In my book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods, I make a case for Christianity using what I now call “The Divine Identity Argument”. The Divine Identity argument, as I explained in the blog post I just linked to, takes common arguments for the existence of God such as The Moral Argument and The Ontological Argument, it looks at the attributes of the Being these arguments prove exist, then looks at the attributes that The Bible says that God has, and infers that since The God of The Cosmological, Fine Tuning, Local Fine Tuning, Moral, and Ontological Arguments have the same exact attributes as The God Of The Bible, then they must be the same being. This inference is strengthened even more when one looks at descriptions of other so-called deities in other religions and realizes that none of them even come close to having the same attributes as the God of The Natural Theology arguments.
In the chapters on The Moral and Ontological Arguments, I argue that Allah cannot be the God of The Moral and Ontological Arguments. Why? Well, one reason is that Allah does not love all people. He only loves Muslims. A being who loves all people seems to be greater than one who only loves those who give him worship and service. Several passages in the Quran affirm this. You can check out the following Islamic scripture passages to see for yourself.
III.33 states that God doesn’t love unbelievers.
II.277 states that God doesn’t love impious people and those living in sin.
III. 58 says that God doesn’t love people who do evil.
V. 88, VI. 142, VIII. 59, and II.99 say that God doesn’t love transgressors, prodigals, treacherous people, and unbelievers
By contrast, The Bible is replete with statements of God’s universal love. John 3:16 says that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” God loves “the world”, i.e the entire human race. So God gave His only Son to die an atoning death for all of mankind’s sins. Because God loves “the world”, He, therefore “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, c.f 2 Peter 3:9). The Bible teaches that God’s love is universal.
Since the God of Islam only loves some people and The God of The Bible loves all people, The God is Islam cannot be the Maximally Great Being of The Ontological Argument, but Christianity’s God can be.
Objection: This Argument, If It Rules Out Allah, Rules Out Yahweh As Well.
Now, recently it occurred to me that this argument is open to an objection: namely, that there are statements in The Bible that seems to affirm that God hates some people, such as Psalm 5:5 where it says that God hates “all workers of iniquity.” or Psalm 11:5 which says “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” , or Malachi 1:2 where God said “Jacob, I loved, but Esau, I hated.” These Bible verses affirm that there are people whom God hates; namely sinners. Therefore, God doesn’t really love all human beings. And in that case, the Muslim might argue, if this argument really rules out Allah as being the God of The Ontological Argument, then it would rule out Yahweh as well. Now, if I say “Well, God doesn’t really have to be all loving in order to be maximally great” then that would re-open the door for Christianity’s God to be the God of The Ontological Argument, but it would also re-open the door to Allah.
Now, in my blog post “Does God Love Everyone”, I argued that the verses cited above don’t literally say that God hates certain individuals, but rather that these verses are employing a figure of speech known as Metonymy. Metonymy is a figure of speech which substitutes the cause for its effect, referring to the cause as though it was an effect. And I gave an example from Luke 16, where Abraham says “The have Moses and the prophets” when referring the Hebrew scriptures. The people Abraham was referring to didn’t literally have Moses in their midst (this was long after he died), but they did have his writings. Abraham referred to the effect (the scriptures) as though it was the cause (Moses and the prophets). In these verses, God is using metonymy. He doesn’t hate sinners, He merely hates their sins.
“But” The Muslim could respond “Why can’t we use that same response with our scriptures? Allah doesn’t really hate evildoers. These passages are employing metonymy?” It would seem that once again the logic applied to one could apply to the other. And hence, I don’t really get The Divine Identity Argument off the hook by explaining Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5 and other verses as employing metonymy.
This seems like a pretty powerful counter response. What am I going to do? Does The Ontological Argument really leave the door open for Islam as well as Christianity? I don’t think so. Let me give my rebuttal to this rebuttal.
Point 1: We Have Good Reasons For Relegating The Bible’s Divine Hatred Passages To Metonymy. We Don’t In The Case Of The Quran.
In my blog post “Does God Love Everyone?” I don’t simply assert that these passages could possibly be employing metonymy, I give actual reasons to think that this interpretation is true. For example, to take the hate passages at their face value meaning would bring them into contradiction with a mountain of other passages that assert or entail that God loves all people (such as John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4-6, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 John 2:2, and John 15:13).
Passages such a John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4-6, 1 John 2:2, and Hebrews 2:9 say that Jesus died on the cross for all humanity, every single human being. In John 15:13, Jesus says that there is no greater love than for someone to give their life so that someone else can live. From this, it follows that Jesus has not just love, but the greatest love possible for all human beings. If Jesus has “no greater love” than the love He has for all humanity, then it follows that He cannot hate any of the world’s population. To say that God loves someone and hates someone simultaneously is a contradiction. Contrary to popular opinion, love and hate are indeed opposites. Indifference is only the opposite of love in the sense that love is passionate and takes action while indifference is impassionate and take no action at all. Love and hate are opposite passions, indifference isn’t a passion at all.
Moreover, to say that God hates sinners would logically entail that God hates Christians as well since even Christians sin at least sometimes after getting saved. We are “Simul Iustus et Peccator” as Martin Luther so eloquently put it. That’s Latin for “Justified yet simultaneously sinners.” If everyone is a sinner, even Christians (Romans 3:23), and God hates those who sin (Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5), then it follows logically that God hates Christians as well as non-Christians. But Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
These are the reasons why I take the divine hatred passages to be employing metonymy rather than literally saying that God hates the wicked. Taking the hatred passages at face value simply makes no sense in light of the rest of scripture.
Now, if a similar case could be made for Allah and The Quran, then perhaps we could indeed take the Quranic verses mentioned above as employing metonymy. However, I know of no Islamic scripture passage which states God’s love for all of humankind, nor do I know of a collection of passages which would logically entail universal love. If The Muslim could provide me with some, he can be my guest, but I sure can’t think of any. In all of the cases where we see Allah’s love being talked about, it’s directed at Muslims and Muslims alone. There are no universal love passages that would provide a basis for interpreting Quran III.33, II.277, III.58, V. 88, VI. 142, VIII. 59, and II.99 as employing metonymy.
Point 2: Even If I Conceded The Argument, It Still Wouldn’t Leave The Door Open To Allah
Even if a Muslim detractor could provide a case for metonymy, it still wouldn’t mean that Allah is consistent with The Ontological Argument. In my book, I argued that Allah is not a Maximally Great Being not only because he doesn’t love all people, but also because it is essential that a Maximally Great Being be a trinitarian being (i.e be one God who consists of three persons) in order to be Maximally Great. For if God were only one person, then before He created any people, He wouldn’t be loving. There would be no one around to love. But if God is a Trinity, then He can carry on a loving relationship within Himself. Therefore, even if no other beings ever came into existence, God would still be a loving God. A Unitarian God, like Allah, would need to create some other creatures before expressing love could be possible. This is the crux of the matter. This is ultimately why only the God of Christianity can be the God of The Moral and Ontological Arguments. Only Christianity has a God who is one entity that consists of three persons. This type of God is foreign to literally every single other religion in the world.
The worst this objection could do would be to remove one of the several reasons why I think Allah fails to be a maximally great being. At worst, I would have to concede that the Quranic hatred passages aren’t a strike against him, but I would still hold that Allah fails for other reasons.
However, the reason I think the argument holds is that we have no good reason to think the prima facie readings of Quran III.33, II.277, III.58, V. 88, VI. 142, VIII. 59, and II.99 are wrong. We do, however, have very good reasons to reject the prima facie meaning of Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, and Malachi 2:1. In the absense of any reason to reject the prima facie readings of Quran III.33, II.277, and the others, I think we’re justified in taking them at face value. We would be unjustified to interpret them as cases of metonymy.
This objection isn’t a very good one.