you might appreciate the following approach to the Trinity given by Father Daniel Bambang Dwi Byantoro of the Orthodox church in Indonesiahttp://www.pr.ru/emmaus/samples/Indonesi.pdfFr. Daniel:
I think that in any missionary work, you must first of all understand the culture of the people and you have to be able to speak within the bounds of that cultural language, because otherwise your word cannot be heard or understood. So, when you talk with a Moslem, you must understand the Moslem mind. Don’t just try to throw in words and phrases that are familiar to Christians, to Orthodox, because they will not be understood by a Moslem. First of all, when you talk to a Moslem, you have to emphasize that God is One.Thomas:
Because they already believe this?Fr. Daniel:
Not only because they already believe this, but because they accuse us [the Christians] of having three gods. That is the problem. So, you have to clear up the misunderstanding that we worship three gods. Don’t try to use our traditional language, like Father, Son and Holy Spirit - because for them, that is three gods! In their minds, the Father is different, the Son is different, the Holy Spirit is different. For myself, I emphasize that God is One, that this One God is also the Living God, and as the Living God He has Mind. Because if God didn’t have a mind, I’m sorry to say, He would be like an idiot. God has to have a mind. Within the Mind of God there is the Word. Thus, the Word of God is contained within God Himself. So, God in His Word is not two, but one. God is full with His own Word; He is pregnant with Word. And that Word of God is then revealed to man. The thing that is contained within - like being impregnated within oneself - when it is revealed, it is called being born out of that person. That is why the Word of God is called the Son: He is the Child Who is born from within God, but outside time. So, that is why this One God is called the Father, because He has His own Word Who is born out of Him, and is called the Son. So, Father and Son are not two gods. The Father is One God, the Son is that Word of God. The Moslem believes that God created the world through the Word. So what the Moslem believes in as Word, is what the Christians call the Son! In that way, we can explain to them that God does not have a son separate from Himself.Thomas:
So the Moslems see our idea of the Son of God in terms of physical sonship.Fr. Daniel:
Yes, of course. And God does not have a son in that way, that’s true. He is not begetting in the sense of a human being giving birth. He is called the Father because He produces from Himself, His own Word, and that Word is the Son. So because God is the living God, He must have the principle of life within Himself. In man, this principle of life is man’s spirit. God is the same. The principle of life within God is the Spirit of God. It is called the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not the name of the Angel Gabriel, as the Moslems understand it. The Holy Spirit is the living principle, the principle of life and power within God Himself. This One God is called the Father because He produced from Himself His own Word, which is called the Son, and the Word of God is called the Son because He is born out of the Father eternally, without beginning, without end. This One Living God also has Spirit within Himself. So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one God. This is the way we explain to Moslems about the Trinity, and we should not try to use our language of “Father and Son, co-equal, co-...” something like that. Even though it is our Christian terminology, they will not understand this. The purpose is not to theologize to them but to explain the reality of the Gospel in a way that is understandable to them. This is point number one: you have to be clear about the Trinity.
The second point is this: the basic difference between Islam and Christianity concerns revelation. In Islam, God does not reveal Himself. God only sends down His word. “Revelation” in Islam means “the sending down of the word of God” through the prophets. And that word is then written down and becomes scripture. So in Islam, revelation means the “inscripturization” of the word of God while in Christianity, it is not the same. The Word was sent down to the womb of the Virgin Mary, took flesh and became man. Namely, Jesus Christ. So, the two religions believe that God communicated Himself to man by means of the Word, but the difference is how that Word manifested in the world. In Christianity it is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ and in Islam it is manifested in the form of a book, the Koran. So, the place of Mohammed in Islam is parallel to the place of the Virgin Mary in Orthodox Christianity. That is why in Islam the Moslems respect Mohammed, not as a god, but as the bearer of revelations. Just as the Orthodox Church respects the Virgin Mary not as a goddess but as the bearer of the Word of God, who gave birth to the Word of God. Incidentally, the two religions both give salutations, to Mohammed for the Moslems and to the Virgin Mary for Christians. The Moslems also have a kind of akathist, like a paraclesis but to Mohammed! It is called the depa abarjanji - in Orthodox terms it would be a “canon” to Mohammed, because he is the bearer of the revelation.Thomas:
So Mohammed is venerated like a saint?Fr. Daniel:
He is venerated, yes. Very much so. But there are also the Sufi Moslems, who sometimes believe that Mohammed was “already there,” like the Arian misunderstanding of Christ. In their view, Mohammed was the “first created soul,” for whom the world was created. This is called the Nor-Mohammed. So, the purpose of Islamic mystics is to be like Mohammed, to
To be the bearer of the Word?Fr. Daniel:
As Mohammed was.Thomas:
So, that is why Sufi mystics are perhaps not so legalistic?Fr. Daniel:
Yes, they are more mystical.
So, for us, the image of the Church is the Virgin Mary. We are called to be like the Virgin Mary in our submission to God. The Virgin Mary is the picture, the image, or I should say, the icon of the Church. Mohammed is the “icon” of the ideal Moslem man, and because of that the way we worship diverges. In Christianity, because the Word became a man, became flesh, for us to be united with that Word we have to be united with the content of that revelation. What is the content? The incarnation, crucifixion, death and resurrection of that Person. In order for us to be united with the content of that Holy Friday revelation, we have to be united in that Person, namely in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How? Through baptism. And we also have to be united with the life of the resurrection of that incarnate Word. How? By the Holy Spirit, through Chrismation. So, the sacraments are very important for us because God became man. He sanctified the physical world so that the physical elements of nature can be used as the means by which we are united with the person of Christ in the sacraments.In Islam, however, because the word becomes a book, the content of the book is writing. It is not flesh. So, that is why in order for a Moslem to unite with the content of the two-fold revelation (that God is one and that Mohammed is His prophet) one has to recite the source of revelation - because it is a book. But you cannot be united with or immersed in a book, you can only memorize the content of the book in the original form, namely in Arabic. So, Arabic scripture is the form of that revelation. The God-Man Jesus is the form of that revelation in Christianity.