Reflections on the Nature of God
By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
The term “son of God” doesn’t necessarily indicate divinity. Most Christians believe it does, this is because of Christian theology. However, this interpretation is not necessarily what a first century Jewish person would understand from this term. The same applies to calling God “Father”. The Essenes and the Nazarenes, both of which were essentially Jewish sects called God “Father”, but they had a very Jewish understanding of God. What they meant is allegorical, not literal, ie. God is our spiritual Father, and cares for humanity in a way somewhat comparable, to how a father cares for his children. When Jesus said:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 1:12-13 NASB
Did Jesus mean this literally, or allegorically? If the latter, as I believe, then maybe this applies to Jesus too. In which case Jesus’ status as ‘Son of God’ wouldn’t be unique, but rather an indication of his piety and closeness to God. In a similar way Muslims call very pious people “Awliya” (singular: Wali-Allah) the “friends of God”.
The Christian tradition in the West has become increasing isolated from the Christian tradition in the East, and its Semitic roots in the Middle East and Ethiopia. The tradition practised there is much older, and to really understand the Christian message, one should look deeply into its origins, and for Christian groups which are the true heirs of these early churches. If we superimpose a modern Western understanding, upon what is essentially an ancient Semitic faith, without really trying to understand it, we will inevitably draw the wrong conclusions.
Arabs are Semites too, their language is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic, and Islam is a Semitic faith. When we look at Christianity and Islam, keeping their Semitic roots in mind it is easy to see the connections between them. It is also quite obvious that Allah is another name for God Almighty of the Bible. But when looked at through Western eyes, without taking this into account, it is possible to miss that, which is really quite obvious.
Most English speaking Christians don’t call God, “Yahweh” or “Elohim” or “El-Shaddai” but rather God, Lord, God Almighty or another English equivalent. The same applies to many English speaking Muslims. In regular conversation with both Muslims and other people, I often refer to Allah as God, The Almighty, The Lord, Our Creator, God Almighty, as well as Allah, and the same is true of other Muslims. We’re referring to the same Almighty God who created everything that exists. The same God of the Bible.
There are some Christians who seem to forget, the book they call the Bible is actually a library of many books. The majority of which form the Old Testament, also known as the Tanakh. These were originally, and still are the Jewish Scriptures. The early Christians used to refer to these often, and there are many quotes in the New Testament from the Old. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Jewish scriptures. Therefore, Christianity is justified by the Jewish scriptures. But is it not important to note the Old Testament states:
“God is not a man…” Numbers 23:19 KJV
“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” Exodus 20:1-5 KJV
If we are to understand, as Trinitarians suggest, that Jesus is not a human messenger who God inspired, but rather Almighty God Himself incarnated in human form, then surely this casts a doubt on whether the God of the New Testament is really the God of the Old Testament! This surely is one of the reasons Christianity has such an old and developed theological tradition, to explain this conundrum, especially within the Roman Church, and the Protestant churches which broke away from it.
In the NIV, there is a footnote stating that “before me”, in Exodus (20:3) can also be translated “besides me” meaning God has no partners, doesn’t this rule out a Trinity? This also means that the God of the Old Testament is described in exactly the same way as Allah in the Holy Qur’an.
“O men! call to mind the grace of Allah unto you! Is there a Creator other than Allah to give you Sustenance from heaven or earth? There is no god but He: how then are ye deluded away from the Truth?” Holy Qur’an 35:3
“Knowest thou not that to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And besides Him ye have neither patron nor helper” Holy Qur’an 2:107
“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon and to David We gave the Psalms.” Holy Qur’an 4:163
The God of Islam is the God of the Old Testament, this is the reason why Jews and Muslims have no major theological disagreements with one another about the nature of God. Trinitarian Christians, on the other hand, do disagree on this subject, with Jews and Muslims, and Unitarian Christians too…
Allah is God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, who inspired all true prophets throughout the ages. I’m not sure why, but some people still find it hard to accept that Muslims really do believe in the same God… Just because Muslims have another name for Him in Arabic, in a similar way we call Him Almighty God in English However, if you believe in the god of human doctrines and theology, is that god really the same God of the Bible? We can all play games with words, but God knows who He is, and who really believes in Him. God is not going to condemn anyone for calling Him by a name, such as Allah, God Almighty or Shangdi which can only rightfully apply to Him anyway, and doesn’t really apply to anyone other.