Debate between Matt Slick and Tarek Sharif on the deity of Christ

by Matt Slick
11/24/2016

On Monday, 11/21/2016, I had a debate with a Muslim named Tarek Sharif. It occurred on paltalk.com.  We went back and forth at three minute increments. Afterwards, Sharif posted "Some of the mistakes"1 that he claimed I made during our debate.  Where I quote him, it is in brown:  Here is my response.

"Mistake 01 Matt Slick gave me verse John 8:58 and used it to ASSUME Jesus is Divine and he Said Jesus is the I AM. So I gave him verses that says the Blind begger also said exact same words EGO EMY in greek I AM so he told me but you Tarek didnt take care of the CONTEXT :) This means the word I AM by itself doesnt mean anything and we need to read the CONTEXT :) without CONTEXT I AM means NOTHING and by this he refuted himself."

I will explain here just as I did in our debate and with a little more information. Words mean what they mean in context.  Yes, the blind beggar also used the Greek "ego eimi', but in a different way.  Let's look at the context of both.

  • John 8:56-59, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple." 
  • John 9:8–11, "Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.”"

As you can see, the contexts are quite different. The blind beggar acknowledged that he was the one whom Jesus had healed (John 9:9). His response was to the question about him being the one who used to sit and beg (John 9:8).  But, Jesus said, "before Abraham was born, I am," (John 8:58).  What Jesus was saying was radically different than what the blind beggar was saying and the Jews understood the difference because they tried to kill Jesus, but not the blind beggar.  Also, later in the gospel of John, in John 10:33, they again sought to kill Jesus by stoning him. The Jews explained the reason they wanted to do so was because Jesus was claiming to be God. Again, the blind beggar was not making such a claim nor did the Jews assert that he was making such a claim. The Jews merely excommunicated the blind beggar, John 9:34.  So, the reaction from the Jews to the blind beggar was completely different than to Jesus. Why is that? Because the context is so different.

As I said in the debate and I'll say it again here, Tarek Sharif agrees with the Jews that Jesus is not God.

Tarek Sharif has made a significant mistake in failing to understand the different contexts. He does this because of his presupposition of Islam where Jesus is not allowed to be divine. So, Tarek refuses to see the difference of context.

Mistake 1 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to understand the context

 

Tarek's Second attempt to criticize

"Mistake 02 Also related to verse John 8:58 I told him how come Jesus declares himself that he is THE GREAT ALL MIGHTY I AM of the OT then in next verse John 8:59 jews took some stones and the GREAT I AM ruuuns :) So he told me he did that becuase he was UNDER THE LAW :) And this is CONTRADICTION: in John 8:58 Jesus as Matt claims declared he is GOD so he became ABOVE the LAW. then in John 8:59 he runs becuase he is UNDER THE LAW. SO he is UNDER or ABOVE the LAW !?"

This criticism makes no sense and I do not recall him raising this particular point during the debate. I repeatedly told him that Jesus was made under the law per Galatians 4:4. When he asked me why Jesus hid himself when the Jews threatened to stone him (John 8:59), I told him it was because the time of his death (crucifixion) had not yet arrived.   After all, Jesus came to die for the sins of the world in the crucifixion, at the time of Passover, not when the Jews were upset with him.

There is no contradiction at all because he fails to understand the issues. As I told him in our debate, he does not understand what he criticizes. I recommended that he study CARM's Christian theology section so that he might properly understand our position and not demonstrate his ignorance during future debates. This ignorance is exemplified here in his criticism by him failing to understand the nature of the incarnation of Christ (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-8; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:9).

Mistake 2 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to understand Christian theology concerning the incarnation

 

Tarek's Third attempt to criticize

"Mistake 03 Matt mentioned verse John 5:18 to ASSUME Jesus is divine: [KJV][Jn.5.18][Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.] After he mentioned the verse he said look the Apostle John says that jesus made himself Equal to God :) And this Shows that Christians are WEAK READERS of the bible becuase in that verse the unknow author of Gospel of John whom Matt thinks he is John is telling us what JEWS THOUGHT :) not what he thought :) he mentioned the EXCUSE of the JEWS to get rid of Jesus :) and he thought this is the Opinion of John :) Lets read next Verse were jesus refuted the CLAIM of Jews: [KJV][Jn.5.19][Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.] Clear !? :)"

I'm not exactly sure what he's getting at here. I'm not trying to make fun of his writing style, but it's not very clear. Nevertheless, John 5:18 came up in our discussion.

John 5:18, "For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."  

My assertion was that John the apostle wrote his commentary and said that because Jesus was calling God his own Father,  that he was "making himself equal with God." But, Tarek responded that it was not the commentary of what John was saying, but what the Jews were thinking. Okay, though I disagree with that, I'll work with it here as I did during our discussion.

Tarek contradicted himself when he said that John 5:18 was what the Jews thought. Earlier in our discussion when I pointed out to him that in John 10:30-33, the Jews were trying to kill Jesus because he was claiming to be God (v. 33). Tarek denied that the Jews were thinking he was claiming to be God.  He said this because, if I remember correctly, I told him that he agreed with the Jews that Jesus was not God. After all, the Jews misunderstood who Jesus was, just like Tarek does.

So when he said that John 5:18 was not a commentary by John the apostle, but what the Jews were thinking (that Jesus was claiming to be God), I pointed out his contradiction. He did not deal with it very well.

Mistake 3 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to be consistent.

 

Tarek's Fourth attempt to criticize

"Mistake 04 Matt failed to refute what jesus declared in John 17:3 that the FATHER is the ONLY true GOD and he used John 17:5 to refute what jesus said in John 17:5 and the problem that he INSERTED words to John 17:5 that is not in the verse lets read: [KJV][Jn.17.5][And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.] Matt Slick said John 17:5 says that Jesus SHARED Glory of God and he is SAME like God. Did anyone see word SHARE or SAME or even EQUAL in John 17:5 !? :) The verse simply says after Jesus finished his mission that the ONLY true God Father gave him to do John 17:4 he asks the ONLY true GOD Father (John 17:3) for the Glory that God prepared for him after he finish his mission. Inserting words to mouth of Jesus is not God and by the way ignoring the word ONLY in John 17:3 is also not good :)"

 

This is an unfortunate comment on his part since he misses the point.  It is not an issue of refuting what Jesus said in John 17:3. First of all, he is interpreting it in only one possible way and then telling us that there is no other way to interpret the verse.  Second, he failed to look at other verses. Third, he failed to see how the word "only" is used by the Jews in the Bible.  In a Facebook post earlier the day of our debate, I posted a link to an article I've written on John 17:3.2 He told me he read it.  But, he completely ignored it. 

Nevertheless, I pointed out during the debate that if John 17:3 was the only verse in the Bible dealing with the person of Jesus, then he might have a case. But since it's not, he needed to look at the whole of Scripture. He is very selective in what he wants to look at.  Furthermore, I brought up the point that the word "only" is also used in Jude 4.

Jude 4, "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

I told him that if we were to be consistent and use his logic that God the Father is the "only" true God to the exclusion of Jesus, then we must also conclude that Jesus is our "only" master and lord to the exclusion of God the Father and, in his case, Allah.  My point to him was that it says Jesus was made under the law (Galatians 4:4) and he was obligated to serve God. In his praise of the Father he called him the "only true God". I further pointed out other verses that shed light on the issue.

  • In John 1:9-10 Jesus is called the true light. Does this mean that God the Father is not the true light?
  • In Isaiah 43:11, God says he is the only Savior. Does this mean that Jesus is not our Savior?
  • In Psalm 72:18, it says that God alone works wonders. Does this mean Jesus did not work wonders?
  • In Isaiah 44:24, it says that God makes all things by himself. Does this mean that Jesus did not create as it says he did in John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:16-17?

Mistake 4 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to take the whole of God's word and to think logically.

 

Tarek's Fifth attempt to criticize

"Mistake 05 Matt mentioned Jews claims that jesus said he is God in John 10:33 but he didn't mention the Jesus REFUTED them John 10:34-36 :)" 

First of all, John 10:34-36 did not refute what the Jews said in John 10:33.  Let's look at the whole context.

John 10:30–36, "I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? 35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?"  

Tarek, in John 10:34-36 Jesus was bringing the law against the Jews. They understood that he was claiming to be divine (verse 33). When they want to kill him, he quoted Psalm 82:6. 

By the way, I asked him if the term "son of God" means that Jesus is not God. He said yes. I then asked him if that were the case, then does the term "Son of Man" mean that Jesus is not a man. To the best of my recollection, he had no response to this, which demonstrates he does not understand the Jewish meaning of the term "son of God".3 I pointed out to him that he was reading what Jesus and the Jews said through his Muslim assumptions given to him by Muhammad who was 600 years after Jesus. I told him he was failing to see the historical and cultural context as they relate to the verses in question. But, that did not stop him from continuing to make mistakes.

In addition, I told him that Psalm 82 was an imprecatory Psalm against the unrighteous judges of Israel who "will die like men," (Psalm 82:7). By Jesus quoting this Psalm in reference to the Jews, he was calling them unrighteous judges while at the same time referring to them as 'gods'. he was putting them in a predicament and was also condemning them. They were unrighteous and were in the position of power in the nation of Israel. Therefore, Jesus was hinting at the judgment that was coming upon them.

Mistake 5 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to understand the historical and cultural context

Tarek's Sixth attempt to criticize

"Mistake 06 Matt thought that Jews wanted to stone Jesus in John 8:59 because he claimed he is God and as I said Christians are BAD READERS of the bible this is why Matt never read the CONTEXT of John 8 as Jews wanted to kill him because they thought he had DEVIL inside him lets read: [KJV][Jn.8.48][Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?] also: [KJV][Jn.8.52][Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.] And there excuse was this Law: [KJV][Lv.20.27][A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.] "

I found it a bit ridiculous that he would accuse me of not reading the context of John 8. I pointed this out to him but, he said it more than once. When I told him that the Jews wanted to kill him because he was claiming to be God per John 8:58, he said that the reason they want to kill him was found in John 8:48

John 8:48, "The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'"

What I find interesting is that he has no problem believing what the Jews said in John 8:48, but also denying what the Jews said in John 10:33 which is where they said they were trying to kill Jesus because he was claiming to be God.  Tarek is completely inconsistent. This is because as a Muslim, he is required to deny the deity of Christ since that is what the Quran tells him to do.

  •  Surah 4:171, "O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs."
  • Surah 5:73, "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them."

Nevertheless, I pointed out to him that there was no requirement in the Old Testament Law to kill someone because they were demon possessed, but there was for blasphemy. This is important because if his argument is to stand, then the Jews would have wanted to kill Jesus because they thought he was possessed. But, as I repeatedly pointed out to him there was no such admonition in the Old Testament. He responded by saying there was no place in the Old Testament where the Jews were required to kill Jesus because he claimed to be God. I responded by quoting him from the Old Testament.4

Leviticus 24:16, "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death."  

So we can see from Old Testament Law that blaspheming the name of the Lord is punishable by death.  I then cross referenced this with John 10:30 which says, "The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”"

Obviously, Jesus claimed to be God, the Jews understood it, and they wanted to kill him for it. They were not trying to kill him because they thought he was possessed.

Mistake 6 from Tarek Sharif:  Failing to understand Old Testament law

 

Two other mistakes made by Tarek Sharif

There were two other mistakes he made in our debate.  He failed to stay on topic and he also failed to represent Christian theology accurately.

Our debate was on the deity of Christ, not the Trinity. But he attacked the Trinity several times. So, since he brought it up, I finally asked him if the Trinity was polytheism. He said that it was. When I told him that by definition the Trinity was monotheistic, he refused to hear it and told me that it did not matter what I said. He knew that the Trinity was actually polytheism and nothing I said would convince him otherwise.

This often happens when I debate Muslims. They want to address something else instead of stay on topic and they misrepresent our position. They do this because of what the Quran says.

  • Surah 5:73, "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them."

 Notice that the verse says "Allah is not one of three."  Three what?  Three gods.  Do you see how the Quran misrepresents Christian theology?  This is why Tarek did the same.

 

Conclusion

It is obvious that Tarek made many mistakes in our debate.  Here they are.

  1. Failed to understand the context
  2. Failed to understand Christian theology concerning the incarnation
  3. Failed to be consistent
  4. Failed to take the whole of God's word and to think logically
  5. Failed to understand the historical and cultural context
  6. Failed to understand Old Testament law
  7. Failed to stay on topic
  8. Failed to represent Christian theology accurately

I told him, as I've told other Muslims, that they fail to do their homework. They fail to study what the criticize. They seem to only learn the very minimum and find whatever it is they can use, in their ignorance, to deny biblical teachings. I recommended that he study the CARM site section on Christian theology so that he could better represent what he is criticizing. Of course, I do not believe he will do this.

Also, I pointed out that when I study Islam, I seek to represent it accurately and to also deal with the responses that are made by Muslims to various issues. I do not seek to misrepresent them and I do not seek to ignore their responses.

I wish Muslims would do the same.

 

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.