Link to Dawah video: Debunking Christianity in 5 Minutes by Abdur-Raheem Green, Zakir Naik and Shabir Ally.
The title suggests that Christians should be cowering in fear when they are confronted with a video which features how three prominent dawah polemists debunk Christianity in 5 minutes. However, their criticism fails as it is based on weak logical argument and misplaced attacks on caricatures of Christianity. The confidence of these ‘debunkers’ may mask their ignorance of the rudiments of the Christian understanding of the Incarnation. But their reliance on rhetoric and logical fallacies are easily exposed:
1) Seize the advantage with biased, one-sided definitions
The debating manuals emphasize that the one defines the terms of the debate wins. Not surprisingly, these dawah polemists resort to one-sided definitions to swing the outcome of the debate in their favor.
Abdur-Raheem Green, founder of iERA asserts, “To say that something is a man and God at the same time is an impossibility.” But we may legitimately conclude that a statement is an impossibility or self-contradictory only if the statement is referring to precisely defined terms. For example, based on the exact definition of terms like ‘square’ or ‘circle’,/1/ we legitimately conclude that an object cannot be a square and a circle at the same time.
But on what basis can we compare our reference to God and man with our reference to squares and circles? The terms ‘God’ and ‘man’ are far from being tightly defined concepts. We are not even able to grasp adequately what it is to be a human being, judging from the interminable debates between philosophers. Much less are we able to grasp fully what divine nature entails. Who are we to say that the essence of God is such that it rules out the possibility that God is able to present himself in the created world as a human being without ceasing to be God?
2) Skew the evidence and skewer Christians with false dilemmas
Zakir Naik argues that there cannot be God-man just as there cannot be a tall-short man, or that God eats [this would be a contradiction]. God would lose his power and cease to be God if he becomes a man.
The video asks: “Was Jesus God to begin with?” The Bible’s unequivocal answer is “Yes!”. The Bible affirms that Christ was “in the form of God” (hos en morphē theou hyparchōn), but he entered creation by “taking the form of a servant,” (morphēn doulou labōn). (Philippians 2:5-11)
Zakir Naik and Abdur-Raheem wrongly assume that the Incarnation requires God to exchange his divine attributes for human attributes. But the Christian understanding of the Incarnation does not say that God was transformed into a man, something that he wasn’t before. On the contrary, in the Incarnation God assumes a human existence (without ceasing to be God and ruling the world) in order to demonstrate on earth what it is like to live as a perfect human being. The human form that is assumed by God does not erase his divine nature; it merely veils his divine glory while on earth.
The infinite God has the power to create or acquire a new relation with his creation. The Incarnation involves an addition (taking, labōn), not a subtraction. The result is a union of two natures in the one Person of Christ.
[You may read my post The Logical Coherence of the Incarnation of Christ]
Shabir Ally appears smug when the audience responds with laughter to his rhetorical question, “If God died, that is blasphemy, then who would run the world?” Muslims may be surprised to learn that Christians would agree with Shabir Ally’s criticism as the early Church condemned the heresy of Patripassianism which teaches that God literally died on the cross. Shabir Ally’s criticism does not apply to orthodox Christianity which teaches that since Christ is both human and divine, he is able to allow his human nature to go through the death process in order to exhaust and destroy the power of death with his resurrection.
Shabir Ally worries needlessly. God never for a moment lost control of his universe. “[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11); “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”(Job 42:2)
3) Ignore positive evidence contrary to their prejudgments
Our analysis has demonstrated why the attempt of these dawah polemists to impose a logical-linguistic veto against the possibility of the Incarnation is illegitimate. Whether the Incarnation actually occurred has to be settled eventually by an investigation of the historical evidence in the life of Jesus Christ. The conclusion of the onlookers in Jesus’ times was a resounding affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. However, there is no better answer than to rely on the self-consciousness and self-testimony of Jesus Christ himself. After all, Muslims themselves would agree that Jesus Christ’s self-testimony should be taken seriously since he displayed evident spiritual and prophetic authority. There is no excuse for these dawah polemists to ignore the positive evidence given in the historical records given by the Bible.
You may read my post which refutes Zakir Naik’s flippant comments and gives some historical evidence for the deity of Christ.
“Is Zakir Naik is too Stubborn to Understand Jesus’ Claim to be God?”
4) Gloss over hidden assumptions to avert criticism
That these dawah polemists are skillful debaters is not in doubt. But it is doubtful that they have adequate knowledge of the Bible (except for Shabir Ally who seems to be making effort to understand Christianity after several debates with Christians).
The source of their confusion is their reliance on an unexpressed but questionable assumption – that it is impossible for God to reveal himself directly within creation. For them, God only reveals information about himself, but not his personality. When they preclude the possibility of God revealing himself in human form (Jesus as God incarnate), they give the impression that God is sealed off from creation. But who are these dawah polemists that prejudge and predetermine how the Creator God may or may not interact with his creation?
On the other hand, if God is personal, knowledge of him must be through personal revelation. Hence, revelation is not simply recorded in a book; it is embodied in a Person./2/ The Bible testifies, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
/1/ Definitions based on Euclidean geometry: (1) A circle is a round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the centre). Definition (2) A square is a shape with four sides that are all the same length and four corners that are all right angles.
1) Muslims Following Jesus? But Which Jesus?
2) Tidak Salah Dengan Akidah Islam – Mufti of the Federal States of Malaysia says nothing wrong when Muslims wearing “I am Muslim, I Follow Jesus” share their faith to Christians.
5) Historical Origin of Divine Christology Part 5. The Son from Pre-existence to the Consummation of Creation– links to the earlier four parts are given at the end of the post.