Last evening I had the great privilege of addressing the vital topic of Sin and Salvation in Christianity and Islam at the Abu Bakr Siddique Mosque in Erasmia, South Africa (just outside of Pretoria). I was debating Dr. Shabir Ally of Toronto. This was my sixth debate with Shabir, on our third continent (North America, Europe, and now Africa).
The reason I call this an historic night is simple: the folks in South Africa are pretty certain that there has never been a debate in the actual masjid between Christians and Muslims in this nation before. Oh, sure, there have been plenty at a hall on the mosque property, or something like that (as I did at the mosque in Lenasia just last week), but not where the Christian speaker is standing before the qibla (as I am below) or speaking from the mimbar. And even outside of South Africa, I am unaware of this having taken place anywhere else. I could be wrong, of course, but to call the occurrence a rarity would definitely be an understatement.
Let me thank the staff at the mosque for their tremendous hospitality and warm greetings. I am very thankful for the opportunity and freedom to speak on this vital subject in such a context. The folks were very kind to us, and I truly think we might have the opportunity of coming back again sometime in the future.
While the topic was sin and salvation, when you debate Shabir Ally, you will soon be addressing his utter reliance upon an unbelieving, hyper-critical approach to the New Testament. But while I did engage his attempts to turn the New Testament into nothing but a Pauline corpus, and his attacks upon Paul’s theology (and some pretty amazing accusations of self-contradiction on the Apostle’s part), I also made sure to stay “on message” given the audience and the context. As always with Shabir and I, the encounter was sharp, focused, but respectful. I gave Shabir a copy of my little book on grieving, and he reciprocated by giving me a leather bound copy of Asad’s translation of the Qur’an.
Tonight we will debate “Did the Earliest Followers of Jesus Believe in His Deity?” at the University of Pretoria. And then on Wednesday I begin the very long trek home, arriving, Lord willing, on Thursday in Phoenix.
Speaking in the debate with Shabir Ally at the Abu Bakr Siddique Mosque in Erasmia, South Africa.