Muslims and Christians have many common stories about the prophets but our understanding of God is quite different.
What do you mean by that?
Muslims believe that there is only one God and we should not believe that there are three gods. We have a verse in the Quran in which God said, “They have certainly disbelieved who say Allah is the third of three.”
That’s right. We must not believe in three gods. Christians also believe that there is only one God. The Bible says, “hear o Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one.”
Is that so? I thought Christians believe that God is a Trinity?
Yes, we believe that God is a Trinity but we don’t believe that there are three gods.
What then is the doctrine of Trinity?
Christians believe that God is a Trinity. There is one what and three who’s. There is only one God therefore one what but this God exists in three persons. Therefore three who’s.
Can such a thing exist in reality?
One common analogy used to illustrate this is H2O, which can exist in solid, liquid and gas states at the same time at a specific temperature and pressure. This is called the triple point.
So you are saying while they exist in different forms they all have the same essence H2O?
That’s right. Another illustration would be man which comprises body, spirit and soul. When we look into the mirror we only see the physical body but we don’t see the spirit and a soul.
You mean we can see only the physical body but man is much more complicated than that? It doesn’t just comprise of the body but also the spirit and soul?
Exactly. But we are not saying that these analogies can explain every aspect of the Trinity. Imam Ghazali wisely said the analogy does not have to agree in everything with that which it resembles. Otherwise it is a replica, not an analogy.
I see. The three persons of the Trinity or the Father Jesus and Mary in the Quran. God says to Jesus, “Did you say to the people take me and my mother as gods rather than God.”
No. Although we believe that Jesus is God, the Bible never teaches that Mary is God.
You must admit one God in three persons is pretty hard to understand, isn’t it?
I would admit it is beyond human logic to fully understand the doctrine of Trinity but the doctrine is not against logic.
Not against logic? How can one plus one plus one equals one?
We are not saying there are three gods, yet one God or there are three persons, yet one person. We are saying there is one god existing in three persons. That is not a contradiction.
How can we accept the doctrine of Trinity if we don’t fully understand it?
Well God is infinite and our minds are finite. It is normal that we don’t fully understand the things of God. We still accept it as long as it is what the Bible teaches are there some things in the Quran which Muslims cannot understand but accept it anyway.
Yes, the Quran teaches that there is none like unto God. Yet the Quran also describes God as having hand and face.
How do you respond to such difficult teachings?
We accept it without questioning because it is in the Quran. In the Muslim credo Fikh Akbar, we have a concept called “bila kaifa”, which means without asking how.
In the same way, Christians believe in the doctrine of Trinity because it is taught in the Bible even if we cannot fully comprehend it.
Does the Bible teach that one God exists in three persons?
Earlier, the Bible verse I mentioned which says hear o Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one, the word for “God” Elohim is in the plural even though God is described as being one. Elsewhere, Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize in a name (singular) of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. In other words these three persons have one name.
Do you also have instances where all three persons of the Trinity appeared together?
Yes, during the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove and a voice from the father came from heaven saying you are my son whom I love with you I am well pleased.
Just now you mentioned that God exists in three persons and that Jesus is also God. Does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?
Yes it does. I would be glad to discuss this with you another time.