I have just a few minutes before I need to leave to speak at the Cambridge Reformed Bible Conference, but wanted to report on last night’s debate. I intend to do a vlog (video blog) about it when I get back and address some of the key issues raised by Shabir Ally (esp. regarding his reliance upon liberal, destructive criticism in reference to denying the NT’s teachings, but his continued rejection of the same kind of criticism of the Qur’an, though, he did make some interesting comments on the Qur’an’s use of preceding materials, esp. in response to a question from Dr. Tony Costa). But till then I wanted to note that one video recording has been posted already, for those who wish to listen to the debate (the recording is fuzzy and difficult to watch).
My sincere thanks to the North American Muslim Foundation for opening up their mosque (Masjid Qurtabah) for the debate. I was surprised that we had a predominance of Christians in the audience (I would estimate it was 70-30 in favor of the Christian attendees). The folks had to break out extra rows of chairs to accomodate all those who came to attend the debate. I was treated kindly and with respect, and trust that should the opportunity for future discussions materialize (and we did discuss doing just that) that we would be able to return.
My opening was not a general defense of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ, but was focused upon the thesis statement, “Did Jesus Claim Deity?” Knowing Shabir’s fondness for NT redaction criticism (i.e., the theoretical deconstruction of the text based upon the singular assumption that the text evolved over a very brief period of time—a window that keeps getting smaller as more manuscript finds push it back), I gave a presentation that demonstrated that the evidence for the deity of Christ does, in fact, go directly back to Jesus, and that He did, therefore, claim deity. Not only is that anathema to Islam, it is anathema to much of what calls itself Christian scholarship today, infected as it is with the spirit of the age, so I knew exactly what to expect in response. Shabir’s presentation was almost identical to that which I had heard while doing a century ride on Tuesday of this week. The cross-examination period was way too short in this debate, unfortunately, but I was able to make most of my points when he asked me questions, or in my rebuttal. The audience questions were, in the main, at least acceptable, if not overly helpful to the determination of the thesis (this picture is of the line of folks waiting to ask questions). Dr. Tony Costa did ask Shabir an important question regarding Shabir’s views about the Qur’an’s use of antecedent sources, which, as noted above, was quite interesting.
I had great conversions with Christians and Muslims alike before and after the event, including talking to two former Muslims who greatly encouraged me in my work in this area, and one former Roman Catholic who said the Lord used A&O to bring about his embracing of Christ. All in all, a very encouraging evening, to be sure.
Once again, it is my intention to post a vlog going into more detail in response to the debate, esp. in reference to the discussion of “conservative” vs. “liberal” scholars. I think Shabir’s confusion on the subject might be a useful means of explaining the issue both to him, as well as to others. Thanks to all who prayed for last night’s event!