Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 4b

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we previously left off.


Did Paul believe Jesus was/is Yahweh Incarnate?

In this section we are going to deal with Ally’s claim that Paul did not believe that Jesus is Yahweh God who became a flesh and blood human being.



Third, what is meant by ‘Paul taught the deity of Christ?” If that means that Paul taught that Jesus was God, then I flatly deny it. As I mentioned in the debate, although Paul elevated Jesus to a position between man and God, Paul drew a distinction between Jesus and God. For Paul, Jesus was not God, and this is clear in his 1 Corinthians 8:6-7. In that passage Paul regards Jesus as Lord, but not God. As I recall, I did make this point in the debate itself. I am not sure what James is referring to when he says that I was unable to refute his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 8:6-7. It seems rather clear that the said passage does not teach that Jesus is God. On the other hand, while it refers to Jesus as Lord; it teaches that the Father alone is God. Some Christians may take the two titles ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ to mean the same thing, but Paul clearly says in that passage that there is only one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ. In that passage ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ do not refer to the same person. And, more generally, it is obvious from the Bible that whereas the term ‘Lord’ often refers to ‘God,’ it may also be used to refer to human beings in position of authority. Hence I agree with James that Paul was a monotheist. How strict a monotheist he was is another question, but that was not the question we were debating. It is true that Paul in the Carmen Christi took a passage from Isaiah that referred to Yahweh and tantalizingly used it to speak of Jesus. This does not mean that Paul took Jesus for God. But even if it meant that, this does not mean that the original disciples also took Jesus for God. If Paul compromised his monotheism that does not imply that the original disciples compromised theirs.

And here is what Ally said concerning this same issue in his closing remarks to the debate with White:

“The teaching that Jesus is not God is so strong that even Paul who elevated Jesus as a creature between man and God, and as the agent of God's creation, even Paul does not call Jesus God in any clear passage in his writings. In fact Paul continues to differentiate between Jesus and his God. Even the Deutero-Pauline letters like 1 Timothy speaks of God as being someone else, other than Jesus.”



In the above citations Ally flat out denies that Paul identified Christ as Yahweh God. He believes that the blessed Apostle depicted Jesus as a creature who stood between God and the rest of creation.

However, during the cross-examination period of their debate Ally asked the following question to Dr. White:

“Now you cited the Carmen Christi from Philippians chapter 2, where Paul is obviously referring to the book of Isaiah chapter 45. Now are you aware that Paul has actually taken a reference to Yahweh and then made that a reference to Jesus, and so he has in fact here modified the original belief in one God Yahweh, AND NOW HE HAS MADE JESUS THIS YAHWEH? And if Jesus is this Yahweh then how could Yahweh be Father, Son and Holy Ghost, because in that case Jesus is not part of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? You have Fa… you have Yahweh who is Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and then you have Jesus. Explain that.”

And this is what he said in response to White’s fourth question in their cross-examination:

“Paul is representing this Carmen Christi as a hymn that he somehow stumbled upon or received, okay. But from whom? Some unknown source! We cannot, based on some unknown source, construct our theology even if he did! That's up to him. Now in Paul using this hymn and representing Jesus in this way, we can see that he has actually departed from the Old Testament, because he has taken an OT passage that referred to Yahweh and he has made that refer to Jesus. He is now departing from that original commandment, which says ‘you will have no other god but Yahweh’! Clearly Jesus was a human being. In the book of Numbers chapter 23 verse 19, it says God is not a man and not the son of man! So if Jesus is a man to all appearances, well then, you cannot take him to be God–he cannot be Yahweh, he is not Yahweh! And by taking him to be somehow Yahweh, AS PAUL IS NOW DOING in his letter, even in a tantalizing way, Paul is actually departing from the OT scripture.”

It seems that Ally wants to have his cake and eat it too since in the debate he virtually admits that Paul refers to Jesus as Yahweh, thereby contradicting the assertions he made to the contrary in this very same exchange, as well as in his written reply to Dr. White.

So which Ally should we believe and listen to? The one who denies that Paul taught that Jesus is God? Or the one who admits that this blessed Apostle of the risen Lord did preach that Jesus is indeed Yahweh God? More importantly, does Ally even know what he believes or wants to argue?

Moreover, Ally commits the fallacy of false dilemma and of equivocation since he fails to note that this blessed Apostle wasn’t distinguishing Christ from God per se Rather, Paul was differentiating Jesus from God the Father! Therefore, unless and until Ally can prove that Paul believed that the Father ALONE is God then all he is doing here is attacking straw man and distorting the Christian position once again!

We will have more to say about 1 Corinthians 8:6-7 a little later. But first we turn our attention to Philippians 2:5-11, commonly referred to as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn of Christ”).