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Undoubtedly one of the hottest areas of debate in discussions between Christians and Muslims is the Christians dogma of the Trinity. Almost invariably, Muslims are convinced that Christians believe in three, separate deities, whilst Christians are adamant in affirming their absolute commitment to monotheism. Without question, the concept of the Triune deity - indeed, the whole doctrine of God - is difficult to understand, but this difficulty is unnecessarily accentuated if an uninformed or incorrect view of Christian dogma is held by Muslims. The purpose of this paper is to set the record straight, and also to compare and contrast aspects of the doctrine of God in both religions.
1. Divine Ontology
The Bible reveals a God who is personal. We encounter a Being Who thinks, wills, loves, etc. 1 Corinthians 2:11 is clear in presenting a Being Who has thoughts. He loves – 2 Corinthians 13:14. He has a will - 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The essential qualities of personality are mind, will and emotion, and the Bible presents a God possessed of all these faculties. God is personal. The impersonal deity of Hinduism - 'Brahman' - is not the deity presented to us in Scripture. God is a Spirit; this is the clear testimony of Scripture, stated plainly in John 4:24 - God is a spirit. The Mormon doctrine of a deity possessing bodily, physical parts is wholly contrary to Scripture. The words of Jesus in Luke 24:39 are emphatic; a spirit does not have flesh and bones. If God did have a body, the comment of Colossians 2:9 about Jesus in would be redundant - the Scripture is marvelling at the mystery of the Incarnation - God taking a body; He thus did not previously possess one. 1 Timothy 3:15 speaks of the 'household of God' and 'the church of the living God', and v.16 then says 'He appeared in a body', to indicate that this is 'the mystery of godliness' - that God could take human nature and thus a body alongside His divine nature and essence. The deity of the Word already having been established in John. 1:1, John 1:14 says the 'Word became flesh' - therefore He was not flesh beforehand. It is true that Scripture does speak sometimes of God having limbs, but both the context and the teaching of Scripture as a whole - the Analogy of Faith - clarify that this is purely figurative terminology e.g. Ezekiel 3:14, 22ff, 8:1-3, 37:1 etc. use 'Hand of YHWH' and 'Spirit of YHWH'
1.1 The Biblical Doctrine of God
interchangeably. The term is employed because the 'hand' is the 'power' of the body (e.g. 'you're in my hands'), and the Spirit is the 'power' of God. Other attributes of God include aseity (self-existence) - John 1:1-3 indicates that He is the uncaused eternal, self-existent being, and that everything is dependent upon Him. The divine Name YHWH indicates this - 'I Am Who I Am': His ground of entity rests in His own being - John 5:26 - 'the Father has life in Himself.' Linked to this is the fact that He is eternal Psalm 90:2, Ephesians 3:21, a point pregnant in the name YHWH itself. He is infinite, unlimited by space or time. He is omnipresent, filling all things, 1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48-49. Hence, God is both transcendent and immanent. Another attribute is omniscience, Psalm 139:1-12, which is linked to His perfect wisdom, Daniel 2:20-21. It follows from all this that as God is perfect in every way, Matthew 5:48, He is immutable, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17. Thus he cannot, in the strict sense, 'repent' i.e. change His mind, 1 Samuel 15:29. It is true that Jonah 3:10 does speak of His doing so, but what happened there was that because of the wickedness of Nineveh, God was going to destroy the city, but when the situation changed, the attitude of God and thus His action - i.e. wrath and destruction, which were directed to an condition of sin, were no longer operable. In other words, God did not change, the situation did so. Likewise, in the Incarnation, God did not metamorphose into humanity, nor did he cease at any time to be God, He simply took another nature as well as His divine nature. The babe in a Palestinian manger 2000 years ago remained the Creator of the world. It need hardly be said that God is omnipotent and sovereign, Genesis 18:14, Luke 1:37. He is holy, Isaiah 6:5, true – John 14:6, Hebrews 6:18, and Love - 1 John 4:8.
omnipotent. S. He is everywhere with His knowledge. In Islam. Sight.1. but one does not think about His essence. and not a creature from His creation. the Organiser. Among the differences. He addressed Moses with His words which are the attribute of His essence. The immanence of God is not emphasised as in Christianity. except that which He wills. His earlier existence had no beginning and His future existence shall have no end. He is the Exalted and the Great. He has the most beautiful names and most exalted attributes. 112. Besides. Allah resides in the heavens. Power. He has no associates.2.this is the import of S. He created man and knows what his soul is whispering. It follows from this that God is the creator. the Powerful. and thus Christianity has a greater emphasis on divine immanence than does Islam. Neither would a grain in the dark recesses of the earth nor a wet or dry object exist without being in the Clear Book. the Hearing.1 The Nature of God In Islam Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) says the following about the nature of God: AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) Chapter 1 On that which tongues shall utter and hearts believe of the obligatory religious affairs. He continues with all His attributes and names. In this respect we discern a parallel with the Christian idea of divine personality. He is too Exalted for these attributes to have been created and for his names to have occurred at a given time. His throne spreads over the heavens and the earth and the upholding of both the heavens and the earth does not burden Him. He does not directly interact with it. He has no son. This idea conforms to the Muslim emphasis on divine transcendence.2 The Islamic Doctrine of God 3 . Allah has settled upon the throne and holds sovereignty. Speech. His inspiration and sovereignty is effected by the mediation of angels. There is none similar to Him. A single leaf does not fall down except that He knows of it. and He has no equal. 1. eternal. transcendent. He is the Knower. His true nature cannot be described by anyone. To know Him one considers His signs. 1. Allah is closer to a man than the man's jugular vein. He is self-existent . He settles upon His glorious throne with His essence. omniscient.01 GOD That includes having faith at heart and uttering with the tongue that Allah is the one God and that there is no other god apart from Him. above His creation. 50:15. He appeared before the rock and it became flat because of His Majesty. the Knowing. None learns anything about His knowledge. Hearing. Knowledge. father or wife. the Seeing. we find that in Islam God is not omnipresent. nor can thinkers imagine that nature. God's seven principal attributes are Life. Will. but the Qur'an does hold that God is nearer to man than his own jugular vein. the Exalted and the Great.
2. 'Allah Most High has ninety-nine names. the Humiliator. which indicates that Allah is the proper name of the Deity rather than the generic description. the Dominant. the Judge. the Generous. the Watcher. The Biblical idea of Covenant is thus impossible for Islam (at least prior to the end of the world) since its essence is that 'I will be their God. are regarded as attributes. He to Whom men repair. the Sustainer. Exodus 6:7. It corresponds to the Biblical name Yahweh as opposed to Elohim. He who retains them in his memory will enter Paradise. the Powerful. It follows that the Biblical concept of Incarnation. the Compassionate. the reverse is true . the Raiser. the Withholder. the Fashioner. the Self-sufficient. the Witness. He is Allah. the King. the All-Knowing. the Seer. the Decider. the Just. ninety-nine Other names are to be discovered in the Qur'an and Hadith. the Great in Majesty.'the Name of the Nature'. but because God simply does not descend to live with His creatures (apart from at the eschaton. the First. the 4 . which is the Essential Name of the Deity. is out of question to Islam not just because of the incompatibility of deity and humanity. the Abaser. Apart from the Essential Name. Genesis 17:7-8. the Most Great.2 The Most Beautiful Names The name of God in Islam is Allah. the Overpowering. the Liberal. they will be My People. the Mighty. the Knower. He visits it. such as Rabb. the Clement. the Firm. the Creator. the Single. Nor is the Biblical concept of the Spirit of God indwelling an individual possible. the Delayer. All Other titles. the Preserver. and it may not be coincidental that the Ruh al-Qudus (Holy Spirit) in Islam is the archangel Jibril (Gabriel). the Praiseworthy. the Most High. and these are termed the 'Names of the Attributes'. the Advancer. the Incomparably Great. on the other hand. the Maker. the Wise. the Giver of Life. the Strong. is the essential personal name of God. and thus the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is infeasible. the Bestower. the Eternal. the Last. God is locally confined (by His own nature). the Plentiful Giver. when the spiritual condition of Mankind and the earth will be metamorphosed for the divine presence. the Trustee. the Source of Peace. the Real. whereas the Christian emphasis on divine immanence and omnipresence allow for its potential.): rather. after stating that the Arabic word ilah corresponds to 'God'. 2 Corinthians 6:6).' Islam gives the name Allah the title of ism ad-dhat . the Protector. and I will dwell in their midst' (e. the Exalter. the Loving. the Originator. The Islamic scholar Mawdudi. the Answerer. the Honourer. the Glorious. being a logical consequence of the Covenant as well as one of its climactic acts. the Hearer.g.From this we can understand that the effecting of divine sovereignty by angels corresponds to a large degree to the Christian concept of the function of the Holy Spirit. the Restorer to Life. or 'the most beautiful names' in several ayat of the Qur'an. the Merciful. The Hadith corpus lists the 'Most Beautiful Names': AbuHurayrah MISHKAT AL-MASABIH Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said. The Muslim idea is that Allah condescends for a time to allow His power to descend to the earth to effect His will. the Preserver of Security. the Giver of Death. the Informed. the Gracious. the Reckoner. other than whom there is no god. the Living. states 'The word Allah. 'Lord'. the One. the Prevailing. In Islam. the Provider.Man ascends to Paradise. the Forgiving. the Holy. the Grand. the Majestic. the Patron. As opposed to indwelling His creation. 1. the Rewarder. the Forgiver.
whilst one of the names of God in Islam is 'the Loving'. the Kindly. he is doomed to hell for ever. the Sublime. Yet what Islam is condemning in this text is a naturalistic idea of the eternal Sonship of Jesus. explains His merciful action. the First Cause. but rather to the polytheistic Arab idea of Allah's paternity of the Meccan pantheon. and indeed. states the following: The virgin birth should not therefore be supposed to imply that Allah was the father of Jesus in the sense in which Greek mythology makes Zeus the father of Apollo by Latona or of Minos by Europa. the Governor.'the daughters of Allah'. the Benefactor. the Harmer. A frequent polemical assertion of the Qur'an is that Allah has no 'partners' or 'offspring'. the Enricher. which raises Jesus to an equality with Allah: in some cases venerates Mary almost to idolatry: attributes a physical son to Allah: and invents the doctrine of the Trinity. S. true worship of Allah in Arabia was distorted by Arab polytheism. Uzza and Manat as the binat'Allah . In commentating on Surah 66:12.al-Rahim . the Equitable. the Accepter of Repentance. Similarly. the Guide. 3:76. although the principal Muslim expression and stress is on the related concepts of compassion and mercy is found in the bismillah . opposed to all reason. the Pardoner. proposing a concept of God behaving like the gods of Greece and Rome. while the latter . the Gatherer. the Enduring. which adorn all but one Qur'anic Surah. which according to the Athanasian Creed. the great Qur'an translator. the Independent. seducing humans and 5 . and ar-rahim. And yet that is the doctrine to which the Christian idea of 'the only begotten Son of God' leads. the Patient. Yusuf Ali.' Tirmidhi and Bayhaqi.Allah the Merciful. An obvious point of reference between Christianity and Islam is that in Christianity. the Ruler of the Kingdom. This was particularly pointed since in practice the supposed progeny of Allah were the effective objects of worship rather than Allah Himself. It can be seen from this that the original reference of this assertion was not to any purported Christian view of Trinitarianism or divine sonship.Outward. the Lord of Majesty and Splendour. S. S.refers to the blessings He pours out upon His creatures. in Kitab ad-Da'wah al-Kabir. the Compassionate. the Amply Beneficent. the Avenger. 1. the Director. The British Muslim convert Gai Eaton states: It is said that the former describes God as He is in His eternal nature and that everything is brought into existence through the overflowing of this innate "Mercy". Ar-rahman describes His intrinsic merciful character. 19:88 purportedly attacks the Christian concept of divine sonship. the Inward. Tirmidhi saying this a gharib tradition. the Depriver. the Light. 19:96. God is described as 'loving' in the Qur'an. the Qur'an refers to the three favourite deities of the Meccans .2. the Inheritor.3 Arab polytheism in relation to 'Allah' Islam holds that the pristine. unless a man believes. it is revealed that God is Love.Lat. Yet Islam tends to associate the Biblical dogma of the eternal Sonship of Christ with pagan ideas of divine progeny. transmitted it. Yusuf Ali states: Here the Christian attitude is condemned.
The Shema. (possibly. to mix Baal-worship with the adoration of YHWH. thus reflecting the First Commandment which forbids the worship of rivals to YHWH (such as Baal). It is probably best to understand this as stating 'the Lord our God is Lord alone' i. Satan . Deuteronomy 32:39 'there is no god beside Me'.. Isaiah 44:6 states that He is the First and the Last .e.Psalm 82:6. e. Throughout the Old Testament. This is fundamental to Biblical faith.believing in one God who is undivided. This truth is reemphasised in Galatians 3:20 'God is One' and James 2:19 '. the Lord is one'. a god 'to Pharaoh'. Moses .g. This is not how Biblical and historic Christian dogma has presented the idea of divine sonship in its understanding. but such is purely metaphorical and is qualified by adjectival phrases e. Isaiah 43:10 emphatically declares that before YHWH there was no god. These Scriptures express the uniqueness of YHWH.2 Corinthians 4:4.there is no God apart from Him. It is true that the word 'god' is sometimes used of other beings. Mark 12:29 reiterates this.'YHWH is God: beside Him there is no other'. The Bible wholly rejects polytheism. unique. 22:32 rhetorically queries 'who is God besides the Lord?' Hezekiah likewise states 'you alone are God'. emphasising this before elaborating our duty of attitude to God.there is one God'.. nor will one follow Him. 2. Christianity is monotheistic .producing demi-gods. its creed. 2 Sam. He alone is God.g. a running battle is fought against attempts by Israel to syncretise their religion. 'as God to Pharaoh'). whilst Psalm 82 is clear that Judges are metaphorically termed 'gods' because they exercise governing authority in His name.1 Biblical Data The Bible is adamant in contending for the unity and uniqueness of God. e. and the Decalogue jealousy reserves worship for YHWH. Deuteronomy 6:4 expresses this succinctly 'the Lord our God. Further texts of note include Deuteronomy 4:35 . The Unity and Uniqueness of God 2. the Judges . The Shema is the basic tenet of faith of Hebrew religion. 'god of this age'. in fact.g.Exodus 7:1. 6 .
2. viewed simply as a prophet . For this reason Christians can sincerely plead 'not guilty' to the accusation of shirk.'there is no God but God'. Such a dogma is completely absent from the Christian Scriptures and from orthodox Christian tradition such as that stated at the Councils of Nicæa (325 A.what is rejected. God took human nature alongside His divine nature without ceasing to be God. 3. There is one divine essence . it can be understood that Muhammad saw his prophetic mission as seeking the restoration of the primal. Muhammad was directing his polemic against polytheism.1 Definition Before discussing the evidence for the Trinity. since they do not believe in a divided divine essence.) and Chalcedon (451). undiluted and unique worship of Allah alone. Deity and humanity are not confused in the One Person of Christ. offspring or equals. Relationship of Persons in the Trinity 3. termed in Islam as tawhid. belief in three Gods. The Islamic doctrine of shirk.2 The Islamic View Given that Islam viewed Hejazi polytheism as the distortion of the pristine faith. Rather. what the Qur'an attacks is Tritheism. it teaches the existence of the One God eternally present in three Persons . Son and Spirit. the quality of 'Godhood'. which professed belief in the Triune nature of the Godhead. thus concerns the polytheistic practice of 'associating' other beings with God. or a plurality of such essences. which is the unforgivable sin in Islam. The first clause of the Shahada is termed nafi . since they are not shattering the single divine essence or proposing that there is a plurality of divine essences. nor is His essence different from that of the Father (or the Spirit). They believe in three Persons sharing the same divine essence. Islam holds that Christianity offends in this matter by virtue of its belief in the Trinity and the eternal Sonship of Christ. and thus the fulcrum of his message concerned the unity and uniqueness of God. the ontological nature of deity. Islam stresses that Allah is self-subsisting. nor humanity elevated. Islam accuses Christians with promoting a mere human being . They do not believe in three gods.the quality of 'being'. it is well to define what we mean by such. Nor is the generation of the Son to be viewed in terms of a temporal distinction between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.Father. similar to the way the Romans raised figures to the position of divinity such as Romulus (who was deified as Quirinus) or Augustus. Deity is not diluted. The Shahada. the Islamic declaration of faith.what is established. On this basis. rather they are affirming an inseparable distinction within the unique divine essence.Jesus. or three 'modes' or 'manifestations' of the One Person of God (Sabellianism). That is. Moreover. However. Scripture does not reveal three gods (Tritheism). There was never a time when the Son did not exist.D. 7 . and sufficient. The charge of 'association' demands a division of the divine essence. demonstrates this emphasis in the words La ilaha illa llah . the Christian position is actually the opposite to some degree: Man did not become God. as opposed to any tritheistic ideas. it should be stated in response that this accusation would only be true if Christians believed in Tritheism or in the deification of a human being. This is based on the teaching of the Qur'an on this issue. without need for forebears.to the status of deity. However. and neither proposition has ever been held by Christians. Christians are not 'associating' any being with God. and the second clause as ithbat . 'association'.
Women bear. Generation is the act whereby the Father is the Ground of a second personal subsistence like His own. 3. This is what is meant when we say that the First Person begets or generates the Second. The Father has only one begotten Son. Devotion to Mary was certainly an increasing feature of the time in which Muhammad began his mission. The Spirit is the completion of the Godhead. The term 'Persons' is inadequate.all this as one indivisible act.As human beings. It is never fully and infinitely present in a single individual. through and unto each other. and it is a necessary act . There are three different modes of existence or subsistence within the divine essence. Distinct.it was unconditional. What Islam attacks is Tritheism.'Spirit of the Father'. The Qur'an attacks belief in a Trinity comprising three gods. The Persons possess an essence which is numerically one. The Son is begotten of the Father.Paternity. and declares that the Trinity consists of God. the generation is eternal .2 One Essence. The difference with human fathers and sons is that with God. for whereas the Son being in the image of the Father received the property of communicating the entire divine essence to another Person (in conjunction with the Father) but the Spirit receives no such property. and is the 'bond of love' between the other two Persons – Matthew 10:20 . one energy. unique . They commonly possess the one nature. Individual men possess only individual parts of human nature. whereas humans possess a common nature that is differently present in each individual. save that it is a joint act of the Father and the Son. and puts the Second Person in possession of the whole divine essence . The same basic process is true of the Spirit. They exist in. whilst the Persons of the Trinity each possess it wholly and indivisibly. indivisible and not separate. and He is the Source of the generation of the Son and thus ultimately of the Spiration of the Holy Spirit. one will. God would not be God if He were not a Trinity. 3.John 3:16. the three divine Persons commonly possess the quality of deity with the difference that in their case it is a single nature.4 The Trinity According To Islam There are major difficulties for Muslims with regard to their understanding of the Trinity. something which Biblical Christians have never advocated. distinguished by their properties and offices . and equally. Similarly. we all share a common quality of Humanity. one mind.only termed Spiration. In later ages this 8 . equally eternal and necessary .there was never a time when the Son was not in existence. men beget. Inseparable Subsistence 3. The object of the Islamic polemic in this respect does not reflect the Biblical and historic Christian concept of the Trinity as being three hypostases sharing the same essence.it was not an act of choice or will . and intercessory powers were attributed to her. Galatians 4:6 'Spirit of the Son'. but nought else suffices.3 Eternal Generation And Spiration The Father is unbegotten. Mary and Jesus. in contradiction to the Holy Scriptures. Filiation and Spiration. They are not separable. The divine Persons are distinct but not separate. We possess a human nature.
.e. did not know the Christian scriptures well enough. and secondly.. and Muhammad stated them to the Najran delegation. Mary and Jesus. the ayat in Surah Al-i-Imran referring to Christian beliefs came into existence at this time. According to the Sirah. Christian Trinitarian doctrines are not to be equated with pagan ideas of divine paternity.one wonders why even today some people raise the objection that Muhammad. von Denffer also comments that Muhammad received Christian deputations form Yemen and Bahrain. The German Muslim scholar Ahmad von Denffer refers to the Sirah and states that the delegation argued '. the son of God. as opposed to tripersonal distinction within the same divine essence.i.which is the doctrine of Christianity. or that the Trinity was God. Indeed. and a renowned bishop and theologian named Abu Haritha bin 'Alqama. Whilst we should not discount the possibility of the existence of a heretical group of Christians holding these beliefs.. It is possible that some of these were Nestorians. although this is unlikely. This visit is recorded in the Hadith.. they informed the Muslims that Jesus was God. as we have seen. The problem for Muslims is that Christians are not guilty of the accusation hurled against them with respect to Tritheism. and eschews any idea that the Godhead is divided. It is most unlikely that any believed in the kind of physical sonship akin to that of pagan deities with which the Qur'an accuses Christianity. and included the political leader of Najran. Abdu'l-Masih. historic Christianity. three independent essences. the onus is on Muslims to prove the existence of such a group. no! The Biblical and historic Christian position found in the Creeds and Confessions of faith clarify that Christianity believes in one single divine essence shared by three hypostases. However. It is hard to imagine that Muhammad could have been unaware as to the true Biblical or historic Christian position. as opposed to the Chalcedonian Orthodox of Byzantium. Purportedly. Tritheism would undermine the Biblical position on the unity and uniqueness of God...' Hence.. not least with the Negus of Abyssinia. the onus is on Muslims to prove that any Christian group ever explicitly declared her to be a deity. Christianity is aggressively monotheistic. The delegation were said to be '.. More probable is that they were Monophysites. and the Protestant Reformation was a return to the Biblical position on this.Christians according to the Byzantine rite.elevation became more extravagant. the third person of the Trinity '.' They supported their claims by pointing to his miracles.. The Sirah of Ibn Ishaq states that the group was sixty strong. Nor would any of them have held to the deity of Mary. the Najranis did not argue for three separate deities. since. as they put it. It should be remembered that Muhammad actually met a Christian delegation from Najran. given their proximity to Abyssinia. and we know he had some other contacts with Christians. but whether the Christians involved were Monophysites.. three gods.. and definitely not three separate deities .. such views were not those held by orthodox. von Denffer states '. which contained a leading theologian in its ranks.'. Nestorians or Chalcedonians. an administrator called al-Ayham. none of them would have believed in Tritheism the tripartite division of the divine essence.that God was three in one. which are not pertinent to our theme. This can be illustrated by examining what occurred at the time of the Najran visit. we would have to make two points in this regard: firstly. The aim of the deputation was to engage in theological debate and also to resolve some political issues. Three hypostases yes.' 9 .
Judges 2:1-5. dual. we should consider Genesis 16:7-13.'I and the Father are one'.cf.v10. and His Spirit' . and Elohim is of this kind .4.the Lord sends someone who is the Lord! Hence there is a distinction within God. Of course. (cf.. Cf. The general term for 'God' is Elohim. This is demonstrated by Genesis 1:18ff where three men (the number itself is significant) visit Abraham. cf. Leviticus 19:11.'God said. v14 and v16. The Theophanies . Revelations 4:8) 10 . These all indicate that the Old Testament sees a plurality in the Godhead. and in v6 introduces Himself as the God of the Patriarchs. 2 Cor.the manifestations of God in human form . whereas YHWH (i. but they . grieved His Holy Spirit'.plural. Zechariah 2:8 with v 9 and v 11 . 6:11-22... 17. Isaiah 63:7-10 presents the three together . Josh 5:13-15 . and there is interchange between singular and plural pronouns e.g.'the LORD . we are not advocating Tritheism. and plural.) Further evidence is found Isaiah 6:8 'I heard the voice of the Lord saying. and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace. 13. and we should note that like the Theophany who appeared at Sinai to Moses. Biblical Data for Plurality in the Godhead 4. There are three possible personal numbers in Hebrew: singular. Holy.but the one speaking is the Lord. Genesis 1:26-27 . there is Old Testament evidence that God is not unipersonal. we are dealing with a permanent theanthropic entity. Isaiah 48:12-16. Genesis 3:22. 15. The German theologian Hengstenberg.1 Trinitarian Texts To Muslims..' (cf.. along with many commentators. 24:19.presage the Incarnation. 13:14) The threefold ascription of praise to God is significant . The Angel of YHWH appeared to Moses in Exodus 3:2. Malachi 3:1 speaks of 'the Lord you are seeking. one of the same quality of nature .. concluding with the expression 'The Lord God has sent Me. Zechariah 13:7 has the Lord speaking of the 'Shepherd of Israel' and 'the Man next Me'. 6:2. 11:6-7. It would be natural then to translate it as 'gods'. Two of them are angels . Cf. cf. the distinction being that with the latter. 22. 25:15-17.e. 'Whom shall I send.. Holy is the Lord of Hosts'. but the other is the Lord . The Angel of YHWH in the Old Testament is to be distinguished from angels in general. save that it is followed by a singular verb. the last-mentioned indicating three or more. 6:2. let Us make man in Our image after Our likeness. Moreover.and God created man in His own image.One God in plurality. Likewise. which in the usage of the time implied 'brother' i. in the image of God created He him..who is the Lord. the Theophany here commands the human subject to remove his shoes in reverence. renders this as 'fellow' or 'neighbour'. it seems contradictory to speak of a 'Trinity' and yet hold to the doctrine of one God. (cf.e. It is the equivalent of John 10:30 . but Triunity. 21:17-18. 'the LORD') is His personal name.Isaiah 6:3 'Holy. 48:15-16. The Aaronic Benediction in Numbers 6:24-27 perhaps points to the Trinity: The Lord bless you and keep you:The Lord make His face shine upon you.19:1. a distinction of persons within God. and the angel of His Presence . 22:11. also the Captain of the host of the Lord before Joshua. the messenger of the covenant you desire' . and who will go for Us?'.. Isaiah 48:12-16 presents God as speaking.
three gods . Cf. that Jesus is not alone God. The Word was God. is also the fuller revelation.used of God in Isaiah 41:4. but rather there are more persons than the Son in the Godhead. also Colossians 1:15. tri-personal) and that the names Father. but it is absent. 2 Corinthians 1:3.and Modalistic Monarchianism . as does 2 Peter 1:1. 'I am' (YHWH). The Son is God: John 1:1 .baptism is in the name (singular) of the Trinity. states that all men may give Him equal honour as to the Father. Philppians 2:6-11.the context of sorrow over Israel's fall precludes a doxology. 'God over all' balances 'concerning the flesh'. As it stands. It is essential to guard against tritheism . 48:12.The New Testament. 11 . that is. The Spirit is God: Mark 3:29 . Hebrews 9:14 says that the Spirit is eternal. it also demonstrates that the Godhead is not exhausted in Jesus. it always stands at the beginning of a sentence.thus Jesus is God. Son and Spirit are simply different manifestations of the same Person e.Greek scholars all reject the Jehovah's Witnesses's New World translation perversion. 22:12. 2:9. 2 Timothy 4:18. 1 Peter 1:3. 18. in John 5:22-23. 2 Corinthians 3:7-16 refers to Exodus 34:29-35 when Moses communed with the Lord. 2 Thessalonians 1:12. 7:21. 13. Hebrews 1:8-10. Romans 9:5 presents Jesus as 'God over all' . as we have seen. and such does not usually appear in the middle of a passage. John 1:18 speaks of Jesus as the unique ( s) God. and only God possesses that attribute. Whenever euloghtos ('blessed') is used in an independent doxology. the Beginning and the End . Acts 5:3-4 . Romans 14:10 refers to the Judgment Seat of God. Ephesians 1:1. If God and Jesus were distinguished. Galatians 1:1. whom the New Testament scripture equates with the Spirit. Acts 20:28 speaks of the Church of God purchased with His blood . 2:8. It is is clear from John 5:18-19 that the Jews recognized Jesus as claiming deity. It is implied in the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 .g. since Biblical revelation is progressive up to the first coming of Christ.g.Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit who is God. Jesus. Galatians 1:5. The Father is God: Matthew 6:8. Doxologies usually refer to someone mentioned in the preceding sentence – Romans 1:25. and 2 Corinthians 5:10 ascribes it to Christ. John 8:58 presents Him as claiming the personal name of God. 2 Corinthians 11:31.only God can be blasphemed. The syntax of John 1:1 is instructive in this regard. so the exts affirm Christ's deity.Matthew 28:19 . being the fulfilment of the Old. 44:6. Jesus must be God. e. and since the honour we give to God is worship.it would be illegitimate to so construct the text unless the three were equal and one. there would normally need to be a definite article before 'Saviour'. 11:26. Titus 2:13 speaks of the 'great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:17. 16 all refer to Jesus as Alpha and Omega. The three are one . by virtue of placing the definite predicate before the verb but without the definite article ('Colwell's rule'): Not only does it affirm that Jesus (the Word) is God. 1 John 5:20.the idea that God is uni-personal (rather than. Christ is God over all.
Romans 8:19-25.the Father loving the Son. and of the Spirit. it is indicated in Romans 6:4-5 that the Father resurrected Jesus and will do likewise with us. especially the Abrahamic Covenant. The Persons co-operate in the activity of redemption: the Father planned it.no-one knows who the Son is except the Father. 9. 4. Matthew 11:25. and the expression of this is the divine indwelling .what God does reveals who He is.g. When God brought destructive miracles upon the Egyptians. Luke 10:21-22 provides us with an insight to the relationship between the Trinity and revelation.. The disciples. loving. faithful and saving. 8:22. but they are performed by distinct Persons It can be seen that Modalistic Monarchianism (Sabellianism) is erroneous from the evidence of inter-Personal communication in the Trinity . Indeed.we see an indication of this in the Theophany on Sinai when YHWH introduces Himself as the God of the Patriarchs. the Spirit was the Agent of the Resurrection of Christ. In this respect. John 5:25. it is used of Jesus alone. His actions with regard to the Exodus were in fidelity to His promise to Abraham. Romans 1:7. Moreover. it is indicated that Jesus would resurrect Himself. His works reveal a Being who is active. v17.e. Romans 16:20. In Acts 7 Stephen reviews the historical acts of God to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah. Romans 5:15. the Father is God in His electing role. Linked to this is the concept of divine grace. Hebrews 10:29. 29:46. 3:6. According to Romans 1:4.John 20:30. 2 Thessalonians 2:13.as a man may be at the same time a husband to his wife.He has the power of resurrection. The voice of the Son of God will effect resurrection. a father to his children .John 14:9ff. they were revelations to both the Egyptians and the Israelites as to the person and character of God . 5. and the very purpose of the Exodus was that God would dwell among His People. and anyone to whom Son wills to reveal Him"' Two related concepts indicating the reality of the Trinity are resurrection-power and divine grace. the Spirit is God in His sanctifying office. The power of the Spirit will renew the bodies of believers . all God's actions are related to His promises. Exodus 2:24. 7:5. simultaneously in the same verse of Jesus. 8:11. commenting on the miraculous power of Jesus against demons. a divine function. There is a relationship between the functional and ontological aspects of deity . Mark 1:11. 2 Corinthians 13:14.thus the Son is God in His redemptive capacity. Ephesians 1:7. The coming of Christ was also in 12 . It is said in Galatians 1:1 that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Grace is ascribed to God. in itself and indication of divine identity. as much as His propositions. This is essential. and the miracles of Jesus are called signs . and who the Father is except the Son. The miracles of Jesus demonstrate His unity with the Father . Romans 8:26. John 3:16. In John 6:40 and 11:25 Jesus stated that He is the Resurrection . we would accept. grant them resurrection bodies . commissioning Him. Revelations 22:21. in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 we are presented with a parallel structure From this. That there are distinct offices in the Trinity. Exodus 6:7. and said ". John 1:1. Romans 4:23-25. speaking to Him etc. Ephesians 1:4. holy.g. a son to his mother.. because God is revealed in His acts. The power of God gave resurrection to Jesus. 16:14. we infer that at least one aspect of 'grace' is that it is a power. resurrection is a triune event. the Decalogue. divine grace and power are virtually synonymous. and then the text goes on to state 'At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit. the Spirit applies it. Hence. Grace is a triune divine activity. it is used with respect to the Father. In John 2:19-22 and 10:17-18. Moreover. the Son procured it. are answered by Jesus. e. 15:26.that is.
1 The Subject 4. 72-73.rather.i. Since it was the angel of YHWH who appeared to Abraham. Romans 8:3. He was the Word who was God dwelt among us. He transforms the person . and these actions in this regard point to the unity of Father. divests Himself of heavenly glory to enter the realm of Mankind as a man. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be in the disciples. but rather the Second Person of the Trinity is incarnated. we may identify him with the pre-incarnate Son. The common actions of the Three Persons reveal they possess a common divine essence. 13 . Philippians 2:6-8. without diminution of His deity. Other texts which indicate His pre-existence are John 6:38.e.Galatians 4:4 stresses His birth into a Jewish family and thus His obligation to adhere to the Torah.establishes a relationship of fellowship between God and Man which effects the moral transformation of the believer. 2 Corinthians 6:16 it makes the recipients of the divine indwelling holy. Philippians 2:7. The very fact that Father. These points are amplified when looking at the pre-existent Mediator and His activity. 4. as only an eternal. upon the baptism of Jesus the Spirit descends from heaven to rest on Him. Luke 1:35. John 14:17. but identifies Him as the Agent of Creation. the People of God. Galatians 4:4.Galatians 1:15. and subject to the limitations and obligations thereof .Saul the persecuting Pharisee became Paul the Apostle . and entered the human scene.Matthew 1:20.2 The Incarnation Not the entire Godhead. The Son is the Agent of Revelation and Redemption. but He is not thereby metamorphosed . God's actions in redemption are climaxed in the divine indwelling. He is rendered theanthropic. The presence of the Spirit . all three persons collaborate in effecting the incarnation .2. and since this figure is represented as an agent of revelation and redemption in the Old Testament. Son and Spirit unitedly take part in the action of divine indwelling points to their common divine essence. in itself pointing to the Triune nature of God. this points to His pre-existence. so are not incarnated with Him.fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant. We see evidence of communication between Father and Son in John 12:27-28. John 1:1 speaks not only of the Logos as being pre-existent.Matthew 3:16-17. infinite being could indwell the multiplicity of human beings. v23. Galatians 4:4. 2 Corinthians 8:9. John 8:56 identifies Him as the Agent of Revelation to Abraham (and 1:18 indicates that this remains his work). The Holy God sanctifies. and are distinguished from the Son. the indwelling of God .the divine action reveals the nature and identity of God. John 1:14. Berkhof makes the vital point that since the Son was active in this process.2. When God reveals Himself.2 The Nature Of The Incarnation John 1:14 indicates that the Son became a true human being. By this we can understand why it was the Son rather than the Father or Spirit who is incarnated.g. The Giver of the Law became subject to it. John 1:1. Luke 1:54-55. and so would the Father and Jesus Himself. 4. and the voice of the Father in heaven speaks with respect to His son . so it had to be the Son who was incarnated. Son and Spirit . The essential element is that the Second Person of the Trinity. Not only was He God. Genesis 48:16. v14. which verses indicate that the Other two divine Persons remain in heaven. e. Acts 2:30. However.
and will reflect the divine requirement of faith in that only a purified Remnant will return . although not virginal. 7 underline this. provides some clue to the unique supernatural character of Jesus' birth.only those confessing their sins will share in the End of the Exile. specifically of marriageable age. To explain. together with gestation. Acts 2:30. The Old Testament prophets predicted a Restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile which would have the character of a Second Exodus. 7. and this term seems restricted in meaning to 'virgin' . 'God with us'. 11. but it is an indication. Obviously. was normal.2. Isaiah 11:11ff. the Kingdom. 14 . 20:34-38. 20. The conception of Jesus was miraculous in that no man was involved in this act . Luke 3:2-16) reveal the fulfilment of these texts. Other texts. The rest will suffer the Judgement . Jeremiah 31:2. rather than birth. where a purging takes place .as the avenue by which the Restoration will be accomplished and the Judgement essential to this act effected. which predicts the birth of One who would be the fulfilment of the covenantal promise of divine presence . the Reign of God through Messiah was as yet unrealised. Ezekiel 11:18-21. The latter text. Ezekiel 37:24 indicate that the Reign of God will be mediated through the Davidic King .g.1 The Virginal Conception And Birth The Seed of Promise in Genesis 3:15 is specifically stated to be the seed of the woman. Luke 1:35. though it should be pointed out that the word is usually translated as 'maiden' in Proverbs 3:19.vs.2.Is 10:22. it must be stated that the Muslim and Judaistic conception of what this means is not the right interpretation of this act . John is preparing a refined people for the One who will effect the Return from Exile under the Reign of God.the Messiah. 36:2527. It is more exact to speak of virginal conception.4. 10. The Hebrew word almah is often broadened to include any young woman.cf. which will see the Baptism of the Spirit. Acts 21:9. the principal text is Isaiah 7:14.3 The Baptism The baptism of Jesus is often problematic for Muslims.the preparation for the arrival of God in Canaan. which identify the King with the People . The Bestowal of the Spirit is the evidence that Jesus is the Davidic King.it occurred through the power of the Holy Spirit 'overshadowing' Mary. e. The birth of Isaac. Galatians 4:4. together with Isaiah 40:3-5 stresses the importance of the desert in this process . 12 of Matthew 3. Jeremiah 31:33-34. specifically represented by Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 . Mark 1:2-5 (and parallels in Matthew 3:1-11.) Isaiah 52:7 builds on 40:3 by stating that God will return with the exiles as their King. for the latter. v 4. (See also Matthew 1:18. This should not be overstressed as evidence for the virgin birth. as 23:6 and 33:15-16.2. whose reign will be over a righteous people who adhere to the New Covenant.) 4.Christ was born of a virgin. cf.it does not imply marital intimacy between God and Mary and the production of a demi-god: it is simply that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit miraculously caused the implantation of life in the womb of Mary. Although a Remnant did return from Babylon.specifically Jerusalem. In passing. The LXX translated the word by parthenos.Immanuel. Matthew 25:1. we must consider the whole nature of the plan of salvation. 7. This occurs through the ministry of John Baptist in the desert. Thus Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27 do fulfil Isaiah 7:14 in exactitude .'I will dwell in the midst of you' . Matthew 3:11. save in respect that Jesus was preserved from defilement. (In this respect it is a pattern of the Final Judgement which effects the entry of the Righteous into their inheritance.
also Ezekiel 1:1. 2:2. In saying this. v 14. Jesus. 5:10. and v 34 indicates that this evidences that Jesus is the Son of God.cf.33. 36. by being baptised. Thus Jesus was accomplishing fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. All these things help us to understand the significance of the Temptation. 'Fulfil' in Matthew is used mainly of Jesus' relation to the predictions and patterns of the Old Testament' e. b. 5:17. He is the embodiment of the Old Testament Messianic Hope. 20. So with the manifestation of Jesus. John 1:33 seems to imply that the One on Whom the Spirit abides is the bestower of the Spirit.i. reflecting Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1 (and possibly Genesis 22:2 LXX) . g. Genesis 1:2. which would imply cleansing. a. Cf. Mark 1:11 with 12:1-11. 6:33. This sets the scene for understanding the Baptism of Jesus. with which the people are identifying. of the Kingdom of God and of the New Covenant. where the Servant represents the people. is realized in Jesus. e. We should also note the 'Moses' typology theme in Matthew. indicating purity and the creation of something new . the Spirit is not represented by fire.cf. but by a dove. That is. The idea is that the fulfilment of the Old Testament Hope. Unlike Pentecost.the King and the Servant were to characterised by the anointing with the Spirit. Romans 14:17. As Jesus begins his ministry after this.note how John was reluctant to baptise Him. Servant and true Israel . c.g. and Jesus had to tell him to 'permit' it . Jesus was the Messiah. 'Righteousness' in Matthew is linked to the idea of the Kingdom.He is the Davidic King.Matthew 3:15. and the fact that Israel was 'baptised' into Moses. It has the sense of 'obedience to the will of God' and thus of 'submission to the Reign of God' . The fact that Jesus does not contradict John's assertion is evidence of His own belief in His sinlessness.g. Jesus had no need to repent . John recognized that the One whom he was to baptise in water was the One who would baptise in the Spirit. identifying them. is thus identifying with the people who are preparing for the reception of the Reign of God and probably there is a reflection here of Isaiah 53:11. d. The heavenly voice calls Jesus 'beloved Son'. John 1:33 and 3:34 seem to underline this. so the Spirit will 'baptise' the people into Christ . which ties in with John's own ministry. 15 . we can see that the bestowal of the Spirit was the divine 'call' or 'ordination' . 21:31-32. the Exile has ended and the Reign of God has arrived Mark 1:15/Isaiah 52:7. e.cf. f. Jesus gives as His reason for submission to baptism as being right to 'fulfil all righteousness'.e.
the onus of proof for the historicity of this process rests on the Muslims. 135 AD. just as many nonMuslims refer to the heretical Nation of Islam and the Ahmadiyya sect as Muslims. Muslims are left with several possibilities: i.. however unlikely that may be. but the historicity of the group is questioned. and at any rate. It has been claimed on the basis of the works of Epiphanius that an heretical group called the Collyridians worshipped Mary. located in the John Rylands Library of Manchester University. In that case. Was the Bible Corrupted and then Improved? One of the problems for Muslims is that not only do the Qur'anic depictions of Christian belief about the Trinity not reflect historic and Biblical presentations about divine Triunity. then this declension must have occurred fairly quickly after the Ascension of Christ.the voice of the Father. If the true Injil reflected Islamic dogma. nor is there are contemporary reference in the early Church fathers either to such a process nor to belief in the Qur'anic idea of the Trinity.. Of course. That the Qur'an is attacking the views of an unrepresentative heretical group. by removing from the New Testament all Tritheistic references. 96 A. Since nowhere in the New Testament do we find the Qur'anic idea of the Trinity. or that God was incarnated in the person of Fard in the USA in the 1930s. and the revelatory miracle as to the identity of Jesus.g. 5. there is no support for tritheism. 16 . It is clear from canonical history that the books comprising the New Testament were around by the end of the First Century. from Egypt. but then the Christians descended into the polytheism of which the Qur'an accuses it. e. the onus of proof for the existence of which rests on the Muslims. especially with respect to the idea that Christians ascribe deity to Mary. Romans. both in terms of mainstream Christian dogma. dating from c. At any rate. but this causes a problem for them with regard to the Qur'anic allegation of tritheism against Christians. . and then excised this and improved the position to reflect the contemporary Scriptuary presentation . The Qur'an may be referring to such a group colloquially as Christians. and 1 Peter. the Qur'an itself considers that the Tawrah.We should also note the Trinitarian aspect to the Baptism . 1 Corinthians. That the Christians first distorted the Injil to present a concept of the Trinity in conformity to the Qur'anic criticism. descent of the spirit upon the Son. Biblical Christians have no case to answer. there was no purported 'gospel' presenting the Islamic idea of the three gods including Mary. It should be pointed out that there is no manuscript evidence to support such a thesis. 37-38. The oldest extant texts of the New Testament include a papyrus fragment of John's Gospel 18:3133.D. many Muslims today hold that the Christian scriptures were later distorted.. anymore than orthodox Muslims can be held responsible for the NOI's beliefs about the evil Black scientist Yacub creating an evil race of white people. Hebrews. by the time of Muhammad. who refers to Matthew. ii. historical theology and Biblical data. as demonstrated by the letter to the Corinth Church from Clement of around. especially any presentation of Mary as a goddess. because thereafter the Christians improved their position. Ephesians. Of course. James.and that this dual tampering took place within 5060 years. Zabur and Injil were true divine revelations.
Any further debate is useless. 16 .1 Divine Love There are also considerations which demand the necessity of the Trinity. whether the supposed Islamic Injil the Muslim Messenger 'Isa is held to have propagated. according to the Qur'an. Theological Considerations 6. but if someone states that whatever people say are their beliefs. Since the Injil. God is held to be eternal and to be loving.2 The Attributes and Nature of God Given that in Islam. Eaton translates Samad in S. iv.S.'Let the people of the Gospel judge by what is written therein'. 1 John 4:8. Christians may object. The bond of their love is His Spirit. 6. The Qur'an may be stating that in its eyes. it would seem to be quite likely that this option is the most likely.God is love. this. and given that Love is a transitive action. The hardest option for Muslims is that the Qur'an may simply be wrong. Since love demands an object. Given that Surah Al-i-Imran came into existence at the time of the Najran deputation. then we have moved from the rational to the irrational. The 'most beautiful names' describe the attributes of God in Islam. but rather the reverse . as He is a perfect Being. This fact is also important to emphasise with respect to divine immutability and self-sufficiency. God must have an object for His love: and since love is one of His attributes or perfections. the Muslim view of divine unipersonality involves a contradiction which actually endangers the very deity of God! To explain. However. Love cannot exist in isolation. then no clarification or discussion is possible. 5:74 . Islam is adamant that these names and attributes are eternal. Love demands an object. states that this is one of the 'most beautiful 17 . However much Christians state that they do not believe in three separate gods or in the deity of Mary. since He is unique. Christians have the right to critically consider Islam's Holy Book. one that needs an object. as we have seen. and to find it wanting if indeed it is presenting this as the authentic Christian view. The Qur'an never invites Christians to judge the Injil by Islam. Between the three Persons there is eternal love. nor the Christian Scriptures recognized as canonical by the worldwide Church does propose such a Trinity. indeed. All Christians can say is. unless Muslims can produce evidence for (ii). and as He is an eternal Being. 6. the Hadith. only God is both those things! Thus. if someone is convinced that another person believes in Martians however strongly the latter denies it. At the same time. it vigorously affirms the self-sufficiency of God. the object of His love must be divine . This view is also problematic for Muslims in another way. this is how the Qur'an sees Christian Trinitarianism.and. be within Himself The object of His love is His Son. Likewise. we need to examine what Islam believes about divine attributes. the object of His love must be likewise perfect and eternal. this is how it regards Christian Trinitarianism.iii.112:2 as 'utterly Selfsufficient'. he will continue to believe that his impression is what will guide him.
in eternity. It is at this point that Islamic monotheism finds itself in difficulty. Since everyone except Muslims . without being identical with them. totally independent and totally self-sufficient. God is infinite and perfect. is not an essential attribute of God. If these are essential. He continues with all His attributes and names. His incommunicable attributes. since these are active qualities requiring an object.they require a direct object.not even relationships. and not a creature from His creation.Jews. however. eternal attributes of God. He addressed Moses with His words which are the attribute of His essence. Psalm 145:3. 19:96. Since Allah is held to be unipersonal. He has the most beautiful names and most exalted attributes. If there were no Muslims around. whereas for example. which is the unpardonable sin in Islam. in order to meet the demands of divine justice and holiness. 18 . A cursory examination of the ninety-nine names of God demonstrates that some of them are transitive . based on the Cross. John 3:16 is the classic demonstration of this. The Holiness of God demanded righteous justice upon sinners. If 'Creatorhood' belongs to His essence. He had to create . a consequence of Islamic theology is that God does need His creatures to be God. Matthew 5:48.the Creator. The Love of God led to the incarnation and reconciliation. before the creation of Man and Angels. We have seen that Islamic fiqh regards the names and attributes of God as eternal and uncreated they are part of His essence (and this is why Sunni Muslims hold that the Qur'an is eternal and uncreated): Allah has settled upon the throne and holds sovereignty.He would be diminished without His creation.'The Forgiver' and 'The Forgiving'. and at any rate.names'. God is scarcely in need of His own forgiveness! Therefore. they demonstrate that the God of Islam is not self-sufficient. It is clear that the God of Islam only loves Muslims . nor will there be the potential for the operation of forgiveness after the Last Day. this places Muslims in a difficult position with respect to the divine essence before the calling of Muhammad. any genuine definition of God requires that He be selfsufficient and independent. However. The same criticism goes for the love of God in Islam. and thus allowed for forgiveness. it should be stated that His actions flow from His attributes. the Christian concept of divine love is theocentric. Hence. God had no-one to love. God alone has absolute being. i. demonstrate this.' With this proposition. there was noone to be forgiven. Christians would whole-heartedly agree. because His own essence demands it. He is wholly independent and has no need of anything outside Himself . damnation. such as aseity.S. He is too Exalted for these attributes to have been created and for his names to have occurred at a given time. Christians and pagans included . It can be seen that most attributes of God in Islam are anthropocentric. Moreover. 'This conception of the deity is strictly monotheistic and unitarian. but is a consequence of divine love and holiness. this means that this object must be external to His Essence. He is called 'The Loving' but whom did He love before the Creation? Creation would be a necessary act because God needed someone to love by virtue of His essence. This is also implied in another of His Essential Names in Islam . Forgiveness. As Eaton states. After all.e.are held to be guilty of shirk. Furthermore. and so His essence was in contradiction. Consider two of them in the light of what we have examined about forgiveness in Christianity . which the God of Islam patently is not.
and the human mind being finite.None learns anything about His knowledge. also makes God's attributes dependent upon something external to the divine essence.according to the logic of Islam. agrees with the proposition that apart from revelation.Linked to this concept are two other attributes/names . and thus from pagan accretions. 24:35. adorn all but one Surahs of the Qur'an. except that which 19 . S. He is mutable. since as essentially Creator He necessarily. God is incomprehensible. After all. then He is infinite. which Islamic fiqh affirms of the divine attributes. Job 11:7 rhetorically queries 'Can you by searching find out God?' 1 Corinthians 2:11 is adamant that only the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. The Christian writer Zwemer mentions a popular song among Muslims which states 'Whatsoever your mind can conceive. no change is effected in the essence of God. Thirdly. the Islamic concept of God would seem to imply that a change in the nature of God occurs.Merciful and Compassionate. God needed to forgive. Hence. 'His true nature cannot be described by anyone. Secondly. Thus.' Islamic fiqh states.3 The Incomprehensibility of God Christianity and Islam both affirm the incomprehensibility of God.. Islam. Zwemer also points out that the Qur'an's comment on the Light of God being 'lit from a blessed olive tree'. one must return to the fact that the divine attributes in Islam depend on creation. Islam does not meet the test of a true definition of God in this respect. We should also consider two other names . as we have seen. He is not God. He was lacking. the love of God as an essential attribute causes no problems. They are transitive verbs. to whom was God Merciful and Compassionate? In Christianity. Moreover. the divine essence in this respect required people to sin. that Allah is not you may well believe. eternal love that is not dependent on the Creation. the critique cannot be obviated through claiming that divine prescience is concerned. Since these names are attributes.'Forgiver' and 'Forgiving'. as we have seen. cannot fully comprehend the essence or will of God. if God is God. One cannot escape this problem by saying that they only operate after the creation. since at some point the focus of His attributes is no longer operative. A further point that needs to be considered is that of divine immutability. Hence. and if God is dependent on anything outside Himself. so His essence was dependent on something external. the Christian concept of divine Triunity safeguards the concept of God from any human limitations or requirements. God must reveal Himself. In the Christian concept of the Incarnation. just a Superman figure. The Holy God needed sin to exist! The same criticism can be made against many other names/attributes of God in Islam. because then such attributes are created and the divine essence is mutable. the divine essence could not exist apart from the reality of sin. However. Prior to the creation He was diminished by the absence of His creation. according to Islam. Thus. and thus needed someone to forgive. 6. it surely follows that before the Creation. which. Yet before the Creation. because human nature is not introduced into the divine essence. because the triune nature of God demonstrates a mutual. To whom does He 'give death' after the end of the world? What will He 'create' after this date? Moreover. however. nor can thinkers imagine that nature. with its emphasis on divine transcendence. The essence of God Himself is satisfactory for the operation of this essential quality.. as we have seen. because that still makes the divine essence dependent on creation. God changed . rather than volitionally created. so that God could forgive.
Asra Rasheed agrees with this: But to have complete knowledge of God is beyond man's ability.. e. Man is finite and Allah is infinite. The idea of a triune Being has no point of reference in creation.. The qualities of Allah are described in numerous places elsewhere. in lix." The Reformers do not deny that man can learn something of the nature of God from 20 . for that would be to import animal qualities into our conception of Him. Hence. Islam agrees with Christianity that God can only be fully known through His self-revelation. He is near us. who states: And thus it is clear and certain . lxii. so that His divinity escapes all human senses. such as we can understand. Here we are specially taught to avoid the pitfalls into which men and nations have fallen at various times in trying to understand Allah. he says. God in the depths of His being is past finding out. 1. Naturally. before quoting S. if God is transcendent and accessible only through self-revelation. and not a mere abstract conception of philosophy. 255. "They (mankind) cannot encompass Him (Allah) with their knowledge". Ta-ha. that the best way in which we can realise Him is to feel that He is a Personality. Fifthly. He is the One and Only God. The creature cannot comprehend the Creator. 20:110 Islam preaches that mankind should only refer to Allah as He has referred to Himself. Thirdly. so far beyond our limited conceptions. we owe our existence to Him. it follows that the Christian dogma is indeed credible. Muslims frequently accuse the Christian concept of the Trinity of being inconceivable to reason. This is indeed the Christian position. not limited by time or place or circumstance. He would not be God. and ii. 112: The nature of Allah is here indicated to us in a few words.. "His essence". He is Eternal. He cares for us. states that 'In the Islamic view. Secondly.The creature cannot comprehend the Creator.. "is incomprehensible. Absolute. There is no scope what-so-ever for inventing new ideas about Him or thinking of Him in a manner that suits us.' This view is echoed by Suzanne Haneef. the Reality.that He is infinitely beyond anything which the mind or senses of man can grasp or comprehend or imagine or explain. 2224. the Only One to Whom worship is due. Yet. The Muslim position indicates that if we could comprehend God. and that all human attempts to comprehend Him apart from revelation are inadequate and doomed to failure.g. Berkhof.' Gai Eaton. Yusuf Ali comments on S. Man would always imagine God in terms with which He could cope and with which he was familiar. all Other things or beings that we can think of are His creatures and in no way comparable to Him. since the finite reason of Man cannot comprehend the infinitude of deity. such as human unipersonality. He is not like any other person or thing that we know or can imagine: His qualities and nature are unique.as Islam emphatically proclaims . it is impossible for the human mind to form an adequate conception of God as He is in His eternal and absolute being. The first thing we have to note is that His nature is so sublime. 'He'.. we must not think of Him as having a son or a father.He wills. the great systematic theologian. Fourthly. 6:103. states the following: To Calvin. without beginning or end.
He is the climax of revelation. whenever the Spirit indwells a person. Of course. whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. and because the transformation He works is not complete apart from the divine indwelling. This is what Paul experienced on the Damascus Road. because He is not eternally bodily present on the earth. the latter has experienced the inward revelation of the Triune God.' Hence. because they should not be considering the divine essence in the first place! 6. all instruments that provide divine revelation are inadequate because all such instruments are finite. In this respect Jesus reveals what God is like in His holiness.4 Revelation and the Trinity The Christian view of the Trinity is also demonstrated by the fact of divine revelation. Islam claims it is the Qur'an. they do not definitely establish either the character of such a being . although of course what they reveal is infallible. The only totally adequate revealer of God is God Himself. Muslims can scarcely object to the idea of the Trinity because it does not conform to their ideas of human reason.nor do they definitely reveal a unique deity. and His revelatory action. the problem between Islam and Christianity starts when we turn to the question of the identity of divine self-revelation. the Incarnation is a necessary action because of revelation alone . taking human nature alongside His divine nature. His power. if Muslims object to the Trinity on the basis that what they see as their revelation denies it (though in reality what it denies is not the Christian Trinity. but tritheism). let alone liable to sin. Islamic fiqh states 'To know Him one considers His signs. and thus experience the infallible revelation. Human beings are finite. As we have seen. The finite mind cannot fathom the mysteries of God. or miracles. However. but maintain that he can acquire true knowledge of Him only from special revelation. who can express the infinite. The point is. He who is God is also the Word of God. they are actually going against their own faith. under the illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit.God. John 1:18. expresses the infinite in terms of the finite. 21 . Although various historical philosophical arguments such as the Cosmological argument may point to the existence of a divine being. Christianity holds that it is found in the Bible and supremely in Jesus Christ as the Word of God. they do not help us with the problem of evil . as we have seen. Hence.He reveals the Father. but one does not think about His essence. Yet the infinite must be expressed in terms of the finite because it is revealed to the finite. Hence. that is legitimate. For this reason Jesus is the supreme revelation of God . His love. whether they be angels. There is another problem for Muslims in this regard. since we should not expect finite human reason to be capable of the exercise of comprehending the essence of God. God must reveal Himself to provide an adequate and genuine knowledge of Himself and His will. which is effected by the Holy Spirit. and it was sufficient to transform Him. Ultimately. as opposed to a polytheistic pantheon. Hebrews 1:1-2. To encounter Him is to encounter God Himself.His creation. Since all three persons share the same essence of deity.for example. the bodily revelation of Jesus is itself not the completion of the divine revelation. but if they object because their considerations of the divine essence will not accept it.
Sunni Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the uncreated. as any Muslim will affirm. We know what God is like when we experience the Father. equated with belief in Allah and the Qur'an. and thus only he may reveal Himself fully. stressing rather His transcendence and majesty. In this way Paul came to know the true revelation of God as a result of the Damascus experience. 12:2. through the agency of the Holy Spirit. rather than flesh.by definition. however. 43:30.His Speech in fact. The Word became Man. 6. whatever the language or ethnic group. 22 .as beings capable of intelligent relationship. by the Holy Spirit. but because God interacts with man on the terrestrial scene . 41:44. especially with respect to Gabriel. is universally accessible. especially in terms of accessibility.5 An Islamic Trinity? Although Islam denies the ontological Trinity of Christianity. in many aspects they actually resemble the function of the Holy Spirit in Christianity. This revelation is in conformity to the way God made men . only that in the case of Islam. The perfect Man who is also God can express in human terms the mind of the Creator. The language of the Qur'an is an essential part of the revelation . the Spirit reveals the Son and thus the Father by applying this work with His presence. by contrast. 13:37. it is only really the Qur'an when it is in Arabic. that is. the Son reveals the Father by His presence and work. and this is demonstrated by His easy movement from Aramaic to Greek when He deals with Gentiles like the Centurion. Islam thus must accommodate the divine immanence in another fashion. and through the Spirit He still speaks to people of any language.S. Although their function is similar to Christian concepts in certain ways. 16:103. 42:7.The Father reveals the Son by sending Him. Islam. Only God uniquely and fully knows God. especially since the Qur'an is effectively limited to those who know Arabic. Shia Muslims reject the idea that the Qur'an is uncreated because of the danger of ditheism . There is not the same revelatory action of interaction between God and Man. The Muslim dogma of God does not present Him as omnipresent in the Christian sense. God comes to Man. what is uncreated and eternal is God. the Word became a Book. The purported revelation of Qur'an. especially love. and is social . cannot wholly address this issue. revealing the Son in our lives. Apart from God Himself. The theanthropic Person of Jesus is the climactic expression of revelation in that in a unique way. The expression of divine love and desire for fellowship is effected through divine revelation. not specifically Meccan/Quraish (or any other language). Thus. despite its claim to be 'mercy for mankind'. it does not escape a functional Trinity which verges on tritheism. This is necessitated by the Islamic concepts of the nature of God and revelation. Their function is so vital that belief in angels is a fundamental tenet of Muslim faith.the idea of the Word dwelling among us is rejected by Muslims. However. is virtually equivalent to the Incarnation in Christianity. according to Sunnis. eternal Word of God. Jesus. which is almost a part of God . the Qur'an is contextually limited by time and space. (Matthew 11:27). the Qur'an only truly exists when untranslated. it is essential for Muslims to believe in the angels. They act as mediators for the transcendent God.made for relationship and fellowship. revelation points to the Triune nature of God. Man is made in God's image. The Incarnation is rejected not just because God assumes Human nature. On this basis.
revealing how to live in obedience to the divine will. It should be remembered that pre-Islamic Arabs regarded the angels as gods. Although Muslims would undoubtedly deny it. 23 . Further. Of course. and as Islam views the attributes of God as part of His essence. uncreated word of God. In the Christian system this functional Trinity reflects the ontological Trinity. it can be said that Islam divides the essence of God! This is all the more emphasised when we consider what we have examined about the origin of the angels. inscribed on the Preserved Tablets in heaven and thus free from human influence. Since Speech is an attribute of God. we should note that Islam believes that when a person becomes a Muslim. 17:40ff. we encounter something similar to what Christians believe about the relationship of Father and Son. unlike the Qur'an. Son and Holy Spirit. therefore. we have seen that one of the attributes of Allah is Speech. and thus His attribute. Jibril and the angels. since Islam. so that we are presented almost with a di-personal being. The Qur'an is the means of salvation. the Qur'an and angels (especially Jibril) which corresponds to the Christian functional Trinity of Father. unlike Christianity. the offspring of Allah. Christianity has the Incarnation.6 Trinitarian Emphasis Given that the Qur'an engages in sustained. These beliefs undermine Islam's claim to undiluted monotheism. revealed by Gabriel. this is often special pleading. being usually a polemical jibe against the Bible and Trinitarianism.In Islam. there is abundant evidence for the doctrine. Revelation and the Last Judgment. Effectively. rather. To illustrate how parallel their functions are to that of the Spirit in Christianity. S. because of several factors.the commencement of revelation in Laylat al-Qadr. aggressive condemnation of polytheism and assertion of divine unity. it can be said that just as Jesus is the Saviour in Christianity. Thus. the Qur'an performs that function in Islam. uncreated Speech of God. However. Since Islam does not believe in original sin. Angels act as divine agents in Creation. S. but Islam has what we may call the 'Inliteration' . As we have seen. there is no basis for the atoning death of Christianity. some Muslims often comment that they feel that there is a lack of multiple emphases in the Bible about the Trinity. and that for Sunni Muslims. 6. he is coterminously supported by Allah. angels are the agents of divine immanence. many functions that Christianity ascribes to the Son or the Holy Spirit are expressed by angels. S. 'the Night of Power'. we never find the Bible saying 'They do err who deny the triune nature of God'. If the Qur'an is not so distinguished. all that is required is obedience to divine revelation. S. holds that the angels were created from the Light of God Himself. but the Qur'an. then ironically. The Qur'an is believed by Sunni Muslims to be the eternal. who share the single divine essence. Islam. it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they owe their origins to the essence of God Himself. 4:172. actually verges on a tritheistic emphasis. during the month of Ramadan when the portion of the Tablet descended to the 'House of Protection' in the lowest of the seven heavens. Islam has a functional Trinity of God. 97. however. perhaps an echo of the pre-Islamic era. especially since one of the names of Allah. Islam believes that the angels are those 'nearest' to Allah. is 'the Light'. It can be understood that in Islam. the Qur'an represents the eternal. It is well known that the Islamic equivalent to Jesus is not Muhammad. if the Qur'an is distinguished from the essence of God. 2:136.
Sin involves not just disobedience. monotheism was scarcely an issue in first century Palestine. we do find polemic against their beliefs . and none at all in the early Meccan stage. Hence we would expect to find an overwhelming emphasis on monotheism over against polytheism. as in the Gentile cities. Elsewhere. If Muslims object to the Bible not having the same emphasis on asserting the essential nature of God . and at the same time. Moreover. and a refusal to accept pagan ideas of divine offspring. because the Jews were at this time free from idolatry/polytheism for the most part.that is the position of Christ in Biblical faith.e. Since a major part of the message of Muhammad's message involved an assertion of divine uniqueness. and this is the emphasis of the Bible. Thirdly. in the Old Testament. we should not be surprised to find the emphasis on aggressive monotheism. the polemic is against heresy that denies the full import of the Incarnation .albeit 24 . the Bible is revealed in a historical context. because Muhammad was not yet in confrontation with the Christians. the Qur'an never invites Christians to judge the Injil by Islam. In this respect Muhmmad's activity resembles that of Elijah. Had there been anyone arguing for the Muslim idea of God or engaging in the Islamic polemic against the Triune nature of God. Salvation is essentially through trust in Jesus.g.g. the texts in Al-i-Imran reflect the visit of the Najranis (and the same goes for texts attacking purported Jewish distinctives). worshipped. as we have previously noted. one which believed in God having physical offspring. the frequent attacks on idolatry and polytheism. 5:74 . Secondly. as in 1 John. nor was the triune nature of God a complete innovation. yet they still fell. as we have seen.Firstly. e. monotheism. and thus the warnings and polemic against them reflect the historical context. it should be remembered that the Islamic emphasis on salvation through believing in monotheism is regarded as insufficient by the Bible. In the New Testament. an affirmation of the deity of both Father and Son.docetic ideas arguing against the true humanity of Christ. Thus. save possibly among some Gentiles in Palestine. Interestingly.from the idols that the Arabs.i. arise because of the pagan practices of the Canaanites and neighbouring peoples were snares to the Israelites. the major emphasis of the Bible is soteriological and eschatological. When pagan ideas need to be addressed. There was no need to emphasise the tripersonal nature of the divine essence in such contexts. we do not find a large number of references to denials of the Trinity in the Qur'an. Islam arose in a polytheistic environment. Mark 1:15. there was no need for Trinitarianism to be asserted. as did Adam and Eve. James 2:19. We need to remember that this is true of Islam as well. As previously stated. Its denials and rectifications occur when the situation demands it. Further.S. as well as the people of Noah's time. as we have seen. no doubt there would have been comments against such. and the message of the Scriptures is the promise and then fulfilment of such with respect to the advent of the Messiah. as we have seen. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. because the necessity to assert the uniqueness of the divine essence . In this respect. but a fallen nature. and exclusive worship of YHWH. but rather the reverse . who demanded the purging of the Israelite cultus from Baalist syncretistic accretions. like the Romans. since even demons give intellectual assent to that truth.e. Islam views the ministry of Muhammad as one of purging the Hejazi cultus from the polytheistic corruption of the purported pristine Abrahamic faith of Ishmael . simply because that was Muhammad's major emphasis and principal problem in the context of Mecca.'Let the people of the Gospel judge by what is written therein'. it should be remembered that Christians do not have the same view of the Bible as uncreated and eternal as do Sunni Muslims . and thus an affirmation of monotheism.
Equally. this criticism leaves them unmoved. The Gospel of John is usually considered the Scripture with the most explicit affirmation of Christ's deity. However. Islam rejects the Trinity not out of any supposed rational arguments. At any rate. and even if it is explained as being a "Mystery" too high for any human mind to grasp. Son and Holy Spirit. we are affirming that God.. but rather vice versa. texts like Matthew 28:19 and the basic concept of One God demonstrate that Christians are not affirming a divided essence. because she earlier affirms of the essence of God that He '. Of course. For this reason. is tri-personal. 70. belief in the Trinity is regarded by Islam. but because what it believes is divine revelation rejects that which it (wrongly) imagines the Trinity to mean. they affirm the undivided unity of the divine essence. Paul is frequently accused by Muslims of being the main culprit in the supposed corruption of pristine Christianity. The assertion about Trinitarian development is based upon a house of sand. indicating a personal distinction. Christians uphold the doctrine because they believe in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ set forth in the Holy Scriptures. we can respond that the Muslim holy book never asks us to regard the Qur'an as the basis for critically examining the Bible. and without comparison.. and problems start when we try to compare Him to anything created. since the supreme revelation is the Person of Christ Himself. His very being affirmed the Trinity.' She must resort to denying the doctrine because of Qur'anic dogma. the criticism of Suzanne Haneef where she represents the Christian dogma as one presenting 'three parts'. Moreover.there is only one God. specifically. although oral tradition would have preserved and transmitted the gospel material.D. There is corresponding evidence for tri-personal inter-communication and fellowship. we are not speaking of three Gods.. We should state that there is abundant evidence in the Bible for the affirmation of divine unity and uniqueness . an incomprehensible being. To Muslims who argue that 1+1+1=3. However. and critiques that 'God is not like a pie or an apple which can be divided into three thirds which form one whole'. There is equally overwhelming evidence for the deity of the Father. since Christians do not accept the inspiration of the Qur'an.. pie or any created substance. is groundless. These facts taken together indicate that God is a triune Being. He is unique. Haneef actually virtually admits this when she states of the Christian dogma 'To Muslims this makes absolutely no sense.primarily in negatives . that the later the text. yet the srcriptures revealed through him are widely held to be the earliest in the New Testament. a modernistic scholar such as John Robinson wrote a book 25 . 7. it is not that Christians are claiming that God is composite. yet it has been argued with some force in recent years that it may even have been written before the Fall of Jerusalem in A. Trinitarian Development in the New Testament? Some Muslims claim that there is a Christological and Trinitarian development in the New Testament.as does the Qur'an.' Ultimately. Christians do not believe that God is in three parts. the more the picture of Jesus conforms to the Nicene and Chalcedonian affirmations. Christians would claim that the Creeds reflect the Biblical data.. we point out that Christians are upholding three Persons (for want of a better human term to express a divine reality). on the contrary. At any rate.as a form of polytheism. and the analogy of the apple is invalid because God is not like an apple..is far above anything we can conceive of.
is the title Son of Man. demonstrate. Jesus is the Son of Abraham. the divine Son and the Messiah. the use of the absolute term 'the Son' (as opposed to 'Son of God') is a case in point. found also in the Apocalypse. commission to miraculous activity. and so the gospel emphasises the centurion's exclamation of the innocence of Jesus. on the other hand. Yet Luke is usually held to be later than Mark. The origin of this term is in Daniel 7:13ff. the authority of Jesus is with the Church. Mark records the Roman officer stating this at the Crucifixion. and the Church is the true Israel. 45. yet a major emphasis of the gospel is the affirmation that Jesus is the Son of God. Luke 9:35. Jesus is the Son of David. 11:27. and certainly not the decades or even centuries some Muslims propose. found in Matthew. and of the opposition this received from the Jewish leadership. there is no real difference in the Scriptural revelations of Jesus. and because of their relation to Him. It is usually. but not universally held that Mark was the first gospel. 10:18. Matthew 26:63-64. e. it cannot be argued that there is an escalation of the position of Jesus the later the text. 6:40. 26 . the one who receives the Church receives Jesus and thus receives God. John 1:51. The Gospel of Matthew wishes to emphasise a Christological-Ecclesiological relationship . There are different theories about their dates. Equally. approaching various aspects of the life and ministry of Christ and the Church. 10:22. has as a major theme the idea of the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel through the person and ministry of Christ and the Church. as they did Jesus. which ascribe preexistence to the Son of Man. and Isaiah 22:22 speaks of the 'key of David'.entitled The Priority of John. cf. 28:19. Indeed. 16:19. 21:43. the reception of the Gentiles into the restored Israel. Matthew 24:30.g. the Church are sons of God. supernatural being 'comes' to God to receive power and authority over humanity. indicating that its material is not a creation of the later Church. One common prominent feature of the gospels. John 20:31 revealing jesus to be God. Jesus gives the 'keys of the kingdom to the Church. Mark 13:32. the Messianic King. but it is not concerned to emphasise the Christological confession. where a heavenly.g. 24-25. 16:18-19. 10:5ff with 11:4ff. There are of course many other points of contact which demonstrate both the deity of Christ and divine Triunity. 28:19. Hence. Jesus is the unique Son of God. The aim of the Gospel of John is explicitly Christological and evangelistic. as John 3:13 and 6:62. but goes back to Jesus Himself. 1:1. Mark 15:39. 3:7.11:27. Luke 22:67-70. cf. We need also to examine the dating of the gospels. 5:19-26. Mark 14:61-62. Luke 23:47. 10:40. but the gap between them whatever the theory is not large. 1:1. 16:18 (qahal is translated by ekklesia). It should be said that all the different books of the New Testament have distinct but complementary aims. with respect to persecution. and this is the authority of God. Revelations 1:13. John 1:35-36. so with the Church. 16:16. Jesus clearly employs (c) e. but this is sufficient to demonstrate both Scriptural unanimity and the absence of the alleged escalation of the position of Jesus. as is demonstrated by their mutual affirmations. 5:9. often bringing Christians to court on trumped-up charges. 28:19.as with Jesus. 18:18. It is more a reference to His deity. 8:35-36. Luke-Acts. than to His humanity.
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