This is the third article in our series on Mohammed Hijab’s (MH) falsehoods and bad arguments against the Trinity used in his debate earlier this month with David Wood.
11. Tertullian was a subordinationist
MH again makes a big deal out of subordinationism; but as discussed, within the Persons of the Trinity there exists subordination in function, if not essence which is entirely Biblical and orthodox. For example, the Son is “begotten” of the Father (John 1:18), and not the other way round. Tertullian puts it this way:
“… And we, in like manner, hold that the Word, and Reason, and Power, by which we have said God made all, have spirit as their proper and essential substratum, in which the Word has in being to give forth utterances, and reason abides to dispose and arrange, and power is over all to execute. We have been taught that He proceeds forth from God, and in that procession He is generated; so that He is the Son of God, and is called God FROM UNITY OF SUBSTANCE with God. For God, too, is a Spirit. Even when the ray is shot from the sun, it is still part of the parent mass; the sun will still be in the ray, because it is a ray of the sun — there is no division of substance, but merely an extension. Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and GOD OF GOD, as light of light is kindled. The material matrix remains entire and unimpaired, though you derive from it any number of shoots possessed of its qualities; so, too, that which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and THE TWO ARE ONE. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and GOD OF GOD, He is made a second in manner of existence— in position, not in nature; and He did not withdraw from the original source, but went forth. This ray of God, then, as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in His birth God and man united. The flesh formed by the Spirit is nourished, grows up to manhood, speaks, teaches, works, and is the Christ…” (APOLOGY (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0301.htm,)
MH is careful to attack what he calls the ‘Nicene’ Trinity, but why this emphasis? Christians don’t take the Council of Nicea as authoritative, but the Bible. Is there anything in Tertullian’s understanding of the Trinity that contradicts the teaching of the Bible?
For in-depth analysis of Tertullian’s understanding of the Trinity, please read this article by Sam Shamoun.
12. “The Islamic position of the non-divinity of Jesus and non-divinity of the Holy Spirit was represented in the early church – the Nicene Trinity was not!”
Nicene Trinity – there it is again. Why not just Biblical Trinity? MH cites 2nd-3rd century sects like the Ebionites and Monarchianists to support his view that the early church’s teaching was more proto-Islamic than Trinitarian. But he failed to mention that these groups were considered heretics by the same “massive” Church Fathers he uses to defend his case: Hippolytus, Origen, Iraenaus and Justin Martyr. And these Church Fathers all affirmed the divinity of Christ as the second person of the Trinity. For a list of their quotations, here is a useful blog from Stand to Reason. See also these articles by Sam Shamoun and Jonathan McLatchie.
13. Dodgy appeals to authority – Exhibit A
MH used J.N.D Kelly’s book Early Christian Doctrines (without giving any direct quotations) to launch his question about who gave the Nicene Fathers the authority to advance the Trinitarian position “and overule everything that came before?” Was this MH’s assertion or J.N.D Kelly’s? It wasn’t clear (perhaps deliberately so.) As we’ve already discussed, Trinitarianism already existed pre-Nicea, so who exactly was overruling what? Note – Muslim debaters have form when it comes to misrepresenting J.N.D Kelly’s arguments; here is another article by Sam Shamoun for more information.
14. Dodgy appeals to authority – Exhibit B
MH quoted Randolph Ross – “he’s a Christian by the way” – as an example of someone who couldn’t believe in the hypostatic union (Jesus the God-Man.) But Ross doesn’t believe in the bodily Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, Miracles, Orignal Sin, Atonement, the list goes on: let alone the Trinity and the hypostatic union. His position is a far-cry from orthodox Christianity. If a Christian used Reza Aslan’s view of Islam (he called it a “man-made institution“) to critique Islam, Muslims would say ‘who cares? Reza Aslan isn’t an orthodox Muslim anyway.’ Double standards.
15. Are you asking me to believe in a squared circle today Sir?
Rhetorical flourishes aside – and Muslims are generally better at these than Christians – no, Mohammed, you are being asked to believe in the one God in three persons as is revealed to us in His inspired Word, the Bible. The Church Fathers deduced it from the Scriptures. As David Wood said “we are forced into the view [of the Trinity] by the Triune God.”
Next up: Elijah, Ruach, Mechizedek and more.