I attended the debate between Dr. James White and Dr. Shabir Ali last night at the University of Pretoria (UP). When we arrived at the main campus gate of UP, we were informed that the debate would no longer be in the AE Du Toit auditorium, but in the auditorium of the Information Technology building. For those who know the UP campus layout, the I.T. building is only about 100 metres from the main entrance, whereas the original building is quite a distance further.
Anyhow, as I entered the building I decided that I needed the necessary pit stop, since the evening was going to be long. As I walked out of the “pit stop” I met someone I haven’t seen for some years, and as we were talking there, out came the man of the hour, Dr. James White with his customary bow tie. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet him. Indeed a pleasant man, as I had expected!
We made it into the I.T. auditorium, and I got myself a front row seat, right opposite Dr. White. Well, if it weren’t for the extra chairs that were set up for the Shabir Ali entourage, then my seat would have been front row, as it is on other days. At least I had a good vantage point, and I could see both men clearly.
The debate was scheduled to start at 18:30, but Dr. Shabir Ali arrived a little late, and then there were problems with the overhead projector, and so the start was delayed by about 20 or so minutes.
Eventually the debate started and James opened with a good rundown of the many references of Jesus’ deity, with emphasis on the book of Mark. From the outset James went out to show from the original sources that the disciples saw Jesus as God.
On the other hand, Shabir used the tactic of “eliminate and conquer.” In his portions of the debate, every one of them, he would discredit almost every New Testament book based on claims from “reputable scholars.” Once he eliminated these books from the table, there was just nothing to argue against. He also uses the age-old conspiracy theorist tactic of asking many questions about the topic, but never giving any real answers, thereby leading his hearers to draw conclusions from the well constructed questions. Hence, by asking questions in just the right way, he does not have to give answers (of which he had none), and makes the hearer connect the dots, which do not really exist. Shabir did not once base his responses or arguments on any original documentation or proofs. The whole night, all that could be heard from Shabir was that “scholarly consensus” have discredited Matthew, John, Luke, Acts, Paul, Peter’s writings, etc. Yet, never was any proof provided. It is very easy to claim that scholars have concluded this and that, but that does not make it true, especially when other scholars have refuted all the claims made by these liberals that Shabir kept calling on.
Further, Shabir also showed in the debate that he has no clue what Christians actually believe, and that his debate was on what he thinks Christians believe, based on a quranic hermeneutic of the Bible. Jesus cannot be God, so anything in the New Testament that makes that claim must be discredited, or shown not to be written by a disciple of Christ. 2 Peter is a case in point. “Scholars” once again have “shown” that 2 Peter was not written by Peter, but by a later pseudonymous Peter. Why is this so important to Shabir? Why, because 2 Peter claims that Jesus is God! 2 Peter 1:1 says,
“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:”
On the other hand, James White continued through the night to point to the very well attested New Testament documents, that the original disciples did believe that Jesus was God. James used Hebrew and Greek in his presentation to prove the point and continued to ask Shabir where his proof was that Matthew, Luke, John, and Peter’s writings could not be trusted. Of course, Shabir could only claim that certain scholars have come to a consensus that it was indeed so, without any shred of evidence.
What the debate showed me is that Muslims such as Shabir Ali simply do not know what Christians believe, and cannot understand how the Bible should be read and interpreted. To come to the Bible with a quranic hermeneutic will indeed lead any person astray as to what the Bible teaches. Do Christians believe that the Trinity is made up of the Father, Son and Mary? Not in the least! But that is what the Quran teaches. Obviously, neither the god of the Quran, nor Mohamed have ever read the New Testament!
Anyhow, I believe that Dr. James White made his point while Dr. Shabir Ali is still lost among all the “scholars” whom he so eagerly follows. Indeed, the blind are leading the blind. May Shabir Ali come to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ before his Maker calls him to the hereafter!
Dr. James White and myself after the debate