Tawhid or Trinity?

Dr. Shabir Ally and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi recently had a great debate on the nature of God. Is God best described by the Muslim concept of Tawhid or by the Christian concept of the Trinity?

Overall I would recommend you watch the debate rather than reading my commentary on the debate. I of course think the Trinity concept is correct. I also think Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is getting much better at debate compared to the past, but I do think he fumbled a bit on explaining the plausibility of the Trinity in an understandable way in the initial round.

Here are 3 quick points I did like though:

  1. Nabeel states that common Muslim attacks on the Trinity also apply to Tawhid.
    1. Muslims say the term trinity is not in the Bible, but the term tawhid is not in the Koran or the Hadith either.
    2. Muslims say the term trinity is an after-the-fact doctrine developed over hundreds of years after the coming of Jesus, but Tawhid is an after-the-fact doctrine developed over hundreds of years after the coming of Muhummad.
    3. Muslims say the Trinity is complex and hard to grasp and God wouldn’t do this, but Tawhid is actually a very complex theological doctrine as well, and so on.
  2. Nabeel states that the mechanism of the the Trinity doesn’t need to be understood or justified for the Trinity to be actually true.
    1. He argues that most Muslims acknowledge this for the Tawhid. They say it is true but how it works is mysterious.
    2. Nabeel also brings in science at this point. The failure of a person to understand how gravity works does not prohibit gravity from doing so.
  3. Dr. Shabir Ally states the Trinity is an after-the-fact justification and in fact there is no logical reason to stop at 3 persons of 1 God.
    1. Nabeel responds that the number three is what the Bible seems to indicate and by Occam’s Razor we should stick with three.
    2. I agree. I think it’s possible that there are more than 3 persons of God except that we are only aware of 3, and I think this is perfectly fine. I think the concept of the Trinity is robust to more possible persons except in the hyper-technical semantic sense that we wouldn’t use the term Trinity.
    3. If the Christian church is considered as a collective separate person of God then we can have 4. After all, the Church is the bride and the bride and the groom are two who have become one. We might even consider every individual Christian as a person of God in some sense because it is not we who live but Christ who lives in us.
    4. But I think remembering the Trinity is important because that is the minimum number we know and salvation seems impossible without these three.
    5. I think the Trinity is partially an after-the-fact justification in the sense that it is a refinement of the concept of God in light of the New Testament and the resurrection of Jesus, and I don’t think this is a bad thing.
      1. I think God revealed more of his nature in the New Testament and we would be foolish to ignore his revelation.
      2. After-the-fact justifications are not always false or unjustified. Sometimes rationalization is an effective process of reflection and logical refinement, resulting in construction of improved prior assumptions.
      3. Any time a theory is improved to better fit data it is an after-the-fact justification or rationalization of the data. This is a good thing, not a bad one. Sticking to a disproved theory would be the unjustified route.
      4. Calling something a rationalization is a red herring and like an ad hominem attack because the maneuver attempts to malign the rationalized claim as false without actually doing so.
      5. One way to invalidate a false after-the-fact justification is through forward testing or predictive testing. I do think we should generally prefer claims which have a record of predictive accuracy over new claims made to fit the latest data as a matter of practice, but this is a pragmatic measure and it is not the case that the old theory is actually most correct, and it certainly doesn’t follow that the new theory is somehow false or unjustified. There are also times where the new theory is preferred on the basis of cost-benefit analysis, and I think Christianity wins here as well.
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