As a Muslim, I seldom agree that Muslims should debate topics where the Old or New Testaments are the determining criteria for the truth because it puts us at a disadvantage where we grant authority to something which does not carry it, namely the Bible. I was however quite surprised with the stunning debate between my colleague Jonathan McLatchie and Br. Yusuf Ismail.
The topic was, “Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Consistent with the Old Testament?”, and while one debater was present to discuss that topic, the other was not. What we received was a debate by one person and a reading from the Bible by the other. Br. Yusuf Ismail showed up for a debate and we’ll get to his portion of the debate later, Jonathan on the other hand, perhaps confused by being in a Church, decided to read what seems at best a sermon and at worst, a sermon with a commentary of Anthony Rogers’ articles on the Angel of the Lord and the Plurality within Unity grammatical argument. Not a single new, original piece of research or study to show. If debates were about reading the articles of others, then you wouldn’t need an opponent in the first place, this message seems to have missed McLatchie as much as his interlocutors in London’s Hyde Park.
Besides reading from the Bible at length and repeating the same quotations and citations as if it were some type of repetition challenge, he may have assumed the more you repeat something the more accurate it becomes, McLatchie’s other main “argument” was to incessantly repeat that his opponent’s points were either off topic or irrelevant. Unfortunately Jonathan, whether you understand the relevance of an argument or not, does not preclude it’s actual relevance. Compare this with Jonathan’s constant use of the New Testament and relying on the Church Fathers’ beliefs, neither of those are contained within the Old Testament but had Br. Yusuf been as rude and as ill-prepared as Jonathan, he could have played fair game and called out most of Jonathan’s soliloquy as being wholly irrelevant. Yet, Br. Yusuf decided to actually deal with his opponent’s rejections, he chose to interact with Jonathan’s constant reading of passages with actual arguments, raising real objections in an attempt to salvage what one can only be described as a sermon by Jonathan interspersed with quotes from online articles.
There were quite a few fronts that the Christian side simply did not show up for, which had they been demonstrated would have been better than merely reading off as many quotes as was possible. Take for example the argument by Jonathan that Br. Yusuf’s use of Numbers 23:19 was incorrect because it was not about the character of God, but of man, foregoing that as a Trinitarian he believes that the Person of Christ was both man and God, therefore if it did speak of the Trinity (in this case the Trinitarian Person of Jesus), then he should have not denied that it referred to the character of God, unless Jonathan himself denies that the Person Of Jesus was not a divine actor with two natures. The interesting thing here is that if Jonathan does believe that God inspired the Old Testament (in whatever form), then shouldn’t God have known He would appear as a man at some point and therefore the verse’s relevance would apply then? This seems to have gone over Jonathan’s head altogether. There was also another interesting bit of juggling by Jonathan in that he argued that the Christophanies in the Old Testament were not of a physical nature, while this is somewhat debated by Christians, he did not demonstrate this point, he merely mouthed off something he had learned as a doctrine. Had Br. Yusuf taken him to task and asked, wouldn’t a manifestation be comprised of atoms and molecules, if he wasn’t physical, what was he? If the Trinity was to be demonstrated, then these are the kinds of questions that should have been debated, but Jonathan did not seem up to the task and constantly denied the relevance of such important questions.
Perhaps, Jonathan’s overarching reasoning summarises his reading performance, sorry I meant debate performance. He posited that the Trinity was not fully revealed until the New Testament, and this is due to the doctrine of progressive revelation, yet at the same time, spent more than an hour trying to demonstrate that almost all facets of the Trinity could be surmised from the Old Testament. These are contradictory points, if in fact most of the Trinitarian doctrine could be found in the Old Testament, as his copious amounts of quotations were meant to have demonstrated, then what more was there to be revealed in the New that did not allow for the Jews to adopt Trinitarianism? This, he did not explain. Which is the point of a debate, to explicate upon points of disagreement to demonstrate your argument. Instead we got a sermon, or a recital.
The debate can be seen here:
and God knows best.