To my Muslim friends-‘let us reason together’-the Trinity explained

To my Muslim friends, as-salāmu ‘alaykum! Having spent a great deal of time in conversation with you in regards to the nature of God and the differences found in the two concepts, Trinity and Tawhid, I wanted to offer the following explanations, arguments and Scriptural foundation for the triune nature of God. I realize that a number of you may have heard the following explanations and arguments for the Trinitarian God, but I would venture to say that many of you have not. It is for this reason that I have compiled the following testimonies, articles and videos for you to peruse. It is my hope that the following material will provide you with an accurate explanation of what we, as Christians, believe and are saying when we speak of the Trinity and the Triune God. I look forward to further conversations on the topic. As God told the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18)

I will begin with the writings of Abdu Murray. Dr. Murray is a lawyer and former Shia Muslim. He converted to Christianity after thoroughly investigating the truth claims of the Christian faith. The following are excerpts of his explanation and defense of the Trinitarian God:

I have come to the conclusion that Islam’s rejection of the Trinity is one of the most profound ironies in comparative religion. Islam rejects the Trinity out of a fear that it leads to the unforgivable sin of shirk, which is saying that God has partners. Shirk is Islam’s cardinal sin because it diminishes God’s greatness by saying that he is equaled by another or that he needs associates to do what he wants or to be who he is. The irony is that, when properly understood, the Trinity is the very doctrine that glorifies God as the self-subsisting, coherent yet completely transcendent being that Muslims claim him to be.

For those Muslims who see what the Bible teaches, the Trinity puts them in a difficult position. To reject the Trinity, a Muslim may resort to claiming that it is a corruption of the Bible, but he cannot do so, because the Qur’an does not allow Muslims to believe in biblical corruption. (See my article addressing biblical corruption, here) So Muslims who truly understand this tension are left with only one avenue: they must reinterpret the Bible so that it does not teach the Trinity…Muslims do not need to resort to such measures if their sincere goal is to believe in the one and only great God. If it is, then I would argue that they must believe in the Trinity for three reasons. First, the Bible (which a Muslim must believe is uncorrupted) teaches it. Second, the Trinity does not defy logic. And third, the Trinity proves God to be the Greatest Possible Being over and above a Unitarian conception of God.

…Muslims ultimately do not have to sacrifice their sense of reason to see the reality of the Trinity. They can embrace the truth because it is taught in the Scripture, because it is consistent with logic and because it transcends human logic. This is a key distinction that must be kept in mind. A truth, like the Trinity, can exceed our logic without violating it. A concept can be transcendent in the sense that it is not illogical-it is not contradictory-but it is beyond our ability to full understand. Muslims and Christians share many such beliefs. They believe that God is a being without beginning and without end. There is nothing inherently contradictory about the belief in God’s eternality, yet it is impossible for us to understand fully. How can we? We are finite beings, each of us with a beginning, living in a world where everything in the natural order has a beginning. So it would be impossible to comprehend God’s eternality fully, though we might be able to apprehend it.

The Trinity is not the belief that God is one in his nature and three in his nature. That would be an obvious breach of the law of noncontradiction. Similarly, the Trinity is not the belief that God is one in his personhood and three in his personhood. That, Too, is explicitly contradictory and nonsensical. In distinction to either of these ideas, the Trinity is the belief that God has one nature-one essence-and three personhoods, or three centers of consciousness. This would be contradictory only if something’s “nature” is the same as its “person,” because then the Trinity would teach that God is only one in one sense and also three in the same sense. But “nature” and “person” are distinct concepts, which keeps the Trinity from internal inconsistency. Perhaps an illustration will help us unpack the nature/person distinction. Something’s nature is its very basic or inherent characteristic. A nature is what some is. One can look at a rock and ask what it is. In its most basic nature, a rock is a nonliving or inorganic thing. But “personhood” is a far different thing. Personhood describes something’s relational, volitional, intellectual and emotional qualities. Human beings have personhood because they relate to one another and to the world around them. They have a will an intellect and emotions. But a human being also has a nature, a basic or inherent characteristic.

And so we see that nature and personhood are distinct concepts. And as distinct concepts, there is no law of logic that is violated-there is no contradiction-in claiming that God is one in his nature and three in his personhoods. This may transcend our reason, but it does not defy it. Just because we cannot fully comprehend how a single being can be tri-personal does not mean it is not possible…Muslims’ affirmation of God’s differentness practically screams out for the answer found in the Trinity. In fact, I would expect a Muslim to readily acknowledge that if God in his very nature were simple to understand because he resembles our single nature/single person existence, perhaps we invented him to be that way. In other words, if God in his very being looks just like us, then the changes are quite good that we created him our image instead of the other way around. A Muslim would perish the thought. And so rather then bother us, the Trinity’s grand yet logically consistent mystery provides us with solace that we are on to something marvelous to our pursuit to worship the Greatest Possible Being.[1]

Another proof given for the triune nature of God, is that of unity in diversity, which is grounded in love. Augustine of Hippo saw love as the best explanation of the nature of the Trinity. “Now when I, who am asking about this, love anything, there are three things present: I myself, what I love, and love itself. For I cannot love love unless I love a lover; for there is no love where nothing is loved. So there are three things: the lover, the loved and the love.”[3] From this analogy, Augustine argues that God’s nature is indeed relational and personal as it is expressed in a divine community of love. It cannot be said that God is love (1 John 4:8) if God is alone and monadic. Instead, love resides both in God’s nature as a personal being and in relationship to the beloved (Jesus Christ) by love (Holy Spirit). Christian philosophers, J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, offer the following treatise on the Trinity which echos back to Augustine’s analogy:

We close with an argument that a number of Christian philosophers have defended for God’s being a plurality of persons:

  • God is by definition the greatest conceivable being.
  • As the greatest conceivable being, God must be perfect.
  • Now a perfect being must be a loving being. For love is a moral perfection; it is better for a person to be loving rather than unloving. God therefore must be a perfectly loving being.
  • Now it is of the very nature of love to give oneself away. Love reaches out to another person rather than centering wholly in oneself. So if God is perfectly loving by his very nature, he must be giving himself in love to another.
  • But who is that other? It cannot be any created person, since creation is a result of God’s free will, not a result of his nature. It belongs to God’s very essence to love, but it does not belong to his essence to create. So we can imagine a possible world in which God is perfectly loving and yet no created persons exist. So created persons cannot sufficiently explain whom God loves.
  • Moreover, contemporary cosmology makes it plausible that created persons have not always existed. But God is eternally loving. So again created persons alone are insufficient to account for God’s being perfectly loving.
  • It therefore follows that the other to whom God’s love is necessarily directed must be internal to God himself. In other words, God is not a single, isolated person, as unitarian forms of theism like Islam hold; rather, God is a plurality of persons, as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity affirms. On the unitarian view God is a person who does not give himself away essentially in love for another; he is focused essentially only on himself. Hence, he cannot be the most perfect being.
  • But on the Christian view, God is a triad of persons in eternal, self-giving love relationships. Thus,
  • Since God is essentially loving, the doctrine of the Trinity is more plausible than any unitarian doctrine of God. (emphasis mine)[2]

 
I will end this article with several illuminating quotes from Ravi Zacharias:

In the complexity of the very Being of God there is an I-You relationship within the Godhead. The only way to explain unity and diversity in the effect (i.e. the creation) is if you have unity and diversity in the First Cause (i.e. God). Only in the Trinity is there Unity and Diversity in the Community of the Trinity. If God ever says He loves, who was He loving before the creation? If God ever says He speaks, who was He speaking to before the creation? Communication and affection (love) are contained in the Godhead right from the beginning! The mystery of the Trinity is a revelation of how God is complete in Himself in One Being; the Three Persons as They relate in love and in language.

 
Thank you my friends for considering the above explanations of the Trinity. I hope they are helpful in furthering your understanding of what we, as Christians, truly believe God to be, both in essence and personhood. (For more on Trinty and Tawhid, here) If you have questions, or would like to discuss the Trinity and Tawhid further, please feel to contact me at: 4Lane.davis@gmail.com

Until then, Ma’a al-salaama!

The Trinity Explained-Ravi Zacharias

Nabeel Qureshi (former Muslim) explaining the Trinity

The Trinity Explained in Under 3 Minutes-Bob Rice

Is The Trinity Unscriptural And Unreasonable?-Brett Kunkle-str.org

Logical Defense of the Trinity-William Lane Craig

References
[1] Abud Murray, Grand Central Question-Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews, Intervarsity Press, 2014, pgs. 190, 196-197, 200
[2] J. P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Intervarsity Press, 2003, pgs. 594-5

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