Copyright © 1996 by M. Anderson. All rights reserved.

The Trinity

An Appreciation of the Oneness of God
with Reference to
the Son of God and the Holy Spirit
Christians and Muslims

by M. Anderson


I have written this booklet to dispel some misunderstandings Muslims have about the title 'Son of God' and the subject of 'Trinity'. As such this booklet is not trying cover all the Biblical material to prove the deity of Christ or the Holy Spirit. I presuppose that the Christian reader is aware of the Biblical evidence for the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. If not, such a reader will find it helpful to familiarise himself with the subject in a book such as Berkhof's Systematic Theology. This booklet then is written to give some Christians a better appreciation of the oneness of God in relation to the Trinity, in order that they might be able to communicate what Christians believe to their Muslim friends using Islamic sources and concepts.

Some of the areas of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians centre on the nature of God; the concept of the 'Trinity'; and the title 'Son of God'.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is one.
A Jewish teacher asked Jesus one day,

    'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?' 'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:29 NIV).

The Apostle Paul also taught the oneness of God when he wrote to one of the early churches that: 'There is no God but one.' (1 Corinthians 8:4 NIV)

In spite of the above clear teaching, the majority of Muslims to this day cling to the misunderstanding that Christians worship three Gods, not one.

Ibn 'Abbas, an early Muslim scholar said, 'what is meant by the Trinity is God the most high, His consort and His son'.[1] Some later commentators saw the Trinity as 'God, Mary, and Jesus'.[2] This understanding is based on the Qur'an (see Q. 5:72-75 & 116).

Even as recently as 1970 a Muslim writer said, 'The words of the Gospel give you the impression that God is a family man with a son and a wife.'[3]

The above understanding is clouded with physical, sexual connotations. To this day, I have not met a Christian who believes that the Trinity is "God and Mary and Jesus." Neither have I met a Christian who understands God as revealed in the Bible as a family man with a son and a wife.

God is Spirit. He is the supreme being. When the Bible speaks of God as the Father, it does not mean that there is a mother somewhere, with in-laws, uncles etc. God forbid. When the word 'Father' is mentioned of God, it means that He is the Creator of all and the Provider for all.


The use of expressions such as 'son of' or 'father of' or 'mother of' is universal. Most people would have heard the expression 'Mother of all battles' used by the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. What does that expression mean? Are we to understand that if there is a 'mother of battles' then there must also be a 'father of battles' and if they join together they will produce baby battles? Of course not!

In the Qur'an itself we read the expression 'Mother of the Book' (Q. 13:39). Does that mean that there is a 'Father of the Book' and 'Sons of the Book' somewhere? Of course not. Muslims believe that the expression 'Mother of the Book' refers to the heavenly origin of the Qur'an and that the earthly copy of the Qur'an is the visible expression of the invisible 'Mother of the Book'.

Deedat, a contemporary (Ahmadi) Muslim apologist finds great offence in the use of the expression 'Son of God', and in particular the expression 'only begotten' which is used in John 3:16. Instead of going to a reference book to find the meaning of the expression 'only begotten' (as any serious scholar would do), he asked a lay person. He told him that the expression 'only begotten', means 'sired by God'!

The word monogenes which is translated 'only begotten' in the King James version in John 3:16 appears 9 times in the New Testament: 3 times in Luke (7:12, 8:42 and 9:38) and 4 times in John as a designation of Jesus' relationship to God (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18), in 1 John 4:9 and in Heb 11:17 (of Isaac). According to Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament the word monogenes means:

    - only, one of a kind, unique (derived from monos and genos). This basic meaning is found in Plato Ti 92c (of the heaven); Wisdom 7:22 (of the Spirit of Wisdom); Cornutus Theologia Graeca 27 [49:13] (of this one and only world).
    Although the noun genos is related to the verb gi(g)nesthai, the root genes- lost its original sexual connotation and soon meant simply "become," without any reference to birth ...

    - monogenes means only in all the Lukan passages ...

    - 'Unique' is the actual meaning of monogenes as can be seen in Hebrews 11:17, where it is used of Isaac (Gen 21:12). The word here means only (son) of his kind. Abraham in fact had already begotten Ishmael and later had six other sons ...

    - 'The/his only son' is the clear meaning of the phrase with monogenes in John 3:16,18 and 1 John 4:9. The expression indicates Jesus' unique personality, in relation to the father, and mission. According to John 1:14,18 the Logos [the Word of God] is the 'Only One' from the Father and therefore in his nature is the only revealer of the Father.[4]

Furthermore, it is to be noted that in the New Testament the verb 'to beget (gennao) (become the father of)' is used to describe the relationship between God the Father and the Son only in quotations of Ps. 2:7 (Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5, 5:5). In the Old Testament the reference was to the earthly king who on the day of his assumption of the high office was said to have been begotten by God. In Acts 13:33 the quotation is applied to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is nowhere applied to the birth of the Lord Jesus.

Had Mr Deedat consulted any reference book on the meaning of the word, he would have been better informed.

Even if we allow the use of the word 'begotten' as a correct translation of monogenes, the use of anthropomorphic words and expressions is also found in the Qur'an. If a person reads such words or expressions and understands them in a literal sense as Mr. Deedat did, heretical and blasphemous views would result. For example when the Qur'an describes God as light in Q. 24:35. If we take the literal meaning of this, it would mean that God produces an electrical current or that He is alight, or aflame. Clearly this is ridiculous. Another example: the Qur'an states that after completing the act of creation: '... Allah sat Himself upon the Throne.'[5] If a person reading this verse is to understand the word 'sat' the way Mr Deedat understood the word 'begotten', then that person must conclude that Allah must have bent his knees and rested certain parts of his anatomy on the throne in order that the act of resting was achieved. Such understanding is absurd, as is Mr Deedat's understanding of the word 'begotten.'



Imagine that you come across the stump of a tree in a field. The stump is level with the ground. All you can see is the cross section of the trunk. As you dig around a bit you begin to see some of the roots. Can you tell, by merely looking at the tree roots if the tree is a mango tree, an orange tree, or an apple tree? You will not be able to tell by looking just at the roots alone. Supposing the tree belonged to the citrus family, could you tell by just looking at the roots whether the tree is a mandarin, navel orange or a lemon? When can you tell with certainty that the tree is a mandarin for example? Only by seeing the mandarin fruit can you tell. If you took a tender root of a mandarin tree and tasted it, you would not taste any flavour of mandarin. Even if you took that root and crushed it in a blender, you still would not get a drop of mandarin juice or any mandarin flavour from that root.

It is the fruit that reveals the hidden nature of the root. The fruit is the exact manifestation of the unknown roots.

We encounter a similar but even far greater problem when we try to know God. For God is unknown. No one has ever seen God the Father (John 6:46). A tree root can be seen, but not God. When can you identify a tree with certainty? Only on seeing the fruit. (It is true that an expert dendrologist might be able to identify the tree because of his previous experience with roots, but with God no one has ever seen Him.)

Jesus is like the fruit of the tree. By him the hidden nature of God is revealed, just as the fruit of a tree reveals the hidden nature of the roots. Jesus is from God just as the fruit is from the roots. Jesus and the Father are one just as the fruit and the roots are one in nature. Jesus never claimed that he was the Father. Instead, He said, 'I and the Father are one.' The fruit is not the roots, but it is true to say the fruit and the roots are one. Jesus is the visible expression of the invisible God, just as the fruit is the visible expression of the hidden nature of the roots. And that is what is meant by Jesus being the 'Son of God.'

The disciple John reported the following conversation:

    Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?' Jesus said to him 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.' Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.' Jesus said to him,''Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.' (John 14:5-11 NAS)

Jesus made it clear that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. Elsewhere we read:

    No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him. (John 1:18 NAB)

The Bible also states,

    The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) And that 'He is the image of the invisible God.' (Colossians 1:15 NIV)

It is true that, in the above analogy of the tree and its fruit, the roots precede the fruit. That is, at one point in time there were the roots without the fruit, because the illustration of the tree belongs to time. But when we speak of God, we speak of the eternal, where time is not a factor at all. The above analogy tries to make one point which is, just as the fruit is the visible expression of the hidden nature of the roots, so the Son of God is the visible expression of the invisible God. Ghazali, a Muslim scholar has said, 'The analogy does not have to agree in every way with that which it resembles.'[6] Otherwise it is not an analogy, but an exact copy of that which it resembles.

The title 'Son of God' does not apply only to Jesus in His human form. The 'Son of God' existed with the Father from eternity. This is why the Bible describes not only the Father as 'the First and the Last', but the 'Son of God' also. (Revelation 1:17) The 'Son of God' who is the 'Word of God' existed with the Father from eternity. He is the knowable God. He is called the 'Word of God' because the word reveals the hidden thoughts of a person. The word written or uttered is the visible expression of the invisible thoughts.

The title 'Son of God' is the same as the title 'Word of God'. Both refer to the One who is the visible expression of the invisible God, not only when He became incarnate and was given the name Jesus, but in His essential being throughout eternity.


The Bible teaches that God the Father created the heavens and the earth; that He is the creator of everything. The Bible also teaches that Jesus, the 'Word of God', created everything.

    Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3 NIV) He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible ... all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:15,16 NIV)

After reading these verses the question that arises is: How many creators are there? Is there one creator or two? Surely no one disputes that there is one creator.

Christians believe that there is one creator. God the Father created everything but He did so through the 'Son', his Word. The above two verses clearly state that everything was created by God through the 'Son' or by the 'Son'. That is, God the Father created everything by the 'Son'.

The following analogy about the atomic bomb might help to explain what is meant. Consider the atomic bomb that destroyed the Japanese city Hiroshima. Had that bomb fallen on a building, the actual physical structure of the bomb probably would have only destroyed that building and its inhabitants. But the bomb did more than that. It destroyed a whole city. How did it do that? Did the bomb fall on every individual building one after the other in that city in order to kill its inhabitants? No. The bomb did all that damage by its rays. The atomic radiation that proceeded from the bomb was the cause of the death of the large number of people in that city.

No one disputes that it is the bomb which caused that destruction. But it did so by its rays. Similarly, (but unlike the destructive powers of the atomic bomb), during creation, God the Father created everything by the Son, His Word, just as the bomb destroyed that city by its rays. Had someone shielded himself from the atomic rays by wearing special protective clothing in that city, he would have survived. The bomb does not 'work' apart from its rays. In a sense the bomb and its rays are distinct, but in another sense they are one. In a similar way it can be said that God and his Son are distinct, yet at the same time, ONE. The Bible states:

    The Son is the radiance of God's glory. (Hebrews 1:3 NIV)

So just as the rays were the destructive agents of the atomic bomb, the 'Son of God' who is also called the 'Word of God' is the creating agent of God.

The Son is God's creating agent. God always creates by His Word. Although God is capable of doing anything, we are not told that God created by merely wishing or imagining. He always creates by His Word. Even the Qur'an states that God creates by his word. For example:

    God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing He does but say to it "Be," and it is.[7]

If one prevented the rays of the bomb from reaching certain individuals in Hiroshima, the bomb would not have been able to kill those individuals. Just as the bomb always kills by its rays, God always creates by his 'Son'. The Bible states:

    Through Him [that is the Son of God] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3 NIV)

He is the creator of everything. The 'Son of God', who is also called the 'Word of God', is the creating agent of God.


It is important to note that God not only created everything by His 'Son', His 'Word', but He will also judge everyone by His 'Son', His 'Word'. The Bible states,

    He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42 NIV)

    For He (God) has set a day when he will judge the world ... by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:31 NIV)

    This will take place when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ. (Romans 2:16 NIV)

    Moreover the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son. (John 5:22 NIV)

Just as 'Through him [that is the 'Son of God'] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.' (John 1:3) so also every one will be judged by the 'Son of God'. He is the judge of all. The 'Son of God' is God's judging agent.


The Father not only created by his 'Son', and will judge by his Son, but He also saves the world by his Son. The Bible states,

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

    To the only God our saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude:25 NIV)

Salvation is found in no one else [meaning the 'Son of God'], for 'there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' (Acts 4:12)

Just as "Through him [that is the 'Son of God'] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3) so also salvation is found in no one else.

The 'Son' is the saving agent of God.


The Father not only created by the 'Son', saves by the 'Son', and will judge by his 'Son', but He also loves the world through the 'Son'. The Bible states,

    For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

    But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

These verses state that it is Christ who died for us. It seems that what the latter verse should say is: "But Christ demonstrated his own love for us ..." However the verse says that God demonstrated his own love for us in the death of Christ, because God loves through the 'Son'.

The point can be made more clearly through the following illustrations. If I claim that I demonstrated my love for my neighbour by asking my son to give fifty thousand dollars from his account to that neighbour to pay his debts, who would be loving the neighbour, my son who gave money from his account or me? Obviously, my son, who gave the large sum of money - unless the money came from a joint account in my name and his. Then it would be true to say that I demonstrated my love to my neighbour when my son gave him the fifty thousand dollars.

Again, if I sent my son to help in the relief work amongst the Bosnian Muslims, but during the operation he was shot in many places, was operated upon but finally died, it is indisputable that in the sending of my son and through his death there was a measure of my love, but not all my love. In this case, it would be more true to say that my son loved the Bosnian Muslims, than to say I demonstrated my love for them, because he is the one that suffered and died. But the Bible states that in the suffering and death of Christ, God demonstrated His own love. Although it is Jesus who suffered and died, the Father was very much involved in the sacrificial death of Christ. When Jesus died for us, God the father was the one who loved us through Jesus.

Just as in the analogy of the tree, the orange juice is supplied by the roots through the fruit, so also the Divine Love came from God through Jesus to us sinners. To use another human analogy, Jesus is the 'heart of God' by whom He loved the world.

So the 'Son of God' means the one through whom God reveals himself, the one through whom God created everything, the one by whom God saves people from their sins, the one by whom God loves the world and the one by whom God will judge everyone.

The 'Son of God' is God's revealing, creating, saving, judging and loving agent.

In the above discussion we have seen that God creates, judges, saves, loves and reveals himself through the Son. The first three of the above activities (i.e. creating, judging and saving), although divine, are related to the created order. The other two activities (revealing and loving) are related to the essence and the heart of God. The above division is made because some argue that God can judge and save, and even create by a creature. But for God to truly reveal Himself, the revealing agent must also be Divine. Similarly, for God to truly love the world, the loving agent must also be Divine. Otherwise this revelation, and this love cannot be truly called a revelation of God or the love of God.

Therefore the 'Son of God' is not only related to the created order through creating, judging and saving, but is related to the very essence and nature of God through revealing and loving. He is from God. The main point in the title 'Son of God' is oneness of nature. The 'Son' is from God and of God's very nature.

The physical and sexual connotations then, that some suggest in the title 'Son of God', are completely without foundation, in the Bible, and in any commentary on it. Indeed such a thought is just as abhorrent to a Christian as it is to a Muslim.


The fundamental meaning of the word monogenes (which is translated 'begotten' by the King James Version), and the title 'Son of God' or the 'Word of God', is that the essence of the 'Son' proceeded from God. Similarly Muslims believe that the Qur'an is uncreated because it is from God as the following statements show:

    Ibn Hazm reports Ibn Hanbal as saying 'the Word of God is His eternal knowledge and hence it is uncreated.'[8]

And the Hadith that says

    The Hour of Doom will not come until the Qur'an returns to where it came from, its echo around the Throne will be like that of a bee hive, the Most High God will say : 'what is the matter?', the Qur'an will answer: 'from you I came and to you I return, I am being read but no one acts accordingly'.[9]

Traditional Muslim scholars believe that

    The Qur'an which is recited by tongues, written in Masahif [copies of the written Qur'an], remembered in hearts, yet is Eternal, existing in God Himself, cannot be separated or parted from God by transferring it to the hearts or by writing it on papers.[10]

Shahrstani quotes another statement which he ascribes to the same early Muslims. It reads as follows:

    One is not to suppose that we assert the eternity of the letters and sounds which subsists in our tongues.[11]

The Muslim theologians recognise that the Qur'an has two aspects, just like the Christians believe that Jesus the Christ has two natures also, a human nature and a divine nature. Note particularly the statements 'written in Masahif' [with human hands, that is, in time and space], 'YET it is eternal existing in God Himself', and the statement 'agreement has established that the Word of God is uncreated'; and 'One is not to suppose that we assert the eternity of the letters and sounds which subsists in our tongues'. So then the Muslims believe the Qur'an is not only a book, but God's eternal knowledge. They believe that the Qur'an is not created but eternal, and that it came from God, then clothed in Arabic language, appeared in human history and collected by the followers of Mohammad. The Qur'an then is believed to have a material nature and a divine nature. It has a material nature because it is written on paper, bound and stitched together, subject to factors of decay and even vulnerable to being destroyed by fire, mould or eaten by insects as one sees in older copies in some libraries. Yet it is believed to have a divine nature for it is the knowledge of God, hence eternal.

No wonder that one of the Muslim rulers, Caliph Ma'moun (786-833), during his campaign against the belief in the uncreatedness of the Qur'an, in his third letter to the governor of Baghdad, argues that those who believe in the uncreatedness of the Qur'an are 'like Christians when they claim that Jesus the son of Mary was not created because he was the Word of God.'[12]

So just as Muslims believe the Qur'an to be from God, Christians believe that the 'Son of God' or 'Word of God', Jesus, is from God.

Jesus repeatedly made the claim that He is from God.

    Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, You both know Me, and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him; because I am from Him, and He sent Me. They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. But many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He? The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. Jesus therefore said, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come. (John 7:28-34 NAS)

The Jews understood very well the claim of Jesus when He said 'I am from Him', to be a claim of Divinity, and so 'They were seeking therefore to seize Him' to kill Him. They considered the claim to be outright blasphemy.

Again John reports the following:

    Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to theend. ...Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God..."(John 13:1&3 NAS)

To His disciples Jesus once said:

    For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father. (John 16:27-28 NAS)

The 'Word of God' is not created, He is eternal. Jesus is not only man; Jesus is not only a prophet; He is both human and Divine.

The Bible teaches that the 'Son of God' who is the Word of God existed from eternity, 'And the Word [of God] became flesh, and dwelt among us.' (John 1:14, NAS)


In the previous discussion we showed that the 'Son' is the Father's agent in the acts of creation, judgment, salvation and love because He is from God.

The Bible also ascribes the above activities to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit Creates:

    The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4 NIV) (See also Gen 2:7)

    When You send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104:30 NIV)

The Spirit Judges:

    Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11 NIV)

The Spirit saves:

    ... because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2 NIV)

The Spirit Loves:

    I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV)

The Bible then teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are involved in the above Divine activities.

We have seen how the Father creates, judges, saves and loves through the Son. But how can the Holy Spirit be involved in all of these also? To illustrate the work of the Spirit of God in one of these acts, the act of creation, we cite the experience of a prophet by the name of Ezekiel, who was brought by God to a valley full of dry bones. Here is what he experienced:

    The hand of Jehovah was on me and brought me by the Spirit of Jehovah, and made me rest in the midst of a valley; and it was full of bones.
    Then He made me pass among them all around, and, behold, very many were on the face of valley; and, behold! they were very dry.
    And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" and I said, "O Lord Jehovah, You know."
    And He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Jehovah!
    ' So says the Lord Jehovah to these bones: "Behold I will make breath enter into you, and you shall live.
    "And I will put sinews on you and will bring flesh on you, spread skin over you, and put breath in you; and you shall live. And you shall know that I am Jehovah."
    So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking! and the bones drew near, a bone to its bone.
    And I watched. And, behold! The sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin spread over them from above; but there was no breath in them.
    Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the Spirit, Prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, 'So says the Lord Jehovah: "Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe on these slain ones, that they may live.'"
    So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit came into them, and they lived, and they stood on their feet, a very great army.
    Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. Behold they say, 'Our bones are dried, and our hope is perished; we are cut off to ourselves.'
    "So prophesy and say to them, 'So says the Lord Jehovah: "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people, and will bring you to the land of Israel.
    "And you shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have opened your graves, and have brought you up out of your graves, O My people.
    "And I shall put My Spirit in you, and you shall live. And I will put you on your own land. And you shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken and have done it," says Jehovah.'"[13]

The activity of the Spirit is illustrated in the above passage. Although the bodies were physically complete, they were without life. Although the design was complete the bodies were lifeless. The Spirit gave the dead corpses life as the above highlighted verses indicates.

Although the design is an act of creation, it is not the whole act of creation. It needs the work of the Spirit. The Spirit fires the design with life.

The 'Word of God', the 'Son' provides every created thing with its particular order, that specific design that makes it what it is. The Spirit gives it the life to live as that particular creation.

As some have put it:

    Although all three persons [the Father, the 'Son' and the Holy Spirit] are omnipresent and consciously interrelated in all their activities, each has some distinctive historical activities. In regard to creation, the Father calls forth energy-matter, the Logos [the Word of God] informs it and orders its law of change, and the Holy Spirit leads it to develop according to its nature and achieve its destiny.[14]


When we speak of God we use human language. But not only that, we comprehend what we hear with our human minds, which can relate only to human experiences. To fully understand God, we need divine language and the divine mind, both of which we lack. Thus, we have a problem.

The following incident will help explain the problem of expressing new realities to minds that are limited in comprehension.

While visiting my sister, who was living in a flat on the third floor, I saw her two year old son trying to climb up the balcony rail. After some attempts he managed to find a couple of footholds and he was about to straddle the rail. I dashed to the balcony and caught him. Very sternly I said, 'Had you fallen from this balcony you would have been killed.' He gave me a blank look and innocently nodded his head and said, 'I would have been killed'. I stood there frustrated because I had failed to communicate to the child the seriousness of his action. How many two year olds can understand the concept of 'death'? I should have said to him, 'Had you fallen from this balcony you would have been broken like an egg and no one would have been able to put you together again'. Put that way he would have probably understood not to climb on the rail again.

How do we comprehend new concepts? How do we express new or unknown realities? Unlike the previous incident where an adult was trying to communicate with a child in the next two incidents children are trying to communicate with an adult.

When my daughter was about two years old, she saw the moon one clear night. In a very serious tone of voice she shouted 'Daddy, Daddy, someone has been eating the moon!' this was the first time she had seen a crescent moon. Every time she had seen the moon before, it had been full. This time it was only a part of the moon. What reduces a whole moon to a crescent shaped moon? Out of her reservoir of experiences came the answer. The moon is usually the shape of a cookie. Cookies are reduced in size when someone eats them. What applies to cookies should logically apply to the moon. Someone has been eating the moon, and he must be stopped, she reasoned.

On another occasion, when my little boy had his first taste of fizzy drink, he brought a bottle to me and said : 'Daddy, open door!' He knew about doors, but he did not know the word 'lid'.

Not only children resort to their reservoir of experiences to express themselves, we adults do this also. Try explaining the taste of mango to someone who has never tasted a mango, or try describing an exotic fruit, such as a jack fruit, to some one who has never seen one.

In trying to understand the trinity, we use the same process, through the use of analogies. However analogies have limitations, for when we speak of the being of God we are dealing with the highest form of life. Hence His being cannot be adequately represented by lower forms of life, even if they were all put together. Yet analogies can help us have a measure of understanding.

If we go back to the illustration of the tree, where the tree root represents the invisible Father, the fruit represents the 'Word of God' and the 'Son of God', the juice of the fruit can be seen to represent the Holy Spirit. The juice is from the tree and from the fruit, and the Holy Spirit is rightly called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.

For just as the juice takes the goodness, vitamins, minerals, and the energy of the fruit to the human being, the Spirit takes the love, the life and the righteousness of Christ to the heart and the life of the believer.

The fruit on the tree is of no real use to people until the goodness of the fruit is taken inside of them by means of the juice.

Notice the fruit is not the juice. But the juice carries all the goodness of the fruit. If the tree is orange, then the fruit is essentially an orange and the juice is also essentially orange. The juice has the same nature as the fruit, and the fruit has the same nature as the roots, eg. orange.

Or if we consider a Jasmine plant. The invisible roots represent the Father. The visible flower represents the 'Son'. The fragrance of the Jasmine represents the Holy Spirit. The flower is from the roots. The fragrance is from the roots and is also from the flower. That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ and also the Spirit of God. The flower has the same nature as the root, that is Jasmine, and the fragrance also is Jasmine. The three are one Jasmine plant.

An analogy for the Father, Son and Spirit can also be drawn from the nature and workings of the sun. We are told that in the sun there is thermonuclear fusion. When we look at the sun, we do not see this process. This process is invisible. What we see is the visible expression of this invisible process, that is, the bright sun in the sky. The invisible part resembles the Father, the visible bright disk of the sun represents the Son. The rays of the sun (which are invisible) that take the enormous energy from the sun to where we are on this planet represent the Holy Spirit.

In trying to explain the essence of God we are trying to express the inexpressible. Let us simulate or try to appreciate the difficulty by moving down instead of moving up.

Imagine a tree trying to comprehend the nature of man, and you will begin to realise the problems human beings have in trying to understand the nature of God.

To begin with a tree cannot see humans. To a tree man is completely unknown. He can move around the tree without the tree being aware of his existence. He can cut it down, without the tree taking any evasive action. A tree does not distinguish between an old man or a young man. Man can destroy a tree by many different means. He can poison it or he can cut it down. The tree has no ability to defend itself against man. Man is in total control over the tree. The tree cannot make any prediction about, avoid, or defend itself against man, because a tree cannot see man. In the world of trees it could be said that man does not exist because he cannot be seen by the tree. All that can be known about man is what can be experienced by his influence. This in a way is as much as men naturally perceive of God. We have not seen God but we can feel his acts and his influence on our world. He can be as close to us as we to a tree yet we do not perceive Him, as we do each other.

So instead of moving up we moved down. But let us develop the thinking stimulated by this movement a little bit more.


How would a plant describe the nature of man to the rest of the plant kingdom? How would a tree, that cannot see man, yet convinced of his existence, describe man to the rest of the trees? Remember the crescent moon and the cookie? A tree would describe man as a tree. It might be a super tree, but it is still a tree. All the tree can say of man, is that man is but a kind of a tree; with roots but unlike it's roots, with branches but unlike it's branches, with leaves but unlike it's leaves, with fruit but unlike it's fruit. Similarly man, being of a lower order and nature than God, can only comprehend God in human terms.

To speak of God in human terms is not foreign to the Muslim. According to the Qur'an and the Hadith, Allah has a face, hands, fingers, feet and eyes:

    All that dwells upon the earth is perishing, yet still abides the Face of thy Lord, majestic, splendid.[15]

    Said He, 'Iblis, what prevented thee to bow thyself before that I created with my own hands?[16]

    A (Jewish) Rabbi came to Allah's Apostle and said, 'O Mohammad! We learn that Allah will put all the heavens on one finger, and the earths on one finger, and the trees on one finger, and the water and the dust on one finger, and all the other created beings on one finger. Then He will say, 'I am the king.' Thereupon the Prophet smiled so that his pre-molar teeth became visible, and that was the confirmation of the Rabbi.[17]

    ...God will put His foot in Hell....and it will shrink ....[18] 'Surely thou art before Our eyes.[19]

The orthodox scholars, however, stress that Allah's face is unlike our face, his hands are unlike our hands, his feet are not like our feet and his eyes are unlike our eyes.

    Allah's essence is unlike any other essence. His hand is unlike other hands ... his word is unlike other words ... His hand is not flesh, bone and blood like other hands ... and his word is not voice and letters.[20]

Not only does Allah, in Islam, have a face, eyes, hands, and feet, but He sits, comes, and runs. The Qur'an speaks of Allah, after finishing the creation in the following words: '...then Allah sat Himself upon the Throne.'[21]

Of his coming it says:

    When the earth is ground to powder, and thy Lord comes, and the angels rank on rank ...[22]

Another Hadith says:

    God descend to the Physical heaven ....[23]

Of Allah's running, a Hadith says:

    God said : ' O son of Adam, if you rise to Me, I will walk to you and if you walk to Me, I will run to you.'[24]

Some commentators such as Imam Razi spiritualise everything regarding Allah. So when Allah is said to have eyes, that only means that Allah can see.

On the other hand, others like Dr. Qaradawi when commenting on the verse 'Said He [Allah], 'Iblis [the devil], what prevented thee to bow thyself before that which I created with My own hands?' (Q. 38:75) insist that Allah has hands:

    Since the hands in the above verse can not be interpreted as Allah's power, because all things were created by Allah's power, even Iblis himself being created by Allah's power, then nothing remains to distinguish the creation of Adam from the rest of Allah's creation. And in the Hadith 'Allah created three things by His hand; He created Adam by his hand; He wrote the Torah by His hand; and He planted Paradise by His hand.' The distinguishing of those three by mentioning that they were created by Allah's hand, (although they share with the rest of creation that they all exist by the power of Allah), proves that there is something extra that distinguishes them (Adam, the Torah, and Paradise). Besides, the expression, 'pair of hands' is not known except when the hands are real, and was never used to indicate power or grace ... and how can the hand be interpreted as power when the palm of Allah, and the fingers of Allah, and Allah's left and right, the folding and the unfolding of Allah's hand [Q. 5:64], has been established. All of which can only be ascribed to a real hand.[25]

    The belief that Allah has hands, fingers, face, feet, and eyes, etc. is not held by fringe Muslim sects but by the most fundamental scholars. It is held so strongly that any one who denies this belief is considered an infidel in the eyes of some of those scholars. For example, Ahmad Ibn Taymiya, the famous exponent of the school of Ibn Hanbal, considered the Mo'tazelites as infidels and the famous scholar Ghazali as a heretic. He was once preaching and as he stepped down from the pulpit of the great mosque in Damascus, he said, 'God will step down from His throne in the same manner as I am stepping down from this pulpit.'[26]

So Allah not only has a face, eyes, hands, fingers, and feet but also can sit on the throne, come, and run. It is only logical to conclude that Allah has a body, but unlike our bodies. For the eyes, the face, the hands, the fingers, and the feet do not exist apart from the rest of the body. Not only has Allah in Islam a body, but also Allah has a soul. Imam Abu Hanifah who has the largest following of Muslims said:

    The most high has a hand and face and soul (Q. 5:116) without asking how (bela kayf) [27]

This is the belief of orthodox Muslims, as long as the Muslim believer does not ask how.

According to the Qur'an, Allah also has a spirit. (Q. 15:29 & 38:27) a subject to which we shall now turn.


Very little is known about the Spirit in the Qur'an, as the following verse indicates:

    They will question thee concerning the Spirit. Say: 'The Spirit is of the bidding of my Lord. You have been given of knowledge nothing except a little.'[28]

Not only is knowledge about the Spirit meagre, even the desire to acquire more knowledge is forbidden. Ghazali stated:

    Too close inquiry, however, into the essence of the Spirit is forbidden by Law.[29]

However, man being naturally inquisitive, has continued to probe into the nature of the Spirit in spite of such prohibitions. While Allah's face, eyes etc. are believed to be uncreated, Allah's Spirit is believed by the majority of Muslim scholars, to be created. But a study of the word, 'Spirit' in the Qur'an proves the opposite.

The word, 'Spirit' or its derivatives are mentioned twenty-four times in the Qur'an and not once in relation to man. The word that describes the inner being of a man is 'soul', not 'Spirit'. Dr Mustafa Mahmoud draws a distinction between the spirit and the soul in the Qur'an:

    According to the common language, we mix between the soul and the Spirit. And so we say, 'his spirit departed', or 'his spirit longs for such and such', or 'his spirit is in torment' ... All these are incorrect expressions and belong only to the soul, not the Spirit. For what departs from the body is the soul (Q 6:93), and what tastes death is the soul and not the spirit (Q 3:185) ... The soul exists before birth, and during the lifetime of a person, and remains after death. The Spirit cannot be tempted (Q. 5:30, Q. 50:16), does not covet or lust (Q. 91:7&8), does not get bored (Q 9:118) and does not get tormented (Q. 9:55) ... all these belong to the soul and not the Spirit.[30]

While common language 'mixes between' soul and Spirit, using them interchangeably, the Qur'an does not treat the two words in this way, but instead uses the word 'Spirit' exclusively in relation to God. Dr Mahmoud continues:

    The Spirit, however, is always mentioned in the Qur'an with a high degree of holiness, honour and Divine Transcendence. It is never described as suffering pain or coveting, or lusting or longing or desiring, or being purified or defiled, or ascending or descending or being bored. There is no mention that it leaves the body or suffers death ... it is not associated with man, but is mentioned always in association with God (Q. 19:17). Of the creation of Adam God says, 'When I have shaped him, and breathed My Spirit in him ...' (Q. 15:29). God says 'My Spirit', not 'the spirit of Adam' - that is, this Spirit is from God. So our Lord related the Spirit always to Himself. And again: 'Even so We have revealed to thee a Spirit of Our bidding.' The Spirit here is the Divine Word and the Divine command. Thus the Spirit is always related to God, and is in constant movement from God and to God ... for this reason the Spirit is described in such high and lofty terms. For the Qur'an calls Gabriel 'Spirit of Holiness' ... and 'the faithful Spirit'. But the soul is related always to one's self, its owner. 'Whatever befell you from evil is from yourself [soul]' (Q. 4:79).[31]

In contrast to the soul,

    The Spirit has no place in Paradise or Hell, but it is light from God's light, related to God. It is from Him. It cannot be subjected to trial or judgment, or punishment or reward, but it is the highest example in the following Qur'anic verses, 'God's is the loftiest likeness; He is the All-mighty, the All-wise' (Q. 16:60) and 'His is the loftiest likeness in the Heaven and the earth' (Q. 30:27). This is the world of the radiant likeness that derives its holiness and radiance from being 'from' God and 'from' His bidding.[32]

The Spirit then is always related to God, and belongs to the Divine level.


The traditional understanding of the nature of the Spirit is represented by the scholar Al-Baihaqi, who said:

    God created Adam a human being, so he was a body from clay for forty years ... then when the time came in which God wanted the spirit to breathe into him, God said to the angels ... 'when I breath into him from My Spirit, worship him'.[33]

    The spirit from which it was breathed in Adam (peace be upon him) was a creature from God's creation. God caused the life of bodies by that spirit. He was added to God by way of creation and possession; it is not that he is part of God.[34]

According to Baihaqi, then, the Spirit takes part in the creation of Adam even though the Spirit is a creature himself. Further, God's part of the creation of Adam is limited to the forming of the lifeless body. The life of that body comes from the created Spirit.

There are serious problems with this view. Firstly, no creature can partake in the act of creation; that act is all Divine. Secondly, (even if this were not so), to say that the body was formed by God while the gift of life came from the created Spirit turns the distribution of the creative act 'upside down', for the forming of Adam as a 'body of clay' is a much inferior achievement to the giving of life. Scientists claim they can form a cell, but that cell is lifeless. People can terminate life by murder or suicide, and they can transfer life by having offspring, but neither we nor any created being originate it. The giving of life is a Divine property and a Divine secret, not a capability of created beings.

For these reasons, the view that the Spirit which gave Adam the gift of life is a creature must be rejected. The Spirit is either Divine or has no part in the act of creation at all. However, the Qur'an speaks of the Spirit as taking part in the creation of Adam. The Spirit then is Divine.

This Spirit in traditional Islam has also been identified with Gabriel, the angel of Inspiration. Such an identification, if true, would make the Spirit a creature of God's creation, although he would be the highest of all.[35] Further understanding of the Spirit is found in the writings of Ibn 'Arabi, the Sufi mystic who believed that:

    Gabriel is not to be identified with the angel associated with the Inspiration ... But Gabriel is the Principle of Life in all that exists: he is the total Spirit - all that exists is permeated by It, irrespective of the levels of life they possess ... Gabriel is the Truth Himself, manifested in this Total Spirit.[36]

So according to Ibn 'Arabi, Gabriel is not an angel but what Gilani, (another Sufi), calls the 'Holy Spirit'. Gilani wrote:

    Know that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of spirits. He is beyond and above the scope and range of the Divine creative command 'be' (kon). It cannot be said of Him that He is a creature, because He is a special aspect [literally, face] of the Truth [that is, of God]. By that aspect, existence came to be. He is a Spirit unlike other spirits, because He is the Spirit of God of which it was breathed into Adam, as is referred to by God's word 'and breathed My Spirit in him'. So the spirit of Adam is created and the Spirit of God is not created. He is the Holy Spirit; that is, the Spirit of Holiness, which is different from the defects and shortcomings of physical existence.[37]

Gilani believed that the Holy Spirit is not a creature, as did Ibn Hanbal, one of the four leaders of the Islamic schools of thought, who said, 'The claim that the Holy Spirit is a creature is a heresy.'[38] In his view, it is a heresy to say that the Holy Spirit is a creature, just as he believed it is a blasphemy to say that the Word of God is created.

Imam Abu al-'Azayem, another Sufi scholar, said:

    The Spirit [whom God breathed from in Adam] is the summation of all truths and is perfect in description. For this reason God made man His vice-regent and made the angels to worship him.[39]

This is a clear acknowledgment that the Spirit is not a creature, but Divine. Only if the Spirit breathed into Adam is divine is the worship by the angels of Adam permissible, for then it is not classed as the worship by one creature of another, but the worship by a creature of the Divine in Adam.

As stated earlier traditional Muslim scholars believe that the Qur'an portrays God as having a body, and soul. Even if the components of the body and the soul of Allah could be allegorised, the Qur'an definitely portrays Allah as having a spirit. We have also shown that the spirit is not a creature, but is capable of imparting life, and that which can impart life to man can't possess less life than that of man. The life that the Spirit of God possesses implies that the Spirit can think, see, hear etc. Otherwise man the creature possesses more life than the Spirit of God who gave man life. Therefore according to the Qur'an, God is at least a dual being. Muslims then have the same difficulty in comprehending the nature of Allah as the Christians have in understanding the nature of God.


This difficulty for both Muslims and Christians is to be expected because we are trying to understand not just a higher form of life but the highest form of life. The following might make this difficulty easier to accept.

Following on from the analogy of the tree which tries to comprehend the nature of man, let us give a tree, not just the conviction of the existence of man, but special revelation about the nature of man. Let us give a tree special eyes to see man. The tree will still not be able to describe what man is really like. Some physical things such as eyes and ears will be completely incomprehensible, while abilities such as thinking and willing, and emotions will be beyond all comprehension or description. To a tree, the ability of man to be self-moving is as incomprehensible as that of God being self existent is to man. Whatever the difficulties may be, a tree can not comprehend some aspects of the nature of man except in 'tree concepts.'

For example, man's body might be perceived as two trunks, instead of legs, joining together to make the main trunk. Man's toes might be perceived as ten roots, and his arms as two branches, ending with ten leaves.

Furthermore if a tree was enabled to see the circulatory system of man, it might see the blood vessels as another tree inside of man. If it was able to see the nervous system of man, it might see that as a second tree inside the external tree, and man will be three trees, yet one tree.

If a tree was to try to convey all the above attributes or properties of man to the rest of the trees, the task would not be easy, to say the least, and we have not yet even mentioned the soul or the spirit of man!

When the tree was simply under the conviction of the existence of man, its comprehension of man was singular and simple. But when the tree was given special revelation, the nature of man was not so simple but sophisticated and complex. That is the difference between the teachings of the Qur'an and the teaching of the Bible about the nature of God.

We, being limited in comprehending the divine, must accept by faith (bela kayf i.e. without asking how) what God has revealed about His nature. Analogies might help us understand better, but they do have limitations. An analogy makes one point, as Ghazali, a Muslim scholar has said. 'The analogy does not have to agree in every way with that which it resembles.'[40] As long as we are in this earthly form of existence we know by faith. Indeed that is the way orthodox Muslims accept the Qur'anic verses that speak of God sitting and coming, and God's hands, face and eyes. They accept all that "without asking 'how'" (bela kayf) as expressed in the words of the Muslim scholar al-Ash'ari when he summed up his 'picture' of God:

    We confess that Allah is firmly seated on His throne ... We confess that Allah has two hands, without asking how ... We confess that Allah has two eyes without asking how ... We confess that Allah has a face ... We confirm that Allah has a knowledge ... hearing and sight ... and power.[41]

Christians too believe that God is one. He has a living 'Word' (uncreated 'Son'), by whom God created everything. God also has a Spirit.

If someone still insists and says, 'How can the three be one?', Ghazali answered a similar question when he said:

    How can the many be one? Know that this is the goal of all revelations. And the secrets of this science should not be penned down in a book, for the people of knowledge said: 'The unveiling of the secret of Lordship is blasphemy ... The thing can be many in one sense, but also can be one in another sense. And so, as man is many in one sense if you look at his spirit and body and limbs and blood vessels and bones and members, but in another sense he is one man.[42]

The philosopher Ghazali said that 'the greatest and highest of all pleasures is knowing God.'[43]

Since no one has ever seen God, knowing Him must come through a revelation of Himself.

Traditional Muslims are forbidden by the Hadith to investigate the nature of God. The Hadith states 'Reflect on the creation of God and do not reflect on the essence of God.'[44] However human minds (such as Ghazali's and other Muslim Sufis) being investigative, and hungering for more about the nature of God, have reflected.

When traditional Muslims reflected on the medium that reveals God, that is the Qur'an, they concluded that the Qur'an is divine. 'God is revealed to his creatures through His words [the Qur'an]'[45], which is believed to be the word of God. This 'Word of God' is believed to be eternal, from God, yet it is always with God.

According to orthodox Muslim scholars, the Qur'an 'Which is recited by tongues, written in Masahif, remembered in hearts, YET is Eternal, existing in God Himself, cannot be separated or parted from God by transferring it to the hearts or by writing it on papers.'[46]

In traditional Islam the Qur'an is believed to be divine. In Christianity Jesus the Christ the 'Word of God' is believed to be divine. However, in fundamental Islam God is revealed through two mediums. The Qur'an and creation.

When Muslim Sufis reflected on the other medium that reveals God, that is creation, they concluded that creation is divine. The philosopher Ghazali had this to say in explaining the Muslim testimony 'God is Great' (Allahu Akbar):

    That does not mean that God is greater than the creation, for creation is His manifestation as light manifests the sun, and it would not be correct to say that the sun is greater than its own light.[47]

Ghazali believes that the creation is divine, for God is not greater than the creation. In other words the creation is equal to God, or part of God. Here we have two who are equally divine. But there is one who is divine. And hence comes Ghazali's question: How can the many be one?

Ibn Arabi the famous Sufi said:

    God (al-haqq) wanted to see the essences (al-a'yan) of His most perfect Names (al-asma al-husna) whose number is infinite - and if you like you can equally well say: God wanted to see His own Essence ('eyn) in one global object (kawn) which having been blessed with existence (al-wujud) summarised the Divine Order (al-amr) so that there He could manifest His mystery to Himself.[48]

According to Ibn Arabi God needs the global object, that is, creation so that He might see His own essence. This logic raises a problem. How did God see His own essence before creation? This implies that God's knowledge of Himself was incomplete before creation.

That is what made other Sufis introduce the following reasoning:

    There is no lover and beloved except God. For whatever is in existence is but the Divine Presence, which is His Essence, His Attributes, His Actions. As you say the Word of God is His Knowledge, and His Knowledge is His Essence. For it is impossible that there exists in His Essence that which is extra or another essence ('eyn) which is not His Essence ... It is impossible for His Essence to be perfected by that which is not His Essence, so that the Essence gains the honour by other than the Essence.[49]

Like Ghazali, they faced the same problem: Can the Essence of God gain honour by that which is inferior to the essence? Can the creation that manifests God be inferior to the God it reveals? Their answer was no. And the result was that creation was considered to be divine, an obvious contradiction. For it is absurd that the creature (creation) should perfect the creator (God).

However, it is the logic of the last sentence that concerns us. 'It is impossible for God's Essence to be perfected by that which is not His Essence, so that the Essence gains the honour by other than the Essence.' The logic of the above statement is true. It is the Sufis' conclusion that is wrong. Creation is not divine.

When orthodox Muslims reflected on the medium that reveals God they concluded that the Qur'an was divine and when the Sufi Muslims reflected on creation as the medium to reveal God they concluded that creation was divine. Christians on the other hand believe that the revealer of God, Jesus the Christ, the 'Word of God', is divine. The logic is the same: the revealer of God must be divine. It is the conclusions that are different. Furthermore, when the Sufis reflected on the nature of 'God' they accepted that He could be a trinity. Here is a statement that sums up the Sufis belief:

    If you say that it (the Essence of God) is one, you are right; or if you say that it is Two, it is in fact Two. Or if you say, 'no it is Three,' you are right, for that is the real nature of Man.[50]

Orthodox Muslims have avoided the issues, with the bela kayf formula, and by making the Spirit of God a creature. However, we have seen that the Spirit of God is divine. The orthodox Muslim who faces the issue has to at least explain how can God have a Spirit, yet He is one.

The Sufis saw creation as the revealer of God, thus rejecting the Son of God and His Word who became man and was called the Christ. When people reject the truth, thinking it to be impossible, they end up believing that which is clearly absurd. For in rejecting the perfect revealer of God, His 'Word', Jesus, as divine, they accepted creation as divine. The handiwork of an artist cannot reveal the inner being of the artist. The creation of an artist might be breathtaking, but the artist himself can be an immoral or mentally disturbed person. Creative works are an indication about the talents and the abilities of the creator but not his essence. The god of the Sufis becomes perfect by the creature. The God of the Bible is eternally glorious, eternally perfect because His revealer, His Word and Son is also eternal.

We can see that orthodox Muslims, Sufi Muslims, and the Christians have to face the same issues. The orthodox Muslim on one hand avoided them. The Sufi Muslim on the other hand accepted a trinity of their own.


Someone might say I believe in the 'Word of God' Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but still cannot comprehend the trinity? To answer such a person we ask: Do you comprehend everything you see? Take for example man's ability to feel pain. Man is made of dust, that is calcium, iron, nitrogen, oxygen etc.. How can the dust feel pain? His nervous system by which he feels the pain is also made of dust. How can calcium, and iron etc, feel the pain? This is a mystery. It is not because one cannot comprehend this marvel that we reject this fact of life. Reflecting on time and space, one can find the same difficulty. Was there a point in time when there was no time? Or what was before time? Again is there a place where there is no space? We don't reject time and space because we cannot comprehend them.

After the above analogies and explanations someone might still say: But I still do not understand. We remind him of the words of Augustine who said: 'If you understand it, it's not God.'[51]


Some Objections Concerning the deity of Christ

1. Some may object by saying that if Jesus is divine, and hence all-knowing, why did He say that He did not know the time of his return?

Since sin and death entered the world through a man, both had to be removed by a man. When the divine Word of God became man, He came to please and to obey God as a man. Thus He was both human (because He was born of a woman) and divine (because He is the Word of God.)

Jesus had two natures: One divine and one human. The two natures can be seen in the incident of calming the sea in Luke 8:22-25. The human characteristics can be seen in Him being asleep in the ship. The divine characteristics can be seen in His rebuking of the wind and the waves. The two natures can also be seen in Luke 8:43-48. The human characteristics can be seen in him asking who touched him. The divine characteristics can be seen in the power that came from Him.

The question then becomes: if He was both divine and human, why didn't the divine communicate the information concerning the time of His second coming to the human? Or in a broader sense: Why didn't the divine communicate all the divine powers to the human? If all the divine powers were communicated to the human, then He would no longer have been truly human. When the divine was manifested through the human, it was done in order to promote the kingdom of God, and specifically according to the will of the Father. Indeed there were incidents when the human could have resorted to use the divine. For example, when Peter, in the Garden cut off the high Priest servant's ear, (Matt. 26:47-54, John 18:10-11), Jesus said to him:

    Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?

Jesus could have made use of the divine but rather He decided to live according to the will of the Father. That meant that Jesus did not use the divine to alleviate any of His human suffering; meet his human needs; cover his areas of vulnerability, or to gain any information that is not according to the will of the Father, such as the day of His second coming.

The question ('If Jesus was divine, He would have known the day of His second coming') is similar to the question the devil asked Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness: 'If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread' (Matt. 4:3). To this question, Jesus replied "It is written, 'man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" The devil knew that the Son of God could command the stones to become bread. Yet the Lord Jesus surrendered to the will of God, and chose to hunger like a man. Likewise the Lord Jesus did not seek to know the hour of His second coming.

This question is again similar to the one the Jews asked Jesus while He was on the cross saying: 'If you are the Son of God come down from the cross' (27:40). But that is precisely why the Word of God became man. He came to live under the same conditions and limitations of humanity and ultimately suffer and die according to the divine plan.

The Lord Jesus in contrast to not knowing the day of His second coming declared that 'No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son' (Matt. 11:27). This is the knowledge that counts. The Lord Jesus is declaring that there is only one who knows who the Son is - that one is the Father. On the other hand, there is only one who knows who the Father is - that one is the Son. To know something is to see the thing in its entirety. No one can claim knowledge with limited comprehension. Jesus' claim to know the infinite Father, is a claim that He himself is infinite. No lower form of life is capable of comprehending a higher form of life. It takes God to know God. Even the Muslim Sufis say that no one knows God except God.

The above objection could be reversed with equal force to suggest that Jesus was not human. Consider the reverse: Jesus could not have been human because He said: 'No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son' (Matt. 11:27). It could be argued that Jesus could not have been human since this knowledge belongs only to God. Indeed there is a mass of evidence that could be advanced to prove that Jesus was not human, but He was also human.

The apostle Paul wrote the following concerning the mystry of the incarnation:

    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation [literally emptied himself] taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The fact is that the Bible teaches that Christ was both divine and human. The difficulty then becomes one of how, not why, and when we can answer the 'hows' of the natural we can turn to the 'hows' of the supernatural. Consider for example the incident in Matthew 14:22-33 where the Lord Jesus walked on the water. His body was capable of sinking, but He was walking on the water. This is somewhat similar to an aeroplane. It is marvellous to see a large jet full of cargo and perhaps more than 500 passengers, with a weight comparable to that of a house, flying up in the air. It can be said that the aeroplane has two natures; one that can sink and one that can fly. The aeroplane can manifest all the characteristics of a dead weight, and yet all the characteristics of a flying machine as well. Even this phenomenon is too difficult for some people to comprehend.

2. Some have objected 'How can Jesus be divine if He acknowledges God to be His God, as in the words to Mary, 'Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God"" (John 20:17)

It is to be noted that when Jesus said 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father and to My God and to your God', He did not to say 'I am ascending to our Father and our God.' Jesus had to make the distinction between My Father and your Father and My God and your God.

It is also to be noted that in Jesus' statement we see the two natures of Christ. The statement, "My Father", points to the divine nature of Christ. When Jesus healed the man who was paralysed for 38 years the Jews objected to the healing because it took place on the Sabbath.

    For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.' Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)

The Jews understood the statement 'My Father' as a claim to divinity. Had the Lord Jesus said 'Our Father has been working' there would have been no problem. However, Jesus intentionally made the distinction as He did in John 20:17.

When Jesus said, 'My Father ', there was the reference to the divine nature in Him. When He said, 'your Father', it was because they were adopted as children due to His work of redemption. When Jesus said, 'My God', there was the reference to His human nature which He acquired through the incarnation. When He said, 'Your God', it was because they were His creatures. Thus the one who is a Son by nature becomes a slave by the incarnation, in order that those who are slaves by nature become sons by adoption.

3. Some object that when the Lord Jesus said the 'Father is greater than I' he was claiming that he was only a creature.

The statement 'the Father is greater than I' must be understood in the context of what the Lord Jesus said to his disciples on that occasion. He was soon going to depart from them to be with the Father. Here is what the Lord Jesus said:

    Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you.
    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
    By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
    Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."
    Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake."
    Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
    Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
    And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
    And where I go you know, and the way you know."
    Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"
    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
    If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
    Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
    Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
    Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
    And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
    If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
    If you love Me, keep My commandments.
    And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--
    the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
    I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
    A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
    At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
    Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?"
    Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
    He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.
    These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.
    But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
    Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
    You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I. (John 13:33-14:28)

In the above discourse the Lord Jesus had just declared to his disciples that;

1. He is one with the Father.
2. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.
3. Whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. (a statement he repeated twice.)
4. He is in the Father and the Father in Him, (a statement He repeated twice.)

If the Lord Jesus was a mere creature, yet a glorious one, as some claim, He would be in the same class as the archangel Michael. Let us put the claims the Lord Jesus made on the lips of the archangel Michael. Could the archangel Michael say 'I am one with the Father?'

Could the archangel Michael say 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?'
Could the archangel Michael say 'whoever has seen me has seen the Father', or 'I am in the Father and the Father in me?' The answer to all the above questions is no. Yet the Lord Jesus without hesitation made the above assertions to his disciples, and demanded their faith in Him as such.

If we just reflect on the statement, 'I am the Truth', we will soon realise that Jesus was making the highest claim that could ever be made, for there is nothing greater than the Truth. Yet a few minutes later we hear Him saying to the disciples 'If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, "I am going to the Father, 'for My Father is greater than I.'"' Was Jesus saying one thing and a few minutes later saying the opposite?

Throughout John 13:33-14:28 the Lord Jesus stressed his divinity many times, and he wanted the disciples to believe Him. The disciples however, represented by Thomas and Philip, expressed their unbelief by asking two questions. It is Phillip's question that interests us. The Lord Jesus told the disciples

    If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.'
    But Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.'
    To which the Lord Jesus replied:
    'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

The disciples did not fully understand the divinity of Jesus at this point in time. To Phillip, who represented the disciples, the claims of Jesus were too fantastic to believe, and the revelation of the Father in Jesus was not sufficient. He still wanted to see the Father. The Lord Jesus, in effect, said to Phillip 'you have already seen the Father.' In other words, if the Father Himself is the one who came in the flesh, the person Philip would see would be no other than Jesus. The Lord Jesus' claim that He is the perfect revelation of the Father is expressed in the following words of Jesus:

    Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

According to the above if the Father was the one to come in the flesh he would not be a 'greater Jesus'. In this hypothetical case the Father would still look like the man Jesus. But we all agree that the Father in His spiritual glorified form is greater than His appearance in the form of that man. So even if the Father became incarnate, Philip would still ask the same question. But the Father is greater than what Philip and the disciples saw, and so is the Lord Jesus. Had the father been incarnated He might even make a statement like 'the Holy Spirit is greater than I,' Because the Holy Spirit is not confined by the flesh. That is what the Lord Jesus meant when he said to His disciples 'the Father is greater than I.'

What did the disciples see in Jesus, the one who claimed divinity? They saw a poor man, who did not even have a place where he could lay his head.

Their faith in his divinity at this point was not established. It is to those men that Jesus said: 'If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I.'

In other words the Lord Jesus was saying 'If you loved me you would rejoice for me, because I am going to the Father who dwells in eternal glory who is in greater form than the humble man you see.'

If what is meant by that statement that the Father is greater than the Son in essence, then the going of Jesus to him will not add any thing to the relationship Christ had with God, because Christ stated that He is in the Father and the Father is in him. Jesus elsewhere stated that the Father is with him all the time. But the statement makes sense if it means that the disciples ought to rejoice because Christ, who is now in a humble state of humanity, when He departs will be with the Father of glory. Indeed that is what Christ stated to his disciples a few minutes earlier when He said concerning the glory brought about by His death: 'If God is glorified in Him [Jesus] God will glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately' (John 13:32).

Later on when The Lord Jesus prayed He repeated the same thought:

    Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
    And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
    I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
    And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." (John 17:1-5)

It is this going to be with the Father, who is greater than Jesus in his human form, to be glorified together with God, that ought to have caused the disciples to rejoice.

4. Others have objected that the claim of the deity of Christ is a later addition to the Gospels by the church, and was not taught by Christ himself.

It must be pointed out that Jesus Himself said that He is the Son of God (John 5:18,24-26). Further more it was His claims that He is the Son of God that caused the Jews to crucify Him (see, Mattthew 26:63-65, Mark 14:61-63, Luke 22:70, John 19:7).

However, let us assume that the Gospel writers and Paul were not telling the truth. Evidence for the deity of Christ is furnished by the Holy Book of the Jews. Muslims accept that Christ was miraculously born of a virgin. This took place according to a prophecy in the book of Isaiah 7:14:

    Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Since God interrupted the natural process of bringing people into the world when Jesus came through a virgin, we must pay more attention to His foretold name. The word 'Immanuel' means 'God with us'. This name was not given by men but by God, and because God means what He says this proves that the true nature of this Son is divine.

We also read in Micah 5:2:

    But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

We know that this one born of a virgin was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. However, before that His 'going forth' is described as from 'everlasting', that is, He is eternal.

Furthermore we read in Isaiah 9:6-7:

    For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.

It is very clear from the above verses that this 'Son' was not only a human being, because He was given divine titles such as Mighty God and everlasting Father. Even if we disregard the testimony of Paul and the writers, the prophecy of Isaiah is sufficient. It should be noted that this was the testimony of someone who did not see Christ, had no interest in making such a claim and it was given some seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. These prophecies were not the opinion of men, but the revelation of God concerning who the Word of God is. It is more remarkable that these prophecies are from the Holy Book of the Jews who reject the deity of Christ.

1. Al-Qartaby, commenting on the Qur'an 4:171.
2. Al-Qartaby, commenting on the Qur'an 4:171. See also al-Galalan.
3. Mohammad al-Ghazzali, 'Aqidat al-Muslim, Dar al-Bayan, Kuwait, 1970, p. 49.
4. EXEGETICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Vol 2, Edited by Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1991, p. 439& 440.
5. The Qur'an, 7: 54.
6. Ghazali, Ihya' 'Ulumed-Din, vol. 5, p. 26.
7. The Qur'an 3:47 & 59, 16:40, 19:35, 36:82, 40:68.
8. Harry Austryn Walfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam, Harvard University press, 1976, p. 251 from Fisal III. p. 5, II. 5-6.
9. Al Hendy, Kanz al 'Ommal, vol 17 Hadith No. 704.
10. Sabbaki, Al tabaqat al shafe'eiah al Kubra, Vol. 6, p. 235.
11. Quoted by Harry Austryn Walfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam, Harvard University press, 1976, p. 251 from Nihayat, p. 314, II. 3-4.
12. Harry Austryn Walfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam, Harvard University press, 1976, p. 240-241 from Tabari, Annals, p. 118, II. 10-11. See also Sabbaki, Al tabaqat al shafe'eiah, vol. 2, p. 42.
13. The Bible, Ezekial 37: 1-14. (King James Version)
14. Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis, Integrative Theology, Acadaemie Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1987, vol.1, p. 279.
15. The Qur'an, 55:27.
16. The Qur'an, 38:74.
17. Sahih Bukhari, English Translation on computer, Hadith No. 6.335 & 9.510.
18. Al Hendy, Kanz al 'Ommal, vol 1, Hadith No. 1172 & 1173-7.
19. The Qur'an, 52:48.
20. Ghazzali, Ihya' 'Ulumed-Din, vol. 4, p. 267.
21. The Qur'an, 7:54.
22. The Qur'an, 89:22.
23. Sunan al Taramazi, vol. 2, p 307 Hadith no. 446.
24. Kanz al 'Ommal, vol. 1, Hadith no. 1177, 1178.
25. Yousef Al-Qaradawi, 'Elewah Mostafa and 'Ali Gammar, Al-Twahid, Qatar, 1968, p. 118, 119.
26. 23 Years, Ali Dashti, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1985, p. 157.
27. Imam Abi Hanifah, Al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Dar al-Kutub al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, 1979, p. 33.
28. The Qur'an, 17:85.
29. Ghazali, The Alchemy of Happiness, translated from Hindustani by Claud Field, London, John Murray, 1910, p. 21.
30. Ibrahim Al-Qatan, quoting Dr Mustafa Mahmoud, Taysir At-Tafsir, Vol. 3, p. 6.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. Al-Baihaqy, Aby Bakr Ahmad Ibn Al-hosain Ibn Ali, Kitabu Al-Asma'a Wa Ssefat, First edition, 1313H, India, p. 261.
34. id., p. 262.
35. Razi, Attafsir Al-Kabir, commenting on the Qur'an 2:30.
36. Dr Abu al-'Ala 'Afifi, commenting on Fusus al-Hikam, Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, Part 2, 1980, p. 180.
37. Abd Al-Karim Al-Gilani, The Perfect Man, Al-Matba'ah Al-Azhareiah, Cairo, 1328H, Vol. 2, p. 8 .
38. Al-'ustaz Mohammad Kamel So'aib, Megalat Al-massarah, 1966, p. 181. Quoted by Mr Hadad in Madkhal Ela Al-Hewar Al-Islami Al-masihi, Al-Maktabah Al-Boulesiah, Lebanon, 1969.
39. Dr Mustafa Mahmoud, A-Sser Al-A'zam, Dar Al-'Awdah, Beirut,1986, p. 47.
40. Ghazali, Ihya' 'Ulumed-Din, vol. 5, p. 26.
41. Arberry A.J., Revelation and Reason In Islam, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, p. 22.
42. Ghazali, Ihya' 'Ulumed-Din, vol. 4, p. 263.
43. Ibid, p. 325.
44. Isma'iel Ibn Mohammad al-'Aglooni, Kashf Al-Khafa' 'Amma 'Eshtahar Min Al-'Ahadith 'Ala 'Alsenat 'Annas, Maktabat A-turath Al-Islami, Part 2, Hadith No. 1005.
45. Ghazali, Ihya' 'Ulumed-Din, vol. 5 p. 64.
46. Sabbaki, Al tabaqat al shafe'eiah al Kubra, vol 6, p. 235.
47. Ghazali, the Alchemy of Happiness, London, John Murry, 1910, p. 38.
48. Angela Culme-Seymour, The Wisdom Of The Prophets (Fusus al-Hikam), Beshara Publications, Gloucestershire, 1975, p. 8.
49. Al-Tirmizi, Kitab Khatm Al-Awliya, Edited by Othman I. Yahya, Imperial Catholique, Beirut, p. 293.
50. Nicholson, R.A., Studies in Mysticism, Cambridge university press, cambridge, 1967, P86 Qouted from Al-insanu 'l-kamel part 110, 21fol.
51. Alister McGrath, Understanding The Trinity, Kingsway Publications, Eastbourne, 1987, p. 111.

Copyright © 1996 by M. N. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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