Notes about the Trinity

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a summary of how Pauline Christians understand the Trinity.  The Catholic Church teaches that the Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith.  It is a mystery because it cannot be adequately and logically explained.

The word “Trinity” come from the Latin word, “trinitas,” which means “three” or “triad.”  The Greek equivalent is “triados.”  The first surviving use of the term was around 170 CE by Theophilus of Antioch, who wrote in his second letter to his friend Autolycus, “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.  And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.”

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explained the Trinity thus: “The Church expresses her trinitarian faith by professing a belief in the Oneness of God in whom there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The three divine Persons are only one God because each of them equally possesses the fullness of the one and indivisible divine nature.  They are really distinct from each other by reason of the relations which place them in correspondence to each other.  The Father generates the Son; the Son is generated by the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.”  The Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith.  The aforementioned Compendium explains thus: “The central mystery of Christian faith and life is the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity.  Christians are baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The dogma of the Trinity was defined in two stages: at the First Council of Nicaea, 325 CE and the First Council of Constantinople in 381 CE.  The First Council of Nicaea defined the divinity of the Son and wrote the part of the Creed that addresses the nature of the Sonship.  This council was convened to deal with the heresy known as Arianism, which claimed that the Son was a supernatural being but not God.  Arianism’s doctrines were very close to Islam.  Because of relentless persecution by the Catholic Church, many of the fled far to the East or to Iberia where they subsequently became Muslim centuries later.  The First Council of Constantinople defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit and defined the part of the Creed that addressed the nature of the Spirit.  This council convened to address a heresy known as Macedonianism which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  It was named such because its advocates were originally from Macedonia.  This heresy was also called Pneumatomachianism, from a Greek phrase meaning “fighting the Spirit.”

According to the Pauline Christians, the Trinity can only be ‘proved’ through the Divine Revelation that Jesus (a.s.) brought.  It cannot be proved by natural reason or from the Old Testament alone.  The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God has left some traces of his trinitarian being in creation and in the Old Testament but his inmost being as the Holy Trinity is a mystery which is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of the Son of God and the sending of the Holy Spirit.  This mystery was revealed by Jesus Christ and it is the source of all the other mysteries.”  It should be noted that “Trinity” and any word relating to it does not appear explicitly anywhere in the Bible, Old or New Testament.  According to its advocates, it is alluded to only.

The fact that there is only One God was already Explicit in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 43:10
10 “I call you to witness,” the Lord Says, “you and this servant of Mine, on whom My Choice has fallen; will you not recognise the truth, and believe Me?  Will you not learn to understand that I am the God you seek?  None ever came into being before Me, or will after Me.”

Isaiah 44:6
6 Thus says the Lord, Israel’s king and ransomer, the Lord of hosts: “I am before all; there is no other god but I.”

The “Father” is proclaimed as God numerous times in the New Testament.  For example:

2 Corinthians 1:3
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Merciful Father, the God Who Gives all encouragement.

But this can easily be misunderstood because of translation issues.  If we understand the evolution of the language of the books of the Bible through the translations, “Father” would likely have been translated from the Latin “Pater.”  The Semitic word would more likely correspond to “Robba.”  In Arabic, “Rabb” is one of the Names of Address to Allah (s.w.t.).  It means Nourisher, Sustainer, Cherisher.

How do Pauline Christians show that the Son is God?  This is proclaimed in a variety of places in the New Testament, including at the beginning of the Gospel according to John:

John 1:1
1 At the beginning of time the Word already was; and God had the Word abiding with him, and the Word was God.

John 1:14
14 And the Word was made flesh, and came to dwell among us; and we had sight of his glory, glory such as belongs to the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.

John 20:27-28
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Let me have thy finger; see, here are my hands.  Let me have thy hand; put it into my side.  Cease thy doubting, and believe.”  28 Thomas answered, “Thou art my Lord and my God.”

In the book of Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a divine entity who speaks and who can be lied to:

Acts 5:3-4
3 Whereupon Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has taken possession of thy heart, bidding thee defraud the Holy Spirit by keeping back some of the money that was paid thee for the land?  4 Unsold, the property was thine; after the sale, the money was at thy disposal; what has put it into thy heart so to act?  It is God, not man, thou hast defrauded.”

Acts 13:2
2 These were offering worship to God and fasting, when the Holy Spirit said, “I must have Barnabas and Saul dedicated to the work to which I have called them.”

According to the Pauline Christians, the distinction of the entities can be shown, for example, in the fact that Jesus (a.s.) speaks to his Father.  This would make no sense if they were one and the same Person.  Of course, the more logical explanation would simply be that Jesus (a.s.), whilst a Divine person, is not God, the original Arian position.

Matthew 11:25-26
25 At that time Jesus said openly, “Father, Who art Lord of heaven and earth, I give thee praise that Thou hast Hidden all this from the wise and the prudent, and Revealed it to little children.  26 Be it so, Father, since this finds Favour in Thy Sight.”

That Jesus (a.s.) is not the same person as the Holy Spirit is revealed when Jesus (a.s.), in his capacity as the Paraclete, said he would pray to the Father and the Father would Give them another Paraclete, who they believe to be the Holy Spirit.  This, according to them, shows the distinction of all three entities: Jesus who prays; the Father Who Sends; and the Spirit who comes:

John 14:16-17
16 “... and then I will ask the Father, and He will Give you another Paraclete, one who is to dwell continually with you forever.  17 It is the truth-giving Spirit, for whom the world can find no room, because it cannot see him, cannot recognise him.  But you are to recognise him; he will be continually at your side, nay, he will be in you.”

The fact that the Son is Generated by the Father is indicated by the names of these entities.  The Pauline Christians hold that the Second Person of the Trinity would not be a Son if he were not generated by the First Person as his Father.  That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son is reflected in another statement of Jesus (a.s.):

John 15:26
26 “Well, when the Paraclete, who proceeds from the Father, has come to befriend you, he whom I will send to you from the Father’s side, he will bear witness of what I was.”

To them, this depicts the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.  The outward operations of the Persons of the Trinity reflect their mutual relations with each other.  They believe it may also be said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.  But to us, as Muslims, it is another clear indicator that this was a prophecy of another prophet to come.  And this was a position of many other Christian sects, the various ‘heresies’ such as Arianism.  Whilst they did not explicitly say Jesus (a.s.) was a prophet, they did not believe that he was God Incarnate.


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