London, Hyde Park, and Muslim Apologists

Last week I was in London.  While there, my friend and brother-in-arms Jay Smith invited me to join him at Speakers’ Corner.  Speakers’ Corner is a part of London’s famed Hyde Park.  In 1872, Parliament declared it a place for free speech.  Since that time, people can be seen there every Sunday afternoon preaching, selling, and entertaining.  Ideas of every kind are promoted in this open-air forum.  Some speakers are articulate; some are not.  Some speakers are rational; some are not.  Some notable speakers from the past include Marx, Lenin, and Orwell.

Every Sunday, Jay and his team of Christian apologists make their way down to Speakers’ Corner to preach the Gospel and to take on critics of the Christian faith.  Much of it is extemporized.  But occasionally there are formal debates with Muslims or other non-Christians.  All of it is a bit bizarre for Americans.  We simply don’t have anything like this.  On the contrary, were you to stand on a step-ladder (as they do in Speakers’ Corner) in a city park in America and shout your philosophy, religion, or political grievances to the masses, people would think you a bit odd.  But Britain enjoys a rich tradition of spirited public debate, and nowhere is that tradition more evident than in Speakers’ Corner.

Below you will find an interesting exchange with a Muslim apologist named Mansur.  A little context here might be helpful:

Jay and I had just finished speaking to a gathered crowd on the topic of atheism and the nature of Christian salvation and I noticed that there were many in the crowd who had questions.  So as I was leaving the park for a dinner engagement, I decided to take a few minutes to speak to these people.  It was then that this fellow Mansur approached me.  Rather than presenting himself as a Muslim apologist, he instead posed as an interested bystander.  At first, I took his questions to be sincere.  Soon it became clear that he had an agenda: to disprove the legitimacy of the God of the Bible on the basis of Genesis 9:12-16.  It is there that we find God’s covenant with Noah.  The Lord says that when he sees the rainbow he will “remember” his covenant.  Mansur’s argument is essentially this: “What kind of God needs to be reminded?”

I was not aware that this was being filmed.  The YouTube page that it appeared on shortly thereafter called it “Epic Muslim vs Christian Debate | Dr Larry Taunton vs Mansur | Speakers Corner” and gave it this description:

“Dr Larry Taunton Makes His First International Debut To Speakers Corner Hyde Park London With Jay Smith When He Is Mobbed By Admirers And Muslims To Have A Time Sensitive Debate With Speakers Corners Finest Muslim Apologetic Mansur.  What A Thrilling And Awe Inspiring Moment Of Greatness.  Dr Larry Made A Very Interesting And If Not Controversial Statement Of ‘I would sooner be a muslim than an atheist.’  The Following Dialogue Descended Into The Divinity Of Christ, And God’s Infinite Knowledge Or Not So Infinite knowledge.  Speacial Thanks To Jay smith & The Pfander Centre For Inviting Dr Larry Taunton To Speakers Corner.” [sic]

I am greatly amused by this characterization.  Firstly, I am not “Dr. Taunton.”  Secondly, this was hardly a debate.  You’ll note that I gave my questioner 15 minutes, but he nonetheless endeavored to characterize me as running away when I broke-off our conversation as it became clear that he was not actually interested in Christian salvation.  You can watch the exchange here:

Enjoy.  Pay attention to how he deflects my question about how a Muslim can know that he is saved.  This is because he cannot answer the question.  There is no guarantee of personal salvation in the Islamic view.

NOTE: Muslims posted a highly edited version of this discussion on one of their websites.  What you see above is unedited.

Image Credit: Flickr