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Unity and Trinity

The charge of synthesis—linking other beings with Allah, and treating them as divine—is one charge that Muslims frequently make against Christianity.  The Qur'an states,

'Do not say three, for God is one' (an-Nisa 4:171).

'They who say that Allah is Christ, Mary's son, have blasphemed he who associates other with Allah, God will ban from Paradise' (al-Maidah 5:75)

Millions of sincere folks are taken in by the stark simplicity of the Muslim's argument that 1+1+1 cannot equal 1.

Nevertheless it is an axiom of philosophy that the most facile explanation is not necessarily the truest. And, this is the case regarding the correct understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Muhammad clearly reacted against the then current mythology of Arabia. This ancient mythology believed that Allah had three daughters, Uzza, Allat and Manat. A myth of this sort is far removed from our Trinitarian Creed which rests on the Scriptural truth that ' The Lord our God is One' (Deuteronomy 6:4). Our Lord also confirmed the Shema (Mark 12:29) when he declared: "This is life eternal that they might know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

The word in dispute is 'oneness'. Muslims insist that it must stand for a static numerical unit, whereas we see oneness in terms of dynamic unity—a unity moving forwards towards an end when God will be all in all. Muslims regards oneness as a stark singularity, and exaggerate Allah's aloofness and distance from men. He could not be described as loving, pitying, and suffering. Yet paradoxically the Qur'an speaks extensively of his anger, approval, hatred and affection. As a concept, incarnation was found acceptable to sophisticated nations in antiquity. Brilliant philosophers—Hindu, Greek and German—saw it as a reasonable means whereby the Divine would reach down and communicate with the creatures that He had created in His own image .

Natural phenomena belie the static numerical concept of oneness. Is there any entity of which we are aware that is an absolute indivisible unity, except a geometrical non-dimensional point? Space has three dimensions, length, breadth, and height. Time can be conceived only as past, present, and future. There are three primary colours in the spectrum of light. Our mental life operates on thinking, willing, and feeling. Yet each person is one not three.

Several levels of unity are conceivable, familial political, and atomic. Long ago, the atom was thought to be indivisible, for that is what atomos means in the Greek language. Now we know that it consists of electrons, protons and neutrons, and that it is a unity that can be split. Most intimate of all unity is the family unit that consists of two, three, or more persons.

May we not then fairly assume that beyond these observable unities there lies a deeper, greater more stable oneness, binding three persons of the Trinity in one essence, and loving reaching out to its creation? Augustine of Tunis expressed it thus: God is love, love is eternal, and God needed an object of everlasting love. The Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Spirit and the Holy Spirit loved the father' Then God said, 'Let us make man in our own image'.

The Qur'an admits that Christ, the Son of Mary, is God's Word and Spirit (4:171). This is a recognizable deformation of the truth. But it concedes enough for believers to see in the Word and the Spirit the completion of God's unity.

Last edited 07/19/2001
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