“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt 15:13-14).
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. This is basically what happened to a sweet Christian lady with whom I worked in a large Christian bookshop in Sydney. Her Christianity, like so many others, was of the warm and fuzzy variety. One day she was approached by a man who came into the shop looking for trouble. She was a faithful Christian who trusted Christ but knew very little doctrine. He shot a couple of questions about the bible at her with the intention of confusing her. She answered as best she could but was out of her depth from the start, and all she could come up with after a few attempts at trying to answer his attacks was to say, “Well, I know Jesus is true because he lives in my heart”.
That answer is no doubt true, and in reality is all she or any Christian needs. We are, after all, saved by faith in Jesus and in the promises of God given in the bible. But with a man such as this who was decidedly hostile and who only wanted to confuse and undermine her, telling him that “Jesus lives in my heart” was meaningless. By this time, it was evident that he wasn’t seeking truth, and, as we were running a business, not a counselling centre or church, I ran him out of the shop. It’s ironic that although she worked in a large Christian bookshop, she was unfamiliar with theology, and read nothing more substantial than “emotional devotionals” when she did read.
So, we Western Christians need to get out of our “religious club” attitude and start thinking seriously about what we believe, because the Bible instructs us: “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15-16). 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; 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 is one such danger. He cleverly portrays his Christian opponents as being absolute fools as he shows 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 was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found 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; and John, who wrote the gospel, also wrote in a letter, “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 KJV).
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. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life…..And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4, 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. The child who was born was Jesus, God become flesh, God become a man – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And it was prophesied of Jesus hundreds of years before his birth, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus did not lay his deity aside, but became a true human being while still being God; he retained his divine and human natures in one body and one person (Philippians 2:5-11).
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 – which I doubt he did – 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 is a knowledgeable Muslim, and knows the Qur’an well. But as a critic of Christianity, he knows very little of worth, and his understanding of Christianity and the Bible is superficial to the point of being ludicrous and offensive; his opinions cannot be trusted.
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. Mr Deedat’s quote from Mark 16:19 (“sat on the right hand of God”) is itself founded on one from the Old Testament: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1).
When Stephen, disputing with the Jews, ended his discourse, “….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.
In this same passage, Ahmed Deedat accuses Christians of thinking of God as an “old Father Christmas”. Such a statement reveals that for all his self-professed knowledge of Christians and their Bible, he knows nothing at all about them. He is ignorant of what we believe and how we understand God. No Christian regards God as an old Father Christmas. But Mr Deedat doesn’t seem to mind misrepresenting Christians so that he can discredit them and make himself look good. This tactic isn’t new, and all enemies of the Gospel resort to it in various ways. Their strategy only shows the weakness of their own position, because if they had truth on their side, they would use that instead; and then they would have a legitimate argument to use against us. And this is a great tragedy because, by trying to disprove the truth of Christianity, they shut themselves out of heaven and salvation, and ensure an eternity of torment for themselves. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (Jn 8:24).
However, to his credit, Ahmed Deedat has read some Western writers and frequently quotes from the Bible; consequently, he has had success in bewildering many of his opponents. This, of course, doesn’t mean he is right; it just means he is able to present a plausible view (though a distorted one) of what the Bible says, sufficient to bewilder those who aren’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.
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. But beware when you harm one of God’s people: “…but whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).
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).
“He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God” (John 8:46-47).
“Christ in Islam” by Ahmed Deedat and Foreword by John Milton Lawrence
“The Sealed Nectar” by Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, 2002, pub. Darussalam