From (Jeremiah McAuliffe)
Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam,alt.religion.islam
Subject: Geisler-Saleeb Anti-Islam Book, Part 1 (2/3)
Date: 1996/8/31
Message-Id: <50b9e1$>

p. 135
Geisler sees a "basic philosophical problem" with Islamic monotheism
in that "in the final analysis... God had no (knowable) essence or
nature from which one can distinguish his three persons (centers of
consciousness)." An extremely odd sentence in that Christianity also
says this. To my recollection, in Christian theology-- going back at
least to Augustine or Aquinas, if not further to the Desert Fathers--
the concept of the "Godhead"-- the unknowable, completely
Transcendent nature of God-- has been discussed and fully accepted.
Hasn't Geisler read the classics? Hasn't he read John of the Cross's
"Dark Night of the Soul"? The Anonymous monk's "Cloud of Unknowing"?
Hasn't he ever studied the Christian idea of the via negativa? One
has to laugh! He doesn't even seem to know his own tradition.

In addition, note the introduction of the trinitarian monotheism
here. Geisler is assuming three "centers of consciousness" in the
Godhead-- not proving it over and against our tawheedian monotheism.
Geisler seems to forget that the essence of the trinity is not
"knowable" in the sense he is using here-- it is a Mystery hidden in
the Godhead. In Christianity, the trinity is not known in an
empirical fashion, but as an article of faith. How disingenuous and
manipulative of him to present it as something akin to an empirical

He continues with a positive statement about God-- supposedly held by
us-- with no support whatsoever: "God is absolute Will". He will
continue to attribute this to the Muslim understanding of God. Of
course, there is no Qur'anic basis for this, and no Muslim would say
it. Oh! Except perhaps for the rejected Mu'atizilites. We only append
the 99 Names to any statement about what "God is..." "God is Will" is
not one of these Names or Attributes. This is especially bizarre in
that one of the variations of the 99 Names/Attributes list is
included in the "intro to Islam" part of the book. Didn't Geisler
read it before starting to write?

He writes that we believe God to be One from both revelation and
reason. Wrong. We know it from revelation alone. Reason cannot
penetrate God. We know only what has been revealed to us. We rejected
long ago the type of speculative philosophy and theology that would
provide a "reason" for us to say such a thing. (At least not "reason"
as he is using it here.) Geisler goes on to engage in speculative
philosophy about God without even touching on the issue whether such
speculation is valid or invalid, much less bringing in Muslim
discussion on the issue, which he would have to do before he uses
such speculative philosophy in an effort to refute Islam.

And then who does he use to support his arguments? He says that we
Muslims agree with Polotinus and the neo-Platonists! Do I really need
to spell out the problems with *that*???? I should hope not! He
writes: "Hence, by the very nature of its philosophical commitment to
a kind of Plotinianism prevalent throughout the Middle Ages, Islamic
thought about God was solidified in an irretractably solitary form of
monotheism that allowed no form of trinitarianism."  No Mr.
Geisler, our dabbling with Hellenistic philosophy during the Middle
Ages was a gaseous burp in our collective historical encounter with
the Qur'an. It was during the Qur'anic revelation that tawheedian
monotheism solidified, or rather, was corrected in light of Christian
abandonment of tawheed. (Do you see Geisler's intellectual
manipulation here?)

This argument-that we say "God is Will" (we would never say such a
thing-- is it in the Qur'an? No! We follow "God is..." with the 99
Names.) and his problem with our profound and devout respect for
God's Transcendence (unknowable essence) continues into the next

Y'see, we've only looked at two pages, and already all these
problems. And this is a surface analysis. We only have about two
hundred more pages to go.  Geisler himself is a neo-Platonist
or neo-Thomist as shown by his outdated talk of "essence"-- such a
Platonic (actually probably more Aristotelian) philosophical concern
has been questioned as to its validity at least since Kant, and
perhaps even earlier, but my history of philosophy is very rusty.
Let's just say that many *real* academics would laugh at him for
this. And, it gets him in big trouble on pp 136-137. When we want to
talk about "essence" as it pertains to God we are talking about how
we "know" God. A sticky issue to be sure! But Geisler just moves
blithely along and fails to even recognize the problems inherent in
this topic on the foundational level of assumptions and
presuppositions pertaining to the topic of the "essence of God".

(It gets into this dynamic: We have to talk about God, and yet God,
by definition, cannot be contained in our language-God is wholly
Transcendent to anything in human experience. Yet, there must still
be some correlation between what we say about God and the reality of
God for our theology to have any real meaning. Of course, there is a
strong strain in philosophy, i.e. the positivists, that argues
precisely that all talk about God is in fact meaningless. These
issues are intimately related to the understanding of God's
self-revelation itself. What is revelation? What is its relation to
human knowledge? etc. Geisler never raises the issue of
Christian/Muslim theology of revelation, which he should have done to
be legit and provide at least a semblance of validity to his
refutation of Islam.)

In addition, he uses talk of "essence" with a steamroller technique.
This philosophical topic is complicated, to say the least, but he
spews it out in such a manner that most people will see it only as
gobbledy-gook. Lots of complicated issues crammed into a few
paragraphs. This is his "university professor arguing with a
five-year-old" technique. There is no effort to even establish the
validity of using such outdated terms and approaches to the issue.
Most people would never be able to comprehend exactly what he is
talking about here-the saying "if you can't dazzle 'em with
brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit" comes to mind here. (MODS on
SRI: please let this cliché pass, there is no substitute for it.)

Jeremiah McAuliffe/
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