Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Islam Debate Review
03/23/2008 - James SwanI went to Norfolk Virginia to attend the debate between Dr. White and Nadir Ahmed on the topic, "Can We Trust What the New Testament Says about Jesus and the Gospel?" Mr. Ahmed was thoroughly unprofessional, acted completely unprepared, and had absolutely no ability to either present or defend any of his assertions in any coherent or persuasive fashion. In many instances throughout the interaction, Mr. Ahmed acted with belligerence and rudeness to Dr. White, the moderators, and the audience.
I would probably not be wrong in stating that even the Muslims present were embarrassed by his presentation. In fact, during the questions and answers segment, the Muslims that had the opportunity to comment expressed disapproval in Mr. Ahmed's presentation and behavior. I was very pleased that the Q & A actually allowed Muslims from the audience to comment in person. Their comments said more about Ahmed's presentation then any non-Muslim could. It would've been interesting to have a camera pan the audience during this debate. In one particualr instance, a Muslim asked Ahmed a basic question about Islam. The answer given by Ahmed totally frustrated the Muslim. I watched him go back to his seat, shaking his head in frustration. He then moved a few rows back to speak with a few other Muslims. I could tell, none of them were pleased by Mr. Ahmed.
At many points, I was embarrassed for the Muslims. The presentation was that bad that Islam was disgraced by the one defending it. Out of respect, I tried as much as possible not to simply laugh out loud at the presentation being put forth. Many in the audience were not as respectful. One could hear the audience at times had lost patience with the foolishness being put forth from Ahmed as academic discourse on such an important topic. Even Dr. White lost patience at times with Nadir, asking him to "at least have respect for the audience." Nadir though kept on talking, despite pleas from the moderators, the opponent, and the audience. The video will probably not capture this in total, but the expressions on Dr. White's face during Ahmed's comments and presentation were worthy of an entire video. At a few points, the moderators actually had to turn Nadir's microphone off. This was not because he had gone past his time allotments, but because he launched into personal vendettas against one of the moderators and his family. At at least one point, I thought for sure Mr. Ahmed was going to be asked to leave.
Nadir Ahmed first gave his opening presentation, which only lasted for seven minutes out of the given twenty (Nadir would later comment he was being generous, giving the unused time to Dr. White, but of course, Dr. White did not receive any of this unused time). This immediately struck me as the methodology of man who was not prepared. The opening statement did not even appear to me to be an Islamic apologetic.
Ahmed argued from the position of skepticism. Though beginning by stating the Bible was an exact duplicate of the original documents, and it had not been changed or corrupted by early scribes, it was still an untrustworthy document. Ahmed argued one could not trust what the New Testament says about Jesus and the Gospel because the entire New Testament was constructed by the Pauline church "over a couple of centuries." The Pauline church held the New Testament was written by the disciples of Jesus, that Paul was a prophet (and hence a trustworthy source of divine revelation), and that the Apostles approved of and worked with Paul. For Ahmed, each of these claims are without evidence and believed on "blind faith." Hence, without any evidence, the New Testament cannot be trusted with what it says about Jesus and the Gospel. Further, since the Pauline church was only one of many different early Christian churches with their own distinguishing theology, this plurality calls into question whether any one church was the "true" Christian church.
Dr. White responded by pointing out there was no such thing as the "Pauline church," and that the early Apostles worked together. The alleged "other" churches with different theologies were typically heretical or Gnostic. Their writings come much later than the New Testament writings. Not only do the later Gnostic groups contradict the earlier Christian writings, they likewise contradict Islam on essential points.The Koran likewise mentions the Apostles, and does not indicate they were at odds with Paul, or "Pauline" Christianity. Paul is often not presented in glowing whitewashed terms in the New Testament. One would think, if his followers created the New Testament and looked to him as a prophet, his image would've been cleaned up, so to speak. Dr White also pointed out that Muslims are required to believe there were authoritative books sent down before [The New Testament]. If this is so, Mr. Ahmed's argumentation refutes his own religion. If the books sent down before are completely unreliable as to give any information on Jesus, why are Muslims required to believe they existed? The Muslim should only argue that authentic New Testament books exist, but have been corrupted over the centuries. Ahmed though began by stating they had not been corrupted, but were completely bogus. Hence, Ahmed denies what his own Koran says about the New Testament.
What followed after this was the chaos described above. Ahmed offered nothing more than his basic assertions. He could not answer any of Dr. White's questions, nor could he himself construct even a basic question to ask Dr. White. Often (if not in every instance), Nadir simply answered by launching into other topics (many not even relevant to the debate), or repeating his basic assertions from his opening statement. He took many opportunities to spend his time making debate challenges or reviewing his past debates. At one point, he stated something to the effect that Christians wouldn't debate him, this stated ironically, while he sat on a stage next to the leading Christian debater!
None of us were fooled. It became obvious very quickly that Mr. Ahmed had no credentials or ability to call himself an apologist, nor should he have been given the opportunity to a moderated public debate. I'm not sure what impact this debate will have in the future as an apologetic tool. One thing it did prove, was that one simply does not declare oneself an apologist. If anything, the debate showed me that simply because one has a passion does not mean they have the ability or wisdom to defend and explain that passion, particularly if that passion happens to be based on a religion that is not true. I'm not a person who enjoys a one-punch knock-out, or a baseball game in which the score is 17 to 2. I expected to see a Muslim apologist at least present a rational, well constructed apologetic in which I was challenged to think more deeply about my faith. This did not happen.
Despite all this, I don't regret going to the debate. It is always an honor to watch the truth proclaimed when it is challenged by an opposing view. It was valuable to watch the Muslims in the audience, consider their questions, and watch Dr. White take what time he could to speak to them with graciousness and respect. This alone challenged me to consider what I could do to be ready to present the Gospel to Muslims.