By Sam Schlorff
Question: I am a Muslim. I would like to know more about the Christian religion. I have heard about the concept of Trinity, but I don't really understand it. Thank you.
Answer: I will begin with a brief overview of the Christian faith and life and explain the concept of the Trinity in that context. Keep in mind that even though on the outside Christians and Muslims may look much the same and their beliefs and practices appear similar, in reality they are quite different because they are motivated by very different worldviews.
The faith and life of Christians is based on the Bible, which is centered on God and on what He has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ (al-Masih) His life, His teachings, His death and His resurrection from among the dead. The word "Christian" comes from "Christ" which means "anointed one" and is the Greek equivalent of "Masih" in Arabic ("Messiah" in the Old Testament). He is called al-Masih because he was anointed by God and sent down to earth to obtain our salvation (Luke 4:18-21). The key concept in the Christian worldview that gives unity to everything is the word "grace" (ni`mah); it refers to the favor or help that God gives those who do not deserve a thing in order that they might be saved from eternal death in Hell. Gods Word says: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17); and again: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9); and again: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
God has revealed Himself in the Bible to be One God in three Persons Father, Son (Jesus al-Masih himself), and Holy Spirit. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence, in will, and in their plan for mankind. This is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, about which you asked. Unfortunately, many people have a lot of false ideas about this doctrine, so let us begin by examining them. Many think, for example, that "Trinity" means that, despite all that we say, Christians really believe in three Gods ("Say not three"), and what is worse, that these are a father god, a mother god (sahiba) and a son. I can assure you that no Christian, whatever his church, could think such a thing; the very idea is blasphemous and abhorrent to us. People continue to repeat such objections, however, and to make false assumptions like these despite everything we say. You may be asking, but is not the doctrine a contradiction in terms, however? That is a fair question. But the answer is still no; we are not speaking of three gods, each with a different being and will, but of one essence with three persons and three persons in one essence.
How then does one explain the "Trinity"? The problem here is not in the doctrine itself, but in the finiteness of our minds; Gods nature surpasses the capacity of our minds to fully grasp. Does not the Bible declare: "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave what can you know?" (Job 11:7-9). And does not the Quran itself declare, "laisa ka-mithli-hi shaiun" ("There is nothing like unto Him" - Surah 42:11). The Trinity is "bi-la kaif wa-bi-la tashbih" (without asking how and without anthropomorphism). It can neither be proved or disproved by reason; to argue that it is against "reason" is simply to make oneself the judge of what God can or cannot be, which is blasphemy. Quite simply, we will never be able fully to understand Gods nature because it lies outside our experience and knowledge.
The fact is, quite simply, that God did not reveal to us the Truth about the Trinity so that we might fully understand His nature, or to satisfy our intellectual curiosity. He did it because we need to know what each one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has done and is doing for our salvation. And we need to accept the ministry of each in our lives before we will be able to experience their work of grace on our behalf. The Bible teaches the following:
The Fathers Plan: ever since the first man and woman were expelled from the Garden, we that is, all mankind have been "dead in our transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1) because we have been "separated from the life of God" (Eph 4:18). It says moreover that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). But it also says that God the Father was not content that we remain in that condition. He had a plan whereby we who were far from God would be "brought near through the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). Here is what each Person of the Trinity has done, does, and will do on our behalf:
The Sons Part: because we are not able to save ourselves from suffering eternal death because of our sin, He was not content to just "send down" laws and information about Himself while he remained aloof and unknown. He "came down" in the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior, in order to save mankind. Jesus said of himself,
"I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)
The Holy Spirits Part: when you acknowledge your sin and ask God to save you because Jesus died in your place, the Holy Spirit of God, also called the Counselor, comes to live in you and help you live for God.
"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)
"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature 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." (Rom. 8:9)
The Fathers Part: when you have confessed to God that you are a sinner, and have asked Jesus to be your Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and helps you to live for God, AND the Father makes you one of His children.
"To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13)
"You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are Gods children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Rom 8:15-17)
Think about what I have written and ask God to give you understanding. You too can become a child of God.
Articles by Sam Schlorff
Answering Islam Home Page