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17. Understanding Islam
13.3. Objections to the Trinity

13.3.3. The Bible Says the Spirit is God

  • “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God’.” (Acts 5:3-4)
  • “You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
  • “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father ‒ the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father ‒ he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)
  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The Old Testament refers to God in the plural in several places. Firstly, in Genesis 1:26 God refers to Himself using the plural Elohim with corresponding plural pronouns; in Genesis 11:6-7 He uses the singular Yahwah to refer to Himself but again uses plural pronouns; and in Isaiah 6:8 he uses both singular and plural pronouns in the parallel structure: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” These verses make it clear we are not talking about an absolute oneness but rather a unified oneness. Muslims usually try to say the “Us” is the plural of majesty (or the royal we) as used in the Qur’an. That might be a valid point if the Bible were written in Arabic but it wasn’t; Hebrew does not have a plural of majesty. There are also other verses in the Bible that make such a possibility unworkable, such as Isaiah 48:16:

“ ‘Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.’ And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.”

This verse clearly illustrates that God, the speaker, is both sender and sent.

Furthermore the Bible doesn’t stop at words but clarifies Jesus’s divinity through actions. In the gospel of Matthew when Jesus was being baptised, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Here we see Christ in the water, the spirit appearing like a dove and the voice from heaven.

The Benedictions given to the church of Corinth also refer to three, who are one:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Finally, the theological aspect of the trinity concerning the character of God is something Muslims rarely if ever consider. The Qur’an often tells Muslims to think about Allah’s creation (Qur’an 7:158; 33:20; 30:8; 86:5; 2:259), but it discourages ‒ some scholars even interpret this as an outright ban ‒ thinking about Allah’s character. There is a Hadith attributed to Mohammed which says:

“Think about Allah’s creation and don’t think about Allah’s essence, lest you be led astray.” (al-Laka’y, Foundation of belief).

Some Muslim scholars have gone even further. These are some examples of what they have said:

“Whoever thought about Allah and his attributes will go astray, and whoever thinks about Allah’s creation and his signs will increase his faith.” (al-Asbahani, al-Hijja)
“It is an obligation to every Muslim to believe in all what Allah described himself and leave alone thinking about Allah.” (Naeem ibn Hamad, Al-Laka’y, Foundation of belief)
“It is forbidden to think about Allah’s essence because Humans should only think about what they know, and Allah transcends all knowledge.” (al-Sanany, al-Taneer)

Such a view of God stops Muslims from thinking about God’s essence and we should help them to overcome that. We agree with Muslims that God loves, gives, speaks, and listens. Those attributes have always been functioning; there was no time when God wasn’t loving, listening, talking or giving. The Question arises: before any creation how were these attributes functioning? If God loved himself, gave to himself, talked to himself and listened to himself, then all these attributes would no longer be perfect but turn into something quite different. Or if they were not functioning until there was creation, that would mean that God is in need of His creation to fully be Himself in terms of expressing His eternal, divine characteristics.

Muslim scholars saw the difficulty when they tried to apply their form of absolute oneness to Islamic theology. They ended up with statements like:

“In those issues in which no negation nor affirmation has been reported, the issues that people have disputed about such as Allah's body, or Allah occupying a certain space, or position, etc.; Ahlu-s‐Sunnah (Sunni Muslims) withhold from speaking about it. They neither affirm nor negate these issues due to the fact that nothing has come to us regarding them.” (Explanation in a Summary of al-‘Aqeedatu al-Hama­wiyyah).

Such a statement is simply a cop out; it’s used to avoid the whole conversation as the Qur’an attributes human characteristics to Allah such as hand (Qur’an 48:10), face (Qur’an 28:88), side (Qur’an 38:55-56). The Hadith also say Allah has a foot:

“The Hell Fire will keep on saying: ‘Are there anymore (people to come)?’ Till the Lord of Power and Honour will put His Foot over it and then it will say, ‘Qat! Qat! (sufficient! sufficient!)’.” (Sahih Bukhari)

If we are to take the conditions Muslim scholars impose when talking about Allah, we would not be able to talk about him at all. We are supposed to affirm all His attributes without negating them, changing their wordings, denying them, likening them to anything, drawing an analogy regarding them, deviating from them, calling them anthropomorphisms, etc. Our inability to talk about God in such cases is due to the fact that we can only understand language based on human concepts. So when the Qur’an and the Hadith say Allah has two hands, face, two eyes, fingers, leg, feet, that should be understood by what those words mean. As that can’t be reconciled with Islam’s denial of incarnation, Muslims are commanded to “withhold from speaking about it”. Such a problem isn’t something Christians face, as all God’s attributes are eternally functioning within the trinity. He didn’t change after creation; He is in no need of the creation to define Himself; His attributes did not start to work only after creation. The Father loved the Son before the creation, and they loved the Spirit (and of course these are still true). As we see, Islam does not object to the actual Christian doctrine of the trinity (but rather to a complete misunderstanding of what we believe), and furthermore, the Christian doctrine of the trinity is the solution to the problems created by the Islamic concept of absolute oneness.

To summarise:

  • Christians believe in a unified oneness not in an absolute one “Trinity”.
  • The Christian Trinity has no wife or biological son.
  • Christians didn’t make humans into God.
  • Islam doesn’t oppose the actual Christian Trinity, but rather a false idea of the Trinity which Christians have never said or believed in.
  • The Christian Trinity doesn’t associate any one with God, but rather explains God as He revealed Himself.
  • Muslims can’t discuss Allah’s essence as it is forbidden by their scholars.
  • The only reason Muslims deny the Trinity is because they think it is a form of polytheism.

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