I’m a “Who Moved My Cheese?” type of guy. Don’t let me plan and plan and prepare and then, at the very last second, change everything around. As it was this evening I was having to adjust to the movement of my cheese in adjusting to Sheikh Awal’s sudden and dishonorable withdrawal from our debate. But I at least had a few hours to adjust, plan on what to do, etc. So I drive to the location, set up to do my presentation, play some clips, take some questions, try to make something positive happen. I am ready to start—it is just before 7pm—when I walk back to the TV cameraman to explain what I want to do at the beginning. My plan was to explain the empty desk and chair, explain why I found Sheikh Awal’s explanations wanting, etc. Then I would give my presentation, play the clips of Awal, respond to them, and take questions.
Right as I get to the cameraman I am informed that “We have a Muslim.” Eh? Well, evidently, someone, who is a dear brother in the Lord, but someone who does things without even bothering to ask me about it first, had called a Muslim to see if they would “fill in” at the last minute. Now, that is not how I do things. I spent quite some time, weeks, in fact, preparing to debate Sheikh Awal. That way my opening can be directly relevant and the resultant exchange meaningful. So I am told that he will just do some “cross-fire” with me. I see. Then I am told he will do a five minute presentation on Jesus in Islam. Then there will be audience questions. In other words, a debate, without him having to do an opening presentation (i.e., give me enough material to even get a bead on where he’s coming from).
At this point I should have said, “No way, it is too late, we go with the plan agreed to after Awal bailed out.” But I didn’t. My mistake. I began my presentation, and a few minutes after I started I see a young man come and come down to the other debate table. He is not really listening to me, but he is surely distracting the audience. The gentleman’s name is Ehteshaam Gulam. When he got up to speak it was, “Throw all the atheistic, materialistic stuff you can into a blender, sprinkle in Bart Ehrman and a few others, and throw it on the wall to see what sticks.” No critical thought, no concern about consistency, just a royal mess, all the way through half an hour of cross-examination. The audience eventually started chuckling at the constant self-contradiction and failure to engage the subject. It was very disappointing, and I believe a solo presentation with questions from the audience, especially with Sam Shamoun in attendance to join me, would have been significantly more useful. But, in the providence of God, this is what happened.
So tomorrow I travel home, Lord willing, and get back into my routine. I am preaching a good bit in July at PRBC, have Hitchens coming up, the conference in Manhattan at the beginning of August, and a busy fall ahead as well.
Finally, the video of the last two episodes of Jesus or Muhammad? I was on have been posted, and I provide them below. Once again, my sincere thanks to the folks at ABN for a great series of shows, and I look forward to returning and working with them again in the future.