Very early this morning I happened to get up. I wandered into the kitchen to get a drink, and ran my finger over the touchpad of my Mac to check my mail. One of the e-mails was from Sami Zaatari, a Palestinian Muslim living in London. Mr. Zaatari was in the LA area a few weeks ago, and presented Islamic objections to the Christian proclamation of the Gospel during the Friday evening activities. You may recall that he was one of the Muslim debaters in Norfolk, Virginia earlier this year as well. He is a very young gentleman. When I first heard him speak I could tell he was an intelligent fellow, though not at all well read in the Christian faith, to be sure. During his second debate I was a bit less impressed, simply because I sensed a certain sharpness as in a willingness to say things that are simply untrue for the sake of “effect.” He likewise demonstrated the standard “Muslim street” tactic of citing anything, no matter how inconsistent it might be with his own self-professed worldview, as long as it could be used as a shallow, thoughtless weapon against Christianity.
Mr. Zaatari and I will be debating in London in November, and again at some point (date not yet determined as I write this) in Connecticut in February (along with Jalal Abualrub). I am sometimes asked why I would debate a young, inexperienced man like Sami Zaatari. The answer is simple: while I seek to defend the Christian gospel against the leading proponents of Islam, I have come to realize that especially in the West, there is a vast difference between the arguments and approach of those leading intellectuals and those in leadership in Muslim countries. You can see this for yourself. Go listen to a Hamza Yusuf lecture on YouTube, then listen to MemriTV and listen to the most recent appearance of a leading Imam from Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the like, and compare them. If you did not know better you would think they were presenting different religions, the only similarity being the language they use. Of course, in passing, you might note the freedom Muslims have in non-Islamic countries to speak their case, and the lack of such freedom for Christians in the Islamic countries. We will return to that later. In any case, Mr. Zaatari represents the “Muslim street,” the kind of Islam that represents the views and feelings of the mass of Muslims, the ones living in Islamic societies, and, the ones attacking our brothers and sisters in other lands. They may do so only verbally, arguing against Christians in the marketplace, but as we all know, they do so regularly in a much more open fashion, persecuting, beating, imprisoning, and even killing, believers who refuse to renounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ. So for the sake of those precious believers who suffer in Muslim lands, I debate the Sami Zaataris and Osama Abdullahs and Jalal Abualrubs so that I may provide to those precious brothers and sisters the biblical and apologetic resources they need to give an answer in their own contexts. As long as I have the freedom to do so, I will. Of course, Islamic leaders are doing their best to use the ignorance and gullibility of the secularized West to silence all such efforts, as I noted just yesterday here on the blog.
Now, the last contact I had with Mr. Zaatari were some e-mails a few days about out the details of our upcoming debate. They had been “bland” discussions, nothing of any note. So as I scanned the beginning of Mr. Zaatari’s e-mail early this morning, I was left wondering what had happened. The first paragraph read:
Here is a new article I just wrote against you http://muslim-responses.com/Soldier_of_Christ/Soldier_of_Christ_ which fully exposes you to the core. It exposes what is becoming an apparent rising bigotry in yourself against the Muslim nation. I am seriously loosing more respect for you by the MINUTE, not the days or weeks or months, but by the MINUTE, not that you really care though but I care and I just though you should know how I feel about you before we debate because I’m not a coward and speak my mind and let people truly know what I truly believe and feel, whether it be about their beliefs or the person them self.
Now, at first I really had no idea what had gotten into Mr. Zaatari. My mind turned to the recent videos I had posted, and I wondered if maybe my noting that 1oftheMuslims (a YouTube poster) had stolen a bad argument directly from Gary Miller without attribution had something to do with it. But, I wasn’t interested in delving into it in the wee small hours of the morning, so I went to bed, pondering the odd explosion of nastiness from Mr. Zaatari.
I rose this morning and went back to the e-mail, this time following the link to the article. And finally I had my answer. As you can see by reading his article, we have here a very valuable insight into the religio-political nature of Islam. Islam is not merely a religion. It is an entire political ideology. They are inextricably linked. To the Muslim who cannot think outside of that “box,” the matters that separate us are not primarily religious in nature. It would be like my trying to hear Barak Obama lecture on monergism vs. synergism: no matter how hard I try, I will “hear” what he would say with political overtones of partial birth abortion, gay “marriage,” and sub-prime mortgages, and the truly religious nature of the dialogue would be deeply, deeply colored by those things. This is how the Muslim hears the Christian speaking today (outside of the intervention of the Spirit, anyway). I posted a letter from….A SOLDIER! Gasp! The fact that it never once crossed my mind in doing so that someone like Sami Zaatari, a Palestinian Muslim, would come unglued as a result, illustrates the vast chasm that separates us. For him, I am a hypocrite, since, for him, this illustrates that “Christianity” is invading Islam.
A similar thing happened recently in talking to Osama Abdullah on the way to San Diego. Mr. Abdullah blamed Christianity for the rise in homosexuality. He made reference to “Christian cultures.” I demanded he name a single “Christian culture” in the world today. After repeatedly demanding he do so, he finally said, “Well…America!” He found himself on the end of a fairly fervent mini-sermon, I assure you. But this is how they think. For them, it is Christianity vs. Islam, the Crusaders vs. the faithful. And no matter how painfully obvious it is that the West HATES the Gospel, DESPISES God’s law, and only rarely FEIGNS honor toward Christ, their political ideology trumps these facts and twists their thinking. The result has so far cost countless lives.
This mindset explains lots of things. For example, Muslims will call almost anyone in the West a “Christian” when citing sources in debates, even if there is a clear, obvious inconsistency in so doing. The political boundaries trump those of theology. Hence, they can assert a level of disagreement amongst “Christians” that doesn’t actually exist, simply because they insist that basically, if you aren’t a Muslim in the West, you are a Christian. Hence, secular liberalism becomes a form of Christianity in their thinking. So, the secularists who promote homosexuality are “Christians,” hence, Christianity becomes responsible for homosexuality, abortion, you name it. Logical? Truthful? Of course not. But it is the Muslim mind, and we better understand it. Of course, as soon as we understand it, we are faced with a major problem: if the Muslim mind is, by definition, irrational and impervious to truth, what hope is there? And that is why theology matters! If you are an Arminian reading this, I don’t have any suggestions for you. If you, like me, believe God raises the spiritually dead to life, changes hearts and minds by sovereign grace, then you already know why the situation is not hopeless.
So you can see the great “hypocrisy” I am guilty of in the mind of Sami Zaatari. For him, any soldier is equivalent to a Crusader, in essence (though, anyone at all familiar with the Crusades and the Islamic response knows how deeply, deeply ignorant modern Muslims are about that time period). So, while I can express amazement at Jalal Abualrub’s assertion that “Christianity invaded Iraq,” here I am saying just the opposite. Or so, that is what he “hears,” not because it is true, but because Islam by its very nature distorts and twists the truth.
I know only the Spirit of God can make Sami “hear” what I am saying, and I truly pray God will open the young man’s mind to the glory of Christ. But I will keep saying it, in the hopes that eventually, God will have mercy upon his soul.
There are some Christian soldiers in the US military. There are a few Christians in the US government. In both situations, they are a small minority. The Bible does not preclude serving in either the government or the military. Service to Christ in almost all walks of life is possible, since Christianity is a matter of a renewed heart and a renewed mind, a personal faith-based relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You can be a Christian soldier, a Christian politician, etc. It won’t be easy, to be sure, but I know a number of godly men who are pursuing the glory of God in Jesus Christ in the military. I mentioned years ago the two Marine majors (now colonels) who listened to the DL from over in the Middle East, and I asked my readers to pray for them (in fact, I had dinner with one of them just a few weeks ago as he passed through Phoenix on his way with his wonderful family to a new assignment). These men are Christians who are soldiers. They defend their nation. They are not Crusaders, they are not out to “attack” Islam. They seek to do what they are assigned to do in a manner that is glorifying to God and commensurate with their Christian profession.
It takes a massive leap into the abyss of illogic and irrationality to move from “there are Christian soldiers” to “Christianity invaded Iraq.” There happen to be Muslim soldiers too. Did Islam invade Iraq (well, yes it did…but long, long ago). There are lots and lots of atheists in the military. Did atheism invade Iraq? There are tons of secularist pagans who have no higher thoughts of God and eternity than their bootstraps. Did secularism invade Iraq? Since all of these questions lead to absurd responses, maybe there is something wrong with the question? Maybe Iraq does not equal Islam? Maybe governments in the West are pluralistic and cannot be equated to one particular ideology or religion? Oh, but that would complicate the wonderfully black and white world of Islamic fundamentalism, so we can’t go there. How very sad. There was once a day, long ago, when Islam produced a culture that included great intellectual prowess. That culture was eventually destroyed by the mind-numbing simplicity of modern Islamic extremism. And our world today faces its greatest dangers because of that same mindset.
And so Sami Zaatari wants to make sure I know how he feels about me, personally. Not my position. Not my theology. Me, personally. Sami continued,
I am now looking forward to our debate next month and February with much much more excitement and passion, because I really want to expose your deceitful teachings and show the whole world you have no truth, I mean I was going to go easy on you but now it is truly on, I am truly fired up to go against you, and completely annihilate you with the word of truth. You have attacked my people with such bigotry in the above article that it is truly and I mean TRULY ON, you better be prepared.
Now, no one is going to accuse Sami of humility, that’s for sure. Another aspect of this kind of thinking is that no matter how clearly the Muslim loses a debate, he thinks he did a great job. Well, I leave that to the viewers to decide. I know that Sami Zaatari demonstrated an abysmal level of ignorance of the Bible and meaningful scholarship in his debate against Nabeel Qureshi on the deity of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind as to who won that debate, and I don’t believe any semi-unbiased observer would disagree (that is both due to Zaatari’s very poor reasoning and argumentation and Nabeel Qureshi’s tremendously clear and forceful presentation). So the very fact that a young man who cannot even touch the Greek New Testament would say he was thinking about “going easy” on me is surely reason for a mild chuckle, at the very least. But I invite Mr. Zaatari to bring his best arguments. The better they are, the more clearly the truth will shine. But I will tell Sami: if you repeat the same simple grammatical errors you made in Norfolk, I will hand you my Greek New Testament and ask you to start doing some translating. Just so you know.
As for my response to Sami, this blog post will suffice. Sami, I can see very clearly the impact of your tradition and your political ideology, and as such, I refuse to return your obvious anger and animosity. I pray God will have mercy upon your soul. I pray He will open your eyes to the glory of Jesus Christ. In particular, having listened to you speak about salvation in Bellflower, I pray He will convict you of your sin, and even more so, of His own holiness. I pray you will see that all your fasting, all your zakat, all your salat, is as filthy rags in His eyes. You need a Savior, Sami, and you need one who is perfect in all ways. Such a Savior exists, and as tens of thousands of former Muslims can tell you, He lives, and He continues to change hearts and give forgiveness of sins to this very day.
So despite your anger toward me, Sami, I forgive you. I will pray for you, and I will show you the greatest act of love I can in London: I will speak the truth to you, and to all who are gathered there that evening. While the world may not understand how that is love, those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, understand. Even in my refutation of your errors I hope and pray you will see the love of Christ being extended to you.