I hope someone can shed some light on these questions for me. Yesterday I had dinner with a Muslim friend of mine and when I was explaining to Him that one of the reasons Christians believe that Jesus is God Himself is because one of the names for Him given in Isaiah 9 is Everlasting Father. Then He asked me why God is described as Father and Jesus as His Son. I was quite dumbfound by his question and quite frankly told him that I’ve never thought of it and I’m not really sure. Please help as I feel that is a very legitimate question which I would like to understand better.
@alex_csepi That is a great question. I think there are 2 points I would start out with:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit is metaphor - Jesus’ relationship to the Father is ‘like’ a father/son relationship but it is not the same thing
If God is truly great beyond our ability to understand, then it is entirely possible He is one in Being and three in Person
Below are some resources that I hope flesh out these two core points.
The Use of Metaphor
This article does a fairly good job explaining that the Bible uses metaphor when describing the Trinity:
In theology, for example, Lewis argues that much of what we have to say about God is metaphorical. Even a statement as simple as “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is a metaphor. Jesus is NOT a son as we understand sonship in human experience. There was a time when my son did not exist—then he came into existence. But Jesus has always existed with the Father. They have a relationship which is best described as one like sonship—but for earthly, human understanding, what’s left is a metaphor. It’s a good one because it’s accurate. But it’s not literal in the same way that saying, “Jesus rose from the dead” is literal. True metaphors are just that: they use comparison to capture truths which can’t be abstracted any further into reason—at least not without losing something in the translation: as Lewis said, we might try to state the relationship between God and Christ more literally by saying something like, “There is between Jesus and God an asymmetrical, social, harmonious relation involving homogeneity” (in “The Language of Religion” in Christian Reflections 137), but one, who really understands that—the metaphor better captures and communicates the meaning, and two, God chose the metaphor to speak the truth He wanted to speak—He is a God who frequently uses metaphorical language, the language of poetry and imagination, to say what He means. Thus in Isaiah:
“‘Come now, let us reason together,’
says the Lord.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool’” (Isa 1:18).
On a literal level, as far as we know anyway, sin has no color. But we get the simile here with all of its immediacy and potency.
The Mystery of the Trinity
I think I would start by asking them, “What does it mean for God to be one?”
If they give the blunt answer, “It means there is only one God” I would ask them to define God.
I would push them to recognize that, if God exists, He is in fact beyond their capacity to define.
Then I would try to enter into a discussion about how if God exists outside of three dimensional space and time - if He in fact created space and time - why could He not be One and Three - One in essence and Three in Personhood.
God is not an idol made in the image of man who is limited in the same way we are limited and He does not have our nature. I think I would push them to recognize that if God is real - His essence is far beyond our capacity to evaluate with human reason.
“In other words, God is not a single, isolated person, as unitarian forms of theism like Islam hold; rather God is a plurality of persons, as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity affirms. On the unitarian view God is a person who does not give Himself away essentially in love for another; He is focused essentially only on Himself. Hence, He cannot be the most perfect being. But on the Christian view, God is a triad of persons in eternal, self-giving love relationships. Thus, since God is essentially loving, the doctrine of the Trinity is more plausible than any unitarian doctrine of God.”
If you read Isaiah 9 with him, it says "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…that God the Father and the Son are one being, one God…hard for him to understand but not easy for any of us to understand. Explain that there is “mystery” in knowing God and following Him. It was a good queston. I find that on the spot, I can be taken aback by such questions, but later I can think more clearly. Not sure why that is. I wish I had an answer in the moment so often, when many times I don’t!