Apologetics polemics what is its purpose
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APOLOGETICS & POLEMICS WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?. Jay Smith 2012. Omar Sharif & Asif Hanif (April 30, 2003). Mohammad Hamid (February 2008). Introduction. In the wake of 9/11 and 7/7, we are finding a more aggressive and growing radical element within Islam, especially here in the UK….

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Apologetics polemics what is its purpose

Jay Smith


Omar Sharif & AsifHanif

(April 30, 2003)

Mohammad Hamid

(February 2008)


In the wake of 9/11 and 7/7, we are finding a more aggressive and growing radical element within Islam, especially here in the UK…

A Local problemi.e. quote by Maryam Jameelah, a convert to Islam, living in the UK

“We must crush the conspiracies of Zionism, Freemasonry, Orientalism and foreign missions both with the pen and with the sword. We cannot afford peace and reconciliation with the Ahl al-Kitab until we can humble them and gain the upper hand” (Jameelah 1989:412)

In 2001 how did muslims in the uk define themselves
In 2001, how did Muslims in the UK define themselves?

By 2002, radicals had risen to 25%

By 2003-2005: No polls were carried out…..

On February 19th, 2006:

over 40% considered themselves radical…*

while 20 % supported Suicide bombers

(source: Peter G. Riddell and Peter Cotterell, Islam In Conflict, Leicester, England: IVP, 2003, chapters 10-12, and page 193. Also a lecture by Riddell on the theme, “Muslim Views on the World” held at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and sponsored by the London Lectures Trust, October 23, 2003)

* Sunday Telegraph, Feb. 19, 2006

Bishop warns of no go zones for non muslims
Bishop warns of no-go zones for non-Muslims

Christian preachers face arrest in Birmingham

A global problem poll on radicalisation by pew international march 2004
A Global Problem:Poll on radicalisationbyPew International(March 2004)

Turkey = 31%

Morocco = 45%

Jordan = 55%

Pakistan = 65%

(80 million out of 140 million people!)

The dilemma today

Post 9/11 and 7/7, there is one faith which stands against all others (compromising ‘Multi-culturalism’)

An aggressive and growing ‘radical Islam’

It is a ‘scriptured religion’

i.e. ‘Dispatches’ Undercover Mosque: views sourced in the Qur’an

Creating a ‘Clash of Civilizations’

(Huntington’s thesis: 1996, reiterated by Lord Carey the autumn of 2006)

Riddell: “There is an international network of radical Muslims, committed to terrorism that must be stopped. They pose a legitimate threat which cannot be ignored, but confronted, and immediately” (Riddell 2004:172).

Two methods to deal with radical islam today
Two Methods to deal with radical Islam today:

  • Irenic, Traditional Method

  • Confrontational Model

Irenic, Traditional Method

  • Premise: Friendship & “inter-faith dialogue” (‘Grace’ method, ‘Insider Movement’).

    • Violence is simply an aberration, practiced by a few, due to geo-Political problems (Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan)

  • Solution: Solve these geo-political problems, something for govts. to do.

  • Church= listen to the Muslim’s grievances, address them with a repentant spirit, give them a voice through the vehicle of inter-faith dialogues, and refrain from any form of public confrontation.

Confrontational model
Confrontational Model

  • Premise: Violence is not an aberration, nor recent, nor due to 19th c. colonialism, or American imperialism, or even to recent geo-political flare-ups. Islam has always used violence, legitimized by passages in the Qur’an, and exemplified by Muhammad himself (Peter G. Riddell and Peter Cotterell, Islam In Conflict, Leicester, England: IVP, 2003:7-8).

  • Solution: Confront the ideology which supports the revelation which authorizes this violence

Secularist s solutions
Secularist’s Solutions:

  • Ignore them: do not give them a voice, pushing them underground (i.e. AnjemChoudry)

  • Ban them, or anyone confronting them (i.e. Geert Wilders and ‘Fitna’)

  • Redefine them: ‘Quilliam Project’ - Islamic model based on Western humanistic ideals.

    (headed by MaajidNawaz, Ed Husain (formerly HUT members)

  • Eradicate them, by imposing increasingly repressive laws, or the ‘barrel of a gun’, often to disastrous effect.

Problem with these solutions:

  • Islam is based on an ideology, derived from a ‘divinely’ revealed text (the Qur’an), and best modeled by a man (their prophet Muhammad, as exemplified in the Islamic traditions).

  • It cannot be simply removed by either ignoring it, or by creating a humanistic alternative, or by employing the use of repressive laws, or even by using violence.

  • History shows that ideological movements, especially those derived from perceived ‘divinely inspired’ text, such as we have with Islam thrive and expand when the members feel repressed or have been attacked violently from without. We need look at our own Christian history to find good examples.

So what then is the solution
So what then is the solution?

  • Confront Islam’s ideological and Historical foundations publicly

  • Prove them to be either false, irrelevant, or both

Who must confront them
Who Must Confront Them?


It has the might and ‘where-with-all’

Its function is to protect

Its function is to police

The state cannot confront them

  • -The state cannot deal with religious ideology.

    • i.e. Danish Cartoons

    • ‘flushed’ Qur’an-Guantanamo

  • -Its not their remit

    • Due to the separation of the church and state

      • They don’t understand the ideology, or its authority

      • They don’t have the tools to confront it

      • Incapable of understanding the question, to say nothing of the solution

  • -So, politicians may not criticize Islam’s Foundations

    • i.e. Tony Blair and his ‘peaceful’ Qur’an

  • -State seeks unanimity…inclusivity


The media
The Media:

  • No, they are too timid, too inept, or too politically correct (i.e. Danish Muhammad Cartoons)

  • Wouldn’t understand the question, let alone the solution


  • They do understand the question, and the solution, but:

  • Won’t engage publicly, due to their institutionalresponsibilities (Muslim educational loans)

  • They fear repercussions (i.e. Salman Rushdie, TaslimaNasreen, Taha Hussein, etc…)

Who can challenge radical muslims


  • We have no-one we are responsible for other than Jesus Christ

  • We start from the same paradigm as Muslims (‘a book modeled by a man’)

  • We understand the question, and the solution

  • We can understand them best

  • We have the tools to confront them

    • MSS evidence

    • Historical Criticism

    • SWAD


We have historical precedence

  • Tübingen & Welhausen: Historical criticism against Christianity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (attacking historical authenticity of the Bible, and the credibility of Jesus Christ).

  • Result: It brought about an enormous disillusionment within the European church, Leading to millions leaving the church

  • So that now hardly 5-7% of its citizens believe in God, or even go to church (except for christenings, weddings or funerals)

  • But then we did our homework, found the historical material to support our Bible (i.e. BM/L tour)

  • Brought about renewed confidence in our Scriptures and in Jesus Christ as a universal model

  • We have the best, and only alternative


-Bible vs. Qur’an

-Kingdom of God vs. ‘Khilafah’

-Women in the Bible vs. Women in the Qur’an

-‘Yahweh’ vs. ‘Allah’

-Jesus vs. Muhammad

-Peace in Christianity vs. Violence in Islam

-Relevancy of Christianity vs. Islam

Church s responsibility
Church’s Responsibility

  • Go beyond dialogue to public debate, using apologetics and polemics (John of Damascus (8th c.), ‘al-Kindi’ (9th c.), Raymond Lull (13th c.), SamualZwemer (20th c.)

  • CHALLENGE the foundations of Islam (Qur’an, and the Islamic Traditions), to which most radicals look for authority in substantiating the actions they carry out

    • 20th c. writings of SayyidQutb(theologian for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt)

    • And Abd al-Mawdudi(theologian and inspiration for the Jamaati-Islami group in the Indian Subcontinent)

  • 1st Problem: We have only one model

  • Missiology = ‘church planting’ & conversion alone

  • (i.e. ‘unless it brings in converts, it isn’t worth our while’)

  • ‘eirenic’ models = more converts

  • No room for confrontation

  • No room for the conflicts between Islam and Christianity globally

  • 2nd Problem:

  • We have no ‘Confrontation Theology’

  • Our Theology is dictated by our experience:

  • Most Christian contacts with Islam = Arab world (i.e. Palestine & Iraq)

  • -But Arabs only make up 15% of Muslims (260 m.)

  • -Most Western research = Arab speaking world

    • Most of our missiology is written for an Arab environment

    • 50% of Phds. offered in US since 1948 have been on the Palestinian issue (only 2% of Muslims!)

  • -Yet, theological and ideological challengesare from the 85% non-Arab speakers (i.e. 800-900 million Asians) [‘Youtube’ = 43,000 attacks vs. 5-6 responses]

  • -We need a new public method to deal with these more radical and public theological challenges…

Compare with uk muslims
Compare with UK Muslims:

  • TablighiJamaattalibes at SC

  • 43,000 Youtube videos

  • books, tracts, tapes, videos and the internet, filled with vociferous material attacking Christianity, focusing on the Bible, & JC.

  • Our weak and febrile response suggests we either believe we have no solutions, or are incapable of defining let alone defending them publicly, or simply lack the passion to do so; or perhaps all three.

What exactly should we do?

Public Critical analysis of Islam:

-Qur’anic problems

-Manuscript difficulties

-Historical anachronisms

-Scientific peculiarities

-Collation questions

-Grammatical and Linguistic irregularities

-Violent verses

-Question the relevancy of Muhammad as a universal Model

-Question the relevancy of Women’s position in the 21st century

-Question the relevancy of the ‘Cultural Mandate’

(a model for all people in all times in all places)

Why should we do it?

  • We help eradicate the foundations and authority for the most radical Muslims groups,

  • We use a model of ‘tough love’ well suited for our times

  • We use verbal and public defense (apologetics)

  • We use verbal and public offense (polemics)

  • We don’t use “weapons of this world” (2 Corinthians 10:3), but instead, through the use of “arguments, taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Jesus Christ” (verse 5); employing the use of one’s mouth, mind, and volition.

Is Public Confrontation Biblical?

-Defence, or apologia against an accuser is mentioned five times in the New Testament:

(Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3;

2 Corinthians 7:11; and 2 Timothy 4:16)

-Twice Christians are asked to defend the gospel (Philippians 1:7, 16; and 1 Peter 3:15)

Early christians supportive of confrontation
Early Christians Supportive of Confrontation:


  • Irenic:

    • Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night (John 3)

  • Mild Opposition:

    • rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16)

    • Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13)

    • Pharisee host at a dinner party (Luke 7:36-50)

    • Samaritan woman (John 4)

  • Confrontation:

    • Moneychangers at the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45)

    • Confrontational Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33)


  • Irenic:

    • Diaspora Jews: Read Scriptures with them on their territory (Acts 13:13-15)

    • Areopagus of Athens: Dialogued with the Stoics and Epicureans (Acts 17:22-31)

  • Mild Opposition:

    • Reasoned with the Greeks, from within their traditions (Acts 17:1-2, 17)

      But, did he use confrontation?


Read acts 17 19
Read Acts 17-19

  • From Berea, Capadocia, Laodaecia, Ephesus

    (Acts 13:46; 17:17; 18:28; 19:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 10:5).

  • Went to the Synagogues

  • Confronted the Jews there

  • Was despised, disregarded, & thrown out…

  • Was jailed, beaten, stoned

  • And was finally killed!

We must remember that before he was Paul, he was first Saul, a ‘Shamaite’…on his way to Damascus to arrest & even KILL Christians!Then God met him in a dynamic way, and made him PaulYet he retained all his qualities as Saul…his passion, his intellect, and his knowledge of the Scriptures!

Samuel zwemer
Samuel Zwemer:

“Paul disputed in the synagogues (Acts 17:17) in the school of one Tyrannus, daily (Acts 19:9) for two years. In Jerusalem he disputed against the Grecians until they sought to slay him (Acts 9:29)...II Corinthians, Galatians and Colossians could be classified as controversial literature of the first century...His military vocabulary is proof enough that he was no spiritual pacifist but fought a good fight against the enemies of the Cross of Christ and all those who preached ‘another gospel’” (Zwemer 1941:225)



Stephen, when challenged by members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (i.e., the Jews of Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia), held his ground and returned their arguments, so much so, that “they could not stand up against his wisdom” (Acts 6:9-10), and finally decided to execute him (Acts 7:57-8:1). One does not get executed for merely “agreeing to disagree”!



Philip was likewise comfortable when confronting the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40).

Why do we consider confrontation detrimental to the gospel, when it was this very model that was used so often by the earliest believers who gave us the gospel?

Our example in the UK:

We use a confrontational approach, employing both apologetics and polemics:

-HPCF and Speaker’s Corner (discussions on the ground, and impromptu debates on the ladder)

-University formal debates with Muslim scholars

-‘Christians Challenging Muslims’ (CCi) equipping

-SWAD research

-i2 material for training

Types of debate

Types of Debate:

University Debates:

Most common formal style of debate

Muslim student groups:


Christian student groups: (AyattolahSayedFadhelMilani)

UCCF (UK) or Campus Crusade, IVP, RZIM (US)

Use usually two adversaries, debating a theological issue

Primarily against Christianity. Rarely reciprocity used.

Two Models: Parliamentary & Populer

The parliamentary model
The ‘Parliamentary’ model:

  • Oxford, Cambridge, Durham Unions

  • Proposition vs. Opposition

  • 2-4 people each

  • Controlled…much protocol

  • ‘Points of Information’

  • Benefits:

    • Wider representation, and multiplicity of styles

  • Weaknesses:

    • Students use it for entertainment, sophistry, trivializing serious positions.

  • Less time leads to simplification

The populist model
The ‘Populist’ model:

  • 2 Speakers, experts

  • 30 - 40 mins. = paper

  • Rebuttals,

    • followed by summation, then by Q & A

  • Benefits: Easier to schedule, fewer people involved, permitting better known academics, more flexible, more time given to topics, better contact with speakers, Q & A forces speakers to meet audiences needs.

  • Weaknesses: Tend to be more ‘gladitorial’, can lead to tension, thus shunned by Christians, the secular world and university administrations.

Impromptu debates extemporaneous debates
Impromptu Debates:(‘Extemporaneous debates’)

  • ‘high street’ (book tables)

  • University classrooms

  • Social gatherings (tea shops)

  • ‘Speaker’s Corner’

    • 5 - 2 - 1 = Time allotments

  • Benefits: Quick, easy, topical, ‘impromptu’, accessibility of speaker, ‘vote with their feet’, Crowds facial response

  • Weaknesses: Heckling, Crowd control, Interruptions, violence.

Radio debates
Radio Debates:

  • 2 Speakers

  • 10-20 min. positions

  • ‘vetted’ phone in Q & A

  • Benefits:

    -Cheap, Quick, Easy to prepare, largest audiences, Largest reach, Most impact, in inaccessible areas.

  • Weaknesses:

    -Distant, impersonal, no Face-to-face contact, thus no relationship, with little follow-up, and easy to censure.

Internet online debating
Internet - Online debating:

  • Online Forums, Bulletin Boards, Blogging, & ‘Youtube’ (Pfanderfilms)

  • Benefits:

    • Variety of topics, 24/7,

    • Universal, for everyone

    • ‘Arm-chair Evangelists’

    • Good training,

    • Topical, & creates ownership

    • Great preparation for ministry

  • Weaknesses:

    • Distant, impersonal, no Face-to-face contact, thus little relationship, with little follow-up, and problem with vitriol.


Many of us with missiological training have been at the forefront of dialogue with Islam. Few of us, however, have sought to take the next step and confront its foundations polemically, perhaps out of fear, or perhaps due to our methodological restraints. We have tended to “sit on the sidelines” and watch from a distance the discussions and debates which have ensued within secular academic circles.

Once we can see the efficacy of apologetics and polemics in engaging the more radical Muslims, we will then need to get out ‘onto the streets’ and employ it in our ministries. Then we will need to model it publicly for others; and finally, we will then need to set up modules in both Bible Schools and Seminaries to teach what we know to the next generation. It is they who must be prepared and equipped to then take on this most important task in to the future.

What weapons will we use
What weapons will we use? engaging the more radical Muslims, we will then need to get out ‘onto the streets’ and employ it in our ministries. Then we will need to model it publicly for others; and finally, we will then need to set up modules in both Bible Schools and Seminaries to teach what we know to the next generation. It is they who must be prepared and equipped to then take on this most important task in to the future.

  • “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they are divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish argumentsand every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”

    (II Corinthians 10:3-5)