression. God is infinite; He is omnipresent. Well, this was an important question which really needed clarification.
+ Host: Thank you Father for that important clarification, and we’ll move on to the following question. What is the purpose of the doctrine of incarnation? Or why do you believe that God was incarnated in Christ?
+ Father: Actually it’s now the end of the episode so it seems that you are paving the road for another episode.
+ Host: Yes, certainly Father.
+ Father: Well, in a nutshell. The reason God was incarnated in a man, was in order to redeem us, to sacrifice Himself for us, to atone for our sins, to forgive our sins and trespasses. By His love, he took on Himself, a human body capable of atoning for our sins. In this way He expressed to us the Father’s infinite love for us.
+ Host: Yes, a love initiative.
+ Father: So the conclusion is: God loves us, and this love prompted Him, to come to us, and to take upon Himself, a mortal body, like ours, for the purpose of, atonement and forgiveness. I think, this will be a topic, for another discussion, but my request, to the viewer, is that he should pray, and say to God: “Lord, make Your light, shine upon my heart, for You love me, and You came to me, and You were incarnated especially to forgive my sins, and atone for them. God help me to get to know You. Amen”
+ Host: Amen. Amen.
+ Host: At the conclusion of our episode, we thank you, Reverend Father, and Lord’s willing we have many more discussions.
+ Father: Amen.
+ Host: My dear viewer, I repeat once again that we love you and we are ready to answer all of your questions. Write to us at the address which will appear now; send a request and we are ready to send you a free copy of the Bible. Thank you, until we meet again, Lord willing.
+ Father: Amen. Thank You.