Do Christians Worship Three Gods?

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Abdullah gazed into the bright sunlight slanting through the café’s open doorway. Even with its cool mosaic tile, the room provided little respite from the midday heat. Abdullah wiped his brow, sweating as much from nervousness as the extreme temperature.

The dust drifting in the sunbeam swirled ever-so-slightly before the silhouetted form of Abdullah’s friend, Ahmed, strode into the café.

“Asalaamu ‘Alikum,” Ahmed said as he spotted his friend. Abdullah stood and embraced him warmly.

“Wa ‘Alikum Asalaamu.”

The greeting means ‘peace to you,’ and ‘and upon you, peace,’ but Abdullah felt the opposite. The last time they had spoken, Abdullah revealed that he’d become a Christian. Ahmed was shocked, immediately labeling Abdullah a traitor and an idolater, then, once the initial emotion faded, expressing fear for Abdullah’s life. Rejecting Islam in their country meant risking the punishment of death. But Abdullah had become so convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that he was willing to face it.

The two men made small talk while waiting for their coffee. Then, after two small, steaming cups were placed on the golden table between them, Ahmed leaned in to focus the conversation.

“So, my friend, tell me: how is it that you have exchanged the beautiful oneness of God for the blasphemy of three gods?”

Abdullah smiled. He wasn’t sure what questions Ahmed might ask first, but the years of fervent study he’d done before placing his faith in Christ prepared him for most anything. He took a calming breath before responding--this was Abdullah’s first conversation about Christianity with a Muslim.

“I think you misunderstand,” Abdullah said. “Tell me what three gods you are speaking of.”

“The Trinity—God the father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son.”

“Ah, my friend, I used to think this as well. My madrasah (religious school) taught that.” He took a gentle sip of the thick coffee. “But as I studied this and spoke to Christians, I learned that this is not true. The Trinity means one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Ahmed’s eyebrows narrowed. “Is that not still three gods?”

“Not at all,” Abdullah replied. “The Tawrat (Book of Moses, or Torah), Zabur (Book of David, or Psalms), and Injeel (Book of Jesus, the New Testament) all clearly show that God is one, but His oneness is complex. He is by nature one God existing in three Persons.”

“I do not understand what you’re saying,” Ahmed said. He held up one finger. “God the Father.” Then another—“Jesus—“ and a third—“Mary.”

“The Holy Spirit,” Abdullah corrected.

“Sorry, the Holy Spirit.” Ahmed waved his outstretched fingers. “Still, one-plus-one-plus-one equals three." 

“Yes, but one-times-one-times-one equals one. This is a better way to think of it.”

Ahmed waved his hand dismissively. “A clever trick of mathematics to try to explain what does not make sense.”

“I agree that it’s an incomplete analogy,” Abdullah said. “But let me ask you a question. You agree that Allah is all-knowing and all-powerful, no? That no one or nothing is above Him?”

“Of course.”

“Then should we not expect His very nature to be beyond our limited understanding? The ways Christians try to make sense of the Trinity—mathematical analogies, or by pointing out that I am father, son and brother at the same time, yet I am one man—Christians know these are insufficient. How can we expect to understand a God who is so far above us?”

Abdullah sat back, waiting for Ahmed’s response. Ahmed gazed into the distance, his finger tracing the curve of his cup’s rim.

“You are silent, Ahmed!” Abdullah chuckled. “I must have convinced you!”

Ahmed shook his head. “No, no,” he said. “You make a fair point, but the fact remains that, all the way back to Abraham, the prophets have taught us that God is One—none of this business with a Trinity. The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, corrected this corruption when he received the Qur’an.”

“You may be mistaken there as well, my friend,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah paused, considering his words. He had just finished an interesting book that examined how a particular verse in the Qur’an--Surah 4:171--may actually support a Trinitarian view of God, as well as Jesus’ divinity. He was uncertain how Ahmed might respond to this assertion.

“Ok,” Ahmed said, after the pause became noticeable. “Tell me.”

Abdullah gulped back the rest of his coffee and set the cup back on its saucer. For a brief moment, wonder overtook his anxiety. The fact that he was even having this conversation astonished him. He again took a deep breath, then opened his mouth to speak.

This exchange, while fictional, could take place in hundreds of cafes and living rooms across the Muslim world. The Trinity is one of the aspects of Christianity most misunderstood by Muslims. Like Ahmed, many Muslims are taught that Christians worship God as Father, Mary as Mother, and Jesus as the Son of their union—three gods. This is deeply offensive to Muslims (not to mention to Christians!), who regard it as idolatry, polygamy, or miscegenation.

Crescent Project president Fouad Masri wrote the booklet Do Christians Worship Three Gods?, the book alluded to at the end of our story, as part of the Unlock The Truth series. The booklets are wonderful equipping tools for Christians seeking to engage in thoughtful conversations with their Muslim friends, and Muslims will find them to be insightful guides offering understanding into what Christians truly believe.