Popular Christian speakers like James White have repeatedly said that Muslims assume Unitarianism when discussing and debating the doctrine of the Trinity. Is this true? What is Unitarianism?
Unitarianism, refers to the belief that God exists as one person. This is in contrast to Trinitarianism which teaches that there is one God who exists in three “persons”, all of whom are distinct from the other persons, but co-equal in nature. Unitarianism argues that there is only one person. The most popular believers in this doctrine are those who believe in modalistic monarchianism or monarchianism. Modalism refers to the believe that the one person who is God, moves between varying roles; these roles are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Apologists like James White believe that Muslims argue from the belief of Unitarianism because many Muslim speakers argue against the Trinity by arguing that Jesus who is the Son, is not the Father and thus this is polytheism, not monotheism. Christians would then argue that this proves the Trinity since they do not believe the Son is the Father (that’s Unitarianism), they believe that the Son is a distinct person from the Father and so arguing that they are distinct is already a belief they hold. Therefore, when Muslims do so, they are arguing in futility. This however, does not take the Muslim’s argumentation as a whole. Muslims argue using sequential logic, they start with one point and then from this point argue another second rational point. The second point follows from the first point, thus it is sequential (in a specific order) and sequitur (one point follows from the other point, they are connected to each other. In Discrete Mathematics, a point is referred to as a premise and the symbol used to demonstrate that they are sequitur can either be -> [if this, then that] or <-> [it follows both ways, i.e. vice versa]). I am not saying that James White is the only person to commit this error, but since the questioner mentioned him specifically, and since I am familiar with him having argued as such, I will subsequently refer to him in this article.
The misunderstanding thus begins when Christian apologists isolate one of the premises or arguments, while ignoring the entire logical sequence being drawn out. So what is the Muslim’s entire argument? Trinitarians believe, as previously mentioned that each “person” of the Trinity is co-equal and absolute in their nature (i.e. perfect beings). The Muslim argument demonstrates that they are not equal and as a consequence of this, they are in a hierarchy, since there is a hierarchy and one is weaker than the other it means two of the three are not absolute in their natures and thus not God. A God is defined as a being absolute in its nature, if a God is not, such as if it does not have absolute knowledge (i.e. the knowledge of everything; see Mark 13:32), then it can no longer be considered a God. The Muslim argument, therefore also follows through to the position that this is polytheism, since Christians are deifying three non-equal beings with one absolute being, and two “partners” who are deficient in nature.
In conclusion, the next time a Christian speaker mentions that Muslims assume or argue from a position of Unitarianism, kindly stop them and ask that they listen to the entire argument and not cherry pick isolated premises from a complete argument. If they insist that they are not, kindly ask them to list the premises being postulated by the Muslim sequentially, this should only be four sentences at the very least. If they can’t articulate the Muslim’s argument, then it is clear they do not grasp it. Since they can’t grasp it, this explains why they fail to respond to it and thus have to create red herrings.
and Allah knows best.