A Muslim Perspective on the Trinity

A friend sent me a link to a lecture given in 1996 by Abdal-Hakim Murad (aka Timothy Winter), “A Muslim Perspective on the Trinity.”

Winter/Murad is a convert to Islam, and currently a lecturer at Cambridge. The article includes traditional Muslim objections to the Trinity, but also reveals 1) his indebtedness to liberal scholarship and 2) his own Platonic philosophy.

First, he accepts liberal scholarship that suggests that Jesus thought of himself as a mere man.

But it does seem to me that a consensus has been emerging among serious historians, pre-eminent among whom are figures such as Professor Geza Vermes of Oxford, that Jesus of Nazareth himself never believed, or taught, that he was the second person of a divine trinity.

He accepts the liberal view that Paul transformed Christianity into a Gentile religion by importing alien philosophical concepts from the Hellenistic world.

…the Hellenized Christ, who in one nature was of one substance with God, and in another nature was of one substance with humanity, bore no significant resemblance to the ascetic prophet who had walked the roads of Galilee some three centuries before.

He’s willing to accept a unique sonship of Jesus, and a unique relationship with God, but “The presence of divine light in Jesus’ heart does not logically entail a doctrine of Jesus’ primordial existence as a hypostasis in a divine trinity.”

Nowhere does he examine the Biblical evidence–he simply accepts the liberal split between Paul and Jesus without exploring what the full New Testament reveals. He acknowledges he isn’t a Biblical scholar, and this shows. But he shows weak scholarship of any brand when he accepts the authority of contemporary scholars without examining the primary sources.

He has issues with Jesus’ divinity and with the concept of the Atonement. These are the standard Muslim objections. But he promised more in the article. He promised to show some understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, and I think he fails in this. He does say, “The fundamental doctrine of Trinity makes no sense unless the doctrines of incarnation and atonement are also accepted,” and I think that is true. The incarnation is the heart of the matter. It was the incarnation, in which a man, Jesus, prayed to God as Father, and referred to himself as Son, and breathed his Spirit, sent from the Father, upon his disciples, whom he sent to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit–this was the conversation and interpersonal dynamic that led Christians to explicate the doctrine of the Trinity.

But he steps away from traditional Muslim critiques to offer liberal feminist critiques of the Fatherhood of God as illustrations of the (to him) absurdity of speaking of God as Father and Son.

And while he began by criticizing the supposed Hellenization of Christianity by Paul, he ends by proclaiming his own Hellenized deity, specifically the monad of Platonic mysticism. Ironic, but also this is the problem. It is precisely his Platonized Islam, informed by liberal Protestant critics of the Bible, that informs his critique of the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity.