This is become a miniseries. Here are the previous installments:
Since he said he ran out of time on the last Dividing Line, I waited to see if he'd address some of the issues he dodged in the previous installment on today's installment. The newer thing is that he tried to discredit polls indicating popular support for sharia throughout the Muslim world. Several problems:
i) He keeps attacking an argument that people like me didn't make: "Islam is monolithic!" "All Muslims believe the same thing!"
ii) He keeps contradicting himself. He says pollsters fail to "filter out" the "nominal Muslims" from "truly religious" Muslims, "representational of the worshiping community."
Excuse me, but doesn't he constantly tell us that you can't distinguish real Muslims from nominal Muslims because "Islam isn't monolithic!" It has so much diversity. The founding documents are so varied and inconsistent. For some reason, White is oblivious to the back-to-back contradictions in his own position.
iii) The fact that 100% of Muslims aren't terrorists is a red herring. Given the sheer number of Muslims, a fraction of the total is very dangerous.
iv) He cites different interpretations of sharia. Ironically, his two examples are the Taliban and Saudi Arabia, yet he admits that both are "barbaric and frightening."
v) He keeps laboring to draw a tight parallel between Christian identity and Muslim identity without regard to fundamental differences between the two religions. I discussed this just recently:
At least on this issue, White has lost the capacity to argue in good faith. He blatantly contradicts himself. He rehashes the same talking points without engaging counterarguments.
The odd thing is that we've come full circle. White originally pounced on "weightlifter dude" for telling a Muslim to just "shut up." He quotes that over and over again. But in the last Dividing Line presentation (12/8/15), he said his critics should just shut up. He's evolved into weightlifter dude.
I'll briefly remark on some comments on Facebook:
James R. White God bless Steve Hays. I'm sure he has a reason for how he thinks and how he argues...but I certainly cannot discern it. I was going to respond to his escalating rhetoric, but---this article shows his concerns are *completely* other than my own. I will allow my statements to stand, and allow clear minded folks to see whether the alleged errors in my thought are real, or due to SH's own priorities.
The phrase about "escalating rhetoric" is amusing. White's the one who keeps hurling words like "bigotry" and "Islamophobia" and "roid rage." White's the one who keeps making fun of men who work out at the gym. Why isn't that bigoted? For my part, I've focussed on arguments.
It's certainly not a problem for my position that White is either unable or unwilling to defend his own position.
So let's discuss "priorities." Is he saying security issues are not his priority? If so, is that consistent?
On the one hand White thinks we have a duty to evangelize Muslims. Fine. I agree with that.
On the other hand, White is not a pacifist. Therefore, he must believe we have a duty to protect the innocent from wrongful aggression.
The question then is how he harmonizes those two duties. Presumably, he thinks Christians have a duty to obey both obligations. Does he think Christians are at liberty to disregard our general duty to protect women, children, and the elderly, from wrongful aggression" If not, why does he shrug that off?
What does he think domestic policy should be in reference to Muslims? Does he think the status quo is adequate? Does he think we need to make any changes on our immigration policy? In our visa policy?
And what about Muslims who are already here? Does he think the authorities should engage in terrorist profiling?
If he admits that we have a duty to protect the innocent from wrongful aggression, but refuses to offer any specific, constructive guidance, then he's a functional pacifist. If he says he believes in the right of self-defense, but can't be bothered to spell that out, then his rhetorical affirmation is just a throwaway line. If he lacks the intellectual patience to describes what the right of self-defense (and national security) means on this particular issue, then he's not morally or intellectually serious about the issue.
He's gotten into the habit of inveighing about "bigotry" and "Islamophobia," but he refuses to present a constructive alternative. He acts as though it's beneath his dignity to address their concerns. But if no one is giving them a better answer, then "bigotry" and "Islamophobia" is all that's left.
And as I've explained and documented, there's more at issue than domestic jihadism. There is, for instance, the danger of importing a culture of rape. Should we expose women to that gratuitous risk?
Let's take a current example:
San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook had multiple photos of a Rialto high school on his cellphone, according to sources close to the investigation.
“That tells me that he is doing close reconnaissance of a target area. They want to look at ingress routes, the egress routes and the centers of large population like a cafeteria,” said former Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a counterterrorism expert who trained more than 15,000 special forces personnel during his 23 years in the Army.
Now perhaps Farook simply took pictures as part of his job as a food inspector. Mind you, that doesn't require him to take exterior shots.
In addition, he could easily use his job as a pretext to scope out potential targets. Those aren't mutually exclusive explanations, by any means. His job gave him access to public sites that would be excellent targets for a jihadist.
Now what does White believe the authorities should do to preempt that scenario, or at least reduce the risk of a jihadist with IEDs staging an attack on a public school? Or is that just not a worthy "priority"? Is it unspiritual for Christians to be concerned about the welfare of school children? What about a suicide bomber walking into an elementary school? Maybe with another suicide bomber or two stationed outside when survivors stream out of the building.
These aren't wild-eye hypotheticals. They have real-life counterparts in jihadist planning and jihadist attacks.
Is that concern not a priority in Christian ethics? Should that not be a concern of the civil authorities?
I, for one, think it best to minimize the need for domestic surveillance. Have a little domestic surveillance as necessary. But if you keep pumping more Muslims into the country, that requires more surveillance, which evolves into a police state.
If we allow ever more Muslims into the country (as immigrants, "refugees," on visas), doesn't that continually up the odds of major domestic jihadist attacks? Why does White treat questions like that with lofty disdain?
Rich Pierce I would also add that Steve tipped his hand at point ix as follows:
"ix) I haven't said anything about foreign policy with respect to ISIS. I don't have any recommendations on how to defeat ISIS. In response to White, my focus is on domestic policy."How can Steve claim to be responding to James when James' only comment on domestic policy was to point out that if we give a secular government the power to arbitrarily shut down mosques that same secular government WILL use that power against the church as well.
i) I see that logic isn't part of Rich's skill set. To begin with, you can "respond" to someone by pointing that they ducked an issue. In addition, I already addressed White's comment.
ii) Actually, I never suggested we should "shut down" mosques. Wherever you have Muslims, you have mosques. It's better not to have the Muslims here in the first place. I realize that's not politically feasible right not. But if the domestic attacks escalate...
Anyway, do we really want to chain ourselves to Muslims in that way? "Whatever you do to them you do to us!"
Also, am I the only one that sees a blending of church and state functions in Steve's language?
Notice that Rich fails to specify what he's referring to.
Francis Turretin I would like to respond to one thing from that post:
"Christianity" is different from "Islam" in an important aspect that Steve's post doesn't address: the Christian Scriptures are *consistent.* Because of that consistency, we have an objective standard by which to judge "true Christianity," in a way that we cannot judge "true Islam." I think Steve's concerns are elsewhere, as I'm certain he wouldn't dispute my contention here, but I think his objection at (iii) misses this important point.
i) Except that, as I pointed out, White tries to play on both sides of the net. On the one hand he talks about how you can't say who's a true Muslim or nominal Muslim because the sources of Islam are contradictory.
On the other hand, he stresses that just as Christians have a right to deny that certain individuals or groups who profess to be Christian are the real deal, we should grant that same prerogative to Muslims. He makes a big deal about that alleged parallel. He's very emphatic on that point. It's not incidental to his overall argument.
ii) In addition, White says that just as some critics quote the Bible out of context, they quote the Koran out of context. Yet, on the other hand, he admits that the original context isn't even given in the Koran. So, once again, he tries to draw a parallel when, by his own admission, there is no parallel.
It's not so much that the sociological definition of Islam is fuzzy (though I suppose it is to some extent), but that the Islamic sources have true, internal self-contradictions, which prevent a single coherent worldview from emerging based on the text(s).
i) TFan's conclusion is overstated. Historians often deal with conflicting accounts. Even eyewitnesses sometimes give contardictory details. I expect that if you interviewed observers who witnessed the 9/11 attacks, there'd be some discrepancies, but that doesn't mean you can't nail down certain facts about what happened that day beyond reasonable doubt.
ii) Another thing, TFan blows right past my point that I don't think we even need to have terribly reliable source materials to predict the kind of man Muhammad would be. That just goes with the territory. Historically, most cultures are warrior cultures. Men in power take any woman who strike their fancy. Brutality is the norm. Do we really think Muhammad was a chaste little peacenik?
iii) I doubt my Viking ancestors had a single coherent worldview. But Nordic mythology was sufficient to motivate raiding parties. If you died an honorable death as a warrior, you'd go to Valhalla. So I really don't see the relevance of that objection. It's not as if Nordic mythology ever had the metaphysical machinery to undergird Valhalla, but it was sufficient to motivate and validate a particular honor code. Just like jihadism.
You don't need a coherent system of ethics to promote murder and mayhem. An incoherent system of ethics will do just fine in that regard. Indeed, an incoherent system of ethics is better at inciting wanton violence than a coherent system.
While the security issues are important (to Steve and many of us), that's not what Dr. White is addressing. He's not part of that debate, as far as I know.
But that's a glaring deficiency. White acts as though it's worldly to take security issues seriously. But he's not a pacifist. So he can't rightly duck the issue of how we should be able to protect ourselves from aggressors. He doesn't get a free pass on that.
Then we had an exchange between Christian missionary Ken Temple and another commenter. But even though Ken is far more sympathetic to White's position than mine, he still got the cold shoulder.
Ken Temple Hey Dr. White - I agree with your emphasis on the Kingdom of God and Evangelism over politics and military issues; but did not Omar Ibn Al Khattab (2nd Caliph of Sunni Islam, 634-644 AD), and those Caliphs that came after him, interpret and act on Surah 9:28-30 in that verse 28 says "if you fear poverty" (no more money from pagans from pilgrimages to the Kaaba) - and then the Hadith that says, "I heard the prophet say "no two religions will be allowed in Arabia / Hijaz" = no more pagans or Christians or Jews in Arabia, hence no more money from pagans in and around Mecca since there were no more pagans left - all were either killed or converted.) and that "Allah will enrich you" - with the Jiziyeh on Christians and Jews - by doing the next verse - Surah 9:29 - wasn't Omar attacks on the Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire and the conquering of N. Africa, Middle East, Persian the application of those verses?
Muslims claim that the Battle of Mu'ta (629 AD) was the first context (they claim that the emissary sent with the letter from Muhammad giving Da'wa to them was killed - did it say, "become Muslims or pay the Jiziye?" , but it is much more North than Tabuk , the expedition following that. (630 AD)
What do you think about most history books about the Arab conquests of the Byzantine areas (Levant, Egypt, Syria, etc.) - "that the Mia-physites (Monophysites) welcomed the Arab Muslims as liberators from their Byzantine/Chalcedonian oppressors". and "the Nestorians welcomed them in the Persian Empire as liberators from their Zoroastrian oppressors" ( for 2 examples: Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, volume 1, page 320; Samuel Moffet, A History of Christianity in Asia, volume 1, page 325) smile emoticon
Mark Bainter So, Dr White says Islam is not monolithic, and we shouldn't fall prey to the collectivist mindset that says otherwise, and points out that their scriptures are simply not consistent enough to provide any sort of singular interpretation. Indeed, that even though the Scriptures are, we *still* have variant interpretations, so there's no basis in reason for assuming there are none in Islam.
And so your response to that is to quote some Surahs, and then point to some interpretations of that, as if it was in some way a rebuttal to his point that he should answer?
Ken Temple Not a rebuttal, but a sincere question of trying to understand how he understands those details. It is getting into the details that will help us all understand how to understand Islam and it's history. There is no "rebuttal" at all. My intention is constructive dialogue and understanding.
Mark Bainter Okay - help me here, as I honestly do not see how it relates to the topic at hand -- which is diverse nature of Islam and its adherents.
The fact that there has been evil done based on how things have been (or are) interpreted is not in dispute. The question is on whether it is honest and God-honoring to pretend every person who professes Islam does/must hold those same beliefs, or if there are legitimate differences between sects of Islam that must be taken into account.
Ken Temple "The Question is . . . " agreed for the issues in today's world, evangelism vs. security/immigration issues, etc. and the problems in current world now; but I am asking a more basic question about early Islamic history and how the early Muslims applied Surah 9, etc. Granted, you are saying "that doesn't relate to the topic at hand". Ok, that is your view; but I want to go to early Islam as a sincere question/ issue for discussion. I think it does relate; All of early Islam was conquering, etc. (Surah 9:5 against all pagans and Surah 9:28-30 against Christians and Jews) Later in history, the Muslims actually stopped applying Surah 9:5 in an absolute way against all pagans, and allowed Hindus and Buddhists to fall under Jiziye type Dhimmi status. (said Surah 9:5 was only for all of Arabia, not outside Arabia). Most Zoroastrians in Persia were killed or converted. Many Zoroastrians fled to India. I am much more agreeing with Dr. White's emphasis vs. Steve Hay's aggressive criticism. I agree with Dr. White that today's Islam is much more diverse, and not Monolithic. But early Islam was more Monolithic, IMO. There were some differences though, for example - the differences between Muslims in the early Muslim conflicts, such as the Kharijites (who killed Ali, the most extreme of all, and considered by both Sunnis and Shiites as "outside", which is what their name means, and Shiites, all did Jihad (striving by fighting or providing aid to fighters) and violence. The differences in Islam today have come about much later in history, especially after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.
Many Muslims today argue that ISIS and Al Qaeda is the "Kharijite" (meaning "outsiders" or "those who went outside") position. Again, they were ones who killed Ali, the first Shiite Imam and 4th Sunni Caliph. (661 AD) They are considered the most extreme and the most violent early sect of Islam and rejected by both Sunnis and Shias.
I wrote this in 2013, ironically, after I watched a video that Dr. James R. White had linked to:
Here is another article I wrote on the concept of Dhimmi in Islam. Dhimmi - Christians and Jews - "The protected minority peoples under contract"