Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Can Jesus be God if He is subject to His Father? Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Muslim polemicist Paul Bilal Williams posted a video of a certain dawagandist named Hashim Badat who recorded some of the conversations he had with Christians where he raised objections to the Deity of Christ. He basically argues that Jesus cannot be God on the grounds that the NT teaches Jesus is subordinate to God the Father.

Here is what Williams writes in regard to that video:

The New Testament of the Bible repeatedly describes Jesus as essentially subordinate to God the Father. In a Speakers’ Corner discussion, Muslim speaker Hashim Badat argues that Jesus cannot be God because he is subordinate to God since:

“The head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3) and using the ‘key’ to all New Testament Christology:

“when He (Jesus) delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father,… then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15.24-28).

It does not befit God to be subservient or subordinate to ANY one (God NOT subordinate to any, but Jesus is!)

Suffice it to say, Williams’ statements are brimming with errors and logical fallacies, which is why we have chosen to respond.

In the first place, if by “essentially” Williams means that the NT documents proclaim that Christ is nothing more than a finite creature who only possesses an inferior substance that is different from the essence of the Father, then he is sadly mistaken since this is NOT what the New Testament teaches.

The inspired Christian Greek Scriptures are quite clear that Jesus is essentially equal to the Father, since he fully possesses and eternally shares in the Father’s infinite substance:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [as to his essence] was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men… He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 10, 14

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. He is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation. For everything was created BY HIM, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created THROUGH HIM AND FOR HIM. HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, and IN HIM all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have preeminence in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross—whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:13-20

For the entire fullness of Deity (theotetos – that which makes God what he is by nature) dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

“Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him Heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint/representation of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… When He again brings His firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And all God’s angels must worship Him’… but to the Son He [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy rather than Your companions.’ And, ‘In the beginning, Lord [the Son], You established the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain. They will all wear out like clothing; You will roll them up like a cloak, and they will be changed like a robe. But You are the same, and Your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6-12

All of these NT writers affirm that Jesus is God’s Son who is completely God in essence, possessing all the fullness of Deity, being the divine Agent and Sustainer of the entire creation, who then became man in order to save his creation from destruction.

Williams himself basically admits that John’s Gospel proclaims that Jesus is God since this is what he said on his own blog in response to a Christian commenter:

Paul Williams said, on January 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

“if you can read Greek, then do you really understand John 1:1; and since you claim to read Greek and understand it, can you explain the significance of the word order, the Predicate nominative issue, and why the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of John 1:1 is wrong?”

Claim? Lol. I know the prologue of John 1 in Greek by heart and Yes, I do understand 1:1 and Yes, the JW translation IS WRONG AND YES, I ACCEPT THE TRADITIONAL TRANSLATION OF THE VERSE:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

So what? (Can God Become A Man? James White vs Abdullah Kunde; capital emphasis ours)

So to say that the NT documents deny that Jesus is essentially equal with the Father is simply a bold-faced lie.

Now, if Williams means that Christ is subordinate to the Father in terms of authority then this is precisely what the NT writings proclaim. The Biblical writers are clear that Jesus is functionally subordinate to the Father by virtue of being the Son of God who became flesh.

In other words, the God-breathed Scriptures acknowledge that there is a relational subordination wherein Jesus is subject to God due to the fact that he is the unique, divine Son who perfectly submits to and obeys the Father in all matters. This can be seen from the following texts:

“Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus responded to them, ‘My Father is still working, and I am working also.’ This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: The Son can do nothing on His own, but ONLY what He sees the Father doing. For WHATEVER the Father does, THE SON ALSO DOES THESE THINGS IN THE SAME WAY. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing, and He will show Him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. And JUST AS the Father raises the dead and gives them life, SO the Son ALSO gives life to anyone HE WANTS TO. The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life IN HIMSELF. And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear HIS (the Son’s) VOICE and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’” John 5:16-30

“‘I am the bread of life,’ Jesus told them. ‘No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe. Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up ON THE LAST DAY. For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY.’” John 6:35-40

As the divine Son, Christ can only do whatever the Father does or commands him to do. Yet, because he is fully divine, he is able to do everything that the Father does, such as give eternal life to whomever he chooses, resurrect the dead from their tombs at the last day (i.e., the day of judgment) by the sound of his all-powerful and sovereign voice etc. Since these are works which only God can do, this means that in order for Jesus to be able to do them he must be truly God in essence.

Christ is also subordinate by virtue of becoming a flesh and blood human being, wherein he permanently took upon himself the nature of a creature without ceasing to be fully divine. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jesus would be subject to the Father since this is the case with all men (in fact, with all of creation itself).

Secondly, Williams and his partner are guilty of equivocation for failing to define what they mean by the term God, which is vitally important when addressing Trinitarian theology,

By God, do they mean the entire Godhead? If so then they would be absolutely right since the Triune Godhead is not subject to anything outside of their own eternal Being. However, this doesn’t tell us whether there is some type of subordination within the Godhead itself in respect to how the eternally distinct Persons relate to one another.

Do they mean the Father? If so then they are again correct since the Father is not subordinate to anyone, not even to the Son or the Holy Spirit.

Or do they have the Son and/or the Holy Spirit in view? If so then they are mistaken since the Holy Bible affirms that they are both truly God in essence even though they are subject to the Father.

Thus, not only are they equivocating on the word God, they are also guilty of committing the fallacy of false dilemma since they presume to know enough about God’s nature to assume that there cannot be any kind of subordination among three eternally distinct Persons if they are all truly divine.

Yet this naturally brings up the following question. How do they know enough about the divine nature to rule out the possibility of there being any type of subjection within God himself apart from receiving revelation on this issue? In fact, how do they even know who and what God is exactly like apart from a revelation from him?

The obvious answer is that they do not, and cannot, know this unless God reveals this to them. Yet since neither of them are prophets or apostles this means that, instead of telling us what God can and cannot do on the basis of their own imperfect, fallible understanding, they need to show us from God’s inspired Word that subordination cannot possibly exist within God himself.

However, they immediately run into a problem since neither the Holy Bible nor the Quran asserts that God cannot be God if there happens to be a hierarchy of relationships within God’s very own essence where we find some type of subordination.

This leads me to my third point. Williams and his fellow dawagandist are operating under two mistaken assumptions, namely, that 1) God is essentially uni-personal, and that 2) subordination somehow implies inferiority in essence.

Now it is indeed true that there can be no relational subordination within the Being of God if he were in fact a single divine Person. Nor could such a God receive something from another, as if he didn’t already possess all things. This is why the Muslim conception of God makes absolutely no sense since the Quran speaks of Allah receiving an inheritance from his creation!

It is indeed We who give life and death, and We are the inheritors. S. 15:23 Quran: A Reformist Translation (QRT)

It is We who will inherit the earth and all that is on it. To Us they will return. S. 19:40 QRT – cf. Q. 19:80; 28:50

To top it off, Williams’ deity is even said to be the best of those who receive an inheritance!

And (remember) Zakariya (Zachariah), when he cried to his Lord: "O My Lord! Leave me not single (childless), though You are the Best of the inheritors." S. 21:89 Hilali-Khan

In fact, one of Allah’s names happens to be al-Warith, which means the Heir/Inheritor!

Al-Wârith: The Inheritor

The One who inherits and continues after all others have ceased to be; thus all returns to Him. He is the true owner of all.

Al-Warith is one of the Ninety-Nine Names. (Aisha Bewley, Divine Names)


98. Al-Warith
The Heir, the Inheritor of All (G. F. Haddad, Allah’s Names and Attributes)

It makes absolutely no sense to speak of a uni-personal deity who is supposed to be the creator and owner of all things, and who is said to be totally self-sufficient, to be called an heir or to receive an inheritance from anyone.

As one of William’s cohorts stated in respect to Christ being the Father’s Heir:

"Folks, God is the owner of everything; he doesn’t inherit it he already owns it… Logically if Jesus was God he would have already owned since the beginning of the days. But as Hebrews says Jesus was the heir. A heir is not an owner, a heir is someone who inherits something. Therefore, Jesus is not God because God doesn’t inherit his own creation. He already owns it from the start since he created it! How can I inherit something that I created? I own it, I don’t inherit it, I made it so its mine; not for someone else to give to me. So this conclusively proves that Jesus is not God because he is heir; he’s not the owner because only God is the owner! So quite frankly I don’t know why Christians bring this verse up to prove that Jesus is God, because it proves that he is not God because he inherits everything; he doesn’t own it! Thank you… And I repeat – a heir is someone who inherits something, he doesn’t own it. God owns everything since he made it." (Taken from my rebuttal, “Muslim Dawagandist Sami Zaatari Conclusively Proves that Allah is not God!”)

We couldn’t have said it any better! If Allah were truly God then he already owns everything from the very beginning of creation. But since the Quran says that Allah is the heir, and since an heir is not an owner, but one who inherits from another, this means that Allah cannot be God.

Now in regard to the God revealed in the Holy Bible, since he is actually tri-Personal then there is absolutely no problem with one Divine Person being subject (or subjecting himself) to another Divine Person within the Godhead.

In relation to the second underlying assumption, this skewed understanding of what subordination entails would imply that the following groups of individuals are not truly human and therefore hold less value than other human beings: Wives, children, slaves, employees etc.

This would also imply that Jesus himself wasn’t truly human in essence since the Holy Bible says that he willfully subjected himself to Mary his mother and Joseph his adoptive father:

“And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:51

These dawagandists should have no difficulty in seeing the problem with their assertion since Jesus’ subjection to his parents has no bearing on the fact that he was a true flesh and blood human being in every sense with the exception of sin:

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:23-28

In light of this, why should we automatically assume that Jesus’ subjection to the Father somehow implies that he is less than absolute Deity when his subjection to his mother and adoptive father does absolutely nothing to undermine his true humanity?

This brings me to my fourth objection. These Muslims are also committing a categorical fallacy by confusing rank and function with essence and nature. Just because someone is subject to another doesn’t make that individual inferior in essence or value.

For instance, just because slaves or children are subject to their masters or parents doesn’t mean that they are less than fully human or have less dignity and value as persons.

To use a Biblical example, we are told that the prophet Solomon bowed to his mother as an expression of honor and a symbol of his subjection to her:

“When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand.” 1 Kings 2:19

However, this didn’t make him any less human than her, nor did it diminish his status as Israel’s King who was privileged to sit on Yahweh’s earthly throne as God’s adopted son and representative:

“And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) He has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build My house and My courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.’” 1 Chronicles 28:5-6

Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king in place of David his father. And he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him. All the leaders and the mighty men, and also all the sons of King David, pledged their allegiance to King Solomon. And the LORD made Solomon very great in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel.” 1 Chronicles 29:23-25

“Blessed be the LORD your God, Who has delighted in you and set you on His throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, He has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 2 Chronicles 9:8

Or to use the example of Christ, just because he willfully subjected himself to Mary and Joseph doesn’t mean that he was any less human than they were. All this simply shows is that they are distinct persons with different roles and functions.

In a similar manner, just because Jesus is subject to the Father doesn’t make him any less Divine than the Father is. It simply highlights the different roles and functions that the Father and the Son have, or assume, in relation to one another.

This brings us to the conclusion of this portion of our rebuttal. Lord willing, we will have further responses to Williams’ claims that should be appearing soon. In the sections that will follow, we will be examining the Christology of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in order to demonstrate that this blessed Apostle actually goes out of his way to affirm that Jesus Christ is Yahweh Incarnate. This will prove that Paul saw no problem with Jesus being fully God in essence while also being subject to the Father. Since he had no problem affirming both of these divinely revealed truths, neither should we (or anybody else for that matter).