“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt 15:14).
As Christians, it’s good for us to be challenged as to what we believe because we often just accept everything we’re told by our pastor or whoever believes the same things we do. We tend to stick together with other like-minded Christians, and we read only those books that confirm what we already believe or which make us feel good; we’re happy to live in our little Christian bubble, isolated from the world and reality. And we don’t bring anything new into the picture that might make us feel uncomfortable, because then we may even have to think. And, to our shame, much of the literature coming from Christian presses is so shallow and “feel good”, that we have no depth of understanding of the teachings of the Bible – sadly, many Christians today hardly even read the Bible.
It’s not until we come up against an enemy such as Ahmed Deedat (1918-2005), or an atheist who has thought about issues that we should be able to explain, or an ex-Christian skeptic who knows his way around the bible, that we come unstuck, and all that we believed without question seems to evaporate and we’re left floundering, wondering what just hit us.
So, we Western Christians need to get out of our “religious club” attitude and start thinking seriously about what we believe. The time is coming when the Church in the West will once again suffer through persecution, and if we can’t explain and defend our faith, we may well end up denying it, especially if we encounter one who knows enough of it to confuse and deceive us. However, we don’t all have to be scholars and theologians; it’s amazing how, by simply regularly reading the Bible in the King James Version, the heresies and wrong ideas about the bible are shown up for what they are. But if one wants more without being weighed down by scholarly books and arguments, a good study bible or one-volume bible commentary will generally be enough to familiarise us with the kind of attacks being made against Christianity, and how to reply to them.
The Virgin Birth of Jesus
Ahmed Deedat was one such danger. He cleverly portrayed his Christian opponents as being absolute fools as he showed them how embarrassingly insufficient the Christian Bible is, especially when compared to the “Glorious Qur’an”. On one occasion, he tells us, when addressing the supervisor of the Bible House in Johannesburg, he quoted in Arabic the “most noble, elevated and sublime language” of the account of the virgin birth of Jesus as described in the Qur’an, and compared it to the “distasteful gutter language” of the Bible account (see Luke 1:35).
But let’s consider this foolish claim of Mr Deedat, that the Bible’s account of the conception of Christ is “distasteful gutter language”. Why is he offended at the way the Bible describes it? The account in Luke simply says “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Luke’s gospel describes the conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit in a simple way, but which indicates the power of God coming upon Mary. When the Holy Spirit is described as overshadowing a person, and coming upon them, it is merely a way of describing an act of divine power on or in them. In the first gospel, Matthew simply says “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Ghost”; and her husband Joseph was told by an angel, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife:, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18, 20). How else could Luke have described it?
God is a Trinity of Persons
The significance of these accounts of the virgin birth of Christ is not merely to show that Jesus was a “mighty messenger of God”, as Ahmed Deedat proclaims – he is infinitely more than that. The Virgin Birth of Jesus reveals to us his deity; it also reveals that there is a trinity of Persons within the Godhead. Here we see that the Virgin Birth was foretold by God (the Father) through the prophet Isaiah (Matt 1:22-23 cf. Isa 7:14); we see the deity, personality and power of the Holy Spirit; and we see the pre-existence and deity of the Son, Jesus. The three Persons are here mentioned together and yet as separate Persons, as we’re also shown them at Jesus’ baptism and other places.
These accounts dovetail perfectly with John’s opening of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). If Ahmed Deedat wants “noble, elevated, and sublime language” to describe Jesus, how much more exalted can this account of John’s, combined with Luke and Matthew, be? Here John tells us that Christ has always existed because he is God.
But John also tells us, consistent with Luke and Matthew, that God consists of a trinity of Persons. He tells us of the Word who always was and is God, and that this Word became flesh. Luke and Matthew tell us how the Word became flesh – that he was conceived by the spiritual power of God the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary, the Virgin. He summarises all this succinctly in his first epistle: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 Jn 5:7).
So, when Ahmed Deedat despised the bible account of the virgin birth of Christ, he either recognised that the accounts of Jesus birth reveal his deity and the trinity of Persons in the Godhead, and tried to divert attention from it by reducing it to something ridiculous and distasteful to respectable human sensitivities; or it went over his head, and his own corrupt mind couldn’t rise above its own corruption and blindness. His comments show us that he is not to be taken seriously when it comes to understanding Christianity. No doubt he was a knowledgeable Muslim, and knew the Qur’an well. But as a critic of Christianity, he knew very little of worth, and his understanding of Christianity and the Bible was superficial to the point of being ludicrous and offensive; his opinions cannot be trusted.
However, to his credit, Ahmed Deedat had read some Western writers and frequently quoted from the Bible; consequently, he had success in bewildering many of his opponents. This, of course, doesn’t mean he was right; it just means he was able to present a plausible view (though a distorted one) of what the Bible says, sufficient to bewilder those who weren’t familiar with it. And ignorant but well-meaning Christians who don’t know the Bible well because they can’t get hold of one; or who are illiterate and therefore couldn’t read it if they did have one; or even Muslims who are ignorant of what Christianity is and teaches but would like to know; are all at the mercy of Ahmed Deedat and others like him who speak loudly and confidently about that of which, in reality, they know little or nothing.
Straw Men and other Misrepresentations
The bulk of Christendom
One of Mr Deedat’s many straw men is described in Chapter 4; in this case the straw man is “The bulk of Christendom”. He quotes the Qur’an to demonstrate that the title “Christ” signifies that Christ Jesus is “(of the company) of those nearest to God” (Holy Qur’an 3:45); and comments that “Nearest to God,”is a spiritual nearness rather than physical or geographical.
He mockingly compares this with the bible passage (Mark 16:19) where it tells us that Jesus “sat on the right hand of God”. He says that the bulk of Christendom has misunderstood this verse as well as many others in the Bible. He also jeeringly invites us to picture God the Father sitting on a glorified chair and Jesus sitting next to Him (Chapter 4: The Good News).
This passage from Mark’s gospel which Ahmed Deedat quotes is one of the many examples in the Christian and Jewish Scriptures where God condescendingly describes himself in human terms, and as having human characteristics, so that we can identify with the divine characteristics and attributes he is revealing of himself. These descriptive human terms are called “anthropomorphisms”. Mr Deedat has created a straw man so that he can easily defeat him. He has created a false impression of what the bible says and what Christians believe so that he can deceive gullible people who depend on his knowledge for understanding of the bible and Christianity.
Jesus himself understood and taught that such language is not literal but a figure of speech. For example, when he was teaching the disciples and the people, he warned, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matt 23:2-3). To sit in Moses’ seat does not mean Moses had an actual chair, as any simpleton would understand; Jesus was referring to the authority of the scribes and Pharisees as teachers of the Mosaic law. When Jesus is described as sitting down at the right hand of God, it denotes his authority and honour, as Mr Deedat rightly points out.
However, it must be said, that nearly every time we’re given a view of God in the bible, he is shown as sitting on a throne, surrounded by angels, and being worshipped by hosts of men and angels. These sublime visions which God gives to his prophets are not images which Christians have conjured up; they were given by God himself with the intent that this is how we see and understand him in a way our poor, finite minds can grasp in order to associate the concepts of power and sovereignty with God.
Stephen, disputing with the hostile Jews, had a lengthy discourse with them. Luke, the author of Acts, writes of Stephen as he was stoned by them: “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56). The reaction of the Jews was one of extreme hostility because they stoned him to death (Acts 7:59). They weren’t concerned that Stephen was implying that there are chairs in heaven, or anything else as foolish as Mr Deedat suggests; they knew that he was ascribing deity to Jesus Christ – and they were enraged. They had only recently crucified Jesus on the charge that Jesus claimed he was God, the sin of blasphemy (Matt 26:63-66); and now, here was Stephen, a follower of Jesus, saying Jesus was alive and in the place of supreme authority in heaven.
Fudging the Test Results
Although Ahmed Deedat has read a few Western writers and frequently quotes from the Bible, he seems to have read only those Western authors, both Christian and secular, who speak against the Bible. His viewpoint comes from those who are enemies of the gospel, and he delves into their statements to find anything he can that will discredit Christianity. He doesn’t seem to have bothered reading what bible-believing Evangelical Christian scholars have to say, and how they explain, defend and vindicate the Bible, because his mind was made up before he even started. He wasn’t searching for truth, he was looking for dirt. It’s like a scientist who does tests to prove his theory, and in the process discards all the test results that don’t prove (or else disprove) his theory, and only takes those results that prove what he wants, publishing them with the claim that scientific testing has proven his theory. This is fudging the tests. Ahmed Deedat is just such a “scientist”.
Imagine if I were to paint a picture of Islam made solely from statements made by its enemies. For example, I could take the statements and accusations made by the Quraysh people when they were trying to discredit Muhammad before they became Muslim themselves, and of the Jewish enemies of the same period. With these false accusations, I could paint a picture of Muhammad that is totally untrue. But I could insist that these people knew him, and therefore their accusations must be true. But those Quraysh and Jews were malicious, and used lies to portray Muhammad in the worst possible light (Al-Mubarakpuri 2002). And then imagine if I wrote all these lies in books and flooded the market in Islamic countries to discredit Muhammad. Would any Muslim take me seriously? Of course not! Yet Muslims and weak Christians are impressed by Ahmed Deedat when he does exactly this to Christianity. And Ahmed Deedat has had success in bewildering many of his opponents with his dishonest strategy.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12), Satan misused scriptures three times against Jesus; he misapplied them to deceive the Lord, and they appeared to be a strong argument. But Jesus responded with other scriptures which exposed the error and deception of Satan’s presentation, and overcame his wicked opponent. And such is Ahmed Deedat. He misapplies Holy Scripture, makes incorrect and lying statements about it, and seeks to humiliate and intimidate Christians by causing them to doubt what they’ve always believed. He thus undermines them, making them look and feel like fools.
Although Ahmed Deedat is dead now, his books continue to be published and are now also on Kindle, which ensures his lies a continuing readership; so his words and false teachings are still being used by Satan, the father of lies, to deceive as many people as he can before he, too, meets his deserved end in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
“Christ in Islam” by Ahmed Deedat and Foreword by John Milton Lawrence
“The Sealed Nectar” by Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, 2002, pub. Darussalam