Apologist James White Draws Concerns After Holding, Defending Interfaith ‘Dialogue’ at Church With Muslim Imam

Heather Clark of Christian News Network carefully lays out the details of a recent uproar among evangelicals over a dialog between Christian apologist James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute.  The event, called “Christians and Muslims: Agreements and Differences,” was held at Grace Bible Church on Jan. 24. On his Facebook page Dr. White stated that he is thankful that Heather Clark “actually quoted from the dialogues, fairly, evenly, and then gave extensive quotes from what I’ve written since then.” See his entire statement below under “Related.”

A well-known Reformed apologist, elder and professional debater is drawing concerns after presenting, and continuing to defend, an interfaith dialogue event at a Mississippi church with a Muslim imam, which he says was meant to help Christians and Muslims engage in conversation and to “get along without compromise.”

Some objectors, while noting that they support dialoguing with and evangelizing Muslims, do not believe that it was proper to give an unconverted Muslim any type of platform during a special event hosted at a church, and feel that many of the imam’s statements should not have gone unchallenged.

“I’m totally in favor of having an accurate view of what they believe,” Andy Woods, the senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Texas and president of Chafer Theological Seminary in New Mexico, told Christian News Network. “Working out our differences and sitting down and making sure we understand each other is one thing, but giving someone a platform at a church is a different matter.”

THE EVENT

James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Dr. Yasir Qadhi, the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute, appeared at Grace Bible Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi on Jan. 24 for an unmoderated interfaith discussion called “Christians and Muslims: Agreements and Differences.”

The ticketed Tuesday night event was recorded and posted to YouTube.

“I think the greatest barrier for Christians in reaching out to the Muslim people is fear,” White explained during the discussion. “We have fear in our hearts. It’s based upon ignorance. It’s based upon other things. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this.”

“What would it mean if the Muslim people in your neighborhood knew that you loved them, cared about them and prayed for them, and were willing to do anything for them?” he asked. “It would change everything. But unfortunately, that’s not generally how they view us.”

Qadhi said that he believes some Christians view Muslims with mistrust and hatred, and he doesn’t think that it should be that way. He stated that he desires for Christians and Muslims to treat each other with mutual compassion while acknowledging their disagreements.

At the beginning of the event, White said that Qadhi has been a “primary influence” in his studies on the Islamic religion and shared that he “sense[d] in him such a kindred spirit on the other side of the chasm that divides us in regard to our theology and our beliefs.”

He disclosed that he has listened to Qadhi’s material in seeking to understand Islamic beliefs, and at one point, invited Qadhi to critique his presentation on Islam to ensure it accurately represents the Muslim religion.

While also noting that the two disagree on matters of faith, White stressed that the event was not a debate, but rather a dialogue. Therefore, the two-hour discussion was spent mostly discussing and gaining an understanding of Muslim practices and beliefs, at times being contrasted with the Christian perspective.

Topics included explaining the two sects of Islam, the belief that the Koran is the word of God, and the Muslim view that Jesus was a prophet and not divine, nor was He ever crucified.

“Muslims are looking forward to Jesus’ return because when Jesus comes back, we believe His soldiers and His army will be Muslims,” Qadhi also explained to those gathered. “We also believe—and this is in the Hadith or the Sunna of the prophet—that every true Christian will then recognize that they were incorrect [about] the Trinity and then follow Jesus as well.”

During the second hour of the event, Qadhi outlined that Muslims never judge whether or not someone is bound for Heaven or Hell and that they don’t even speak with certainty about themselves. White noted how Christian belief differs from this point of view.

“From the Christian perspective, the only reason that I can have peace with God or confidence of entering into His presence is because I’m in possession of the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to me,” he explained.

“We don’t view ourselves as a group that is somehow better than anybody else. We believe that a Christian is a person who has fled to God for His mercy and recognize that He (Jesus) is the only one that God has given to where His righteousness is perfect in God’s sight … and that’s why I can have peace with Him,” White said.

“This is one of the fundamental differences. We’ll have to agree to disagree from our perspective,” Qadhi replied. “It’s an element of arrogance to say ‘I am going to Heaven and I’m certain about it.’ Rather [we say], ‘I am very hopeful. I am very optimistic.’”

White also explained during the event that he believes it is permissible to have relationships with Muslims as long as they understand his beliefs and his desire for them to be saved. He said that he prays for Qadhi and that he wants him to bow the knee to Christ, and Qadhi acknowledged that he, conversely, desires for White to embrace Islam.

Qadhi said that even if both sides believe the other is on the path to Hell, Christians and Muslims should still come together despite their differences to fight society’s ills.

“Do we have to make this world a living Hell because of that? That’s the question. Let God judge on Judgment Day,” Qadhi said. “… Can’t we be good neighbors together? Can’t we work together for better schools, to minimize crime, to fight against pornography and drugs, to affirm family values?”

“Why must we hate one another in a civil society where coming together will bring about so much potential good?” he asked. “Why can’t we look at what we have in common even as we understand and appreciate and are honest about our differences?”

The following day, White spoke at the Memphis Islamic Center, where similar dialogue about the Muslim and Christian faiths took place, with White—while complimenting Qadhi’s expertise and influence on his studies—explaining concepts such as the Trinity, original sin and the imputation of righteousness through Christ.  Continue reading

Related:

1. James White’s statement on the Christian News Network piece from July 15th on his Facebook timeline (below)

2. Grace Community Church’s response to Brannon Howse on James White’s interfaith dialogue. We’ve included the response for those who’ve been following the story and are aware that when Brannon Howse came out against James White’s interfaith dialogue with Yasir Qadhi, Executive Director of GTY, Phil Johnson, came out in defense of James White, which created a riff between Howse and Johnson that became very public (see Phil Johnson’s response here; Brannon Howse tells his side of the story on Worldview Weekend). So – Brannon wrote a letter to John MacArthur which elicited a response from an elder of the church. (below)

James White’s statement on the Christian News Network piece from July 15th on his timeline:

“This is a pretty good and balanced review. My only question is, why not contact me? It seems others were contacted for comments, but not me. Maybe because the writer already had my responses to almost all of these allegations in various forms? Possible. Anyway, the only things I would have added would have been the ferocity of the denunciations found in Howse and his guests, turning me over to Satan, saying I’m a heretic, etc., and Steve Camp’s accusations of my being a coward, etc. I think the politico-religious nature of much of this criticism (as seen in Howse and Camp) needs to be looked at very, very closely, lest we ignore the fact that some people are trying to make the gospel ‘Merican again.

Oh, one other note: I am soooo thankful that the writer actually quoted from the dialogues, fairly, evenly, and then gave extensive quotes from what I’ve written since then. Also, the article finishes with not only a link to the YouTube video of the first night, but astonishingly, with a time index to the very portion where we speak of what we most want for the other! That was very classy, and very important, for it is the very issue that the non-gospel centered criticisms will continue to miss, and must, by definition.

More from James White on July 15:

“Please let me ask that in the midst of my being “turned over to Satan,” proclaimed a “heretic” and a person who “clearly does not believe in the Word of God,” etc., that in light of what this issue is really all about (adorning the gospel of Jesus Christ and loving those to whom we are called to proclaim the message of salvation) that we respond as best we can, even to outrageous and absurd accusations, with self-control. I would especially like to ask that there be no attacks upon people like Janet Mefferd. I was truly disappointed yesterday, for I felt JM and I had a relationship that lured me into doing a phone interview (those are always dangerous—the person in the studio controls the horizontal and the vertical, which is why I always chuckle when folks say I should call into various programs to take on various people who otherwise would never go one-on-one with me—I know how the media works, and I’ve done radio since I was 16 years of age). I am truly disappointed JM did not ask James Simpson serious, meaningful questions, and I’m even more disappointed that she had an agenda to push with me and she was going to get to it even in the guise of “questions” which were not questions at all. All of that is true. But I ask that we simply pray that instead of more warfare we invest our time in looking for more opportunities to show our love for Christ, for those who need the Good News, and that Christians who have become unduly enamored with political movements and perspectives, at the cost of a radical, life-giving gospel, should come to realize this and change their ways. It is easy to say “Let’s take the high road” but really hard when the accusations are raining down like a monsoon thunderstorm. But we can become distracted in a way that is costly in the long run.

Grace Community Church’s response to Brannon Howse on James White’s interfaith dialogue:

Mr. Howse:

I wanted to send you this email in response to your phone call to Grace Community Church this morning. You should know that Phil Johnson’s public comments on this matter represent the position of the elders of Grace Church. To be clear, that position is most succinctly stated in the following quote:

“We would not sanction a public dialogue with a Muslim Imam, or any other person with an agenda to teach false religion, at Grace Community Church. But neither are we sympathetic to the lynch-mob mentality that seems determined to use a disagreement such as this to discredit years of faithful ministry by Dr. White.”

We would appreciate you not attempting to contact us or involve us further on this matter.

Sincerely,
Chris Hamilton, Elder
Grace Community Church     Source

Added 7/18

3.  Phil Johnson’s statement regarding those who have called him to repent. 7/16/17

4. Brannon Howse responds to Grace To You 7/18/17

(Editor’s note: The inclusion of this story on our site is one we have hesitated to post on Berean Research, for several reasons. This debate has been raging for over a month now, and it’s ugly. It grieves us greatly to see the division and the outright name-calling and manipulation tactics by some Christians over this issue. The last thing we wanted to do was to be a part of the finger-pointing.  We post this story and the related links so that readers can get a grasp of what has happened, but in no way does this mean that we are here to “weigh in,” as several people have demanded we do.

Yes, we have our opinions, and we understand you do as well. Please be respectful in our comments section, and reflect on 2 Timothy 2:22-26 as you post:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

(A.S.)

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