A GREAT MYSTERY
The Koran is filled with passages declaring that God is One God, alone. Therefore, they cannot conceive of God being One in essence but three in persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Muslims believe that the gift of Islam is the gift to the world of pure monotheism. On this point, the Muslims are arrogantly, and factually, wrong, for Judaism and Christianity are passionately committed to monotheism. Both world religions predate Islam. The devout Muslim believes that Christianity has been corrupted by embracing the Trinity. The Koran is the basis of this belief.
Sura 4:171 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. (Sahih International)
Sura 5:75 The Messiah, son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger before whom many Messengers have passed away; and his mother adhered wholly to truthfulness, and they both ate food (as other mortals do). See how We make Our signs clear to them; and see where they are turning away!
“In these few words the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ is repudiated. The nature of the Messiah is clear from the indications given here; he was merely a human being. He was one born from the womb of a woman, who had a known genealogy, who possessed a physical body, who was subject to all the limitations of a human being, and who had all the attributes characteristic of human beings. He slept, ate, felt the discomfort of heat and cold, and was so human that he was even put to the test by Satan. How could any reasonable person believe that such a being was either God or a partner, or associate of God in His godhead? But the Christians continue to insist on the divinity of the Messiah, whose life has been portrayed in their own Scriptures as that of a human. The fact of the matter is that they do not believe at all in the historical Messiah. They have woven a Messiah out of their imagination and have deified that imaginary being.” (Understanding the Koran)
The Koran goes on to teach, that, in the Day of Judgment, a conversation will take place between Jesus and God whereby Jesus declares He did not invite anyone to worship Him, or Mary, as gods, beside Allah.
Sura 5:116 And imagine when thereafter Allah will say: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people: “Take me and my mother for gods beside Allah?”130 and he will answer: “Glory to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to. Had I said so, You would surely have known it. You know all what is within my mind whereas I do not know what is within Yours. You, indeed You, know fully all that is beyond the reach of human perception.
The Muslims are right to reject any form of Mariology, but they are misguided in rejecting Christ as divine.
While the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity is complex, it is not incomprehensible. While the Doctrine of the Trinity contains a paradox, it does not contain a contradiction. While the Doctrine of the Trinity is a great mystery, it is not beyond human comprehension. The Trinity emphasis a Tri-unity, with the emphasis being on Unity. A distinction must be made in three categories: contradiction, paradox, and mystery.
Contradiction. Aristotle taught the Law of Non-Contradiction. Said Aristotle, something cannot be what it is, and not be what it is, at the same time, and in the same relationship. That would be a contradiction. For example, a person can be a father, and a son, at the same time, but not in the same relationship.
Paradox. The root of this word, dox, comes from a word which means, “to seem”, “to think”, or “to appear.” The early teachers of Docetism taught that Jesus did not have a true body, but only appeared to have one. John had to write, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3) A paradox means that something seems to be a contradiction when it is placed along something, but it is not. A paradox is not a contradiction. It is an apparent contradiction. Jesus said His followers have to become a slave, in one sense, in order to be free, in another sense. The Christian rises to heaven when he is bowed low in prayer. To die to self, is to live forever.
Mystery. While God in His essence is incomprehensible, this does not mean God is completely unknowable. There are many passages in the Bible which teach what God is. While no man has an exhaustive and comprehensive knowledge of God in His fulness, God has revealed many facets of His essence to man. To say that God is infinite in understanding is something beyond our comprehension and so remains a mystery to us.
This should not be a problem. There are many truths that are affirmed in science that the mind has yet to penetrate fully. Gravity, motion, and subatomic particles are not fully understood. Just because something remains a mystery because it is not fully understood, does not mean it is contradictory, nonsensical, or absurd.
To personalize, the conclusion is this. I do not understand mysteries. I do not understand contradictions. Contradictions should be challenged no matter who expresses them. Dr. R. C. Sproul tells about one of his college professors who taught, “God is absolutely immutable in His being; God is absolutely mutable in His being.” Said Dr. R. C. Sproul, “The professor was teaching something that is contradictory and irrational. What he said was a clear contradiction, not a mystery.”
A mystery is not inherently unintelligible. A mystery does not violate the law of non-contradiction. The essence of God remains a mystery and incomprehensible, but there is nothing contradictory about it.
The Church has always taught that God is one in essence, but three in persons. A person has will, emotion, and intellect. God the Father has these characteristics. God the Son has these characteristics. God the Holy Spirit has these characteristics.
Whatever divine attribute is ascribed to God the Father, is ascribed in Scripture to God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
While there are distinctions among the Persons of the Trinity, there is no distinction in the essence or Being of God. God is one single being. God is one in Being, but three in persons. The plurality is in a different category than the category of Being.
The Church speaks of there being subsistence within God so that the Son is subordinate to the Father.
So, a person can say they do not believe in the Trinity. That is their right. What a person cannot say is that the formula for the Trinity breaks the Law of Non-Contradiction. It does not. The Doctrine of the Trinity is not irrational. It is not contradictory. It is a mystery.
The Church has taught that the distinctions within the Godhead are real, but they are not essential to God’s Being in His essence. The essence of the Son, the essence of the Holy Spirit, is the same as the essence of the Father. There is only one Being. But within the Being of God’s subsistence, there are three persona, but they are not distinguished from His essence. God is immutable, God is eternal. This is a distinction without division.
By way of practical application, if Jesus is LORD, and He is, then His commandments are not mere suggestions, but binding. Jesus is not simply an insightful moral Teacher. He is very God of very God. One day, every knee shall bow before Him and every tongue shall confess that He is LORD.
Again, by way of practical application, it is important to embrace the Holy Spirit as very God of very God because it is the Holy Spirit who enables the believer to remember, and keep, the teaching of Jesus, and to pray appropriately.
Christian, do not doubt the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity.