Debate Review: James White vs Adnan Rashid

Do We Need the Cross for Salvation?

Less than a week ago, Calvinist apologist James White debated Islamic apologist Adnan Rashid on a very important topic.  The topic was: “Do we need the cross for salvation?”  I have many thoughts on the debate and I want to share a few.

I was very impressed with Adnan Rashid in this debate.  White did okay as well, but Rashid looked to me as someone who was asking serious questions.  It seems that Rashid wasn’t trying to score cheap points in the debate but he wanted to legitimately offer up serious questions and objections about points of ambiguity where Muslims differ with Christians.

One thing that really stuck out was White’s inability to reconcile James and Paul.  Rashid threw out the Paul vs James card and mentioned how Luther thought the two were irreconcilable.  They went deep into the text.  I think it’s unfortunate that Rashid and other apologists don’t encounter the Catholic tradition.  Most apologists against Islam are Calvinists who accept Luther’s doctrine of Sola Fide which comes from a misrepresentation of St. Paul’s writings.

For 1500 years, there was no problem believing that James and Paul were consistent with each other.  Enter Martin Luther who twists Paul’s writings and makes a doctrine that Paul never taught.  White threw out the old: I’ve written 24 pages on this! Adnan Rashid hadn’t read that book.  Although I do think The God Who Justifies is a good book, the portion on James 2 is rather weak.

Martin Luther is the reason that Muslims and some liberals see this dichotomy between Paul and James.  As a Catholic, this problem doesn’t exist.  Luther believed that Paul and James were irreconcilable, but as a Catholic, I stand with my Church who condemned his theology and excommunicated him.  He’s a heretic according to Catholics.

This debate showed that Rashid needs to be exposed to the writings of Dr. Robert Sungenis.  Dr. Sungenis debated White on the issue of Justification and Paul’s letters and James 2 both came up.

To my knowledge, Rashid has never debated a Catholic with the exception of Robert Spencer and that was on the existence of Muhammad, not Christian theology.  I can’t blame Rashid on this because Calvinists seem to have a monopoly on the apologetics against Islam.  I don’t blame Calvinists for this.  In fact, good on them for being proactive and shame on the Catholics for not stepping up.

I was a bit disappointed with James White in the cross-examination.  Rashid brought up some material that White should have been prepared for.  Rashid brought up how Isaiah 53 brought up “offspring” and that Jesus didn’t have children.  Dr. Michael Brown has an amazing response to this and it’s a bit disappointing that White didn’t use it seeing as how he is a personal friend of Brown and knows about his books on Jewish apologetics.

Rashid also brought up Psalm 91 and how it hints that Jesus didn’t die.  I could understand how White was not prepared for this against Zakir Hussain but he didn’t have an excuse this time.  I know that White is no longer friends with Sam Shamoun, but Shamoun did a great job posting responses to Hussain on how he butchered these Psalms and their true meaning.  White should have at least listened to Shamoun’s responses to Hussain.

White’s strongest point of the debate was when he refuted Rashid on how he took some Pauline passages out of context.  The best example of this being 1 Corinthians 6.  The Acts 15 discussion was interesting as well.

What I took away from this debate is that Rashid is genuinely interested in truth.  At least more than other Islamic apologists who just try to score cheap points.  Rashid also needs to be exposed to Catholic teaching where no Paul vs James dichotomy exists.  He needs to be exposed to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church as well as the teachings of the Council of Trent where Luther’s heresy of Sola Fide was anathematized.  Rashid is not far off and he needs our prayers.

Every Christian and Muslim needs to watch this debate.  They also need to watch the debate between Dr. Sungenis and Dr. James White where St. Paul’s writings are properly evaluated.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 thoughts on “Debate Review: James White vs Adnan Rashid

  1. There is no contradiction / dichotomy between the apostle Paul’s theology and the epistle of James or Acts 15.

    Luther was over-reacting to the 15 centuries of justification by faith alone being eclipsed and covered over by adding the merit of good works to justification, purgatory, treasury of merit, praying to saints before statues and icons, over-exalting of Mary, Transubstantiation, etc.

    Luther also said that true faith is living faith that results in the fruit of good works. His statement that the epistle of James is a “right strawy epistle” meant in comparison to Galatians, Romans, I Peter, gospel of John, Acts, regarding justification by faith alone.

    The other reformers and the Westminister Confession of faith and 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession get it right: “We are justified by faith alone, but true faith does not stay alone” (it results in good works, deeper levels of repentance and spiritual growth, sanctification, etc.)

    Adnan was a little tricky in that he subtly shifted the discussion from “is the cross (atonement and forgiveness through Christ’s work on the cross) necessary for salvation” to “Paul vs. James” and claiming that James, Jesus, Matthew & Luke taught Pelagianism – “just repent and obey the law and you will get to heaven.” (assuming that unregenerate humans even desire true repentance and obedience)

    James 2:14-26 does not contradict Galatians or Romans, properly understood. James White was right in that James is talking about the kind of faith that justifies. It is not a dead faith of intellectual assent only, as in that demons believe (James 2:19), but they do not repent or trust in Christ. (and cannot) They know the truth about the Lord, but they don’t commit or trust or surrender to the gospel.

    James the apostle and half brother of Jesus, (James 2:14-26) cites the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make in Genesis 22 as the good work of obedience that confirmed his true justifying faith that is communicated to us in the text in Genesis 15:6. Abraham was first justified in Genesis 12:4; but the Genesis text does not communicate that to us; so that the apostle Paul and the rest of the NT (Romans 4, Galatians 3, James 2) is right to quote Genesis 15:6 as proof that a person is justified by faith alone, before any condition and merit of good works. (before the good work of circumcision – Romans 4, Genesis 17; and before the good work of obedience in Genesis 22)

    “justify” in James 2 means “confirm”, “prove”, “vindicate”, as in Luke 7:35; Matthew 11:19; 1 Timothy 3:16

    “wisdom is vindicated / proved right, by her deeds”

    • Hi Ken,

      Hope all is well. We both agree on one thing. James and Paul don’t contradict each other, however we both think that they taught the opposite.

      What cannot be denied is that people like Adnan Rashid, other Muslims and liberal “Christians” are convinced that this contradiction exists because of Luther. Rashid quoted Luther for support of his position that they contradict each other. Why didn’t he quote a Catholic theologian from the previous 15 centuries where Sola Fide was being “eclipsed” as you put it? No one had this problem until Luther came along. Luther is the reason why this exists.

      Could you imagine me debating Rashid in this debate? His argument would have been completely useless.

      One more thing Ken. Since Luther thought there was a contradiction between the two authors, can you admit that Luther is a heretic?

      • Thanks. I hope you are well also. I enjoy discussing and debating with you.

        Was a Luther a heretic?

        No, Luther was not a heretic because his statement about James being a strawy epistle was about it on the contents of justification by faith alone, in comparison with Romans, Galatians, the Gospel of John, Acts, and 1 Peter. No one allowed Luther to take James out; and later, Luther was not against James. He used it and quoted it in sermons.

        The other quote that Adnan brought from Luther – I would need to see the reference (which he did not give) and when he said it and the context; and beyond that, it might be one of those RC myths that James Swan is constantly having to correct. (At “Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics” )

        As others have pointed out, Luther also said that true faith results in good works; so ultimately, Luther did not speak against James, only against his wrong surface level understanding of it at the time; and only in comparison to how those other aforementioned epistles teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone much more.

        Could you imagine me debating Rashid in this debate? His argument would have been completely useless.

        Only in the aspects of what Adnan brought up pertaining to Luther. Adnan would still try to divide up the NT, using liberal scholars, into what he thinks is Pelagian (“just repent and obey the law in your own strength” = “Islam on steroids”) vs. the apostle Paul’s letters; and he would use James D. G. Dunn and liberals to try and bring a wedge between Jesus’ teaching, Matthew, James, and Luke vs. Paul’s epistles and Mark 10:45 and the Lord’s supper passages. but then you would have to explain original sin and internal corruption in the heart (concupiscence) and how faith in the atonement of Christ (Romans 3:21-26) justifies us and perfects our salvation (Hebrews 10:10-14) and then why there is a need for all that other Roman Catholic man made traditions that are added to faith alone.

        It might (if the Muslim’s way of questioning and presenting his case) force you to explain how you put all those RC centuries later traditions of the 500s AD to 1500s back into verses like Acts 13:38-39; Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; Romans chapter 4; book of Galatians, Ephesians 2:8-9.

        But it would be very interesting to see a debate like that, a Muslim vs. you or someone like Robert Sungenis. The Muslim would not be able to use Luther as a smokescreen, and it would force the RC side to deal more with what the Muslim would bring up in Paul’s epistles and letters.

        • Hi Ken,

          I actually agree with most of what you said here.

          Something else I should have pointed is that you brought up Mark 10:45. He mentioned that Luke “takes it out” based on liberal scholarship. What should have been stressed is that in Matthew which he stated has a huge emphasis on Law, keeps it in. I was going to add this to my review but I didn’t want this to be that long a post.

          Btw Ken, Bart Ehrman has a book coming out in less than a month. I’m going to post a review. I’d be interested in your input.

          • Yes, Matthew keeps it in Matthew 20:28.
            But Muslims are wrong to accuse Luke of “deleting” it; and Paul Williams does.

            Not mentioning something is not the same as deliberately deleting it.

            Also, the Lord’s supper passages in Matthew and Mark are also good; and Dr. White did an excellent job on dealing with the textual variant in Luke 22:19-20.

          • I was actually impressed with that response to the Luke 22 variant. I knew that there was a variant there so I’ve refrained from using it typically in discussion. Now that I know how many manuscripts have it, I think I’ll add it back into my arsenal. Dr. White did quite well on that one.

          • Very good, Allan!
            Yeah, I heard about his book and I will be looking for your review.

            One earlier question I forgot to answer:
            Why didn’t he quote a Catholic theologian from the previous 15 centuries where Sola Fide was being “eclipsed” as you put it?

            Probably because Muslims don’t know much about those guys, and are not forced to think about Roman Catholic theological issues on salvation, because 99 % of Roman Catholics don’t do evangelism to Muslims (as you alluded to; even Robert Spencer puts politics/civilizational issues/ Jihad and terrorism issues as first priority in his debates and never even mentions the gospel / salvation/ theology issues), and the current official Catholic Catechism says that Muslims are saved without Christ ( paragraph # 841 – a result of post Vatican 2 theology).

            Most people today, not just Muslims, but since Vatican 2, Roman Catholicism, because of the last few Popes of recent decades, consider Roman Catholicism as Universalistic or Inclusive and they don’t try to do evangelism to atheists, Muslims, Hindus (as Mother Teresa confessed – she did not try to share the gospel with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists before they died; she said to them “go to their own gods to prepare for death”. (see article at Tim Challies blog. “The Myth of Mother Teresa”)

            While she worked with the poor, Mother Teresa was adamant that any type of evangelism was unnecessary. In her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

            “We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Pages 81-82)

            With such a statement we can only be left believing that she was more than a Catholic, but was a Universalist, believing essentially that all religion leads to the same God. Time and again we see her expounding such universalist beliefs. In an interview with Christian News a nun who worked with Mother Teresa was asked the following in regards to the Hindus they worked with, “These people are waiting to die. What are you telling them to prepare them for death and eternity?” She replied candidly, “We tell them to pray to their Bhagwan, to their gods.”

          • “Probably because Muslims don’t know much about those guys, and are not forced to think about Roman Catholic theological issues on salvation, because 99 % of Roman Catholics don’t do evangelism to Muslims”

            I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I’m actually really impressed how much the Calvinists do against Islam. I don’t know any modern Catholics that critique Islam from a Catholic perspective(which Spencer doesn’t do). Even apologetics organizations such as Catholic Answers barely does anything against Islam. I suppose that I’m trying to do this.

            It’s depressing since throughout history the Catholic Church has been on the front lines in the apologetics battle against Islam. St. John of Damascus, Peter the Venerable, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi and many more. Barely any today since many Bishops want to act more like politicians rather than Church prelates.

  2. Just found the time to have a look at this debate.

    This is a very peculiar topic for debate. Why is Dr White discussing this topic with a Muslim (or any non-Christian for that matter)?

    • Hi Patrick,

      The cross is one of the three main dividers of our two faiths, the other two being the Trinity and the Bible. Along with the cross comes theology of atonement so this is one of the most important subjects that we can debate.

      In 2007, Dr. White debated a similar subject with Shabir Ally.

      • You may have a point, although I would say that the three main dividers are the Divinity of Jesus, the Trinity and (for modern Muslims) the Gospel. I consider that there is too much work to do and ground to cover before you can debate this specific and particular issue with a Muslim. Unwise. No point in choosing to debate this with someone who denies the Divinity of Christ, and who asserts (yet again) that the Scriptures are corrupted.

        Interesting and important subject for believers though.

    • It appears you just ‘had lunch with my mind’ Bro Walsh. Theological issues such as this should not be open at all for debate. Most times, it degenerates into what John Azumah called ‘a debate of gaps’. The Muslim (or Christian depending on what the topic is) soon wears the garb of a priest and begins to tell the other what he thinks the other believes or how scripture should be interpreted. Hardly anything is learnt from the angle of the viewers.

      By the way, Mr Ruhl’s arguments sound no better. It is quite easy to see the polemical thinking behind it.