You should not debate Muslims

This article is part of a 3 part conversation – see also the following:

 

Guys at AntWoord,

Allow me some constructive criticism of James White’s debating programme (see here):

1.  Debating the gospel mostly is of academic value only. Which makes it intellectual property. Which is carnal, not spiritual.

2.  We need to proclaim it, and let the Spirit work its way in peoples’ hearts, I think.

3.  The fact that Shabir Ally is again prepared to debate James White after the previous round a year ago, shows in my view that it was a waste of time and effort the first time.

4.  Ally’s allies have urged him on to take White on again, as they think he can get one up on White.

5.  Debates are very often a waste of time and to-and-fro, but are seldom constructive – especially so in a mosque, where there will probably be no space for supporters of White and the scene probably has been manipulated in favour of the Muslim (we know their tricks).

6.  I would think it would be very much more constructive if White could gives lectures to young and old alike in Christian circles about the level of argumentation and what makes Muslims tick in debates and what are their arguments against the gospel – and where they lie and manipulate (which they do). EQUIPPING the Saints, in other words.

7.  Paul argued with the Jews… as Jesus did as well, but very short and sweet – and condemning them.

8.  Paul had to argue with the Jews, as they were standing on the basis of the Law. And Jesus fulfilled it.

9.  This is not applicable in the context of evangelizing unbelieving people today, and speaking to Muslims.

10.  We need to proclaim the gospel by applying the Word, not all sorts of arguments about this and that in carnal society.

11.  Arguing from society TO the Bible is the wrong way round… We are called to proclaim FROM the Bible TO society, as we have that authority and God’s Word is authoritative on it’s own. It does not need carnal arguments that win debates.

12.  James White’s presence in SA and his vast knowledge about the gospel could have been used much, much more productively in equipping the saints.

Regards

Smithy

 

Hi Smithy

Thank you for your comments. Allow me to respond with a few of my own.

1.  Debating the gospel mostly is of academic value only. Which makes it intellectual property. Which is carnal, not spiritual.

2.  We need to proclaim it, and let the Spirit work its way in peoples’ hearts, I think.

From points 1 & 2 your claim seems to be that it is wrong (carnal) and worthless (mostly only of academic value) to get involved in any kind of discussion (such as a debate) about whether the gospel is true or not. In other words, we should only tell others what the gospel is (proclaim it) and not why we believe it to be true. You seem to suggest that the Spirit can’t or won’t work his way (note: not ‘its way’) in people’s hearts when they also sincerely ask whether there are any good reasons for why the gospel that they have just heard proclaimed, should be believed to be true. Do you really believe that it is wrong and worthless to answer somebody with good reasons when they ask why they should believe the gospel message (or parts thereof) instead of, for example, Mohammed’s message or Buddhist proclamations? Do you really think that it works against the Spirit in their hearts when we take such questions seriously? If you do, then we really seem to be reading two different Bibles.

3.  The fact that Shabir Ally is again prepared to debate James White after the previous round a year ago, shows in my view that it was a waste of time and effort the first time.

4.  Ally’s allies have urged him on to take White on again, as they think he can get one up on White.

5.  Debates are very often a waste of time and to-and-fro, but are seldom constructive – especially so in a mosque, where there will probably be no space for supporters of White.. and the scene probably has been manipulated in favour of the Muslim (we know their tricks).

Concerning points 3-5. I don’t think you have an accurate or helpful perspective on debates (and your YouTube link of Ally’s debate with Jay Smith is therefore simply irrelevant). The main purpose of debates is almost never to try and persuade your opponent in accepting your views. The value of debates should be understood from the audience’s perspective. There are many people who have never heard a thoughtful Christian perspective on various subjects; they have only heard misunderstandings, distortions or even falsehoods. Many of these people (especially in the Muslim communities) might be much more open to the truth of the gospel when they are disabused of such inaccuracies. That is where a skilled and knowledgeable Christian debater is invaluable; he knows that clearing up confusion and correcting false impressions could pave the way for some people in hearing a clear proclamation of the gospel, if not right then, then at a future opportunity.

So whatever the intention of a non-Christian opponent is for taking part in a debate, it should not overly concern us if we understand the main purpose of a debate. Furthermore, is there any better opportunity for a Christian to speak the truth and proclaim the gospel, than being invited to a mosque which is mostly attended by Muslims?! I can assure you that James White is not at all concerned about having an entourage of supporters accompany him; he would much rather have the benefit of our prayers as he reaches out to as many Muslims as he can (and debates often draw a lot of Muslim supporters).

6.  I would think it would be very much more constructive if White could gives lectures to young and old alike in Christian circles about the level of argumentation and what makes Muslims tick in debates and what are their arguments against the gospel – and where they lie and manipulate (which they do). EQUIPPING the Saints, in other words.

Let me see if I understand you correctly: You would much rather see James White teach on what and how Muslims think and argue, than to actually see him engage personally with Muslims on what and how they think and argue? But what use is there in merely knowing what somebody else thinks, if you don’t actually engage them on what they think? Isn’t James White a very courageous example to emulate, somebody who is actually willing to take the gospel to where it is desperately needed, instead of complaining about having to observe Muslim dress code or having to attend a “synagogue of Satan” (sic) when a Christian is invited to speak in a mosque?!

Yes, equipping the saints is important and White is doing that as well. But if somebody cannot recognize White’s spiritual gifts and his heart for reaching out to Muslims, then that person doesn’t really know who James White is.

7.  Paul argued with the Jews… as Jesus did as well, but very short and sweet – and condemning them.

8.  Paul had to argue with the Jews, as they were standing on the basis of the Law. And Jesus fulfilled it.

9.  This is not applicable in the context of evangelizing unbelieving people today, and speaking to Muslims.

10.  We need to proclaim the gospel by applying the Word, not all sorts of arguments about this and that in carnal society.

11.  Arguing from society TO the Bible is the wrong way round… We are called to proclaim FROM the Bible TO society, as we have that authority and God’s Word is authoritative on it’s own. It does not need carnal arguments that win debates.

Concerning points 7-11. There is a definite link between proclaiming the gospel and having a concern for the context in which people find themselves that will determine what and if they will understand that proclamation. Have we really proclaimed something if people did not really heard or understood what was being proclaimed? Don’t we as Christians have the responsibility, under the guidance of the Spirit, to communicate in such a way that people have the best chance of really hearing and understanding what the gospel message is? I find the idea to “proclaim FROM the Bible TO society” a rather simplistic and unhelpful understanding of how people come to know the truth of God’s Word. The current ideas, questions and concerns of a particular society always form the context from which the Bible is heard. If we don’t understand and address these concerns, then what Bible has to say is often not heard or heard clearly when it speaks to society.

What I see Paul and Jesus and a lot of other people do, is not merely arguing, but clarifying. Part of evangelizing unbelieving people today, is undoubtedly also about creating a context for understanding; that means clarifying concepts, answering questions and correcting misunderstandings, keeping in mind that people have different worldviews that influence the way they hear and understand things. Making an effort to understand where people are coming from and really listening to people’s concerns, is often precisely what helps people come to grips with a loving and patient God’s Good News for them. A formal debate can definitely be a place for this to start to happen.

12.  James White’s presence in SA and his vast knowledge about the gospel could have been used much, much more productively in equipping the saints.

Thanks, I appreciate your concern, but I think White’s presence and knowledge is applied where we thought best for the moment, after much prayer and deliberation.

Regards

Udo

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