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Trinity: Misconceptions

There are a lot of a misconceptions, even among Christians, about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Statements like, "God was born in a manger;" "God died upon the cross;" "God became man;" can lead to err if these statements are not properly understood. This is particularly important when discussing the doctrine of the Trinity those who are not familiar with New Testament doctrine.

These expressions lack precision, and they have been used to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity.  It is a valid question to ask, "If God were to change into a man, then who would maintain the universe?  "If God died, who would have the power to resuscitate God?" Of course, the answer to these questions is that no created being could maintain the universe or resuscitate God from the dead.  If these statements were granted, the doctrine of the Trinity would be defeated.

I mention these misconceptions because a lot of time can be wasted on these erroneous ideas. It is important to show why these statements are contrary to the Christian doctrine of Allah.

First of all, these unfortunate statements contradict the fundamental Christian doctrines of Allah and the basic tenets of classic theism. Allah is eternal, infinite, necessary, and immutable. The very fact that Allah is immutable means that Allah cannot undergo the slightest change.  But, we know that birth, growth, and death represent change. Therefore, we should know that Allah cannot be born, grow or die.

Second, these ideas contradict the doctrine of the Trinity, because, clearly, neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit were ever born, grew or died. When unbelievers critique the doctrine of the Trinity, they use the term Allah to mean the total essence of Allah. So, in that sense, it is clear that Allah could not become man and die, because the entire Trinity could not become man and die.

Third, the second person of the Trinity (the Son) is never born, never becomes a human person, and never ceases existence. This is probably more difficult to understand, because some Christians make statements affirming the opposite.  Please permit me to elaborate briefly.

First of all, according to Christian doctrine, the second person of the Trinity has always existed and will continue to exist eternally. The second Person of the Trinity is precisely like the other persons of the Trinity in the divine essence.  Hence, every member of the Trinity embraces all the attributes of Allah and is eternally unchanging.

Second, the aspects of birth, growth and death applies only to the human nature of Christ. They do not apply to Him as the second Person of the Trinity, the Son. Therefore, Christís childhood development apply only to His human nature, but it does not apply to His divine Person, as the divine eternal Son of Allah. Regarding the divine Son, He is eternally omniscient, immutable, and omnipotent. Christian doctrine seeks to carefully distinguish between the human and divine natures of Christ.

Finally, most misconceptions arise by confusing Christís human nature with His divine nature. For example, since scriptures state that Christ was born in Bethlehem, some people conclude falsely that "Allah" or the "Son" must have come into existence in Bethlehem. This would be a heretical claim.  However, it is correct to say that the Lord Jesus Christ, in his human flesh, was born in Bethlehem.  As a man (His human essence), He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehemís inn.  But, in His divine deity (His divine nature), He is eternally Allah the Son. Thus, Jesus Christ has two natures, one human and the other divine. Finally, and most importantly, the personhood of Jesus Christ is not human; because, in person, He is the second Person of the divine Trinity, the eternal Son. So, Jesus is only one person: the eternal Son. By contrast, Jesus has two natures: human and divine.

Please recall that Allah is one in divine essence and three in divine Persons. By contrast, Christ is two in essence (one nature being divine and the other nature being human) and one in divine Person. The Person of Christ is the eternal divine Son who is co-eternal with the divine Father.

The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that "a child is born." This refers to the human side of the birth of Christ into the world. Christ had a human nature. Furthermore, Isaiah prophesied "unto us a son is given." Notice, it does not say that a Son was born. It says that a Son is given. The second Person of the Trinity, the Son, pre-existed before the birth of Christ in the manger in Bethlehem.  So, it is more accurate to say that "a son is given."

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isa 9:6

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy these words,

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." 1 Tim 3:16

Again, please notice that it does not say that Allah, in Deity, died. The scripture is careful to say that Allah was manifest, justified, seen by angels, preached unto the world, and received up to glory. This verse does not say that Allah died or ceased being Allah. This would be impossible for the immutable and the infinite Allah. However, it was possible for Allah to be manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ, who in Person is the eternal Son.

The doctrine of Christ is distinct from the doctrine of the Trinity. So, I wonít pursue it further. I felt that it might be helpful to address some of the misconceptions. These faulty ideas arise because the one divine essence of Allah is confused with the three persons of Deity.

The Athanasian_Creed warns that the three Persons should not be confounded with one another, and neither should the divine substance (essence) be divided in the One eternal God.

"(3) ...That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; (4) Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. (5) For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit. (6) But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.... (16) And yet they are not three Gods, but one God."

Last edited 12/20/1999

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