Can God and man be the same? By Dr. Bilal Philips

What led ancient people to have the belief that the God became man or that God and man were one and the same? The fundamental reason was their inability to understand or accept the concept of God creating this world from nothingness. They perceived God to be like themselves, creating from what already exists. Humans create things by manipulating existing things into other states, shapes and forms having different functions.

For example, a wooden table was once a tree in a forest, and its nails and screws were once iron ore in rocks underneath the earth. Humans cut down the tree and shaped its wood into a tabletop and legs; they dug up the iron ore, melted it and poured in into moulds to produce nails and screws. Then they assembled the pieces to create a table for a variety of uses. Similarly, the plastic chairs people now sit on were once liquid oil, stored deep in the bowels of the earth.

One cannot imagine sitting on oil the way people sit on chairs. However, through the human ability to manipulate the chemical components of oil, plastic is produced and chairs are made for humans to sit on. This is the essence of human activity; humans already merely modify and transform what already exists. They do not create the trees or produce the oil. When they discuss oil production, they really mean oil extraction. The oil was created millions of years before by geological processes; than humans extracted it from the earth and refined it. They also did not creating the trees. Even if they planted them, they did not create the seeds that they planted.

Consequently, human, in their ignorance of God, often conceive of God as being just like them. For example, in the Old Testament, it is written, “God created man after his own image; in the image of God he created Man.” For Hindus, Purusa is the creator God, Brahma, in human form, and just as humans create by manipulating the existing world around them, than the creator god must do likewise.

According to Hindu philosophy, Purusa is a giant offspring of Brahma, having a thousand heads and a thousand eyes. From him arose Viraaj, his feminine counterpart and mate in the creation process. The divine Purusa is also the sacrificial offering and from his dismembered body arose the four traditional social castes (varnas) Perusa Hymn states that Brahmins were Purusa’s mouth; Ksatriyas (noblemen), his arms; Vaishyas, his thighs; and Shoodras, his feet. The Hindus’ inability to conceive of God creating this world from nothing, led them to the concept of God creating the world from himself and its people from His body parts.

Human ability to understand ideas and concepts is limited and finite. Human beings cannot grasp and understand the infinite. The belief, which God taught Adam, was that God created this world from nothing. When He wanted something to exist, He merely said, “Be!” and His command brought into existence those things that did not previously exist. This world and its contents were not created from Himself. In fact, the concept of God creating the world from Himself reduces God to the level of His creatures, who merely create something from something else. Those who held and continue to hold this belief are unable to grasp the uniqueness of God. He is Uniquely One and there is nothing like Him. If He had created the world from Himself, he would be like His creatures.

Did God become man?
The question which remains is Did God become Man? Logically speaking, the answer is no because the concept of God becoming man contradicts the basic meaning of the term “God.” People commonly say that God is able to do all things; whatever He wants to do, He can do. In the Bible of Christians it is said, “through God all things are possible” (Matthew, 19: 26; Mark 10: 27, 14: 36).

The Quran states, “for Allah hath power over all things.” (Quran 2:20)

And the Hindu scriptures carry texts of similar meanings. All the major religious texts contain general expressions regarding the basic concept of God’s omnipotence. He is Greater than all things, and through Him all things are possible. If this general concept is to be translated into practical terms, one has to first identify and understand the basic attributes of God. Most societies perceive God as an eternal being without beginning or end. If, on the basis that God is able to do all things, and it was asked whether God could die, what would be the answer? Since dying is part of “all things,” can it be said, “If He wants to?” Of course this cannot be said.

So, there is a problem here. God is defined as being ever-living, without end, and dying means “coming to an end.” Consequently, to ask if He can die is actually a nonsensical question. It is self- contradictory. Similarly, to ask whether God can be born, is also absurd because God has already been defined as eternal, having no beginning. Being born means having a beginning, coming into existence after not existing. In this same vein, atheist philosophers enjoy asking theists:

“Can God create a stone too heavy for Him to lift?” If the theist says yes, it means that God can create something greater than Himself. And if he says no, it means that God is unable to do all things.

Therefore, the term “all things” in the phrase “God is able to do all things” excludes the absurdities. It cannot include things that contradict His divine attributes; things that would make Him less than God, like, forgetting, sleeping, repenting, growing, eating, etc. Instead, it includes only “all things” that are consistent with Him being God. This is what the statement “God is able to do all things” means. It cannot be understood in the absolute sense; it must be qualified.

The claim that God became man is also an absurdity. It is not befitting of God to take on human characteristics because it means that the Creator has become His creation. However, the creation is a product of the creative act of the Creator. If the Creator became His creation, it would mean that the Creator created Himself, which is an obvious absurdity. To be created, He would first have to not exist, and, if He did not exist, how could He then create?

Furthermore, if He were created, it would mean that He had a beginning, which also contradicts His being eternal. By definition creation is in need of a creator. For created beings to exist they must have a creator to bring them into existence. God cannot need a creator because God is the Creator. Thus, there is an obvious contradiction in terms. The claim that God became His creation implies that He would need a creator, which is a ludicrous concept. It contradicts the fundamental concept of God being uncreated, needing no creator and being the Creator.

Can man become God?
Man is a finite being (i.e., creation). Man is born, and he dies. These are characteristics which cannot be attributed to God because they equate Him with His creation. Therefore, God did not and will not ever become man. On the other hand, man also cannot become God. The created cannot become its own creator. The created at one time did not exist. It came into being by the creative act of a Creator who always existed. What is nonexistent cannot make itself exist.

As for the parallel concept that the human soul or spirit is divine, it is a way of claiming that man can become God. This philosophy forms the foundation of Greek, Christian and Muslim mysticism, as well as Hindu theology, and extends divinity to all humans and possibly all living creatures. It starts from the premise that, at some time in the history of the universe, bits and pieces of God became surrounded by material bodies and were confined to the earth.

In other words, the infinite became contained in the finite. This belief attributes pure evil to God and ultimately eliminates the meaning of good and evil all together. When the human soul intends evil and does it by God’s permission, such an act is purely evil and worthy of punishment. Hence, the concept of karma was invented. Whatever goes around comes around. Karma explains inexplicable suffering by claiming that it is the consequence of evil in a previous life. God ultimately punishes any evil done by the parts of Himself within man. However, if human souls have independent wills from God, they cannot be at the same time God. Thus, each human becomes himself a god.

Did God have a son?
If God did not become Man, did He have a son? Since He is able to do all things, He should be able to have a son. However, this claim reduces God to the lowly status of His creation. Creatures procreate by giving birth to mini versions of themselves that later grow up and reproduce copies of themselves, and so on and so forth. Dogs have puppies, cats have kittens, cows have calves, and men have children. So, what does God have – a baby God? Gods must give birth to Gods. But, for God to have a son, there has to exist another God besides Him. It is not befitting for God to have a son as such an act equates Him with His creation.

Everything other than God comes into existence by the commandment of God, not that God becomes His creation or a part of God be- comes creation. God does not become His creation nor does God give birth to creation. God is God, the Creator, and man and the contents of the universe are His creation. Although humans cannot grasp the concept of creation from nothing, that is exactly what God did and does. He alone creates from nothing, which 1s among the attributes that make Him unique and distinct from His creation. His act of creation is entirely different from that of human beings.

This was the essence of the message of all the true messengers and prophets of God sent to humanity – Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad – as well as those sent throughout the world whose names are now unknown to humanity – may God’s peace and blessings be on them all. Today, this precise message can only be found in the Quran; the last scripture revealed by God to humankind. The message remains loud and clear only in the Quran because it has remained unchanged since the time of its revelation, one thousand four hundred years ago, until today.

God states in the Quran for those who make Him like His creation or vice versa: “There is nothing similar to Him.” (Quran 42:11) He also states for those who attributed to Him a son:

“For it is not consonant with the majesty of The Most Gracious that He should beget a son.” (Quran 19:92)

He further states for those who believe that He created the world from Himself: “Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is!” (Quran 36:82)

For the polytheists He states: “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!” (Quran 23:91)

“Were they created of nothing, or were they themselves the creators?” (Quran 52:35)

And in reference to Jesus and his mother, Mary, He confirmed their humanity by saying simply “Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” (Quran 5:75)

The concept of God not becoming man is very important for every human being to grasp because it lies at the foundation of the difference between Islam and all other existing religions. All other religions have a distorted concept of God, to one degree or another. The most important idea which needs to be understood, is that God did not become man. God is unique; He alone deserves to be worshipped by His creation.

To believe that a man is God or that a man became God and to worship that man is the greatest sin and the greatest evil that humans can do on this earth. This understanding is most important because it forms the foundation for salvation. There can be no salvation without it. However, this belief alone is not the key salvation.

True, correct belief must be translated into practice, and not merely remain in the realm of knowledge, for it to become pure faith. A person has to live a righteous life based on the correct belief to attain salvation. Nevertheless, the starting point is, knowing who God is, knowing that God never became and will never become a human being.