Failed Attempts at Debating Ahmadis
For a couple years, I've been looking for an Ahmadi Muslim who is actually willing to debate publicly. As a former Ahmadi myself, I know the doctrines that are taught to the members of the Jamaat (roughly "sect", lit. "congregation"). I was immersed in the Ahmadi milieu, know the false teachings, and am intimately acquainted with the weaknesses of their theology.
Like most sects of Islam, knowledge and beliefs are passed down authoritatively. The difference with Ahmadis is that the authority is centralized in one chief leader (the "khalifa") and his appointees. These leaders do not issue fatawa expressly, but their opinions effectively function as such. The resultant inability of Ahmadis to challenge these decisions or receive second opinions is starkly similar to the situation of the Shi'a who might wish to challenge a highly respected ayatollah or a recognized imam of the past.
On account of this concentration of authority, most Ahmadis are hesitant to debate publicly. They are told that they "do not officially represent the Jamaat" and therefore are unwilling to debate for fear of misrepresenting (or poorly representing) the Jamaat. I do not doubt the zeal of these followers, though I feel sorry for their predicament. This is all the more a shame since so many of them have been told that the success of the Ahmadi sect was partially on account of intellectual debates held by their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom they consider to be the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, Ahmadi confidence in their own debating skills is remarkably high, though hardly any Ahmadis have actually seen an Ahmadi debate.
A Breakthrough: Ansar Raza
About a week ago, two things happened on the same day. First, an Ahmadi I respect and who happens to be a distant relative approached me and said he wished to set up a debate. I have responded and the ball is in his court; I hope it will come to fruition. Keep posted.
Second, a cousin of mine spoke to me of a great defender of Ahmadiyyat in Canada named Ansar Raza. My cousin spoke quite highly of him, so I immediately looked him up on Facebook and sent him a friend request. Shortly thereafter, he sent me a message. I responded.
You may read the conversation we had if you'd like; I will post it as the first five comments for this entry. I'll save you some difficulty, though, and tell you what you need to know: Ansar thinks that his argumentation is devastating. In fact, he is quite sure of it. Although I suggested alternative methods of discussing this issue, he has demanded written responses.
Against my better judgment, I have agreed to respond to Ansar's arguments in writing with the following caveats: 1- The dialogue will be posted on my blog; 2- he will be required to reciprocate by answering two questions after I have answered his two questions. This blog entry is a sort of prolegomenon, the following entry will be my analysis of his argument and response.
Handling Typical Apologetic Attacks against Christian Theology
The reason I have engaged in this dialogue is to provide an example to my readers of what engaging with a typical Muslim apologist looks like. Ansar appears to embody a rather typical Muslim apologetic approach. He is combative and puts himself across as unbelievably self-assured, yet the quality of his reasoning leaves much to be desired. If you are engaged in dialogue with Muslims over truth matters, chances are that you'll run into very similar people. Here is how I suggest handling them:
1 - Remember that YOU are the one who knows God, not them! Frustration usually arises because we forget that our Muslim friends are not bound by the same principles we are: truth, kindness, humility, etc. Being kind to one's enemies is Jesus' teaching! We cannot expect them to be kind to their enemies. Similarly, we cannot expect them to embrace truth when faced with it, since Jesus is truth and they have not yet accepted him. Of course, they might be truthful and kind, and we should rejoice when they are, but we cannot expect this of them. We ought to expect all the harsh treatment an unregenerate man would mete to his enemy.
Therefore, when the Muslim apologists attack and taunt us, do not respond with the same. When they leave logic to the wind, keep yourself above reproach. Do not respond with anything except the truth and the love of Christ. As you will see in the dialogue, I faltered on this one a bit. It is difficult, so stay steeped in prayer and the scripture to avoid the pitfall of returning evil with evil.
2 - Do not engage in one-on-one dialogue. Trust me on this one, folks - don't do it! One-on-one dialogue with such an apologist will drain your time and you will have nothing to show for it. We cannot have constructive dialogue with someone who is fighting us on every front. The reason is because dialogue requires trust and mutual understanding; this is true no matter what the dialogue is about, let alone personal matters like faith. Effective one-on-one dialogue rarely happens without this common ground.
So what should you do? I can see at least three options. A) Engage him in public debate; this has the advantage of edifying an entire audience, though the truth may be lost on the debate opponent. B) Write public responses; this has a similar advantage as the above option, but it is perhaps less helpful because people do not read as much as they used to and writing takes a lot of time. C) Refrain from talking to him altogether; perhaps someone else will reach him, someone who has a relationship with him. But if you cannot extract some potential benefit from the dialogue, I suggest you avoid it altogether.
3 - Do your homework! Though we have the truth on our side, we don't want to take that for granted. Double check your logic, make sure you know your sources and your theology, and test your thoughts with other sharp-minded friends before going out on the intellectual battlefield. Written dialogue affords the advantage of requiring less preparedness, but we still want to be accurate in all we say.
4 - Always watch for self-destruction. It is frighteningly common that, in their zeal to attack your position, they will often undercut their own theology. Be on the alert for this; Muslim apologists are not arguing in a void, they are arguing from the basis of Islam. Do not let them argue something against you that they would not allow to be argued against themselves.
I will be engaging Ansar on this blog as a case study, so that you may see what it's like. Feel free to comment on the progress of the dialogue or on the facts presented by either of us. As always, please keep me in your prayers :-)