I awoke and stumbled out of my Sunday afternoon hibernation bunker to a flurry of messages in the combox I share with the Pulpit & Pen guys, and saw that Seth Dunn was being beaten like a red-headed stepchild in social media (sorry for the lack of colloquialism trigger warning for all you gingers out there) thanks to a video by David Wood. Being blissfully unaware of the dog pile in the cesspool sump that is Twitter, I had to be apprised of the latest hullabaloo (that’s the official word, I think). Allow me to lay down a little suppressing fire for my good pal, Seth, and ask exactly what the big flaming deal is.
By the way, I reached out to a mutual friend of Wood and asked for his number. Wood declined to speak with me, so my qualifying questions of the gentleman may have to go unanswered. I am just the little people, after all. The little person, interestingly enough, who was asked for his endorsement of a video series Wood did on Islam and who gave it a glowing recommendation. I thought that would at least get a howdy-do, but I digress…
Synopsis of the situation as best I see it: Seth Dunn did a post at the Rolex of Polemics Blogs, and questioned the consistency of Nabeel Qureshi’s recalling of a reportedly salvific vision. Qureshi, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) is a best-selling author and has capitalized on the novelty surrounding his conversion to reach a semi-stardom in the realm of Muslim-Christian apologetics. Qureshi also serves on Ravi Zacharias’ ministry outfit (which interestingly enough, says it doesn’t have an “official position on the Roman Catholic Church” – more on that later) and makes the rounds on the lecture circuit.
Seth pointed out in his July 4th post that Qureshi is speaking at the Reset Conference, an ecumenical meet-up for heretics, including mystical Ann Voskamp (who wrote a book about making love to God), Word-Faith and prosperity pastrix Christine Caine, Matt Maher (a Roman Catholic) and a Southern Baptist who regularly receives direct, divine revelation, confetti canon baptistry extraordinaire, Ronnie Floyd.
Seth then posted a video montage of Qureshi telling his vision account in contradictory ways. Seth ended the post with, “Rather than judge Christian speakers by their backstories, Christians should judge them by the ongoing demonstration of their faith. No one’s dream or vision is more trustworthy than gospel presented in Holy Scripture.”
Seems smart to me.
After all, there have been conversion stories from former Muslims that have been, I think we all could agree, less than honest. And if you don’t believe me on that, I’ll remind you of a guy who wasn’t raised in a madrassa in Beirut to do jihad who learned English watching the Dukes of Hazzard.
Now, if I could get folks to let up on the social media purple nurples and Twitter wedgies for just a moment, I’ll iterate some facts here.
Fact 1: Seth didn’t say that Qureshi wasn’t ever a Muslim. He has pointed out the words of James White, that Qureshi’s sect is to Islam what Jehovah’s Witnesses are to Christianity.
Fact 2: Seth didn’t say that Qureshi wasn’t a Christian. Like, nowhere. Like, not even anything close to that.
Fact 3: Seth didn’t say that Qureshi’s vision wasn’t true. Yep. Read it again, if you doubt it.
Fact 4: Seth was charitable to Qureshi, stating that – and I quote, hence the quotation marks – that Qureshi has given “slightly different accounts.” Oh, the outrage. How dare he use such hyperbole and exaggeration. Oh, hold up. Yeah, so turns out that Qureshi has indeed given “slightly different accounts” of his conversion vision.
All those facts being, well, facts, let me move on to a few more observations.
Observation 1: It is wise to question any vision. As a card-carrying cessationist, that understatement might actually lose me my credentials.
Observation 2: It is mandatory to question any vision. Bereans were noble for testing what was said against the Word of God. I feel from Wood’s pompous polemic, a “how dare you, sir.” Well, we aspire to be Bereans. So sue us. We don’t accept visions based upon a feel-good pragmatism that it might be used as an apologetic talking point. If you expect Christians to go through the Scripture with a fine-toothed comb to understand the Oracles, you can bet we’re going to put your vision through a sieve.
Observation 3: At the very least, contradictions in purported visions or novel conversion stories are troublesome and potentially very problematic. If you don’t believe me, I know this guy who wasn’t raised in madrassa in Beirut after all. Furthermore, you can bet your bottom rial that Muslims will be testing the vision and conversion story as well.
Observation 4: As Seth pointed out in both his July 4th post and his redux, we should rightly raise an eyebrow at any Christian – let alone any apologist – who considers Roman Catholics to be their brothers in Christ. That’s concerning. If someone trades the works righteousness of Islam for the works righteousness of Catholicism they’ll win a front row ticket to the upcoming ecumenical conference in hell. Furthermore, anyone who speaks at a who’s-who of theological Downgrade should rightly raise the other eyebrow.
Observation 5: Wood takes issue with Seth’s use of that video posted by a Muslim apologist, Yahya Snow. Apparently, Christian apologists don’t like Muslim apologists and don’t think they’re good sources (who knew?). Might I add a bit of common sense to this pillow fight? Snow’s video showed Qureshi contradicting himself in his own words…on video. Does it matter who posted the video? Yeesh. As we say back in the Ozarks, “for crying out loud.” Remember back when the Beirut-raised jihadi from Ohio attacked the videos of his lies uploaded by Mohammad Kahn because Kahn was just a dirty Muslim who couldn’t be trusted? Yeah. Good times. Good times. Turns out Kahn was right. Thanks for the ad hominem, though. For the rest of us who do believe our lyin’ eyes, we’re not sure why it makes a difference.
Observation 6: Wood’s defense of Qureshi’s contradictions that he simply “misspoke” gave me the heebie-jeebies and a bit of deja vu. I was legitimately crossing my fingers that he wouldn’t call them “factual statements that are self contradictory.” While Wood is thoroughly convinced that due to his intimate personal knowledge of Qureshi that he’s on the up-and-up, this boy from the Show-Me State is going to take a wait-and-see attitude. The validity of his contradictory accounts will have to be proven to Bereans by the fundamental soundness of his doctrine as determined over an extended period of time (hence the concern of Observation 4) as well as against the Word of God. To put it succinctly, we will be held accountable for not believing the Scripture, not for not believing your dream story.
Observation 7: Wood’s comparison of Qureshi’s mis-speaking to William Lane Craig accidentally saying, “two plus two equals five” is a comparison beneath an intellectually honest apologist who is good at…thinking and stuff. Clearly, Craig has not saddled his ministry on the empirical truth claim that two plus two equals five. Craig did not receive his notoriety or fame based upon the empirical truth claim that two plus two equals five. Qureshi, although no doubt a smart guy with lots of natural gifting, has hinged the selling point of his novel conversion on this story. He best get it right and be consistent.
Observation 8: Wood is a smart fellow with a cutting wit and has spent some quality time with the PC figuring out how to make entertaining YouTube videos. Good on him. Wood went to great length demonstrating his aspiring mental superiority to Seth Dunn, pointing out Seth’s typos. And, as we all know, everybody loves a grammar Nazi. Amiright? No, really. It’s totally charming. In fact, I’m going to end this sentence with incorrect punctuation just to drive him nuts?
After watching Wood’s video, I was left wondering if they teach people how to be condescending braggarts in Apologetics school or if it’s just something you have to pick up along the way. Apparently feeling the burden of always having to be the smartest person in the room, Wood has let it go to his demeanor. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that tone is subjective and even if Wood is the egotistical windbag he seemed to be, it wouldn’t discount his criticism. I just wanted to throw this observation in for good measure.
Observation 9: What should be noted is the way in which Wood discounted Seth’s (very rightful) discernment and skepticism based upon his status as a mere apologetics student and lack of a proofreader. Wood echoes the sentiment of too many computer chair apologists, that only a select few of the especially elect uber-geniuses are entitled to use their noggin. I personally think it’s great that an apologetics student from Georgia is making the evangelical word think about things more deeply and question these things. As a polemicist, if somebody is claiming a vision and they’re not spot-on, especially when coupled with troublesome theology, it’s kind of a big deal. The attitude from Wood seemed clear, however; if you are not me, don’t have an opinion.
Here’s the thing, though…
Bereans didn’t attend the online school of internet apologetics. The Bereans simply judged what people were saying in the name of God to the word of God and took a cautious, skeptical approach when being taught – even when being taught by someone with the credentials of the Apostle Paul. They raised an eyebrow. They looked down at the Text and back up at the speaker and back down to the Text again. This situation is very simple. A guy who doesn’t understand that Catholicism isn’t Christianity and who has some troubling prosperity gospel, Word-Faith and ecumenical yoking is making a name for himself by telling a story, but has told that story several different ways. No matter how you cut it, that deserves some caution.
And that’s all Seth asked for. My cessationism aside, contradictions and bad theology are at the very least a cause for concern and should rightly be pointed out. I get it. Wood’s claim to fame was questioned. Outrage. Hiss. Boo. How dare he [I’m shaking my fist, you just can’t see it]. In the mean time, I’m over here with a well-deserved raised eyebrow or two.