While having coffee at a Muslim’s home this weekend, I was asked to explain the Trinity. Trinity means tri-unity, which means “three in one.” The God of the Bible is one God eternally existing in three persons. As well as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve been asked by a Muslim to explain the Trinity to them. I was really glad they asked since I am usually the one to introduce the doctrine and, so far the Muslims I’ve talked to have all rejected the truth that God is three in one. The Qur’an considers associating any other with Allah as a great sin (Surah An-Nisa 4:48). They view Allah (which is the Arabic word for God) as an individual, where as Christians view God as one God eternally existing in three persons. Excited by their question, I figuratively rolled up my sleeves, and launched into my answer.
After trying to explain it, one of the Muslim men summarized what he had understood and asked me if I was saying that there’s one God (in his mind one person) who has revealed himself in three different forms or modes. This is not a new misunderstanding, but in fact, it’s a common error and has been previously dealt with. It has been labeled Modalism.
“No,” I replied. “He’s one God in three persons.”
“Isn’t that the same thing as three Gods?” he asked.
At this point, I gratefully let the other Christian I was with take a shot at it, and she explained more of what we were meaning.
After saying goodbye, I left not really sure if my Muslim friends had believed what we were saying. I left a bit disappointed with my answer and began thinking about how I would have said things differently if given a second chance. You see, I was thinking that if I had just explained it better, then they would have believed.
Now it’s been about a week since our coffee chat. These things have been on my mind, and I have been rehearsing what I could have said differently. Would a better explanation of the Trinity have helped?
While reading A Pastor’s Sketches by Ichabod Spencer, I was reminded that many of the things of Scripture aren’t going to make any sense nor seem good to an un-spiritual man. Another way of saying that is, before God enlightens the mind of a man through the Gospel of Jesus, he’s not likely to understand certain things in Scripture, and the things he does understand, he probably won’t like them.
Here are the words of Mr. Spencer that were so helpful to me:
“An unconverted sinner is not reconciled to God, and this is the very reason why he is not reconciled to the doctrines of God. In my opinion these doctrines ought always to be presented in such a manner as to indicate their high origin, as to show they are like God. Then, an unconverted sinner will be apt to see that he dislikes the doctrines, just because he dislikes God; and thus his convictions of an evil heart will become more fixed and clear; or, at least, he will perceive that the doctrines are just such as he ought to expect, because they precisely accord with their Infinite Author. Let him be reconciled to God, and he will find little trouble with the doctrines. But let him be reconciled to God as He is, an incomprehensible sovereign, an infinite mystery to a finite mind, ‘the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity.’ If he is reconciled to false notions of God, all his religion will be likely to be false. A comprehensible God is no God at all, for what is comprehensible is not infinite. Let men beware of ‘intruding into those things which they have not seen, vainly puffed up with their fleshly mind.’”
How shall a sinner be reconciled to God?
There is only one way. It’s through saving faith in Jesus Christ. All men are commanded to believe and yet only those to whom God grants the ability will believe (1 John 3:23; John 6:44; Philippians 1:29). The rest will continue to love the darkness of unbelief (John 3:19-20).
Having supernaturally believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believing in the Tri-unity of God will come, should I say, naturally.