On the soc.religion.islam newsgroup in article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (Misha'al Al-Kadhi) wrote:
The question is simple: "Does the Bible *EXPLICITLY* say *ANYWHERE*, from cover to cover, that Allah is *THREE* or that Allah is a *TRINITY*, or that Allah is three gods merged into one God, etc.? Further, did prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) *EVER*, even *ONCE* in the whole Bible ever *EXPLICITLY* say 'I am God' or 'Worship me'?" I would like to hope that any answer to this question shall not attempt to prove *IMPLICITLY* that Jesus on such-and-such an occasion *HINTED* or *IMPLIED* that he was God. There shall be a time and a place for such claims. However, before we lower our standards, I want to know if Jesus ever *EXPLICITLY* said it. Yes or no?. Anyone who attempts to prove that Jesus *IMPLIED* that he is God must first admit that Jesus never said so *EXPLICITLY* even *ONCE* in the whole Bible. etc ... much deleted ...
Dear Misha`al Al-Kadhi,
My name is Abdul Saleeb and I am the co-author with Dr. Norman Geisler of a book titled, "Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross." I have been asked to respond to some of your "simple questions regarding Christianity." I would like to make some brief comments.
1. The Bible does not explicitly say anywhere that God is a Trinity. The way you have framed your question, "that Allah is Three or ... Allah is three gods merged into one God" shows a very typical and unsophisticated understanding of theological reasoning in general and the doctrine of the Trinity in particular. The doctrine of the Trinity is a theological construction that tries to explain and come to grips with the mysterious way that God has revealed himself in history and among his people not only as the Creator but also as Redeemer in the person and work of Jesus Christ and as the Sanctifier of His people by the presence of his Holy Spirit in the Church. I know that for an explicit minded person, this answer is utterly inadequate. My only encouragement to you would be first to read some book on Islamic theology and history of Muslim theological thinking in order to better understand the nature of theological reasoning. If you are interested in really learning and not bashing, a good book to start with is Alister McGrath, "Understanding the Trinity." The author is professor of theology at Oxford University.
2. The answer to your second question as to if Jesus explicitly said "I am God" or "Worship me" is also no. I do not want to be accused of evading your direct question or not dealing honestly with your question, so I say no and it is an answer that of course will not come as a surprise to you. But for Christians such declarations of Jesus such as "I and the Father are one" or "Any one who has seen me has seen the Father" or "Before Abraham was, I am" are more than adequate in telling us who Jesus is. Let me quote from critical scholar, Maurice Casey in his book "From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God" (obviously no friend of the Christian faith). He writes, "The Gospel attributed to St. John is the only New Testament document in which the deity and incarnation of Jesus are UNEQUIVOCALLY proclaimed. In the prologue, Jesus deity is made EXPLICIT...the open declaration of the deity of the Word in the first verse of the Gospel demonstrates clearly that the author was in no way embarrassed by the FULL DIVINITY of Christ...This evidence also shows that, in this document, the description of Jesus as "the Son" is an expression of deity" (pp. 23-24, emphasis mine). For a very technical treatment of the actual use of the term "Theos" the Greek word for God, in reference to Jesus in the New Testament by a former professor at Cambridge University see Murray Harris "Jesus as God", for a more popular treatment see Harris' "3 Crucial Questions about Jesus."
Explicit verses about the deity of Christ such as Titus 2:13. "while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," II Peter 2:1, "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours," or Romans 9:5, "Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." and John 20:28, "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'"
are through out all the authors of the New Testament. In light of such statements it seems somewhat dishonest to read statements from such people as Alhaj Ajijola who claims, "The Gospels accord Jesus a status not a shade higher than that of a prophet and a messenger" ("The Myth of the Cross" p. 22) or the comments by Lisa Spray of the Khalifite sect who claims, " We can only conclude that the doctrine of Jesus divinity has no foundation in the Scripture nor in the life and teachings of Jesus ("Jesus: Myth and Message", p. 49)
Before leaving these "explicit" discussions, let me "lower our standards" and give the several traditional arguments that Christians have given in defense of the deity of Christ. The five key arguments can be stated thus: The one who is addressed by ascriptions that could only be appropriate for God, who possesses attributes that only God could possess, who does the works only God could have done, who was worshiped as God without disclaiming it and one who was viewed by the apostles as equal with God must be GOD!!!
When Muslims try to down play the significance of these arguments and New Testament texts that argue for a close connection between Jesus and God, my question is: Could Muhammad or any other prophet have made such claims? Another question to our Muslim friends is that if Jesus had said "I am God and worship me" would any of you have believed it or would it be dismissed because of the charge of Tahrif and corruption? An honest answer here is in order.
3. As to the comment concerning eminent Christian scholars who convert to Islam after "a lifetime of devotion to the ... study of ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew" let me please make one point. Mr. Dawood's book "Muhammad in the Bible" shows a profound ignorance of Greek and Hebrew. For Muslims who love propaganda, Mr. Dawood's book will always be a classic, but if there are any sincere Muslims who would like to learn the scholarly merit of that book, my suggestion would be to go to a classics department in ANY college or university and ask any professor for his or her opinion about Mr. Dawood's work. Or better yet, may be some interested Muslims could actually take a course to two in New Testament Greek, so they could be better equipped in their critique of the Bible!
4. Concerning the "cream of the crop" among Christian bishops and scholars "who are also slowly adopting major portions of Islamic belief into their beliefs" it needs to be pointed out that no such thing is happening (even though looking at the surface might confirm the Muslim position). Since Islamic theology and religion has never yet experienced the revolutionary impact of Enlightenment thinking in the Western world, Muslims generally do not understand the complexities of our current situation in the Western culture and the Church. The revolutionary skepticism of such philosophers as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Hegel (to say nothing of others) has left the Western critical scholarship in a maze of anti-supernaturalism and relativism. Many critical scholars, including many of the Anglican bishops, not only do not believe in the deity of Christ, but they also reject the Virgin birth of Christ, his ability to do miracles such as raising people from the dead, and believe that Jesus life ended by his death on the cross (thus contradicting the Qur'anic testimony concerning Jesus at several fundamental points!!)
My biggest complaint against Muslims at this point is the fact that Muslims are very fond of quoting critical scholars conclusions (only those that agree with Islam) without the slightest realization of the presuppositions of such scholars that led them to these conclusions in the first place. If the same presuppositions are granted for Islam, then Islamic theology and the Qur'an also fall to the ground. For those people who are fond of quoting John Hick's "The Myth of God Incarnate", they need to be aware of John Hick's view of God and the impossibility of God having revealed himself or itself to mankind in any one religion in his book such as "God Has Many Names" to understand why Hick comes to those conclusions. If a scholar denies the philosophical possibility of miracles, then it is no surprise that he will reject the historical reliability of the gospels, but his philosophical position also denies the possibility for the miraculous nature of the Qur'an and Muhammad's miracles according to Islamic tradition. Three good introductory books that deal with philosophical issues that underlie critical scholarship are "Jesus Under Fire" by J.P. Moreland, "The Modern Search for the Real Jesus" by Robert Strimple and "Cynic Sage or Son of God?" by Gregory Boyd.
5. Finally let me briefly address the point that "when God wants us to believe something or do something, we would expect Him to TELL us." This is certainly not unreasonable request. Christians have always been of the conviction (until the rise of so-called higher criticism in the 19th century) that the New Testament is more than clear about who Jesus is. The waters only become muddy if one has a-priori convictions against the possibility of God becoming incarnate, and goes to the text with certain presuppositions already in place.
Let me make one final comment about the above statement by Mr. Al-Kadhi, specially since Muslims use this king of language to express their lack of tolerance for any Christian claim to the mystery of Trinity or the deity of Christ. The word mystery seems to be a taboo with many Muslims. It is claimed that Islam has a very simple idea of God and Christians are just confused about all this talk about the Trinity. For any of us who believe in the existence of an infinite personal God, if we think deeply enough we should realize that every thing about God is a mystery and not just one or two Christian doctrines about God. I view the Islamic affirmation of "Allahu Akbar" as saying something very close to the Latin statement that " Finitum non copax infinitum" (The finite cannot contain -- or comprehend-- the infinite), because God is infinitely greater than what our human minds can grasp about him. Both Islamic and Christian theology have had a long tradition in their emphasis that God cannot be known in his essence. Often times much of our talk about God is done "via negativa" by way of negation. When we say God is infinite, all we are saying is that He is not finite or when we say God is immutable, we mean he does not change. These attributes just tell us what he is not like, but they fall short of telling us something positive about God. I have been helped a great deal in this area by the writings of famous Canadian atheist and logical positivist, Kai Neilson. In his challenge of theistic language in general, I have gained much insight about the inadequacy of our human language concerning God. I am not giving in to Kantian metaphysical skepticism of a gulf separating noumena and the phenomenal world for a second, because I believe God after all has used human language to communicate some truths about himself to mankind, but we need to be aware that God is ultimately a mystery in his essence, a mystery not just in Christianity but a mystery in Himself, because HE IS GOD. This mystery of course does not become any more simple in the Christian faith. As C.S. Lewis points out,
If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete in simplicity with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about. ("Mere Christianity," p. 145).
Thank you for your patience in reading my interaction with Mr. Al-Kadhi. I would be interested in continuing this discussion with those who have some basic understanding of philosophy and theology as they struggle with the relationship between Islam and the Christian faith.
On the Trinity
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