Who is Islam’s Real Savior? Pt. 1
It is time again to expose more of Paul Bilal Williams’ distortion of Biblical truth and ignorance of basic Islamic theology. In this series of rebuttals we will be responding to some of the assertions that Williams made in his debate against Dr. Steve Latham on the subject of salvation.
In his opening statements Williams claimed that there is no mediator in Islam:
“Islam places great stress on God as a God of mercy and forgiveness whom the individual can approach directly without the need of any mediator or priest” (Salvation in Christianity and Islam, Part 1)
He repeated this point in the rebuttal period:
“But we don't need a mediator. I have given abundant evidence of Jesus’ teaching where God's grace is freely available to those who repent. We do not need a mediator. Jesus never preached the necessity for a mediator. Again, come back to the Lord’s prayer: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… forgive us” – this is directed to God, to the Father! The prayer doesn’t begin ‘Holy Trinity,’ or ‘dear Son in heaven.’ It’s ‘our Father in heaven’! Jesus never asked the prayer to be directed to him.” (My Salvation in Christianity and Islam Debate, Part 2)
Williams is not the only convert who claims that Islam has no mediator or savior:
“Muhammad is not considered divine in Islam. He is not a god. He is not sitting at the right hand of Allah meting out justice, nor is he a savior to whom Muslims can pray. ‘Muhammad is a man among men,’ says the Qur’an. Muslims revere him and love him for all of the sacrifices he went through in his struggles with the idol-worshippers of Arabia. He endured unimaginable hardships in order to bring God's last message to the world. He is also considered by Muslims to be the best model of a husband, father, leader, friend, guide, and politician.” (Yahiya Emerick, The Complete Idiot’s Guide: Understanding Islam [Alpha Books, 2nd Edition, 2004], Chapter 10: Declaring Faith in Islam, p. 131)
Our Lord’s Prayer and Forgiveness of Sins
Here is the Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer so that the readers can follow along our rebuttal to William’s assertions.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:7-15 – cf. Luke 11:1-4
Now that we have quoted the Lord’s Prayer we can proceed with our response to Williams’ gross perversion of Biblical theology as well as his blatant ignorance (if not his outright misrepresentation) of Islamic doctrine.
Muhammad’s denial of God as Father
In the first place, the Lord’s Prayer actually shows that Muhammad was a false prophet who contradicted the teachings of the historical Jesus. Notice how Jesus refers to God as the Father of all believers throughout this particular section where the Lord’s Prayer is found (cf. Matthew 6:1, 4, 6, 26, 32). Muhammad, however, denied that his god is a father to anyone:
And (both) the Jews and the Christians say: "We are the children of Allah and His loved ones." Say: "Why then does He punish you for your sins?" Nay, you are but human beings, of those He has created, He forgives whom He wills and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and to Him is the return (of all). S. 5:18 Hilali-Khan
And they say: “The Most Beneficent (Allah) has begotten a son (or offspring or children) [as the Jews say: 'Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah, and the Christians say that He has begotten a son ['Iesa (Christ)], and the pagan Arabs say that He has begotten daughters (angels, etc.)].” Indeed you have brought forth (said) a terrible evil thing. Whereby the heavens are almost torn, and the earth is split asunder, and the mountains fall in ruins, That they ascribe a son (or offspring or children) to the Most Beneficent (Allah). But it is not suitable for (the Majesty of) the Most Beneficent (Allah) that He should beget a son (or offspring or children). There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) as a slave. S. 19:88-93 Hilali-Khan
Muhammad went so far as to threaten the Jews and Christians with violence for believing that Allah had a son:
And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they! S. 9:30 Pickthall
It’s not that Muhammad wasn’t aware of what Jews and Christians meant by calling God their Father. They would have made it clear to him that they meant this in a purely spiritual manner since they did not believe that God was a physical being who could have sex with women if he wanted to. However, Muhammad didn’t accept this concept since in his mind the only way for God to have a son is through sexual intercourse:
The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is Aware of all things? S. 6:101 Pickthall
Yet even here Muhammad proves that he is grossly inconsistent just as the following article documents.
Be that as it may, the fact that Muhammad rejects the concept of God’s fatherhood puts him at odds with the words of Christ and the Lord’s Prayer. Williams must therefore come to terms with the fact that the very prayer which he appealed to proves that Muhammad was a false prophet.
Jesus as Savior
The second problem Williams faces is that the very same Gospels that quote the Lord’s Prayer emphatically affirm that it is Jesus’ work of salvation which forms the basis for the forgiveness of sins.
For instance, Matthew records an angel telling Joseph to give Christ the name Jesus and then explains why:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21
In order to better understand the connection between Jesus’ name and his work of saving his people from their sins it is important to keep in mind that Jesus’ Hebrew name is Yeshua, which is short for Yehoshua meaning “Yahweh is salvation.” The angel was basically informing Joseph to name Jesus “Yahweh is salvation” as a way of identifying him as the God who has come to redeem his people from their transgressions.
This helps us understand why the angel speaks of Jesus coming to do for his people what the Psalms say Yahweh does for his!
“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared… O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8
Matthew isn’t the only Gospel writer who has an angel referring to Christ’s role as Savior. Luke also has an angel identifying Jesus as Savior:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’” Luke 2:8-15
Jesus himself taught that he came to offer his life as a ransom and to shed his blood in order to procure redemption and forgiveness of sins:
“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 – cf. Mark 10:45
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28 – cf. Mark 14:22-24
And in Luke, we have Jesus proclaiming that the prophetic writings themselves announced that forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name:
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed IN HIS NAME to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’” Luke 24:44-49
We also find Christ forgiving sinners on the basis of his own authority which he possesses by virtue of being the divine Son of Man and unique Son of God:
“On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins BUT GOD ALONE?’ When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the man who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, 'We have seen extraordinary things today.’” Luke 5:17-26 – cf. Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12
“And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” Luke 7:48-50
Jesus again does the very things which the OT ascribes to Yahweh alone, such as forgiving sins, healing diseases, and knowing what people are thinking within themselves!
“then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind),” 1 Kings 8:39 – cf. 8:46-50; 1 Chronicles 28:9
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” Psalm 103:2-4
“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9:9 – cf. Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18-19
We will have more to say about Jesus’ use of the Son of Man a little later.
The Apostolic Witness
Since Luke also wrote Acts we will examine what this book has to say concerning this same issue.
According to Acts, the followers of Christ taught that forgiveness of sins comes from believing in the name of Jesus.
Take, for instance, the Apostle Peter. He preached that individuals had to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to be saved:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’” Acts 2:37-39
He even healed people in the name of Jesus and used that to prove that salvation comes by having faith in Jesus’ name since Christ is the Author of life whom God sent to grant people forgiveness and to turn them away from their sins:
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith IN HIS NAME—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all… God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:13-16, 26
“There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.’” Acts 9:33-35
“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:31-32
Interestingly, the disciples were already performing miracles in Jesus’ name while Christ was still on earth:
“John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.’” Luke 9:49-50 – cf. Mark 9:38-39
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” Luke 10:17-20 – cf. Mathew 10:1; Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13
These examples help us see the divine power and majesty that is inherent in Jesus’ glorious name.
Returning to the issue of the testimony of Acts, we find that Peter also proclaimed that salvation comes through the grace of the Lord Jesus:
“And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved THROUGH THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS, just as they will.” Acts 15:7-11
That’s not all that Peter said since he not only testified that forgiveness of sins comes from believing in the name of Jesus, he further proclaimed that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all and the Judge who will determine the fate of all men:
“As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (HE IS LORD OF ALL), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. “And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And HE commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone WHO BELIEVES IN HIM receives forgiveness of sins THROUGH HIS NAME.” Acts 10:36-43
In light of the foregoing, is it surprising to find Peter preaching that salvation can only be found in the name of Jesus?
“On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation IN NO ONE ELSE, for there is NO OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:5-12
There is more to the story. According to Acts, the Apostle Paul proclaimed the same message that Peter did. Paul preached that Christ is the Savior that God sent to justify people from their sins through faith in him:
“Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised… Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that THROUGH THIS MAN forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:23, 38-39
“And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified BY FAITH IN ME.’” Acts 26:15-18
He also testified that on the Day of Judgment Jesus will judge the world in righteousness:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
We will see how the proclamation of the Apostles raises serious problems for William’s Islamic beliefs in the next section.
This ends the first part. Please proceed to the second part of our rebuttal.