16 October 2023

Catching up with Jay Smith

Dr. Jay Smith frequently speaks to Muslims on his Pfander Films YouTube Channel. He examines questions Muslims need to address regarding the origins of Islam.

I have known Jay Smith for over a decade. He was gracious to host me for an interview on the book Whatever Happened to Christianity? A Tafsir for Muslim Scholars and Thinkers. This book presents questions that Muslims need to address regarding the early Christian history.

Specifically, Muslims must address where, when, or how Christians may have gone astray in their beliefs about Jesus. If Christians have faithfully believed about Jesus what Jesus and the apostles taught, then there is no need for the advent of Islam itself.

The interview generated a lot of questions from Muslims. I could not handle all of them in the comments section of Pfander’s YouTube channel. So, I created a short video to handle them.

More questions came in from non-Muslims. They suggested that Muslims look to Western Skeptics to answer the question posed above.

We have observed this connection between such skeptics, or Western liberals, and Muslim polemicists.

Indeed, they are “strange bedfellows”—Western secularists and Muslim fundamentalists! I created another short video to address. You can watch it here to see why this approach does not answer the question posed in my book.

6 June 2023

Asking Unasked Questions

Sometimes in life we carry the weight of questions which remain unanswered. The lack of answers can be frustrating.

More burdensome still are the questions which are never asked, or which are not supposed to be asked. Muslims are told to accept matters of faith as bila kayf (Arabic: بلا كيف). Which means, literally, “without how,” or “without asking why.” In other words, don’t ask difficult questions.

To be fair, Muslims are not alone in this. Sometimes Christians fail to adequately explain the reasons behind the beliefs they hold. Indeed, in any system of belief, it is possible that believers take things for granted. They may thwart important questions, fail to answer them adequately, or just give “the silent treatment.” Bila kayf.

Jesus employed a teaching method in which he entertained questions from His disciples, as well as others. For example, the following scenario occurred near the end of Jesus’ earthly life:

“When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

This is one of Jesus’ most famous teachings—it came in response to a question.

Jesus also asked questions to get people to think, or to find out what they were thinking. The followed incident is also narrated in Matthew’s Gospel:

“ Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 13-17)

This testimony to Jesus being the Son of God came in response to a question.

People are curious. That curiosity remains difficult to suppress as the importance of a question rises. Due to the importance the question described below, I have written: Whatever Happened to Christianity? A Tafsir for Muslim Scholars and Thinkers. (Tafsir means “explanation” or “commentary.”)

Islam teaches that Jesus considered himself a mortal prophet, not the divine Son of God. Also, according to Islam, all prophets have the same purpose and basic message—tawhid, which is Islamic monotheism. Jesus would have taught this message to his disciples.

Strangely, however, Jesus’ disciples went all over the world preaching and dying for their belief that Jesus was the Son of God and Savior of the World. They spread the faith globally that Jesus died on the cross for people’s sins, and that He rose again from the dead before ascending into heaven. They stated that whoever believed in what Jesus had accomplished on the cross would receive forgiveness of sins.

The message that these disciples of Jesus preached, and which is also reflected in the New Testament, contradicts the standard Islamic narrative. Muslims explain this by saying that Christians have gone astray.

However, this question is rarely asked, and never satisfactorily answered: When, where, and how did Christians go astray in their beliefs about Jesus Christ?

This question rises in importance to Muslims. If Christians have not gone astray regarding their basic beliefs about Jesus, then Islam becomes untrue and even unnecessary as a religion. So, the question emerges as of central importance to Muslims. The rationale for the existence of Islam depends upon it.

I hope you will journey with us into this short book. The video series and “contact us” section provide opportunities for your feedback. As for me, I believe I have asked an important question—a question largely unasked in our generation. However, I will spoil the outcome by saying I have not found the answer. Can you help me find an answer? What do you think?