A Response to a Review of a Review


After finding no one from the Christian community willing to perform a review of his debate with Dr. Shabir Ally, Jonathan McLatchie has finally taken the onus upon himself to “review” my review of their debate. It is unfortunate that Jonathan believes that I “misheard” or “misread” him, as this is a common excuse he uses when confronted with any criticism. Last month it was brought to the inter-faith community’s attention that Jonathan had described Muslim communities in France as a virus and a cancer to European society. If one were to compare his “review” of his debate, with the excuses used when confronted with his xenophobic statements, we’d quickly realise that Jonathan is being perpetually misunderstood by everyone. At first he claimed he never made such a statement, everyone had simply lied about him! Then, it was a statement he made, but everyone simply misunderstood him! Then, it was a statement he made, but it was not referring to Muslims but a cultural structure of extremism, everyone simply hadn’t given him enough time to explain himself! Then, he posts a video in which Muslims who practise Islam are compared to ISIS terrorists and we’re not supposed to be offended by that. The 19,000 people who viewed that article and the 3500 people that watched that video, all seem to have “misheard” and “misunderstood” him.

As one Christian apologist put it, “Jonathan is simply oblivious to any form of self criticism”. When I announced news that a Christian had accepted Islam following the debate between Dr. Shabir and Jonathan, Jonathan found it impossible that anyone would disagree with his remarks in that debate, such to the extent their faith would be questioned. I remarked to him at that point, that it doesn’t matter what you think of your own arguments, it is up to the audience to decide that. He disagreed, that just could not be a possibility, his remarks were without fault. Jonathan lives in a world, where everyone who disagrees with him, either perpetually misunderstands him, or they misread him, or they mishear him. It’s almost never the case that he has said something wrong, or that he has made a mistake, and this is exactly what we find in his “review” of my review. What sort of debater, reviews someone’s review? I mean, there’s the occasional post-debate rejoinder, but I’ve never seen anyone who considers themselves to be a professional, review their own debate. That’s what the community does, that’s not what the debaters themselves do. Jonathan though, does not like to be criticized, and so when my review criticized him, he could not contain himself.

Let’s take a brief look at some of his claims. He began with saying:

Ijaz briefly summarises Shabir’s opening statement, curiously omitting any mention of the numerous problems with Shabir’s Biblical argumentation (such as his misuse of Greek grammar in regards to John 1:1).

Yet, this is simply deceitful. I didn’t omit mention of Dr. Shabir’s use of Colwell’s rule, as stated in my review:

At this point, Dr. Shabir began to speak on the language used in regard to Jesus in the Gospel ascribed to John. John 1:1c is problematic as the attribution of total deity to the Word (later identified as Jesus), is uncertain due to Colwell’s rule. Grammarians do dispute about the definiteness of attributing deity to the Word in this verse due to the absence of a defining article which the original author purposely left out, this opened the wording and subsequent understanding of the verse to dispute. If the author wanted to ascribe total deity to the Word, then they would not have intentionally left out the defining article and thus, total deity cannot be ascribed to Jesus the Christ given the author’s grammatical intentions.

Let’s take a look at another one of his criticisms, he says:

The first point to note here is that I never stated that “the Bible is a wholly Trinitarian text”. It is my view that one can demonstrate a multiplicity of divine persons from both the Old and New Testaments, while the doctrine of the Trinity reaches its fullest expression in the New Testament where we read of the incarnation of the Son of God.

Yet, this is exactly what he said, I even quoted him and put the timestamp to the exact moment in the video in which he makes this very statement:

(timestamp in video, he says, “The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is thoroughly Trinitarian.”)

If Jonathan believes that the words “thoroughly” and “wholly”, are different, then he must consult a dictionary. They mean the same thing. He should also note, that in my very review, I quoted him as saying, “thoroughly”, so on that basis, where exactly does he believe this was something he did not say? Strangely enough, he proceeded to argue that Dr. Shabir did not pre-empt his appeal to the Bible (read as “scripture”), but he did. One of Dr. Shabir’s most important points was “the texts of scripture”. So while Jonathan may disagree, it doesn’t make him right, to the contrary it makes him seem desperate to create points of imaginative disagreement. Perhaps, what is most puzzling of all, is Jonathan’s inability to see that he is deluding himself. Take for example this statement:

That’s not quite what I said. My first premise was that, from a Muslim perspective, “If Tawhid is true, it must be consistent with the Qur’an.” My second premise was that Tawhid is not consistent with the Qur’an.

What’s not quite what he said? At this point, he mentions that I presented his premises for this particular argument incorrectly, yet when we read what I wrote, I literally wrote, word for word, the exact same words that he used:

P1 – If Tawhid is true, it must be consistent.
P2 – Tawhid is not consistent.
C  – Therefore Tawhid must not be true.

The exact same words he uses to dispute what I wrote, are the exact same words I wrote. How then, is this “not quite what I said”? If this is not being deceitful, then what is? I find this to be desperation of the grossest order. Jonathan then made, what I consider to be one of the most absurd comments I have ever heard:

Yes, this is a Modus Tollens argument. I don’t know why Ijaz seems to think that the need to demonstrate the truth of the premises in order to support the conclusion is a problem with this manner of argumentation.

I don’t know if he understands how logic works, but one needs to qualify their premises before assuming the conclusion as being true. This is referred to as sequential logic. Your individual premises must be consistent, before your conclusion could be seen as true (or valid). My criticism, was that he did not qualify his premises, thus his conclusion was contrived. I do not understand how he can disagree that he needs to first prove his claims before arriving at a conclusion. This is common sense. He then went on to state:

The only problem is that I did not make this argument in my opening statement at all. I noted that Nabeel had made this argument in his debate with Shabir, and that I was going to be making a different argument instead.

What argument is he referring to? He’s referring to the argument that the Qur’an is the incarnate word of God. Yet, his disagreement here is unfounded and is again, something derived from the depths of his imagination. In my review, I did not claim that he made this argument, I specifically said that he referred to it:

All he did was refer (timestamp in video, he says “Those who saw Shabir’s debate with Nabeel Qureishi would’ve been exposed to the problems with reconciling the eternality of the Qur’an with the doctrine of Tawhid.”) to the argument that Nabeel used regarding the Qur’an being the eternal word of Allah, yet physical and created.

Perhaps he needs to check the definition of the word, “refer”, for this disagreement makes absolutely no sense to a reader with a command of simple vocabulary. Reading comprehension is not difficult and it should not be this difficult for Jonathan. He then spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to validate his bad argument that the Spirit (of God) is the same as Allah. Yet, he does not validate his bad argument, he merely repeats it without meaningfully responding to the criticism leveled against it. As the Qur’anic verse itself mentions, God the one true Creator, sent the Spirit as a messenger to Mary. The Spirit itself cannot create of its own volition, it is an agent of creation, in the same way the Angel of Death is an agent of the opposite of creation, death. According to Jonathan’s logic, if an agent of God does something by God’s will, this means that the agent is itself also divine. If we follow through with this logic, since the Angel of Death takes away life, does this also mean the Angel of Death in Christianity (the archangel in 1 Thess. 4:16) shares in the divinity of God? According to Jonathan it does, and hence his Trinity now includes a 4th person that shares in the divinity of the other three persons.

Interestingly, Jonathan provides a quote from a commentary that doesn’t address this response at all. The commentary does not mention anything about agency of power or authority, and so while I am thankful he has atleast tried to quote something, what he quoted was irrelevant and useless. His argument remains, really bad. As with the other recommendations in this article, I highly encourage him to learn about God’s ontology in Islam and in Christianity. An agent of God has no inherent power or ability, except by the will of God, in which those powers or abilities are temporal, and by such a definition they could never be in and of themselves, “divine” or of a “Godly” nature. Rather agents of God are temporal in their very attributes and as such, cannot and do not share in the divinity of God. Jonathan attempted to say he addressed this argument by presenting a verse which mentions the phrase, “My Spirit”. It was at this point I gave up any hope that Jonathan was being serious and I began to realise that his article was satirical in nature. I mean, it can’t be that he didn’t realise that the Qur’an uses, “Spirit” in different contexts right, and that not every reference to the Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit (Angel Gabriel), right? It can’t be that he merely saw the word “Spirit” and assumed it meant the same thing throughout the entire Qur’an, while being used in different contexts and forms. Yet, this is exactly what he did. I fully believe he searched an English translation for the word “Spirit” and assumed every instance of it referred to the Holy Spirit in Islam. Ergo, not only was his initial argument bad, so was his response and so was his depth of research and understanding of the Qur’an.

Jonathan proceeded to mention that he didn’t think one of his arguments was circular, he says:

There is no way in which the above argument can possibly be construed as circular. The Qur’an makes a prediction about what we should expect to find (namely, that the disciples believed Islamic doctrines such as Tawhid). I then set out to falsify this prediction, in my judgement successfully. Nothing circular about it.

Edit:

I incorrectly referred to this form of argumentation as circular because I viewed the first premise as entailing itself, “If Tawheed is inconsistent”, which is self-reliant and thus circular. In other words it entailed itself, despite being in the form of modus ponens. After discussing with our resident scholar, I (Br. Ijaz) am indeed wrong. Although the first premise is indeed invalid (it does not logically follow if Tawheed could be inconsistent, that the Trinity is true), and needs to be qualified, the form is valid, but the first premise needs to be proven. So the argument itself is invalid, but the form correct. Apologies to Jonathan for this error.

End of Edit.

He went on to say, concerning the dominance of the companions of Christ:

But the Qur’an does specify that Allah would “place those who follow [Jesus] above those who disbelieve up to the Day of Resurrection.” This strongly suggests a continuity of dominance, right from day one.

Where does it specify what form the dominance would take? It doesn’t. Which is what I mentioned in my review of the debate. Where does it specify in the Qur’an what form the dominance takes? He chose not to answer this question, even though claiming this is what he was doing, rather he chose to mention that some Tafseer commentators agreed with him. Perhaps he should mention that those commentators presuppose that belief, with first believing that Paul’s true teachings, like Christ’s, became corrupted by later Christians. I fully believe he did not do his research on this topic and at this point, he’s repeating himself without addressing my criticisms. Lastly, he said:

Ijaz offered no comment on the third argument I presented in the debate, namely that the Injeel (i.e. the gospel) is Trinitarian and that the Injeel is affirmed by the Qur’an.

I actually did offer a comment on it, from my review, I said:

If we were to identify his main arguments, they would be easily recognizable by anyone who is familiar with Islamic and Christian inter-faith discourse, namely that the Qur’an validates the New Testament, that the disciples believed Jesus was God and that the Bible is historically accurate. He did not present any new arguments, nor any new research, nor did he seek to upgrade any of the arguments he copied from other Christian debaters.

In conclusion, Jonathan’s review of my review, is a bad attempt at trying to defend his poor arguments used in his debate with Dr. Shabir. At the most, he merely repeated himself, and at the worst he claimed he was misheard. Unfortunately for him, I was able to quote him word for word, and cite numerous places from my review in which I did address the concerns outlined in this review of his. All in all, this comes down to a lack of professionalism. If the Christian community is unwilling to do a review of his debate, and he is left to respond personally to everyone who criticizes him, this says a lot about the community’s perception of his role as a Christian apologist.

and God knows best.