This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2013 vol. 170 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Explaining the Trinity to Muslims: A Personal Reflection on the Biblical Teaching in Light of the Theological Criteria of IslamWilliam Carey Library, Pasadena, CA June 28, 2012
One of the greatest obstacles to winning Muslims to Christ is their refusal to believe the Trinity. This book, authored by the pastor of the Istanbul Protestant Church, addresses this problem and seeks to help Muslims understand the Trinity (and to help Christians explain it to Muslims).
Madrigal begins by correctly affirming that “the doctrine of the Trinity has nothing to do with belief in three gods” (p. 10). He notes that even the Qu’ran condemns the belief in tritheism, three gods. “The terms ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ for Divinity express the essence (being and existence), the word (communication and science), and the spirit (activity and holiness) of God” (p. 14). He says, “God, the eternal Being, creates the world; he creates it through his Word, and his Spirit—his active power—gives it form” (ibid.).
Madrigal raises the question, “How is it possible that God, being one, exists at the same time as three persons?” He explains, “I am one person, but I am Father—because I have children, Son—of my father—and I exist with my own spirit” (p. 22). In the Godhead there are not three different people; “rather they define three different conditions of the same person” (ibid.).
Regarding Jesus Madrigal says, “The Word is called ‘Son’ not in a physical sense but rather because he comes from God. He is called God because he is the same essence as the most high” (p. 30). Affirming the unity of the Godhead (what Madrigal calls “unicity”), he defines the Trinity as “ ‘three’ in the ‘unity.” That is, only one God . . . exists in three states . . . three ‘centers of consciousness’ ” (p. 33).
On page 43 he gives in chart form Scripture references for fifteen attributes of each of the three persons of the Trinity. He carefully notes that the persons of the Trinity “are not simply roles” nor are they three gods. Instead they are “three conscious centers in the one divine being” (p. 45). “The Trinity expresses the existence of three persons in a sole individual” (p. 48). But the three persons are not three beings or individuals. Belief in the Trinity is not to be viewed as 1+1+1=1, but as 1x1x1=1.
Regarding the Incarnation of God the Son Madrigal rightly says that it is impossible for God to become human, as Muslims agree, “in the sense of altering, limiting, or losing his divine nature” (p. 60).
Madrigal frequently gives the romanization and Arabic lettering of Arabic and other terms. This is helpful for Muslim readers for whom this book is designed. Hopefully the book will be used to introduce many Muslims to a correct understanding of the Trinity and of God’s plan of salvation. An eleven-page glossary of Muslim and other terms is useful.
—Roy B. Zuck