(Transcribed from Program One of the
"Islam vs. Christianity" debate conducted by The John Ankerberg Show)
Tonight on The John Ankerberg Show you
will hear a debate between the truth claims of Islam and Christianity.
Representatives from each side will present the evidence for their
position concerning the concept of God in Islam and Christianity.
John’s guests representing Islam are
Dr. Jamal Badawi, Chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dr. Hussein Morsi, Director of the Islamic
Cultural Center of Chicago, Illinois. Representing Christianity are
Dr. Anis Shorrosh, a Palestinian Arab Christian who received his Ph.D.
from Oxford Graduate School and Dr. Gleason Archer who holds degrees
from Princeton, Suffolk University and received his Ph.D. from
Harvard. Dr. Archer is currently professor of Semitic Languages and
Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield,
Illinois. We invite you to join us in listening to this important
Dr. John Ankerberg:
Welcome. We are glad that you joined us. We are talking about Islam
and Christianity tonight. We have four guests that are ready to speak
to you and present their positions. The topic that we are going to
take a look at in this program is what does the word "God" mean to
both Christianity and Islam? You know, today the Word of God or the
word God is one of the most widely used, but vague and undefined terms
in our language. People like Einstein define God as a pure
mathematical mind. There are others today that are making movies and
saying that God is a force. There are a lot of people that are urging
us to simply agree to use the word God and not define it at all lest
we breed division. It is obvious, however, that if God is, His
existence and His nature do not depend on what anyone thinks about
him. And, if God is there, He has got to reveal to us what He is like.
The book of Hebrews says it this way: "God at sundry times and diverse
manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." Both
Islam and Christianity believe that. Where we disagree is in the words
that follow: "and hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son."
But tonight, what are the differences concerning the concept of God
for both Christianity and Islam? Ultimately, if there are differences,
we want to know, "How will they impact you in your belief?" Because
you are going to have to choose, after you listen to these folks.
Tonight, we are going to have each side
present the evidence for their position on this topic: the Concept of
God. Who is Allah, who is the God of the Bible? We will start with Dr.
Dr. Jamal Badawi:
It is a pleasure to participate in this overdue dialogue between
Christians and their Muslim brethren. Both are members of the same
human family inhabiting the same global village. Both identify
themselves with the Abrahamic ethical monotheism based on faith in the
one and only true supreme creator, sustainer and cherisher of the
universe—God in English, Allah in Arabic, even though most Muslims are
not Arabs. There are at least three common beliefs that unite both
communities of faith. First, the belief that God is not a myth, is not
a dry or remote philosophical concept. God is not identical with the
universe or nature that He created. God did not create the universe
and retire and became inactive in history. God is not a despotic being
who demands our obedience for His own benefit or enjoy tormenting and
punishing His creation.
Secondly, both communities believe that
while the nature and essence of God is beyond our comprehension, we
can relate to God’s divine attributes. Some of these attributes relate
to our personal intimate relationship with Him such as love, mercy and
forgiveness. Other attributes relate to God’s majesty, transcendence
such as supremacy, creation, power, perfect knowledge and wisdom,
pervading presence, justice, righteousness and holiness. All these are
mentioned in the Koran.
Thirdly, both communities are united in
the belief that faith in God is not a mere dry dogma, but an
experience of closeness, trust, love and willing submission to God. It
should be a dynamic faith which gives life a meaning and direction.
While these three common beliefs are very essential to the Muslim,
however, oneness of God means more than believing in the one Creator
of the universe. There are three additional conditions.
First, God is one in essence and in
person. This excludes the presence of equal divine persons in the same
Godhead. Neither tritheism nor trinity, however explained, is
compatible with the pure Islamic monotheism. Two, God alone is worthy
of worship and unqualified devotion. None is to be worshiped instead
of Him or along side with Him as "co-equal," nor is God to be
worshiped through any creature whether religious institution, clergy
or even the greatest of the prophets. The third condition in Islam for
monotheism is that any shortcoming, man-like weaknesses and limitation
is not befitting to the glory of God. This excludes any notion of God
incarnate and any other quality or action which is ungod-like or
unsuitable for the majesty of God.
To the Muslim any deviation from any of
these conditions means to associate or join others with God in His
exclusive, divine attributes. It is regarded as a serious compromise
of pure and long-standing monotheism taught by all prophets. In fact,
Muslims believe that prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was sent by
God to restore and clarify the same pure concept of monotheism that
was taught by all of the prophets.
Finally, a few examples of what the
Koran says about God. God is forgiving, full of loving compassion,
close to mankind, God begets not, nor was begotten and there is
nothing comparable unto Him. There is no God but He; the living, the
self-sustaining, the eternal. No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep. His
are all things in heavens and on earth. And finally, God is the Knower
of the visible and the invisible, most gracious, most merciful, the
Sovereign, the Holy One, the source of peace, the Protector unto whom
all submit and love in devotion.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. Dr. Gleason Archer, we are going to ask that you
would speak on behalf of Christianity concerning the concept of God.
Dr. Gleason Archer:
In the first place, we should observe that Islam and Christianity are
closer to each other than to any other religions. And they share so
much in the way of conviction concerning the sacredness of life and
the ideals of marriage and family. We do rejoice that so many who are
of that background have come at last to a country like America where
they have an opportunity to make a choice in regard to their
understanding of God and their purpose in life, a choice which perhaps
is far more open than would be in a Muslim country where it is a
matter of death penalty if anyone ever leaves the Muslim faith.
Now, the God who is presented in the
Holy Scripture is not simply a sterile monad. He is a trinitarian God
who is observable immediately in Genesis, the first book, the first
chapter and the first three verses. Because in the first verse we are
told that God, Elohim, created the heavens and the earth. And then in
the second verse, we are told that the Ruach Elohim, the Spirit
of God, brooded over the waters in the initial stage of the earth’s
development. And then in the third verse we are told that God said,
"Let there be light." And this, of course, evokes the creative word of
God which is explained in the gospel of John, the first chapter in the
first three verses: "In the beginning was the Word, the logos, and the
logos was with God and the logos was God. All things came into being
through the logos."
Now, it is true that in Deuteronomy,
Chapter 6, verse 4, we have that fine statement which is basic to the
faith of Israel, and I think basic also to Islam and Christianity.
"Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One." The term used for
one, by the way, is echad which is like the Arabic Ahab,
meaning one. But it is very interestingly used in Genesis 2:24 of what
happens with man and wife become married. They, too, shall become one
flesh. Well, of course, this does not mean that there is just a
husband or just a wife, but the two of them are one. In verse 26 of
Genesis 1, we read in connection with God’s creation of man, "Let us
make man in our image."
Now, this could not possibly refer to
angels joining with God in the matter of furnishing a model for man.
It does seem to imply a plurality on the part of the one God. Now, of
course, it is true that in later times, certainly in Koranic times,
the first person plural pronoun "we" was frequently used in a majestic
way. Allah is quoted very often in this fashion. But the thing that is
important to observe is that in no ancient language of the B.C. period
do you find such usage. If a person means I, he says I, he does not
say we. Therefore, on historic linguistic grounds we are forced to say
that there is an implication of plurality in the Godhead in this
account of man’s creation.
All right. Thank you very much. As we continue this discussion, my
first question is going to be to Dr. Hussein Morsi.
I am going to read a passage from the
Koran, and then I am going to ask you a question. In the Koran, in
Sura 5:47-51 it says, "It was we who revealed the law [talking about
the Law of Moses], therein was guidance and light. By its standards
have been judged the Jews, by the prophets, [now we’ve got the
prophets], who bowed to God’s will by the rabbis and the doctors of
the law for to them was entrusted the protection of God’s book. [So,
the law and the prophets are said to be God’s book.] And in their
footsteps [after that] we sent Jesus the Son of Mary confirming the
law [the Torah] that had come before him. We sent him the gospel
therein was guidance and light. Let the people of the gospel judge by
what God has revealed therein [—the law, the prophets, the gospel—] If
any fail to judge by what God has revealed they are no better than
rebels. To thee we sent the Scripture in truth [—that’s the Koran—]
confirming the Scripture that came before it [—that’s the Bible—] and
guarding it in safety. So judge between them by what God has revealed
and do not follow their vain desires diverging from the truth that has
come to thee."
Now, it’s called truth. If the
Christian is to obey the teaching of the Koran, he is going to read
the books of Moses, the law. He is going to read the prophets. He is
going to listen to what Jesus said in the gospels. He is going to
listen to the apostles. And, when he does that, he is going to find
out that first in 2 Peter 1:17 the Son is declared to be God for He
received honor and glory from God the Father.
Second, the Son is declared to be God
in John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word and Word was with God and
the Word was God." Third, the Holy Spirit is declared to be God in
Acts 5:3-4. Then, Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so
filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit? What made you
think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men, but to God."
And finally, when you look at the
prophets and you look at the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear
O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One." You put all that together,
the Christian says, God revealed it to us. He is the one who should
know what He is like and He said in the Koran it says you were to look
at that. You put them together, these three persons are the one God
whether we understand it or not. Why? Because He revealed it to us.
There is only one God who manifests Himself to us as three persons,
the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. So, Jesus in Matthew could say,
"Go and baptize in the name [singular] of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit." We don’t understand it, but God has revealed it to us. How do
you get around obeying that and not holding on to the concept of a
triune God when the Koran points us right to that information?
What you are concluding here are theological doctrines that were never
taught by Jesus, were never taught by Moses, were never taught by
Abraham, were never taught by any of the prophets. Now, you brought up
multiple points that I would like to address them if I had the time
one by one, but at least I will address the most important one for
just the sake of time. No where does "we" mean trinity. If we say "we"
it means plural. Anyone that is familiar with the semitic language
like Greek, Hebrew and Arabic will know that there is a plural of
respect and there is a plural of number; that we and the us that is
mentioned in the Old Testament and in the Koran refers to the plural
of respect of God Almighty. Even the Queen of England, John, says we
and it does not mean that there is multiple Queens there. This is
number one. Number two: if God is a triune God, then Jesus does not
have to beat around the bush, and does not have to rely on
theologians; He does not have to rely on interpretations, He would
have just came out when one asked of Him, "what is the first of all
the commandments?" He said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is a
triune God." Yet, he did not. He said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our
God is one God. Therefore, you should worship the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy strength and with all
thy spirit." This, in essence, is the core expression of faith in
Islam: there is no one to be worshiped but the one and only mighty
Now, let me remind you also, John, that
Jesus, peace be upon Him, put his forehead to the ground and prayed to
God. Jesus referred to God Almighty as my Father, your Father, my God
and your God. So, no where does it say that God is triune. This is the
by-product of the theology of the council of Nicea the year 325 if you
study the history of Christianity, you will find out they said God is
two. And then the second conference of Nicea added number three to it.
So, this had nothing to do with Jesus.
Badawi: Can I
add one thing about the interpretation of the Bible, John, because I
think there are two major mistakes. First of all, you’re implying that
the Koran confirms the Bible. No where in the Koran does it confirm
the Bible; never mentions Old Testament, or New Testament or gospels
in plural. What the Koran deals with is the Torah given to Moses and
that does not even include the Pentateuch because the Pentateuch
speaks about the death and burial of Moses. It speaks about God’s
All right. Hold on. Let me ask one question to you. Then I’m going to
come to these men because we have got such short time. The verses I
was reading—Matthew 28:19, 1 Peter and Acts—what is that literature?
literature is the combination of biography about Jesus by Matthew and
statements of faith and belief by the other writers, not what the
Koran teach about, which is the teaching of Jesus Himself. It does not
regard them as the same.
Where is that teaching that you are talking about?
teaching is partly included in the gospels; partly lost, but the
Koran, as you quoted yourself, keeping it in safety; that means the
Koran came to confirm what remains intact. So, our criteria as Muslims
that anything in the gospel that is consistent with the Koran which is
the last revelation and criteria is regarded as the teaching of Jesus.
It is there.
All right. We have got only four minutes left. So, Gleason, there are
four questions that have come up. First of all, is the material that
we were quoting—Matthew, Acts and Peter—is that not the gospels, is
that not from the eyewitnesses, how do we know that? Second, about
this plural "we?" Third is the fact of Jesus talking about my God and
your God. I think that is a good way to bring it out because He did
say my God and your God for a reason. Would you comment on those three
Well, first of all, I apparently did not communicate successfully to
these gentlemen the fact that there is no recorded use in any ancient
language in the B.C. period or in the classical Roman or Greek period
where the pronoun "we" is ever equivalent to "I." Therefore, the only
honest thing you can do in the interpretation of language is to
recognize the fact that when the Hebrew used "let us make", it was
talking about more than one.
What about this material that we are reading? I asked you that
question and they said that it has been lost. The gospels and so on.
said, "I have not spoken of myself, but God had given me a commandment
of what I should say and what I should believe."
Yes, but what I want to know is what about the original manuscripts.
Have they been lost?
think it should be pointed out that we, today, still have manuscripts
of the New Testament and the Old Testament that go back four, five or
even eight centuries before the Koran was revealed to Muhammad. And,
they are identical, or virtually identical in wording, to what we have
in our scholarly editions of the Old and New Testaments today.
Therefore, it is contrary to reason to suppose that there was some
other form of gospel or of Old Testament or Torah which is different,
for which there is not one line, one word of manuscript evidence.
(The complete video tape or audio
cassette tape version of this debate is available through our on-line
catalogue. Look for Islam vs. Christianity.)