Starting today in no particular order, we will be posting Mohammed Hijab’s (MH) errors, falsehoods and bad arguments used in his debate with David Wood. We will publish five points at a time, starting with his attacks on the Trinity. Then we’ll look at his defence of tawheed. We are very grateful to the many apologists who have already posted rebuttals online, and this article relies substantially on material posted by Acts 17 Apologetics, Anthony Rogers, Vocab Malone , Islam Critiqued, Sentinel Apologetics, Christian Prince and Sam Shamoun. We look forward to presenting our case to Muhammad Hijab at Speaker’s Corner, but for the last two weeks he has been unavailable..
One divided into three?
Hijab began by calling into question the Athanasian Creed, in particular how “1 being [is] DIVIDED into 3 divine persons”, before sceptically quoting the Creed itself – “the Father Almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty but there are not three almightys!” How can that be?! he says. But he failed to quote the rest of the Creed, which reads “and the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor DIVIDING the Essence.” He failed to grasp the difference between ‘essence’ and ‘personhood’ – the crux of the Trinitarian claim. This more than anything undermined his whole case. More on this in subsequent points.
2. Misunderstanding ‘Oneness’
MH quoted the following Scriptures to make his case that God is One, tawheed style:
4 Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
‘You shall have no other gods before[a] me. (Exodus 20:3)
I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43:11)
(In fact in Deuteronomy 6:4, he misquoted the Hebrew Bible. He said “sema yisrael ADONAI elohenu ADONAI ehad” when the text says “YHWH”, not Adonai.)
The citations from Exodus and Isaiah are not arguments for God’s monadic ‘oneness’; rather they are arguments for YHWH’s unique existence as the only TRUE God (as opposed to idols – Exodus 20:3), the only one worthy of our worship. Isaiah 43:11 the LORD speaks about his unique role as SAVIOUR – but ‘saving’ is not one of Allah’s attributes and ‘saviour’ is not one of his names. So what about Deuteronomy 6:4? The Hebrew for ‘one’, ‘ehad’ doesn’t just mean ‘one’ in the sense of ‘alone’; it can also convey the sense of compound unity. For example, the same word is used in Genesis 2:24, when Adam and Eve become ‘one’ flesh, while still being distinct in personhood. So ‘ehad‘ doesn’t rule out YHWH having more than one person either.
3. “A multiplicity of substantiations in any given genus”
MH said you can only have a distinction between something’s “how (?)”and its “what” when you have a “multiplicity of substantiations in any given genus.” This is called the “trying to impress with my cleverness” fallacy. His argument was confusing as he kept referring to the ‘how‘ and the ‘what’, when he meant the ‘who’ not the ‘how‘ – because the Trinity is about persons, not causation.
But what was he getting at with the ‘multiplicity of substantiations’ thing? Something along the lines of: you can only meaningfully talk about the individuality or personhood of ‘somethings’ (‘substantiations’) when there are a lot of something (‘multiplicity’) already in its particular category (‘genus’). But what category (or genus) do you put God into? Isn’t He in a unique category all his own? The Qur’an even teaches this very thing:
There is NOTHING LIKE HIM, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer (Sura 42:11)
Doesn’t this allow at least the possibility of God existing in three persons? Why is MH limiting God?
4. Pronouns, verbs etc.
MH claimed that in the Hebrew Bible “elohim” [pl- lit.’gods’] is always with 3rd person male singular pronoun.” Then he quoted Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created..” – created, in Hebrew, is bara – a third person singular masculine verb (not a pronoun.) But he deliberately raced over the point here -surely if the Bible taught pure monotheism, “elohim” wouldn’t be plural in the first place? Genesis 1:1 doesn’t support his case, it undermines it.
He then claimed “there are 9000 pronouns that relate to elohim.. [where did he get this number?] but you don’t find a pronoun which is pluralised when it comes to elohim.” He’s wrong. For example, Gen 1:26
“Then God (‘elohim ‘) said ‘Let US make mankind in OUR image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
This is not the only time God (‘adonai’ in this example) refers to Himself with a plural pronoun:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for US?’ (Isaiah 6:8)
(For a lengthier analysis watch this video from Sentinel Apologetics)
5. Jesus was given the name of God in Phillipians 2?
MH said Jesus was given the “Name above every Name” in Phillipians 2:9 by God the Father, suggesting there was a point in time when he didn’t have it, therefore cannot be God. But he skips over verse 6 which says:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 “who, BEING IN VERY NATURE GOD, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;“
MH equates Jesus ‘self-emptying’ with heretical subordinationism. But he doesn’t understand that not all subordinationism is heresy, like Arian subordinationism. The Son is subordinate to the Father; He does His Father’s will by incarnating, and voluntarily laying down some of his divine rights and privileges as the verse suggests. On the other hand, the Father does not incarnate, He is not subordinate to the Son. The Spirit is sent by the Father; the Father is not sent by the Spirit, and so on. So there is subordination within the Trinity, but it is subordination of function or role, but equality in essence. This is an orthodox Christian position.
When Jesus is given is given the ‘name that is above every name’ it’s because He accomplished His Father’s will – dying on a Cross to save sinners who repent and believe in Him. This is not the Father conferring divine status on Jesus; rather he has always been, and will always be, co-equal with God the Father.