The trend, going back to Ditlef Nielsen in the early 20th century,  to reduce all of early Arabian religion to a triad of nature deities Venus, moon, sun has now been rightly rejected as being oversimplifying and unsupported by current data. Pirenne  and G. Garbini  in the s. They demonstrated that the motifs associated with this deity - the bull, the vine, and also the lion's skin on a human statue - are solar rather than lunar attributes.
The Bull in fact was associated first with the sun-god, in Mesopotamia and Egypt,  only later being conscripted into the service of the moon-deities in third millennium BCE Mesopotamia. Notice the crescent and solar orb. Yet, Nathan concludes from Phillip and others who point to this solar orb and crescent moon symbol that,. How does a symbol with the sun and moon conjoined indicate a moon-god? Clearly such a conclusion is dogmatic rather than academic, and born no doubt from a desperate desire to make 'Almaqah a moon-deity for polemical purposes.
Unfortunately, many Afrocentrist scholars have adopted this Christian polemic that has no critical scholarly foundation today. Alfred F. Accessed August 15, Redford ed. Bull Gods by Dieter Kessler. It was the sun-god - An, Utu, Ra, etc. Meijer ed. Finkel and M. Geller edd. We are compelled to pass onwards, then, to theism.
And here, applying the same view of religion as before, it soon becomes obvious that of the three great theistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism—the last is far inferior to the other two, and the first is a transition to and preparation for the second. Although the latest of the three to arise, Mohammedanism is manifestly the least developed, the least matured.
Instead of evolving and extending the theistic idea which it borrowed, it has marred and mutilated it. Instead of representing God as possessed of all spiritual fulness and perfection, it exhibits Him as devoid of the divinest spiritual attributes. Although the Suras of the Koran are all, with one exception, prefaced by the formula, "In the name of Allah, the God of mercy, the merciful," there is extremely little in them of the spirit of mercy, while they superabound in a fierce intolerance. Allah is set before us with clearness, with force, with intense sincerity, as endowed with the natural [Pg 45] attributes which we ascribe to God, but only so as to exhibit very imperfectly and erroneously His moral attributes.
He is set before us as God alone, beside whom there is none other; as the first and the last, the seen and the hidden; as eternal and unchanging; as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; as the Creator, the Preserver, and the Judge of all;—but He is not set before us as truly righteous or even as truly reasonable, and still less as Love. He is set before us as an infinite and absolute arbitrary Will, the acts of which are right simply because they cannot be wrong, and which ordains its creatures and instruments to honour or dishonour, heaven or hell, without love or hate, without interest or sympathy, and on no grounds of fitness or justice.
His infinite exaltation above His creatures is recognised, but not His relationship to and interest in His creatures. His almighty power is vividly apprehended, but His infinite love is overlooked, or only seen dimly and in stray and fitful glimpses. His character is thus most imperfectly unveiled, and even seriously defaced; and, in consequence, a whole-hearted communion with Him is impossible.
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As an unlimited arbitrary Will He leaves man with no true will to surrender to Him. Inaccessible, without sympathy, jealous, and egoistic, His appropriate worship is servile obedience, blind submission—not the enlightened reverence and [Pg 46] loving affection of the true piety in which mind and heart fully accord; unquestioning belief, passionless resignation, outward observances, mere external works—not the free use of reason, not the loving dependence of a child on its father, not an internal life of holiness springing from a divine indwelling source.
God and man thus remain in this system, theistic although it be, infinitely separate from each other. Man is not made to feel that his whole spiritual being should live and rejoice in God; on the contrary, he is made to feel that he has scarcely any other relation to God than an inert instrument has to the hand which uses it. Submission to the will of God, whatever it may be, without recognition of its being the will of a Father who seeks in all things the good of His children, is the Mussulman's highest conception either of religion or duty, and consequently he ignores the central principle of religious communion and the strongest motive to moral action.
The theism of the Old Testament is incomparably superior to that of the Koran. It possesses every truth contained in Mohammedanism, while it gives due prominence to those aspects of the Divine character which Mohammedanism obscures and distorts. The unity and eternity of God, His omniscience, omnipresence, and inscrutable perfections, the wonders of His creative power, His glory in the heavens and on the earth, are [Pg 47] described by Moses and the author of the Book of Job, by the psalmists and the prophets, in language so magnificent that all the intervening centuries have been unable to surpass it.
And yet far greater stress is justly laid by them on the moral glory of God, which is reflected in so dim and broken and disproportionate a way through the visions of Mohammed. It is impossible to take a comprehensive view of the Old Testament dispensation without perceiving that its main aim, alike in its ceremonial observances, moral precepts, and prophetic teaching, was to open and deepen the sense of sin, to give reality and intensity to the recognition of moral law, to make known especially that aspect of God's character which we call His righteousness, His holiness.
At the same time God is set forth as merciful, long-suffering, and gracious; as healing our diseases, redeeming our life, and crowning us with loving-kindnesses; as creating in us clean hearts, and desiring not sacrifice but a broken spirit. Before the close of the Old Testament dispensation, a view of God's character had been attained as complete as could be reached through mere spiritual vision and expressed through mere words.
The character of God was so disclosed that His people longed with their whole hearts for the blessedness of true spiritual communion with Him, and worthily apprehended what that communion [Pg 48] ought to be. But with the widening of their views and the deepening of their longings as to this the supreme good, they realised the more how far they were from the attainment of it. From the beginning Judaism looked beyond itself and confessed its own preparatory and transitional character. And this consciousness grew with its growth.
Moon-O-Theism: Religion of a War and Moon God Prophet, Volume I of II
In the days of the later prophets men knew far better what spiritual communion with God ought to be than in the days of the patriarchs, but they did not actually enjoy even the same measure of childlike communion with Him. The law had done its work; it had made men feel more than ever the need of being in communion with God, but it had made them realise also the distance between God and them, and especially the awful width of the gulf between them caused by sin.
That gulf no mere spiritual vision of man could see across, and no mere declarations of love and mercy even from God Himself could bridge over. The reason of man could only be enlightened—the heart of man could only be satisfied—as to how God would deal with sin and sinners, by an actual self-manifestation of God in humiliation, suffering, and sacrifice, which would leave men in no doubt that high and holy as God was, He was also in the deepest and truest sense their Father, and that they were His ransomed and redeemed children. It was only when this was accomplished [Pg 49] that religion and theism were alike perfected.
Then the character of God was unveiled, the heart of God disclosed, and in such a manner that the most childlike confidence in Him could be combined with the profoundest sense of His greatness and righteousness. Perfect communion with Him in trustful love no longer supposed, as it did in earlier times, an imperfect knowledge, on the part of the worshipper, either of God's character or of his own.
It required no overlooking of the evil of sin, for it rested on the certainty that sin had been overcome. Only the life hid with God in Christ can completely realise the idea of religion, for only in Christ can the heart of sinful man be sincerely and unreservedly yielded to a holy God. Christian theism alone gives us a perfect representation of God.
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It precedes and surpasses reason, especially in the disclosure of the depths of fatherly love which are in the heart of the infinite Jehovah; but it nowhere contradicts reason—nay, it incorporates all the findings of reason. It presents as one great and brilliant light all the scattered sparks of truth which scintillated [Pg 50] amidst the darkness of heathendom; it combines into a living unity all the separate elements of positive truth which are to be found in systems like pantheism, deism, rationalism; it excludes all that is false in views lower than or contrary to its own.
Whenever it maintains a truth regarding God, reason finds that it is defending a principle of Christian theism; whenever it refutes an error regarding Him, it finds itself assailing some one of the many enemies of Christian theism. Theism, I argued in last lecture, can never be reasonably rejected in the name of religious liberty. I may now, I think, maintain that it can never be reasonably thrown off in the name of religious progress.
It can never be an onward step in the spiritual life to pass away from the belief which is distinctive and characteristic of theism. The highest possible form of religion must be a theistic religion—a religion in which the one personal and perfect God is the object of worship. Fetichism, nature-worship, humanitarian polytheism, and pantheism, are all very much lower forms of religion, and therefore to abandon theism for any of them is not to advance but to retrograde, is not to rise but to fall.
We can turn towards any of [Pg 51] them only by turning our back on the spiritual goal towards which humanity has been slowly but continuously moving through so many ages. There is no hope or possibility of advance on the side of any of the old forms of heathendom. Shall we try, then, to get out of and beyond theism on that other side to which some moderns beckon us? Shall we suppose that as men have given up the lower for the higher forms of polytheism, and then abandoned polytheism for theism, so they may now surrender theism itself for systems like the positivism of Comte or the new faith of Strauss?
And for two reasons. First, so far as there is any religion in these systems there is no advance on theism in them but the reverse. Comte strives to represent humanity, and Strauss to represent the universe, as a god, by imaginatively investing them with attributes which do not inherently and properly belong to them; but with all their efforts they can only make of them fetich gods; and Europeans, it is to be hoped, will never fall down and worship fetiches, however big these fetiches may be, and whoever may be willing to serve them as prophets or priests.
Humanity must be blind to its follies and sins, insensible to its weakness and miseries, and given over to the madness of a boundless vanity, before it can raise an altar and burn incense to its own self. Let us leave to him the struggles which make his glory, that condemnation of his own miseries which does him honour, the tears shed over his faults which are the most unexceptionable testimony to his dignity. Let us leave him tears, repentance, conflict, and hope; but let us not deify him; for no sooner shall he have said, 'I am God,' than, deprived that instant of all his blessings, he shall find himself naked and spoiled.
Mind can never bow down to matter except under the influence of delusion. Man is greater than anything he can see or touch; and those who believe only in what they can see and touch, who have what Strauss calls a feeling for the universe, but no true feeling for what is spiritual and divine, must either worship humanity or something even less worthy of their adoration.
There is thus no advance on this side either, even if the systems which we are invited to adopt could be properly regarded as religious. But, secondly, we may safely say that so far as they are theories based on science, there is no religion in them; and that, consequently, to give up [Pg 53] a religion for them would be to give up not one form of religion for another, a lower for a higher, but would be to give up religion for what is not religion, or, in other words, would be to cast off religion altogether.
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And to cease to be religious can surely never be to advance in religion. Positivism and materialism are not stages beyond theism, for they are not on the same road. They are not phases in the development of religion; they are forms of the denial of religion. The grossest fetichism has more of religion in it than either of them can consistently claim on scientific grounds. There is nothing in science, properly so called, which justifies the exaltation either of matter or man to the rank of gods even of the lowest fetich order.
It is only, then, by keeping within the limits of theism that further religious progress is possible. If we would advance in religion, it must be, not by getting rid of our belief in God, but by getting deeper and wider views of His character and operations, and by conforming our hearts and lives more sincerely and faithfully to our knowledge. There is still ample room for religious progress of this kind. I do not say, I do not believe indeed, that we shall find out any absolutely new truth about God.
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- ISBN 13: 9781438299648.
- The Project Gutenberg eBook of Theism, by Robert Flint, D.D., LL.D..
- Varieties of Things: Foundations of Contemporary Metaphysics;
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Were a man to tell me that he had discovered a Divine attribute which had never previously been thought of, I should listen [Pg 54] to him with the same incredulous pity as if he were to tell me that he had discovered a human virtue which had escaped the notice of all other men. In a real and important sense, the revelation of God made in Scripture, and more particularly and especially the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, is most justly to be regarded as complete, and incapable of addition.
But there may be no limits to the growth of our apprehension and realisation of the idea of God there set before us perfectly as regards general features.
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To perceive the mere general outline and general aspect of a truth is one thing, and to know it thoroughly, to realise it exhaustively—which is the only way thoroughly to know it—is another and very different thing; and centuries, yea, millenniums without number, may elapse between the former and the latter of these two stages, between the beginning and the end of this process. Thousands of years ago there were men who said as plainly as could be done or desired that God was omnipotent; but surely every one who believes in God will acknowledge, that the discoveries of modern astronomy give more overwhelming impressions of Divine power than either heathen sage or Hebrew psalmist can be imagined as possessing.
It is ages since men ascribed perfect wisdom to God; but all the discoveries of science which help us to understand how the earth is related to other worlds—how it [Pg 55] has been brought into its present condition—how it has been stocked, adorned, and enriched with its varied tribes of plants and animals—and how these have been developed, distributed, and provided for,—must be accepted by every intelligent theist as enlarging and correcting human views as to God's ways of working, and consequently as to His wisdom.
The righteousness of God has been the trust and support of men in all generations; but history is a continuous unveiling of the mysteries of this attribute: through the discipline of Providence individuals and nations are ever being more thoroughly instructed in the knowledge of it. I have, indeed, heard men say—I have heard even teachers of theology say—that the knowledge of God is unlike all other knowledge, in being unchanging and unprogressive. To me it seems that of all knowledge the knowledge of God is, or at least ought to be, the most progressive.