Debate: Did Jesus Claim to Be God? Paul Schlehlein vs. Abu Bakr Akoo

Part 1 of the debate features opening statements and rebuttals.

Part 2 of the debate features cross examination, Q & A from the audience, and closing statements.

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Closing Statement: “Did Jesus Claim to Be God?” Debate

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“Jesus’ claims to Deity in his title, attributes, actions, and teachings are much stronger than if he had merely said, ‘I am God.’”

Let me again thank all of those who have worked so hard to put this event together. And let me thank you, the audience, for coming out tonight to hear two perspectives on Jesus Christ. I have labored to show that Jesus claims deity in many ways, including through his attributes, his titles, his works, and specifically his teachings in the book of John.

My opponent has proven ably that God the Father and God the Son are not the same person, but this is something that Christians have always believed. Abu has also told us that the Trinity and Jesus with two natures does not make sense, and yet he has failed to show us how this is illogical or contrary to reason. If God had wanted to, why could he not take on human nature in addition to his divine nature? We were never told.

In light of the words of Jesus in the gospels and the rest of the Biblical account, all of us should recognize, whether we accept the claims or not, that Jesus did indeed claim to be God in human flesh and that he was identical to the Jehovah God of the Old Testament.

For the Christians here tonight, I want to encourage you to build friendships with the Muslims in your community. We are called by Jesus to love. One of the ways you can love is by knowing what they believe and sharing what you believe.

As I look over the audience, I see many of my Muslim friends here tonight. Out of deep concern and love, I cannot end our debate tonight without imploring you from one last sobering text from Scripture. Jesus said in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am he” (there it is again, ego eimi, the same name Jehovah God used for himself in Isa. 43:10 and Ex. 4). “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

What Jesus demands from the world is that we believe in Jesus as he revealed himself in Scripture. We believe in one God, but this one God has existed from eternity in three persons. In the greatest expression of love the world has ever known, Jesus took on human nature—in addition to his divine nature—lived a perfect life, and freely gave his life on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Yes, God is merciful and forgiving. But he is also just and must punish sin.

Jesus took the guilt of sinners upon himself on the cross, and though Jesus lowered himself into the depths of humiliation, he ascended to the heights of glory at his resurrection. All those who turn away from their own merits and repent by placing their trust in Jesus will receive eternal life.

Let me encourage you to read the Bible on your own. Study the claims of Jesus from the Gospels and elsewhere, and may God give you new eyes to see the truth.

Opening Statement: “Did Jesus Claim to Be God?” Debate

It is a privilege to be with you here tonight. Abu and I have been planning and preparing for this debate for months and I am grateful for the chance to stand before you regarding this very special topic. Let me thank the leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church for allowing us to meet in this beautiful hall and the IPCI for their part in the debate as well.

My opponent tonight is a friend. We have eaten together on a number of occasions and each time our conversation turns to the differences between our religious convictions. Abu is a man of intelligence and there is no debate about that tonight. It is my goal during this event to exhibit an attitude of mutual respect but not an attitude of compromise.

The Nature of the Debate

What is under debate tonight is the radically different ways by which we view Jesus. We are not debating the rights of women, posture in prayers, food laws, or even Jesus’ claims about himself within the Qur’an. For sake of time and clarity, Abu and I have narrowed this debate to what Jesus claimed about himself within the pages of the New Testament Gospels.

Some of you may have been to Abu’s lectures a couple years ago on the topic “Jesus Christ in Islam”. In those lectures, Abu was not afraid to interact with the Bible. He held the Scriptures in his hands and quotes often from its pages. On that night, he was not merely arguing that Jesus denied deity in the Qur’an. That much is obvious. Rather, he argued that within the Christian Scriptures themselves Jesus never claimed to be God. This is the challenge for the Christian tonight.

Now to ask for examples in the Bible of Jesus claiming to be God is like asking a sailor if he is able to locate fish in the sea. He would hardly know where to begin. In the same way, it is not difficult for the Christian to find Jesus’ claims to Deity in the Bible, or even in the NT, or even in the Gospels, or even in a single book. Christians have enough evidence to the Deity of Christ were we could find a host of examples in just a single chapter of John alone. Continue reading

Debate: Did Jesus Claim to Be God?

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.13.51 PMThis Saturday I will be debating Muslim maulana Abu Bakr Akoo on the topic: Did Jesus Claim to Be God?

Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Families, generations, and whole nations have fallen headlong into idolatry simply because no one stood up and said: “There’s another way.”

My opponent, who is also a friend, wanted to call this event an “Interfaith Dialogue” but I pushed for “Debate”. Dialogue is what two people do when they’re not sure where they stand. Debate is between two people with convictions.

All Christians must participate in debate, whether formally or informally. First Peter 3:15 says, “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

I am asking for your prayers. The debate is 7 February, from 5:00-7:30 pm (09:00 – 12:30 Central Time). This is the first debate of its kind in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The positive vibe and chatter throughout the town in recent weeks has been equalized by others who have written in to the local newspaper encouraging people not to attend. Columns like that only end up bringing more people out.

The debate will be recorded on video and posted on YouTube some time later. I will post my opening statement on Saturday.

Here is how the event will proceed:

  1. Opening statements (25 minutes each)
  2. Rebuttals (10 minutes each)
  3. Cross Examination (two 7-minute slots a piece)
  4. Questions and Answer from the audience (30-40 minutes)
  5. Closing Statements (5 minutes each)

How to Spot an Evidentialist

The two predominant philosophies of argumentation within Christian apologetics are evidentialism and presuppositionalism. William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, and RC Sproul are evidentialists. Greg Bahnsen and James White are presuppositionalists.

Evidentialism holds that religious beliefs are only rational if they are based on evidence. They employ much history, philosophy, and science in their argumentation and seek to find   common ground with their opponent before working toward their position.

Presuppositionalism is often associated with Cornelius Van Til (and his students Greg Bahnsen and John Frame) because he so persuasively argued that most human beliefs depend on unprovable basic assumptions and are shaped by faith or the lack of it. Presuppositionalists are not interested in finding common ground, acknowledge their presupposition that the Bible is true and therefore use it forcefully and freely. When charged with circular reasoning, the presuppositionalist shows that his opponent also has presuppositions regarding his source for truth, be it reason, the Qur’an or whatever.

Here is an example of how to spot an evidentialist.

In a debate between William Lane Craig and Shabir Ally on the resurrection of Christ, Ally argues that the spear thrust to the side of Jesus was only a prick and quotes Raymond Brown. Muslims love quoting Catholic scholars who undermine Scripture, which is just the same as saying Catholic scholars.

A presuppositionalist would answer thus. “That can’t be true. John 19:34 says that the spear so penetrated the side of Jesus that blood and water came out. He was unquestionably dead.”

This is how William Lane Craig, an evidentialist responded (at 1:18:30):

Assuring the death of crucified victims by a spear thrust into the heart to make sure he is dead is attested in classical sources. For example, Quintilian attests this. So this is not just in the Gospels.

It wasn’t until the Q & A time that a non-PhD from the audience even brought up John 19:34.