Creation


Do Muslims worship God? This question has long troubled me and I can never settle it in my head. I am not talking about supernatural and acceptable worship. Clearly, they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity so are unable to offer acceptable worship to God. Nor am I talking about the natural virtue of religion. Strictly speaking there are no true moral virtues apart from Charity. I am talking about material acts of religion that would be formal acts of the acquired virtue of religion in a state of pure nature. Do Muslims perform such acts. Do they worship God?

I have come across three basic views on this:

  1. No. Islam is Deist, a form of monotheistic paganism. Unlike the Jews their worship is not even naturally directed at the same entity as the true God adored by the Catholic faithful. They are idolaters.
  2. Yes. Muslims know God through natural reason (see: Romans 1 & Vatican I) they direct their material acts of religion to Him. They ascribe to God incorrect attributes (e.g. having revealed himself to Mohammed) but they know Him as creator and worship Him as such.
  3. Yes and no. The being who revealed himself to Mohammed is not God and acts of worship specified in this way are idolatrous. In the other hand Muslims are men like everyone else able to know the Creator by the light of human reason and when they worship the creator as such their incidental errors about His interventions in history do not transform their acts of worship into acts of idolatry.

There are good argument for all three. In regard to 1. this seems to be the testimony of a good many Muslim converts. They do not believe they worshiped God before they converted to Christianity. The Council of Florence seems to assume Muslims are to be placed in the ‘pagan’ column. Leo XIII and Pius XI in their formulae of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart seem to make the same assumption. In defence of 2. this seems to be the doctrine of Lumen Gentium 16 (although what theological note that has is obscure) and the opinion of at least some popes (including even St Gregory VII). Of course 3. seems easiest to defend and in some sense is probably the position of most adherents of 1. and 2. Unfortunately, in a way, it only bumps the problem down the road. For what would be the key factor determining whether one is worshiping the being who revealed himself to Mohammed or the Creator of the universe? This is the central enigma and the answer to it would seem to resolve the entire question. I find it hard to believe that Muslims if they discovered that the two were not one and the same would chose the former. If it were a marriage that would be enough to make the consent valid. I’m pretty sure the Mormons and the Gnostics don’t worship God. I’m not at all sure William Lane Craig does. The Muslims it seems to me ought to get the benefit of the doubt… but I ‘m not sure.

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I have recently read ‘The Metaphysics of Evolution’ by Fr Chad Ripperger. Fr Ripperger is or was a professor of philosophy at the Fraternity of St Peter’s North American seminary and is clearly at home in the scholastic tradition. The title of his book or pamphlet is a misnomer, since it would be more accurately called ‘Metaphysics against Evolution’.

The book is technical but short and can be summarised in two main claims: atheistic evolution is impossible and theistic evolution is unreasonable.

Atheistic evolution is impossible, he argues, not simply because God necessarily exists, but more specifically because of the principle that ‘an effect cannot be more perfect than its cause’. Of course change of any kind is impossible without the first, unchanging cause, but evolution, that is, the improvement and enrichment of living beings, is impossible for the extra reason that things cannot bestow perfections which they do not themselves possess.

Theistic evolution, he argues, is unreasonable because it postulates a vast number of miracles where it is unnecessary to do so. This fact is often obscured, since theistic evolutionists are prone to talk about God ‘working through evolution’ as if evolution were a natural process, only one which God directed for His purposes. But it cannot be a natural process, since natures cannot bestow perfections which they do not possess, for example natures that lack sight cannot bestow this perfection upon their offspring. For God to bring about evolution, therefore, would mean for Him to override the natural powers of creatures at every step so that they would produce effects that it was beyond their natures to achieve. This would be to introduced a vast number of miracles whereby an amoeba would gradually turn into an elephant, or maybe a giraffe. It is far simpler to suppose that God simply created giraffes and elephants in the first place, which would not in fact be a miracle at all, since miracles pertain to the divine governance of nature, not to the original establishment of natures themselves.

It is a scene itself worthy of a poem, or a painting. Leo, bishop of Rome, thirteenth of that name, now in the ninetieth year of his age, the fifty-seventh of his episcopacy, and the twenty second of his supreme pontificate,  looks out upon the world from his home or prison in Rome on the 31st December 1899. For decades now this old man, one of the wisest of our race, has striven to hold back the advance of antichrist by prayer and intelligence. As he looks back in sadness upon the nineteenth century and forward in trepidation upon the twentieth, his spirit is touched by some afflatus, and uniting his youthful learning to his long experience he composes an Alcaic poem, offering the world to its Saviour.

Notice these two stanzas:-

Auditis? effert impia conscius/ insanientis grex sapientiae; brutaeque naturae supremum/  nititur asseruisse numen.

Nostrae supernam gentis originem/  fastidit excors; dissociabilem,/  umbras inanes mente captans,/  stirpem hominum pecudumque miscet.

That is, ‘Hear ye? A guilty herd comes out with the godless things of a raving wisdom; it strives to establish the supreme divinity of brute nature. Foolishly it disdains the heavenly origin of our race; grasping at empty shadows it confuses the irreconcilable ancestry of men and of beasts.’

Though he doesn’t seem to have considered it opportune to condemn ex cathedra the idea of Adam’s body descending from a beast, Pope Leo clearly held it to be an idea belonging to the insane wisdom of this world.

Some time ago I had the privilege of meeting Hugh Owen. His father was Sir David Owen, the Secretary-General of International Planned Parenthood; he himself is a deeply spiritual Catholic convert with a large family who spends his spare time explaining the doctrine of creation as taught by the Fathers of the Church and later witnesses to tradition.

In conversation he mentioned the consecration of Russia, which we both think has not yet been accomplished as it is meant to be. He remarked that too often this consecration is presented as a mere response to the evil of atheistic materialism that has spread from Russia throughout the world; as if it were, in effect, an exorcism of Russia. Thus explained, it is not surprising that it should meet with little enthusiasm from Russians themselves, as no one wants to have his country regarded in the world as a sheer source of evil.

But, he continued, ‘consecration’ implies some good quality in the thing consecrated; a fitness to be offered to heaven. This is true whether we think of the consecration of nazirites in the Old Testament, or of Christian families to the Sacred Heart or of devout souls to the immaculate Heart. Russia has been the source of immense evil; yet, he thought from his own observations, it is still in a sense Holy Russia; there is a sense of Christian realities present within it, lacking from the apostate nations of the West. Its schism is another’s sin more than its own. It is a fit instrument (he thought) to be used by God, once consecrated by the Pope of Rome, for the salvation of the nations.