Challenge: The Trinity Is Unscriptural and Unreasonable

Posted: August 28, 2012 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

In the video below, Muslim apologist Shabir Ally explains the two main reasons why he doesn’t accept the doctrine of the Trinity:

  1. It’s unscriptural. We’re told to worship one God in the Bible. Jesus starts off as “very human” in Mark, then his status is raised bit by bit in the other Gospels, then the idea develops “over the ages” until He is declared to be God by the Council of Nicaea.
  2. It’s unreasonable. If you say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, then you are describing three gods. Christians try to say there are three persons in one God, but to every reasonable mind “that adds up to three gods.” Therefore, to say you believe in one God and three persons who are God is a contradiction.

How do you respond to this challenge? Tell us how you would answer Shabir Ally, and we’ll hear Brett’s answer on Thursday.

  1. Brad Haggard says:

    First, Shabir Ally is really good. But he doesn’t characterize the development of the doctrine accurately. Tertullian was the first to use the term “Trinity” in explaining the doctrine over 100 years before Nicaea. And scripturally speaking, Philippians 2 pre-dates any of the Gospels, and has our highest Christological statement in the New Testament. He is right that Christian theologians have opted for mystery in our doctrine of the trinity and the incarnation, but I’m not sure why an absolutist conception of God is to be preferred. Nicaea actually rejected a more absolutist option on the table in Arianism. This promotes the ineffable nature of God that we can’t comprehend His nature, and it allows for full redemption, as Jesus being both God and Man can fully redeem creation to God.

  2. Sam Harper says:

    There is an inconsistency is how Shabir Ally makes his scriptural argument. On the one hand, he seems to be working with the assumption that the gospels are in fact scriptural. Otherwise, it would be pointless to say that the Trinity is unscriptural and that that’s a reason to reject it. But on the other hand, he points out that from Mark to John, Jesus’ status gets raised. But if Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are all scripture, then it’s irrelevant whether one attributes more status to Jesus than another since they are all equally true. If John makes Jesus out to be the creator, then Jesus is the creator whether Mark says so or not.

    He’s wrong to say that Trinity is unscriptural. The Trinity is arrived at by deductive reasoning from these seven points, which are all scriptural:

    1. There is only one God.
    2. The Father is God.
    3. The Son is God.
    4. The Holy Spirit is God.
    5. The Father is not the same person as the Son.
    6. The Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit.
    7. The Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father.

    All seven of those points are scriptural, and the Trinity follows logically and necessarily from those seven points, so the Trinity is scriptural.

    Also, as Brad pointed out, Shabir Ally is mistaken in how the doctrine of the Trinity developed–especially in his understanding of how Jesus got promoted to Godhood. It was not at the council of Nicaea that Jesus was finally promoted to Godhood. The Sabellian controversy predates Nicaea, and according to Sabellianism, Jesus was not only God, but he was the same person as the Father.

    Ally says that if there are three person who are each God, then there are three gods, but he doesn’t do anything to substantiate that point. He just asserts it. So there’s no much to refute there. But as far as the Trinity being logically consistent, that can be demonstrated by making a categorical distinction between a being and a person. Not all beings are person, but some are. So you have things like rocks, planets, shoes, and loafs of bread that are beings but are not persons. Then you have things like gods, angels, humans, and cats that are beings who are persons. If there can be a being that is not a person, and a being that is one person, why can’t there be a being that is three persons? Why can’t three persons share the same nature?

    I wrote a series of posts on the doctrine of the Trinity on my blog, started with the logical coherence of the Trinity, then going through arguments for the Trinity, then arguments against the Trinity:

    One of the best books I’ve read on the Trinity is James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity:

  3. Erik says:

    I find it interesting that this question would even be addressed by a Muslim considering they reject the notion that Jesus is anything more than a prophet, and certainly not the Son of God. So a quicker response I would have expected from him would have been something like this: “we reject the trinity because we believe that Jesus is nothing more than a man, as is taught in the Holy Quran”. The Quran teaches that the doctrine of the trinity is false, so it would seem his response should indicate such. But rather than answer based on the teachings of the Quran, he chose to move forward with incorrect notions that the Bible does not teach the idea of the trinity or that it is illogical, completely jumping past the point of their denial of Christ’s deity in the first place.

    Sam has already offered up evidence as well as a link to additional resources on his site. I see no need to offer the same information in my comment. I affirm that It can be easily shown that the Bible teaches the deity of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit well before the Council of Nicea. Sam mentioned Tertullian and you could also add to the list of believers/teachers of the trinity pre-Nicaea: Polycarp, Irenaeus, Origen and Justin Martyr. His case against the deity of Christ is poorly made given the evidence.

    Ultimately as long as a Muslim holds to the teachings in the Quran, it doesn’t matter what argument they make against the trinity, they would first have to accept Christ and the Holy Spirit as equal with God. I’m not certain why he doesn’t just end the matter by stating it that plainly. Add the fact that the Quran teaches that anyone who believes the doctrine of the trinity will be punished by Allah, as is quoted at the end of the video, and it is unlikely any argument could convince them otherwise. In the end, any answer we give to a Muslim in defense of the trinity will almost certainly be dismissed out of hand due to their rejection of the deity of Christ.