Stanley L. Jaki

Historian of Science, physicist, mathematician, philosopher and theologian, profound and original, born in Gyor (Hungary) and settled in the U.S. from 1951. In 1942 he entered the Order of Saint Benedict and was ordered priest in 1948. He is author of several important books such as “The Relevance of Physics”, “Brain, Mind and Computers”, “Angels, Apes and Men”, “The Road of Science and the Ways to God”, “Science and Creation”, “Cosmos and Creator”, and others.

Dilemma for Muslims

S.L. Jaki has written in Real View Books an interesting work entitled “Jesus, Islam and Science” in connection with reflections motivated by the terrorist demolition of New York’s Twin Towers in September 11th, 2001. The final section entitles “Dilemma for Muslims”, is reproduced below.

The Muslim world remained largely outside this development until recent decades that witnessed the rise of new Muslim national entities partly on grounds of former colonial possessions of the West. While politically independent, the new Muslim world rdm heavily dependent on Western technolo gical, scientific, ‘and economic power. Enormous is the task of turning the Muslim fields and other geological riches into self sustaining enterprises ran by Muslims alone and developed by them alone, One of the difficulties is to educate a technologically and scientifically trained vast cadre, a task entailing more problems than meets the eye.

The deepest-going of those problems is that an educated class, often much better trained than most of Muslim clergy, is clearly reluctant to remain on a religious lash, which tries to control the intellect even in matters non-religious. What the Muslim world tried to avoid a thousand years ago, namely, to face tip to the question of science and revelation, it no longer can avoid. It may be that the fundamentalist wave sweeping through. the Crescent has its source in the anxiety of the Imams that Westernization, through science and technology, will strike at the roots of the credibility of the Koran and do this in a more trenchant way than the Christian message of salvation in Jesus could ever do.

The strike will be felt mostly by Muslim minds trained in the sci.ences who would reflect on the undeniable voluntarism that characterizes God, the Creator, in the Koran Such a training cannot help impose the view of physical processes consistently valid across many orders of magnitudes. Suffice it to think of the ability of science to explore interactions that had taken place fifteen billion years ago. On pondering this vast measure of consistency the Muslim scientist cannot help thinking of the contents of sura 35, called “The Creator”. It is not so much a discourse on the Creator and his work as a warning against failling into idolatry. It contains a comparison between the utter impotency of idols and the power of God, between the prosperity of the devout and the ultimate discomfiture of the evildoer. But in stressing the reliability of faith in God, far greater emphasis is put on the often witnessed failure of the idolators than on the reliable performance of God’s great handiwork, nature. And the Muslim scientist throw himself from the frying pan into the fire if, in order to resolve the conflict between his faith and his reasoning; he takes refuge in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

People have minds. Answers to nagging questions cannot forever be postponed or dealt with in a facil manner. The same questions will be asked about the Koran which literary criticism of the Bible posed in the West a hundred years ago. Scientific cosmology urgently demands a new look at the primitive world view of the Koran, and to its insistence that the world was created in four days. The education of women, the need to fill jobs with women because there simply will not be enough men to run a complex technological form of life, will raise even further questions in Muslim minds about the extent to which the Koran can be taken for a guide. Ever more frequent encounters with Christians will raise questions in many Muslim minds about the reliability of what the Koran says about Jesus, the Church, and Christians Modem communication will make it even more doubtful that large stretches of the Earth will remain exclusively Muslim grounds Satellite television will bring into the inner sanctum of family homes information which the Muslim clergy will find ever more difficult to screen

In this process mo and more questions will be asked about 5 facts concerning Jesus and in the measure in which a Muslim faithful takes seriously the Koran’s claim that Jesus was a true faithful in the sense in which the Koran takes that word. But on what, basis would one know what Jesus was, said, and did? On the basis of the scant details given in the Koran about him, or on the basis of sources immensely more informative? In the least, questions will be legitimate about the implications of the Koran’s firm assertions that Jesus worked signal miracles. Indeed the Koran itself prompts one to consider the question of whether it is not impossible that Jesus, who receives so much honor, support; and enlightenment in the form of Scriptures from God, can teach anything but the right doctrine of pure monotheism. The Koran’s reply is firm and once more ties the right reply to its emphasis that Jesus was but man: “It beseemeth not a man, that God should give him the Scriptures, and the Wisdom, and the gift uf prophecy, and that then he should say to his followers: Be ye worshipers of me as well as of God’, but rather ‘Be ye perfect in things pertaining to God, since you know the Scriptures, and have studied deep” (3:72-73).

In view of the Koran’s witness to Muhamm extremely poor information about the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the logic of the Koran’s foregoing state:ment should seem to lie open to scrutiny. One cannot, of course, argue with the mere claim that Muhammad received revelation. But Jesus and other prophets before him also received revelation, Moreover, they and especially Jesus, supported, unlike Muharnmad,their claims H of speaking in God’s name with miracles. It will then be rightly asked whether the Koran’s dicta on Jesus correspond to facts, and whether the m.iracle assigned to Jesus in the Gospel are not really the facts that should decide the purpose for which they were performed. According to the Gospels that purpose was to give credibility to trinitarian monotheism. To reject this inference on the basis that trinitarian belief is a slap on reason which cannot accept that three is one and one is three, would be valid only of belief in Trinity would be tantamount to equating three with one and one with three, But in view of the enormous acumen invested on the Christian side to dispose of that patently absurd presentation of the dogma of Trinity and even of more serious objections to it, the Christian is entitled to ask any honest Muslim to reconsider his view of the Christian position.

Apart from questions of logic and conceptual nuances, the Muslim. theologian may be expected to consider that the Christian belief in Trinity is a to facts before it is a pondering of questions of logic. For it is on the facts of the miracles of Jesus, so different from their spurious rendering in the Koran, and also on the psychological miracle of Jesus, which immensely surpasses anything that can be said about Muhammad, that Christians base their belief that Jesus spoke as befits God and that therefore the Holy Spirit He promised was also of the One divine Nature. Christian Trinitarian belief, which has nothing to do either with Gnostic fantasies or with Hegelian cogitations, is a belief riveted in facts, God’s miraculous interventions, mainly through Christ, in history.

Those facts are not, of course, the facts of physical science, but are facts nevertheless, and the very kind of facts on the basis of which alone the facts of science can be justified as facts. Now facts will prevail and even the Muslim world cannot escape the logic that it is therefore the best to find oneself on the side of facts. Facts are the soul of science which the Muslim world, willy-nilly, must assimilate not so much, as some terrorists think, for making possible a spectacular destabilization of the Christian and post-Christian West, as for the survival, for the feeding, and healthcare of the Muslim East. Quite possibly, it will be under the impact of the facfs: imposed by science that Islam will have to take a serious look at fact, by far the greatest fact of human history, or the fact which is Jesus, the anointed, the Messiah, the Christ. This fact had from the earliest Chris Lion times found in the figure of fish its hallowed symbol. The five letters composing the creek work IXOYE (fish) respectively begin five word that together stand for the deepest assertion about Christ: Jest Christ God’s S Savior. May this become true of the Muslim wcrld as well so that their dilemma may serve their salvation.