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Monday, March 19, 2007

Islamic Apologetics

I had the privelege of spending six weeks in London in the year 2000 doing campus ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ (there's a long story behind that). One of the more fascinating things for me was interacting with Muslims, and it was during that experience that I dug into understanding Islam and learning to present an apologetic defense of my Christian faith against Islamic claims.

During that time, I not only read books on Islam and interacted with Muslim students, but I spent some time visiting a mosque and, most compellingly, spent time at Speaker's Corner at Hyde Park in London (pictured above). There, politicians and religious advocates of every stripe would draw crowds, giving speeches on ladders or soap boxes. That included various Christians preaching the Gospel against Islam, interacting with Muslim critics and hecklers yelling from the audience. And Muslims had their own "preachers" up on their soap boxes as well. And, although this was a pre-9/11 world, these fanatics were just as fiery as the "spirited" folks you see today on TV.

I had the privelege of getting to know a man who is and was by far the best apologist preaching the Gospel at Speaker's Corner, an American named Jay Smith. He had a booming, rapid voice, was a master of rhetoric, had a quick mind, and knew Islam and the Quran like the back of his hand. He always drew a large crowd of both Christians and Muslims, as he polemicized against Islam and effortlessly responded to objectors from the crowd. It was fascinating to watch him work a crowd.

Much of his ability to do this sort of work week in and week out stemmed from his doctoral studies on the origins of the Quran at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was kind enough to take time out from his schedule over the course of a few weeks to talk with us would-be missionaries about Islamic apologetics. He encouraged us to talk and debate with people at Speaker's Corner which, while initially intimidating, was for me a marvelous exercise in learning to interact with unbelievers, answering their objections and giving reasons for the hope of the Gospel in a public context. On some occassions, I even had sizeable crowds form around ME as I talked to Muslims at the Corner. Amazing times.

After leaving London I lost track of Jay. His website, while being an excellent resource, hasn't been updated in years from what I can tell. I heard that he had earned his PhD and had debated Shabir Ally shortly thereafter.

So I was just delighted when, just last week, Team Pyro brought to my attention the fact that Jay Smith is not only alive and well (a legit question considering the death threats Jay's received over the years) but that he has been posting short apologetic videos on YouTube here. These videos are simply excellent and give good, concise apologetic presentations aimed at Muslims. He's been making quite a splash in the internet world with these (garnering "response" videos, thousands of comments, and hundreds of thousands of viewers), and I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in Islamic apologetics check them out.

Category: Theoblogia


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