Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Part 2—Monotheism, Unitarianism and Trinitarianism
by Dan Plyler
A very brief history......
The Islamic prophet Muhammad (570-632) was born in Mecca and grew up in an area of the world where Polytheism (the belief in multiple deities or gods) was wide spread and deeply ingrained in the culture around him. Later in life he claimed to have received revelations from God and began preaching that there is only one true God and all people everywhere should submit to Him and not worship pagan idols. He faced a great deal of hostility for his beliefs, but over time he took on many followers and eventually was able to take control of Mecca and destroy the idols of polytheism. Through military campaigns he would spread Islam throughout the Middle East and across North Africa.
In history it is unclear who wrote the Qur'an. Muslims believe that over a period of over 20 years, God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal the words of the Qur'an to Muhammad and that the book is nothing less than the inspired, infallible word of God. Muhammad died in 632 AD and is considered the last and greatest prophet of Islam. I don't think I have to review Biblical history with you in regards to the Christian view on polytheism. Think of Paul in Athens- (Acts 17:16-31) where he deals not only with polytheism (idols), but also with the "god is in everything" pantheism of the Stoics.
The Qur'an teaches that there is only one God.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is clear in declaring that there is only one God.
The belief that there is only one God is called Monotheism. Christians and Muslims are both Monotheists.
Now, if Muslims and Christians both affirm Monotheism - both agree that there is only one God - then why can't both just agree that their Gods are one and the same God? To understand why this could never be the case, we need to look at the doctrines of these two religions in this area concerning God's nature.
First, let's look at the Muslim doctrine of Unitarianism. Unlike Christians, Muslims believe that God is one single person. Now when I use the word person I do not mean in the ordinary finite sense that we might refer to one another, but instead that God does have attributes (infinitude) and is personal. He can communicate with His created finite creatures if He so desires. He is all powerful and can know and be known. To the Muslim, God is a single person and shares His authority with no other person. No man could ever claim to be God, and Muslims reject Jesus' incarnation and His personal claims to deity. To say that Jesus is God's son is blasphemy to the Muslim. So they are Monotheistic in that there is only one God and Unitarian in that this one God is only one person.
Now let's look at the Christian Doctrine of Trinity call Trinitarianism. The God who reveals Himself to us through the Holy Bible tells us that He is the only one true God. He has attributes in that He is Holy, Infinite, Omniscient, Omnipresent and perhaps most important of all he is All Loving. He is Merciful and Forgiving and bestows Grace upon those who do not deserve it, such as you and I. He is Eternal and Created all things. He knows all Truth and cannot lie or deceive.
God is also a Trinity.
Don't look for this word in your Bible, because you will not find it there.
What you will find is the truth that the word refers to - God is one God revealed in three persons (Tri-Personal), the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Trinity. Each person of the Trinity is distinct from the other two, having his own center of self-consciousness, his own separate role; but each is part of the God-head - One God.
Some will say in making an analogy about the Trinity that it is like one man who is a husband, a father and a son. T he one man plays three roles or modes. This is a false analogy know as Modalism. God is not one God who plays three roles. Instead we see in scripture the separate, distinct role each person of the Trinity has - The Father (1st person) loves the Son; the Son (2nd person) prays to the Father; The Son sends the Spirit (3rd person). When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39) , He was not praying to Himself - He was praying to the Father. When Jesus told His disciples He would send the Holy Spirit (John 15:26) once He went to be with His Father, He was not sending Himself. He clearly meant He would be sending another distinct, separate person.
Many have attacked the Doctrine of the Trinity by calling it a contradiction. We must carefully refute this with the correct understanding of the doctrine. We are not saying that three Gods are somehow one God or that three persons are somehow one person. Instead we are saying that there is one God revealed in three persons. I'll grant that it is a paradox of sorts, but it is not contradictory in the least. The nature of Christ as being God and man is similar to this.
This Doctrine of the Trinity sits at the heart of Christianity. It has been misunderstood and misrepresented for hundreds of years. It has been said that nearly all heresy begins with a distortion and/or denial of this essential Christian doctrine.
When we think of God as being All Loving, it is a love that existed within and between the three persons of the Trinity - even prior to creation - before you or I ever existed. It can now be manifest for us all.
Next: Part 3 - Who is this Jesus?
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