Are Divinity and Humanity Irreconcilable?

The Muslim speaker said, "Just as the ocean cannot be contained in a tea cup, the infinite God cannot be contained in the finite body of Jesus."

There you go; that is a basic assumption of Muslims used to "refute" the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. More philosophically the assumption can be stated as, "If the content of a proposition is apparently logically contradictory, then the reality denoted by that content is ontologically/metaphyically impossible."

Like most Islamic arguments about things Christian, the Islamic assumption sounds good on the surface, but only so long as one stays on the surface. Just a little digging and the fallacious thinking is patent. Just a little digging on my part revealed the following about this Islamic assumption:

1. Modal terms such as "possible," or "impossible," apply to propositions only, not to beings. This was the gist of Kant’s refutation of Anselm’s ontological argument in the Proslogion. Thus it makes no sense to say that the bodily finite Jesus is the infinite God is impossible. Jesus is not merely a proposition; and God is not merely a proposition.

2. The logical and the ontological realms are discrete. Muslims fail to demonstrate that the one realm must necessarily operate under the same rules as the other. I would love to see that argument developed.

3. Since Muslims apparently believe in a God who is all-powerful, why do they attempt to constrain that God by logical rules that apply to propositions only? Is God merely a proposition, or is God bound by those logical rules? Of course, a Muslim could claim that Allah bound Allah’s self by those logical rules. Where is the proof for this claim? Again, I would love to see that argument developed.

4. Just yesterday I was reading a hadith qudsi that said, "Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night to the earth’s sky when there remains the final third of the night… [al-Bukhari, Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud]. To descend is a movement through space. Only a physical entity can move through space. Thus even the hadith has a non-physical God act in physical ways. Sounds contradictory or impossible to me. I guess Muslims believe that the infinite Allah can act in finitely physical ways only under certain circumstances. God can enter space and time, but not flesh. God can do some impossible things, but not others. Do I have that right? Sounds pretty arbitrary to me.

Why do I have the feeling that Muslims will respond by saying that some language is metaphorical and other language isn’t. When we say that Allah descends that is metaphorical. And how do we know that? Well, it is obvious—Muslims have decided that Allah can only act in the ways Muslims have decided that Allah can act. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Salafiyyah Muslim who said that Allah has an arm, eyes, foot, and a throne (I hope I have those parts correct). When I asked whether the arm and the throne were physical, his response was, "I only know what the Qur’an says. I know there is a throne, but I don’t know whether it is a physical throne or not." I didn’t say it, but I was wondering what a non-physical throne would be—an imaginative throne (one that isn’t there; Allah is sitting on a throne that isn’t there), a spiritual throne (and how does a spiritual throne differ from a physical throne?) Wouldn’t Muslims find life much more logical if they granted that Allah can do whatever Allah wills to do, even if that will looks to us like a contradiction or a breaking of the rules of metaphysics.

Series: Second Thoughts On Common Islamic Assumptions
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