Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Christianity - Islam: Two Faiths! Two Worldviews! - One God?
08/30/2007 - James WhiteI will be in Toronto next week speaking at a conference along with Michael Haykin (Toronto Baptist Seminary) and Thabiti Anyabwile. The conference is being put on by Sola Scriptura Ministries, and the title is "Christianity - Islam: Two Faiths! Two Worldviews! - One God?" I will be speaking on "Discussing the Bible and the Qur'an" and "Discussing Christ and God." Way too little time for way too much to say. But hopefully I can get something useful into the time frames I have. In any case, I am looking forward to meeting the saints up in Toronto and hopefully encouraging them as well. Knowing that Shabir Ally's Islamic Dawa center is not far away, I'm sure we will have some visitors as well! Pray for these meetings.
One of the folks in our chat channel pointed me to this brief clip of pastor Anyabwile doing a debate in Dubai.
Here is the full debate in Google Video.
The Deification of Muhammad?
08/27/2007 - James WhiteIslam denies, fundamentally, the propriety of the worship of anything or anyone other than Allah. Indeed, shirk is the unforgivable sin in Islam. Yet, we saw what happened when some cartoons were drawn depicting the prophet of Islam--is that how people respond when a mere man is caricatured? Rioting and looting and burning and beheading is the response of those who do not worship Muhammad? One is truly left to wonder.
I recently picked up a volume by Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill: 1985). Fascinating stuff, to be sure, but not the kind of book you find at your local Christian bookstore! This material fits well with what I have encountered in Islamic apologists, in the sense that they find in the Old Testament all sorts of prophecies about Muhammad, even to the point of applying Isaiah 9:5-6 to Muhammad!
Sam Shamoun let me know this morning that he and the team at Answering Islam have put together a series of articles on what is actually to be found in Islamic sources regarding the utter exaltation of Muhammad. Here are the links:
Check them out, and always remember to pray for the team at answering-islam.org!
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#2)
08/27/2007 - James WhiteI have begun reviewing Ali Ataie's article, Can Paul Be Trusted? I provided his conclusions first just to give the reader a good taste of the kind of conclusions arrived at by Islamic writers. We continue examining Mr. Ataie's assertions and arguments.
Paul's revolutionary view of Jesus' crucifixion and its redemptive value as well as his doctrine of original and inherent sin, salvation, and justification through faith alone superseded all Mosaic obedience and established a new covenant between mankind and the divine.First we encounter the (unsubstantiated, at least at this point) assertion that the Apostle Paul evidently introduced a "revolutionary view of Jesus' crucifixion and its redemptive value." Surely Islamic writers are not alone in making this claim, but again we are faced with the irony of Islamic writers buying stock in the theories of those who reject supernaturalism while themselves confessing it, at least in the revelation of the Qur'an and the ministry of Muhammad. But what evidence exists that Paul's theology was so utterly revolutionary in the sense of being fundamentally contrary to the views of the other apostles? We already addressed the contradiction in Ataie's comments at this point in our previous article. It is very clear that the reason Muslims borrow the skepticism of modern secular scholarship is not due to anything other than the fact that while Muhammad thought he was speaking in concert with the preceding "prophets," including Jesus, he was, in fact, ignorant of the text of the Christian scriptures, and therefore, once Islam became established as a world religion and its adherents began the inevitable process of apologetic interaction with others, this reality came to light. Rather than abandoning faith in Muhammad's divine calling, the Islamic response was to attack the evidence for the biblical teachings that run so clearly contrary to Muhammad's ideas. This anachronistic approach is forced upon Islamic apologists to this day, and I honestly see no means by which a believing Muslim can avoid the inevitable circularity and inconsistency of their position. Islam cannot remove Muhammad's claims to stand in harmony with the line of prophets that came before him. Nor can Islam remove the fundamental contradictions that exist between Muhammad's teachings and those of Jesus and His apostles.
Paul asserts, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second" (Hebrews 8:7).What established a new covenant was not Paul, but Jesus' own teachings. Few concepts are more clearly to be traced to Jesus Himself than that of the New Covenant, seen in the Supper and in the teachings of Christ relating to His own mission and purpose. It was not a matter of superseding the Old, but of fulfillment, as Jesus Himself taught. It is good to see Ataie admitting the fundamental nature of Paul's gospel (centrality of the cross, the depravity of man, justification, sola fide, etc.), for some have even erred here in misrepresenting his teachings. But Ataie cannot see the harmony that exists between the various streams of New Testament revelation due to his over-riding commitment to an errant seer removed from Paul's time by over half a millennium.
Ataie evidently assumes Pauline authorship of Hebrews in his citation of Hebrews 8:7. In any case, he confuses the topic of Hebrews 8, the supremacy of the new covenant in its bringing forgiveness of sins to all those within its borders (in contrast to the old covenant), with that of obedience in the Mosaic covenant. He does not give us any reason to accept his citation, or interpretation, as having any validity. (For much more on the exegesis of Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant, see my articles in the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, I:2, 2:1).
Go into a church at random and you may or may not hear the words of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, but rest assured, you could bank on hearing Pauline teaching 100% of the time.One thing is for certain, Mr. Ataie's experience in Christian churches is not only lacking, but surely he should be aware that arguing from hearsay as he does in the above assertion about what one will find in Christian churches is inherently dangerous and almost never worthwhile. He is simply in error, of course, for any solid church is going to preach from, and teach from, the entirety of the inspired text. In my own fellowship, such a statement is clearly false. For example, I have been teaching a Synoptic Gospel study on Sunday mornings for over four years now. Are some churches imbalanced? Of course, but in Western culture, the balance will be exactly backwards to that suggested by Ataie: it is Paul that is in "decline" in many churches, not the other way around.
While Jesus terrified demons from afar and exorcised power over them, the Apostle Paul tells us that "a messenger of Satan" regularly beats him over the head from time to time (2 Cor. 12:7). This stunning admission lends us a vital clue as to where exactly Paul was receiving his "revelations" from. Even Paul himself is not sure as to the source of his teaching....
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Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#1)
08/21/2007 - James WhiteAli Ataie of the Muslim Interfaith Council has posted an article titled, "Can Paul Be Trusted?" I provided his conclusions in the previous article. I now begin the process of reviewing his arguments and what leads him to his radical conclusions. Mr. Ataie begins:
The apostle Paul is the single most influential person in all of Christian history. Many scholars have even gone so far as to say that HE is the true founder of the religion that bears the title of Jesus. In fact, Paul freely admits this when he says: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the FOUNDATION, and another buildeth thereon” (1 Cor. 3:10). Many scholars will surely agree that if it weren't for Paul, Christianity would still have been a sect of Judaism today.Mr. Ataie's second sentence begins with one of the most abused phrases in the world today, "many scholars." This term is equivalent to "this is a point I believe, and I'm going to assert this without actually providing you with any substantive factual basis outside of my claim that certain unnamed people hold a particular opinion that may or may not have anything at all to do with serious scholarly research." The phrase "many scholars" can be used in a meaningful fashion, such as, "Many scholars have come to the conclusion that the text of the New Testament demonstrates the characteristic of tenacity, and this is demonstrated by the Alands when they examine the text in Matthew...." But it can likewise be used to hide gross inconsistencies on the part of the person using it, and I believe that is the case here.
Mr. Ataie's work suffers from the same inconsistency as that of his predecessors in the Islamic apologetics field: he is more than willing to embrace both the methodology and conclusions of secular scholarship that rejects, as a presupposition of its study, the very possibility of the supernatural, of revelation, of God speaking, when that scholarship is attacking Christianity. But he rejects, a priori, the same scholarship when it is applied to Islam and the Qur'an. Hence, he can refer to Bart Ehrman as an "objective" scholar, but when Ehrman's theory that divine revelation would result in no textual variants in manuscripts is applied to the Qur'an, he will reject Ehrman's objectivity. So, Ehrman is only "objective" when he is seeking to undermine the claim of divine inspiration of the Bible, but when he turns his guns upon the Qur'an, Ehrman is no longer objective.
This kind of inconsistency is the hallmark of the modern Islamic apologist. I would like to think there are some Muslim apologists in the West who are consistent at this point, and who self-consciously hold themselves to a single set of standards, using the same standards for their study of the Qur'an that they use for the study of the New Testament, but I will be perfectly honest: I have yet to run into such a person. But I hope that will change, someday.
Returning to Mr. Ataie's claims: yes, the Apostle Paul is without doubt one of the most important persons in Christian history. Christians believe he is so by divine appointment and providence, not by personal ambition or dishonesty. It should be pointed out that Mr. Ataie is adopting a very anti-Christian stance in his article. He is accusing the Apostle Paul of serious crimes against God and God's truth. Indeed, if Mr. Ataie is correct, Paul is guilty of leading literally millions to commit the sin of shirk over the centuries. But if Mr. Ataie is wrong, then it follows that he is guity of attacking an apostle of Jesus Christ, a man who served God faithfully.
The claim that Paul founded Christianity flies in the face of all available documentation from the first century. It would require us to believe that the original followers of Jesus were cowardly men who were incapable, even with a "head start," so to speak, to preach and proclaim the true message of Christ before a usurper, a man with evil motives, a gross and dishonest opportunist, managed to somehow wrest the control of the Christian faith from them and completely altar the faith they had learned from Jesus. This theory is not only completely without any basis in the earliest documents, but it isn't even consistent with the Qur'an, which tells us,
Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute. (Surah 3, Al-i'Imran, 55)If Paul "rejected faith," then the Qur'anic promise is that those who follow Jesus (the true, Qur'anic Jesus) would be made "superior to those who reject Faith." Yet, if Paul took over Christianity and fundamentally altered its teaching and nature, turning it into a religion promoting idolatry, then clearly the followers of Jesus failed.
The fact is, however, that there is no reason to accept the claim that Paul took over Christianity. Even the common assertion that James and Paul were promoting a different gospel requires a re-writing of history and a rejection of the earliest documentation to find acceptance. But Mr. Ataie does not just make this assertion, he seeks to prove it by citation of Paul directly. While this is always the best approach, it likewise requires the Islamic interpreter to seek to fairly handle the text being cited, just as I have sought to handle Surah 3:55 correctly above. Unfortunately, Mr. Ataie's first attempt falters. He cites Paul's words to the Corinthians as if this is an admission on Paul's part that he is the actual founder of Christianity. Is this what Paul actually said? Most assuredly not.
The context of the citation from 1 Corinthians 3 has to do with the ministry of Paul, Apollos, and others, at Corinth. The church was suffering from schisms, with some claiming to follow Paul, some Cephas, some Apollos, and some Christ. Paul is rebuking their sectarianism, and demonstrating that in the founding of the church at Corinth God used a number of servants, himself included. Since he was the first apostle to visit Corinth and preach the gospel, he laid the foundation of the church in that city. Others came and labored as well, building up the edifice of the body there in Corinth. This is his point. The idea that Paul was here making reference to the entire church is simply without the slightest merit. Churches existed prior to Paul in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Damascus. He did not claim to be the foundation of those, nor could he. His comments are restricted by the context to Corinth itself, and are likewise only about the fact that Apollos and the others were his fellow workers, all together serving Christ in the building up of the church in that particular location.
Next, unnamed scholars are said to assert that if it were not for Paul, Christianity would still be a Jewish sect today. Well, I'm sure I could write, "Many scholars recognize that were it not for the decay of old political structures in the Arabian Peninsula and Palestine, the rise of Islam would have taken a very different course." So? Muslims see the hand of Allah in the rise of Islam, and Christians confess that God chooses those whom He will use to bring about His purposes. Saul of Tarsus was chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and it was his unique make-up that allowed him to fulfill the task assigned to him by Christ. As we will see, Ataie imputes evil, unrighteous motives to Paul in this matter. I assert he has not the slightest basis for so doing---outside of one over-riding truth. The teachings of Muhammad conflict with the teachings of Paul. Muhammad did not have first-hand access to Paul's writings. He was ignorant of them. I believe he thought he was being consistent with the original followers of Jesus. Indeed, it took quite some time for Islamic theologians and apologists to discover the fundamental contradictions between the Christian Scriptures and the Qur'an, so that many in the early years of Islam did not hesitate to refer to Paul as one of the "messengers of the Messiah." And so the modern Muslim is faced with the source of all of his inconsistencies: he starts with Muhammad, defines his words as true, and then has to reason backwards to keep his conclusion on track. The result is truly a mess. The truth is that Muhammad was ignorant of the Bible, its context, and its teachings, and if the honest-hearted person will but see Muhammad for who he was, there will be no reason to flip-flop back and forth between accepting and rejecting secular worldviews, as we will see Mr. Ataie doing over and over in our review.
Islam's Attacks Upon the Apostles of Christ
08/18/2007 - James WhiteI ran across this summary just yesterday:
1. Paul admits that he is the founder of Christianity.How can someone come to such amazing conclusions? Here is the article. The author is Ali Ataie. I listened to a debate he did back in April against David Wood at UC Davis while riding this weekend, so I looked him up on the web. These are truly amazing conclusions, and I would like to begin a series examining these claims, and the methodology of apologetics that lies behind them. I think I am in a unique position to address Ataie's claims. To give you a taste of the kind of thinking that goes into this kind of Islamic apologetics, consider this clip from the Wood/Ataie debate:
2. Paul admits that he is regularly tormented and beaten by a demon.
3. Paul admits that he speaks on his own authority, not on God's.
4. Paul admits that he uses deception and treachery to make converts.
5. Paul admits to stealing money in order to bribe people to believe.
6. Paul admits that he lies in order to make converts.
7. Paul contradicts Jesus in almost every single area of religious significance.
8. Paul never quotes the Lord's Prayer, a Beatitude, or even a single Parable of Christ.
9. Paul in Galatians contradicts Luke in Acts about his post-revelation travels and experiences.
10. Paul dishonors his word to James that he will follow the Kosher laws.
11. Paul made many false prophecies about the immediate 2nd coming of Christ.
12. Paul says that being “a fool” is a prerequisite of faith.
So can Paul be trusted? NEVER!
(You can obtain that debate DVD here). Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels are "objective" scholars? What an incredibly amazing assertion, but this is how Muslims use these sources.
Finally, to assist those studying these issues, Mr. Wood made reference to a hadith in Sahih Muslim. Ataie had never seen it before. Interestingly, a search in my Alim 6.0 did not turn it up, either (which concerns me--I am now wondering if the sources in the Alim program have been edited in some fashion). In any case, here is the full citation with the relevant portion emphasized:
Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you (for he did not come to you), as you were not fully dressed. I thought that you had gone to sleep, and I did not like to awaken you, fearing that you may be frightened. He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi' (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you.You can find this on line here. Another source provided a number of references to the same hadith:
* Sahih Muslim, English version, chapter CCCLII (titled: What is to be said while visiting the graveyard), v2, pp 461-462, Tradition #2127And in my set, the 8-volume Arabic/English set, this is found in volume 3, hadith 974R1.
* Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v2, pp 669-670, Tradition #103
* Musnad, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v6, p147