More Information
ISBN: 9781783685769
Imprint: Langham Academic
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 16
Publication Date: 31/05/2019
Pages: 304
Language: English

God Is One

A Christian Defence of Divine Unity in the Muslim Golden Age


Since the first interactions between Christians and Muslims, a central point of contention has been the nature and identity of God in relation to the doctrine of the trinity and divine oneness. Yet the belief that God is one is vociferously upheld by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

In this detailed historical study and subsequent analysis, Dr Michael F. Kuhn explores the teachings of two Arab Christian theologians from the Abbasid Era (750–1250), ‘Abd Allāh Ibn al-Ṭayyib and Iliyyā of Nisibis, and how they defended the Christian view of God as three-in-one in the Muslim milieu and in reference to the Islamic concept of tawḥid, that God is indivisibly one. The intellectual contribution of these two Christian thinkers in the Muslim Golden Age has had a lasting effect on contemporary Islamic thought, with the concepts they first articulated continuing to feature in Muslim-Christian dialogue to this day.

With a review of Nestorian Christology in light of recent studies and with important theological background to contemporary Muslim-Christian engagement, this book is ideal for anyone engaging intellectually with Muslims in the area of theology, spirituality and ethics.

Author Bios

Michael F. Kuhn

MICHAEL F. KUHN and his family were privileged to call France, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon “home” for nearly thirty years. He has invested much of his life in cross-cultural discipleship. He holds a PhD in Muslim-Christian Relations from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, UK, and graduate degrees in Arabic language and literature, and theology. Mike serves through the International Theological Educational Network (ITEN) of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as an author and teacher-mentor in the US, the Middle East and beyond.


This is a materially rich, intellectually nuanced, theologically responsible study in comparative theology, which will illumine and give depth to any current Christian-Muslim conversation on Christology and the trinity.
Hani Hanna, PhD
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology,
Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt

Dr Michael Kuhn’s study is not only a significant contribution to scholarship on medieval Arabic-speaking Christians theologizing under Islamic rule, but also a delightful guide full of practical insights and helpful information for today’speacemakers, who lovingly and willingly seek to share the power of the Triune God with their neighbours.
Ayman S. Ibrahim, PhD
Bill and Connie Jenkins Associate Professor of Islamic Studies,
Director, Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam,
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Michael Kuhn’s work brilliantly juxtaposes two disparate medieval Christians whose input could potentially add a richlayer in the story of the “Christian-Muslim discourse” on God. These cases highlight not just the humility of men who took initiatives to give an honest account of a revelatory faith but also the story of God who reveals his true nature so humanity can relate with him as sons and daughters and not as slaves and servants. I have no hesitation in recommending this excellent work to all honest people of faith, Muslim and Christian.
David Emmanuel Singh, PhD
PhD Stage Leader and Link Tutor,
Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, Oxford, UK

This ground-breaking study of Elias of Nisibis and Abd Allah Ibn al-Tayyib is the first sustained analysis of their work in English, and so will open up the significance of these theologians for the global dialogue with Muslims that is happening in our time.
Mark Beaumont, PhD
Research Associate,
London School of Theology, Northwood, London, UK

Mike Kuhn’s erudite book, God Is One, may at first appear too academic and overwhelming for the general reader, but you will want to overcome that initial hesitation and pick it up anyway. His constant concern for relevance and applicability . . . also make his book vastly accessible and useful, not only for the Arab student, but also for others everywhere. I celebrate Kuhn’s unique contribution to taking the church’s positive engagement with Islam one step further in the direction of loving understanding in a world where Christians and Muslim are living as neighbors in closer proximity than ever before.
Martin Accad, PhD
Chief Academic Officer and Associate Professor of Islamic Studies,
Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut, Lebanon

Michael Kuhn’s God Is One is an outstanding contribution to scholarship on medieval Muslim–Christian relations with deep resonance for Muslim–Christian interaction in the present. [It] is among the most thorough and nuanced explorations that I have read of the single most important topic in Muslim–Christian interaction, the doctrine of God.
Daniel Brown, PhD
Institute for the Study of Religion in the Middle East

God Is One by Michael Kuhn provides a masterful account of how two eleventh-century theologians from the church of the east defended their faith so eloquently and to the admiration of their Muslim audience. This comes at a timely season when evangelicals in the Arab world are digging deeper roots in the region and developing contextual approaches for articulating their faith. This book is a great resource for anyone serious about witnessing from a minority setting.
Elias Ghazal
Executive Director,
Middle East and North Africa Association for Theological Education

Kuhn’s assessments are in every case cautious, patient, generous, and unafraid. His final chapter is a tour de force of chastened hope as the author notes how the unbending lines of medieval conversation about divine unity, and indeed the manner in which Muslims and Christians are prepared to engage such themes, have lately softened in a manner that suggests that further and fruitful conversation and witness may lie just ahead.
David A. Baer, PhD
Director, Theological Education Initiative
Professor, Old Testament and Biblical Languages,
Seminario Bíblico de Colombia, Medellin, Colombia

This book is a valuable resource for both Christian scholars in dialogue with Islam and Christians needing the life-giving knowledge that the incarnate God is with them in their day-to-day struggles.
Frank Newell
Alexandria School of Theology, Egypt

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Abstract
    1. 1 Charting the Course
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. Research Questions
      3. 3. Significance: To What End?
      4. 4. Methodology: Integrated Textual Analysis
      5. 5. Limitations
      6. 6. Interaction with Literature
      7. 7. Defending Divine Unity in the Muslim Milieu: Structure of This Work
    2. 2 Theologians in the Muslim Milieu: Ibn al-Ṭayyib and Iliyyā of Nisibis
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. The Theologians
      3. 3. Buyid Ascendancy in the Abbasid Realm
      4. 4. The Marwanids
      5. 5. Islamic Voices of the Abbasid Era
      6. 6. Christian Voices of the Abbasid Era
      7. 7. Conclusion
    3. 3 Defining Trinitarian Unity: The Trinitarian Formulation of Abū al-Faraj ʽAbd Allāh Ibn al-Ṭayyib
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. The Documents
      3. 3. Ibn al-Ṭayyib and Christian Trinitarian Discourse
      4. 4. Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Trinity at the Muslim–Christian Interface
      5. 5. Conclusion: Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Value to the Muslim–Christian Interface
    4. 4 Transcending Polemic: Iliyyā of Nisibis and Abū al-Qāsim on Trinitarian Monotheism
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. The Documents
      3. 3. Description and Interpretation
      4. 4. Analysis
      5. 5. Conclusion: Transcending Polemic
    5. 5 Christological Reverberations in the Muslim Milieu: The Union of Human and Divine in Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Christology
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. Controversy over Christ
      3. 3. Christological Formulation of Ibn al-Ṭayyib
      4. 4. Conclusion: Ibn al-Ṭayyib: A Responsive Theologian in the Islamic Milieu
    6. 6 Unblemished Deity Incarnate: The Christological Formulation of Iliyyā of Nisibis
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. Session 1
      3. 3. Session 2
      4. 4. Additional Documents
      5. 5. Iliyyā’s Christology in the Islamic Milieu: Adherence to Tawḥīd
      6. 6. Conclusion
    7. 7 Defending Divine Unity: From Medieval to Postmodern
      1. 1. Introduction
      2. 2. Concluding Findings of this Research
      3. 3. Impact on the Field of Muslim–Christian Discourse
      4. 4. Divine Unity and Incarnation in Today’s Muslim Milieu
  3. Appendix 1: Glossary of Theological Terms
    1. 1. Arabic Terms
    2. 2. English and Other Terms
  4. Appendix 2: A Treatise on the Divine Attributes
    1. Introduction
    2. Chronology of the Treatises
    3. Contents of the Second Treatise (M2)
    4. Introduction to Ibn al-Tayyib’s Third Trinitarian Treatise (M3)
    5. 1. Definition of the Substance and the Hypostases
    6. 2. The Legal Demonstration That the Attributes Are Three
    7. 3. The Rational Demonstration That the Attributes Are Three
    8. 4. Objection to the Attributes Being Three
    9. 5. Objection That the Attributes Require a Separate Essence
    10. 6. Objection That the Attributes of Essence Can Be Inferred
    11. 7. Two Opinions Concerning the Divine Attributes
    12. 8. Names of the Divine Attributes
    13. 9. Objection That Attributes Lead to Compositeness
    14. 10. Objection That the Attributes Are Accidents
  5. Bibliography
  6. Index

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