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Can Christians love the Father as much as they love the Son?

The following is an objection that Muslim polemicists such as Shabir Ally raise in their attempt of undermining the logical coherence of the Trinity. Ally and his fellow Muhammadans ask, since Christians claim that the Son is the one that died for them, not the Father, how does one avoid loving the Son more than the Father? Could one love the Father as much as s/he loves the Son?

There are two primary responses. First, since the Father is God, the Father is deserving of the unconditional love due to God:

“Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.’” Mark 12:29-30

“Jesus answered, ‘If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.’” John 8:54

“To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:2

Second, this falsely assumes that since the Father did not die he therefore did not express the same depth of love as the Son did. This is both an unbiblical argument as well as something we all know to be contrary to reality.

For instance, a father’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son in order to save others would be seen as an amazing display of self-sacrificial love. Two illustrations help demonstrate this point more clearly.

My following example takes for granted that God exists, and that Christianity is true. A pastor decides to take his son and his son’s friend boating. All of a sudden, the boat capsizes and neither of the boys know how to swim and therefore start drowning. The pastor is caught in a dilemma since he is unable to save both boys. He can only save one at the expense of the other.

The pastor realizes that there are also eternal consequences involved in his decision. He knows that his son has received the Lord Jesus into his life, whereas the other boy has not. Hence, to save his son means that the other boy will not only die, but also face the possibility of experiencing everlasting separation from Christ. Yet saving the boy means that his son must die.

What does the pastor do? He chooses to save the boy, and allow his own son to die since he is convinced that his son will go to heaven and dwell in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever.

Now tell us. Was this not a selfless act of love? Are we to assume that the father didn’t love the boy as much as his son since the son died and not the father?

The father will continue to remember and suffer the pain of having lost his son for the rest of his earthly life, even though he has faith that he will see his son again in glory. Hence, if anything it is the father that actually suffers greater pain since, unlike the son who is now glorified in Christ’s presence and no longer suffers pain, the father will continue to agonize and grieve till he dies.

Even though this example is not identical to what God the Father and the Son did on behalf of sinners, it serves to illustrate the point.

The other example is found in the Holy Bible and the Quran. It is the example of Abraham’s willingness to kill his one and only beloved son for God. Are we to assume that Abraham didn’t love God as much as his son Isaac since Abraham wasn’t the one who was going to be sacrificed? Or are we to assume that both Abraham and Isaac equally displayed unconditional love for God in their willingness to sacrifice that which was dearest to them; the one his beloved son, and the other his own life?

Both the Holy Bible and the Quran answer this question for us:

“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’ So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; FOR NOW I KNOW THAT YOU FEAR GOD, SINCE YOU HAVE NOT WITHHELD YOUR SON, YOUR ONLY SON, FROM ME’… Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’” Genesis 22:1-12,15-18

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his one and only son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11:17-19

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” James 2:21-23

“So We gave him the good news of a forbearing son. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: ‘O my son! I have seen in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one of the steadfast!’ So when they had both submitted (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him ‘O Abraham!… Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!’ – thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was a clear trial – And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:” S. 37:101-107

In a similar manner, God’s willingness to give up his only beloved and eternal Son on behalf of unworthy sinners is just as much an act of self-sacrificial love as Christ’s willingness to die, since God willfully gave up that which is dearest to his heart:

“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My BELOVED Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:16-17

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah – because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My BELOVED Son. Hear Him!’” Mark 9:2-7

“No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is in the BOSOM of the Father, he has made him known.” John 1:18

For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” John 5:20

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Now compare this with the following:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

{SIDENOTE: This passage and the others that follow all demonstrate that the Son’s death was a voluntary act, and wasn’t forced upon him. The Son freely chose to die for those whom he loves.}

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans 8:31-34

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, ” Galatians 1:3-4

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. In this way men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord cares for the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33

This is how God showed his love among us: I sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11

“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

The foregoing perfectly illustrates that the Son’s sacrificial death was just as much a display of the Father’s infinite love for his creation as it was of the Son’s love for all the creatures that he himself created.

Yet this now poses a dilemma for Muhammadans like Ally. Since the Quran affirms Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, this means that Abraham showed more love for God than God ever did for Abraham. The reason why this is so is because Muslims deny that God has a Son whom he sent to die for sinners. Hence, as long as they deny this biblical and historical truth, Muslims are left with the picture of a finite creature demonstrating unconditional and sacrificial love while the Creator failed to do likewise.

So much for the blasphemous attempt by Muslim polemicists to pit the Father against the Son in the hearts and minds of all true believers who love and adore the one true eternal Triune God.

Further Reading

Why did the Son Die? (https://answeringislam.net/Shamoun/q_son_died.htm).

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