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Today in my History of Islam class, we talked about the two major strands of ideology concerning human nature, the authority of the Qur’an, and God’s sovereignty. In short, there were originally two main views within Sunni (the majority sect) Islam: one was essentially Calvinistic in an Islamic sort of way (e.g., humans cannot truly understand the universe simply through reason since they are depraved, the Qur’an is co-eternal with God, and God predestines humans to have or not to have faith); the other was essentially Pelagian in an Islamic sort of way (e.g., humans can use Greek wisdom and philosophy to understand the universe and God, the Qur’an is created and not co-eternal with God, and humans have utter free will as to whether or not to believe in God).

The most interesting part of the discussion was my history professor’s take on this debate, since it is essentially the same debate we Christians see: “Whenever you have a monotheistic religion, this is going to be an issue, because, if God is the all-powerful creator of everything, how can it be that humans can act outside his will? On the other hand, if God decides everything and humans are drones, what is the point of religion?” Since my professor was an atheist, I thought that her comments were pretty insightful, especially since I have had self-proclaimed Christian professors who have openly mocked Calvinism as ridiculous in class discussions.

On a side note, we discussed Daniel Defoe’s Puritan Calvinism in relation to his novel Robinson Crusoe in my very next class. Two out of three class discussions involving Calvinism in one day: that ain’t bad at all.

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