Saturday, June 09, 2018

Islamicize Me!

This is a sequel to my post on the "Islamicize Me":

I've now watched White's two responses to that series. I also watched the long ramshackle response by Wood, Vocab Malone, and Jon McCray.

  1. I haven't watched the "Islamicize Me" series, so I'm not evaluating that series. I'm just discussing general principles.

    I haven't watched the series because I'm not the target audience for the series. I'm not Muslim. I'm not a secular progressive who's in denial about Islam. I don't need to be convinced that Islam is evil and Muhammad is a false prophet. What I know about the series is secondhand based on what supporters and critics say about it.

  2. One issue raised by "Islamicize Me" is analogous to the situation of Christian filmmakers. There's a bit of a dilemma. A Christian filmmaker needs to be able to realistically depict life in a fallen world. It can't be confined Disney Princess stuff. On the other hand, a Christian filmmaker can't go as far as unbelievers. Can a filmmaker produce a slasher movie like Saw (which I only know from reviews)?

    A limit on the Christian depiction of evil is that we ourselves have a capacity for evil, and realism can be a pretext for voyeurism. The danger is to strike a match in the tinderbox of our own capacity for evil. So there are certain depths of depravity that Christians need to avoid for their own sake, since they too can be enticed by evil.

  3. That said, "Islamicize Me" consists in part of tasteless, gross-out humor (because it's exposing and spoofing the gross, tasteless nature of Muslim ethics). As such, it lacks voyeuristic appeal (for normal people). It's not in danger of crossing that line.

  4. On a related note, showing is more graphic than telling. That's why some visual depictions are inappropriate while corresponding verbal descriptions may be appropriate.

  5. However, that cuts both ways. Because images have an impact that words lack, there are lots of people who don't get it unless and until they see it. Acting out certain injunctions in the Hadith makes it real and palpable in a way that dry verbal analysis does not. Pictures can reach some people where verbal descriptions bounce right off them.

  6. To some degree, the skits in "Islamicize Me" are simulations. Let's take a comparison. Like many people, I saw that video clip of ISIS putting a man in a cage, drenching him in gasoline, then setting him on fire. In addition, there are said to be videos floating around the internet which show ISIS beheading Coptic Christians. Taking them down to the beach and sawing their heads off. (I haven't seen the video.)

    Unlike "Islamicize Me", that's not simulated. That's the real thing. Moreover, what they show is objectively far worse than the stuff in the Hadith that "Islamicize Me" is lampooning.

    So I'm curious: does James White think it's inherent wrong to have videos which document actual atrocities by Muslims? Does he think it's inherently wrong to watch those videos?

    If White thinks it's justifiable to sometimes show what jihadis actually do, then a fortiori, is it not justifiable for David Wood to produce "Islamicize Me"? That's an argument from the greater to the lesser. If the greater is warranted or permissible, is the lesser unwarranted and impermissible?

    Vocab Malone uses the example of placards with gruesome photos of aborted babies. Another example is footage of the Allies liberating concentration camps, where you seen the starving cadaverous prisoners.

    And regardless of what he thinks, I think it's morally licit and even necessary to actually show what jihadis are capable of doing. To graphically document what happens when Muslims are consistent. But if that's justifiable in the far worse case of recording actual atrocities, then satirical simulations of lesser transgressions are sometimes justifiable.

  7. There's an elementary and important distinction between making fun of people and making fun of positions. Does White think we're supposed to treat every position with utmost respect? To take a comparison, if transgenderism is ludicrous, is it wrong to mock something that's ludicrous?

  8. In addition, are people always off-limits? Is Muhammad sacrosanct for Jews and Christians? For instance, 1 Pet 3:15 is hardly a prohibition against dissing Muhammad. 1 Pet 3:15 is about how you address the living, not the dead. Unless you subscribe to postmortem salvation (White doesn't, does he?), it's too late for Muhammad to repent. You don't need to be winsome to Muhammad. He's toast.

  9. If you have a false religion that's centered on a charismatic founder, if the religion is a personality cult, then the religion is inseparable from the character of the founder. You can't discredit Islam (or Mormonism) as a false religion without discrediting Muhammad (or Joseph Smith) as a false prophet.

  10. The complaint about "Islamicize Me" is similar to SJWs who allege that if you criticize LGBT ideology, that's tantamount to "hating" gays. That's homophobic and transphobic.

    But as libertarians and conservatives constantly explain, critiquing a destructive or self-destructive ideology is hardly equivalent to hating personal representatives. If you warn about the dangers of drug addiction, that doesn't mean you hate drug addicts. Actually, that means you care about drug addicts.

  11. Wood contends that "Islamicize Me" is a preparation for evangelism. You need to remove intellectual impediments before Muslims will take the Gospel seriously. Whether or not "Islamicize Me" is a good vehicle, the basic principle is valid.

  12. Wood said "Islamicize Me" has a two-pronged aim: saving souls and saving lives (my terminology).

    Put another way, there's more than one potential audience for Wood's videos. Muslims are a target audience.

    But secular progressives in denial about the threat posed by Islam constitute another albeit indirect audience. Many of them may be unlikely to watch his videos, but his videos provide ammo for Christians who get into debates with secular progressives. When they scream "Islamophobia", you point them to Wood's correctives, or make use of his evidence and arguments.

  13. Evangelism isn't the only justification. We have a standing duty to protect the innocent from foreseeable, avoidable harm. We have a standing duty to protect our families and neighbors from gratuitous harm. Taking precautionary measures to curtail the spread of sharia and jihad is morally legitimate.

  14. Wood argued that the "Islamicize Me" is a nonviolent alternative to WWIII. Which is better: peaceful pushback or bloody warfare? Satire or letting the Muslims win? Wood mentioned that demographics favor Muslim dominance by sheer fertility rates, so it's urgent to take action before it's too late. Before everyone is subjugated.

  15. White accused supporters of "Islamicize Me" of failing to provide a biblical justification for the series while preemptively discounting biblical justifications by saying we're not authorized to say and do the kinds of things that apostles and prophets did. But that's a rather duplicitous allegation. First charge them with failing to provide a biblical justification, but when they do provide a biblical justification, dismiss that in advance.

  16. In addition, White's objection either proves too much or too little. To say we're not entitled to emulate prophets/apostles in every respect surely doesn't entail that we're not entitled to emulate prophets/apostles in any respect. If St. Paul uses doxologies, does that prohibit us from using doxologies?

  17. In many cases, the reason we don't emulate apostles/prophets is not because we shouldn't, but because we can't even if we tried. If I can't foresee the future, then I can't emulate a prophet who can. That's not a question of what's permissible but what's possible. The reason I don't heal the sick the way Peter and Paul did is not because I'm not allowed to do so, but because I lack the miraculous ability to do so. Not a question of divine authorization, but divine empowerment.

  18. The point of citing prophetic/apostolic example is to demonstrate that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that practice. If, under divine inspiration, Ezekiel uses lewd imagery to shake sinners out of their complacency, then there's nothing inherently wrong with doing that.

    But if it's not inherently wrong, then when that's right or wrong depends on circumstances. It's permissible under analogous circumstances. If a given action isn't inherently obligatory or prohibitory, then what makes it licit or mandatory is the situation.

  19. White accused supporters of "Islamicize Me" of substituting pragmatic justifications for biblical justifications. However, critics of "Islamicize Me" are alleging that the series is off-putting to Muslims. Counterproductive. Wood says, to the contrary, that his provocative, satirical videos have been effective tools in conversion.

    Wood is offering a pragmatic defense in response to a pragmatic objection. He's responding to the critic on the critic's own grounds. If that's wrong, then both sides are wrong. It's self-incriminating to complain that Wood resorts to a pragmatic defense of his methods if you're raising a pragmatic objection to his methods. Be consistent!

  20. White's sidekick, Rich Pierce, broached the question of whether Wood et al. have proper ecclesiastical oversight for "Islamicize Me". That raises a number of issues:

    i) Who does White report to? He's one of three elders at his church:

    He doesn't seem to have a religious superior that he's answerable to. Moreover, it looks like a buddy system rather than an independent accountability system.

    ii) Is Rich suggesting that Christian laymen need to submit a script to their pastor for prior review? Does White do that? Isn't White ad libbing much of the time?

    iii) Wood is a known quantity. A YouTube star. Are his elders in the dark? If they don't know what he says, it's because they have other priorities.

    iv) This is a diversionary tactic. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Wood is insubordinate. But that's logically unrelated to whether "Islamicize Me" is unsuitable.

    v) Is Rich suggesting that laymen require pastoral authorization for what they say? To suggest that what David presents must be preapproved by his pastor implies a very authoritarian ecclesiology, with a sharp distinction between clergy and laity. Moreover, it suggests a unilateral accountability system where the congregation answers to the elders, but the elders never answer to the congregation.

    vi) As a matter of fact, Rich is dissimulating. He said on Twitter:

    So on his view, elders have no final authority. If Wood's pastor agrees with what he's doing, then Wood should ditch his pastor! Notice that Rich is advocating insubordination. But in that event, the whole business about ecclesiastical oversight is a sham. Rich doesn't believe what he's saying.

In sum, it's possible that "Islamicize Me" is unnecessarily rude and crude. I don't have an informed judgment to offer on that score. I'm just discussing general principles.


  1. A helpful, balanced perspective.

  2. At least from the small sample I've seen, what the "Islamicize Me" videos are doing is depicting in visual format what's already in Muslim texts. If the "Islamicize Me" videos are crass or obscene, then what about the Muslim texts on which they're based?

    Granted, there's a difference in textual vs. visual depiction. At the same time, many Muslims actually believe what's in these texts and seek to live them out, follow them, don't they?

  3. Also, maybe the debate between Wood and White over apologetical approach reflects Prov 26:4-5. Sometimes we should be respectful to Muslims, secularists, etc., while other times we need to show the fool how foolish they or their positions are.

    Of course, the question in that case would be at what point we might risk becoming like the fool and therefore should disengage. By the same token, at what point would respectful dialogue merely continue to enable or encourage the fool to be wise in their own eyes.

    1. excellent point on Prov 26:4-5, brother. I think its very relevant here. I did not think of it....

    2. Thanks, James McCloud! :-)

  4. Dr. White’s rejoinder today was excellent.

    1. Why do you think it was excellent?

    2. see the discussion I had with Peter Pike under the article above this one. "My Take on White and Wood"

    3. That is very vague, Ken. You are opening me to interpret your replies to another person, and then assume those interpretations of mine as your actually reasons. Anyway, the reason I was curious was because of the load of nonsense White uttered there. So basically I wanted to know if you found it excellent because of it or despite it.

      More fuller response tomorrow, Lord-willing.

    4. I guess it is vague because even I don't know how to communicate very well; it seems; and I already have written a lot here. (in the last 3 articles on this issue here) I am tired of writing too much because I make too many mistakes. See the writing mistake I made with Steve and because I was unclear; he mis-interpreted me. I am not organized in my thoughts; so you can try to interpret me through all of my interaction in these last 3 posts here. Sorry if it will take time. See my comments under "Muslim Mockumentaries"; then here, then under Peter Pike's "My Take on White and Wood". At least I can say that Peter Pike helped me understand why I did not understand Dr. White's beginning comments about consistency in tactics. I could only understand them by Peter's help. Overall, I appreciate Dr. White's efforts in debating Muslims; and Dr. Wood's also. I had no problem with how he reached out to Yasir Qadhi in debate. If you go back and find those articles that Steve wrote here; that may also help you understand where I am coming from.
      I also wrote about it over at my blog, "Apologetics and Agape" - search under Islam.

    5. I could not tell for sure what you found excellent, except for the effort at clarifying from White. Maybe you were more specific, but I dont want to put words in your mouth. I understand that you have already written alot and would not want to repeat yourself again or risk being misinterpreted. So I will rather share why I felt that the reply was pathetic:

      Here is my evaluation of White's last reply:

      1. White begins his reply by acting touchy. ("Wood has more respect for Shabir Ally than me.") Why is this relevant? Because I think his judgments were affected by his emotions. Even later he appeared distress that Wood did not find his ministry to Muslims effective.

      2. Then at 3 minutes - at the very beginning - the man who is asking Wood to mend his ways in keeping with the gospel - LIES! He says that the argument of the OT being mocked as a response to the ISLAMICISE ME! videos that Wood and the gang addressed was not his argument! But that's a lie! A big fat lie that can be easily proven to be a lie from his earlier DLs. It would have been fine to say that that wasnt his primary argument, but to deny that it was not his argument at all was a lie. What a virtuous way to begin a reply, by breaking one of the 10 commandments! And what irony!

      3. For a man who began his reply by mentioning strawman, White proceeds to knock his own strawman at 14 mins. Again the irony! This was in response to Wood's roleplay. To put it in perspective, Wood was trying to show that even if a Muslim attacked the OT, he could be easily handled using his own scripture. White somehow managed to interpret this as Wood implying White was incapable of giving such a reply himself, and using this strawman as an excuse to provide the superiority of his "knowledge" goes on to tell us that he had allotted half a chapter on the same thing in one of his books, and he did not get it from Wood. But this is bizarre! It is actually a strawman. Wood never hinted at White's knowledge, especially during or prior to his roleplay.

      4. At 15 mins, White provides yet another example of how gospel-centric his behavior is (I do believe his heart is gospel centric, but his behavior? Let's see.) White announces at 15 mins how Wood was really bragging about how good he is with the roleplay, and then (again ironically) proceeds to brag himself that he already knew this argument - had it printed in his books before Wood and preached it "around the World" ( in other words to imply, "Wood has nothing on me." But that is for later). Now what did Jesus say about judging others? " For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." So if Wood was bragging there, why isn't White bragging here by his own standards? He actually goes on to say later on that his arguments are better than Woods. Boy, is White humble. Wait, what was it that scripture said about humility? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ah, that's from Ephesians, the very letter White referenced. How sad he only saw the letters application to Wood's series, and not to his own behavior.

      5. At 22 mins, White suggested that Wood advertises his jihadi threats by way of informing us about it. Doesn't White do the same? Advertise his laurels on how he is the only apologist to preach and debate in mosques? So how is White different? Ironically, again, one of White's primary arguments was the need of consistency in approaches and methodology - when he fails to show consistency over, and over, and over again. Or maybe I am misinterpreting it all - maybe White is consistently inconsistent. Ah, that might just work.

      to be continued...

    6. 6. Now given the above 5 points and seeing how sophisticated and intellectually honest White's contention with the gangs reply was (or rather was not) - At 26 mins. White goes on to read Wood's heart by calling him an anti-Muslim. Funnily though, he does not stop to read his friend Qadhi's hearts but actually (and rightly) goes after those who try to do. But Wood? He is an "anti-Muslim who happens to be a Christian"! Consistency? Never mind!

      7. At 33 mins comes the most ridiculous assertion I have heard an apologist make. He says that he has met "plenty" of Muslims who have read hadiths! Really? I have lived with Muslims, and some of my good friends are Muslims and they are as knowledgeable about their faith as much as a lay Christian. And what does he mean by "plenty"? 10 or 20 or 100 or 1000? That is a vague number, but even if one grants him that number (one should not as he is exaggerating, but for argument sake if one does), it is nothing compared to the actual Muslim population, therefore White's point is of little or no consequence. Finally, just because one is familiar with the said Hadith does not mean one cannot be uncomfortable with it, especially when enacted on tape!

      8. The question about seeking apostolic precedents to justify approaches - but does White himself always look for it? I am asking you, was there an apostolic precedent to invite a member of an anti-Christ group (White's own admission about Islam, plus 1 John) amidst Christians and let him discuss his heresies without correcting him? If there is not, isnt White not walking his talk?

      9. White wrongly asserts that Wood is busy reaching to the ignorant Muslims, and contrary to Wood, White engages only the best of the best. But earlier White confessed that he watched Wood's debates, and those debates were with informed Muslims - many being the same people White debated. So knowing this fact, he still falsely asserts that Wood goes after the ignorant crop. What a liar!

      10. Wood and the gang made it clear that their series is a preparatory work for preaching the gospel, and David's other videos on that channel addressed the gospel - but despite that clarification White still emphasized that Wood's primary goal was not motivated by the gospel but political considerations, and he did not engage or want to engage Muslims with the gospel - another lie. Wood wants to engage Muslims with the gospel, the difference is only at the timing - he wants to do it later AFTER destroying the naked emperor. That does not translate into Wood not being motivated by the gospel, his two-pronged goal notwithstanding.

      White clearly comes across as a holier-than-thou "elder" who wants the rest of the world to submit to his interpretations of scripture, but does not align his own behavior to his own interpretations. This is not an opinion, it is a demonstrable fact and I provided evidence above as to why I said so.

      To clarify, I am not suggesting that White's objection to Islamicise Me! was not valid. I am asserting that the way White went about it was thoroughly unChristian (and unintelligent) because it was based on lies, and were not consistent by his own standards (and scripture tells us that that matters).

      White's last reply was a study in ironies. I personally fail to see anything "excellent" about the last reply. The only excellent thing about it is that that is a excellent example of how not to correct other Christians when there is a log in your own eyes. I have not been this critical of White before, but this time he crossed the line.

    7. P.S. 11. The NT being where we get our ethics from - that is according to White. Exactly which apostle said that, Mr. White? Which apostle said that their teachings - oral or written - had higher grounds over the OT? Wasnt the OT the Bible of the apostles? So if what apostles did matter, isn't your point nonsensical?

  5. "ramshackle response" = ? = "broken down, run down, ruined" = scattered ? unorganized? unclear? "stream of consciousness" ?

  6. On point # 20
    He doesn't seem to have a religious superior that he's answerable to. Moreover, it looks like a buddy system rather than an independent accountability system.

    Steve, honestly, IMO, that was an unfair cheap shot. They have 3 elders and they are accountable to a congregation of believers. Are you going to say that all Baptists who have that ecclesiastical system are a "buddy system"? We need to be gracious with each other on that issue; even though I also agree with the Baptist Church structure of a plurality of elders who are accountable to each other and to the congregation, as the closest NT model. The combination of the team of elders and congregational form of church government seems to be the best Biblical NT model. I agreed with Dr. White on that in his chapter and interaction with the Presbyterian gentleman in the book on 5 views of church polity. (the exact names and title escapes me for the moment as I am rushing to leave for church)

    Also, I can certainly understand why Dr. White and Rich asked those questions to David Wood and the others; and I also fully understand and agree with David Wood on why he did not answer those questions on the internet. David explained that very well, and I agree with him on that. They can get together privately to explain those details.

    There is too much snark among all of us "macho" type apologists !!

    It would be great if all of these guys would meet together and get to know one another and clarify things (there is a lot of snark and judging going on; I just feel it, though I cannot type it) become friends and then have a good debate on issues, but promise to not use snark and ad hominem and judging motives in debate.

    Now, off to church.

    1. "Steve, honestly, IMO, that was an unfair cheap shot. They have 3 elders and they are accountable to a congregation of believers. Are you going to say that all Baptists who have that ecclesiastical system are a "buddy system"? We need to be gracious with each other on that issue; even though I also agree with the Baptist Church structure of a plurality of elders who are accountable to each other and to the congregation, as the closest NT model."

      Ken, you don't know what the hell you're talking about. During the livestream/superchat ("Islamicize Me and the James White Controversy"), on Vocab Malone's platform, ‪Rich Pierce‬ queried:

      "A‪re you men actually accountable to elders? did you ask them to view this work before you aired it?‬"

      And in his rejoinder, White reiterated and expanded on that very point. "They're not elders, these are laymen [i.e. David, Vocab, & Jon]. Are you under the authority of elders. Do you have an ecclesiastical responsibility?"

      So this is not about elders accountable to the congregation/laymen, but just the opposite: laymen/the congregation accountable to elders. Rich and White are accentuating topdown accountability, not bottomup accountability.

      And yes, it's naive to think that White's two fellow elders wield authority over him. He's not under their authority.

    2. So this is not about elders accountable to the congregation/laymen, but just the opposite: laymen/the congregation accountable to elders. Rich and White are accentuating topdown accountability, not bottomup accountability.

      Yes, I know that. It was my fault to also mix in "congregational rule".

      I meant their (Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church) elder-rule accountability. The 3 are accountable to each other, but any kind of concern for holiness will also bring a balance of being accountable in a relational way to the congregation. A proper working and even application of even "elder rule" - there is always mutual accountability, even if it is not a "congregational" system or "modified congregational" (Grudem, from memory) form of government.

      Sorry for confusing the issue by adding in -

      I wrote:

      "I also agree with the Baptist Church structure of a plurality of elders who are accountable to each other . " (I should have made some clear break there)

      then I added this aspect; but I see why you reacted that way.

      " . . . and to the congregation, as the closest NT model."

    3. >>>So this is not about elders accountable to the congregation/laymen, but just the opposite: laymen/the congregation accountable to elders. Rich and White are accentuating topdown accountability, not bottomup accountability.

      I agree. Pierce could have just asked if the ISLAMICISE ME! script had the imprimatur of their elders. (And yes, I am an ex-Catholic, so the irony doubles on me.)

  7. This is a thought-provoking, and an intelligent analysis. Thanks for taking the time to write it. :)

  8. Okso I'm not the only one noticing the inconsitency that james white and his followers are doing.