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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Mithrandir

The Case For God By Karen Armstrong

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Salam 'Alaykum.

 

Hi, guys. I was wondering if any of you have read Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God". I really admire Ms.Armstrong's work and think this book is a good defense of theism in the traditional sense. However, there are a couple of points I can't seem to agree with her on. For the sake of a productive discussion I'd like to limit this conversation to those who've read the book.

 

She says that the physical world cannot tell us anything about God. While I don't have a problem with this per se, I do think this type of doctrine can become a problem. If this is the case, then how can we conclusively say that the good tings that happen to us in life are actually the product of God's mercy. How can someone cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards their creator if concrete reality can tell us nothing about Him.

 

Problem number two arises when she gets to discussing the divinity of Christ. Throughout her book, she makes it clear that religious doctrines cannot be taken literally for that would be anthropomorphic. Ergo, Christian doctrine cannot be taken literally. She illustrates the teachings of Eastern mystics like Denys and the Cappadocians to show that this has generally been the educated Christian's stance. To paraphrase Ms.Armstrong: The trinity was not a rationale doctrine--that was the whole point behind it. By realizing the futility of reason to apprehend the Divine, we would enter a state of transcendence.

 

But Allah(swt) clearly condemns the Trinity in the Holy Qur'an. Therefore, the logical conclusion that us Muslims must draw from this in relation to Armstrong's explanation is that the Trinity DID NOT lead to transcendence. The Qur'an condemns the Trinity on rational grounds, and yet Armstrong says that an irrational doctrine can lead to transcendence. It is quite clear that Armstrong's case is made very weak by the Qur'anic attack on the Trinity since it implies that reason must be present in the contemplation of any doctrine.

 

What do you think? Are these points problematic for Karen Armstrong's polemic? Is there a way around it?

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According to Wiki, she is an ex-nun that is a mystic.

 

So "her work in comparative religion" will be supportive of mystical views.

 

Remember what the Quran reveals? Ref xxvi: 224-225.

 

So for me, her opinion means nothing.

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According to Wiki, she is an ex-nun that is a mystic.

 

So "her work in comparative religion" will be supportive of mystical views.

 

Remember what the Quran reveals? Ref xxvi: 224-225.

 

So for me, her opinion means nothing.

Well, I'm not sure if equating poetry to mysticism is entirely accurate. Many mystics were poets, but not all of them. 

And I think those verses are referring to jahili pagan poets that were launching a literary polemic against the Islamic message.

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(salam)

 

As those ayats reveal, poets mentally "wander" into everything. This is not sirratal-mustakeem.

 

Mystics follow their "own desires". Condemned in several ayats.

 

So drawing a Boolean Distinction of sets and sub-sets does not alter my stance.

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(salam)

 

As those ayats reveal, poets mentally "wander" into everything. This is not sirratal-mustakeem.

 

Mystics follow their "own desires". Condemned in several ayats.

 

So drawing a Boolean Distinction of sets and sub-sets does not alter my stance.

 

I'm going to have to disagree with you on the "own desires" part.

Armstrong covers this point in extensive detail in the third quarter of her book. She concludes by saying that true mysticism is not defined by the sensations one goes through while on the path. In fact, mysticism has nothing to do with sensations or desires whatsoever. That is what kenosis is-- Emptying oneself of egotistical desires. 

Many of our great ulema were mystics themselves. Mulla Sadra comes to mind, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't self indulgent in his desires :)

Salam.

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(salam)

 

I know there is a lot of mysticism around, most not as formal as others. But for me, that has always been equal to haram.

 

Besides, the ayats, written or sensory, are enough.

 

Consider Sura 16. One ayat says about birds, nothing holds them up but the power of Allah (s.w.t.)

 

Being, from my readings, birds are "aerodynamically impossible", isn't this enough?

 

When l see them moving their wings like they are swimming -their rotating movements- I remember this.

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I read her first book A History of God, I was open-minded at first but her mysticism is so overwhelming that it doesn't help her credibility in faithfully transmitting the tradition she discusses. For her Jesus and Muhammad were visionary tree-huggers with a mission to rescue the human race, and basically no one except her understands them.

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