How can we understand the difference between biblical Oneness and Islamic Oneness? The conversation started on a Central Asian Kot, where a believer asked about the Trinity.
I attempted to explain the difference between Christianity’s Oneness as a unity while Islam lands on an absolute numerical aloneness.
Oneness in Unity vs. Numerical Oneness
The Oneness of God in the Bible consistently presents unity without rivalry. At creation, God was, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the earth. Then, his word created the world (Gen. 1:1-5). Divine Oneness describes the joining of divine persons, while unity describes the holy bond in how they exist in harmony.
“Even in the first few verses of the Bible, the definition of “one” gives a description. “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”Gen 1:5, NASB1995 The evening and morning became “one.” The same word here later describes the marriage’s Oneness and God’s Oneness (Gen. 2:24 and Deut. 6:4). The Light of the day and the Darkness of the night became “one” day. Representing a unity of two periods but described as one.
Islam describes Allah’s Oneness as an absolute numerical one, never realizing that Jewish thinking never assumed any sense of absoluteness. Absoluteness confines human understanding about a deity, especially in his ability to love or share himself.
”Our discussion continued as we drank tea on the outside “Kot,” much like the one pictured here.The Kot is an outside platform area where hospitality takes place on mats. The centered area is where the tablecloth goes for food.
God is Love vs. Allah Alone
“I stressed that God is Love – “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, ESV).
God interacts with His people in relational Oneness. God encourages a similar joining in covenant with humanity to produce further Oneness as we walk and abide in him.
I love the words of C. S. Lewis, “All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words’ God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, he was not love.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1952), 175. His sharing comes from his nature. Eternal love means eternal divine persons.
God interacts with His people in relational Oneness since He is love. The sacred covenant bond between the divine and humanity shows and encourages Oneness, drawn from God’s love.
Absolute Oneness does not share and only limits relationships. In commenting on Allah’s Oneness, Al-Ghazali said, “Oneness is the indication of the true, multiplicity is the indication of the false.” Al-Ghazali Kitab Sharh Aja’ib al-Qalb. Translated by R. J. McCarthy in Deliverance from Error. Louisville: Twayne Publishers, 1980, 190. Falsely assuming that absolute Oneness is a superior trait. C. S. Lewis counters his thinking so that absolute Oneness affirms that Allah is not love but can only act from his will, which may share acts of kindness. Divine biblical Oneness indicates true love, whereas absoluteness indicates aloneness without love.
Loving Harmony vs. Competing Rivalry
The challenge often comes with how two things can both be the greatest. The idea of greatness presents two separate things that volley for dominance. This is the wrong way to look at God’s Oneness. The God of the Bible does not compete with himself but always works harmoniously. This is evident when God gives inspiration, empowers miracles, or reveals His will. So God’s harmonious Oneness is without division or separation and definitely without any sense of seeking self-power for dominance. God, in his unity of persons, is all-powerful and Great! Greatness comes in the ability to share harmoniously with His Spirit and Word. Yet, weakness comes from seeing a deity only concerned about power, control, and dominance.
In the Hadiths of Islam, someone asked their prophet what is the greatest sin. He responded by saying when one sets up another to rival Allah. A form of shirk, unbelief concerning who they believe their deity is. The Bible does not set up a rival for God – God does not rival himself. Even when the Lord Jesus states that his Father is greater than him, he portrays harmony with the Father in sending the Holy Spirit. The sense of greatness in his words refers to his sinless obedience to do God’s will (John 14:26-31).
“In my book, Searching Below the Surface, I said, “The Bible and Quran clash since Yahweh avoids complete aloneness in his essence while Allah does not have any internal unity of persons in his aloneness. Their Oneness demonstrates how each willingly shares or holds back themselves.” This is what I wished to tell my Tajik friend.
|↑1||Gen 1:5, NASB1995|
|↑2||The Kot is an outside platform area where hospitality takes place on mats. The centered area is where the tablecloth goes for food.|
|↑3||C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1952), 175.|
|↑4||Al-Ghazali Kitab Sharh Aja’ib al-Qalb. Translated by R. J. McCarthy in Deliverance from Error. Louisville: Twayne Publishers, 1980, 190.|