Sabahat Ali, USA
Perfect man and perfect God.
Five simple words upon which rests the foundation of modern Christianity.
Five words which many Americans no longer believe.
A 2020 survey carried out by Florida-based Ligonier Ministries reveals that while 52% of Americans do believe that Jesus (as) of Nazareth was a great teacher, he was certainly not God.
100 years ago, this number would have been jarring to say the least.
But this number demonstrates so much more than just the fact that people are quickly renouncing the divinity of Christ. The idea that Jesus (as) of Nazareth possesses divine powers or supernatural traits is the beam upon which his supposed, miraculous return from the sky must be predicated. This belief – that Jesus was more than just a man – is central to the doctrine of most Muslims as well as Christians. Christians contend that he was the son of God, while Muslims do not. However, they still ascribe to him the ability to remain alive for 2000 years in the heavens and make a journey across the universe and back.. According to the Pew Research Center, (which put the global Muslim population at 1.8 Billion[i]and Christian population at 2.3 Billion in 2015[ii]) this means that nearly 60% of the world falls under the category of faiths whose mainstream followers expect Jesus (as) to return physically.
But even within the Muslim and Christian world, this number is steadily in decline. Between the enlightenment of Europe and today’s secular education and scientific growth, the last half-century has witnessed an increasing number of Christians and Muslims abandon their centuries-long wait for a Messiah from the skies.
In fact, in the same 2020 survey, more than a third of the 630 people identifying as evangelical Christians also expressed that they did not believe Jesus (as) to be God. Ascribing divine powers to Jesus also fuels the prevalent belief that he will return physically from the heavens after thousands of years. Yet even this belief has fallen out of favor in recent years. According to one study from 2010, 58% of evangelical Christians reported that they believe Christ will certainly return by 2050[iii]. But even 10 years ago, only 35% of Americans with any college experience and only 19% of college graduates believed that Jesus (as) would return.[iv]
Another survey conducted in Canada, of more than 3000 Canadians corroborates this trend exactly. The 2015 assessment by Angus Reid concluded that ‘The share of people who believe that Jesus was the divine son of God has steadily gone down.’[v]
Within the Muslim world, the largest group who denies the ascent and return of Christ to and from the skies in the same physical body, is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. With a membership spanning tens of millions spread across more than 200 countries of the world, the Ahmadis are the leading Muslim demographic who believe that Jesus Christ died a natural death like all human beings.
And with the passage of time, many non-Ahmadi Muslim scholars are also beginning to denounce his physical ascent and accept his natural death like all prophets before him.
Amazingly, this idea – that Jesus (as) was never more than a great spiritual teacher or Prophet – is something that the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian, India (1835-1908), put forth nearly 120 years ago, quoting evidence from both the Holy Qur’an and the Bible. He wrote several treatises and booklets which not only announced that Jesus (as) had lived and died as a Prophet of God like all those before him, but also challenged the entire Christian and Muslim world to prove otherwise. His compelling arguments in Jesus in India(1908) put forth a brilliant dialectical case for the fact that Jesus (as) was a human being and not God, nor possessed of any supernatural powers by which to ascend and return from the skies.
To this effect, the Promised Messiah (as) even published a grand prophecy which was met in that era with jest and mockery by many Christians and Muslims alike. Yet today, the empirical evidence of its fulfilment is being published the world over for all to witness.
At a time when powerful waves of aggressive evangelization were taking the subcontinent by storm, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) published the following words for future generations to behold and judge for themselves. In A Tale of Two Martyrdoms, he boldly declared:
‘O mankind! hearken, for this is the prophecy of God Who created the Heavens and the Earth…Remember, no one will descend from heaven. All our opponents who are living at present will die and not one of them will see Jesus, son of Mary, descend from the sky and then their children who survive them will also pass away and none of them will see Jesus, son of Mary, coming down from the heaven.
Generations of their posterity will also perish, and they too will not see the son of Mary descending from heaven. Then God will create restlessness in their hearts; that the day of the glory of the Cross had passed away and that the world had taken another turn, but Jesus, son of Mary, had still not come down from the sky.
Then all wise people will discard this belief and the third century from today will not have completed when all those who had been waiting for Jesus, both Muslims and Christians will despair of his coming and entertaining misgivings shall give up their belief…’[vi]
About the Author: Sabahat Ali is a graduate from the Canadian Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology. He currently serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, and is a regular contributor for the Review of Religions.
[i]Michael Lipka & Conrad Hackett (6 April 2017). ’Why Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group’. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved August 31, 2020
[iii]‘Jesus Christ’s Return to Earth,’ Pew Research Centre, Fact Tank News, July 14, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
[v]Aaron Hutchins ‘What Canadians really believe: A surprising poll’
[vi]Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Tadhkiratush-Shahādatain, pgs. 64-65, Islam International Publication ©