Recently I debated Imam Musharraf Hussein on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable show. We explored the topic of the Old Testament doctrine of God: Does Moses’s doctrine of God fit Trinity or Tawhid better?
Subscribe to the podcast to hear the show released this Friday or tune in to Premier on Saturday afternoon to hear it on the radio.
I’d love to know what you think.
Here’s what I tweeted out after the recording:
What I learnt from my opponent: I should quote scripture more. What I hope he learnt from me: Tawhid is a prison, Trinity is the key!
— Glen Scrivener ن (@glenscrivener) July 17, 2017
I genuinely mean both sides of these tweets. I really did learn from Musharraf. I was struck by his regular quoting of Muslim scripture. It showed a real trust in the authority of his scriptures rather than simply the cleverness of his arguments. I should have done more of that.
I went into the debate with the intention of discussing some specific Scriptures from Genesis and Daniel. I wanted to show how, in its own context, the Old Testament speaks of a multi-personal doctrine of God. “The Angel of the LORD” (in Genesis) and “the Son of Man” (in Daniel) are titles for the pre-incarnate Christ and if we take the Old Testament Scriptures seriously then we must see that in their own context they proclaim the compound unity God.
When it came to it though, I spoke more generally about the whole sweep of Scripture because I felt I didn’t want to get bogged down in one particular verse. But maybe the problem was with me. “Bogged down”, eh? The Bible doesn’t bog us down, does it? I probably should have approached the debate as intended and brought the specific Scriptures to bear, pressing home their implications. Ah well. Regrets!
On the other hand I hope that Musharraf, and other Muslims listening in, would also learn from the debate. In particular I would love Muslims to consider whether the Muslim doctrine of God is itself incoherent or even idolatrous.
Idolatrous? Yes, let me show how Islam’s unitarian doctrine of God actually makes the Muslim guilty of the very last crime they wish to commit. Tawhid – the Muslim doctrine of God’s mathematical oneness – entails shirk – the sin of associating partners with Allah, i.e. idolatry. This is true in three ways. In today’s post let me show two reasons the Muslim commits idolatry and then next week, I’ll unpack the third reason.
The Muslim Doctrine of God (tawhid) entails the sin of idolatry (shirk) because:
- The Bible says that Christ is God’s eternal Word (John 1:1); His eternal Radiance (Hebrews 1:3); His eternal Son (John 17:24). This means that God has always been expressing himself, always shining, always giving life. If God’s eternal being does not include this expression/shining/life-giving then it would make God mute, dark and lifeless. The Bible has a name for gods who are mute, dark and lifeless. It calls them idols.
- A Muslim may respond to the above by saying that Allah’s attributes include self-expression, radiance, life-giving, etc. The mathematically singular Allah does not need a Son or Spirit in order to be communicative, or so the argument goes. Unfortunately for the Muslim this doesn’t work. If Allah is essentially communicative then he is incomplete until he shares himself with creation. If he is essentially loving and merciful (as the Quran says) then he needs creatures to be loving and merciful towards. But the Bible has a name for gods who are needy. It calls them idols.
Either Allah is needy and can, through the help of creation, communicate/shine/give life, or Allah is not needy and is shut up within himself as a mute, dark, lifeless god. He could be one kind of false god or another kind of false god. But, having rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, the Muslim God can never be anything but an idol.
Listen to the debate when it’s out and, next week, I’ll write some more here reflecting on the very different doctrines of God which Christianity and Islam proclaim.