November 8, 2009
The world has a right to expect that any faith (purporting to be universal) to have a negative criterion for the identification of all divine communications, i.e., that it not be understood as immoral.*
[* It is important that â€œimmoralâ€ is used in a strict and universal sense, namely what unbiased people would agree as to, e.g., the slaughter of innocent children.]
The Christians provide this guarantee in a two-step movement. It begins with Genesis 3:22 where we learn that humans are equal to God with respect to the knowledge of good and evil (conceptually speaking, for God will be better at discerning the ultimate motive behind any action). Then we land on John 5 where the Christian is admonished (via Jesusâ€™ example) to apply this knowledge of good and evil and to refuse to consider divine that which inhibits an immediate act of love. Thus the Christian is authorized to think for himself (possessing knowledge) and is expected to act for himself (in accordance with the rule of love). Consequently it is (theoretically) impossible for any future Abraham, for example, to appear among the Christians to slay innocent children.
I am not aware of any such guarantee among the Muslims, but want to posit one now. We can, like Kant, think that the original and sustainable knowledge of the existence of God comes from the principles of pure practical reason, which is singular and common to all people. This is a moral need to posit God (as well as eternal life), and as a consequence this precedes all other knowledge of God (which is of idols and make-believes); and as a further result means that all communications of God are not allowed to be understood as immoral.
I donâ€™t know if the Muslims can do this or not. Perhaps it would help to show this individual judgment of divine communications as arising from our common rationality itself and therefore is to be understood as a gift of God, indeed as the original command (or even as the universal means for interpreting divine commands, which would be very helpful to humans). Then all the Islamic sources would have to be interpreted in light of this moral standard, applicable to all individuals, and say in so many words: God has spoken already to all (via the innate moral law) and in addition now adds the Islamic sources. This would have God first instilling the means of recognizing his communication and then secondly actually communicating. Accordingly then a Muslim as a totally submissive person would first comply with the moral law and then with all other commands of God (and which would necessarily be understood at least as not immoral).
If this can be accomplished then both Christianity and Islam will have proven that no right thinking Christian or Muslim may ever understand a guidance of God as immoral, and the world can rest easier. It will still be necessary to convey this understanding to all the individual Christians and Muslims in order for them to be clear on this constitution of their respective faiths.