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The Kingdom of God Anthology

The Roots of God

While the first of the 6 booklets in the series, this one was actually the last to be written. The story behind its writing is significant. During the revision of the third booklet, which treats among other things the atonement, it became apparent that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement is inextricably bound to the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that I had never really appreciated previously. So I set out to write on the Trinity. Then, in further step in the evolution of this volume, I found that men much wiser than myself regarded the glory of God as essential to understanding the Trinity. Significantly, the idea of history and man as having their raison d'ętre in glory of God was one of the earliest of my theological "discoveries" as a young college student.  And so, coming full circle, this volume which concerns the glory of God and the Trinity, was born for the Kwong.

1 God is a Kwong

The title of the first chapter is a bit presumptuous, but the point for the Kwong is to introduce the concept of God to them, and then point out that it is not really an introduction at all but a longstanding relationship going back to their ancestors. In each of the following sections I do my best to exploit every last bit of correct thinking about God, however residual, that still exists in Kwong traditional religion. We begin with the not insignificant fact that God as a supreme deity somehow managed to not get buried in the avalanche of little gods that make up the vast bulk of their traditional beliefs. 

God is over everything, is everywhere and knows everything.

I begin by reminding the Kwong that God (Kumony in Kwong) is not a foreign importation of the white missionary. I do this by pointing out the way they use their word for God in their language. In particular, the Kwong do not have an expression such as "it is raining" or "it is clearing up" or "it's thundering." Rather, they say "God is raining" or "God is clearing up" or God is thundering" etc. Indeed the word for "sky" is simply their word for "God." Furthermore, I point out, when, as often happens, it doesn't rain, they sacrifice not to the local deities which are the object of 90% of their religious practice, but to God. This section makes these points, and cites Jeremiah 10:11-13 (these gods did not make the heavens .... but God made the earth by his power...) as the scriptural reiteration of this fact.

This chapter goes on to show that God has not allowed the Kwong to forget other true things that Scripture teaches us about God, namely his omnipresence (Isaiah 66:1-2 - Heaven is my throne, earth is my footstool ...), the omniscience of God (Psalm 139:1-4 - Oh Lord you have searched me and know me... ), the invisibility of God (I Timothy 1:17 - Now to the King eternal, immortal invisible...), and the unity of God. This last point is as significant to the Kwong as it was for the Israelites because it sets God in contrast to the local deities and idols which are numerous. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 - Hear of Israel, the Lord is one...; Isaiah 45:21-22)

This section concludes with the observation that it was taken for granted in ancient Kwong society that God should be worshiped and appeased and otherwise enter the calculations of life. (Revelation 4:11 - You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power...)

Therefore the Kwong are without excuse

Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom 1:21 NIV). 

The damning conclusion of this lesson for the Kwong is that from ancient days the Kwong have known who God is. God did not leave them in ignorance, and down to this very day has kept the flame of knowledge of him alive. (Romans 1:20 - ... have been clearly understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse) This is a point we preach very forcefully in public. We go on in this section to point out on the basis of Romans 1:21-23 (...although they knew God they did not glorify him as God...) that in some distant dark past the Kwong knew much more of God but they exchanged the worship of God for the worship of idols, which is the predominant form of worship today. (In this regard the Kwong are very much like the Israelites of old who even in their greatest apostasy still worshiped Yaweh alongside Baal and other "little gods." Their sin, like that of the Kwong, was less a denial of allegiance than a division of it - something  inconsistent with the very definition of God as God.)

The sin of Israel, like that of the Kwong, was less a denial of allegiance to God than a division of it . 

The Kwong must return to the true worship of God

We stress in this lesson, and even more so in our preaching that God has been exceedingly gracious to the Kwong in keeping the knowledge of him alive through all these dark centuries. Some neighboring tribes were not so fortunate. For one very large tribe to the south of the Kwong, their traditional religion was so destitute of the knowledge of God the translators were obliged to borrow the Arabic word Allah just to get some notion of God back into the language.  Now, we write and preach with all the gusto we can muster that  the Kwong must return to the worship of God alone and no longer divide their allegiance (as Israel did) between God and idols.  Acts 14:15-17, 17:30 (... turn from these worthless things to the living God...he has not left himself without a testimony...in the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands people to repent...) .

2 The Glory of God

The forgoing chapter pretty much exhausts what a Kwong man or woman can learn from his or her traditional religion, so in this chapter we turn immediately to trying to fill the yawning void of knowledge with the revelation of Scripture. We begin rather abstractly with the glory of God - not ideal, I admit, for evangelistic purposes, but for the discipleship purposes for which these lessons were originally written, it guarantees that we get off on the right foot. The glory of God (along with the Kingdom of God) will be a theme to which these lessons will persistently return. 

Like an otherwise honest, well intentioned politician who is misrepresented, misquoted, saddled with inauspicious associations, and made the victim of misconceptions, the word "glory" has taken a severe beating at the hands of the English language.  If "glory" wants cry out about the superlative inner qualities of a living being, alas, it is doomed by convention to convey some vague notion of light and brightness and pleasant feeling. And if  "glory" would stake an equal claim for itself in wrath as in blessing, in justice as in mercy, in destruction as in creation, it is doomed by linguistic correctness to disown the "intolerant" half of these dualities in the interests of maintaining veneer  of niceness on the word.   

After four years of searching, finding it's proper translation in a word which wraps the ideas of exquisite beauty and a miracle into a semantic gem - the word kumah.. 

The situation is not much better in French for which the word "gloire" takes much of the same abuse as it does in English. In Kwong too, first attempts at rendering the word succumbed almost immediately to the "brightness" misconception (learned from the French) before finally, after four years of searching, finding it's proper translation in a word which wraps the ideas of exquisite beauty and a miracle into a semantic gem - the word kumah. (For more on this word, click here.)  In this chapter we take this rich word and try to fill it with the true meaning of glory as it refers to God. We begin with a story which we hope will help the Kwong start looking in the right place for the glory of God - in the excellencies of his character.  

To know God, you must know how he thinks, acts, reacts, etc

As we so often do in these lesson, written as they are for simple people, we begin with an illustration. A real hunter, we explain,  knows not only that a lion has such and such features, but also knows what the lion's eyes are saying, or what a particular growl means. A real hunter knows what the lion thinks, not just what he looks like. Likewise with people, to know that someone looks such-and-so is not sufficient grounds to say that you know the person. When you know his character, how he thinks, and how he responds to different situations, then you can say that you know the person. Knowing God, we tell the Kwong, is just the same. Unless we know what God thinks, how he acts in situations, what turns him on, and what awakens his ire, we don't really know him at all. 

So what is God like? He is good, wise, and powerful.

When I was in seminary someone broke down the character of God into three general headings under which all the various attributes of God can be very elegantly categorized. This way of thinking about God has proven so useful to me through the years as a way of putting meat on the elusive concept of "glory" that we have used it with the Kwong. These three headings under which all the attributes of God can be classified, and which define "glory" in it's broadest sense are the goodness of God, his wisdom, and his power. And so, we answer the question "what is God like?" with the response that he is good - which is to say loving, merciful, generous, and without any shade of evil or maliciousness in him; wise - which is to say that he knows everything, is able to arrange the course of events so as to save his people, thwart the plans of the wicked, and co-opt Satan's schemes so they result in good rather than evil (admittedly a mouthful, which we develop further in later parts of the Anthology); and finally powerful - which is to say he is able to deliver on his wisdom and goodness and will not be thwarted by sickness, famine, demonic affliction, or the schemes of men or of Satan.  

This is what we call the "glory" of God. 

The LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished. Ex 34:6 NIV 

Now the fact is that when we begin  "know" God in these terms, we perceive that the goodness, wisdom, and power of which we speak go so far beyond human experience as to leave one flabbergasted and groping for superlatives to quantify them. And that's when the word "glory" and the adjective "glorious" starts coming in handy. Glory (kumah in Kwong) is nothing more than a linguistic shorthand to refer to the totality of these attributes, and underscore their superlative, flabbergasting  nature.  When I teach our Kwong discipleship classes, I make the point that this is the main task of a Pastor  - to flabbergast his audience with the glory of the character of God so that they weep at the realization of his holiness (and their unworthiness), stand in quiet awe at his wisdom, shout for joy at his mercy, and experience a hundred other heartfelt reactions fitting for who God is. This is what Glory is all about. As what is probably the supreme Biblical statement of God's Glory (which was uttered in response to Moses' request to see God's glory) we translate Exodus 34:6-7 (his name ... "The Lord gracious and compassionate, slow to anger...")

What shall we say then?

We exhort the Kwong to thing deeply about the glory of God. It is not a subject for casual thought. We exhort our Christian audience: your first duty is to study and reflect on the glory of God until your heart is filled with wonder and awe and fear and joy. God created you for nothing less. If we are lazy in our pursuit of knowing the glory of God, it is as if we've made his glory out to be a little thing of no consequence, and God's judgment of us is just. Psalm 95:1-5 (The Lord is the great king above all gods... let us kneel before our Maker...)

Pastors: your job is to open people's eyes to the glory of God so that they rejoice in it, fear it, and are filled with wonder. This is what God created people for. Do you preach with this object in mind or do you clobber them with rules and more rules?

3 God rejoices over his own glory,
 and he created people to join with 
him in his rejoicing

This chapter, some of you will recognize, is particularly Piperesque, as in John Piper. No apologies. I guess I didn’t rank this lesson as one of the more inspiring ones, but when we taught it in our discipleship class it really hit a chord with the men. You never know what is going to turn people on!

God rejoices over his own glory

While Africans in general are able to put up with, and indeed approve of vastly more in-your-face self aggrandizement than us westerners can stomach, they do have their limits. In the final analysis, the idea of someone rejoicing over his own excellencies hits just about anyone the wrong way. So, in this section, which says that God does just that, we point out that while such an attitude is repugnant in people, it is not so for God. There simply isn't anything greater for him to rejoice over, and indeed, if he made some pretense of "humility" and didn't rejoice over himself, it would be tantamount to despising himself - a disposition inconsistent with God as God.

God wants others to join him  in rejoicing

A hunter tells his brothers of his kill so they share in his joy and rejoice with him. A girl tells her sisters of her newborn baby so they rejoice with her as well. In the same way God makes people so he can share his joy in himself with them. This is why God made people.  Isaiah 43:6-7 (bring my sons and daughters - everyone who I created for my glory...) C.S. Lewis writing about this observation says something to the effect that "joy is only complete when it is shared with another."

What shall we say then?

If God's glory is irrelevant to our lives, either by virtue of being a non-Christian altogether or a careless "Christian," we have abrogated our raison d'ętre and are good for nothing except to be thrown out and burned.  

God was not selfish in keeping the joy afforded by the contemplation of his glory to himself. He made people to share it with him. Often we look for our joy in the pleasures of life. But real joy is in the contemplation of God's glory. Do we long for it? Psalm 42:2-3 (my soul thirsts for the living God...), Isaiah 26:8 (your name and renown are the desire of our heart...)

The corollary to all this is that if God's glory is irrelevant to our lives, either by virtue of being a non-Christian altogether or a careless "Christian," we have abrogated our raison d'ętre and are good for nothing except to be thrown out and burned. We are, as we portray it to the Kwong, like an ax that will not chop or like a shovel that will not dig. It fails to live up to its purpose and is good for nothing. And if we are obliged to confess that such is the case for us, then what? We encourage the Kwong to first of all ask the Holy Spirit to change their hearts, and then to give themselves to the reading and study of the gospels where the the glory of God in the face of Christ  is most clearly and poignantly portrayed. 

4  Everything that happens is 
for the Glory of God

When I was a Sophomore in college and cutting my teeth on the rudiments of philosophy, I found myself grappling with the problem of evil. Late one night I tried to solve this "problem of the ages" on single sheet of 8˝ x 11 paper. I no longer recall all the intermediate steps of my travails that night, except that at the end, in a desperate bid to make sense out of life, I drew  a huge circle around all the "evil" and "good" doodlings on the paper and labeled it "so that God glorifies himself". 

The next morning in a stab of guilt I realized to my horror that I had made what appeared to my stock evangelical theology an abominable compromise between God and evil. I burned the paper. As the years went by, however, Scripture itself began to suggest in the strongest terms that I wasn't so far from the mark after all. And so the premise that God's final aim in all things is to bring glory and honor to himself became the first foray of my personal theology beyond the confines of what I learned in Sunday School. It has remained a cornerstone of my theology ever since, and I do my best in these lessons to convey this to the Kwong, all the way through to lesson 72.  I regard the glory of God not just as a theoretical construct, but the lens through which all that happens in the world must be viewed – something admittedly no-one succeeds at very well. The structure of this lesson is to simply list one by one what Scripture tells us God does for his glory. (The list continues in the following chapter.)

  • God Created the universe to display his glory

(Psalm 19:1-2 - the heavens declare..., Isaiah 6:3 - holy, holy, holy- the whole earth is full of his glory), 

  • God Created man for his Glory  

(Isaiah 43:6-7 ... everyone whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed and made-).

  • God does good to people to display his glory

God helps us for his name's sake  (I Tim 4:18, Psalm 23:1-3, Isaiah 63:12.) When we pray for help, we should not fear to pray on behalf of his glory (Psalm 79:9- help us O God for the glory of your name...). 

  • God Saves people for his glory

(II Corinthians 4:15 - grace may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory...; Ephesians 1:5-6 - to the praise of his glorious grace), 

  • God relents from wrath for the sake of his Glory

God relents from wrath for the sake of his glory and name (Ezekiel 36:16-24 - I had concern for my holy name which the house of Israel profaned among the nations;  Psalm 25:11 - For the sake of your name forgive my iniquity...).

What shall we say then?

If everything God does is for his own glory, it would behoove us to pay attention so that everything we do also results in God being glorified. (Phil 1:9-11; I Tim 1:17; Eph 3:21; Ps 104:31; Isaiah 26:8; I Cor 10:31; I Peter 4:11.)

5  Bad things also happen for 
the glory of God

  • God takes vengeance to display his glory

Catastrophe, sickness, and other unpleasant things do come from God's hand, as vengeance on the wicked. God is glorified in his vengeance because in it his justice is vindicated. It declares to the world that he will not let the wicked go unpunished.  (Ez 28:20-23 - I am against you O Sidon and I will gain glory within you...)

  • Sickness is also for the glory of God

This is a particularly important point for the Kwong. Often when someone falls sick, the assumption is that the person has sinned or has somehow incurred divine disfavor, and the elders of the church will badger the person until he finally confesses to something, however strained. We quote here the story of the Man Born Blind from John 9:1-9 and the story of Lazarus from John 11:1-4 to show that God's glory is a factor in sickness, and not just some supposed misdeed by those who are sick.

  • Bad people exist for the glory of God

God's mercy is most evident against the backdrop of our sin; God's strength is most evident against the backdrop of our weakness; God's wisdom is most evident against the backdrop of our foolishness; and God's fullness is must evident in our want and distress.

We quote here the astonishing words of God to Moses in Exodus 9:13-16 (I have raised you up for this very purpose...) that affirm that though God could have wiped Pharaoh off the face of the earth, he kept him alive, and persecuting the Israelites for display of his own glory. We quote further from Romans 9:21-23 (does not the potter have the right to make? ...)where Paul does not hesitate to say that the display of God's glory through the evil they do is the only reason for some people's creation in the world. No matter how you cut it, the glory of God is the final object of everybody - good and bad- and everything in the world.

What shall we say then?

Many people say that if God is so powerful, then why does he fail to remove evil from the world? This lesson furnishes us with an answer. Evil is a means of displaying the glory of God in a variety of ways, and therefore God maintains it in the world. Think of a flashlight (something every Kwong person owns and uses regularly since there is no electricity). Turn it on in the day, and even with new batteries, it doesn't do anything. Turn it on at night, and guess what? The light is most visible against a background of darkness. So it is with the various facets of God's glory. They shine most vibrantly against a backdrop of evil. God's mercy is most evident against the backdrop of our sin (Rom 5:20 - where sin increased, grace increased...); God's strength is most evident against the backdrop of our weakness (II Cor 12:7-10 - my power is made perfect in weakness...) God's wisdom is most evident against the backdrop of our foolishness ( I Cor 2:4-5 - not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power...); and God's fullness is must evident in our want and distress (Ps107).

6  The coming out of the glory of God

I use the phrase "coming out" here because it translates pretty literally the sense of the Kwong verb "gal". Coincidentally, it works out to the same phrase in English which has in recent years taken on an altogether different meaning for the homosexual community in the USA. However, the analogy to God making known his glory through his Christ for all the world to see seems ironically appropriate, so I have retained the phrasing here.

It is a formulation of the Trinity by men far smarter than me that offers a living, dynamic view of the Trinity. 

It breathes life into the calculated orthodoxy of the creeds, and in my case, fills me with greatly increased devotion, love, and wonder for the glory of the Godhead and its persons. .

It is in this chapter where, having laid the foundation of the doctrine of the glory of God, I begin to build upon it the doctrine of the Trinity. The particular formulation of the Trinity, which here and in the following chapters is expounded, is based particularly on the writings of C.S Lewis and of Jonathan Edwards (especially as interpreted by John Piper). Especially relevant is Edwards Unpublished Essay on the Trinity (http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/trinity.htm). I mention this because it was not a familiar formulation of the Trinity for me, and no doubt will be new for others as well, and I would not have you think that I was exercising undue theological innovation in presenting the Trinity to the Kwong in this way.  It is indeed the Trinitarianism of the Nicene Creed, as formulated by men far smarter than I. What recommends this approach to the study of the Trinity is 1) it has as it's starting point another doctrine, namely the glory of God, and so avoids the unsatisfying situation where a doctrine is widowed from the rest of theology 2) It takes the great Trinitarian passages of Col 1, Heb 1, and John 1 at face value. 3) It offers a living, dynamic view of the Trinity which breathes life into the calculated orthodoxy of the creeds. 4) It at least tries to make a little sense out of the Trinity, and in my case, fills me with greatly increased devotion, love, and wonder for the glory of the Godhead and its persons.

The argument

Here briefly is the argument as I have presented it to the Kwong. (Quite frankly, I think it is all too abstract for most of their minds. Even so, I consider my task is not just to  provide theology that they can understand now, but theology which will answer the questions of a serious, intelligent inquirer in the years to come.)

We begin by saying very simply that the glory of God (his kumah, which we described in the last chapter) is alive. This is, we point out, not something that happens among men, but with God things are different, and this is indeed a miracle that the glory of God should be alive. In earlier editions of the Anthology we belabored this point to the point of confusion. Now we just assert it and  hope that simplicity of the the statement "God's glory is alive" will compensate in some measure for the conceptual complexity involved.

The second half of the argument is to simply point out that in fact this living glory is what we call the "Son of God." 

Athanasius and company said...

Complex concepts like this need illustrations, and the church fathers of old, and Athanasius in particular, provide us with just such an illustration which the Kwong can understand. (Actually it is an illustration derived, so the modern theologians tell us,  from a misunderstanding of the Greek word translated "begotten" in John 1:14 and 3:16, but the illustration is suitable nevertheless, and in fact Piper and C.S. Lewis still make use of this notion of "begotten.") The illustration, as we explain it to the Kwong, is that God is filled with joy and pleasure for beauty of his own glory - so much so, that it can be said that he is pregnant with his own glory and compelled to "give it birth" so that it lives in it's own right. This he does in the person of the Son (hence the "only begotten Son"). Of course at this point the heresy alarms are going off, so the theologians quickly add (as we do for the Kwong, with the additional caveat that this is only a sort of parable anyway) that this "begetting" (or "coming out", as we say in Kwong) has been happening since all eternity, and so the Son is "co-eternal" with the father  - hence the theologians' notion of the "eternal generation of the Son".

This, we explain to the Kwong is why the writer of Hebrews tells us that the Son is the "radiance of God's glory" (Heb 1:3) and why Paul tells us that God was "pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son" (Col 1:19) and why John tells us that "we have seen the glory of the Son - the glory of the one and only son (or only begotten) who has come from the Father." The person who has seen the Son has seen God (John 14:9) The Son, we further explain, is like a mirror of the Father's Glory – all the brilliance of the original is in the reflection, indeed the reflection is the original.     The Father therefore rejoices over his own glory, and since the Son is the standing-forth of his glory, he rejoices over the Son as over himself. (Matt 3:17; 17:5; 12:18 - this is my son in whom I am well pleased.)

What shall we say then?

How do we see the glory of God? We look at the Son. All the goodness, wisdom, and  power, of God can be seen in the Son. Therefore, it is imperative that we worship the Son with the same worship we accord the Father. (Heb 1:4-5 - he became superior to the angels as the name he inherited is superior...)

7  The Son is God himself

The foregoing chapter should make the deity of Christ amply clear, but it is not at all clear in the minds of the Kwong, to judge from the conversations I hear them have. Hence, I added another chapter here to underline and elaborate the point. I begin the chapter by pointing out the potential heresies of thinking that the Father preceded the Son or that the Son was made by the Father.

The Son and the Father are co-eternal and of the same nature

Of course “co-eternal” doesn't come out quite so easily in Kwong, but that's the gist of it. We quote John 1:1-2 here, which was a bit of a challenge to translate. Explaining to the Kwong that the Father and the Son share the same essential nature (quoting Col 1:15, 19; and Heb 1:3 and John 12:45 in support) stretched the language almost to the breaking point, and I'm still not sure we have actually communicated the idea, or whether they could understand it even if we did. Really, the next sections speak more coherently to the Kwong, being more down-to-earth.

The Son made the world

By Christ all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col 1:16-17 NIV

Here we quote John 1:3 (through him all things were made...), Col 1:16-17 (by him all things were created...); and Heb 1:1-2 (... through whom he made the universe.) The point is simply that creating the world is something God does, and so if you say that the Son creates the world, it is tantamount to declaring the Son as God. What makes God God  is his office of Creator.

The Son upholds the world

Why do the Pleiades always come back in the winter? Why does the sun always come back in the morning? Why do things grow year after year? Why are the animals always alive? We read that it is by virtue of the sustaining power of the Son that these things keep on keeping on. (Colossians 1:17 - in him all things hold together, Heb1:3 - sustaining all things by his powerful word)

What shall we say then?

Here I give a loose rendition of the Nicene Creed in Kwong.

8 The Spirit of God

The Father and the Son are of one mind, with perfect love between them

In this section we first point out the perfection of the love between the Father and the Son from Matt 3:17; 17:5 and Proverbs 8: 22-31 (I was the craftsman at his side - I was filled with delight day after day rejoicing always in his presence) and I John 4:8, which says "God is love".

The love and fellowship of the Father and Son is personified by a living being, the Spirit of God.

I do not trouble to explain much of this contention in Kwong. It is sufficient for a Kwong man or women to know that the Spirit represents something at the very core of the Godhead and the unity of the Father and Son who is to be reverenced with all the reverence appropriate to such. Jonathan Edwards writes on it in his Unpublished Essay on the Trinity (http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/trinity.htm), and I have collected some more of my thoughts on the subject in a little essay I would gladly furnish those who ask.

The Spirit is God, and God among us is the Spirit.

In this section we affirm the Nicene orthodoxy of the deity of the Spirit, and then make it clear that God dwells among us in the person of the Spirit, and that that is tantamount to saying that Christ is among us, or that God is among us. (John 16:7 - if I go I will send the Counselor...)

What shall we say then?

We should worship the Spirit as we worship the Father and Son. To show contempt for the Spirit is to show contempt for God. (Isaiah 63:10 - they grieved his Holy Spirit, so he turned against them; Matt 12:31- anyone who speaks against the HS...)

Should we pray to the Spirit? Yes, there's nothing wrong with praying to the Spirit, because the Spirit is God. But in fact we don't in practice pray to the Spirit because the Spirit is with us, and in us to give us wisdom and knowledge of how to properly pray to the Father or Son (Rom 8:27 - the Spirit intercedes for the Saints...)

What do the Muslims say

Often in these booklets we put a section titled thus. The Kwong are the last non-Muslim people group as you move north in Chad, and the challenge of Islam is very real here. A theology which fails to address the "Muslim Question" is incomplete.

The Muslims say that before creation God was alone and one. Where then was love? How could God know what love was? In such a case, love is a created thing like everything else which came into being when God made people. But if it is created, then it has nothing to do with God himself.

The Muslims say that God is alone as one, and then in the same breath that God loves people. But these are incompatible statements. For there to be love, there needs be at least two persons. But the Muslims say that before creation God was alone and one. Where then was love? How could God know what love was? In such a case, love is a created thing like everything else which came into being when God made people. But if it is created, then it has nothing to do with God himself.

But Christians say that by his very nature God is love. And this is true, for we contend that before creation, the persons of the Father and Son both existed, and there was love between them, and so great was this love, that it was more than a sentiment, but embodied in a very person itself, the Spirit of God. So we Christians see love as a big thing proceeding from the very nature of God, while for Muslims love is but a little created curiosity of which God himself has only secondary acquaintance.

9 Are there three gods then?

There are three  persons in the Godhead

In this section, we affirm the tri- part of the triune Godhead. We quote Matt 3:16-17, and II Cor 13:13 as examples of passages where all three persons are distinctly in view. Much of this and the succeeding sections is dedicated to getting the Kwong terminology right in people's minds – establishing what we hope will be the appropriate orthodox terms for referring to a "person", for example. 

But God is one.

Here we quote the classic unitarian passages – Deut 6:4-5( hear O Israel the Lord is one); Isaiah 45:21-22 (I am God and there is no other!); and Romans 3:29-30 (there is only one God who will justify...).

A parable to show how one being can have three persons

Jesus characterized the unity he enjoyed with the Father in terms of a unity based on the singleness of their will, word, and work. 

The following illustration has the disadvantages of all the illustrations of the Trinity insofar as it tries to explain the unexplainable. I would suggest, however, that it has a significant advantage over many other illustrations insofar as 1) real people are used in the comparison, as opposed to inanimate things like triangles and water. 2) It was inspired by and resembles Jesus own characterization of the unity he enjoyed with the Father, that is, a unity based on the singleness of their will, word, and work. I have explained the Trinity in these terms on several occasions and found it to be effective with Kwong and Muslims alike.

Think of three twins named Ali, David, and Abakar. As with many twins, these ones all looked alike, but these ones were extraordinary in a different way, because they acted like they were one person, though they were three. If a word were about to proceed from the mouth of Ali, behold, David and Abakar would think to say exactly the same thing at the same time. It was as if one person was talking. Likewise, if one of them, say David, thought to do something, like weave a sleeping mat, amazingly enough Ali and Abakar would have exactly the same will to weave a mat at the same time. Similarly, if Abakar was mad or happy or whatever, his brothers were mad or happy just like he was. And so forth. Everything any one of them thought, willed, said or did, the others spontaneously thought, willed, said and did exactly the same simultaneously. So the question is: are they one person or three? The point is that in terms of their relationship to the world around them they are for all practical purposes one. A blind man would be hard pressed to realize there were three of them. This reflects Jesus' consistent characterization of his relationship with the Father, which we elaborate on in the next section.   

God has one will, one word, and one work

Here we show how Jesus consistently drew attention to the unity of his word, work and will  with that of the Father, and thereby hope to answer the question with which the parable in the previous section ended. We quote here John 5:19 (the Son can do nothing by himself); 6:38 (I have come not to do my will but the will of him who sent me); 12:49 (I did not speak of my own accord); and 14:24 (these words you hear are not my own). We conclude this section asserting the unity of the God head as Jesus saw it, quoting John 10:30 (I and the father are one); 12:45 (when he looks at me he see the one who sent me); and 14:9 (anyone who has seen me has seen the Father).

What shall we say then?

The truth of the Trinity  that God is three persons in one Godhead is difficult, but the frank truth of the Bible. The truth is that God is simply different stuff than we are and operates on a different plane of reality, so apparent contradictions can happen (though I hope we've shown them to be not so preposterous as one might think on first examination.) If we try to say that such things can't happen, it is only because we want God to fit into our little conception of reality.

 What do the Muslims say?

The Muslims say that God is one and deny that there are three persons in the Godhead. They do this because they want a little God who they can control – a God who fits their intellectual capacity, who they can understand perfectly. Since they can't understand the doctrine of the Trinity perfectly, they throw it out and try to find something they can understand. But to make God little like that is an insult. He is a God of glory and we must humbly say "yes" to the Trinity however difficult it is to understand.

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