It’s based on what exactly?
My Muslim friends should agree with me that our theology about God’s nature should come from what he has revealed about himself in his Word. We need to accept what he says and not be swayed by the philosophies of men, or what makes sense to mere creatures. You might think that one problem with the trinity is that it is logically incomprehensible, but that does not bother me so much. Who said that the nature of God was supposed to be logically comprehensible to our little human brains? I for one would prefer to listen humbly to what God says about himself, understand that as best I can, and admit my limitations for what I can’t understand.
There is only one God
Forget what you’ve heard; Christians are monotheists. The Bible is abundantly clear that there is only one God.
You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. -Isaiah 43:10
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. -Isaiah 44:6
The Qu’ran teaches that God has no partners, and the Bible agrees with this. Consider what it says about creation:
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself. -Isaiah 44:24
The Father and the Son are both God
There are three who are referred to as God in the Bible: the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. I think everyone agrees that the Father is God, so I will pass straight to references to the deity of the Son.
Again the question to be answered is not whether it makes sense that both the Father and the Son could be God. The question is what does God’s Word teach about the Son. The answer to that is not hard to find.
…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. -Titus 2:13
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” -Hebrews 1:8
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6
Not only is Jesus called God, but he is also constantly doing things that only God can do. We saw above that God alone created the world, but Jesus also was involved in creation.
For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. -Colossians 1:16
The same point is found in John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:10. More than that, Jesus also forgives sins (Mark 2:5), is Lord of the 10 commandments (Mark 2:28), controls the weather (Mark 4:39), commands angels (Matthew 24:31), raises the dead at the end of time (John 5:28) and judges them (John 5:22). There is simply no fair way to read the New Testament and avoid the conclusion that Jesus’ disciples and apostles viewed him as God. There are so many references to this truth, that to even list them would be too much for this short article. (See this video if you want to learn more)
The Holy Spirit is God too
But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? … You have not lied to man but to God. -Acts 5:3-4
The divine persons are distinct
Seeing that there is one God, and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, we might be tempted to think that the Father is the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Bible however distinguishes them one from another. The Son prays to the Father – he’s not talking to himself (Luke 10:21). The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit – they’re not sending themself (John 15:26). Notice that at Jesus’ baptism for instance, the three persons are all present and are distinguished from each other.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. -Mark 1:9-11
No, we do not believe that three gods are one God or that three persons are one person. We hold that the one God exists in three persons. We distinguish between the being or essence of God, of which there is one, and the persons or centers of consciousness, of which there are three. This is not a logical contradiction.
“Do not say three”
As clear as the Bible is in teaching the doctrine of the trinity, the Qu’ran is equally clear in denying it.
O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (4:171)
They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers. They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. (5:72-73)
These texts, however, provoke a couple questions in my mind. The text says that those who disbelieve say, “Allah is the third of three,” but Christians don’t say that. We also believe that God is one God. And when the text says, “Do not say Three, ” it turns around and says that “Allah is one God.” We believe that! So although it seems pretty clear that the trinity is in view, the criticism is not exactly on target.
The other question I have about the trinity in the Qu’ran is the way Mary seems to get mixed in. The same passage from Surah 5 continues two verses later:
The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded. (5:75)
It insists that Mary ate food as a proof of her humanity. Of course Christians all believe that Mary was human and nothing more. Further down the same Surah says:
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?'” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. (5:116)
Why does the Qu’ran deny that Jesus and Mary are also gods separate from Allah? Christians are the only people who take Jesus for God, but we don’t say that Mary is God, and we don’t say that Jesus is a separate god beside God.
So is the Qu’ran actually denying the trinity? And if so, why does its description of the trinity not match what we actually believe?
No other name
My Muslim friend, I earnestly ask you to take these things seriously and consider what I am saying, because to accept Jesus as a prophet only is not honoring to him and is not acceptable in the sight of God. Don’t just assume that everything you have been taught is true, but search the Scripture and measure what I’m saying by the words of the prophets and apostles. Jesus is the One who was from the beginning, who created you for his glory, who purchased salvation at the price of his blood, who is coming again to make all things new, and who will reign forever with all those who have believed in him. Listen to his words and do not be among the disbelievers, but hear the voice of truth.
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” -Apostle Peter, Acts 4:11-12
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11
Bible citations come from the English Standard Version, Qu’ran citations from the Saheeh International. Stars image by ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8788068.