The Predicament of Islamic Monotheism -- By: Imad N. Shehadeh

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 161:642 (Apr 2004)
Article: The Predicament of Islamic Monotheism
Author: Imad N. Shehadeh

The Predicament
of Islamic Monotheisma

Imad N. Shehadeh

Imad N. Shehadeh is Founder and President of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, Amman, Jordan.

As noted in the previous article in this series,1 the term “Allah” was introduced into Islam from the Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians living in the Arab Peninsula as referring to the one and only true God. However, though both Islam and Christianity may believe in the same God as subject, yet they differ widely on what they believe about His nature. As Zwemer wrote, “The word Allah is used for God not only by all Moslems, but by all Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians in the Orient. But this does not necessarily mean that the idea expressed by the word is the same in each case.”2 Of significance for this study is that the reasons for this assertion extend beyond the idea that the Qur’an rejects the Trinity and the Incarnation. This study focuses on the theological presuppositions behind such a denunciation3 and pursues the issue of the existence and activity of God’s attributes apart from creation. As will be seen, it is an investigation of God’s attributes ad intra. In Trinitarian terms it is an inquiry into the immanent

Trinity. It is here that Islam has its deepest struggle, which is seen in many facets of its theological system.

A Legitimate Pursuit?

However, is this a legitimate pursuit? Many Islamic and Christian theologians alike have avoided this question, thinking that a probe of God’s eternal existence and activity apart from creation is outside the realm of human inquiry. Appealing to the “hiddenness” of God as His divine prerogative, Jensen asserted, “We can honor and obey the divine majesty of God ‘in himself’ only by refraining from the religious quest for God ‘in himself’ beyond his temporal revelation, only by truly obeying the Socratic motto ‘Quae supra nos, nihil ad nos’ (What is above us is none of our business).”4 Calvin also strongly discouraged such a quest. “It was a shrewd saying of a good old man, who when someone pertly asked in derision what God did before the world was created, answered: ‘he made a hell for the inquisitive.’ ”5 Augustine did not consider the question inappropriate, but, confessing ignorance, he assigned the answer to the deep mysteries, since he viewed...

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