A Muslim said,
"Just as the ocean cannot be contained in a tea cup, the
infinite God cannot be contained in the finite body of Jesus."
Law of non-Contradiction
Now, it seems like a reasonable argument to posit that the finite cannot
contain the infinite. The term infinite means to be non-finite. Thus, by
definition the infinite cannot be the finite. Hence, it follows logically that the infinite God
cannot be the finite Jesus. This assumes the validity of the basic law of thought,
namely, the law of non-contradiction. And, all rational thought is based upon the
validity of the law of non-contradiction. Hence, the Muslim seems to have
rationally proven the incoherence of the finite
body of Jesus possessing the infinite God.
Univocal and equivocal
In deed, this follows if the use of the words finite and infinite were used in
a univocal sense. A univocal sense means an identical sense. For example, if
finite and infinite both refer to spatial dimensions, then the sense would be
univocal in the Muslim's claim. By contrast, an
equivocal sense means a difference sense. For example, a bank can be a
building where people deposit money, and a bank can be the sides of
a river. Although the word bank, in river bank and money bank,
are the same, they are used equivocally. A person can deposit money in a
bank, but it does not follow that the bank of the Nile River is a financial
Accurate Statement of Argument
Let's make the Muslim's argument more precise. The Muslim used
finite with respect to spatial dimensions when he claimed "the ocean cannot be contained
in a tea cup." In other words, Jesus is finite and limited with respect to
spatial dimensions. Clearly, this is true. For the Muslim's argument to be
valid, the word infinite would have to be used univocally with respect to spatial dimensions.
Rephrasing the Muslim's in univocal terms, it is more accurately stated as,
Premise one: God is infinitely extended in spatial dimensions,
Premise two: Jesus is not infinitely extended in spatial dimensions,
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus could not contain God.
Stating the Muslim's argument precisely allows it to be accurately analyzed. If the first premise were granted,
then the Muslim's conclusion would logically follow, because Christians would
grant the Muslim the
second premise. From a Christian perspective, the fault of the argument would have to
be first premise. Is God infinitely extended spatially? Christians don't think
so. First of all, only
material and physical beings are extended in space. Christians do not believe that
God is a material or physical being. Thus, when a Christian states that God is
infinite, he does not mean that God is an infinitely extended physical being.
Reductio ad absurdum
If we assume the Muslim's argument that God is an infinitely extended
spatial being, then it would follow there could be only one being in reality.
Because, if a being were infinitely extended into all spatial dimensions, then
there would be no dimensional space remaining for other beings to occupy. Hence,
there could be only one infinitely spatial being in the universe, namely God.
Since the universe includes all space, the universe would be identical to God.
So, if we were to accept the Muslim's initial premise regarding the
spatial infinitude of
God, it would follow that everything is God and God is everything, resulting in
Pantheism. The logical conclusion of the Muslim's initial premise is pantheism,
and everything, including the Muslim himself, would be deity.
However, it is acknowledged that Muslims don't believe that God is
infinitely extended in space. Thus, it is surprising that Muslims would use
a Pantheistic idea to critique the doctrine of the divinity of
Jesus Christ. The problem with the Muslim's argument is that the term, infinite,
has several meanings. When a Christian uses the term, infinite, with
respect to God, he doesn't use it in the sense of infinite spatial or temporal
Since the term, infinite, can have different meanings, it would be helpful at
this point to distinguish the different types of infinites.
Potential Infinity.1 This is the infinite that is most often used in
mathematics. It is symbolized by a ∞. For example, a continuum is
potentially, infinitely divisible. Another example is the ∞ in a
numerical series 1,2,3,4,5,6,....to ∞.. This infinite is never actually attained, but for mathematical
purposes a potential infinite is useful in many mathematical computations.
Actual Infinity. An actual infinite refers to an actual infinite sets of
real objects of quantitative time or matter. For example, if there were an actual
infinite set of marbles, books, or atomic particles, it would be
called an actual infinite. The term, actual infinite, is confusing,
because the word, actual, makes it seem as if it were actually
possible for there to be an actual infinite. Yet, it has been shown many
times that an actual infinite is not possible in reality. In
other words, it is metaphysically impossible for there to be physical
collection of an actual infinite number of marbles or books. Aristotle
Hence this infinite is potential never actual.2
By reality, we
mean a set of extra-mental physical objects. In other words, it is not possible
for there to be an actual infinite set of physical objects or temporal durations
in the universe. Hence, an actual infinite never exists ontologically in
reality. As a side note, the famous Kalaam cosmological argument for God's
existence depends upon the non-existence of an actual infinite set of
temporal units.3 This theistic proof was first
developed by Muslim scholars. Yet today, most of them are unaware of
Transfinite Numbers 4(symbolized by the Hebrew Aleph,
א). This refers to Cantor's transfinite
number sets of actual infinites. Since transfinite number sets are
mathematically abstract constructs of actual infinite sets, they can be
mathematically described and computed. However, these actual infinite number sets
have no correlation to quantified matter. Cantor's transfinite number sets are only mental
constructs and are not actually found within the space-time realm. In a
parallel manner, an author may write about a
centaur and describe its features, even though no centaur exists outside of
the human mind.
Absolute Infinity. An absolute infinite refers to
such as goodness, holiness, love, justice, knowledge, and power. Generally, a
qualitative infinite is termed an absolute infinite. The infinite
attributes of God are absolute infinities. Clearly, it is not appropriate
to use a potential or an actual infinite with respect to Deity,
because these types of infinites refer to physical or temporal entities, such as sets or
as divisible continuums. Yet, it is entirely appropriate to ascribe absolute
infinity to God because of God's infinite perfections in justice, holiness,
goodness, truth, love, mercy, knowledge, power, etc. The term, eternal, with
respect to Deity does not mean that God exists in infinite time. If God were to
exist in time, He would be measured by time. Eternal means to be not
temporal or to not exist in time. God created time. By contrast, temporal means to
exist in time. Humans are temporal beings whose existence can be measure by time.
Absolute infinity: God and Jesus.
Absolute infinite power was displayed during the event of the creation of the
universe. The divine power used in the creation of the universe was not the power
described in physic textbooks with their quantitative units of watts, joules/sec,
and horsepower. In other words, there was not an infinite storehouse of
power or energy that God took and used to create the universe. Before
creation, there was only Deity.
Power, energy, and mass are all creatures. The
convertibility between matter and energy is seen in Einstein's
famous equation, E = MC2 , where E = energy, M = mass,
and C = speed of light (c = 2.99792458 108 m/s ).
Thus, it is obvious that God did not use energy to create the
material universe, since matter and energy are equivalent terms. The
law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be
created nor destroyed. It is converted according to Einstein's
equation. Claiming that God used energy to create the universe
denies the creation event, because changing energy to matter, or
vice versa, is a conversion process, and not a creation
divine power to create comes solely from God
Himself. The divine Word is a spiritual, knowledgeable, and
volitional reality. God's word is infinitely powerful, but it does
not consist of quantitative physical or temporal dimensions. God
said, 'Be' and the worlds were called into existence by the power of
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Genesis 1:3 (NIV)
The word of God spoke the universe into being from nothingness. Such a divine
creative act requires absolute infinite power, because a creative act brings into
existence a being from non-being. Whereas, a conversion process begins with a
being (energy or matter) and ends with a being (matter or energy). In a
creation event there is an infinite metaphysical or ontological
distances between being and non-being. And, it takes absolute infinite power to
transverse this metaphysical distance. Scripture states that Deity's omnipotent power has its
source in the divine Word of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3 (NIV)
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the
world did not recognize him. John 1:10 (NIV)
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and
in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he
appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)
Since an absolute infinite lacks quantitative dimensions, there is no logical
contradiction in claiming that an absolute infinite can be expressed at a single
focal point. For example, love is a non-dimensional attribute that cannot be
measured in grams, meters, or seconds. Love is measured by the quality of the act.
The greatest act of infinite love occurred when God gave His Son to die for your
sins and mine.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
In conclusion, the Muslim's argument is fallacious because God is not a
space-time body. Therefore, God is neither a potential nor
an actual infinite. God is an absolute infinite that lacks physical dimensions.
Hence, it is logically possible that an absolute infinite can be within a
finite dimensional space, including the body of Jesus Christ.