Typically I have argued that the Muslim and Christian are able to join hands when arguing for the existence of God, and that, for all intents and purposes, they can help themselves to the same arguments for God’s existence. However, it only recently occurred to me that the Islamic conception of God may not allow a Muslim to help herself to the ontological argument which concludes to the existence of a being that than which no greater being is conceivable. Though that is merely one argument among many arguments for the existence of God, this point is relevant because the reason why the Muslim cannot help herself so easily to the ontological argument (which is classically a peculiarly Christian argument, and not one popular among Muslim theologians), is precisely because the God described by the religion of Islam falls short of being the greatest possible being. How so? Well, precisely in this respect: that God, according to the religion of Islam, is not all-loving. He is all merciful, and all just and so on (the Qur’an contains 99 attributes of God, all of which [and more] are contained in the Bible), but he is not a God who unconditionally loves all persons. Instead, the God of the Qur’an never loves sinners or evildoers. By contrast the Christian conception of God is of a God who not only loves unconditionally, but is love; which is to say that he is the ontological foundation of love (and Christians typically explain this by appealing to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is another resource Islam lacks – but that’s not as serious a point as the one I’m currently making). In other words, on the Christian conception of God, it is literally impossible for God to fall in love with somebody, in just the same way as it is impossible for the ocean to get wet. God is love, in a robust sense, and all of our experiences of love merely intimate the divine nature by participation (which is precisely why Christians are accustomed to saying things like ‘I am in love’ rather than ‘I have the property of loving so-and-so’).
The argument might go something like this:
- God is a being who has all the great-making properties maximally.
- The Property ‘being loving’ is a great-making property.
- Therefore, God must have the property of being loving maximally (i.e., must be unconditionally loving).
The Muslim might try to argue that they need not reject the first premise necessarily, as it is still possible for them to reject the second premise, but the second premise seems to be obviously true.
Either the Muslim does not believe in what Christians call ‘God’, even though Jews, Deists, Hindu’s and others do, along with Christians, or else the Muslim has to argue that being loving is not a great making property, which seems equally incredible, especially to the Christian who believes that God is love, and that it is this fact that explains the act of creation, as I have elsewhere argued. Thus, the Islamic doctrine of God seems to fall short of an intelligible conception of God to the extent that God, according to the religion of Islam, is not all-loving, and therefore is not a maximally great being (since I can imagine a being exactly like the being described by the religion of Islam, except that it is different in one respect given which my idea would be better if it were actual than the idea proposed by Islam).
If this is true, then it may be one of the most powerful and direct points which a Christian thinker can use to challenge her Muslim friends to think deeply about the inadequacy of the Islamic conception of God when compared directly to the Christian conception of God.