Responding to Islam’s Objection to the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons) is one of historic Christianity’s most distinctive teachings. This view of God’s nature separates the Christian faith from the two other popular Middle Eastern monotheistic religions of Judaism and Islam. Traditional Jews and Muslims deny the Trinity and affirm a unitarian view of God (a single God who is one in being and one in person).

A significant part of my theological and devotional interest in and attraction to the triune nature of historic Christianity’s God involves the idea that God’s distinctive unity of nature and diversity of personhood means that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) within himself (or themselves). This means that the triune God is analogous to a loving human family. Thus, God is a maximally perfect being who grounds love within himself and therefore does not need to find love in his creation, like alternative unitarian views of God appear to affirm. For further discussion of this provocative topic of God and love, see my article Who Did Allah Love in Eternity?

My ongoing theological reflection and research on trinitarianism led me to write an article some time back entitled My Three Favorite Books on the Trinity. A Muslim read my article and raised an objection to the Trinity doctrine. I’ve included our exchange here (paraphrased) and hope you’ll find it helpful.

The Objection
Respondent: Jesus was a Jew. Not a Christian. Therefore, he never believed in nor affirmed the Trinity. The Trinity doctrine was invented by the apostle Paul. So the emergence of the Trinity had nothing to do with Jesus himself.

Trinitarian theology is the collaboration of Paul and the Christian church. Paul laid the foundation stones on which the Christian church erected the house of modern Christianity. So the Trinity has nothing to do with Jesus and his original teachings.

My Response
Greetings, friend. You are a Muslim and therefore deny the triune nature of God. But please read and consider the biblical basis for the Trinity provided here. You’ll see that I list the key theological claims of the Trinity and scriptural support (both Old and New Testament) without references to the apostle Paul’s writings.

Six simple statements show how the Trinity doctrine is indeed derived from Scripture:

1. There is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 17:3).

2. The Father is called or referred to as God (Psalm 89:26; 2 Peter 1:17).

3. The Son (Jesus Christ) is called or referred to as God (John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8).

4. The Holy Spirit is called or referred to (or granted status) as God (Genesis 1:2; Acts 13:2, 4).

5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons and can be distinguished from one another (the Father is not the Son; the Father is not the Holy Spirit; and the Son is not the Holy Spirit—Matthew 28:19; Luke 3:22).

6. The three persons (Father or God; and Son or Christ or Lord; and Holy Spirit or Spirit) are frequently listed together in a triadic pattern of unity and equality (John 14:26; 15:26).

So the Trinity can be derived from the Bible even without referencing the apostle Paul’s writings. Your claim that the Trinity doctrine has nothing to do with Jesus but was erected by the apostle Paul and assisted by the church is contradicted by the very words of Jesus in the Gospels.

For example, Jesus himself speaks of the members of the Trinity in the Gospel of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In other words, disciples are baptized in the name of the triune God.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus also speaks about the persons of the Trinity by expressing an apparent unity of nature and an equality of personhood within the Godhead: “When the Advocate [3rd person] comes, whom I [2nd person] will send to you from the Father [1st person]—the Spirit [3rd person] of truth who goes out from the Father [1st person]—he [3rd person] will testify about me [2nd person] (John 15:26, emphasis added).

Furthermore, your claim that Christianity is the sole product of those who followed after Jesus comes from the claims of the Islamic religion that historically appears almost 600 years after the time of Christ. Islam claims to build upon the truth of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures but at the same time insists that the Bible is corrupted. This seems logically contradictory. 

As a Christian, I trust the claims made by Jesus himself and the testimony of his apostles who were witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection.

Thanks for reading and considering my response to your objection. May peace be upon you.

Reflections: Your Turn
How significant is it for Christians and Muslims to discuss their religious agreements and disagreements in a civil and respectful manner?

Resources

  One thought on “Responding to Islam’s Objection to the Trinity

  1. February 22, 2022 at 10:28 am

    Interesting article, Kenneth! I’m very interested in interfaith dialogue, particularly between Christianity and Islam. I just had one question for you: Have you read the Qur’an in its entirety?

    • February 22, 2022 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks, Steven.

      I’m a student and instructor of the world’s religions so I’ve read fairly lengthy parts of the Qur’an in English as preparation for lectures and classes. But I don’t think I’ve made it through in its entirety.

      It’s organized very differently than the Bible (neither chronologically nor topically) and since I don’t read Arabic I have sought the help of Islamic scholars and sources to grasp its basic content.

      I have engaged in some online dialogues and debates with Islamic apologists and with an Imam particularly about the similarities and differences between Allah and the triune God of historic Christianity.

      As I mention in the resources section of my article I compare Jesus with Muhammad in my book God among Sages (chapter 8) and I have a chapter on Islam in my worldview text A World of Difference (chapter 15).

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • February 22, 2022 at 3:37 pm

        Thanks for the explanation, Ken. Not sure if you’ve come across Abdel Haleem’s ‘Oxford World’s Classics’ English translation of the Qur’an, but it is a wonderfully lucid translation. I very much hope you read it as it was life-changing for me. All the best!

      • February 22, 2022 at 4:00 pm

        Thanks, Stephen.

        I’ll look for the Haleem translation.

        Ken Samples

  2. darrell gallear
    February 23, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    Good job

    • February 23, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks, Darrell.

      Ken Samples

  3. March 24, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    thad333:

    Greetings.

    Yes, I’ve seen it.

    I’ve reviewed it briefly and wrote a short response on the book’s amazon page (it’s included below).

    It’s a self-published digital only work and the quality of reasoning and writing is rather poor. The author doesn’t even get the title of my book correct.

    I’m happy to let readers evaluate both of our works because I’m confident they will detect a stark difference in both scholarship and fairness.

    Peace be with you.

    Ken Samples

    Lacking as a Respectful, Fair-minded, or Objective Response

    As the author of the book that Mr. Asura critiques you will not be surprised that I deeply disagree with most of the major contentions of his response.

    But instead of responding in great detail here I invite readers to read both my work and that of Mr. Asura and ask themselves which work is more respectful, fair-minded, and objective in analysis, argument, documentation, and tone.

    In my work I endeavored to explain why I view the traditional view of Jesus (classical orthodox perspective) as the most plausible and viable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and the very view that Jesus had of himself. In the process I seek to fairly make the case for the traditional view of Jesus while responding to some of the common theologically liberal and skeptical challenges to the conservative position concerning Christ. I then seek to compare the traditional view of Jesus with the traditional view of such religious figures as Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad.

    My comparisons of the religious leaders appeal to eight objective categories concerning the religious leaders life, teaching, accomplishments, and destinies. In working through the comparisons I attempt to be accurate, fair, respectful, and even charitable to all the religious leaders. While I do conclude that the traditional Jesus is different in kind from the four other religious leaders (God among Sages), I nevertheless seek to combat my potential biases and avoid ad hominem attacks and straw man misrepresentations.

    My book only has a single chapter on Krishna and the religion of Hinduism. The chapter is by necessity limited in space, content, and sources. But the references do include sources that are both sympathetic and critical to traditional Hinduism and the person of Krishna. So in my subjective and scholarly opinion I think the chapter endeavors to treat Krishna representatively, honestly, fairly, and even charitably.

    So as a reader I encourage you to read both books and weigh the content as fairly as possible again in terms of respectful and fair-minded analysis, argument, documentation, and tone.

    Mr. Asura is of course welcome to his views and his conclusions about the quality of my work but I honestly think his work reflects far less carefulness, respect, fair-mindedness, and scholarly objectivity. But I’ll let you the reader draw your own judgment. Please don’t just accept my word on the matter. Read them both.

    Sincerely,

    Kenneth Richard Samples

    Senior Research Scholar, Reasons to Believe

    Author of God Among Sages

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