Steve Hays of Triablogue has decided to go full tilt attack mode
. Fine. I had hoped to avoid taking him on but he clearly is not interested in that. I will be brief, but the accusations of self-contradiction (when it is Mr. Hays who is sorely lacking in his understanding both of Islam and who cannot seem to recognize when someone else is addressing a context other than that which he brings to the table) must be shown for the canards they are.
In his previous articles he had demonstrated that he intends to focus upon national security issues, politics, immigration, etc. Of course, that is NOT my focus, and no one reading my comments or listening to my presentations could ever think it is. It is easy to shift the focus and then accuse me of “dodging” but it is likewise fallacious to its core.
i) He keeps attacking an argument that people like me didn’t make: “Islam is monolithic!” “All Muslims believe the same thing!”
Do forgive, me, Steve, for not limiting myself to your particular interests. But Rich and I are both dealing with all sorts of people making that exact argument. Your Hays-centrism leads you to attack me for not just focusing on—you. Sorry, Steve, but I do not consider you a relevant player in the field of apologetics to Muslims. If I have missed your books, articles, and debates, please feel free to link me to them. Till then, you would do well not to read into my comments a focus upon you.
ii) He keeps contradicting himself. He says pollsters fail to “filter out” the “nominal Muslims” from “truly religious” Muslims, “representational of the worshipping community.”
What I actually, said, of course, was that these polls are notorious for showing no meaningful understanding of the theological systems they are addressing, and I began my discussion by pointing out how we (as Christians) all recognize this in reference to ourselves. This annoying little fact was completely ignored by Hays in his broadside. Makes one wonder if, as the rhetoric has warmed from article to article if Steve is only hearing what he wants to hear. I am also made to wonder if, having promised to move on to other things, the fact that I have not given him anything other than a very brief comment has not added to the problem. But back to the issue: are we truly to believe that the polls referred to consistently demonstrated an understanding of nominalism? How so? Where is the proof?
Excuse me, but doesn’t he constantly tell us that you can’t distinguish real Muslims from nominal Muslims because “Islam isn’t monolithic!” It has so much diversity. The founding documents are so varied and inconsistent. For some reason, White is oblivious to the back-to-back contradictions in his own position.
I am sorry, but this is just an astounding example of ignorance of Hays’ part. He may well be in dialogue with all sorts of Muslims, reading authors from a wide spectrum—but if he is, he hasn’t given a scintilla of evidence of it here. How on earth is that first sentence even coherent? Islam isn’t monolithic—there is an obvious spectrum of belief and practice that can be traced by careful scholars (with open minds anyway) all the way back to the earliest centuries. What on earth does that have to do with the fact that you can have very devout, well-read Muslims, very devout but ignorant Muslims, spiritualized Muslims (Sufis), as well as massive swaths of nominal Muslims who are Muslim only because everyone in their particular town/region/country is Muslim? There isn’t the slightest relationship, actually.
He then, mockingly, it seems, notes something that I did not believe any Christian apologist questioned: that the Qur’an is not a consistent, homogenous work of theology. Does Steve Hays want to drop his sarcasm and try to defend the idea that the Qur’an is not variegated in its materials? Maybe he’d like to take a shot at demonstrating the hadith, as a corpus, are consistent? How much of the entire body of the hadith have you even read, Steve? Might want to do your homework before playing Apologetic Sniper.
So, just what “back to back contradiction” am I “oblivious” to? We can’t say, since Hays sort of forgot to explain it, let alone prove it.
iii) The fact that 100% of Muslims aren’t terrorists is a red herring. Given the sheer number of Muslims, a fraction of the total is very dangerous.
Again, someone who has actually listened to what I have said would be scratching their head wondering what Hays is up to. How is this relevant to what I said on the DL today? Well, it isn’t. I guess he may be referring to my pointing out that if 39% of Muslims in country X support radical proposition Y that might just mean that 61% do not—but all you hear about is the 39%. I specifically said that the 39% number is “way too high” but I wasn’t addressing that to begin with: I was pointing out that those doing the “all Muslims are the same” argument (which, by the way, was the EXACT argument of the big weight lifter guy in the video I referenced—who, evidently, Steve seems intent upon defending) refute themselves by citing these statistics. They don’t seem to realize it because they only think about half of the percentage numbers.
iv) He cites different interpretations of sharia. Ironically, his two examples are the Talban and Saudi Arabia, yet he admits that both are “barbaric and frightening.”
This article almost looks like scribbled notes made in passing—where is the argument? Is Hays ready to defend the thesis that all interpretations of Sharia are identical all across the Islamic world? It is an indisputable fact that there are differing interpretations of Sharia, and hence the question asked in the polls, and used by many pundits in the West, is very much parallel to asking Christians if they believe God’s law should be the norm amongst mankind. Christians differ on the meaning and application of the law, and whether Hays wants to admit it, or even knows it from direct interaction, so do Muslims.
By the way, I note that almost all of the “shoe on the other foot” arguments, which were central to today’s presentation, were ignored by Hays. His lack of fairness in reviewing a fellow Christian’s arguments on this topic is—troubling, to say the least.
Hays then says I keep “laboring to draw a tight parallel between Christian identity and Muslim identity without regard to fundamental differences between the two religions.” Anyone who has listened to my lectures on Islam needs to stop laughing at this point, since, of course, it has always been central to my position that this is one of the most fundamental issues Muslims must deal with: the crisis created by their inability, or unwillingness, to go from “unIslamic” to “non-Muslim.” I have talked many times about the wide gulf between regeneration and conversion and even the most orthodox listing of the seven necessary conditions for making a true shahada (ever taken the time to honestly listen to a committed Muslim explain those conditions, Steve?). I have done entire segments where I have challenged Muslims to think about this issue. I have pressed it home in the mosque in Erasmia, South Africa, in front of a live, majority Muslim audience. But Hays cannot be troubled with such things—might get in the way of the immigration narrative! Can’t have that. In other words, this point was just—absurd. And the article he linked to was one of the most muddle-headed I’ve ever suffered through.
At least on this issue, White has lost the capacity to argue in good faith. He blatantly contradicts himself. He rehashes the same talking points without engaging counterarguments.
Pure, empty rhetoric. He has proven no contradictions, and anyone who has listened to the program knows I have engaged all sorts of counterarguments. Hays seems miffed that I have not chosen to focus upon him, and as a result, thinks I am ignoring the only real counterarguments—his own.
The odd thing is that we’ve come full circle. White originally pounced on “weightlifter dude” for telling a Muslim to just “shut up.” He quotes that over and over again. But in the last Dividing Line presentation (12/8/15), he said his critics should just shut up. He’s evolved into weightlifter dude.
Now, let’s remember—the weightlifter dude refused to engage a Muslim in dialogue because he said all Muslims “were terrorists.” What kind of thought process could lead anyone, let alone a Christian, to the conclusion that after a couple of hours of discussion on the Dividing Line that I am doing the same thing that bigoted man did? See, Hays has, knowingly, of course, ignored the context of what I actually said. When I said, “Shut up,” I was talking to a specific group of people. I was referring to those who claim, “The Qur’an teaches X” when they haven’t actually read the Qur’an for themselves. Even more so, when they encounter someone who has not only read it, but studied it far more then they have, they still insist upon claiming to know what they do not, in fact, know at all. Very much like the atheists that Hays takes on all the time insisting they can tell us what the Bible teaches when they haven’t a clue about its languages, history, or content. And to them I did, in fact say, “Shut up!” I leave it to my readers to decide what would motivate Steve Hays to parallel that with the bigotry demonstrated by the weight lifter guy in the video.
So who, really, has lost the ability to argue in good faith here? The one who has engaged a spectrum of Muslims, personally, directly, all across the world? Or the one who can make accusations of contradiction while forgetting to document the contradiction itself, and who can come up with parallels that are simply absurd on their face?
I hope Mr. Hays will dial back his flame thrower and choose his targets a bit more wisely in the future.