Witnessing to Muslims: Explaining the “Son of God” terminology
Updated: May 5, 2020
John Paul 2 and Roman Catholics bowing down in front of a statue of Mary has caused Muslims to think Christians worship Mary, for centuries!
Someone recently called into the Dividing Line Podcast Program * and asked for help on witnessing to Muslims. He told of his experience in a Muslim area in Africa (Uganda) and that the Muslims kept saying, “God cannot reproduce!”; “God cannot have children!” How many times have I heard this over the last 26 years in witnessing to Muslims?!: “God cannot have a wife!” “God cannot have a son!” “God did not lust after Mary and marry her and have sex with her!” “God cannot beget!” The Qur’an, Surah 112 is targeting the Biblical content of “the Son of God” and “begotten” terminology.
To our Roman Catholic and Orthodox readers – see, here we have a living example of recent history of Muslims who still believe the Trinity is “Father, Son, and Mother”. (Surah 5:116) This is very common all over the Muslim world. I know from experience also. So, the Marian dogmas and practices and praying to her and having statues and icons and exalting her too much are still contributing to that mis-understanding. The Qur’an defines for them what we believe – Surah 6:101 – they don’t really care what the official doctrine of the Trinity is.
“Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth; How can He have a son when He hath no consort [spouse, mate, sexual partner]?” He created all things, and hath full knowledge of all things.” ( Qur’an 6:101, with my own parenthetical comments)
Pictures of John Paul 2 (and other Popes and other Roman Catholics) bowing down before a giant statue of Mary just confirms in the Muslims minds and hearts that this is what the Christians really believe.
Only very educated Muslims who take the time to read and study find out what the doctrine of the Trinity is; and it is usually their “apologists” who are trained to come to the west to seek to win westerners to Islam.
I would like to suggest that believers in Jesus Christ slow things down a bit for the Muslims and, to use a mathematical learning analogy, instead of trying to teach them Calculus (the eternal Sonship of Christ and the Trinity); we should begin with simple math: like addition, subtraction and multiplication. We will get to Calculus, don’t worry, but don’t move there too quickly.
1. With passion and conviction, agree with your Muslim friend that it is Blasphemy to think God took a wife !! Get worked up over this and show them with passion that we do not believe this. There is a fun Arabic phrase that many Muslims know and use when someone says something wrong, “Estaqrf’ullah !” (“May God forgive you!”; “May it never be!”) I have used this and it is effective to show how strongly the Bible is against their idea of what “the Son of God” or the Trinity means. Focus like a laser beam and spend time on this with your Muslim friend before you try and explain the “eternal Sonship” of Christ and “eternally begotten” language, or the Trinity. The idea of “Son of God” or “God as Father” (automatically means sex) is so shocking to a Muslim, you must not move too fast in trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or the eternal Sonship of Christ before you convince him that 1. You don’t believe God got married or had sex with Mary; and 2. You don’t believe in three gods. It is also effective to stay on monotheism for a while and quote and use Mark 12:29 (Jesus quoting the Shema in Deut. 6:4).
Muslims are fun people to witness to! They are willing to talk about God and spiritual things. They believe in right and wrong and heaven and hell, and judgment day. I have had many Muslims say to me, “I respect you Mr. Ken, because you believe in your book as the truth.” “Most of the other Christians we meet don’t really believe they have the truth.”
Muslims are incredibly hospitable and we need to learn how to reach out in friendship evangelism, along with apologetics and debate; and one time “contact” evangelism. Jesus was the friend of sinners and tax-collectors, eating meals with them and spending time with them. We need to show Christ’s love by being willing to have meals of shish kebab and hummus and drink strong Arabic/Turkish coffee with them.
Trying to explain the Trinity and the eternal Sonship of Christ too soon for Muslims is like trying to explain Calculus before addition, subtraction, and multiplication. You can and should eventually get to those truths; but it is better to start on the basic issues to help the Muslim overcome them; all the while praying that God will open their eyes and heart to understand and believe. ( John 6:44; Acts 16:14) It may not happen in one setting either. Many missionaries to Muslims have said that the average Muslim usually needs to hear the gospel 100 times over a period of 1 year in friendship with a true Christian. Obviously God can open the heart and draw in only one hearing of the gospel. We are only saying that this is the experience of many missionaries who have spent lots of time with Muslims; including this writer.
2. Point out that the Qur’an also uses metaphoric language of filial terms, “son” and “mother”. The Arabic phrase, “son of the road” ( Ibn ol sabeel ) = “traveler”, “wayfarer”; “mother of the book” ( um ol kitab ) = source of revelation; “Mother of villages” = Mecca. (Surah 6:93, 42:7, Pickthall’s footnote) In Egypt, the Arabic expression, “son of the Nile” – “one who lives on the Nile River.
“Son of the Road” (Qur’an 2:177; 4:36; 8:41; 9:60), “Mother of Book” (Qur’an 13:39; 43:3-4; 3:7) “Mother of Villages” – (Qur’an – 6:92; 28:59; 42:7)
Can roads, villages, rivers, or books have sex or get married? Asking this question will confound and silence the Muslim for his attacks and lack of listening to our explanations of “the Son of God”.
This proves that metaphoric language is used by the Qur’an, and the Muslims should then give respect and a ear to us when we are also using the term metaphorically.
This proves that is not blasphemous to call Jesus, “the Son of God”, because the Bible does not mean it in the way that Muslims think when they hear the phrase.
The Qur’an affirms the virgin birth of Christ. (Surah 3:47; 19:19-22) Affirm that Jesus had no human father; therefore, in this sense, God was His Father.
Luke 1:34-35 sounds very similar to the Qur’anic passages on the Virgin Birth of Jesus. It is powerful to use passages in the Bible that are similar to verses in the Qur’an to begin with to establish understanding, and then go forward.
3. Show them some specific Scripture, especially the NT and the Gospels. If possible have them read it in their heart language, whether it is Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Pushtun, Kazakh, Malaysian, or Fulani.
I have found that Luke 1:34-35 along with Hebrews 10:5 to be very effective in answering the “Son of God” terminology.
Luke 1:35 – “ . . . for this reason, the Holy offspring will be called the Son of God”
For what reason? Because Jesus had no human father; and because of the “power of the Most High” and “the Holy Spirit” who conceived, unified, joined spiritually inside the womb of Mary – so, it is NOT from marriage and sex; that is blasphemy (and what Mormons and Greek mythology believed). Rather, the phrase “Son of God” describes the close eternal spiritual relationship that the Father and Son have always had from all eternity past, being of the same nature, but in personal relationship. God is personal, not an impersonal force or principle. God is Spirit (John 4:24), so there can be no physical sex or marriage. This is what Surah 112 and 6:101 and 5:72-73 and 5:116 are speaking against, they are speaking against understanding God and terms like “father”, “son”, and “begotten” in a physical, sexual way.