Last January, well-known Christian apologist James White and Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi conducted a two part dialogue to help their respective communities understand some of the actual beliefs of Christianity and Islam. On the first evening, they appeared in a church, where White permitted Qadhi to present Muslim beliefs without challenge. On the following evening, they met in Qadhi’s own Mosque, where White straightforwardly declared the Gospel.
In June, Christian radio host Brannon Howse unearthed the YouTube video of the discussion in the church, and has since launched a vicious attack on White. He believes White has violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, particularly in failing to refute Qadhi or proclaim the Gospel during the meeting in the church. The controversy escalated, even to the point of branding White as a heretic.
I’ve followed the bruhaha fairly closely, reading arguments on both sides and watching the video of the discussion in the Mosque (which, it should be noted, Howse and his supporters carefully avoid mentioning). Although I wrote a couple posts early in June which indirectly alluded to the controversy, for the most part I didn’t really believe I had enough information to state an opinion. And frankly, I struggled to the point of doubting my own discernment abilities, therefore putting off blogging about it until I could reach a solid conclusion.
I took my guidance from Proverbs:
13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
14 A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
18 The lot puts an end to quarrels
and decides between powerful contenders.
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. ~~Proverbs 18:13-20 (ESV)
I kept studying the various arguments, knowing I shouldn’t speak further until I felt assurance that I adequately understood whether or not James White did anything wrong. Only in the last week have I settled in my mind that, though he probably could have found wiser ways of staging the dialogue, he made no substantive compromises. Additionally, Brannon Howse erred by totally ignoring what happened at the Mosque, therefore misrepresenting the facts in order to smear White’s reputation.
Now that I feel ready to weigh in, however, everyone else has finally moved on to other matters. As well they should! The ugliness displayed on both sides dishonored Christ.
Part of me regrets waiting so long to voice my opinion. Blogging gains traction, in part, by addressing controversies as they unfold. If a Christian blogger handles a controversial topic with humility and fairness, bringing out Biblical principles that direct readers to the Lord, I see no reason not to write about it.
I can’t stop remembering childhood experiences of crawling across the lawn to join the neighborhood kids in play, only to watch them move to another yard just before I reached them. Once again, I’ve arrived too late.
But another part of me appreciates the Lord for teaching me to remain silent until I could properly research the situation. In this particular case, my investigations confirmed my original position on the controversy, but what if I had stated my opinion immediately and then discovered that I was wrong? Retractions rarely receive the same attention as original articles do.
In the end, writing a blog post in the heat of the controversy would have probably boosted my readership, at least temporarily, but I would have sinned by expressing an opinion before I really knew all the facts. Such recklessness has no place on a Christian blog. Praise the Holy Spirit for convicting me to wait, study and understand all aspects of the controversy before I put forth my thoughts.
That’s actually the greater lesson in all of this, when you think about it. Ironically, White’s primary purpose in having the dialogue with Qadhi was to help Christians understand what Islam actually teaches. Understanding other viewpoints enables us to present the Gospel with greater clarity because we know their way of thinking. When Christians listen before speaking, we can make a more effective case for the Gospel.