Monday, April 12, 2010

A Muslim and a Christian Talk About Jesus: The Day After

Last night, our church did something that has never been done in our 75+ year history: we hosted a live 2 hour “debate” between a Christian and a Muslim. The topic was Jesus. In fact, I have not known of any church to host, in their own facilities, anything like what we did last night. I am sure somebody has done it but it certainly is not common. We had over 600 people show up to witness the exchange.

For two FULL and fast paced hours, James Walker (president of Watchman Fellowship) and Khalil Meek (president and CEO of the Muslim Legal Fund of America) went head-to-head in a warm and civil discussion about Jesus. I found the whole exercise fascinating. Over 150 questions were text messaged into our system. Unfortunately time only allowed for a handful of those to be addressed.

After the event, James, Khalil, and I went to TGIFriday’s for dinner. The lively discussion continued, at times drawing a surprised reaction from our waitress:) We discussed in-depth heaven, hell, and judgment from a Muslim perspective. I challenged Khalil on Islam being a “works” religion. He would not concede and I was not convinced. The deck felt somewhat stacked because Khalil was a former “Christian” converted to Islam so he knew our lingo well and I was playing “catch-up” on all things Muslim. But then again it was two-on-one as I had James Walker on my side as well! All in all it was an exciting and fun evening and very intellectually stimulating and spiritually challenging. I also have a new friend and yes, he is a Muslim.

In processing all that Muslim’s believe and the gulf that separates them from us as Christians, in my evaluation, it ALL comes down to ONE thing: Jesus. Muslims simply cannot believe that Jesus is God because they wholly and completely reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In Khalil’s words, the doctrine of the Trinity is “confusing.” To Muslims, God is ONE. Nothing else, no Son, no Spirit, can be the same, equal and yet distinct with God. This is heresy to them. It is a sin of blasphemy. So to Muslim’s Jesus is a prophet and nothing more. He is not God. He did not die on the cross. He did not come back to life.

Now for some candid thoughts:

Christians in America, as a whole, are intellectually lazy. We go to church, we hear lots of sermons, we participate in Bible study, etc. But we are not used to being challenged on our theology. WHY do we believe what we believe? Doctrine is seen as boring, dry, and stale. But last night, DOCTRINE was center stage and it was NOT boring, dry, or stale. You see, DOCTRINE MATTERS. And when it comes to a dialogue between a Christian and Muslim, the doctrine of the Trinity (who/what exactly IS God?) reigns supreme. Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity is hard to understand. How can Someone be THREE and also ONE at the same time? But just because it is hard to understand does not mean it is “confusing” and it certainly does not automatically mean it is false. In fact, I would submit that God, by definition, is of such a nature that He will defy our ability to comprehend and understand Him. And do you really want a God you can understand anyway?

I think most Christians don’t take time today to study the doctrine of the Trinity. I think most Christians take it for granted…until it is front and center like it was last night.

This coming Sunday, I will be starting a new teaching series on the books of 1 and 2 Peter. I’ve had this week’s sermon in the oven for about 3 weeks already. But it just so happens that the first two verses of 1 Peter focus on the Trinity. So yes, we will be talking doctrine this coming Sunday. I promise…it won’t be boring, dry, or stale!


Woody said...

Jeff, I was fascinated by the discussion last night. Hopefully we can do something similar in the future. The time just flew by.

Wade Burleson said...


Well done. You have provided a great model for civil discourse.

Spurgeon once said the truth is like a lion. There is no need to defend it, just let it loose.

Grand Avenue definitely has a pastor who is unafraid of those who disagree and knows how to simply let loose the truth.

Don Lehman said...

I was fascinated by Khalil's decision to reject the Bible as authoritative, when so much of it is used as a proof-text for Islam. "Selecting" a belief system that is "simple" (Khalil's words) helps me understand why so many followers of Islam don't try to defend their faith. When/if you attempt to question the authority of their sacred writings and founder, you commit an extreme offense. But our Lord and the Bible has withstood withering attacks throughout the centuries, without much response from the Christian community as a whole. So glad we live in a nation where we can debate and defend our faith. This is just a taste of things to come.

Tony S said...

I thought that the debate was awesome. In my "unbiased" opinion the Christian apologist did a far better job in presenting the case for Christianity than the Muslim apologist did for presenting the Muslim side. I hope that Grand Avenue provides debates like this in the future.
God Bless,