Christians and Muslims who learn something of one another’s religion find that a crucial issue is the nature of Jesus. The majority of Christians deify Jesus while Muslims say that he was no more than a prophet of God, a faultless human being. The doctrine of the Trinity avows that three distinct co-equals are God. In particular, Jesus is said to be God the Son or the Son of God. As the Muslim questions details of this theology the Christian characteristically forms a common explanation for our differences: He complains that Muslims do not understand the Trinity: that we are actually accusing Christians of Tritheism and other heresies.
So the Muslim seeks clarification of the teaching and asks at every step: “How could that be so?” For example, we insist that the term “Son of God” cannot have a literal interpretation. Sonship and divine nature would be necessary attributes of such an actuality, but these are incompatible. The first describes a recipient of life while the second describes One who received life from no one. These are mutually exclusive requirements then. To be a son is to be less than divine, and to be divine is to be no one’s son.
As a discussion proceeds, it is the Christian who will eventually take refuge in the response: “These are things that we cannot understand.” His assessment of the Muslim’s problem becomes his own confession. The Christian explanation becomes self-defeating so there is a change of tactic.
He complains that the Muslim refuses to accept what cannot be understood. But the modified approach is a diversion. Now the concepts of verification and understanding are confused. To illustrate: Chemical reactions may be verified but the atom is not thereby understood. Facts are catalogued but not always explained. This distinction is the key to our concise reply. It is the Muslim who must redirect the discussion. Our primary issue is more basic than resolving the incongruities of Trinitarian doctrine. Rather than ask how the Trinity can be so, we should ask why it must be so. “We ask, “Why must Jesus be divine? Can we verify the necessity of this belief?”
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