Mars Hill Forum #128: Muslim Does Not Allow Any Questions

John C. Rankin (July 30, 2007)

On Saturday night, I addressed Mars Hill Forum #128, in a live internet debate with Egyptian born Muslim, Wesam Abd Allah. It was not structured as a regular Mars Hill Forum, as I did not initiate it. But as Paul found himself alone on Mars Hill (Areopagus) in the face of the Greek philosophers in Acts 17, to give answer for his faith, this debate wonderfully qualifies. The topic was: “Where in the Bible Does Jesus Claim to be God?” See my prepared text.

In response, Wesam was only interested in a one-way diatribe. He had it structured for lengthy 15-20 minute back and forth presentations, which the time keeper dragged into 30-minute segments. No possibility for true conversation and dialogue. Wesam accused me several times of falsely translating certain verses, I answered him easily when it was my turn again to speak, and as it turns out, he was working with the King James Version and other translations, making no reference to the Hebrew and Greek I was citing. It was, on his part, an exercise in tautology — the continual repetition of narrow, simplistic and biblically unsound ideas — in the hope that mere repetition would make his case. Some summary observations:

  • I gave the biblical background to the divine name of Yahweh Elohim in the Hebrew, translated as “I AM.” I showed how the Gospel of John is based on its prologue of Jesus as both the Word and God, how Jesus used the I AM in the exact parallel Greek construction 26 times, and with the apex declaration in 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
  • Wesam attacked the use of “I AM” with a silly argument that it was used by others who were not claiming to be God, but only using English translations. So, for example, in Genesis 27:2, Isaac says, in English translation, “I am now an old man…” The problem here is a) it is a different construction of the verb “to be” which Isaac uses in the original Hebrew, b) the use in the definitive texts of Exodus 3:6 and 3:13-15 for I AM WHO I AM and I AM, Yahweh Elohim, is a different construction of the verb to be, given as a name for the One True Creator, and c) when Jesus used it, it is based on the same declarative sense of claiming to be Yahweh Elohim in the flesh, the I AM — he who is the very basis for all existence, he who in his nature is greater than space, time and number, and who comes to us incarnate in Jesus.
  • He made argument that Jesus is not the Father, because of texts where Jesus speaks of his Father; but ignoring the texts where Jesus says that he and the Father are one — in other words, his thinking precludes the text on its own terms in showing the Trinitarian reality.
  • In a remarkable point of unrelated absurdity, Wesam tried to say that the Bible forbids us to drink water (!). He cited 1 Timothy 5:23 in the King James, “Drink no longer water” as a prohibition for water drinking, being deliberately ignorant of the Greek construction and context accurately captured in the NIV: “”Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses.” He also tried to argue that Jesus said there was no sin before he appeared (!), and argued vociferously against Adam having sinned and affected all humanity.
  • His whole argument was negative, and I said so. At one point, with great emotive force, he declared that because of his argument, there is “no more Christianity,” “end of case,” “finished,” and “you are wasting my time” (and he is the one who claims to have done 400 such debates, and sought me out via a mutual contact).
  • I pointed out that if the Bible is not true, why bother? Well, he bothers because he has no positive case for what he believes and why, and is insecure in the face of who Jesus is according to the Bible.

So the question can be asked of me — why do I bother? I know Jesus is Lord of lords, King of kings, Son of God, Son of Man, the Alpha and the Omega, the incarnate God. There were some 700 people listening in, many from the Middle East, and mostly Muslim as it appeared from their online aliases (one person went by the online name “anti-Christian”). These people heard a clear biblical articulation, and given graciously. I will invite Wesam to do another debate on the same subject, but this time structured so we can ask each other straightforward questions, one at a time, and give immediate answer. I do not know if he is willing to enter such a true dialogue and debate, such a genuine level playing field. But I pray it is possible.