The aim of this article is to compare Islamic monotheism, known as Tawheed, with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to see which is the true concept of God.
WHAT IS THE TRINITY
The doctrine of the Trinity defines God as one being who eternally exists as three distinct Persons — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Put simply, “one God in three persons”. All three Persons of the Trinity are said to be co-equal and co-eternal, and “each is God, whole and entire”. However each Person has different roles or activities when it comes to how God relates to the world.
Reconciling the plurality of the godhead within a monotheistic framework continues to be one of the great challenges faced by Trinitarians. If you are finding it difficult to rationalise such a concept then you are not alone. An internet search for “Trinity” yields an abundance of elaborate diagrams which is indicative of the irrationality of the doctrine. Here is one such diagram used by Trinitarians to summarise the doctrine:
Below is the earliest attested version of the diagram:
This is taken from a manuscript of Peter of Poitiers’ writings, around 1210 CE. One has to wonder to what extent before the advent of such diagrams that the uneducated masses of early Christendom fully grasped the doctrine.
WHAT IS TAWHEED
Tawheed is the concept of monotheism in Islam. Linguistically the word means unification. It comes from the Arabic root word wa-ha-da which means making something one (‘waahid’). Waahid is the opposite of plurality (two, three, etc.). So waahid is something that will continue to be singular and never become a partner of something else. Islamically, Tawheed means to single out God in all acts of worship and to abandon the worship of anything else.
From these points of view Tawheed is incompatible with the Trinity because Trinitarians worship three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It must be noted that whilst Islamic concept of God is incompatible with the Trinity, Islamic Tawheed is in fact like the Jewish concept of God. We find that one of the greatest Torah scholars in history, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, permitted Jewish and Muslim co-worship. In fact there is virtually a consensus among Rabbis that if a Jew cannot find a synagogue to worship in, then it is permissible (and even encouraged) for them to pray in a mosque. This is only possible because they recognise that mosques are places of pure monotheism and that Muslims have absolutely no error in their views of the Oneness of the Divine. By comparison, not only are Jews not allowed to pray in Churches, they are forbidden from even setting foot in them!
DOCTRINE IN LIGHT OF GUIDANCE
The purpose of revelation can be boiled down to guidance – the books of God are revealed to mankind in order to guide us. If guidance results in confusion (or misguidance) then it defeats the purpose of revelation. How does this relate to the Trinity? Many theoloigians have abandoned all hope of deriving a true understanding of the dogma and resigned themselves to classifying it as a holy mystery. The Catholic Church states the following:
The Catholic Church defines mystery in theology as something that remains veiled in darkness:
This seems to be at odds with statements in the Bible that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) and “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). If Trinitarians embraced the polytheism that is inherent in the doctrine and explained it for what it really is – three Gods and not one – then there would be no confusion. The Trinity is inexplicable because theologians try to fit the doctrine into a monotheistic context which does not and will not fit. Their final “out” is that the Trinity is a mystery that one must accept on faith.
If the Trinity were some inconsequential aspect of Christian theology then perhaps its mystery wouldn’t be an issue. But it isn’t, so entrenched has the belief in the Trinity become that it is the litmus test for whether or not a person is considered to be orthodox. Rejecting any aspect of the doctrine is enough for a Christian to be condemned as a disbeliever. The evangelical scholar Harold Lindsell and seminary professor Charles Woodbridge wrote the following:
There you have it, “deny the Trinity and you lose your soul”. This reveals a fundamental paradox with the doctrine: why would God reveal something that cannot be fully comprehended, and yet tie our salvation to it? What should we make of all this in light of the purpose of revelation? Revelation is an opening up, an uncovering. How can the Trinity be a revelation when the most learned of biblical scholars write that it is a mystery? That is double-talk which directly conflicts with the very purpose of revelation: guidance.
Contrast this with Islamic Tawheed. The Qur’an claims that it is not a book of confusion but clear guidance:
The Qur’an puts forward a clear picture of God:
Unlike the Trinity, the concept of God being one distinct and unique personality – with everything in the creation, Jesus included, belonging to Him – is easy to grasp by anyone, whether child or adult, from the lay person to the scholar. Let’s examine some reasoning that God gives to explain why Jesus cannot have been divine:
Notice how God Almighty refers to Jesus as “son of Mary”. This phrase is repeated throughout the Qur’an and reinforces the idea that he is a very human messenger of God. The mention of Jesus eating food is a simple but profound point, anything that needs sustenance cannot be God. The Qur’an doesn’t rely on complicated philosophical arguments when addressing its reader, it is accessible to anyone regardless of age, intelligence and social background. Thus Islam is a universal religion as the Qur’an proclaims:
Now that’s not to say there aren’t concepts in Islam that are complex – there are, for example the laws governing the distribution of inheritance – but such specialist knowledge is only needed by a few and is not tied to the believer’s salvation. This is the opposite of the situation with Trinitarians. They are in the awkward position of being compelled to believe in something that cannot be comprehended which creates tension between the heart and mind. Thus the believing Trinitarian can never truly be at peace. Tawheed, the pillar of Islam, is something that can be grasped by anyone. The believing Muslim has an inner peace that the Trinitarian cannot attain. It’s interesting that one of the root meanings of the Arabic word ‘Islam’ is in fact “peace” – in essence Islam means “the attainment of peace by submitting to our Creator”. The Qur’an describes this peace that Muslims have when they remember God:
MENTIONED BY NAME
The term ‘trinity’ is not found anywhere in the Bible. Such terminology appears only in the writings of Church fathers much later. The position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the term ‘trinity’ was first mentioned late into the second century:
It is the Qur’an that explicitly mentions the Trinity:
It’s incredible that the book which Trinitarians claim is the source of their doctrine, the Bible, does not mention the doctrine by name, whilst the Qur’an directly refutes it.
Now, there is a mention of “threeness” in some versions of the Bible in a verse known as the Johannine Comma:
This verse used to be in all Bibles; however the editors of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New International Version (NIV) have removed the verse (please click on picture to enlarge):
Notice how verse 7 in the RSV is different to verse 7 in the KJV. The RSV does not contain the mention of threeness. Also notice that verse 7 in the NIV is different to not only the KJV but also the RSV. The NIV also does not contain the mention of threeness. The RSV and NIV have had to split other verses into two parts in order to make up for the deletion of the Johannine Comma, this is so that the verse numbers across all three versions of the Bible line up the same.
The King James Version (KJV) has grave defects, and so these newer versions of the Bible (which are based on older and hence more reliable manuscripts) were produced. Here is the NIV footnote regarding this verse:
In other words, it is a fabricated verse that was inserted into the New Testament over 1,500 years after Jesus. Trinitarians should reflect on this question: why is the only explicit mention of God being a threeness a later fabrication? Clearly, it had to be inserted into the Bible to lend support for the doctrine because it is unbiblical.
By contrast the word “tawheed” and its derivatives such as “waahid” are found throughout the Islamic source texts, the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him):
“And your god is one [waahid] God…” [Chapter 2, verse 163] “Some of the people of Tawheed will be punished in the Fire until they are coals. Then the Mercy (of Allah) will reach them, they will be taken out and tossed at the doors of Paradise.” He said: “The people of Paradise will pour water over them, and they will sprout as the debris carried by the flood sprouts, then they will enter Paradise.” [Tirmidhi, vol. 4, book 13, #2597]
“And your god is one [waahid] God…” [Chapter 2, verse 163]
“Some of the people of Tawheed will be punished in the Fire until they are coals. Then the Mercy (of Allah) will reach them, they will be taken out and tossed at the doors of Paradise.” He said: “The people of Paradise will pour water over them, and they will sprout as the debris carried by the flood sprouts, then they will enter Paradise.” [Tirmidhi, vol. 4, book 13, #2597]
IS THE CONCEPT PRESENT
Trinitarians may try to argue that although there isn’t any mention of the word ‘trinity’ in the Bible, the concept is present throughout scripture. Whilst it’s true that some verses do allude to the divinity of Jesus, this is only the case when they are taken in isolation. When one goes beyond a superficial reading of scripture and interprets verses in the context of all of an author’s writings, then the concept of the Trinity is nowhere to be found.
A good example are the writings of Paul. Trinitarians like to point to his talk of a “Godhead” as proof of the Trinity:
But this represents a very narrow reading of scripture, as Paul also talks of there being government in the Godhead, he gives a clear order of authority and responsibility. The Father is the head over all creation, including Jesus:
Remember that the doctrine of the Trinity states that Jesus the Son and God the Father are co-equal, which of course conflicts with Paul’s hierarchy of the Father being the head of the Son. Moreover if Paul really did believe in there being three persons in the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as understood by Christians today, then he would have mentioned all three members in his letters to the churches – he never does. Paul mentions the Father and Jesus in every introduction of every letter he wrote (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2; I Timothy 1:2; II Timothy 1:2; Hebrews 1:1-2), but he never mentions the Holy Spirit. Such an omission is astounding. Clearly Paul did not believe in a Triune God.
Another example of Trinitarians taking verses out of isolation is the famous prologue of John:
This verse is perhaps the most often used by Trinitarians in trying to prove that the concept of the doctrine is scriptural. Again, if we are serious about interpreting scripture then we must take all of an author’s writings into consideration before drawing conclusions about their beliefs. The following verse provides the correct context for the prologue of John:
This statement in the Bible is devastating to the doctrine of the Trinity, as it clearly identifies God as the only true God to the exclusion of Jesus. In fact so devastating is this statement, that major pro-Trinitarian scholars of the past have resorted to manipulating the Bible in order to protect the doctrine of the Trinity. We note the remarkable comment of the celebrated Church Father Augustine. Augustine of Hippo is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity. It was so difficult for Augustine to harmonise John 17:3 with his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, that this immensely influential church leader actually restructured the verse to accommodate both the Father and Son in the Godhead. Augustine, in his “Homilies on John”, boldly asserts that John 17:3 means:
This daring alteration of the Bible seriously distorts the original meaning of the words in order to include Jesus in the Godhead. Such forcing of the text merely exposes Augustine’s desperation to protect his creed in the Bible. You can read more examples of how Trinitarians misinterpret scripture here.
The simple fact is that nowhere in the Bible is there any explicit mention of a Trinitarian formula, the concept that God is three persons that are co-equal and co-eternal. The Trinity is supposed to be the central doctrine of Christianity and the true nature of God, and yet the Bible does not clearly support it. If this doctrine is so important then shouldn’t it be clearly explained all over the Bible, like other doctrines such as the death of Jesus for our sins and his resurrection from the dead?
This silence becomes deafening when we consider the many historical controversies that are discussed in the New Testament. The Book of Acts is filled with many examples of controversies that occurred during the lifetime of the disciples. Perhaps the most prominent of these was the issue of circumcision in light of Gentiles. With the sudden influx of new Gentile converts, the question of whether they need to be circumcised was raised. Chapter 15 of the Book of Acts goes into detail about a council that was summoned in Jerusalem, with church leaders like James and Peter attending to settle the controversy. Ultimately it was decided that circumcision was not a requirement upon Gentiles, but the key point to mention was that the loudest proponents of Gentile circumcision were the Jewish believers in Jerusalem who are described as numbering in “many thousands” and being “all zealous of the law” (Acst 21:20). They were so zealous in fact that they taught “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Should we be surprised that they would find the abandonment of circumcision controversial, given that circumcision and faith had been inextricably linked since the time of Moses? Now imagine the disciples going into synagogues and teaching a new Triune concept of God that would have been alien to these strictly monotheistic Jews. If the issue of foreskins caused “sharp dispute and debate” (Acts 15:2), then how much more so would the upheaval of their understanding of God? What we find is that there is no mention of any such controversy, it is strikingly absent from the New Testament. Isn’t the simplest explanation for this phenomenon that the doctrine didn’t yet exist?
The truth is that this doctrine is arrived at by deduction. In reality, it must be read into the scriptures – it is not derived from it. It is not developed from clear scriptural references, but rather by beginning with a premise, boldly claiming that premise is true, and then proceeding to develop “proofs” from scripture. Often such proofs involve a patchwork of verses – the cobbling together of unrelated bits and pieces of scripture from across the Bible. In doing so they reduce the Bible to a Da Vinci Code.
If we look to the New Testament, we find that Jesus was presented with numerous opportunities to spell out the doctrine of the Trinity in detail. The following example is perhaps the most noteworthy:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. [Mark 12:28-34]
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. [Mark 12:28-34]
It’s important to reiterate that the Jewish understanding of the Old Testament commandments rejects all notions of God being a Trinity. So in the passages above, by simply repeating the commandment about God being One, Jesus is re-affirming the Old Testament view of God’s purely monotheistic nature and therefore rejecting the Trinitarian understanding – the Trinity rejected by the alleged second person of the Trinity! This was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to correct the Jew’s misconceptions about God and give him the Trinitarian understanding of God being three co-equal and co-eternal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we have seen the exact opposite is the case, he goes so far as to complement the Jew (“You are not far from the kingdom of God”).
The reason why Jews do not believe in a Triune God is that He never presents himself as such in the Old Testament. The way that Trinitarians attempt to get around this problem is by appealing to a doctrine known as “Progressive Revelation”:
But such an appeal creates more problems that it attempts to solve. Because of Progressive Revelation, the Trinitarian concept of God’s nature is, and continues to be, open to development. Therefore the question they have to ponder is, what if God later reveals He is Four Persons united in One? For example, why couldn’t it later be revealed that Mary is also God, perhaps the Mother in the Godhead? Or, why couldn’t it later be revealed that the Holy Spirit is in fact seven persons and not just one (see Revelation 1:4 which mentions “the seven spirits before his [God’s] throne”)? As we’ve already seen, there is no explicit mention of ‘three’ either by name or concept, so with Progressive Revelation there’s nothing to stop God becoming four or more persons at some point in the future. Thus the Trinitarian can never lay claim to having a correct understanding of God, because they can never know for certain that God has revealed the full picture about Himself.
By comparison the Islamic concept of Tawheed leaps out at you from every page of the Qur’an. This central theme, the worship of God who is unlike His creation, is reinforced using so many different types of argument. Perhaps this is most beautifully captured in the Qur’an’s 112th chapter, Al Ikhlas (meaning “The Sincerity”):
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,
Allah, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,
The Qur’an only takes four lines, less than 20 words in the original Arabic, to spell out in crystal clear terms the nature of God, with more clarity than anything that Trinitarians can manufacture from the Bible.
1 – Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 234.
2 – The Catholic Encyclopedia, Constitution, “De fide. cath.”, iv.
3 – Harold Lindsell and Charles Woodbridge, A Handbook of Christian Truth, pp. 51-52.
4 – The Catholic Encyclopedia, “De pud.”, xxi.
5 – Homilies on John, tractate CV, chapter 17.
6 – “What is Progressive Revelation“, by Don Stewart, BlueLetterBible.Org