Review of the White/Kunde Incarnation Debate
I don’t often make reviews of debates, but when I do, it’s usually when I hear a debate that was exceptionally good and is worth commenting on. Perhaps one of the best debates I’ve heard this year was the one between Dr. James White and Abdullah Kunde on the doctrine of the incarnation. The debate took place in Australia back in September 17 of this year. The video of the debate can be viewed below:
There is quite a bit that could be said regarding both debaters, the arguments they present and their overall style. It is quite refreshing to see that both of them are very cordial towards one another. Christian-Muslim debates have a tendency to become quite heated, which generally results in a lot of mudslinging. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen with Kunde, who is a lot more courteous than most other Muslim apologists. I have yet to see any debate involving Kunde (whether his opponent is James White, Samuel Green or any other Christian apologist) degenerate into ad-hominems and rude comments. He understands Christian theology a lot better than a lot of other Muslims (as demonstrated by the way he uses Christian terminology), and does sincerely try to understand what the other side is trying to say, rather than just trying to talk past them. It is also very interesting how he uses the Qur’an when making his arguments, as this shows that he is attempting to be consistent with his own worldview in making his critiques of the Christian doctrine.
Likewise, Dr. White has done an outstanding job of presenting the Christian doctrine of the incarnation in a way that is clear and understandable to both Christians and Muslims, yet at the same time does not water down the doctrine or omit any important details. It would be very helpful for both sides to pay close attention to his opening statement, in order to better know what Christians believe and why we believe it. From an Evangelical standpoint, it is very refreshing to see Dr. White stay true to the reformation principle of Sola Scriptura by making sure that his approach is firmly grounded in scripture. It is particularly helpful when he quotes the Old Testament prophecies (eg. Isaiah 9:6) in that regard, as it demonstrates that the doctrine of the incarnation can be traced back to the Hebrew scriptures, and was not spun out of whole cloth by the early Christian Church.
That being said, there are a few things that could be said about Abdullah’s attempts at critiquing the Incarnation. While I strongly appreciate his earnest attempts to properly understand Christian theology, there are still a few things that he missed (although to be fair, the average Christian would probably miss them as well). For example, when he asks whether this or that action is performed by Christ’s human nature or His divine nature, he misses the fact that actions are performed by persons, not natures. This is true even of ordinary human beings; it would certainly be odd if I were to tell you that my human nature is typing this article, or that my human nature is listening to the White/Kunde debate.
In addition, there are points where he seems to think that Jesus has always had a human nature, when in fact it is only the divine nature which has eternally existed. After all, the whole point of the incarnation is that He took on a human nature at a point in time (although as Dr. White has pointed out, this human nature is eternal in the sense that Christ possesses it in eternity future, albeit in a glorified form).
Finally, it is telling that Kunde makes little effort to interact with the biblical evidence for the incarnation (especially the aforementioned Old Testament prophecies). It would be interesting to know what he thinks of these passages. Does he think that the passages are in error, or that they have been misinterpreted? I do think that it is important for Muslims to have some kind of explanation for these passages. If they are in error, then the question arises: Where did this erroneous viewpoint come from and how was it able to supplant the truth? More importantly, how does a Muslim square this with the Qur’an’s affirmations regarding the previous scriptures? (Yes, I know this is a completely different debate topic, but it does always inevitably come up whenever there are discussions of Biblical teachings in contrast with Qur’anic teachings) On the other hand, one could argue that the passages in question aren’t necessarily in error, but have merely been misinterpreted. However, as Dr. White has already provided some pretty solid exegeses of the key scripture texts on the Incarnation, anybody who would want to claim that he and other Christians are twisting the meaning of these texts have to provide some pretty solid counter-exegeses.
At the risk of sounding biased, I would have to say that the victor in this debate is Dr. White. However, it must be admitted that this was not a landslide victory, as Abdullah Kunde made a valiant effort to vindicate the Islamic viewpoint over and against the Christian viewpoint, and would most likely have succeeded if he had faced a less experienced Christian opponent. Kudos to him for providing an intelligent critique of the Christian position, and I do hope that other Muslims learn from him and avoid the faulty arguments of the previous generation of Muslim apologists.
Postscript: Sam Shamoun has also provided his own critiques of Abdullah Kunde’s arguments, which he has posted on Answering Islam. For reference purposes, I am posting links to them here.
- Sam Shamoun – Examining More of Abdullah Kunde’s Inconsistencies Pt. 3a
- Sam Shamoun – Examining More of Abdullah Kunde’s Inconsistencies Pt. 3b
- Sam Shamoun – Examining More of Abdullah Kunde’s Inconsistencies Pt. 3c
- Sam Shamoun – Examining More of Abdullah Kunde’s Inconsistencies Pt. 3d