The Christmas story is about God entering human form. As the Gospel of John in the Bible says in chapter 1, “The Word became flesh and lived with us.” This single action involves both the trinity and what we call the incarnation, meaning God taking on a human body. The trinity and incarnation are two of the major objections that Muslims have against the Christian faith. The Quran speaks strongly and frequently against both.
It is interesting that the Quran does recognize that Jesus is the Word of God (Kalimatallah). It says that he was “the Word of God was bestowed upon Mary” (Quran 4:171). In Arabic it describes a special process. Yet Muslims do not interpret this special conception to mean that God entered human flesh.
As Christians, we see the Word of God as co-eternal with God, because you cannot separate God from his word. Muslims see the Quran as co-eternal with Allah, but not Jesus the Word of God. Since Christians consider Jesus eternal, but not the Bible, the Muslim view does not sound sensible to us, and vice versa.
In this video, Dr. Mike Licona and Jewish background Christian author Bob Siegal discuss the trinity and incarnation. They focus on Philippians 2 from the New Testament/Injeel. This important passage describes how God humbled himself to enter human flesh and serve humanity, even dying to save it.
Muslims don’t believe this happened: neither that God came to earth as Jesus, nor that he died as payment for our sins.
Our question to Muslims then is, “Are you saying that God could not become a human, or that he would not become human?”
If they answer that he COULD not, we point out that God/Allah spoke from the burning bush in the Quran as well as the Bible (Quran 20:12,12). If he could be in a bush, surely he could take human form. If they deny that, we say that the God we worship is more powerful than Allah .
If Muslims answer, as they commonly do, that God WOULD not humble himself so low as to experience what humans do, we point out that the Old Testament prophesied that he would, and that the New Testament/Injeel records how he did! (See our other videos on this topic, including Gospel Video Tract for Muslims: Path of the Prophets – Christian from Muslim.)
God becoming human, the incarnation, demonstrates the great love that God has for us. Most parents would humble themselves, jumping into a muddy pond to save their child’s life, even if dressed in beautiful Ramadan clothes. If human parents would do that, but God wouldn’t, then human love would be stronger than Allah/God’s. Could that really be true? Could humans exceed God in virtue? Sometimes the strength of this analogy has helped Muslims understand and finally believe that God was in Jesus, loving them and offering to save them.
Mike Licona points out to us that although a human being might be disabled in some way, losing part of human functions like walking or seeing, they are still fully human. Likewise, although human bodies do have limitations, in human form Jesus still was/is God.
Sometimes Muslims sarcastically challenge us, “If Jesus was God, where was God while Jesus was on earth?” To Christians this seems like a silly question, because we know that God is everywhere. Dr. C likes the analogy of how in a room there can be air both inside and outside of an empty glass. Likewise, God can easily be inside and outside of a vessel, such as a human body, at the same time.
Did you know that the word “trinity” is not in the Bible? Sometimes Muslims say this as an attack, thinking that it disproves the trinity. But we know that word is not in the Bible. That’s OK. It is not the word itself that is important. It is the concept.
Trinity is simply a theological word that helps explain God to humans. It can be difficult to describe how the trinity functions. It can be even more difficult for Christians to agree on details of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit relationship. At Christian from Muslim, we try to make it simple, practical and easy to understand – as with Mike’s analogy here.
We find that once a Muslim understands that Jesus, the Word of God, was the prophesied final sacrifice for sin to be made by God in a human body, the rest of the trinity is easy.
If you need more help with this concept, our other videos on the topic may help.