Christians or Muslims: Which Make God in Man's Image?

As I was watching various videos by Muslim friends today and reading their posts on Facebook, something ironic dawned on me: when they say Jesus is not God because God cannot be a Trinity, it is because they are making God in man's image. Allow me to explain.

These Muslim friends will often question the viability of the Trinity, saying "what sense does it make that God can be three and one at the same time?" When they make this statement, it is sometimes because they have not understood the sense in which God is three and the sense in which He is one.

Surely they cannot be questioning whether something can be 3 in one sense and 1 in another? That is obvious even to a child. For example, a family can be three and one at the same time; one family can be made up of three people, and three people can make up one family. To be clear, I am not using this as an analogy to the Trinity. I'm simply demonstrating that even Muslims can understand and will agree that something can be 3 in one sense and 1 in another.

Now when it comes to God, the Trinitarian belief is that God is 3 in one sense and 1 in another; specifically, He is 3 in person yet 1 in being. The difference between a person and a being might have to be explained to a Muslim who says a Trinity is not viable; perhaps he will then desist from saying the Trinity is not viable. My experience, though, is that he won't.

Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. Because they usually conclude that a being can only have one person. The idea that the nature of God's being might be more complex than that of man's, that God in His infiniteness can certainly contain more than one person in His being, simply is unacceptable to the average Muslim. The reason why? Because the Muslim has made God in man's image. He sees that man, and all of creation, is one in being and (at most) one in person. Since that is the nature of creation, that must be the nature of God.

Some might say "No, Muslims only deny the Trinity because the Qur'an says it's false!" If that simple fact were the case, then Muslims would disagree with Christians' view of God; however, they would not argue that the Trinity is absurd. As it is, they quite regularly argue the latter, and can only do so based on a presupposition: that he can only be one in being and one in person; that God's nature is that of man's.

In reality, as worshipers of an infinite God, we ought to consider God's nature a matter of revelation: if we are to know what His nature is like, He must tell us. We cannot presuppose the details about Him with any degree of certainty. Is He a Trinity? Is He a Unity? Is He a Hundredity? We cannot know unless He reveals it to us.

The next time one of your Muslim friends argues against the deity of Jesus based on the inviability of the Trinity, make it clear which one of you is creating God in man's image.

7 comments:

  1. How would you explain the distinction between "being" and "person" to a Muslim? Would your explanation be any different than that to a secular westerner?

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  2. I would use roughly the same explanation to explain the difference to a secular audience and a Muslim audience (though secular people generally don't have an issue with the viability of the Trinity since it's not logically implausible.)

    I would start by giving the example of something that has a being but no person (a rock, for example). I would then move to a person and say that a person is a being with one person. If they can grasp the difference there, then I'd stop there.

    If the Muslim I'm speaking with is not given to distorting my words (i.e. they are honest learners and not simply trying to win points in an argument) and needs more of an explanation, I might move on and say that since no being in nature is designed to have multiple persons, there's no perfect parallel to the Trinity. However, we see oddities in nature that can give us an idea. For example, a person with true dissociative identity disorder can give us a glimpse. This is not a perfect parallel, either, since 1) it's unnatural and 2) the identities (i.e. personalities) do not function simultaneously as full persons. Another glimpse can be attained by observing conjoined twins. This is an example of one being with two persons. Here as well, though, the parallel is not perfect, since 1) it's unnatural and 2) it can be argued that these are actually two beings sharing one body (but that can be messy).

    At the end of the day, it must be understood that there is nothing in nature like the Trinity, and so no great examples can be given. But there is certainly a difference between a person and a being, and these examples should help to clarify that difference. Hope that helps.

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  3. I think ultimately, it's a matter of revelation. General revelation can demonstrate the existence of God and man's guilt before Him (Romans 1:18-21), but doesn't really inform us of anything else about His nature, including the fact that He is Triune. That's why special revelation is necessary. Which is why I think it's important to emphasize that the Trinity isn't something any man came up with by his own reasoning, but is the result of biblical exegesis. If a Muslim cannot comprehend God being tri-personal yet singular in Being, that's not God's fault as God is not obligated to fit into the categories that have been designated for Him by finite human beings.

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  4. "I would start by giving the example of something that has a being but no person (a rock, for example). I would then move to a person and say that a person is a being with one person."

    I don't think this is a particularly helpful analogy: The rock has physical being, not sentient being like a human. These aren't similar categories - the rock isn't "a being" in the same way that a human is. In the physical world we really only see two things:
    1. Objects with a physical being, no sentient being and no personhood
    2. Humans with a physical being, sentient being and single personhood
    A possible exception to this might be animals with physical being, sentient being and no(?) personhood.

    I'm even less inclined to utilize the subsequent examples of DID and conjoined twins since those are diseases resulting from the fall, not markers pointing us to God.

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  5. Dave,

    Of course, you are correct that the analogies are not perfect. It's not possible to give perfect analogies of the Trinity, and so I don't bother trying to come as close as I can :-) I simply try to get the point across.

    You are right, a rock is a different category of being; but it effectively draws out the defining distinction of being from person. Perhaps if it really matters to you, you could use a plant instead of a rock; some would argue that they are sentient (they do respond to stimuli), and they certainly are living, but they have no personhood. If you wish to get into the nitty gritty of personhood, you can explore options of animals. Regardless, we are well past the point of differentiating "being" from "person" which was the root of the question.

    And there's no way you could have missed my disclaimers regarding conjoined twins and dissociative identity disorder; the point is not to say that they are natural and good parallels, but rather to get the picture across.

    But, as you have amply demonstrated, if a person is not trying to simply get an idea of the Trinity but is instead trying to get a true parallel, it's not going to work. There are no parallels. For explaining the distinction between "person" and "being", however, and for providing roughly illustrative pictures, I think the examples above are more than sufficient.

    Cheers.

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  7. 3 in 1 or 1 in 3 u still have left monotheism which is why u have gone astray the reason Jesus was sent was to correct the Jews the reason Muhammad was sent to correct the Jews the Christians and the whole world to bring them back to monotheism to worship the unseen Lord the One who Created the heavens and the earth with Might and Wisdom. If u choose any other way u have strayed from the straight path, no matter how u want to convice urself that u have not...

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