Islam, testimony, and the Trinity
In this feedback exchange CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati discusses the power and place of testimonies of conversion in apologetics, the relative freedoms of Christian and Muslim nations, and refutes in detail the Islamic criticisms of the doctrine of the Trinity—a foundational biblical truth. (Feedback slightly edited for this website.)
Julien O. from France writes:
Hi Dr. Sarfati
Thanks for your advice and for giving me links to some helpful articles.
As you share a little bit of your knowledge with me, which I very appreciated, I would like to share just a little bit of mine with you because as you know the proverb : « Sharing is caring. » and I care about my other fellow human brothers. Moreover, I want to follow the same principle as Jesus which was to love for others what you love for yourself or to put it in another way, want for others what you want for yourself. And what I want is Paradise and above all, that God envelop me with His Mercy. So here is the info I wanted to share with you.
According to History, the best Scholar of Christianity of the 14th century was a man called Nilocas Myrtil. He lived in Bologna in Italia and was famous for his science, asceticism and piety. One of his student called Ancelm Turmeda wrote a book in which he said : « Nicolas told me that he’s got sufficient evidence that Jesus foretold the coming of another prophet who’s name will be “Ahmed” (same root as Muhammad). » This book is still available to this day.
More recently, another scholar of Christianity called Dr Jerald Dirks, who holds a Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard University became a muslim (Muslim which means : a person who submit his will to God, just like all the prophets.). Same thing with David Gullion who was a baptist missionary 50 years in the making. Same thing with Dr Laurence Brown, Gary Miller and so many others.
I know this prove nothing but here is my advice: Every judgement should be made after hearing both side of the story. Just following one sided argument proves and lead to nothing. It is easy to lie to a fool, ignorant, uneducated or unjust person but it is not easy to lie to a just intelligent and fair person who is willing to listen to the truth. Just as the Bible says : « proves all things and hold fast to that which is good. » (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Qur’an reflects the same principle: « If a wicked person brings any news to you, you shall first investigate lest you commit injustice towards some people out of ignorance and then become sorry. »
So my advice to sum up is to investigate Islam with an unbiased mind and ask God for guidance. The best way to investigate Islam is by reading the Qur’an with sincerity and open mind. The best way to ask God for guidance is to ask him to guide you while you are in prostration (by putting your face in the ground just like Jesus did in Matthew 36:39.)
I was born in a Christian family and some years ago, I decided to investigate islam with an open mind and asked God for Guidance. Now I’m Muslim and still love Jesus, who is mentioned by the way 5 times more than Muhammad in the Qur’an. And His blessed mother, the Virgin Mary is the only name of women mentioned in the Qur’an.
I believe that the One true Religion of God should be very simple to distinguish from the others. It should be like that. So it should be clear for a sincere person who asked God for guidance and then read The Bible and The Qu’ran to distinguish what is from God and what is not. As muslims, we believe in the Bible and in the Torah but believe that the ones we have today is not the original revelation given by God to Moise [Moses] and Jesus. There might be some remains in them of the true revelation but globally, we don’t believe in them as they are today.
To conclude, this is now what I believe by being a Muslim : I believe and bear witness that there is nothing worship of worship except the One True God, who has no partners, no wife, no parents, no children, who is absolutely One, Unique and Alone, everything depends on him, nothing is Like him and to him belongs the most beautiful names and attributes. He alone we worship and He alone we ask for help. And I believe and bear witness that Muhammad is the servant and last Messenger of God and that Jesus is the servant and Messenger of God, and the Word and Spirit of God which He communicated to Mary.
May the Peace be with you Dr Sarfati.
from your brother in humanity, Julien.
Dr Sarfati responds:
Bonjour Monsieur O.
Thank you for your email, and you are welcome about the advice.
I should point out that our forthcoming book Christianity for Skeptics, written by Steve Kumar with updating by me, has a chapter on answering the claims of Islam.
I’m sure there are converts from Christianity to Islam, as you mention about others, and about yourself, and I don’t doubt your word. Yet there are converts the other way too, and this is more impressive. The reason I say that, to be blunt, is that in Christianity-dominated countries, people are free to convert to Islam and practise their faith. Conversely, in many Islam-dominated countries, converts from Islam face death, such as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran,1 and Abdul Rahman2 and Shoaib Assadullah3 in Afghanistan. Also, in the UK, its first female Muslim Cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi (Baroness Warsi), has slammed “the rising tide of militant secularisation” and says that “Christianity is a vital part of British life and warns of the dangers of eroding its importance.”4
But more important than conversion experiences is the truth. It can be summarized: historical accounts written close to Jesus’ time witness that He died then rose from the dead, leaving the tomb empty and appearing to 500 people at once. The Qur’an says differently, but it was written 600 years later. Conversely, Muhammad stayed dead, even according to the Qur’an. We would also argue that the biblical account of creation matches the evidence better, as documented in The Koran vs Genesis
Bonjour M. O.
Thanks for your mail. Indeed there are also Muslims who convert to Christianity and vice versa. But as we said, that proves nothing. But notice that when I mentioned examples of conversions in my previous mail, I was only talking about scholars of Christianity, not ordinary Christians. And obviously this does not prove that Christianity is wrong but it has a little bit of meaning in some way. Just as when someone like Antony Flew gave up atheism.
There are scholars of Islam who went the other way too, often at great personal risk.
Regarding Apostasy, in the context and the purpose of Islamic law is treason. When the prophet Muhammad said: « Whoever changes his religion, kill him », that was in the context of fighting the pagans. If a man in that context join the pagans, it is military defection and treason.
The general rule in islam is sum up with that verse from the Qur’an: « There is No compulsion in Religion »
Some Jewish scholars like Zion Zohar argue that the best time for Jewish History is when the Jews were living under Islamic government.
But most likely Dhimmis who had to pay the extra tax (jizya). I guess this was before 800,000 Jews were expelled from Muslim countries after the State of Israel was formed.
Regarding the resurrection account, i advice you to watch the debate between Wiliam Lane Craig & Shabir Ally called: « Resurrection, Hoax or History ? » [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
Here is an account of that.5 It still baffles me that it can even be an issue that Jesus died on the Cross. This was never disputed by His contemporaries, whether friend or foe.
Also, please note: such a debate was possible only in a country with a Christian heritage, with freedom of religion. It would never be allowed in an Islam-ruled country, because it would be forbidden by laws against proselytizing against Islam.
Regarding the evidence of creation, i advice you to watch the debate between Dr. Zakir Naik & Dr. William Campbell called « The Bible and the Qur’an in the light of modern science. » here is the link: [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
But my main advice was to listen to both side of the argument. So having listen to Steve Kumar argument, why don’t you listen to the Muslims argument now in order to make a fair judgement ?
Actually, I meant that I updated and expanded his book.
Here is some good lectures you can watch :
- A history of Early Christianity by Dr Jerald Dirks, a former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church, who has a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity. [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
- The TOP 10 reasons why the trinity is invalid By Dr. Laurence Brown, author of many books on religions. [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
Not convinced—he is no theologian, but an ophthalmic surgeon. But I will answer his 10 Reasons point-by-point.
A bad start: Point 10 “The word Trinity is nowhere to be found in the Bible”. But then he concedes that it’s not really an issue, since the question is really whether the doctrine is found there. Compare, the word “monotheism” is not in the Bible either, but it is taught there, as Muslims would agree.
Point 9 quotes from The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of the Bible [sic— … of Catholicism], “The doctrine of the Trinity as such is not revealed in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.” This remains to be proven. Also, what is meant by “as such”? That there is no single verse revealing the entire doctrine, as opposed to logically derived from a number of verses? The answer can be found in the fact that the above quote ends not with a period but with a semicolon. The next clause is, “however, the essential elements of what eventually became the doctrine are contained in Scripture.” [Emphasis added.] Quote mining does this Muslim apologist no credit.
Point 8, ad hominem about lawyers. In reality, Tertullian derived the Trinity from the point that God is revealed to have made a covenant with Israel, yet from God’s side, there were three signatories to this covenant. In Roman law, a party to a legal agreement is called a persona.
Point 7 misrepresents the history of the Church: when heresies were promoted, the church had to formulate the true doctrines of Scripture in creedal form. For example, Arius promoted the heresy that Christ was a created being, and Athanasius strongly opposed Arianism on biblical grounds.6 The Nicene Creed ratified the biblical teaching. Read a serious book by scholar Gerald Bray, Creeds Councils and Christ for why Tertullian and later Church scholars showed that the Bible teaches the Trinity. [Update: I explained this far more in responses to critics of Who really is the God of Genesis? below the article, showing Tertullian’s extensive biblical reasoning.]
Point 6 quotes Hans Küng (mispronounced as “Kung”), just an argument from authority, and no mention of his extreme theological liberalism.
Point 5 is a restatement of Point 9, from Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the NT.” Once more, it’s irrelevant that the word—or a certain formulation—is not there, because the doctrine is a logical deduction. The speaker failed to continue with the next sentence: “Nevertheless, the discussion above and especially the presence of trinitarian formulas in 2 Corinthians 13:14 (which is strikingly early) and Matthew 28:19 indicate that the origin of this mode of thought may be found very early in Christian history.” So this is more quote mining.
Same with point 4: citing New Catholic Encyclopedia, “The formula itself does not reflect the immediate consciousness of the period of origins.” But this is still more quote mining. The New Catholic Encyclopedia in context has no doubt that the Bible teaches the Trinity. It states explicitly a few pages later, “‘One God in three Persons’ was simply a restatement, a legitimately condensed and compact version of the more loosely organized NT teaching. Key texts were cited in support, particularly the well-known mandate put on the lips of Christ in Mt 28.19—‘baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived.” [Emphasis added] In other words, the formula of the Trinity was a compact statement of biblical truth against the Arian heresy. Similarly, he goes on to quote the encyclopedia, “Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective”. Once again, this ends with a semicolon. The Encyclopedia continues: “among the 2nd-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead. … From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived. … If it is clear on one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of 3 centuries’ reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and hence an elemental Trinitarianism—went back to the period of Christian origins. [Emphasis added]
Point 3: “God is one God”. This implies the usual misrepresentation of the Trinity as tritheism. Trinitarians believe in one God, so the point knocks down a straw man.
Point 2: Jesus saying “the Lord is one”. But in Defending vital doctrines and the deity of Christ, I show that Paul included Jesus in the divine identity of the Shema, and in The Hebrew language and Messianic prophecies I show that “one” is often used of a composite unity. In Who really is the God of Genesis?, we show that the Trinity is the only meaning compatible with “God is love”. Brown talks about Christians tripping up while explaining the the oneness and threeness of God. I don’t know which Christians this Brown fellow has talked to, but if they were reasonably informed ones, he doesn’t let on. It’s very simple: the oneness and threeness are in different senses. Brown also asserts that Jesus should have explained the Trinity when He made the “Lord is one” statements. That is an argument from silence. Elsewhere He declared his divinity, and gave the Trinitarian baptismal formula. Brown is really presumptuous in declaring that Jesus had to explain the Trinity when Brown said he had to. We see next how Brown is not an ex-Christian but an ex-atheist. He is right about inconsistencies between who Jesus was and what people said about Him, but he and other Muslims should look in the mirror! (Then there is irrelevant rambling about televangelists etc. Doesn’t apply to me or CMI).
Point 1: ‘there’s no evidence in the Bible whatsoever to support the Trinity’. Another assertion and repetition of previous points. Then he claims that when you go to a Christian and ask for the primary evidence for the Trinity, they provide 1 John 5:7 (the “Johannine Comma”) “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (KJV). Yet another straw man: most informed Trinitarians throughout Church history have not used that verse, recognizing this as spurious. You won’t find this in James White’s The Forgotten Trinity. You won’t find this in CMI’s defence of the Trinity either. This is his #1 argument? Yet he repeats that this Comma is the #1 biblical passage. He needs to get out more if he thinks that this is the best arguments Christians offer! He even refutes himself by pointing out that modern Bibles have (rightly) removed this passage, and most Christians these days use these modern Bibles.
Then he continues by discussing the Trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” His answer? The parallel passage in Mark 16:15, which doesn’t mention the Trinity, which he asserts is a contradiction.
First, logically, there is no contradiction—there would be only if the Mark passage denied the Trinity (see “Contradiction” from my article “Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation”). But even more glaringly, for a man who is so insistent about the spurious verse in 1 John 5:7, he is woefully ignorant of the fact many of the same scholars regard the last few verses of Mark as equally un-original (as do I and some colleagues—see How did Mark end his Gospel?). If it is not ignorance on Brown’s part, it’s double standards.
Finally, the closing comment by the moderator about worshipping God alone not His creation. Absolutely right! But Brown ignores the fact that Jesus accepted worship (as well as forgiving sins), the prerogative of God alone. E.g. Doubting Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God”, and Jesus didn’t contradict him. Muhammad would have torn his coat in anger and grief if one of his disciples had said that to him, or even beheaded him for blasphemy.
Really, that’s the best you have? Come on!
I have written defences of the Trinity such as Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity and The Incarnation: Why did God become Man? which demonstrate the biblical derivation. Note, nothing about the “Johannine Comma”.
OK, I’ve commented on your expert, so your turn to deal with my biblical arguments. ;)
- The documentary « Jihad On Terrorism ». Here is the link: [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules Ed.]
Again, May the peace be with you Dr Sarfati and thank you for your wonderful works on Evolution.
Glad they are helpful.
May God guide us all to the straight path.
All the best to you too. I hope you will consider the evidence I have raised. Another point Brown overlooked is that Jesus said: “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23).” Here again, Jesus is claiming that He is equally worthy of honour as God the Father, which no mere creature could be. Muhammad would have been appalled at any disciple saying “we must honour the Prophet (peace be upon him), just as we honour Allah”: this would be blasphemy. The Bible also tells us that we can be saved only by trusting in the Son (Acts 2:38, 4:12).
- Iran orders hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Jerusalem Post, jpost.com, 23 February 2012. Return to text.
- Christian Convert Faces Execution, ABC News, abcnews.go.com, 22 March 2012. Return to text.
- Second Afghan Convert Faces Death Penalty under Apostasy Law, Christian Post, christianpost.com, 29 March 2012. Return to text.
- Baroness Warsi: religious confidence helps Britain attack ‘persecutors’ abroad, Telegraph (UK), telegraph.co.uk, 14 February 2012. Return to text.
- William Lane Craig vs. Shabir Ally: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” answeringmuslims.com, 25 March 2009. Return to text.
- Athanasius, On the Incarnation, ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation.txt. Return to text.