Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Muslim Salafist in Hyde Park Chooses Not to Continue the Conversation ...



On Sunday afternoon, 28 August, 2016, I visited Speaker's Corner at the Marble Arch, Hyde Park, London. There were many Muslim Salafists there trying to convert Christians, and a good number of African Christians preaching the Gospel and singing hymns.

I was in a prayerful mind as I wandered through and past the 200-300 onlookers, especially paying attention to the Muslim preachers. I stopped at a place where a Muslim was trying to persuade a Christian man from Northern Europe that the Trinity is not true. The Christian man, knowledgeable in the Bible, was interested in probing some of the depth of what the Bible means by Father, Son and Holy Spirit (with a crowd of some twenty, mostly Muslims, listening in). But the Muslim preacher was only interested in trying to corner the Christian, demanding "yes" or "no" answers to manipulative questions. A mismatch in purpose and nature.

So I interjected, asking the Muslim preacher (whose name turns out to be Hashem) if I could ask two questions. He responded: "Are you a Christian?" I said yes. He then asked if I wanted to debate the Trinity. So I said that we cannot talk about the Trinity, and its biblical underpinnings, without probing far deeper. Could I thus ask a question in that regard?

So he assented, and I asked him what he knew about the Hebrew nature of the name Yahweh Elohim. He said Elohim was "a" name for God, and that Jesus did not call himself Yahweh (showing where he wanted to take the conversation, and assuming I was aiming for the same). Now of course, Genesis 1:1 says in the Hebrew: bereshith bara elohim eth ha’shamayim w’eth ha’eretz (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”). In other words, Elohim is the first name used of God in the Bible, the One who is greater than the human concept of number.

As the discussion continued for quite some time, he interjected often, trying to take it into his line of reasoning. I would always return it to my question in seeking his understanding of Yahweh Elohim. I said several times that my interest was in first arriving at an honest definition of terms between us, so that an actual debate could then happen. And so we had a pleasant give and take, even when, as I said he was my equal in the sight of the one true Creator, he instead said we were not equals (referring to a definition of Muslim superiority to all others). I smiled and moved on.

At one juncture he was trying to talk about Yahweh in Exodus 3 not being whom Jesus claimed to be. I said I wished I had my Bible with me so we could look at the text. So he took out his cell phone, and scrolled to the text in question, so I peered over his shoulder and we read vv. 14-15 together.

What fun. It was an app designed by Muslims to win debates with Christians. So the actual Hebrew is not there, but only an English transliteration, and the transliteration makes a classic error. In v. 14, when Elohim says to Moses that his name is Ehyeh, I AM, this Hebrew word is the first person masculine singular imperfect term of the verb "to be." Literally: I AM (who was and who is and who is to be), the Divine Presence, the Ontology of the one true Creator who is greater than the concept of space and time. Then in v. 15, the text speaks of the full divine name, Yahweh Elohim. Here, Yahweh in the Hebrew is the third person masculine singular imperfect of the verb "to be," HE IS.

But the English transliteration renders Yahweh as LORD, not as HE IS. "Lord" in Hebrew is adonai, and some years after the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C., the Jews stopped pronouncing the name of Yahweh and replaced it by saying adonai whenever the text says Yahweh.

Now this involves a detailed history. But Hashem suddenly got scared, for his argument that Jesus does not call himself Yahweh (e,g, I AM in John 8:58, ego eimi in the Greek) falls apart. Jesus did not call himself by a third person reference, Yahweh, HE IS, designed for Moses and all others to use, but he called himself by the first person Ehyeh in calling himself the I AM, the ego eimi.

In other words, he confused Yahweh with Ehyeh, thinking that Yahweh means I AM, when it means HE IS in referring to the I AM; which is to say Jesus calls himself the God of creation incarnate in the flesh – in the first person, not the third person. Hence the language of the Trinity comes into view. Yahweh Elohim is the only One or written idea in history who is greater than space, time and number.

As I tried several times to explain this, he kept saying I was wrong, calling me a liar, then all of sudden he grasped what I was saying. He looked at me and said, "I thought you were sincere, but you are insincere. I have to go." And he left quickly through the crowd. I then talked with his friend, a physician from Dubai named Ahmed, and we had a very pleasant conversation for some 45 minutes. He told me that Hashem was a professional Muslim preacher, and had done some 100 such debates at Speaker's Corner. And later I saw him in many YouTube postings at Hyde Park.

I enjoyed Hashem's humanity, and I was interested in real communication. So when he departed so quickly, I was immediately disappointed in that I wanted to converse more. Only later did it sink in to me that he had forfeited the debated he wanted, indeed, he had chosen to silence his opposition to the Gospel.

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