A fascinating article by
My friend Ben Witherington III posts today here at patheos about the book entitled Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Thomas Nelson, 2012). Ben says it “is one of the more moving and eye-opening books I have read in quite a long time, and I say that as a person whom has spent a lot of time in the Middle East.” I have not read the book, but I’ve been hearing and reading various reports about this. The book tells many recent stories, country-by-county in the Middle East and North Africa, about Muslims having dreams and visions about Jesus. We Christians rejoice in such news, especially when we see in the news about all these Islamic terrorists slaughtering people and threatening peace in so many lands. We especially rejoice when we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ reaching Muslims, the gospel being that Christ died for our sins. Yet the Qur’an says it didn’t happen (Sura 3:64).
But I think Christians also need to reach themselves. How so? The Qur’an says a lot about the beliefs of Christians, and the Qur’an endorses many of them, such as Jesus’ Virgin Birth, miracles, messiahship of Israel, ascension to heaven, and that he will return to earth as judge on Judgement Day. But the Qur’an also has a big beef with Christians, and it is that God is numerically one so that the institutional church doctrine of the Trinity, and that Jesus is God, is wrong.
I have been an evangelical Christian since my early teens when I believed in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Years later, I was taught the doctrine of the Trinity, and therefore that Jesus is God, and I believed that for twenty-two years. Then one day I was reading Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and I believe I had a moment of considerable enlightenment while reading Jesus’ saying concerning his future second coming , “But about that day and/or hour no one knows, neither the angels of/in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24.36; Mark 13.32). I had also been taught “the hypostatic union,” meaning that every time Jesus did and said something it was from the perspective of one of his two natures, either his human nature or his divine nature. In this case, I was taught that Jesus said this in his human nature because in his divine nature he had to know the time of his return because he is God, and God knows everything, including the time of Jesus’ return just as God the Father knows it.
A light then went on in my mind and heart and I said to myself concerning what I had been taught, “That makes Jesus look like a liar. He said he did not know the time of his return, yet he really did because he is God.” It caused me to undertake a massive study about this subject in which I estimate that I read about 1,000 books on the identity of Jesus over the next twenty-five years and perused hundreds of biblical commentaries about it. The result was that I changed to believing that the Bible does not say God is three persons, but one person, and it does not say Jesus is God. I wrote a 600-page book about this entitled The Restitution of Jesus Christ in which I cite over 400 scholars. So, I believe the Qur’an is quite right, that God is one person, not three, and Jesus is not God.
What advantage is there in believing this way? You have a greater appreciation of Jesus as the blessed overcomer, that is, of his being God’s chosen man who gained the victory over sin, the world, and the devil in order to be qualified as the perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins. That is why God rewarded him as the author of Hebrews states, “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12.2). So, this says Jesus had faith in God and that he perfected that faith. How can you have faith in God if you are God? And Jesus was rewarded for enduring the cross by being seated with God on his throne in heaven, which angels have never been invited to do (Heb 1.13). How can that be a reward if Jesus eternally preexisted as God and thus always sat there with God the Father on that heavenly throne during Jesus’ supposed preexistence? He would have merely reclaimed that heavenly place and status that he used to have.
So, I believe that not only do Muslims need to be reached with the good news about Jesus dying for our sins to offer forgiveness of sins and salvation to all humankind, Christians need to be reached about the true, biblical identification of God and Jesus.
I often see Ben Witherington at SBL’s Annual Meeting, and we have a brief chat from time to time. I once told him that I wrote this book. He said, “You’ll never convince me.” Well, Ben is a far more learned man of the Scriptures than I am, and I highly respect him for it. But I think Christians, even the best Bible scholars, need to at least be open to reconsidering this matter by searching the Bible to see if the Qur’an could be right, that God is not truine but numerically one, whom Jesus called “Father.”