I wanted to write this in response to some of the comments I have seen in this blog, and also comments made to me by Muslims in person (I frequently go to Speaker’s Corner in London). I also just wanted to make some clarifications.
Why I’m writing:
- I’m not trying to convert you (i.e. the typical Muslim reader of this website). Really, I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for you all to be Christians – but that’s not what I’m trying to achieve, at least not right now. I’m at a stage where I’m mostly taking in information and learning, rather than teaching. I do not consider myself to have reached a sufficient amount of knowledge to speak as an authority in myself, nor am I ready to enter formal debates to defend Christianity. So why do I write on this blog?
- …because I’m sharing my thoughts with you. It helps me in my own learning to write it up, and writing a blog article forces me to articulate what I’m thinking. And I thought, if I find this beneficial, others might too. Why let my work go to waste?
- Also, thanks to this blog I can upload my thoughts on a topic, and edit them later to add more information. This blog is effectively a folder where I can store all my thoughts, and it’s like Dropbox, in that instead of endlessly repeating discussions with people, I can now refer them to a place where they can access my thoughts and reasoning.
- Even though I find it unlikely I’ll convince many (or perhaps any) of you to become Christians, unless God works powerfully despite me, who knows, maybe I’ll slightly change your mind on a position. Maybe you’ll do that to me. And then the dialogue can progress. I want each side to be addressing the real issues with the best arguments – to clear as much irrelevant debris out of the way as possible. At Speaker’s Corner I feel most of the discussion misses the main point – I disagree with many of the arguments made by both Christians, and Muslims.
- I do not think of myself as exceptionally sharp, or bright, or clever. I think I’m moderately clever, in that I have a university degree (two actually). But compared to most academics, and perhaps many apologists (I don’t know them well enough to say), I’m less sharp. And I have nowhere near as much relevant, accumulated knowledge as many Christian and Islamic apologists. I suppose I am young…
- But I still think my blogs have some benefit. While I’m not the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer, I do have two degrees from a Western university (I mention ‘Western’ because of the relevance of a ‘Western style of education’), which moreso than content have taught me ways of thinking – how to think critically, in a balanced and nuanced way, and only as far as the evidence leads (though I of course may fall foul of my own standards). But I have some familiarity with what is mainstream, what is fringe and what is unthinkable by academic standards – this is distinctive from much of the dialogue I encounter at Speaker’s Corner, and sometimes online. Hence I try to add my own voice to the discussion.
- Perhaps more than the former, I pride myself on civility, and detachment (as much as possible). A well known character in the TV series ‘The Newsroom’ dies (I won’t say who!), and it is said of him at his funeral: ‘his religion was decency’. Those words have always stuck with me, yea inspired me. I may not always have the best arguments, but I will try and truly listen to you, and treat you as a human being, whose opinions are important. I hope I would be brave enough in practice to agree with Voltaire (as summarised by Evelyn Beatrice Hall): “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”As for detachment – I understand that attacking Christianity (the worldview) does not mean someone attacks me personally as a Christian, and vice versa with Islam. I am incredibly hard to personally offend.
- I want to be independent/different sometimes. Not when I actually agree with the mainstream. But there are times where I do have a different perspective, or a new angle, and I want my voice to be heard. For example, I do disagree with my fellow Christians about the ‘historicity of the crucifixion argument’, when it is used against Muslims that is. I must say, I thought you guys would have been happier to read the first half of that article😉 (thank you Eric bin Kasim for your appreciation thereof). And so I wanted to voice that concern, yet offer my own critique of Islam based on the resurrection, a critique I have never seen anyone else make (though they probably have). See – https://bloggingtheology.net/2016/09/18/the-qurans-crucifixion-error-an-argument-beyond-resurrecting/
- I only thought of this today, but my university education has made me better at critiquing and destroying, than building up. Admittedly, it is far easier to do the former. I consider myself to be better at seeing the flaws in positions, than to construct a position myself (though necessity compels me to the latter!).
So those are the reasons why I am blogging here.
A few other, minor points, that I would like to clarify:
- I am lazy. Well, sort of. Naturally I like sitting around all day watching TV (e.g. ‘The Newsroom’, ‘The Westroom’). However…
- …when I find a topic that I find interesting, or important (such as topics of eternal consequence), I am hooked, and will stay up writing until 5am (as I did on Saturday-Sunday). But this laziness-until-hooked nature of mine means that I try to keep my arguments to the point – I may ask you to assume some things for the sake of argument, I may not provide as many references as I could, and also…
- …I’m really sorry but I won’t answer all your comments. I tried to at first, but there were just too many. I do enjoy reading them though, so thank you all🙂
- But yeah, to kind of return to point two – one criticism of my work has been that I assume things. Yes I do. I don’t have time to justify all my premises/own positions, so I will ask you to go with me for the sake of argument. If this is a problem, feel free not to read the rest of the article!
- Related to 4 (this is even more applicable at Speaker’s Corner) – some beliefs of mine may be hard to justify. Some of the beliefs are things that I have studied extensively in the past, either personally or at university, and which I was strongly persuaded of – but then with the passing of time (and my brain, which can have sieve-like qualities), I forget all of the good reasons as to why I came to a certain position. Now I should certainly listen to opposing arguments presented to me – but both myself and the person with whom I am speaking would be wise to go away, and try to rediscover exactly what it was I found so persuasive.
- This isn’t a separate point, but an example of number 5 (the paragraph was getting too long) – my belief that the Qur’an affirms the reliability of the former scriptures. It’s quite hard for me to point at one single text in a ‘gotcha’ kind of way – there are almost always ways to interpret a text to agree with different positions. My own evaluation is that it is more natural (sometimes only mildly) to read a number of texts in this way, even though they could go either way. This is based on the apparent meaning of the words, and the context. It is a cumulative case, however, that it is difficult and very time-consuming for me to do so, especially in print – this is the main reason I have not done so thus far. I hope to one day, but right now I have neither the time or energy – hence at times I have asked you to assume it, or put it to the side.
- Oh and finally, you should be aware that I do not necessarily hold to every typical ‘evangelical’ belief or attitude. Some evangelicals have questioned whether I really am one. I may not be like other evangelicals you have met (depending on who you hang out with).
- I incline towards annihilationism rather than eternal conscious torment. Some evangelicals do hold to this, including some notable ones (John Stott I believe), but it is a minority evangelical position.
- I’m open to both evolution and creationism.
- While the classical liberal in me is uncomfortable with elements of Shariah, in light of the OT I think Christians need to be nuanced in interacting with it, or critiquing it if they wish to do so.
- Inerrancy – I believe the Bible is inerrant in all it’s moral and spiritual teaching. As for historical and scientific matters – it may be inerrant in these two, and I have no clear case of it not being so. But I am not sure the Bible itself clearly claims for itself historical and scientific inerrancy.
- Oh, and I am, at least broadly, a Calvinist/reformed. Many evangelicals hold to this, many don’t – I just wanted to clarify my perspective.
I think that’s all for now! Oh and a final reason why I’m contributing to this blog – it’s really therapeutic expressing one’s own thoughts. Maybe I should buy a diary…
At this point, it seems appropriate to thank again Paul Williams for allowing me on to this blog, and to my fellow bloggers and the readers, for their time and energy in so respectfully interacting with me.