Does Christianity Make Sense?

When I was a Christian I often heard people say that Christianity is a inclusive religion. I guess what they meant by that is that anyone can become a Christian. You don’t have to be born into Christianity or undergo a rigorous training program before you can call yourself Christian.

But that’s not entirely true.

Allah (which actually is just Arabic for “God”) is exactly how He is presented in the Qur’an and the ahadith (the teachings of Mohammad). He shares many characteristics with the Jewish and the Christian “Gods.”  (Islam is the only one of the three religions that claims that they all worship the same God.) He is just, merciful, compassionate, loving, forgiving and eternal, the source of all things and Lord of the universe. But to have a relationship with Him, you don’t have to believe a lot of other things, like:

  • God is made up of three parts, or persons, otherwise known as the Trinity, or the Triune God.
  • One of those parts is Jesus, who is not only God, but was also a human being for 33 years out of his eternal existence.
  • However,  Jesus is not just one of the persons of the Trinity. He is also the son of one of the other persons (the Father).
  • As a man, Jesus had to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
  • He also had to be raised from the dead to show his victory over death.
  • Even though Jesus died for all mankind, the only way to reap the benefits of that sacrifice is to believe all of the above.

When a prospective Christian asks how all of this works, he or she is told to take a leap of faith. Or that this is a mystery we are not meant to understand.

I’m sorry, but that sounds like a cop-out to me. Of course God is more than we can understand. If we could grasp what He’s all about, he wouldn’t be God. But when having a relationship with Him means that we have to accept things that don’t make sense, it’s awfully hard to reconcile that with our reason and intellect. Does that mean that Christians have to be irrational in order to believe in the Christian version of God?

Don’t get me wrong: when I was a Christian, I thought I did understand the Trinity. But the truth is, many people who call themselves Christian don’t really understand how Jesus can have existed for all time, but not be all there is to God, how he could be tempted to sin as a man but live like a saint, how he “turns into” the third person of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit) in order to dwell in our hearts, and so on.

Most Christians simplify things in their own minds by saying that Jesus is God. Period. But that’s not really what the Bible clearly says. A lot of what Jesus supposedly said in the Bible about God and his relationship to Him is open to interpretation.

When I was a Christian, I repeated the creeds with everyone else. I told people that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. But when I tried to explain to non-Christians what that meant, I could hear myself saying words I wasn’t really sure I meant. (Or understood.) And that bothered me.

When I found out that Islam teaches that God is One, and only One, I could grasp that. Of course God has to be One. Otherwise, you never know if you’re worshiping the right God, or the right part of God. (If all three persons of the Triune God are equal, why are you never told to worship the Holy Spirit as well as the Son and the Father?)

Muslims don’t have to pretend to believe something that is unbelievable (unless you believe that the concept of God is unbelievable, in which case you’re an atheist, so this would all be a moot point).

Faith of any kind is not easy. We all have our doubts. There is no one religion that answers all our questions. But some religions raise more questions than they answer and for me Christianity is one of them.

Published by

Ellen

Editor and chief writer at I, Muslimah and Femagination. Ellen also contributes regularly to Elevate Difference. She is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with two cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

10 thoughts on “Does Christianity Make Sense?”

  1. You have an excellent blog here, and I appreciate what you share. This post encapsulates the exact problems that I experienced as a Christian. Yet somehow I never knew that Islam was even an option, so I spent years wrestling with this Christian theology with which I could never be at peace. Yet I kept wrestling with it because I knew that God was real and that I had to follow Him. Alhamdulillah, my eyes and heart were finally opened to the Truth of Islam. Via Islam, the restoration of pure monotheism, I am freed to worship the Creator alone.

  2. An accurate portrayal and understanding of what the belief in the Trinity asserts leaves no room for such nonsense as the Son turning into the third person of the trinity in order to dwell in our hearts. The crux of the doctrine of the trinity is that there is One God divided in three distinct persons. But, more importantly, what the trinity asserts is not something that man has invented, but something that the Christian scripture, the Bible, clearly presents. The chief question, actually, is which book is the true word of God…the Bible or the Quran? In the Bible, God the father refers to the Son in this distinctive of my Son…He calls Jesus, “My son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) In the bible another name for Jesus is the Word of God. And in the Bible it says of Jesus in John 1, “ 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.” Saying that Jesus is God is not simplifying things. It is stating a cornerstone belief of the Christian faith and taught in the Bible. It is the Bible also that clearly states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. So, you see, the question is which scripture is telling the truth. Is the Quran the word of God or is the Bible the word of God? You asked the question, “If all three persons of the Triune God are equal, why are you never told to worship the Holy Spirit as well as the Son and the Father? With all due respect, the question lacks imagination and denotes a lack of understanding. Allow me to use a human illustration. A family unit is “one” unit. It is comprised of the father, the mother, and the child or children. There is hierarchical prerogative in their relationship in the sense that the man has his role and the woman has her role, but there isn’t a relationship of superiority as over against inferiority. In other words, the father is not superior to the mother, but he fulfills different functions than she does. They are equal partners, equal parents, equally valuable, but fulfilling different functions. Are we going to tell the kids, “ Well since your mother is equal to your father, why don’t you just call your father mommy or vice versa.” No, we are not going to do that, because that would be idiotic. Your argument in this post, in the end, is pretty much a straw man argument. You ignored the actual position of what the trinity asserts, and you substituted a distortion and a misrepresentation in its place that you, then, proceeded to take apart. The trinity is not an invention, that Jesus came to die so that mankind could be saved by simply putting their trust in Him is not an invention. Jesus has said in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through me.”So, you see, the question again remains, is the Bible true or is the Quran true? I will put my trust in Jesus’ words; I will trust Him for my salvation and I will embrace what the Bible teaches.

    1. I respect your views, but I have “been there, done that” and I am not convinced that the Bible supports the concept of the Trinity. To use your analogy, if a father is mentioned in one place, a mother in another, and a child in yet another, that does not mean that they all belong to the same family. I’m glad for you, that you have a strong faith and it brings you comfort. I just wish you and other well-meaning Christians would acknowledge the fact that not everyone sees God the same way they do and that doesn’t mean that they are “idiotic.”

  3. I am a christian and I agree with you in that a lot of Christians struggle with the idea of trinity. I will admit that I did too but there was always something about the trinity that drew me closer to it. I think the best and simplest analogy I give people is that trinity is like H2O- a water molecule. It can exist as a solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (vapor) without changing its properties or identity. Same with the trinity. It is the same God in 3 forms all with the same purpose of Love. Again that is the simplest way to put it. But I think there is truth to it that God can exist as a trinity, He is God after all. And trinity doesn’t teach 3 Gods but it is One God in 3 forms. Kinda confusing to grasp at first but when you fall in love with the trinity and its ‘mysteries’ and the way God used it as a way to come to this earth to live among his people to show how much he loved them, it becomes a reality. Its as if God removed the veil of being so distant and became so much closer.

    I am sorry that it didn’t make sense to you. I won’t blame you or say that you are wrong. But I sincerely wished you would understand. And don’t get me wrong some of my good friends are Muslims but the only thing always made me sad is that it is hard to break the shell of a muslim circle and become friends with them. And no matter how much I spend time with them I am always a 2nd priority after all their muslim friends…. sometimes makes me wonder if the not understanding Christianity view is taken to a much personal level to not being able to identify with Christians as individuals. Oh well !

    1. I can assure you that not all Muslims keep Christians at a distance. Especially not if they are converts. If anything they have trouble feeling that they are a part of the Muslim community, too.

      I started this blog in order to process what it means to be an American Muslim convert (and a feminist, too!). Many of my posts are attempts to explain what I found lacking in Christianity. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of anyone who believes in the Trinity. I agree that God could be in three persons–I never had any trouble with that (and I used the H2O example as well). My question always was, why would He want to present Himself as a triune God?

      I understand the part about loving us enough to come to earth and live as a man among us, even being willing to “die” to save us from our sins. But I have to say that it seems like an overly complicated way to get across the message that He loves us. I find it easier to understand when I view Jesus as a prophet who was sent to show us what God’s love and kingdom are like. And also what it means to be a disciple. I love Jesus, I just have trouble buying that he is divine.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to comment here and I hope you come back again.

      Thanks so much!

  4. Hey !

    That was a quickie reply :) Awesome !

    Thanks for being understanding. Let me make it a bit more clear… I think where I truly have problems with religions when they bash each other is when people claim “that doesn’t make sense to me, so then it must be wrong or unacceptable” Doesn’t make sense shouldn’t be the reason to not believe anything… at least to me. Like quantum physics might not make sense to me but I won’t make a claim that it isn’t there or doesn’t exist. There are things about Islam that doesn’t make sense to me. For example why do people have to face Mecca when they pray. Isn’t God everywhere? Isn’t He in your heart, right beside you when you want Him ? Yet I won’t claim that this practice is wrong because if that makes you feel closer to God then I say go for it. You know what I mean. I am not trying to say I am all understanding and open, if anything I struggle with it a lot too. But I wouldn’t say something is wrong because I can’t grasp it. I totally understand that you couldn’t identify with it. And that is the reason you found Islam to be much appealing. That I can respect, even if that totally doesn’t make sense to me. lol

    Trinity ! Trinity is a hard concept to grasp. I think one of the first things a lot of Muslims like to point at is that. Not saying everyone but every time I have had a conversation that fortunately or unfortunately leads to religion, my Muslim friends like to claim why it doesn’t make sense. And how that whole concept makes Christianity look fake. Often I can sympathize with that feeling because like I said even Christians struggle with it. But recently I read something that said “The Trinity also means that God didn’t make the world because He was lonely. He created us out of the overflow of selfless communal love.” I can totally understand how people could read it and it could make no sense to them and then when I read it I was blown away. lol

    I think for me the trinity made God much closer. He isn’t a distant reality who sent a whole bunch of prophets in the past and now sits up there in heaven watching over us (slight bit of exaggeration). Christians believe that the holy spirit still works within us. I read your earlier blog about being raised Christian so I know that you understand all about that. I don’t know, but knowing that God is working with me and he isn’t just a God who punishes and loves and showers blessing from a distant gives me a lot of relief.

    Gosh ! This reply is getting longer than the actual blog. Sorry ! But since you asked about why Jesus had to die let me add that and I promise I won’t take much of your time away. Have you ever read Adam and Eve and wondered why God threw them away from the garden. It was the hardest thing to grasp as a child because God and Allah are both known as forgiving. Yet from the beginning itself we are seen that God is Just. For people who do bad things he punishes. Don’t you Adam and Eve probably pleaded to let them stay …. I mean they are humans after all. So why then did they get kicked out ? God will give punishment to those who are walking away in sin. So if the first humans whom God loved so much couldn’t escape the punishment what makes us escape it. On what basis can we plead to let us stay ? I think that is when Jesus is relevant. In that He so willingly took up the world’s faults. So that someone had to be punished for our sins. I am sure you have heard these claims a 1000 times. But for me the fact that when God sees me, He doesn’t see my sinfulness and failures yet see His son pure and unblemished sacrifice… it gives me a reason to stay holy. So now I try to stay away from sin not because I fear the punishment but out of my love for the One who gave up everything for me.

    Sorry once again if I talked too much. Again my goal isn’t to tell you that you are wrong or claim Christianity is better. But I guess my goal is so that you would understand Christianity as something with at least a bit of truth. Also let me add. I have a High school friend to converted from Catholicism to Islam. She also has a blog that I used to follow when I was on fb. I often found that converted Muslims got very defensive about their faith. Sometimes it was annoying…. lol You are more open and that is totally great ! God bless !

    1. I hope you don’t think I was or am being dismissive of anything you’ve written. I understand why Christianity is so appealing; there’s a reason why it’s the largest religion in the world! But Islam is the second largest and growing quickly. There must be a reason for that, too.

      Personally, I feel that Muslims make a mistake when we try to point out the “wrongness” of the Trinity, because if we knew Christianity better, we’d know that Christians DO believe that God is One God. They just see Him as having three components; that’s not the same as believing in multiple gods.

      Mohammad understood this. That’s why he called Jews and Christians “People of the Book” along with Muslims. Where Muslims and Christians really differ is in their understanding of how we achieve salvation. Both religions require faith in the One God. But Muslims do not believe that anyone can take on our sins for us: we are totally responsible for what we do and don’t do. That doesn’t mean that Muslims think we can earn salvation. No one is worthy of God’s mercy. But Muslims believe that God gives His mercy as He wills and that it is ultimately up to Him who attains Paradise. All we can do is believe, pray, ask for forgiveness and be repentant, and be the best persons we can be. We can never presume that God will automatically forgive us just because we bear witness that He is who He says He is.

      We all know Christians AND Muslims who profess to believe but who are basically bad people. What Muslims object to about Christianity is the widespread belief that just proclaiming that Jesus is your Lord and Savior is enough to make up for all the bad that you do. In our opinion there has to be personal accountability.

      In other words, it’s not Christianity we object to, it’s the practices of those who say, “Lord, Lord” but don’t really mean it. I don’t see you as belonging in that category and I would never say that you won’t go to Heaven because you’re not a Muslim. Did you know that there is actually a verse in the Qur’an that says that anyone who believes in the One True God will go to Heaven?

      I’m not saying that there aren’t “hard-line” Muslims, just as there are “hard-line” Christians. In my opinion, judging another by his or her faith is a sin, not only because we can’t really know another’s heart, but because we cannot know God totally either. Both Islam and Christianity insist that judgement is the Lord’s.

      I disagree with you on one point: I think most people reject or accept a religion based on what makes sense to them. Even more, I think we gravitate toward religions that meet certain needs that we have. That’s one reason why there are so many religions.

      It may not seem like this to most non-Muslims, but Islam is at heart a very simple religion and I think that is one thing that appeals to a lot of converts. There is no complicated theology to puzzle over; it’s just a straightforward belief in the One True God. Some people can’t understand or accept the Trinity; they prefer to go straight to the source (as they see it).

      I hope you don’t think that I’m trying to convert you or to get you to accept my point of view. I’m merely trying to explain Islam and Muslims a little better, according to my experience and understanding.

      Please feel free to continue to dialogue here or if you feel better about a private conversation, e-mail me at ellen.keim [at] gmail.com. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment so freely. May God bless you in all that you do.

      Ellen

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