Within minutes of watching Muslim terrorists fly airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, Americans all asked the same questions: "Who are these people? What do they believe?"
Several weeks later at the fall Prison Fellowship board meeting, theologian Timothy George, a board member, gave a talk titled "Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?" It was one of the most helpful things I have heard. Now Dr. George has expanded that talk into a great book with the same title: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Dr. George answers his question with a yes and a no.
Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic—that is, both are founded on the belief that there is only one God. The Christian understanding of God, however, is vastly different than the Muslim’s because of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
George writes, "The Father of Jesus is the only God there is, and in that sense, He is the God of every person who has ever lived, including Muhammad." He then goes on to say, however, "Bare monotheism alone is not enough. It yields a god who is a unit, not a unity. It gives us a deity that is infinite, but not personal."
Thus, though the Qur’án affirms that Allah loves, his love is conditional, and it’s something he does, not something he is. By contrast, Christians affirm, "God is love." His love is unconditional, and it is integral to the very being of the one God Who is eternally three. From all eternity, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are bound together in perfect love.
George writes, "What makes God God is the relationship of total and mutual self-giving by which the Father gives everything to the Son, and the Son offers back all that He has to glorify the Father, the love of each being established and sealed by the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from both."
If God is just a unit, says George, "God created the world in order to fill some deep deficiency within His own being"—that is, He needed to be known. The Trinity has no such need. Within the Trinity are love, knowledge, intimacy, and relationships. God chose freely to create and love. "The doctrine of the Trinity," says George, "tells us that relationality—personality—is at the heart of the universe."
Dr. George reminds us that, in the Church today, the Trinity is perhaps our most neglected doctrine, and that needs to change. It needs to change because our own spirituality is dangerously deficient without an understanding of the Trinity. "The doctrine of the Trinity," says George, "is the necessary theological framework for understanding the story of Jesus as the story of God." It also needs to change because Islam is growing in the United States and around the world. When we talk with Muslims about faith, conversations about the Trinity are unavoidable: "If we don’t bring it up, they will!" And on campuses young Muslims are handing out tracts saying Christians worship three Gods. We need a credible answer for our Muslim neighbors.
Timothy George’s book 'Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?' will help equip you to answer Muslim objections to the Trinity. And it will sharpen your own understanding of this sadly neglected doctrine.
For more information:
BreakPoint’s "9/11 Worldview Resource Kit" includes Timothy George’s book 'Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?', Chuck Colson’s 'When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live?', and a "BreakPoint Weekend Special" CD including two interviews with Chuck Colson recorded after September 11 and a year later.
You can read Dr. George’s speech that he delivered to Prison Fellowship Ministries board of directors.
"The Dark Hour of Our Nation’s Soul," a conversation with Chuck Colson and "BreakPoint" radio managing editor Jim Tonkowich.
"Questions on Everyone’s Mind" by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, offers answers to the many questions Americans have after September 11.
J. A. Hanson, "Comprehending Jihad," BreakPoint Online, 5 August 2002.
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