Apologetics

Apprehending the Trinity

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When Jesus Christ was on the cross crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)* was He praying to Himself?

This is one of the reasons that we believe in the Trinity. We believe Jesus is not talking to Himself. We do not believe that Jesus is Himself the Father. We see that there is a subject-object distinction between the Father and the Son. The Father sends the Son (John 5:36-38; 8:14-18; 12:46). The Son prays to the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 23:34; John 11:41-42).

The Trinitarian belief is that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; Psa. 86:10; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 2:19), but within the Godhead, there are three distinct persons. There is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The reason we believe that is the Bible clearly states that the Father is God (Matt. 6:9; Jas. 1:17; 1 Cor. 8:6), the Bible clearly states that the Son is God, in passages like John 1 or Colossians 1 or Hebrews 1 or Revelation 1, the Bible also clearly and emphatically states that the Holy Spirit is God (2 Cor. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:21; Acts 5:3-10; 28:25-27). Not only so, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (John 1:1; Col. 1:17; Rev. 1:17, 2:8; cf. Isa. 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12; Heb. 9:14). The Father never becomes the Son or the Son never becomes the Father. We believe in one God, revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

Now because there are subject-object distinctions within the Godhead, we see the Father sending the Son or the Son praying to the Father or in the case in which Jesus is saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Remember in His incarnation, Jesus voluntarily takes on the limitations of humanity without divesting Himself of a single attribute of deity. He is now asking His Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” And what He is in this case drawing our attention to is Psalm 22. There’s a context there. What does Psalm 22 tell us? In verse 24, it tells us “He has not despised or distained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to His cry for help.” We know that ultimately Jesus is not forsaken. What we have here is what is typical in the Psalms, a contrast between emotional despair and faith in God that is being highlighted.

Which member of the Trinity do I address in prayer?

I think it is perfectly appropriate and biblical to pray to the Father, to pray to Jesus Christ the Son, and to pray to the Holy Spirit. For example, you can thank the Father for sending the Son. You can thank the Son because the Son has saved us from our sins. You can thank the Holy Spirit that He empowers us for service. Because there are personal self-distinctions within the Godhead you can pray to each member as it were of the Godhead, each Person within the Godhead.

We say there is one “what”—one God by nature or essence—and three “whos”—three Persons. Now that is something that I have confessed many times on the Bible Answer Man broadcast that I cannot comprehend; I can only apprehend. Now if the Bible is telling me to believe that there is one God and three Gods that would be an obvious contradiction, but what the Bible is saying is that there is one God by nature or essence and three in person, and that is not a contradiction, though it is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study:

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26? (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

Loving the Trinity (James White)

The Trinity: A Case Study in Implicit Truth (Ron Rhodes)

This blog adapted from “When Jesus was on the cross he wasn’t talking to himself was he?” and “The Trinity

*All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Apologetics

Is Allah the Same as God the Father?

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I have a friend who is Muslim. He was born in Iraq and speaks Arabic. He is very interested in Christianity. I am trying to explain the Trinity. I do not know much about Islam. I told Him that Allah is the same as God the Father. Is that right?

Well perhaps not. I think what is important to realize is that Muslims believe in what is called a Unitarian God. They believe that God is one. They believe that God is a singularity. Christians believe in one God revealed in three persons who are eternally distinct. We believe in a Triune God. They believe in a Unitarian God. That is a very significant distinction.

Muslims, in fact, think that Christians are polytheistic. They think that we believe in three Gods. Often times they get this idea from their own teachings that the three polytheistic1 Gods that we believe in are the Father, the Son, and the Mother—Mary (Sura 5:72-73). They have confusion with respect to the Trinity. What we have to explain to them is that Christians are not polytheistic at all. We are fiercely monotheistic.2 We believe only in one God.

Think about this. The Muslim God, by definition, has to be morally defective, because independent of the universe—a universe being out of the picture—you have a Muslim God who cannot manifest the attribute of love, since there is no object for his love. This is very, very different with the Trinitarian God. Even independent of the universe, a Trinitarian God can experience love within the Godhead. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. There are love relationships within the Godhead.

This is a very important point: The Muslim God is morally defective. The Christian God is precisely as we would suppose Him to be—a God of infinite love. A God who in fact allows us as human beings to be brought into the relationships within the Trinity. Put it another way, we can experience life in the Trinity, and that is the apex of the Christian experience. This is not just some kind of theoretical idea. This has a real practical implication on how you live and how you can love, not just human beings but the one who created all things.

When a Muslims leans about the monotheism of the Christian faith and the true idea of a Trinitarian God, not being three different Gods, but on God revealed in three different persons, it helps them to understand how they can have a God of love, a God with whom they can identify. A Muslim cannot identify with the Muslim God. They cannot relate to the Muslim God. The Muslim is ineffable. He is unknowable. He is even capricious in the truest sense of the word. The Christian God is at once ineffable and also knowable in incarnation. This makes all the difference in the world.

Now there are many other things that Muslims misunderstand. When the Bible says that the Son is the only begotten of the Father (John 1:10), the Muslim says God begets not nor is He begotten (Surah 112:3). In fact, they believe to say that God begets is an unforgivable sin. Why is that? When they think about begotten, in their mind there is the idea of sexual procreation. But this is not the biblical understanding of begotten. Begotten does not have to do with sexual procreation, but it has to do with special relationship.

All of these things are wonderful to be able to communicate to Muslim friends. I was just talking to a friend of mind, who is working in the Middle East, and he was talking about all the Muslims who are coming to faith in Christ and one of the things that he does is to explain the very thing that I have just explained. Good for you for making friends with your Muslim neighbors. We are called to reach not repel, and always give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the Allah of Islam the God of the Bible? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah Does Not Belong to Islam (Helen Louise Herndon)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

Facing the Islamic Challenge (David Wood)

Loving the Trinity (James White)


Notes:

  1. Polytheism is the belief in many gods.
  2. Monotheism is the belief in one god.

This blog adapted from the September 29, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Who do we address in prayer Yahweh, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

It’s important to recognize the model prayer—the prayer of Jesus, the prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray—does start: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt. 6:9). And I think that the recognition here is that, first and foremost, our desire, what we really care about, is that God’s Name be made holy. Our daily lives should radiate a Prayer3Sfar greater commitment to God’s nature and His holiness than to our own needs.

So to pray, “hallowed be Your Name,” is to pray that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands, that God’s Word be preached without corruption, that our churches be led by faithful pastors and preserved from false prophets, that we’d be kept from language that profanes the name of God, and that our thought lives remain holy, that we cease from seeking honor for ourselves but ask instead that God’s Name be magnified.

In saying this there’s nothing wrong with using the names of God as opposed to the titles for God. There’s nothing wrong with addressing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thanking Him for His sacrificial death on our behalf. There’s nothing wrong with thanking the Holy Spirit for empowering us as we pray, as we witness, as we provide for our families. So the standard is we pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son (or through the Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus Himself invites us to pray to Him in John 14:14.

So there is no set formula. We pray to one God revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

What Are Some Secrets to Effective Prayer? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Prayer of Jabez or the Prayer of Jesus (Hank Hanegraaff

Prayer of Jesus: A Discussion Between Hank Hanegraaff and Lee Strobel

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

[Answer taken from: “How Should Christians Start Their Prayers? Can We Pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?”]