Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Addressing Paul Williams’ False Accusations Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Paul Bilal Williams has published the first part of his “reply” to my series of rebuttals where he does hardly more than accuse me of not addressing specific Biblical texts which he raised in his debate with Dr. Steve Latham titled, “Salvation in Christianity and Islam”, pts. 1 and 2.

If Williams had been patient he would have seen the publication of all my replies to his gross distortions of Biblical truth. However, since he has come out with a post which falsely insinuates that I somehow have chosen to remain silent in addressing his preferred references, I have decided to respond to his bluster right away in order to make him happy.

Williams pretty much ignores all the passages I quoted from Matthew and Luke-Acts where the Lord Jesus and his followers explicitly taught that the basis for salvation, e.g. the grounds for justification and forgiveness, is Christ’s vicarious sacrifice. Instead, he has again chosen to selectively cite and reference only those words of Jesus from the Synoptic Gospels which he erroneously thinks actually prove his case.

For instance, Williams appeals to the parable of the prodigal son to show that God doesn’t require a sacrifice in order to forgive anyone. There are two problems with William’s eisegesis. First, the function of a parable is not to provide an exhaustive theological treatise, but to highlight a specific theme which is central to the point that Jesus is trying to make. In this context, Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees and the scribes for complaining against his welcoming and fellowshipping with tax collectors and those whom they considered to be sinners:

“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Luke 15:1-2

Jesus then proceeds to share three specific parables in order to drive home the fact that one of the main reasons why he has come into the world is to call sinners into repentance. This is beautifully illustrated in another passage from Luke which Williams “distorts to his own destruction” (cf. 2 Peter 1:15-16):

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come TO SEEK and TO SAVE that which was lost.” Luke 19:1-10

The salvation which had come to Zaccheus’ house was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself since he is the Son of Man who has come to save those who are lost.

In fact, Jesus actually carries out the very function which Yahweh says he himself will perform:

“For thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I MSELF will search for MY sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘I WILL SEEK THE LOST, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.’” Ezekiel 34:11-16

What makes this rather ironic is that Williams actually thinks that the story of Jesus and Zaccheus is somehow compatible with the teachings of Islam!

This leads us to the second problem with Williams’ interpretation. He conveniently overlooked the fact that the individuals who lost something in all three parables are meant to represent Jesus and what he has come to accomplish. I.e., Jesus is the shepherd who chases after the one lost sheep until he finds him (15:3-7), he is the woman who rejoices at finding her lost coin (15:8-10), and he is the father who lovingly embraces his long lost son (15:11-32), since he is the Savior whom God has sent to save those who are lost:

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11

“For you first, God raised up His Servant and SENT Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:26

“On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation IN NO ONE ELSE; for there is NO OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:5-12

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus… Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” Acts 13:23, 38-39

Thirdly, since Williams refers to the “glory of the Judaism which Jesus upheld,” let us see what the Hebrew Scriptures teach concerning the forgiveness of sins.

According to the inspired witness of the prophetic writings, substitutionary atonement is necessary for salvation since there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood:

“I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, ‘None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood. Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.’” Leviticus 17:10-14

At this point, the OT is in perfect agreement with the inspired Christian Scriptures:

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

Williams, however, assumes that these sacrifices only atoned for unintentional sins since, in his debate with Latham, he argued that there is no sacrifices prescribed for transgressions that were deliberately carried out. Williams is blatantly wrong since the Hebrew Bible explicitly refers to offerings which make atonement for evil acts that have been committed intentionally:

“And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying: If any one sin, and commit a trespass against HaShem, and deal falsely with his neighbour in a matter of deposit, or of pledge, or of robbery, or have oppressed his neighbour; or have found that which was lost, and deal falsely therein, and swear to a lie; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein; then it shall be, if he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took by robbery, or the thing which he hath gotten by oppression, or the deposit which was deposited with him, or the lost thing which he found, or any thing about which he hath sworn falsely, he shall even restore it in full, and shall add the fifth part more thereto; unto him to whom it appertaineth shall he give it, in the day of his being guilty. And he shall bring his forfeit unto HaShem, a ram without blemish out of the flock, according to thy valuation, for a guilt-offering, unto the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him before HaShem, and he shall be forgiven, concerning whatsoever he doeth so as to be guilty thereby.” Leviticus 5:20-26 [6:1-7] Jewish Publication Society (JPS)

Notice the types of sins that the asham or guilt-offering was intended to cover:

Deceiving or dealing falsely with one’s neighbor.
Robbing one’s neighbor.
Defrauding one’s neighbor.
Cheating one’s neighbor.
Swearing falsely.

Now, unless Williams wants to argue that all of these are unintentional crimes, he should therefore have no problem admitting that the Mosaic Law does prescribe atonement for evil acts committed knowingly and deliberately.

The following passage refers to the Day of Atonement, e.g. the day in which the high priest would make atonement for all the wicked acts and evil crimes committed by the nation of Israel that year:

“And HaShem spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before HaShem, and died; and HaShem said unto Moses: 'Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the ark-cover which is upon the ark; that he die not; for I appear in the cloud upon the ark-cover. Herewith shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin-offering (lachatta't), and a ram for a burnt-offering (la‘ola). He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with the linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired; they are the holy garments; and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and put them on. And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats for a sin-offering (lachatta't), and one ram for a burnt-offering (la‘ola). And Aaron shall present the bullock of the sin-offering (ha chatta't), which is for himself, and make atonement for himself, and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and set them before HaShem at the door of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for HaShem, and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for HaShem, and offer him for a sin-offering (chatta't). But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before HaShem, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. And Aaron shall present the bullock of the sin-offering (ha chatta't), which is for himself, and shall make atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin-offering which is for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from off the altar before HaShem, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil. And he shall put the incense upon the fire before HaShem, that the cloud of the incense may cover the ark-cover that is upon the testimony, that he die not. And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the ark-cover on the east; and before the ark-cover shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering (ha chatta't), that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with his blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the ark-cover, and before the ark-cover. And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions (umipisha'ehem), even ALL their sins (lakal-chatto'tam); and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, that dwelleth with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. And there shall be no man in the tent of meeting when he goeth in to make atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before HaShem, and make atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel. And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him ALL the iniquities of the children of Israel ('et-kal-'awonot bane yisra’el), and ALL their transgressions (wa'et-kal-pisha'ehem), even ALL their sins (lakal-chatto'tam); and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness. And the goat shall BEAR UPON HIM ALL THEIR INIQUITIES ('et-kal-'awonom) unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. And Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his flesh in water in a holy place and put on his other vestments, and come forth, and offer his burnt-offering and the burnt-offering of the people (et-‘olato wa’ et-olat ha‘am), and make atonement for himself and for the people. And the fat of the sin-offering (ha chatta't) shall he make smoke upon the altar. And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. And the bullock of the sin-offering (ha chatta't), and the goat of the sin-offering (ha chatta't), whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from ALL your sins (mikol chatto'tekem) shall ye be clean before HaShem. It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever. And the priest, who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated to be priest in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments. And he shall make atonement for the most holy place, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make atonement for the children of Israel because of ALL their sins (mikal-chatto'tam) once in the year.' And he did as HaShem commanded Moses.” Leviticus 16:1-34 JPS

Here is a different translation of the key verses which help bring out the fact that the atonement that Yahweh required the high priest to make on that specific day was for all the wickedness and rebellion committed by his people:

“He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:21-22

Moreover, these are very Hebrew terms which God uses to describe the wickedness of the Canaanites which led to Yahweh expelling them from the land:

“And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: I am HaShem your G-d. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes. Mine ordinances shall ye do, and My statutes shall ye keep, to walk therein: I am HaShem your G-d. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and Mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them: I am HaShem. None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness. I am HaShem. The nakedness of thy father, and the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or the daughter of thy mother, whether born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover; for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister; for she is thy mother's near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy fathers brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter-in-law: she is thy son' wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter; thou shalt not take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness: they are near kinswomen; it is lewdness. And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime. And thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is impure by her uncleanness. And thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not give any of thy seed to set them apart to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy G-d: I am HaShem. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination. And thou shalt not lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast, to lie down thereto; it is perversion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled, which I cast out from before you. And the land was defiled, therefore I did visit the iniquity (‘awonah) thereof upon it, and the land vomited out her inhabitants. Ye therefore shall keep My statutes and Mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourneth among you--for all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled--that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep My charge, that ye do not any of these abominable customs, which were done before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am HaShem your G-d.” Leviticus 18:1-30 JPS

Note, once again, the reason why Yahweh exterminated the Canaanites from the land:

“Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin (‘awonah), and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” Leviticus 18:25

Here are two more examples of the type of sins which these particular Hebrew words cover:

“And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity (‘awono)… And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister; for he hath made naked his near kin; they shall bear their iniquity (‘awonam). And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife – he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness – they shall bear their sin (cheta'am); they shall die childless.” Leviticus 20:17, 19-20 JPS

“And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of HaShem. And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: Whosoever curseth his G-d shall bear his sin (cheta'o). And he that blasphemeth the name of HaShem, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him; as well the stranger, as the home-born, when he blasphemeth the Name, shall be put to death.’” Leviticus 24:10-16 JPS

The above verses explicitly testify to the fact that atonement wasn’t made simply for unintentional sins, but also for all the rebellious acts and wicked crimes which God’s people intentionally committed.

Finally, even if the sacrifices of the Law did not cover sins committed intentionally, how would that prove that the sacrifice of Christ does not atone for them either? After all, the Law was only meant to be a shadow which pointed forward to what was greater than it. The priesthood, temple, all the rituals and sacrifices and even those who administered them were imperfect copies of a greater reality, with that reality being found in Christ:

"Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." Colossians 2:16-17

"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown to you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a MORE EXCELLENT ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a BETTER covenant, which has been enacted on BETTER promises." Hebrews 8:1-6

"And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." Hebrews 9:22-28

"For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins... By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-14

The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ:

"For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." John 1:16-17

Accordingly, the sacrifice of Christ far surpasses the sacrifices of the OT.

So much for Williams’ appeal to Jewish anti-missionaries. It is time to move on to the second part of my rebuttal.