Christian apologist James White draws criticism for holding interfaith dialogue with Muslim imam

James White (L) and Yasir Qadhi (R) appear in a screen capture of a video from WorldviewTube. | YouTube/WorldviewTube

James White, a well-known professional debater and Reformed apologist, has drawn criticism for holding an interfaith dialogue with a Muslim imam at a Mississippi church.

According to Christian News Network, the event in question was held on Jan. 24 at Grace Bible Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

White, the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, appeared with Dr. Yasir Qadhi, the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute, at the church for an unmoderated interfaith discussion called "Christians and Muslims: Agreements and Differences."

"I think the greatest barrier for Christians in reaching out to the Muslim people is fear," White explained at the event.

"We have fear in our hearts. It's based upon ignorance. It's based upon other things. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this," he added.

Footage of the event was recently discovered by Brannon Howse, who expressed concern that an Islamic imam was brought to a church for dialogue.

In an op-ed published on the website of Worldview Weekend, Howse contended that the event was not a debate and said that White never disagreed with Qahdi when the imam "spewed lies about Islam and Jesus Christ."

"James White knows this radical imam has preached that Christians are filthy and that their property and lives can rightly be stolen in Jihad. Yet White defends this Jihadi Imam and wants to have an interfaith dialogue with him?" Howse wrote.

During the discussion, White had stated that Qadhi has been a "primary influence" in his studies on Islam and shared that he "sense[d] in him such a kindred spirit on the other side of the chasm that divides us in regard to our theology and our beliefs."

The Christian apologist revealed that he had once invited Qadhi to critique his presentation on Islam to ensure it accurately represents the Muslim religion.

White had stressed that the event was not a debate, but rather a dialogue. Among the topics discussed at the event included an explanation about the two sects of Islam, the belief that the Quran is the word of God, and the Muslim view that Jesus was just a prophet, who was not divine and never crucified.

After the dialogue at the Mississippi church, White participated in a similar discussion about the Muslim and Christian faith at the Memphis Islamic Center, where the apologist explained concepts such as the Trinity, original sin and the imputation of righteousness through Christ.

Andy Woods, the senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Texas and president of Chafer Theological Seminary in New Mexico, expressed concern about giving a Muslim imam a platform at a church.

"I'm totally in favor of having an accurate view of what they believe," he told Christian News Network.

"Working out our differences and sitting down and making sure we understand each other is one thing, but giving someone a platform at a church is a different matter," he added.

White has repeatedly defended the event and asserted that his critics had overlooked that the dialogue was held on a weekday outside of regular service hours, and was a ticketed event only for those interested.

The Christian apologist explained that while he has engaged in debates with Muslims in the past, Qadhi did not want to participate in a debate. However, he said that the imam was willing to have a dialogue about the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity.