In the Christian faith God comes “near” (Eph 2,13+17; cf. Hebr 4,16) mankind with his revelation. He comes to mankind. He speaks to mankind. He speaks with mankind. He speaks the language of men, and he gives a stable basis to the relationship between God and mankind, in which he binds himself to his work and, as the one who is absolute and true, enables faith and trust.
It is for this very reason that God’s progressive revelation found in the salvation narrative also has a written version, which makes the reliability of God palpable and brings God near to all mankind in human language.
For its part, written revelation pushes for fulfillment in a manner in which God comes even closer to us: God becomes man and “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In Christ God becomes “Immanuel,” “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). For this reason God’s incarnation in Jesus does not suspend the written revelation. Rather, it fulfils it with the actual word of God.
And still this is not enough! God wants to come even nearer to us. Jesus, who is true man and true God, leaves the earth with his new body after his resurrection. In his place he sends the Holy Spirit, which can not only come nearer to all humanity than Jesus; rather, since Pentecost, he lives in believers, witnesses God’s spirit to their spirit, and gives them inner power to live according to God’s will (Romans 8:3-4). God cannot come any nearer to us!
The three steps of God
- God comes close to men, speaking man’s language, revealing himself to them, and giving his will to them in written form.
- God comes even closer to men by taking on bodily form in Christ and revealing himself directly to man.
- God comes even closer to men by living through his Spirit in those who believe in Jesus Christ.
For a Muslim it is really difficult to understand that the Bible is simultaneously man’s word and God’s word, since a Muslim can only think of God’s word as something without human assistance. [For details see Thomas Schirrmacher. Koran und Bibel. Hänssler: Neuhausen, 2007, an English and Turkish translation will be published soon.]
It is even more difficult for a Muslim to comprehend that in Jesus Christ God and man are conjoined, all the more so because the Muslim is marked by the idea that that can only mean idolatry.
As much as this point stands in the center of the denial of Christianity, since the Koran sees the primary evil of Christians in the fact that they assign to the human prophet Jesus the status of God’s Son, experience shows that the next step definitively exceeds the imagination of a Muslim. That is, namely, that Christians believe that God’s spirit is the third person of the one true God and lives in the believer.