The Author: Dr Mansour Leghaei
Monotheism; The common word
Monotheism and believing in one unique God is the core of the teachings of all divine prophets. In the Old Testament God instructed Moses (a.s) to proclaim: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut. 6:4)
In the New Testament, also, when a man asked Jesus what would be the chief Commandment of the Commandments, he said: “The chief one is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:29)
Monotheism is the basis of all the teachings in the Final Testament (The holy Quran). The Chapter of ‘Purity’ (112) of the holy Quran is the article of monotheism in the most comprehensive and explicit way. Muslims are strongly recommended to recite it at least once in their daily Prayers. The Chapter states:
“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Say: He is Allah, the Unique. Allah is the Self-Sufficient Master Whom all creatures need. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal (or partner) to Him, He is Unique.” (112:1-4)
Of all the different distortions, which have occurred in Christianity, none is as horrible as the blasphemous claim of the deity of Jesus and the dogma of the Trinity. The vague and mysterious dogma of Trinity has become the central doctrine of most of the Christian sects of today.
Although Christians do not claim they believe in three gods and hence find it offensive to be called ‘Polytheists’, their perverted doctrine of the Trinity has led them astray from the true path of monotheism.
In Christian theology, there is a branch of study called ‘Christology’ which is concerned with the person and attributes and deeds of Jesus. In Christology Christians are taught to believe in Jesus as coexistent and coequal with God who descended from his high pre-existent station as a God when he came to earth to die for mankind’s sins. “He was Jehovah- they claim- came to earth in a physical body as the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.”
The deity of Jesus is explained through the mysterious dogma of Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is the union of three divine persons – The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – In one divine being. Thus, they say there is one God who exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
According with Christians, the Father is God, the Son (Jesus) is God and the Holy Spirit is God although the Father is not the Son and neither of them is the Holy Spirit. Here is the formula of the Trinity: One person, God, the Father + one person, God the son + one person, God the Holy Spirit = one person, God the what?
And by the way this is English not gibberish! Most churches baptize infants into the Trinity and thus Christians from their very childhood are told to believe in the deity of Jesus, though on faith alone.
Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
It is due to this conviction that Christians consider Muslims ignorant- at best- about the personality of Jesus when they hear that Muslims respect Jesus “(Only) as a prophet and the messenger of God”! Consequently, their preconceived ideas make communication difficult. Often the thing said is not the thing heard!
The Historical Background of Trinity
When and how did the dogma of the Trinity emerge? Did Jesus ever proclaim to be God or son of God? Did he ever call for the Trinity? Nay. Historically, the original Christians of the first three centuries did not know of the Trinity. Some early Christian sects who did exist before the Roman Catholic, such as the Ebionite and Essences in the first century were Unitarians and knew no Trinity and did not worship Jesus.
It is unanimously accepted that the Nicaean Conference in 325 AD called by the order of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, over a controversy about the personality of Jesus, led eventually to the acceptance of Trinity. The Trinity dogma, first referred to by St. Augustine (415CE), however came about much later than the Council of Nicaea, and was accepted as the Athanasies Creed in the fifth century.
Trinitarian Christians Verses Unitarians
In 318 C.E. a controversy over the matter of the nature of Jesus blew up between church men from Alexandria- Arius, the deacon and Alexander his bishop. To safeguard the unity of his kingdom, the Emperor Constantine stepped into the fray and called for the first ecumenical council in church history to settle the matter once and for all.
According with Encarta Encyclopaedia, of the 1800 bishops in the Rome Empire, 318 attended the Council in 325 C.E. in Nicaea (now Iznik, Turkey). The irony is that Christ’s deity was ratified over the objections of most of the Christian bishops who had been gathered there from all over the world. Nevertheless, the Emperor concluded the council with a faith that he dictated in the Council. The Nicaean Creed according with Catholic Encyclopaedia reads:
“We believe in one God; the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten no make, of the same substance with the Father.”
Although the Creed was signed, the matter was still far from settled. Arius and the new bishop of Alexandria, a man called Athanasius, began arguing over the matter. By the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (The Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity at the council of Chalcedon took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.
Since then, brutal punishments, violent persecution and being labelled as heretics was the only destiny of the Unitarians. All their books were burnt and by 600 A.D., they had basically ceased to exit.
Today some critical Christian theologians such as John Hick in his book ‘The Myth of God Incarnate’ find the roots of the Trinity in ancient pagan religions. Hick finds amazing similarities between the Buddhist doctrine of Trikaya (The three-body doctrine) and the Trinity. Similarly, there are many similarities between the Trinity and the Hindu doctrine of Trimurti (Sanskrit: Three Forms) consisting a triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
It is due to these similarities that some historians assumed that Jesus must have spent some time in India during his missing years! There is however, no historical proof for this assumption. Moreover, the claim of the adaptation of a pagan doctrine by a Messenger of God i.e. Jesus (a.s) is the most irrational proposition.
Trinity on the Scale of Rationality
Common sense and the faculty of mind is one of the most important blessings of God upon mankind. Enjoying this blessing, man can be held responsible for his deeds. Rationality is the only common platform among human beings irrespective of their religious or cultural background. Unless people can relate in a rational manner with each other, no communication can be accomplished between them.
Prophet Isaiah; was one of the Hebrew prophets. His book in the Old Testament is an historical reference for Christians to prove the coming of the Messiah. According with that book, God reveals to Isaiah to tell his people: “Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Christians are being baptized in the name of the Trinity, and yet they are always told to believe in the Trinity by faith alone. If any Christian dares question the mysterious dogma of Trinity, his priest immediately tells him that this doctrine is a bit difficult to grasp and it is beyond the common understanding! Thus, they never really allow their minds to ponder upon it.
I would like to invite my Christian brethren to put aside the stereotypical teachings of the church and for God’s sake for once try to think independently! As God said to Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together.”
There are two meanings for rationality when concepts like Trinity are treated: One is to say that the dogma of Trinity is irrational because it violates some basic laws of rationality. The second meaning is to say it doesn’t make sense in that it doesn’t appeal to any sensory perception, that it is hard to conceptualize the Trinity because it cannot be pictured in the mind.
If the Trinity doesn’t make sense in the first meaning, then it is irrational, but if it is in the second meaning, then it is all right? Christians argue that the Trinity doesn’t make sense in the second meaning of it and hence it is like many other religious concepts that we can’t picture, such as ‘God’, ‘Angels’, etc.
The same is true with abstractive concepts such as love, evil, etc. To them it should come as no surprise that trying to understand the Divine Nature of God in our limited human perspective is impossible. We can only know, what He has revealed to us about His nature, through the Bible. The bottom line is that we must have faith in the Trinity.
Thus, they claim, the Trinity is incomprehensible. The Athanasies Creed read: “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible… not three incomprehensible…but… one incomprehensible.” One may add: ‘And an incomprehensible argument’! The fact is the dogma of the Trinity violates the basic laws of rationality and hence it doesn’t make sense.
The Trinity violates the law of contradiction; A law that is the core of human logic. The law of contradiction means that two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. X cannot be non-X. A thing cannot be and not be simultaneously. All logic depends on this simple principle. Rational thought and meaningful discourse demand it. To deny it is to deny all truth in one fell swoop.
The Trinity Violates the Law of Contradiction
1. God is physical and God is not physical! No doubt, the God that all monotheists believe in is not physical, or else he would be limited. Nevertheless, Trinity is explained as ‘God reincarnate in Jesus’. Jesus was born of Mary. He had body and flesh. He was eating and drinking. Jesus was physical. Thus, the result of the dogma of the Trinity is that God is physical and God is not physical!
2. God is not begotten and God is begotten! All monotheists believe that God is not begotten. Christians also believe that God; The Father is not begotten. On the other hand, the Trinity claims that Jesus is the begotten son of God and he is God! Thus, God is begotten and is not begotten.
3. God dies and God doesn’t die! God that all monotheists including Christians as they claim- believe in is Ever-Living. God does not die, not even for a micro-second. Jesus is born and hence they celebrate Christmas. All Christians believe Jesus died on the cross. Although he was resurrected again, he died.
Thus, God dies and God doesn’t die. Isn’t this violation of a law of contradiction? It is for this reason that Athanasius, the bishop who formulated this doctrine, confessed that the more he wrote on the matter, the less capable he was of clearly expressing his thoughts regarding it.
Fallacious Examples for Trinity
In their efforts to explain the dogma of Trinity, Christians refer us to examples that they call ‘the Trinities in nature’. For instance, they say the universe consists of three elements: Time, Space, and Matter. Each of these is comprised of three ‘Components’.
Christians assume the anti-Trinitarians don’t recognize number ‘3’ and hence endeavour to present examples of three sided things. The fallacy of these examples is that in the external real world, there is only gas, solid and liquid.
The concept of ‘Matter’ that we draw from them is an abstractive concept. ‘Matter’ doesn’t have a real existence. It is only a common name we have made for gas, liquid and solid. These three matters are separate entities. The same fallacy applies to space and time. All generic concepts are like that. For instance, the concept of ‘Human being’ applies to you and me and every human being.
Yet, ‘Human being’ has only a mental existence not external existence. What exists in the external reality are Tom, Dick and Harry, etc. The application of these examples is that there is Son, Father, and Holy Ghost in the external reality and the name God or Godhead is an abstractive concept driven from those three realities. The conclusion is that ‘God’ doesn’t have a real existence!
“See what examples do they apply to you, so they have gone astray, and they cannot find a (Right) Path.” (25:9)
Did Jesus Ever Claim to Be God?!
The holy Quran states that on the Day of Judgment on the trial of Christians, Allah will ask Jesus if he had ever asked people to either worship him or his mother? The purpose of this rhetorical question is for the Christians to hear from Jesus that he had never had such a blasphemous claim.
“And when Allah will say: O Jesus son of Mary! Did you say unto men: Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah? He will say: Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to say, had it said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner-self though I do not know what is in Yours; Truly, You only You, are the All-Knower of all that is hidden.” (5:116)
Nowhere even in the present gospels has Jesus ever explicitly claimed to be God. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. (Deut. 6:4)”. The worship of God was always focal in Jesus’ life.
For instance, when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-2) he taught them to pray to God; The Father, not to himself. Notice that the words “Father! Grant us” indicate that Jesus included himself among the creation of God, acknowledging a high authority; ‘God’ over all of them. Similarly, according with John, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: “I am going to ascend to my father and your father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)
The holy Quran quoting from Jesus states:
“But the Messiah (Jesus) said: O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” (5:72)
Imam Ridha’ (a.s); the 8th Imam of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) in his debate with one of the archbishops of his time named ‘Al-Jatheliq’ said: “Everything apparently about Jesus is good except his worshipping?” Al-Jatheliq whilst objecting to that said: “Rather he was the most worshipping person.” Imam Ridha’ (a.s) who had this confession from the priest replied to him: “Then who was he worshipping? Himself or another Being?!” The priest was dumb-founded.
According with Mark, Jesus even did not allow himself to be called ‘Good’ let alone ‘God’. Mark narrates that as Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him: “Good teacher. What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)
Deity of Jesus on the scale of the Bible
We must however say that Christians do quote various passages, mostly ambiguous, from the Bible to enforce belief in the deity of Jesus. In fact, they base the dogma of Trinity more on the Bible than anything else. To them, to understand the divine nature of God is beyond the human limited perspective and hence we can only know “What He has revealed to us about His nature through the Bible”.
First, you must note that logically proving the deity of Jesus from the Bible falls into the fallacy of ‘Begging the question’. Begging the question or circle reasoning is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or assume that the conclusion is true. Imagine you go for a job interview and the interviewer asks for a reference.
You mention a name and if he asks how he would know if he is trustworthy, you say: Oh, I vouch for him! Christians –quoting from the Bible- claim that Jesus is the only begotten son of God. John in his Gospel says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
The above quotation is one of the Biblical sources of Christens’ claim for divinity of Jesus. Let’s read the Bible and see whether Jesus was the only begotten son of God.
1. David; A begotten son of God
Psalms of Prophet David (Or as Christians refer to him; King David) is one of the books of the Old Testament. Although the Psalms are the product of various authors, Peter and John (Acts 4:25) ascribe the second Psalm to David. In the second Psalm, we read: “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said unto me, you my Son; this day have I begotten you.” (Psalms 2:7)
2. Israel; The begotten son of God
Israel was another name for Prophet Jacob. In the book of Exodus, we read: “And you shall say unto Pharaoh, thus said the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” (Ex. 4:22)
3. Adam was the son of God
Luke mentioning the linage of Jesus says: “Jesus being …The son of Joseph, the son of Heli, …which was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.” (KJV)
As you can see according with the Bible, Jesus was not the only begotten son of God. The expression of son of God, if I were to justify it, at best would mean the one who is spiritually and passionately close to God and is chosen by Him; the Almighty. In this sense, all the Prophets are the sons of God.
Anyone who has studied the Bible knows that Jesus in many instances spoke in figures of speech. Then if these quotations about his `son-ship` are correct, why couldn’t he have said it as a figure of speech?! The holy Quran, however, has abandoned the usage of this expression not to leave any room for misinterpretation.
Jesus did not have the attributes of God
Another way to examine the deity of Jesus is to examine whether he enjoys the attributes of God!
1. God is Omniscient
One of the attributes of the Almighty God is that He is Omniscient, i.e. He is All Knowing. When Jesus was asked about the time of the Hour (The Day of Judgment) he said: “About the exact date and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark13:32)
To prove the omniscience of Jesus, Christians quote from the Gospel of John in which it is narrated from the disciples to have said to Jesus: “Now we know that you know everything and do not need anyone to tell you. From this we believe that you came from God.” (John 16:30)
Obviously, the above statement doesn’t mean more than the fact that Jesus was a Messenger of God and his knowledge, like all other prophets, is from God and by revelation not by learning from other human beings. Thus, when his disciples say that he knows everything, they don’t mean he is omniscient.
2. God is Omnipotent
Another divine attribute is that God is Omnipotent and the Almighty. God is needless but all other than Him need Him. Thus, it is not possible for God to seek anyone’s help. According with Matthew and Mark the last words of Jesus on the cross were: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Moreover, Jesus is reported by John to have said: “I can do nothing independently.” (John 5:30)
In conclusion, Jesus never claimed to be God. The dogma of Trinity is irrational and violates the basic law of contradiction. Jesus does not enjoy the attributes of God and there are more monotheistic interpretations for the ambiguous statements of the Bible.
Overall, if still some of the authors of the Bible such as John refer to Jesus as God, they have been wrong and must be influenced by the pagan Romans. The best and the most accurate title for Jesus is what he introduced himself with, i.e. A Messenger of God: “Jesus replied to them: My teaching is not mine but His who sent me.” (John 7:16)
Deity of Jesus on the scale of the Holy Quran
I would like to conclude this chapter with the explicit statements from the Final Testament, i.e. the holy Quran; About Jesus son of Mary (may the peace and mercy of God be upon him). Surely, this is the true statement about Jesus which is far from the blasphemous accusations of Christians as well as the Jews about the personality of this great prophet.
1. “O people of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah, son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit from Allah. So, believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not three (Trinity). Cease! It is better for you. For Allah is One God, glory be to Him above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth.” (4:171)
2. “Verily, the likeness of Jesus before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”- and he was.” (3:59)
3. “The Messiah, son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was righteous. They both used to eat food. Look how We make the proofs clear to them; Yet look how they are deluded away (from the truth).” (5:75)
4. “The Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths, resembling the saying of those who disbelieved foretime.” (9:31)
5. “Surely they have disbelieved who say: God is Messiah, son of Mary. But Messiah said: O Children of Israel! Worship my Lord and your Lord.” (5:72)
6. “Such is Jesus, son of Mary. (This is) the statement of truth, about which they dispute.” (19:34)
The theological deviation in Christianity caused the Christian community to acquire the largest number of divisions of any of the known religions. According with David Barrett et al, editor of the ‘World Christian Encyclopaedia’ 3400 Christian groups have been identified in the world. The holy Quran regarding this fraction and the purpose of it states;
“And from those who called themselves Christians We took their covenant, but they have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to them. So, We planted amongst them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they used to do.” (5:14)
(but, as you are noting, sometimes we agree with each other, many times actually).