يَـٰٓأَهْلَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ لَا تَغْلُوا۟ فِى دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱلْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُۥٓ أَلْقَىٰهَآ إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَـَٔامِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِۦ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ ثَلَـٰثَةٌ ۚ ٱنتَهُوا۟ خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱللَّهُ إِلَـٰهٌ وَٰحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَـٰنَهُۥٓ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُۥ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ وَكِيلًاQur’an 4:171
This ayat describes Isa as ‘كَلِمَتُهُۥٓ’ (his word) and ‘وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ’ (a spirit of him).
Reading a book recently about John of Damascus*, I was struck by a question that John alluded to in ‘Heresy of the Ishmaelites’, where he argued against the developing Islamic influence around him in Damascus in the early 8th century.
Taking as our starting point the doctrine of Tawhid, and the isolated oneness of Allah, by which I mean the belief that Allah is a monad, and wholly separate from creation. Then we recognise that, to Muslims, Isa is just a man. On no account is he divine, but I want to suggest to you, that when we come to Surah 4:171, you are left with big, big problems.
1) As Allah is wholly separate, how can he share his word and his spirit with a man? He can’t, otherwise Muslims will become associators.
2) As he cannot share his word with a man, he must then give his word to Isa. But if Allah gives his word to the man Isa, then Allah has no word. Allah has been struck dumb.
3) As he cannot share his spirit with a man, he then must give his spirit to Isa. Again, like in point 2, this leaves Allah with no spirit. Allah is dead and Isa becomes Allah.
The problem for Islam is that so much has been borrowed from Christianity, especially from the Arian heresy, and as the collators of the Qur’an sought to mix this with their own anti-Byzantine Roman rhetoric they ended up with these monumental contradictions.
The Trinity is the Solution
In the Bible, Jesus is also referred to as the Word of God (John 1:1), who is indwelt by the Spirit of God (Luke 4:1). However, because the Bible, from start to end, declares God to be Triune, Christians do not have the same problem.
You’ve likely read this before, but let’s consider how John’s Gospel commences once more:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’John 1:1
Because Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One God, they share essential deity. Because they are One, there is no problem with the Son coming into our world as the Word of God to reveal the Father to us. And because God, while He remains utterly holy, is not wholly separate from His creation, the eternal Son, the Word of God, can come down, and humble Himself to become a man indwelt by the Spirit of God, to become ‘God our Saviour’, Jesus Christ.
So now, we can say that Jesus is God, He died for our sins, but on the third day, rose again in the power of an endless life.
* John of Damascus – First Apologist to the Muslims, Daniel J. Janosik (2016)