In the previous installment we see the difference in how Christianity was spread throughout the Indo-Malay world. In this installment, we discuss the concept of Trinity and why some Christians now continue to reject it.
Allah The One God
Since Allah is the common denominator to refer to God in the Arabic-speaking world, why is it then a problem for Malay Muslims to accept its use in the Malaysian Bibles?
First of all, the common denominator for God in the Indo-Malay speaking world is Tuhan, not Allah. Like mentioned in paragraphs above, the general Christian world believes in the Trinity where God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit. Muslims have a problem here thinking that this is all about polytheism, but really in technical terms it is not. But neither is it monotheism as the Jews and Muslims hold on to. In the Trinity concept, while God is all those three persons, the Father is NOT the Son or the Holy Spirit; the Son is NOT the Father or the Holy Spirit; neither the Holy Spirit is the other two. It is the concept of one deity in three persons.
The problem with Muslim scholars in Malaysia is that their studies are so focused on Islam that they fail at comparative religious studies and often make opinions based on what they think is being practiced in other religions. How many other Muslims read the Bible to know that after the publishing of the King James Bible in 1611, there have been other versions including the “new version”, the “children version”, and the “American version” (I’ll call them KJV in short)? How many know of the various changes made to God’s words in the Bible that appears in the KJV of today?
Mind you, the KJV was translated and printed by Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 1969, the publishers was purchased by Sam Moore, who started by selling Bibles door-to-door to finance his pursuit of a medical degree. He vowed to make Thomas Nelson the leading publisher of Bibles again. In 1976, he initiated the creation of the new Bible translation calling it the New King James Version (NKJV) that propelled Thomas Nelson back to the number one spot.
Hence, the NKJV Bible is more a human dogma than a collection of divine words. Some versions has had the word “He” changed to “It” to accommodate a politically-correct gender-unbiased view. Personally, I would use “It” to refer either to things that are not alive, or to beings other than the human. The Quran, on the other hand, has never been changed, and the divinity of its content unquestioned.
The concept of Trinity was also alien to some Christians. It was during the First Council of Nicea in 325AD , the first ecumenical council of the Church that was convened by the Roman Emperor, Constantine I, that an attempt to get the Christian world to agree on the divinity of Jesus Christ. The main topic was to discuss the teachings of a Christian presbyter in Egypt called Arius, who focused on Godhead, which emphasized the Father’s divinity over the Son. He endorsed the following doctrine:
- That the Son, or the Word (Logos) and the Father were not of the same essence (ousia);
- That the Son was a created being (ktisma);
- That the worlds were created through the Word, then he must have existed before all time;
- However, the Word did not exist, before he was begotten by the Father.
For his belief, and for refusing to sign the Creed and accepting the divinity of Christ, Arius and two other Church leaders were banished, prompting others to sign. One must remember that Emperor Constantine I was never a baptized Christian until he was on his deathbed and the word ecumenical means world, in reference to the Roman Empire dominating what they saw was the world to them.
The Arian church lives on in some parts of the world, notably in the Eastern Christianity domain, the Oriental Orthodox. Due to the differences, the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church were no longer in communion, although rivalry between the two have all but diminished since the Great Schism, but the latter still rejects the dogmatic definition published by the Pope, or by an ecumenical council, and also rejects the Council of Chalcedon.
The introduction of the Filioque by the Western Church into the Latin version of the Nicene Creed without holding a council or gaining consent from the Eastern Churches contributed greatly to this schism. The Filioque is a phrase that states the Holy Spirit as proceeding from “the Father and the Son”, while the Eastern Churches have always held on to the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and has the same status as the Son.
As such, God the Father in this concept does not qualify itself to be interpreted as Allah to be used in the Bible. God, as portrayed in the Trinity concept, does not stand, and cannot stand alone. The concept of God as a Supreme Being that exists even before time does not seem to hold true when it comes to the Christian interpretation of God, and although the Jews, Christians and Muslims are people of the book, only the Christians have created God as an image, whereas, especially in Islam, God is beyond human comprehension. Simply put, if you think that it is impossible to imagine God, even that imagination and thought come after His creation and is still nowhere near describing Allah. Both the Jews and the Muslims reject the hypostasis nature of God as projected by the Christians.
Therefore, in my humble opinion, and without prejudice to my Christian friends, God the Father should be Tuhan Bapak; God the Son should be Tuhan Anak; and God the Holy Spirit should be Tuhan Ruhul Kudus.
In my next installment, we will have a look at the common denominator and what has become of it, and what I think of this whole issue.