Friday, March 18, 2011

Smith vs. Meek Debate: An Analysis

On March 17th, 2011, I was privileged to attend the Khalil Meek - Jay Smith debate on the topic of, "Which way America: The Bible or the Qur'an?"  Meek defended the Qur'an while Smith defended the Bible.  Being that I hold a Christian worldview, my view was biased in that direction.  However, I believe anyone listening to  the debate would say Smith clearly won.  The debate was won on the issues that Smith presented.  Even though I am biased toward the Christian worldview, I am not biased to the point where I would say the Christian always is the winner.  In fact, I have attended a debate concerning the existence of God where I believe the atheist actually won the debate.  So, why did Smith win the debate?

Smith was obviously much better prepared and actually had a better command of the the Qur'an than his Muslim counterpart.  Smith repeatedly challenged Meek concerning troubling passages of the Qur'an, in which Meek had no answer.  One of the telling points of the debate came near the end where Meek was trying to counter Smith's accusations of the verses within the Qur'an calling for violence and discrimination against Jews and Christians.  Meek answered by quoting various passages of the Qur'an to show how inclusive and loving all individuals need to be toward one another.  Smith then delivered a severe blow to Meek by saying that all the passages quoted by Meek were dealing with how Muslims are to treat fellow Muslims, and not how humans are to interact with one another in general.  In other words, Meek was never able to defend the troubling passages in the Qur'an dealing with calls of violence toward other non-Muslims.  Before proceeding further it should be noted that Smith had a tremendous handle of the Qur'an and the religion of Islam.  Smith was quoting the Qur'an and Bible at will, even giving Arabic translations of several key words within the Qur'an.  Smith was also at an advantage due to his numerous previous debates.  Smith even engages with radical Muslims on a weekly basis back home in London.

I would like to address some of the main points of the debate.  The debate can be listened to here.

1.  Smith was interested in defending the New Testament being that the Testament contains the story of Jesus and presents the Christian worldview.  Smith started by saying that he was going to compare the New Testament ethics with the Qur'an's.  He brought both holy books to the podium to compare and contrast what they say.

2.  Smith opened by presenting troubling passages within the Qur'an that deal with the treatment of women, Christians and Jews.  Meek did not address any of the troubling passages of Smith and instead would only quote passages of the Qur'an that dealt with relationships of how people should treat one another.  Remember, according to Smith, all the beautiful passages dealing with proper relationships of the Qur'an was only Muslim to Muslim relations.  Meek never countered Smith with troubling ethical passages within the New Testament.

3.  Toward the end of the debate the subject of violence came up.  The Crusades, Inquisition, and present and past terrorism was addressed.  The Crusades and inquisition were not really focused on, but the subject of which book promotes violence was.  Smith quoted several passages of the Qur'an calling for violence against non-Muslims.  Smith then quoted recent history (within the last 150 years) of Muslim violence against Christians and Jews.  Smith then caused quit a stir by asking for any recent violence of Christians against Muslims.  Several Muslims in the front row started saying, "What about Iraq or Afghanistan?"  Smith countered by saying these instances are state controlled situations and not a Christian response to Muslim communities.

4.  One of the issues I knew would come up dealt with the trustworthiness of the New Testament.  The only counter that Meek had was that scholars such as the "Jesus Seminar" and the early Church councils show that the New Testament can't be trusted.  This point caused many of the Christians within the room to moan, knowing that this was a very week argument.

5.  One of the interesting points of the debate revolved around how Meek viewed the John 14:6 passage.  Early in the debate, Meek said he believes everything Jesus said, but when confronted with the John passage, he said this refers to Jesus having a message from God just as Moses did.  In other words, Jesus was not claiming to be the exclusive way, but was saying his words are the way of God just as Moses words were the way of God.

6.  The issue of the Trinity came up toward the end of the debate.  Meek pointed out that it is impossible for God to die on the cross, for who is in charge of the universe at that point?   Meek also found it hard to believe that God could die.  Smith countered by listing verses within the the Old and New Testament that point to the Triune God.  Smith even countered Meek's point that God cannot be contained by quoting the Qur'an where God was located within the burning bush.

The debate was cordial from both sides.  Smith was very well versed in the Qur'an and Islam.  Even a casual observer would say that the debate was no contest.  One of the main points that I would like to emphasize is the openness of the debate.  Over and over again, Smith pointed out that this would not be the case in Muslim controlled countries.  I appreciated both Smith's and Meek's attitude during the debate toward one another.  They both had serious disagreements, but were willing to dialogue without ad hominen attacks.  I have listened to several Christians debate Muslims, but none that I have listened to have a command and knowledge of Islam like Smith.  Rarely do debates end up being a draw and this held true for the Smith - Meek debate.  Smith clearly won the debate and stayed on topic, while Meek constantly avoided the challenges of Smith.
  • For more information of Jay Smith click here.


Jo said...

Hi Cade,
Thanks for the post, I enjoy the read... well, may be this is not the part of the debate, but i just wanted to hear from you regarding the crusade. How one who holds the Christian world view would response to this issue with a Muslim fellow friends.

Shelby Cade said...

Hi Jo,

Thanks for the comment. The crusades are definitely a hot topic when it comes to the Christian/Muslim debate. I wrote a somewhat lengthy post on the crusades which can be found here -

You could also click on the crusades tab as I have only one blog on the topic. Blessings

scottthong said...

Hi, thanks for the summary. I prefer to read than listen most of the time. I'll definitely be popping by your bloga often.

I'd just like to add some points:

1) On the Crusades, I have a summary of what the 461 years preceding the First Crusade looked like. A quick glance will reveal why those knights were kind of ticked off!

2) On Iraq/Afghanistan, it's often overlooked that the vast majority of (Muslim) civilian deaths were caused by (Muslim) terror attacks, not Western/Christian military action. Add to that what life was like under (Muslim) Saddam, and we find that 'Crusader' Bush saved a nett 750,000 Muslim lives just in Iraq. It's probably a million or so by now.

Shelby Cade said...

Thanks Scott, I will check out your link.