Is The Trinity Logically Coherent in Light of Biblical Teachings? Part 2: A Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun
Shamoun responded to this article in two parts:
Shamoun in the first 85% of his first article throws red herrings (as usual) and tries to appeal to verses that show that Jesus is God. Besides the fact that all of these have already been addressed (*,*,*,*,*,*,*,*,*,*,*,*), it is interesting to note that the Gospel of John is argued to have been authored by at least three different people.
Raymond Brown agrees with the view that the Beloved Disciple was a minor figure during Jesus' (peace be upon him) ministry and was too unimportant to be remembered in the official synoptic tradition (p. 369). After a discussion on this issue he concludes (p. 371):
Such development may be explained best if tradition about Jesus stemming from the Beloved Disciple has been reflected upon over many years and expanded in the light of Johannine community experiences. Beginning with the acceptance of Jesus as the final prophet and the Messiah of Jewish expectations (1:40-49), the tradition has gone on to "greater things" (1:50) ... The Beloved Disciple may have lived through the historical development of the community ... and so there may have been a certain symbiosis between him and the Gospel that committed to writing a tradition that not only had its roots in his experience of Jesus but also embodied decades of ongoing reflection on that experience. The evangelist, who wove the theologically reflected tradition into a work of unique literary skill, would presumably have been a disciple of the Beloved Disciple, about whom he writes in the third person. And the redactor, if there was one, may have been another disciple. (Raymond E. Brown, S.S, An Introduction To The New Testament (The Anchor Bible Reference Library), 1997, Doubleday)
Thus, we see that there were three stages in the authorship of the Gospel of John:
1. The disciple of Jesus (peace be upon him) - his memories.
2. The community then adds its own interpretive take on it.
3. The redactor(s) who then gives the product the final touches.
So these are the three stages of production of the fourth Gospel. The end product - the gospel as we have it - is not simply the work of Jesus' (peace be upon him) apostle. While it may contain elements which ultimately go to the apostle, it also consists of later elaborations of the community and the work of the redactor(s).
It is through these three stages that the gospel has come down to us.
Thus, why should we believe that there must be consistency through out the Gospel of John? Isn't it possible that someone might have had Unitarian beliefs and wrote John 17:3, while the other might have had Trinitarian beliefs and authored John 1:1 (John 1:1 does not clearly teach the divinity of Jesus, but I won't pursue this argument at this point)? Shamoun erroneously assumes that all the verses in the Gospel of John must be at harmony with each other, while there is no reason to believe so.
Secondly, even if Shamoun were successful in showing that there are verses in John's Gospel that show that Jesus is God then this only means that they contradict John 17:3, which clearly states that the Father is the only true God.
I contend that John 17:3 is the hermeneutical key that one should use to understand all the other verses for it is unambiguous and clear, unlike the verses that Shamoun put forth to try and show that Jesus is divine.
Shamoun then appeals to Jude 4 and says:
Now if we were to apply the logic of Bassam and the other anti-Trinitarians to the above text this would prove that the Father cannot be either our Sovereign or Lord since only Jesus is both. To top it off Jude claims that Jesus is that very Lord who delivered Israel out of Egypt and punished them for their sins in the wilderness, indicating that by Lord Jude meant that Jesus is Yahweh. Again, using Zawadi's logic this means the Father cannot be Yahweh since only Jesus is!
First of all, even if the passage said that Jesus is the only God (which it doesn't as I will show) then that doesn't solve the problem. There would still be a logical contradiction, for the Father and the Son at the same time cannot be the ONLY true God since they are different persons.
Secondly, the verse does not say that Jesus is our Only Sovereign and Lord.
For a proper translation with the Greek by its side please refer here. The King James Version translated the verse in another way when it states:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice how the verse does not say that Jesus is the only Lord God. It separates him from the only Lord God. The verse says "only Lord God" AND "our Lord Jesus Christ".
Paul A. Cedar translates the line as follows: "They deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 4)."
From the above it seems that while the author of Jude considered Jesus to be "Lord" and applied the same language upon Jesus (peace be upon him) as he applied upon God, he still seemingly made a distinction between the Lord God and the Lord Jesus. The latter is not God.
David Guzik states:
Who deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ: These certain men deny the Lord Jesus Christ. They do this by refusing to recognize who Jesus said He was, and therefore they also deny who God the Father is also. (David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on Jude, Source)
It appears that David saw a distinction in the verse between the God the Father and Jesus the Lord.
John Gill states:
And denying the only Lord God;
God the Father, who is the only sovereign Lord, both in providence and grace; and the only God, not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit, but in opposition to nominal and fictitious deities, or Heathen gods; and he was denied by these men, if not in words, yet in works: the word "God" is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin version. (The New John Gill's Exposition to the Bible, Commentary on Jude 1:4, Source)
Even John Gill understood the distinction being made in the verse. He understood that when the verse spoke about "the only Lord God", that this was specifically referring to the Father. John Gill tries to explain how the Father is the only true God, but it is a desperate attempt and is not supported by the text.
One may argue that the verse linguistically shows that it is speaking about one person and that is Jesus. However, just because it is linguistically possible that does not mean that it is linguistically necessary.
The late conservative Church historian J. N. D. Kelly translated the verse as follows: "... who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ." (p. 245).
Kelly then comments (p. 252):
"The second charge is that they deny the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. both God the Father and Christ (so RVm; RSVm; NEBm). The alternative translation, 'deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ' (AV; RV; RSV; NEB) is equally possible linguistically, and the decision between them is not easy. The fact that there is a definite article before only master and none before our Lord J.C. might seem to suggest that the whole complex expression applies to a single person, but this argument cannot be pressed: the article is often omitted before 'God', 'Lord', and the like ... A weightier point is that 2 Pet. ii. I, which is modelled on this phrase, evidently understood Master as referring to Christ; but the ambiguity must have been as real and puzzling soon after it was written as it is today." (J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude (Black's New Testament Commentaries), 1977, A & C Black, London.)
To make things worse for the Trinitarian the Greek word kai could also mean "even" and not necessarily "and". Thus, the verse could be safely read as:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God even our Lord Jesus Christ.
So with this reading we see that Jesus is being distinguished from the "only Lord God" and that one should not deny the only Lord God (i.e. the Father) as well as the Lord (i.e. master or representative of God, see the Greek word kyrios) Jesus Christ.
So again, this verse is another example of John 17:3, where Jesus is differentiated from the ONLY LORD GOD who is the Father.
Also, there is no reason to believe that the Lord being referred to in verse 5 is Jesus. There is nothing to show that this is necessarily the case.
Thus, Shamoun has failed to clearly give a verse showing that Jesus is God. Secondly, even if he were successful he would still have to deal with the logical problem of such a belief in light of John 17:3.
the Father can be called the only true God without this suggesting that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not the only true God as well,
Shamoun is uttering what I stated in my article to be ludicrous. It is logically impossible for the Father who is a different person from the Son and Holy Spirit to be the only true God at the same time when the Son and Holy Spirit are God as well.
Shamoun insists that this is what the Bible teaches. Well so what? What we conclude then is that the Bible is logically incoherent.
Zawadi is correct that the three men in his comparison cannot all be the only human being without this being a contradiction since they are all different and distinct beings, not just different persons. We know that humans are by nature uni-personal and therefore a man cannot be more than one person and yet still one being at the same time. But the only way for Zawadi's analogy to be a valid comparison to refute what Trinitarians believe concerning the nature of God is if he can prove that God is uni-Personal, i.e. he is not just one Divine Being but one Divine Person as well. He must further prove that God's existence is identical to the being of man so that God cannot exist as a single Being who is more than one Person.
Shamoun is attacking straw man. I never said that it is impossible or illogical for God to have three centers of consciousness. I already stated in the beginning of my article that it is quite possible to make sense out of such a thing:
you would realize that what these Christians are doing is redefining or putting forth the notion of Trinity in a way that could be possible for it to be logically comprehended.
The title of my article was "Is the Trinity Logically Coherent In Light of Biblical Teachings?"
I argued that if God is uni-personal then it means that each person in the God head is truly God. It is not possible that only one out of the persons in the Godhead is God while at the same time the others are God as well.
Also, I hope the readers don't misunderstand my position and think that I actually agree that when the Trinity is defined then it means monotheism. I only take the position that it is "logically comprehended" in that it could make sense to say "One being with three centers of consciousness", but I would still maintain that such a belief is polytheistic.
One being/essence which is divine and is shared by three different people still gives you three Gods. Sure, you can have one being, but having one being does not mean that it is one God. It is only one being that is shared by three different Gods.
And to repeat - there is nothing logically inconsistent with saying that God is one in a certain sense but more than one in another sense, e.g. he is one eternal Being who exists as a plurality of Divine Persons having a multiplicity of attributes. It would be logically inconsistent to say that God is one Being and three Beings at the same time, or one Person and three Persons simultaneously, but this is NOT what the doctrine of the Holy Trinity teaches.
I never asserted that God could not be one in a certain sense, but more than one in another sense. I believe that God is one in his Lordship, but plural in His attributes (e.g. He is not only All Merciful, but All Just as well). However, the problem is that the Bible (John 17:3) clearly states that the Father (singular person) IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD. I honestly don't know how to go around that verse. I don't understand how the Father can be THE ONLY TRUE GOD, while at THE SAME TIME the Son and Holy Spirit are God as well.
Also, I find it strange how Christians such as Shamoun can refer to God in the singular sense by calling Him "He". What does Shamoun mean by "He is one eternal being". Who is the "He" here? You have three people in that one eternal being. Doesn't Shamoun mean "them"? The "being" is not a person, thus Shamoun can't refer to that "being" as a "He".
Shamoun tries to turn the tables on me.
Muslim scholars went so far as to say that even though the Quran is not Allah it is not other than him!
That is not what the passage that Shamoun goes on to cite says. It says:
We confess that the Kuran is the speech of Allah, uncreated, His inspiration and revelation, not He, yet not other than He, but His real quality, written in the copies, recited by the tongues, preserved in the breasts, yet not residing there.
It says that Allah's speech is His real quality (i.e. attribute). It doesn't say that it is Allah Himself.
He has attributes from all eternity subsistent in His essence. They are not He nor are they other than He. And they are Knowledge and Power and Life and Might and Hearing and Seeing and Willing and Desiring and Doing and Creating and Sustaining. (Sa'd al-Din al-Taftazani, A Commentary on the Creed of Islam, translated by E. E. Elder [Columbia University Press: New York, 1950], p. 49; bold and underline emphasis ours)
I don't have access to this Arabic book, but it appears that what the author is trying to say is that Allah' attributes are a necessary part of His nature. Thus, to refer to the attribute is to refer to God. See how Ibn Kathir in his commentary on Surah 28:88 states that Allah's attribute of the Face is another way of referring to Him, since it is a necessary part of His nature. For example, if one were to say that Allah's Face has perished it is as good as saying that Allah Himself has perished, since Allah's Face is necessary for Him. So in this way, the attribute of Face was used to represent Allah even though it is not Allah, since Allah is not a Face but God.
Shamoun asks some questions:
If the Quran is not Allah then how can it be eternal?
The Qur'an is the speech of Allah. Allah's speech is one of His attributes. Allah's attributes (e.g. knowledge, sight, speech, etc.) are part of His nature. Logically speaking then, if Allah is uncreated then that also means that His attributes are not created either.
How can Allah still be one if the Quran is other than him?
We say that Allah is one Lord and God who has several attributes. We don't say that Allah only has one attribute or that the Qur'an is God.
And if it isn't other than Allah how then can the Muslim scripture not be a living, dynamic entity that is fully Divine?
The question is not clear. How can Allah's attributes be alive? God has knowledge so does that make knowledge a living thing? No, so why then think that for His attribute of Speech?
Shamoun must clarify the question.
Moreover, if it isn't other than Allah, how can it be distinct from Allah?
Allah has several attributes that subsist in His nature. They are not distinct from Him in the sense that God could not be without these attributes, however they are distinct in the sense that the attribute is not Him. (E.g. I have feelings. My feelings are subsisted in my nature and being. So they can't be distinct from me in that I can't be separated from them and be who I am without them. However, that doesn't mean that I am my feelings.)
How many Allahs are there?
More importantly, how can something be and not be a specific thing at the same time, e.g. how can the Quran be Allah and not be Allah without this being a logical contradiction, being "a" and "not a" simultaneously?
I already clarified that Allah is not His attribute, but one can refer to His attribute in order to refer to Him. Refer back to my example regarding Allah's Face.
How can it be both eternal and created? Does this make sense?
We don't say that the same thing is eternal and created at the same time. If we did then that would be a logical contradiction. We say that the book cover, pages, ink, etc. of the Qur'an are created, but the information content in it is uncreated. So something uncreated is being communicated to us through created means. We are not saying that the uncreated is the created thing, just as Christians would say that Jesus is eternal and at the same time became a man (who is obviously created).
Shamoun then asks:
To make matters worse the Quran narrates episodes that have occurred within time and space. Since it is eternal this means that all of these events and speeches were foreordained, which means that the players in these episodes did not have free will but were programmed to say and act in accord with what Allah's uncreated word had already predestined. After all, they had no choice to act in a manner contrary what is found in the Quran. How, then, can Zawadi affirm human free will while holding to the belief that the Quran is uncreated if he is going to be logically consistent?
For Allah to know about or say something in advance does not mean that He has forced it to occur. Shamoun seems to be ignorant of what Muslims mean when we speak about predestination.
Readers may refer to the following links in order to understand the Islamic concept regarding Predestination:
I also encourage people to buy this book.
Shamoun then provides a quotation from Annemarie Schimmel who states that there is similarity between the Quran in book form and God the Son in man form. I find no basis for this comparison what so ever. No top reputable Muslim scholar that I know of would say such a thing and I don't even think that Annemarie Schimmel was a Muslim to begin with.
Thus, whereas Jesus is God's eternal Word who became flesh the Quran is the eternal Word that became a book! Since Zawadi has no problem affirming the unity of Allah while also believing that the Quran is the eternal speech of Allah that became a book on what logically consistent basis can he reject the Christian belief in the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the blessed Incarnation as irrational?
As I said before, the Qur'an in essence is uncreated and communicated to us through created means. It did not become a creation. It is not a creation. Christians don't merely say that God remained in His essence and simply communicated to us through the image of a man. No, they say that He became a man. Since Muslims do not say that Allah's divine attribute of speech became paper, ink, etc. and that it is only communicated through those means, the analogy becomes fallacious at best.
Christians believe that God's divine essence was in the man of Jesus Christ himself. But no where do Muslims believe that the divine attribute of God is in the book itself. It is only its message and information content that it is there. Anyone can write up the Qur'an on a piece of paper. That doesn't mean that he can transform an ordinary piece of paper into a divine piece of paper at any time. Sure, the paper could become holy in the sense that it contains the words of the divine, but not that it has actually become divine in and of it self. If that were the case then the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have taught us to worship the Qur'an or seek blessings from it by wiping it over our faces, etc.
Shamoun then goes on to speak about Allah's hands, face, etc. and this has all already been addressed:
- Refutation To Sam Shamoun's Article "The Annihilation of Allah: A Question and Challenge to Salafi Anthropomorphists"
- Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Revisiting the Face of Allah:Addressing the Concerns of a Muslim Dawagandist"
And is this the same gent who associates with Jalal Abualrub who censured those who would try to use human reasoning to refute the Salafi position concerning Allah's bodily "attributes" being literal, and note simply metaphorical?
We don't throw human reasoning into the trash bin. There are some instances in which certain things are BEYOND OUR REASON as the case with Allah's attributes and things that go AGAISNT OUR REASON and these things we reject (e.g. like the Trinity in light of John 17:3, the incarnation, etc.).
Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah recognized this distinction. (See my citation of him over here).
Sure, Muslims can redefine language in order to deny that Allah has an actual body with body-parts so that it can make sense, but the problem with this would be that their anthropomorphic understanding is not Quranically based. It is simply the product of a hyper-literal reading of a text which is already brimming with contradictions and incoherent statements.
Shamoun after getting smashed by me twice on this topic still does not know our position. We don't redefine language. We say that we know the meaning of the words, but not the howness. I urge the readers to refer to the previously mentioned two articles above to get a better understanding of the issue.
Shamoun concludes by saying:
What makes this rather amusing is that Zawadi thought that his response was a sufficient reply to some of the above articles! That's what happens when you live in a fantasy world where you believe in things such as the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, and that Muhammad is a prophet and Allah is actually god.
Look who's talking. Let Shamoun quote from any of the above mentioned articles and show me where they address the problem of John 17:3.
What makes this rather amusing is that Shamoun thought that he could psychologically trick the readers into thinking that I didn't address the arguments in those articles. Oh well, what more to expect from someone who believes that God was once a baby boy who wore diapers and needed his mommy to wipe his tushy?
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