Once, at a picnic in college, I learned from a Muslim professor about what Islam teaches regarding Jesus — that he is not the divine Son of God but a prophet of Allah. Of course, my own Christian beliefs differed but I sat patiently listening — until he told me something about ‘Jesus (peace be upon him)’ which left me manifestly incredulous. He said Jesus was never crucified; Allah only made it appear as if he suffered and died. Reportedly, most Muslims (like this professor) believe that Allah gave someone else Jesus’ physical appearance to die on the Cross instead.
The relevant portion of the Quran [4:157] says:
“That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not…”
I began asking the professor clarifying questions on this point to make sure that I understood and after a while he asked me why. I replied that if the eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion were not merely mistaken but actively deceived by Allah, then Allah is the author of a lie. God is Truth and “can neither deceive nor be deceived.” (CCC #156-157) So how could Islam’s doppelganger explanation for denying the Crucifixion of Jesus be true? (Similarly, creationists may argue that evolutionists are misinterpreting the ancient fossil record, but they may not say that God has planted false evidence to test our faith.) The now-ruffled Muslim professor retorted that Christianity’s belief in ‘the three gods of the Trinity’ did not make any sense, and we let our interfaith picnic dialogue end there.
But what if Allah can lie? If Allah acts against Truth then his omnipotence would be unlimited in every sense, transcending beyond both logic and goodness. But if Allah transcends good and evil, if God is not absolute goodness in a way that human beings can recognize, then what is our motive to worship him besides submission before his power? C.S. Lewis wrote in opposition to Calvinism’s doctrine of mankind’s “Total Depravity” with words which are just as applicable here:
“[I]f God’s moral judgment differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white,’ we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good,’ while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what.’ … If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear – and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend.”
In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates asks the title character, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” Or, put another way: “Is morality right simply because God declares it so, or does God acknowledge it as right because it is right independently of Himself?” Christianity answers that Euthyphro’s dilemma is a false choice. Goodness comes from God’s eternal nature; nothing could exist without Him. God’s word calls forth the good from Himself. He creates good things, sustains them, and sees that they are good. This is the good God we know; the true God “who does not lie” (Titus 1:2); the God who is supremely revealed by the death on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for all people.