Review by Jimmy Butts
As Christians we should never reject the importance and function of apologetics because the Bible commands it (1Peter 3:15; Jude 3), and gives an example of it (Acts 17:16-34). In our proclamation of the Gospel we should be prepared to present reasons why we believe in its validity (1 Corinth.15:5-9). There may be debate on how apologetics will function in our encounters with Muslims, but inevitably we will have to articulate our faith in a reasonable way and show why we do not accept Islamic teachings. James White helpfully explains the reasons why Muslims should reject the Qur’an and believe in Jesus. In this post, I will focus on three of White’s strongest arguments, beginning with the argument that I think has the least force and ending with the one that I think presents the most devastating blow to belief in the Qur’an.
The Transmission of the Qur’an
One of the common Muslim claims is that the Qur’an has been perfectly protected from any variation in its transmission. However, White demonstrates that not only are there numerous variants, and missing verses, but the trustworthiness of the text cannot be substantially proven because of a well-known event in history: Uthman’s standardization of the Qur’an. White shows by extensive citation of the Islamic sources that the early codification of the Qur’an sought to eliminate variants from the text (pg.259). Furthermore, he shows that there missing verses from the Uthamanic revision of the Qur’an (pg.261). This singular event in the transmission of the Qur’an makes it impossible for someone to know what the Qur’an of Muhammad actually said. As White states, “Unlike the New Testament, the Qur’an had no wide variety of freely reproduced texts from all over the Islamic state to draw upon to determine the earliest text. With every one of those early manuscripts destroyed at Uthman’s command, the light dims on the original Qur’anic text” (pg.263).
White also shows that the Qur’an itself refutes the allegation that the previous scriptures have been corrupted. One telling command that Muhammad gives is for the Jews and Christians to judge his prophethood based on the previous scriptures (Q. 5:47). White argues “obviously Muhammad believed that the Torah and Injil, in the possession of the people of his day, pointed to him, and we know we possess today what they had then” (pg.215). In other words, why would Muhammad direct Jews and Christians to a corrupt book? Obviously, he assumed that it was not corrupted; and we have the same version of the scriptures that were available in Muhammad’s day. Therefore, the Christian can obey Muhammad and read the scripture to conclude that Muhammad was not a true prophet.
Misunderstanding Christian Theology
Finally, the most damaging argument that White presents is that the Qur’an’s author was not familiar with accurate Christian teachings and therefore could not be God. He poses a legitimate question: “Does the Qur’an show knowledge of the Trinity to where the criticisms are accurate and compelling” (pg.75)? Well, with it’s description of the Trinity being Jesus, Mary, and Allah, it shows no knowledge of Christian theology. He argues that the clearest test of the Qur’an’s inspiration is it’s ability to accurately describe the Christian beliefs it criticizes (pg.77). This makes a lot of sense because if he is God, Allah should know all things including Christian doctrine. This, I believe is the Qur’an’s most fatal weaknesses.
After reading White’s book I feel more confident in my rejection of the Qur’an because he has shown that it cannot withstand scholarly critique. This book is a must read for Christians seeking to engage Muslims especially if they want to be equipped to answer difficult questions. If we seek to help Muslims see the importance of placing their confidence in the Bible, we must show them why they should not have confidence in the Qur’an.
Jimmy Butts is a Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.