Trinitarian Monotheism or Unitarian Monotheism?
Christianity and Islam are monotheistic, but the difference is that Muslims are Unitarian monotheists. Christians are Trinitarian monotheists.
It is important to understand this distinction when studying God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. The real question is not whether the Bible teaches monotheism. The question is whether the Bible teaches trinitarian or unitarian monotheism.
Without doubt, the Old and New Testaments affirm monotheism (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29).
But what kind? Trinitarian monotheism or unitarian monotheism?
The Bible and Monotheism
Those who believe in Jesus go back to the Scriptures Jesus believed. If you do this you will learn that New Testament Trinitarianism monotheism has Old Testament roots. In fact, the very first chapter of the Bible affirms monotheism and yet it is not the kind of monotheism found in the Quran (Genesis 1:1-2; 26-27 with John 1:1-3).1
Other biblical examples of monotheism that are not affirmed in the Quran can be found with:
- The Angel of the LORD (Genesis 18:1-2; 32:28-30). These are texts wherein God appears in the form of a man.
- Statements King David made in the Psalms (Psalm 2; 45:6-7 with Hebrews 1:8-9; 110:1 with Matthew 22:35-46)
- The Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 48:16)
These are not full-blown Trinitarian texts, but they certainly are not full-blown Unitarian texts either. In fact, these and other Old Testament passages agree with the Trinitarian monotheism found in the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus gives the definitive answer to this question (John 10:30):
- Jesus has an Old Testament name meaning “Yahweh saves” (Matthew 1:21; cf. Jonah 2:9).
- Jesus also has the Name “Immanuel” meaning God with us (Matthew 1:23).
- Jesus forgave sins; something only God can do (Mark 2:1-13).
- Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am…” (John 8:58-59 with Exodus 3:14-15).
- Jesus affirmed the unity of God when He taught, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
- Jesus accepted worship from others (Matt. 8:2; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:17; Mark 5:6).
- The Jewish Sanhedrin finally condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-66).
- The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus was vindicated when He rose again from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Jesus is the reason Christians are Trinitarian monotheists (cf. Hebrews 1:1-3).
Trinitarian Monotheism is a Reason the Quran is not the Word of God
Is the Quran the Word of God? The simple answer is, no. The Quran cannot be the Word of God because the Quran denies the One God of the Bible. The Quran does not affirm Trinitarian monotheism (cf. Quran 4:171; 5:73).2 Unitarian monotheism is foreign to both Old and New Testament revelation.
If you believe in Jesus, then you should be a Trinitarian monotheist who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior (John 20:27-28). Believe in Jesus and be baptized in the Triune Name of God (Matthew 28:18-19).
- It is important to understand that God gradually revealed Himself over time,
Before the coming of NT redemption, human beings knew God less fully. This deficiency is not an incidental fact arising merely from some mental or moral deficiency in the individual or the society. It is an inevitable consequence of the very structure of history and the structure of redemption. Human knowledge of God can grow only in step with the redemptive operations that work out God’s plan. Consequently, God’s Trinitarian character is only dimly revealed and dimly understood in the OT. Trinitarian theology in its full form rests on NT revelation (Vern Sheridan Poythress, “Reforming Ontology and Logic in the Light of the Trinity: An Application of Van Til’s Idea of Analogy”; Westminster Theological Journal Volume 57:214). [↩]
- Some have suggested that the Qurʾān refutes heretical Christian beliefs (e.g. tritheism, adoptionism, the physical generation of the Son) rather than the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, etc. In practice, however, the vast majority of Muslim commentators have assumed that the Qurʾān does refute the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Christian doctrine of divine sonship, especially as these are understood to contradict the central Islamic tenet of the oneness of God” (Kate Zebiri, “Polemic and Polemical Language”; Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe . Brill [Leiden and Boston], 2005. CD-ROM version). [↩]