Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 5c

Sam Shamoun

We have now come to the conclusion of our analysis of John’s Gospel.

The evidence we have presented here proves conclusively that Ally is grossly mistaken when he asserts that John’s Gospel differentiates the Lord Jesus from Jehovah by identifying Christ as Jehovah’s Son, in fact his only-begotten Son. As Dr. White correctly noted in their debate, Ally is begging the question at this point since he is assuming that John is proclaiming unitarianism.

Ally erroneously thinks that if John identifies the Father as Jehovah or Yahweh then this writer could not possibly have believed for a moment that Christ was also Yahweh in the flesh since he clearly portrays Jesus as the Father’s Son, and therefore as Yahweh’s Son since the Father = Yahweh in Ally’s warped thinking.

However, this is nothing more than Ally’ own false dilemma since John had no problem with Jesus being both Yahweh and Yahweh’s Son at the same time, as the evidence which we have provided here conclusively proves. For the Evangelist, both the Father and the Son happen to be Yahweh God without this making them the same divine Person.

This is why John could cite a passage from Isaiah, where the prophet had a vision in which he saw Yahweh seated on the throne,

“In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:1-10

And assert that the One whom Isaiah actually saw was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in his preincarnate glory!

“Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.” John 12:37-42 New International Version (NIV)

As the New Testament scholar Frederic Louis Godet whom we cited earlier explained:

Ver. 41. “This did Isaiah say, when he saw his glory and spoke of him.” John justifies in this verse the application which he has just made to Jesus Christ of the vision of Is. vi. The Adonai whom Isaiah beheld at that moment was the divine being who is incarnated in Jesus. Herein also John and Paul meet together; comp. 1 Cor. x. 4, where Paul calls the one who guided Israel from the midst of the cloud Christ. Some interpreters have tried to refer the pronoun autou, of him, not to Christ, but to God. But the last words: and spoke of him, would be useless in this sense and this remark would be aimless in the context. The Alexandrian reading, "because he saw," instead of "when he saw him," is adopted by Tischendorf, Weiss, Keil, etc. But it does not appear to me acceptable. Its only reasonable sense would be: "because he really saw his glory and spoke of Him so long beforehand (a thing which seems impossible)." But this reflection would be very coldly apologetic and quite useless for readers who were accustomed to hear the prophecies quoted. It is much more easy to understand how the conjunction hote, which is quite rarely used, may have been replaced by hoti, which appears in every line, than how the reverse could have taken place. The ancient Latin and Syriac versions are agreed in supporting the received text. The sense of the latter is simple and perfectly suitable. "It was of Christ, who manifested Himself to him as Adonai, that Isaiah spoke when he uttered such words." John proves that he has the right to apply this passage here. (Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of John with an Historical and Critical Introduction, translated from the third French edition with a preface introductory suggestions, and additional notes by Timothy Dwight President of Yale [Funk and Wagnals Publishers, New York 1886], Volume 2, pp. 235-236; bold emphasis ours)

The following liberal commentary concurs:

"... That the Isa 6:10 quotation is to be understood as a prophecy of God's work in Jesus is made explicit by the concluding comment in v. 41. This verse alludes to the broader context of Isaiah 6, in which the prophet experiences a theophany (vv. 1-5). The link to the vision of Isaiah 6 is stated even more directly in textual variants of v. 41 that read 'when' (hote) instead of 'because' (hoti; see the NRSV footnote). The Fourth Evangelist interprets this theophany as a vision of God's glory, AND HENCE AS A VISION OF THE GLORY OF THE LOGOS (cf. 1:14; 17:5; see also the reference to Abraham in 8:56-58)." (Gail R. O'Day, "The Gospel of John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," The New Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes [Abingdom Press, Nashville, TN 1995], Volume IX. Luke-John, p. 717; capital emphasis ours)

John could only make this identification if he truly believed that Jesus was/is Yahweh God Almighty who had become a flesh and blood human being, even though John knew that Christ wasn’t the Father or the Holy Spirit.

This is the kind of data that a Bible-believing Christian expects to find if indeed the inspired authors of Holy Scripture were in fact Trinitarians who believed and testified that the Messiah is God Almighty in the flesh.

Hence, Ally is correct in one sense since John's Gospel does have the same view as Paul, seeing that both of these blessed and anointed servants of the risen Lord taught that Jesus Christ Yahweh God Almighty in the flesh who created all things. At the same time, both of them proclaimed that Christ is the divine Son who is subordinate to the Father in position, not in essence.

Ally is simply confused at this point since he erroneously assumes that subordination necessarily implies inferiority in essence, and thereby commits a categorical mistake. After all, a person can be subordinate to another without being inferior in essence to that other, i.e. sons are subordinate to their fathers even though they are just as much human, and therefore of equal worth and dignity.  

To use the Lord Jesus as example, we are told that Christ subjected himself to his adoptive father and biological mother:

“And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:51 NASB

Now does this mean that Jesus must have been inferior in worth, value and essence to his earthly parents simply because he subordinated himself to them? Of course not since and it is simply utter nonsense to assume such, especially since the Gospels all depict Jesus as the unique divine Son of God, and therefore infinitely greater than all creatures including Joseph and Mary.

Therefore, just because Christ subjects and subordinates himself to the Father by virtue of his relationship and position as God’s unique Son doesn’t imply that he is inferior in value, honor and essence. In fact, Jesus himself stated that he is worthy to receive the very same honor and glory that the Father receives, and that anyone failing to honor him in the same exact way they honor his Father dishonors God:

“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, EVEN AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23

Jesus even claimed that the Father glorifies him in the same way that he glorifies the Father, and that he and the Father actually shared the same divine glory together even before the world was created!

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.’” John 13:31-32

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made… Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.’” John 17:1-5

So much for Ally’s tirade against God’s Word.

Lord Jesus willing, we will finish responding to the rest of Ally’s ranting and raving sometime in the near future. 

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptural quotations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.