Answering Islam Email Dialogs
Topic: God's eternal existence as a tri-unity
Received: 28 February 2005
WHERE WAS JESUS BEFORE IN THE BEGINNING, BEFORE CREATION AND BEFORE TIME?
...According to Bible, Jesus did not exist before in the beginning. Only FATHER (God) does not have the beginning and the end. Real endless,timeless is FATHER. FATHER needs nothing. FATHER does not need a eternal life and heaven. According to Bible,Jesus needs eternal life and heaven to survive forever.... COULD YOU SHOW ME IN BIBLE WHERE WAS JESUS BEFORE IN THE BEGINNING,BEFORE CREATION AND BEFORE TIME? IF FATHER HAD NOT CREATED HEAVEN,WHERE WOULD JESUS HAVE GONE TO EXIST ? Jesus needs a place to exist.Because Jesus has a humanbeings shape. If something has a shape,it needs a place to exist. Only FATHER does not need a place to exist. FATHER does not need a heaven to exist. Because FATHER does not have a shape. FATHER does not have the beginning and the end. Before in the beginning,there was no place for Jesus to exist. IF FATHER HAD NOT CREATED HEAVEN,WHERE WOULD JESUS HAVE GONE TO EXIST ?
Thank you for your e-mail. You've given me a heavy load to deal with in one e-mail.
Should I assume that you are a Muslim? Because we here at Answering-Islam are a Christian/Muslim dialogue based web-site and because your e-mail contains what seem to be some mild challenges, I will proceed with this response assuming you to be a Muslim. Forgive me if this is not accurate.
To begin, let me briefly explain to you the Christian understanding of God. The Christian belief is that God has essentially always existed as He does now. But before we attempt to answer your questions regarding how God existed before He created the universe, let's discuss who He is presently.
God has always existed as a complex unity, specifically a tri-unity - a trinity. The following may be a bit simplified but, essentially, the Father is the One from whom the Son and the Spirit proceed forth. The Father sits on the throne of Heaven. The Son is that aspect of God, if you will, which manifests and reveals God to creation. The Spirit is that aspect of God which invisibly fills the universe, overseeing all things. Simply put.
Now, let's just talk very briefly about the reasonableness of the above concepts. We will do this by comparing the Christian concept of God to the Islamic concept of God.
First, let's examine the reasonableness of the Christian belief about the "Holy Spirit" - the ever-present, invisible Spirit of God which fills the universe. The Christian concept of God is that He is not only sitting on the throne in Heaven - which Muslims also believe: "It is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then He mounted the throne" Surah 57:4 - but He is also omnipresent - which some Muslims believe and some do not. To the Christian, God is both on the throne and also is everywhere. There is another Surah which states, "We created man and We [even] know the promptings of his mind. We are closer to him than his life vein" Surah 50:16. Now, while I am not sure what you believe about this, many Muslims that I have spoken with will say that this "closeness" mentioned in 50:16 is not literal but speaks merely of God's figurative closeness. These Muslims will say that God is close to us through His knowledge and His sight as well as His power. Is this what you believe? Or do you believe that Allah is truly everywhere? And if you do believe that Allah is everywhere, do you also believe that Allah is also present on the throne in Heaven? This is where the logical and philosophical difficulties come for the Muslim and where the reasonableness of the Christian doctrine is manifest. Here's why
Muslims do not universally agree on these things. There is confusion. Why? Well, for at least two reasons, firstly because in Islam there is a tendency to shy away from discussing the nature of God. Many Muslim will even refuse to discuss this topic, simply quoting the Surah, "Say, He is Allah, there is none like Him" which, of course, is an incredibly nebulous statement. It is also a very convenient position to take. It is in essence saying that there is nothing you can say about God that will be true, because He is not like anything that we as humans can perceive. So the Muslim critic often takes the position of deriding the Christian doctrine of God and yet refuses to give a satisfactory alternative. It's like saying, "What you believe about God is so dumb!" But when asked, "Well then what do you believe that is so much better?" The answer is "I don't know".
Of course, there is a more reasonable solution. Because while we as Christians fully agree that God is beyond our full comprehension, we also are aware that if God is truly good, then He also not only has the capacity, but also the ability to reveal certain aspects about Himself to us. Such understandings of course will always be limited but if they are revealed by God himself, they should not be mocked, but rather fully embraced.
So, the second reason that this discussion is difficult logically and philosophically for Muslims is because whichever position they take there is a problem for them. On one hand, if a Muslim says that God is both on the Throne and also everywhere, then they are agreeing with Christians and are essentially articulating the concept of God the Father in heaven and God the Spirit everywhere. But if a Muslim says that God is not present everywhere, but is only present on the throne (the more common position), then they have not only limited God but have also committed a significant philosophical error. Let me explain:
By claiming that God is present in the sense that He can see all things (His sight/eyes are ever present) and know all things everywhere (His knowledge/mind is ever present) and hear all things (His hearing/ears are ever present) and control and affect all things (His power is ever present) then quite simply, you have made God present. If God's sight, hearing, his knowledge and his power are present, what can you name that is missing? That which can see and hear and think and affect reality is not a force but a person. If electricity could see you and hear you and listen to you, exert its will and affect you physically or otherwise, it would no longer merely be a force, but it would philosophically be a person. I hope you understand this concept.
Is it any wonder that Islam has an incomplete understanding of the Spirit of God? Even the Quran admits this: "They ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you" Quran 17:85 Likewise, Imam Al-Ghazali in his Alchemy of Happiness, says, "Too close inquiry, however, into the essence of the Spirit is forbidden by Law."
So while Muslims are (for some reason) forbidden to inquire into the Spirit's essence, for the Christian it is not forbidden. But rather God's Spirit lives inside of us and teaches us all things. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17
My friend, do you have the Spirit of God living in you? I do. And you can as well.
Now, lets move on to God the Son. One of the primary roles of God the Son is for God to reveal Himself to His creation. Simply put if God is good then He must reveal Himself to us. To not do so would be withholding His goodness from us. God is a self-revealing God. And the best way to reveal Himself to us was to literally come down and dwell among us and teach us Himself. But the Islamic concept of God is that God does not reveal Himself to mankind - only His will - His list of rules as found in the Quran and the Sunna. That's it.
Is it easier to get to know someone by reading a letter of theirs, or by actually spending time with them?
When we compare the Islamic concept of God to the Christian concept on this point, the Christian concept is far more intellectually and emotionally appealing. The incarnation (God becoming man through Jesus) - as mind-boggling as it is, is also the most awesome and incredible thing that one could ever conceive. In fact it is Islam's denial of the incarnation that makes it so utterly unappealing.
Let me share with you a story to demonstrate this point. Let's say that we had two great Muslim leaders. Let's say that we had Caliph Omar and also Salah' ad-Din (Saladin). These two men are among the most admired leaders of Muslims ever. Now let's say that someone claimed that both great men played with little girls' dolls. Initially any self-respecting Muslim would say, "Never! Far be it from Omar or Salah ad-Din that they should play with little girls' dolls! These are great men! It is not befitting that Omar or Salah' would play with dolls!"
Initially this might sound reasonable. But what if the story unfolded that both Omar and Salah had three daughters each? And what if we learned that these daughters were most pleased with their Daddy when he got down on the floor and played with them as they played with their dolls? What if we learned that because of the father's great love for their daughters, they humbled themselves and did this with their beautiful little daughters on a regular basis? Would these men be better leaders and better men for doing this or would they be lesser men and less great? Surely they would be better men.
Now, what if we learned that Salah played with his daughters while Omar refused to do so? What if Omar agreed with the statement above that said that He was far above doing such a thing? Which leader would be more appealing? Omar or Salah'? Personally I would see Salah' as being a far better Daddy and a far better man. As such he would be a better and more admirable leader. Remember my friend, true greatness does not need to be defended. True greatness is self-evident. It does not need to be elaborated on.
Islam constantly claims that God would never become a man regardless of the reason. "Far be it from God that He should have a son! It is not befitting of the Almighty that He should do such a thing!" But in this attempt to make God greater, he has simply become distant. He has become like Omar in the story above - while the Christian concept of God looks more like Salah', the loving father in the story above. Because God is good in the purest sense, He desires to share Himself with us. He wants to reveal himself to us. He wants us to have a knowledge of Him. He wants us to know Him. Jesus revealed God to us. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6,7
Now perhaps you are saying that the infinite God cannot take on the finite - that the exalted cannot lower Himself. Or that finite man cannot see the infinite God. Well, let's look at a Sahih Hadith and see if Islam really applies this rule to itself:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Some people said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?" He said, "Do you crowd and squeeze each other on looking at the sun when it is not hidden by clouds?" They replied, "No, Allah's Apostle." He said, "Do you crowd and squeeze each other on looking at the moon when it is full and not hidden by clouds?" They replied, No, O Allah's Apostle!" He said, "So you will see Him (your Lord) on the Day of Resurrection similarly Allah will gather all the people and say, 'Whoever used to worship anything should follow that thing. 'So, he who used to worship the sun, will follow it, and he who used to worship the moon will follow it, and he who used to worship false deities will follow them; and then only this nation (i.e., Muslims) will remain, including their hypocrites. Allah will come to them in a shape other than they know and will say, 'I am your Lord.' They will say, 'We seek refuge with Allah from you. This is our place; (we will not follow you) till our Lord comes to us, and when our Lord comes to us, we will recognize Him. Then Allah will come to then in a shape they know and will say, "I am your Lord.' They will say, '(No doubt) You are our Lord,' and they will follow Him. Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 76, Number 577
This is important, because this happens before the people have been judged or sent to either Janna or hell. These people are able to see Allah as He appears to them "in a shape". So clearly, even in Islam, God can lower Himself, so to speak, and appear in a form or a shape which man can see - which man can bear. Would you still say that Allah can lower Himself this much but not any more than this? Would you still argue that God could never become a man as if it were beyond His ability to do so? Will you limit God yet again? Islam is without excuse with regard to its rejection of the incarnation of God in Jesus.
Moving on. Now, not only is the role of the Son to reveal God to all creation, but the role of the Son was also to literally create all things. John the Apostle said, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." (John 1:10) It was through God the Son that the very universe was created.
Another title for the Son is "The Word of God". You seem to indicate that you do not believe that God the Father needed the Son prior to creation. Let me ask you my friend, can a person's words be separated from him? Or are a person's words invariably part of him? This is an analogy that God wanted us to understand when we think about the relationship of the Son to the Father. Both the terms the Son and the Word are very similar in the sense that each proceeds forth from the Father. The Son bears the very essence of the Father while the Word is the inner expression of a person. "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks." So again affirming both the Son's Deity as well as the fact that all things were created by Him, John, the Apostle says that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." John 1:1-4
Do you believe that Jesus is the light and life of mankind?
When all is said and done, we see that the Christian doctrine and understanding of God is far more complete, reasonable, and consistent than the concept of God in Islam, but there is one final reason that this is very clear. It is demonstrated in the answer to your initial question: Where was God the Son and what did He do prior to creation? As we briefly explore this question, we will again see the superiority of the Christian concept of God over the Islamic concept.
For the sake of argument, let me ask you where was Allah prior to creation? Your only answer is that He was simply alone. My answer as to where was the Son prior to creation is that He was with the Father. The Bible gives us a hint of what they were doing in Proverbs 8. It says the Son was "filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His (God's) presence". God was enjoying Himself. In the Christian concept of God, God actually "is Love". (1 John 4:8) He does not merely love. He is not merely the Loving One (al-wadud). He actually is Love. As such He has always been Loveeven before the universe was made. But here's an important point. Love is a relational issue. Love requires an object. Because the doctrine of the trinity affirms the distinct qualities of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it allows for a Love to exist within the Godhead. This is why of the Christian God it can be said that God is Love. This cannot be said of Allah. It certainly cannot be said of someone who was once utterly alone. As such in the case of Allah, there was a time when love did not exist. Not so with Yahweh. Before creation - before the universe or mankind existed, God was Love. The Father loves the Son and Holy Spirit and likewise the Son Loves the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yahweh (God's primary name in Hebrew) is Love. He always has been.
So, my friend, when you ask the question: Where was the Son before creation? You indeed ask something that we as mere humans will never fully know while on this earth, but something that the Bible only hints at. But as we have seen, when we examine the Biblical understanding of God versus the Quranic view, we have something that is far more philosophically acceptable and certainly far more emotionally appealing. While on the surface, to articulate the Unitarian concept of Allah (Tawhid) may sound simple and easier to grasp than a Trinity, when you actually dig below the surface, the Islamic concept of God simply falls down on several plains (some of which we have not discussed here).
I hope that I have helped answer your question.
I am not sure of what your present belief system is exactly, but I encourage you to pray that God will open your eyes to the truth. Ask Him to show you if indeed Jesus is the One He claimed to be and the One the Bible reveals Him to be. I also council you to read a very good book. It will explain to you God's plan for man to become righteous before Him as taught by all of the Prophets. It is available to purchase or to download for free:
For free download:
For purchase: http://www.goodseed.com/usa/store.aspx
This book will give you the Bible's answers to many more basic questions. Be sure to read the whole book since it shows how all the basic teachings of Scripture fit together like pieces to a puzzle.
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