Grace and Truth
08. GOOD NEWS FOR MUSLIMS
TRINITY 1 to 5 : Answering the Muslim accusation that God is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit
12 - IS THE TRINITY A LIE?
CHALLENGE: Christians believe that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the basis of the Koran, Muslims seem to vehemently reject the belief in the triune God of the Gospel. Is the Tri-Unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit a lie? Does the Koran reject the Tri-Unity of God in the Christian sense of the term?
ANSWER: In the Koran there are more than 30 passages that seem to deny the Christian belief in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These can be summed up in 13 statements. None of these, however, touch exactly what Christians believe in regard to the triune God:
1. Humans are not permitted to associate other beings to God: The accusation of associating or joining other beings to God (shirk) appears often in the Koran, for example: “… He (Allah) is exalted above what they associate (to him)!” (Sura 23:92). It presupposes that people take a being and worship it as divine besides God. Christians strictly reject this. The Son and the Holy Spirit are not additional gods beside the Father, but are one with Him.
2. No human is god besides God: “And whoever of them says: 'I am a god besides Him (i.e. besides Allah)', then we will repay him with Hell. …” (Sura al-Anbiya' 21:29) Christians believe this also. No human or angel may say “I am God”, for they are all creatures of God.
3. Not three gods, but one God: “… Therefore believe in Allah and His messengers and do not say: 'Three!' Stop it! This is better for you. Allah is but one god.” (Sura al-Nisa' 4:171) Christians confess this too. They do not believe in three gods, but in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the one and only God.
4. God is not one of three: “Unbelievers are those that say: 'Allah is the third of three.' …” (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:73) This, too, is confirmed by Christians. God is not one of the three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Rather, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one and unique God.
5. God is not Christ: “Those have committed a heresy who say: 'Allah is Christ, the son of Mary.' … ” (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:17, 72) No Christian says: “There is no god but Christ, and we are surrendered to Him.” Rather, they believe, similar to what is written in the Koran, that Christ is the Word of God become flesh.
6. God has not added to himself one who was born (walad): This statement appears 13 times in the Koran, for example: “And they said: 'Allah took for himself one who was born (walad).' Praise be to Him! No! …” (Sura al-Baqara 2:116; see also Suras 10:68; 17:111; 18:4; 19:35; 19:88-92 (three times); 21:26; 23:91; 25:2; 39:4 and 72:3) Christians reject, just as Muslims do, any notion of God taking for himself as a divine being anyone who was born (walad) the natural way, i.e. begotten by an earthly father and then born by that earthly father's wife. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did not become one at some time in the past, rather, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has been for all eternity the one and unique God. The Father did not add to himself as God one who was humanly born; rather, by becoming flesh, the eternal Son, who has always been one with the Father, became one who was humanly born (walad), when the virgin Mary gave birth to him.
7. No human sexuality in God: “… How should He (i.e. Allah) have one who was born (walad), seeing that He has no consort and has created all things?” (Sura al-An'am 6:101; see also Sura 5:116) Christians reject this also. God did not become a male human being in order to have sexual intercourse with an earthly woman and beget a son with her, to whom she would then give birth. Rather, without a wife, the Son came forth directly from the Father, not sexually but spiritually, and in the Holy Spirit the Son remains one with the Father. This eternal Son became human, by being born of the virgin Mary.
8. God did not give birth: “He (i.e. Allah) did not give birth (lam yalid) …” (Sura al-Ikhlas 112:3) The Koran understands this statement sexually. Christians do not believe that a sexual birth of the Son occurred from God as mother. Rather, the Son is a direct spiritual generation of the Father, completely one with Him.
9. God was not born: “… neither was He (i.e. Allah) born (lam yuwlad).” (Sura al-Ikhlas 112:3) Something similar applies here. The Son, as son, was not born sexually from God as his mother. Rather, He is the unique, spiritual and eternal Son that proceeded from the Father, and became human when the virgin Mary gave birth to him.
10. God has no born one (walad): “Say: 'If the Merciful One (truly) had one who was born (walad), I would be the first to worship him.” (Sura al-Zukhruf 43:81; see also Sura 4:171d) Here, also, the Koran presupposes a sexual birth through a wife. Christians also believe: All born humans belong to God, and in this way He has them, but none of them is divine by being sexually born.
11. Christ is not son (ibn) of God: “… And the Christians say: 'Christ is the Son (ibn) of Allah.' That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. May Allah fight against them! How perverted they are!” (Sura al-Tawba 9:30) Here the Koran, at least linguistcally, comes close to what Christians actually believe. In the New Testament Christ is called 43 times directly, and 25 times indirectly, the Son of God. Yet since Muslims never conceive the divine Sonship of Christ without sexuality, not even this verse of the Koran touches the Christian faith, for Christ is the spiritual, and not sexual, Son of the Father.
12. Men are not sons of God: “And the Jews and the Christians said: 'We are the sons (abna' = plural of ibn) of Allah, and His beloved ones.' Say: 'Why then does He punish you for your sins? No! You are humans, whom He created. …” (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:18) What was said above of Christ the Son of God must also be said here. Christians do not understand themselves, as Muslims interpret this verse, to be children sexually born of God, but as spiritual children welcomed by God into His divine fellowship.
13. Christ is not Lord instead of God: “They have taken their scholars (ahbar) and their monks, as well as Christ, the Son of Mary, as Lords instead of Allah. But they were only commanded to worship one single god. …” (Sura al-Tawba 9:31; see also Sura 17:111) Christians do not believe that Christ is Lord, because He usurped the place of God, but because He, as the Son, since eternity is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In addition to these statements of the Koran that seem to reject the Christian faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there are some Koranic passages that practically confirm the Christian faith in the triune God:
1. Allah confirmed Christ with the Holy Spirit: “… And We (i.e. Allah) have given 'Isa (Jesus), the son of Mary, the signs of evidence, (i.e. his miracles) and have confirmed him with the Holy Spirit. …” (Sura al-Baqara 2:87, 253; see also Sura 5:110, where some of these miracles of Christ are mentioned) Allah confirmed the son of Mary with the Holy Spirit, so that He could perform miracles. Here God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit work together. This is the triune working of God, in which Christians believe.
2. Christ is Spirit from Allah: “… Christ, 'Isa (Jesus), the Son of Mary, is just the messenger of Allah, and His Word that He delivered to Mary, and Spirit from Him (i.e. from Allah). …” (Sura al-Nisa'4:171; see also Suras 21:91 and 66:12) Here the Koran does not only proclaim a co-operation between God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, but also establishes a unity of nature between God, His Spirit, and Christ. This can only be understood in the framework of the Christian faith in the triune God.
SAD NEWS: Muslims are not obliged to believe that the Tri-Unity of God is a lie. No statement of the Koran unequivocally refutes the revelation of the Gospel, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
GOOD NEWS: Based on the Koran, Muslims can believe that God lives and works in and with Christ, as a spiritually triune being. Therefore, Christ performed divine works (raising the dead and creating -- Sura 3:49), lives today with God in heaven (Sura 4,158), and bears divine names (Word of God -- Sura 3:45 -- and Spirit of God -- Sura 4:171).
TESTIMONY: My name is Uthman and my wife is called Modina. We both live in Northern India near the border to Bangladesh. We both used to be Muslims. By occupation I am a fisherman. In addition, my wife and I cultivate some land and live from the produce. One day I sailed out to the sea to fish with sixteen other fishermen, when a dangerous storm came up. We were a long way away from the safety of the shore. Terrified by the storm, all cried out for help to their god or to their goddess, for there were not only Muslims, but also Hindus on board. At this point I remembered a story from the Gospel that Mrs. Anwara had told me -- how Christ calmed the storm at sea. I encouraged my colleagues to ask Christ for help. So we all prayed to Christ, and the storm abated, and the wind ceased. I came back home and told Mrs. Anwara of my wonderful experience. I told her how Christ had literally saved my life from the deep waters. I confessed my sins to the Lord and went to church, where I received baptism, after I had given testimony of my faith in Jesus. When my wife, who had already been secretly following Christ for a while, saw such faith, she, too, found the courage to ask for baptism. Today we regularly visit the local Christian church, and recount how God, through faith in Jesus Christ, saved me from certain death in the storm at high sea.
PRAYER: Truthful and faithful God, we praise your glorious name. We thank you that you, in complete unity with Christ and your Holy Spirit, have performed and still perform miracles. You do this not just to help us humans, but also to reveal yourself to us. Open my ears and hearts so that I can both hear and receive you, the way you really are.
QUESTIONS: What is the difference between the divine Tri-Unity, that the Koran rejects, and the witness of the Gospel to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Which passages in the Koran confirm the faith in this Christian Tri-Unity?
FOR MEMORIZATION: “Go and make disciples of all the nations: baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 -- Words of Christ to His disciples)