Saturday, May 02, 2009

Islamic Apologetics: "The Truth About Jesus"

Abdur-Raheem Green, an apologist for Islam, is an entertaining, engaging speaker who deserves our attention. We should listen to him carefully and be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

From YouTube:

Born in Dar-es-salaam in Tanzania to British parents, Abdur-Raheem Green's father (born in England), Gavin Green, was a colonial administrator in the then extant British Empire. At an early age he moved back to the UK with his parents. His mother is of original Polish origin.

At the age of 10 he attended a Roman Catholic Monastic boarding school at Gilling Castle and then went onto Ampleforth College and went on to study history in the London University. However, he left his education unfinished in an effort to devote himself to Islamic works.

He became dissatisfied with Christianity at the age of 8, with it not making sense to him.

Green researched and practiced many religions, including Buddhism (for 3 years) before embracing Islam.

Whilst in Britain his father got a job in 1976 working for Barclays Bank International and was subsequently sent to Cairo, Egypt, to set up a branch of the Bank there.

His study of the Noble Qur'an immediately attracted him to Islam and he embraced Islam in 1988. He has been a Daw'ah practitioner in Britain since then.

Green now works in the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre as the Visits and English Dawa Co-ordinator.

Green is seen akin to lecturers such as Dr. Zakir Naik, Dr. Bilal Philips, Khalid Yasin and Yvonne Ridley, doing many lectures on Islam worldwide and also in London's famous Hyde Park, Speakers Corner.


1) Truth = "something we can reason and establish to be a fact;" which doesn't contradict itself. For Islam, THE word of God cannot have any contradictions. The Bible cannot be THE word of God, and an account inspired by God but written by men. "Truth is a matter of facts; faith may or may not lead you to the truth."

Islam (as Green presents it) seems to take language to be univocal, not analogous. Why must this be the case? If language is analogous, there can be such things as paradoxes. Paradoxes are NOT contradictions. They are admissions that there are things which we do not (yet) understand, but which are not nonsense. In a zeal to give a transcendent God all glory, Islam actually vaults human reason above divine reason, by limiting truth exclusively to a quality of propositions, instead of understanding it as a quality of being. (For more about "the truth of all things," read sections 31-35 here, in "The Two Sides of the Coin that is Truth," a section in Josef Pieper: an Anthology.)

Facts are not separable from faith. See the work of Alvin Plantinga and others regarding Reformed Epistemology

2) God doesn't need a son. He doesn't need to kill any son to forgive us: the "atonement" would be the greatest of all crimes.

Read C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity and the pietists. God's killing his son would certainly would be a cosmic crime if eradicating of sin was simply a matter of avenging His wrath. But what if we need someone to be the perfect "link" between God and us, who willingly offered Himself as "bait" in order to trap Satan? There are many other theories of atonement besides the substitutionary model.

3) Protestants had a noble and correct aim: they were right to reject the paganism and corruption of Catholicism, and seek "the Jesus of History." They rejected the worship of the mythological- theological Jesus, Mary, saints, and sacraments, but they failed to be consistent and follow things to their logical end. The Jesus of history is different from the Jesus of theology. Christianity is a paganism, not a monotheistic religion.

Read C. Stephen Evans, The Historical Christ and the Jesus of History .

Liberal Protestantism errs in separating Christ's divinity from his humanity because it holds the modernist skepticism about the supernatural. Liberal Protestantism takes the physical as its exclusive default (witness the historical-critical method and demythologizing.) Islam errs in separating Christ's divinity from his humanity because it takes the transcendent as its exclusive default, and understands God purely in terms of His will. volu. (Voluntarism is fundamentally non-physical.)

Both liberal protestants and Moslems are "either/or" people. Only Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, some Protestants) are able to be "both-and" people, and do justice to the complexity of what is real, and our God-given ability to know it.

4) It is a contradiction to believe that Jesus Christ is both God and man. (45:45) What defines a human being is different from what defines a God.

Steve Evans does a thorough job of responding to the charge that the incarnation is logically impossible in chapter 6 of The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith, mentioned above.

See also Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate.

5) The canon grew up alongside the church. This does not establish truth.

Again, this assumes a very narrow definition of truth, one which gives primacy to ratio and not to intellectus. (Look here ) Furthermore, is this any more problematic than the situation Islam presents: in itself, the Koran may be true and inerrant, but how does a mere mortal sort out what is true? Do the Sunnis or Shi'as have the correct interpretation? Which clergyman is right? Bottom line: we can't avoid appeal to the Holy Spirit, whether it is in overseeing the establishment of the canon, or in assisting our understanding of that canon.

6) God cannot do anything. He can't do something stupid/contradictory. He can't make square circles, yet this is what Christians believe!

Yes, there are some muddle headed Christians who do believe God can do contradictory things. But again, C. S. Lewis offers a clarity in The Problem of Pain: "Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God." (One of my most popular entries in this blog concerns this very issue. Read it here).


Ted M. Gossard said...

Great work here, Beth. I just wonder if you teach this. Good to work on answering these people well.

Beth B said...

Thanks, Ted. Actually, I stumbled across this video while searching for something else for a humanities class I teach. I was captivated and just couldn't keep quiet...; )

history145 said...

Excellent work! You do an excellent job of defending the Christian faith, especially the "bait" idea.

Vaden Chandler
The Arete' Blog

Beth B said...

Thanks for your kind words, Vaden. Nice to "meet" you--I look forward to browsing your blog soon.