Your opinions of Answering Islam

Hi all,

In posts #53 and #54 of another thread, I provided links to some pages at Answering-Islam.org. In post #58, a CAF member chided me,

Going to answering-Islam for information about Muhammad is like going to chick dot com for information on Catholicism.

In both instances you will only read the most negative viewpoint possible on the subject.

Later on in the thread, in post #61, I clarified,

My linking to articles at the site is not in any way an endorsement of everything posted there. Some of the articles are very good, however, and CAF readers and lurkers deserve to be made aware of them.

This exchange has inspired the following question addressed to all participants in this forum: if you’ve had a decent level of exposure to the material at Answering Islam, what do you make of its quality? Please give as much detail and illustration as possible.

We’re dealing with one of the premier sources on the Web for an ostensible Christian reply to Islam, so it seems to be in the public interest to discuss whether it does a fair job or not in this effort.

Thanks,
T.

The only one I really appreciate (having had spoken to him online quite a few times) in the answering Islam team, if one could call it that, is Anthony Rogers. More than once I have enjoyed his insightful look into Christianity and his criticism of Islam and while he engages in the rhetoric as much as anyone does, there is a level of intelligence and decorum I find lacking in the other Contributors. David wood I also appreciate although I find his show with Sam Shamoun (at least the last time I saw it) disappointing me in the way they try to refute Islam. I don’t think I can explain it well but I do not consider it the right approach, it sounds too scripted and they seem to repeat the same old arguments against Islam I have already heard them make, there isn’t a level of depth other than what is on the surface of their arguments that I think would convince the Muslim.

It is true that they are knowledgeable about the hadiths and Islamic history, but it is not the critical depth that I am looking for. They don’t examine the implications of Islamic theology, they don’t try to examine the historicity of the life of Muhammad (at least from what I’ve seen and remembered), it usually almost always comes down to selecting a verse as a proof text (and I’ll grant I often agree with their interpretation) and then using it to show an inconsistency or character flaw with the Prophet and Allah and therefore refuting Islam. There needs to be a much more critical approach beyond this basic sort of attack against islam and I only see that provided by one person on their team (at least from what I’ve read there).

The only Articles I could recommend reading are those of Anthony Rogers whom I have an immense respect for.

I have visited it before, but not in a long time as I do not particularly like it. Some of its sources are good and scholarly (e.g., if I recall correctly they have Jeffrey’s 1938 study on the foreign vocabulary of the Qur’an posted somewhere on that site), but a lot of it is a particular type of apologetics I do not like: harping on translation as though exact equivalents can be drawn between Arabic and English (or Greek, or Latin, or Aramaic), referencing and pseudo-quoting anonymous Muslim theologians (in the form of “As a prominent Muslim theologian has said…” without naming him, and without sourcing the supposed quote, etc.), and presupposing of a common Christian worldview that underlies some of their points (e.g., stuff about Augustine and others which, as an Orthodox Christian, I find to detract from their mission).

I prefer to use historical sources to the extent that they are available. I’ve recommended it many times, and it is expensive, but if you can find it, Hoyland’s Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (Darwin Press, NJ 1997) is a wealth of such material. It is not intended for apologetic use (the “survey” part includes the author’s analyses of the origins of the texts, and he sees many of them as retreads of earlier anti-Jewish polemics), but it is also the only such compendium that I have seen, and as such is valuable for the material it includes (not only Greek and Latin, but also Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Persian, Armenian, and even some Chinese texts). See also Griffith (who has written a lot on early Arab Christianity and its interaction with Islam), Grypeou et al (The Encounter of Eastern Christianity with Early Islam), etc. I had once also on this computer (dunno where it went) a translation of a wonderful Syriac treatise c.12th century from one of the fathers (Bar Hebraeus, perhaps?) that was dedicated to and named something like “On the Principles of Determining the Truth of Religion” which, while it did not reference Islam directly, nonetheless provided a brilliant defense of Christianity that probably very much had that in mind, given its time and place. Wish I could find that again… (including it in this post to see if it might jog the memories of any of our Syriac posters, honestly). There are several such early apologetics coming from the then still-largely-Syriac-speaking world. In addition, the aforementioned Griffith has described in his recent book on the Bible in Arabic the very first piece of Christian literature to ever appear in the Arabic language (i.e., the first original composition, predating even the dated Biblical manuscripts in the language) to be written anonymously circa mid-9th century and bearing the title On the Triune Nature of God…boy, would I love to get my hands on that somehow!

In short, Answering Islam is by no means the worst Christian apologetics site I’ve ever seen aimed at Muslims, but there are far superior sources out there that are largely without its shortcomings. No source is perfect (not even the scholarly ones I mentioned above), but some certainly are better than others, and I would put Answering Islam (and its Islamic counterpart, Answering Christianity) rather low on the totem pole.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.