Tyler Dalton McNabb

Love Me Like You Do: Islam and God’s Love


Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Now, being a good Reformed epistemologist, my main reason for being a Christian and not a Muslim or an atheist, is just that I find myself believing that Christianity is true. It just seems true to me that the second person of the Trinity died for my sins and was raised for my justification. And upon reflection, it feels nearly impossible to believe that Jesus is still lying in a grave or tomb somewhere. The Gospel message just seems right to me.

Having said that, I do think there are certain arguments against naturalism or against Islam that can add to my warrant for believing that such views are false (and in some way, this adds to my warrant for thinking that theism or Christianity is true). Now, I have already published (with Erik Baldwin) on one concern that I think some Muslims should find troubling, but I’d like to briefly mention another concern (in fact, we briefly allude to this in our paper).  This argument is by no means original to us but nonetheless, I think it is still worth mentioning here. It goes something like this:

(1) If God exists, God is a perfect Being.
(2) A perfect Being loves unconditionally all persons as much as it is possible.
(3) If Allah exists, Allah would not love unconditionally all persons as much as it is possible.
(4) Given (3), if Allah exists, Allah would not be a perfect Being.                                                      ———-
(5) Therefore, if Allah exists, Allah is not God.

The most controversial premise here, I think, would be (3). The evidence for (3) would include the following:

1. Allah never affirms his love for the sinner.
2. Allah explicitly says numerous times that he ‘loves not’ the sinner.
3. Surah 3:31 states that ‘Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Notice 3. sets out particular conditions for God’s love and 1. and 2. demonstrate that God doesn’t love everyone, or at least, in the most charitable reading, God doesn’t love everyone in the same way.

How might a Muslim respond to this argument? It seems to me that the Muslim clearly has to grant (3), given the evidence that exists for it. I think the Muslim would have to argue that it would be impossible for God to love sinners and yet be just and/or send sinners to hell. Thus, the Muslim might argue that (3) isn’t a weakness just as God not being able to make 2+2=5 is not a weakness.

I think if the Muslim takes this position, the Christian then could respond by showing how God’s justice or how the existence of people in hell, doesn’t put a logical or metaphysical limit on God’s love. If this could be done, the Muslim would again have the burden of proof to demonstrate a way to make the character of God in the Qur’an consistent with perfect Being theology.

Using the biblical account, Jerry Walls defends a view of hell that includes God still loving those who are in hell. Walls describes hell as a place that is in close proximity to the Christ.[1] It is a place where God’s presence is still felt and known in some sense.[2] And it is a place where there is a lack of mutual love between God and those who are in hell (thus a sort of separation from God).[3] While Walls rejects the literal interpretation of hell being fire and outer darkness (two things which if taken literally, seem hard to reconcile), Walls is sympathetic to the Eastern Christian tradition which interprets the imagery of fire to be expressing the glory of God.[4] This glory can be expressed in God’s persistent love for the unrepentant sinner who continues to refuse grace and ultimate love. Walls describes how such ‘glory’ could be painful: ‘It is easy to see how this uneasy situation causes misery.  Imagine a son, alienated from his father who deeply loves him.  He hates his father and resents the fact that he is dependent upon him, so he will not return his love, but is forced by unhappy circumstances to live under the same roof with him. The misery in his case would be palpable.’[5] In this scenario, the love of the Father creates greater anguish and anger for the sinner as it creates an absolutely miserable environment for the sinner to be in. It seems logically and metaphysically possible that God could continue to offer grace to those in hell but it just might not be feasible that any of the individuals would ever accept such grace. Perhaps their anger and pride might form and shape their will to where they simply won’t ever accept it. And yet, God is just in that He continues to do what is right by loving the wicked and by giving them over to themselves (this echoes back to the kind of judgement we see in Romans 1) for all eternity.

Now, perhaps the Muslim might refuse to acknowledge that God is being just in this model. In order to be just, God needs to throw the sinner into hell and punish the wicked with fire and brimstone. My intuitions don’t track with this but nonetheless, couldn’t God send the sinner to hell and punish him with fire and yet still love him like a brokenhearted parent who sends their criminal child off to face capital punishment?

[1] Jerry Walls. ‘Hell As Separation from God? The Misery Paradox,’ (March 18, 2014), http://christianthought.hbu.edu/2014/03/18/hell-as-separation-from-god-the-misery-paradox.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.