Easy-Going Ecumenism

  On American college campuses, tracts are being handed out making the claim that Christians believe in three gods rather than one. The Muslims who are handing them out are causing no end of confusion for students -- including Christian students who don't understand one of their core beliefs -- the doctrine of the Trinity. According to theologian Dr. Timothy George, in the post-September 11 world there's been an outpouring of good will that is expressed toward the unity of all people and away from the kind of divisiveness that so often rears its ugly head. The problem, George points out, is that we're seeing an over-reaction -- a kind of easy-going ecumenism that would amalgamate different faith traditions into a single homogenized whole. The intention, he says, may be one of respect, but the reality is that this is a sign of utter disrespect. It is disrespectful not to take seriously what a person claims to be the truth. And on that basis it's certain that no Muslim would believe that the god of Muhammad is the Father of Jesus -- and we shouldn't either. The difference is the Trinity. Christians believe that the one true God has forever known Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It's foundational to our faith -- and yet, George says, it is perhaps the most neglected doctrine that we hold. Why? Maybe because we can't understand it or explain it. Maybe we just don't see why it's important. And so, George says, "we tend to shove it to the side, until all of a sudden we find ourselves in a discussion with a Muslim, who says to us, 'Oh, you Christians claim to believe in one God, but really you believe in three gods.'" And that is exactly what the Qur'an teaches about Christians. We need to remember that Muhammad lived some two centuries after Augustine. St. Augustine wrote one of the great treatises on the Trinity. He did so in the face of heretical beliefs about God that were circulating in his day. But those beliefs continued to spread, and eventually they reached Mecca, where Muhammad lived. According to these heretics, God has a wife called Mary, with whom he had intercourse, resulting in Jesus. It was this distortion that Muhammad heard and believed, and many others who call Christians "tri-theists" think that we really do believe in three gods. Dr. George insists that this is why a strong grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity is vitally important. It's "nothing other," he says, "than the conceptual framework needed to understand the story of Jesus as the story of God." Muhammad's mistaken teachings about the Trinity continue to influence millions of Muslims. At this time of great curiosity about religious teachings -- at this time when many Muslims may be rethinking their own faith -- Christians must reach out to their Muslim neighbors, learning what they believe, and learning how to lovingly correct their misconceptions about what we believe. But we cannot do this unless we understand our own teachings -- especially the doctrine of the Trinity. I hope you'll contact us here at BreakPoint so we can send you some material that will help you. It's a doctrine that teaches that there is only one true God -- and yet within the being of God from all eternity there has always existed a bond of relationship, love, and intimacy: Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.


Chuck Colson



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