The Tricky Trinity

The lanterns cast a golden glow over the man, woman, and child, creating the effect of a renaissance painting. The living nativity at the First Central Church was the centerpiece of the town’s Christmas celebration each December. Visitors crowded around, bundled in warm coats and mittens to gaze quietly at the sacred reminder.

Fatima and her friend Ashley had just finished shopping and were strolling by.

As they neared the church, Fatima flinched and asked, “Do you Christians really believe that?”

“Believe what, exactly?” asked Ashley.

“I have read all about your Trinity, and I can’t believe you think God would do that,” she replied, pointing to the nativity scene.

“That God would do what?” asked Ashley.

Fatima looked embarrassed as she answered, “Well you know.

“I was taught that Christians worship three gods: God the father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son. Of that union.”.

Ashley made a sour face and exclaimed, “That’s shameful. I certainly have never believed that. A holy, honorable God would never do that!”

Fatima looked shocked. “So you don’t worship three gods? No one has ever explained this to me before.”

For a Muslim living in America, there is no avoiding the Nativity during the month of December. Humble, quiet figures made of plastic, porcelain, wood, even real people posing as Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus adorn churchyards, front lawns, and Christmas cards.

Though the image of baby Jesus and his parents is a warm reminder for Christians of God incarnate, it can be shameful and horrifying to many Muslims. It reminds them of perhaps the most disturbing and unholy belief they think Christians hold.

Muslims are monotheists, meaning that they believe in the worship of one God alone. Many Muslim clerics teach that Christians worship three gods. They teach that the Christian Trinity consists of God, Mary, and Jesus. The implication here is that God is the Father, Mary is the Mother, and Jesus is the result of that union.

In his booklet Do Christians Worship Three Gods?, Fouad Masri investigates the Muslim misunderstanding of the Trinity and provides a map for navigating this mystery of the Christian faith.

 

One God

Muslims and Christians both proclaim that they believe in one God. Yet Christians describe God as three in one, a trinity. This causes much confusion amongst Muslims. What do Christians really mean when they say God is a trinity? Many conclude this must mean Christians are either polytheists, worshiping more than one god, or worshiping humans, which is idolatry, or worse, that God and Mary had a child together, producing a demi-god.

Masri explains that all of these ideas are highly offensive and incorrect.

Understanding our Muslim friend’s misperception of the Trinity is the starting point for engaging in conversation about it with him. Disarming this myth leads us to what we actually do have in common. Muslims and Christians both believe in only one God. We are, in fact, both monotheists.

 

The Character of God

What Muslims are protecting in their objections to the Trinity concept is the high and honorable character of God. According to Islam, God is holy, and He is one.

Do Christians Worship Three Gods? suggests that to effectively address the Trinity question we study what the Injil, or the New Testament, says about the character of God. Throughout the Bible we see God’s three vital character elements described: God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Counselor. These three aspects of God’s character represent the three elements of the Trinity.

Christians and Muslims both believe God is holy and He is one. Upon close examination of the Bible, God emerges as one God with three primary roles. Fouad states, “The concept of the Trinity may be above our reason, but it is not against it.” An imperfect illustration might be the man who is a father, a son, and a brother. Is he three persons? No, but he expresses himself in three separate and different roles at a given time.

While we may not be able to completely comprehend the mystery of the Trinity, what we can know for certain is that God revealed Himself to mankind as God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Counselor. God has given us all of Himself that we might know His great love for us. As Christians, we can boldly expose the incorrect Muslim concept of the Trinity and share that love with them as we go to the Word of God together to examine God’s character.

For a deeper look at this controversial topic, check out Do Christians Worship Three Gods? from Foaud Masri’s Unlock the Truth series.

 

Action Steps:

  1. Devote yourself to reading more about the character of God in the Bible so you can easily converse about it with your Muslim colleagues and friends.
  2. Attend a Bridges Study or Seminar near you and learn what Muslims believe and how to engage with them as an ambassador of the Gospel.