Sunday, November 7, 2010

Robert Spencer vs. Peter Kreeft: The Only Good Muslim Is a Bad Muslim


swanny said...

Great discussion with an intelligent audience. Dr. Kreeft's armchair storytelling and whimsical thinking was derailing to the overall question. But Mr. Spencer effectively brought him back to the central question. The audience here was very mature and it seemed, a bit tired of pc appproaches to the question of Islam and terror. I wanted this group in particular to approach the question more thoroughly about Islam being an Abrahamic faith. Very mature and crowded audience for this discussion.

Unknown said...

Very informative discussion.

Traeh said...

How excellent that you have this debate up even before Jihad Watch has it!

This debate turned out rather as I suspected it would. I had a feeling that Kreeft would hardly disagree with Spencer. At the very end, Kreeft seems even to have conceded the debate argument to Spencer.

Kreeft was a brilliant and thoughtful storyteller, and my heart went out to him because he was so innocent in a way, and so helpless and out of his depth on the subject of Islam -- at least by comparison with Spencer. Kreeft seemed a bit elderly and clueless, though brilliant in pursuing lines of thought not entirely relevant or well-grounded in the topic at hand.

I recently read a book of his in which he imagines Aldous Huxley, C.S.Lewis, and John F. Kennedy in an after death dialogue. They all in fact died on the same day.

In that fascinating and entertaining book, Kreeft has C.S. Lewis put forward an argument for Christ's divinity. "Either God or a bad man." Christ said he was God; if he was deluded or lying, then he was a bad man. But since Christ was clearly not a bad man, he can't have been deluded or lying. Therefore he must be God.

I've perhaps simplified it a bit. It's an interesting line of thought, though Kreeft seemed almost to think it a self-evident syllogistic proof of Christ's divinity. If someone has come to the point of trying to evaluate the evidence or not for Christ's divinity, "either God or a bad man" would be one helpful line of reflection, but to me it doesn't seem quite as self-sufficing as Kreeft's C.S. Lewis seems to think. Leaving aside Jesus Christ for the moment, quite a few men have declared themselves God. Let it be assumed they were all of them, except Jesus, wrong in that assessment. Were they all necessarily bad men? Isn't it possible that a few of them were good men, and they were simply mistaken about being God?

So I'm not sure about "either God or a bad man" as a watertight argument that Jesus was God. But it certainly is a powerful argument, and it's a powerful intellectual tool or lever to enable reflection on whether Jesus was divine. Further, if one knew a great deal more than I know about Jesus, about the Bible and the reliability of the Bible, and so on, then "either God or a bad man" seems like it could become a watertight argument for Christ's divinity.

mkvine said...

As much as I respect Peter Kreeft, I must say that Robert Spencer did an excellent job in proving the affirmation of the debate. Robert Spencer kept his presentation very close to the facts of what Islam teaches and not so much to philosophy or speculation.

mkvine said...

Peter Kreeft really needs to study Islam more. He said that Islam has good morality, but as Spencer pointed out, marrying 9 year old girls and having multiple wives is not very good morally.

minoria said...

Kreeft is wrong that Allah is the same God of he Christians,even if the catechism says it is.

SURA 29:46 says:

"And do not dispute with the people of the BOOK, except for what is better; save with those who have been unjust amongst them and say:

"WE(NOTE:we,the Muslims)believe in what is sent down to us, And what has been sent down to you; OUR GOD and YOUR GOD IS ONE, and we are to Him resigned."


Notice it mentions "the BOOK",it's the BIBLE,which has,for the Christians,the NEW TESTAMENT,which says Jesus is God,the Father is God,the Holy Spirit is God...God is a TRINITY.

That contradicts the Koran.Either:


1.Allah had NOT read the NT.
2.He had read it and did not understand it.

How can a God who knows everything make such an ERROR?It is details like this that show there NEVER was any SPIRIT that appeared to Mohammed,he invented the story.

Ree said...

So far, I'm only able to listen to the first 45 minutes or so, and it won't play any more on my computer. But based on what I've heard, I think Peter Kreeft is correct about two things. The first is that his debate partner is in a bind because his highest allegiance is to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic magisterium. That's what makes both men morally bound to reconcile everything they know to be true about Islam with the magisterial pronouncement read by Dr. Kreeft. Of course, this leads to incoherence and, I would wish, would lead both men to reconsider the legitimacy of their chosen authority.

My second point of agreement with Dr. Kreeft, if I understood him correctly, is that Islam is less of a threat than the Enlightenment. In fact, I'm beginning to become more and more of the mind that God is using Islam, once again, to judge the church and to shake it out of its apostasy and complacency. The emerging resurgence of Islam seems like it may be God's chosen means for exposing the innate evil and incoherence of contemporary liberalism, the inevitable endgame of Enlightenment thought.

Ree said...

Another thought that comes to mind is how Peter Kreeft's argument is that, apart from an infallible authoritative teaching magisterium, one interpretation of a text is as good as any other. That's why he can say that the violent jihadist interpretation of the Q'uran is no more "correct" than a peaceful interpretation. Of course, this is absurd but his logic is more consistent with Roman Catholic epistemological assumptions than is Robert Spencer's.

I think that, without saying anything meaningful about Islam, in this "debate," Peter Kreeft reveals one of the problems with a Roman Catholic view of authority. And although I definitely appreciate Robert Spencer's knowledge and work on exposing Islam, I don't see how he can do so while remaining a faithful Roman Catholic because in order to show what it means to be a "good Muslim," he has to be a "bad Roman Catholic." Kind of ironic, it seems.

mkvine said...


What do you mean by "in order to show what it means to be a "good Muslim," he has to be a "bad Roman Catholic"?

minoria said...

Hello Ree:

I think you made a mistake on Spencer.There are 3 types of Catholics:


KREEFT is a CONVERT to the Catholic Church so he wants to and accepts every single idea that comes from Rome.He used to be Protestant.

Others,whose families have been Catholic for 1,000 years,have a different way of thinking.JOHN CROSSAN is the president of the Jesus Seminar and doesn't believe in the resurrection,is an ex-priest,yet he still considers himself Catholic.

HANS KUNG,the most distinguished Catholic theologian of the 20th century,does not believe in the resurrection,yet he considers himself Catholic.

Then there is the group that except for accepting the Pope and praying to the saints,is virtually Protestant,probably Spencer is in that group.That group certainly does NOT believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God,no matter what the catechism says.

characterbuilder said...

Keeft is a horrible debater and theologian.

Did you catch the dig at protestants... 28k types of protestant groups...its an urban myth.

Spencer,buried this poor man.

Sophie said...

I love this Dr Kreeft guy. He's very balanced and fair-minded. The trouble with his assertion that Muslims worship the same God, the God of Abraham, as Christians do, is that belief in Allah is inseperable from belief in Mohammed, so from a Muslim perspective this sounds like an admission that Mohammed was a true prophet. I certainly don't think Mohammed actually had a revelation from God that was distorted because I don't think a message can come from God and satan at the same time; I think God protects His messages (in fact I think it says this in Isaiah). He is right that the spiritual hole at the centre of western culture, inadequately filled with adultery etc., brings God's judgement and leaves us vulnerable.

Sophie said...

characterbuilder, yes, I caught the dig at Protestants and I'd have to say that I'm much happier with the richly varied opinions within protestantism than I would be if my whole interpretation of my faith was essentialy dictated by a man in a funny dress.

Unknown said...

Very nice and thoughtful debate, contrary to what it seemed to me before watching it.

I would agree with Dr Kreeft on a number of points, namely that the western society has turned away from the path of God after enlightment and sexual revolution, and that by itself is empowering Islam (satan).

However, I would disagree with him on his rational, that to re-turn the western society to God and make them a religious community is through welcoming islam!! Thats a horrible way of thinking. Instead of doubling our efforts to preach the gospel within the western societ and to muslims, he welcomes muslims to preach islam!!

It is clear that Dr Kreeft didn't have a chance to preach the gospel to a muslim. A muslim mind is very hard to convert because of so many obstacles on different levels, inclduing the false background about Christianity, fear of apostate killing, and the oppressive method of thinking that prevent someone from reaching the truth.

Mr. Spencer, I was impressed by you knoweldge about islam, especially when you mentioned the fact marriage in islam is called Nikah which is very degrading and demeaning.

Rafik Responde ao Isla said...

I am glad that Mr Peter Kreeft recognized that he doesn't know Islam. That settles the debate. His knowledge of Islam is minimum, defective and distorted.

Praise the Lord, Robert was there to educate him.

proof for god said...

Some of Keeft’s popular books are of value to non-academicians (e.g. his book on Kant and his HB of Apologetics). His work is known for its accessibility and readability concerning philosophical and apologetic topics for the layman. his apparent lack of a thorough comprehension of islam is obvious. moreover his RCC faith is the frail ground he attempts to stand on and the results are clear.

Spencer’s presentation was concise, cogent and outstanding. He wins hands down.

the foremost reason one should esteem Christianity over Islam is: the Christian God lives and Christian theism alone furnishes the rational and moral pre-essentials for knowledge (immutable universals, etc); additionally I do agree that since the Bible predates the koran by
100’s of years and there r passages in the koran that commend the Bible and reckon the Bible as true, this is powerful reason to affirm the Bible over the koran.

The islamic holy book esteems the Bible as God’s word and the Bible was written before the Koran. The two books disagree on God’s nature and the path of salvation. Clearly one should take the Bible over the Koran.

Spurgeon noted: “Mohammedans’ religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians’ religion must be maintained by love.”

Great vid A.M.!

Ree said...


I mean that, intrinsic to Roman Catholicism is acceptance of the infallible authority of the teaching magisterium. And as Peter Kreeft said, the RC magisterium teaches the view that, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Robert Spencer is in disagreement with the infallible authority of his own faith. He can't do that and remain a good Roman Catholic any more than an evangelical Protestant can disagree with Scripture and remain a good evangelical Protestant.

Minoria is correct that lots of people self-identify as Roman Catholic while rejecting the infallibility of the magisterium, but she (or he) is wrong if he's implying that all are equally valid positions within Roman Catholicism just as Peter Kreeft is wrong in saying that peaceful Islam is a legitimate option in light of the clear teaching of the Q'uran.

Anonymous said...


That is not an accurate description of Catholicism. Anyone who denies the Creed is a heretic and is certainly not a Catholic. What they consider themselves is irrelavent to the truth of the matter. They either accept the teaching of the Church or they dont.

The examples you cited are heretics. One an ex-priest(not really possible unless your an apostate). Another example being Kung who is not even allowed to teach Catholic theology since he was censured.

People on this site may not agree with Catholic doctrine, which is fine, but please don't cast those people as examples of what Catholics believe. What Catholics believe is clearly defined in the Catholic Catechism. Idiots like Crossan and the increasingly deranged Kung cant change that.

Fernando said...

Ree said: "intrinsic to Roman Catholicism is acceptance of the infallible authority of the teaching magisterium"... really? I wonder why I neber encountered thate in my life dealling withe, and living withe, Roman Catholics... are you sayind thate the Roman Catholic Church claims thate all the teachings off its teaching magisterium are infallible? Can you, please, presentte me any source for this? Thanks in advance...

by the way... brother Minoria: I woulde not say thate Hans K√ľng is far greatter theologian than von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, de Lubac or, for thate matters, Joseph Ratzinger... its a shame (and I'm nott talking now to you, dear brother minoria) thate protestant theologians do not enter in a depth dialogue withe these oracles off the catholique church...

Fernando said...

Ree... sorry to habe forgive to say this in the previous post... eben yor quotation off the Roman Catholic Cathecism (I guess) do not say thate Catholics belive thate muslims habe the same God... please, take a notice in whate i putt in bold letters:

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."...

thte text do not say the hold, rather thate they say thate theu hold... wouldn't you agree?

Lindert said...


Yes, the Catholic Church does claim infallibility and considers anyone a heretic who denies this (including the majority of Catholics). See for this dogma this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Of course, popes and councils have often contradicted each other as well as the Bible, leaving the Catholic Church with a host of heresies that are considered unchallengable and 'infallible truths'. What a pope says, is, for them, as certain as what Jesus said, and that is sad.

Ree said...


Here's one of the many places in which this RC teaching is proclaimed. This papal document makes it clear that even those magisterial teachings which are not dogmatically pronounced (which would render them infallible according to the RCC) must still be believed de fide as indisputible truth by the faithful Roman Catholic.

And to your second post, that's the kind of word play that allows people to say that Islam is really a peaceful religion. Yes, the statement says that Muslims "profess" to hold the Abrahamic faith, but the implication is certainly not that they're making a false profession. The context makes this obvious in two ways. First it says that the Muslims "acknowledge the Creator." An acknowledgement is an assent to truth. And more importantly, the document includes Muslims in the plan of salvation for their profession of faith in the Abrahamic God. This would make absolutely no sense if it were talking about a false profession.

minoria said...

Hello Fernando:

Reading your quotation of what they catechism says I have to agree with you it is just saying "Muslims say X" and not "we agree they are right that their God is our God".That puts things in a better perspective.

I have to agree with Ireneus and Ree that rejecting the apostle's creed (at the minimum)is rejecting being a Catholic.Hans Kung even went so far as to say that Muhammad was a prophet:


He was an Englishman who became a Catholic and was the friend of C.S.Lewis.Lewis is famous for "Mere Christianity"(1952) where one has the famous "Trilemma:Lord,Lunatic,Liar".But before Lewis was an atheist,he read Chesterton's very lively "The Everlasting Man",and said it was the best defense of Christianity he ever read,it was what convinced him:

Here is a link to the whole online text.Its contents are:

Prefatory Note
Introduction: The Plan of This Book


I The Man in the Cave
II Professors and Prehistoric Men
III The Antiquity of Civilisation
IV God and Comparative Religion
V Man and Mythologies
VI Demons and Philosophers
VII The War of the Gods and Demons
VIII The End of the World


I The God in the Cave
II The Riddles of the Gospel
III The Strangest Story in the World
IV The Witness of the Heretics
V The Escape from Paganism
VI The Five Deaths of the Faith


Appendix I. On Prehistoric Man
Appendix II. On Authority and Accuracy


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YFC777 said...

I think we are taking the quote "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day." out of context.

The phrase is not meant to say that Islam is a method of salvation parallel to Christianity. Please see the below article on the source of this document and its correct context

Ree said...


That's just a bizarre interpretation. In addition to the points I already made showing how disingenuous such an interpretation is, the statement from the RC catechism also says that Muslims "together with [Catholics]" adore the one merciful God, etc.

Everything about this statement is positive and affirming, so I'm amazed that anyone could seriously claim that it's accusing Muslims of making a false profession of faith.

And seriously, there's no way that one can interpret this statement this way while faulting Muslims for misinterpreting their own book when they say it's peaceful. The Muslims who do this use the exact same kind of acontextual hermeneutic you and Fernando are using to interpret the RC Catechism.

Ree said...

Instead of "it's peaceful," that should say, "when they say that the Q'uran teaches a peaceful religion."

Unknown said...

My question to the people who organised this is: Where are the Muslims? Why the hell would you get two Catholic extremists who dislike Islam to debate about what constitutes a Good or a Bad Muslim?

I am now eager for the next installment: what constitutes a Good Black Man or a Bad Black Man? Moderated by Glenn Beck!

Disclaimer: Black people’s opinions will not be acceptable.

Or how about, “What constitutes a good Jew or a bad Jew” starring David Duke vs. Virgil Lee Griffin. Moderated by the Grand Imperial Wizard. No Jewish opinions allowed.

Spencer has giving his readers the illusion that he’s taken up a real debate whereas all he has done is get together with a like minded Catholic extremist to fight Islam together. His professor would be a bit moderate whilst Spencer acts like the tough Islamophobe. Kinda like “Good Cop, Bad Cop”.

Ree said...


First it should be noted that James Akin's opinion on the correct interpretation of the magisterium is no more authoritative than yours or mine. Nevertheless, I basically agree with his interpretation. However, unlike him, I'm not Roman Catholic, and I strongly disagree, at the very least, with RC ecclesiology and soteriology.

Granted, the RCC does not teach that Islam is as good as Roman Catholicism as a means to salvation. They do teach, however, the possibility of salvation apart from faith in Christ, and they do teach that Muslims worship the same God as Christians, even if imperfectly, and that they can be saved, without ever converting to Christ. This, it would appear, is the view that Peter Kreeft defends because, as a faithful Roman Catholic, he has to. And this is why he feels the need to defend a minority view of the Q'uran that's merely an "imperfect" representation of the true Abrahamic faith as opposed to being diametrically opposed to it.

Damon Whitsell said...

@ muslimranger

I am sure if you will set up a worthy Muslim opponent for Mr. Spencer, he will gladly accept the challenge to debate the topic of what makes a good Muslim with a Muslim.

mkvine said...


I don't think the topic of the discussion was whether Muslims can obtain salvation or not, it was more about whether a Muslim who adheres to the Quran and Sunnah would be beneficial or harmful to society. Robert Spencer said it would be harmful to society. Peter Kreeft eventually conceded to that point, but he thought that the enlightenment posed more of a threat.

Ree said...


"Good" and "bad" in this context refers to the degree of faithfulness to the Q'uran. RC Peter Kreeft wrote an influential book that presents a deceptively positive view of Islam, so a fellow RC refutes it. That's perfectly appropriate.

But since blackness is not a faith but a skin color, there's no comparable standard by which to compare a "good" and a "bad" black man, so your analogy makes no sense. Of course, in the world of the left and identity politics, there are people who would claim such a standard, but that's irrelevant to this blog.

Ree said...


Correct, but YFC777 brought up the issue of salvation for Muslims and I responded. But my actual point is that the RC magisterium emphasizes what it deems commonalities between Christianity and Islam which leads to this overly optimistic view.

But as I said in the beginning of my responses, I only heard the opening statements of each of the participants because my computer wouldn't play any more than that. And that's what I responded to.

Still, if Peter Kreeft conceded the point, that's great. And as I also said in my initial response, I agree with him that the Enlightenment is a greater threat. I even went so far as to say that the threat from Islam may be God's answer to the Enlightenment.

But I don't think that the RC magisterial position allows for such a negative view of Islam as Robert Spencer presented and, apparently, Peter Kreeft conceded. I mean, do you see the Vatican talking about Islam the way Robert Spencer did?

mkvine said...


The Church has no official position which is binding on all catholics telling them to believe that Islam is violent or not. If the Church said, "You must believe Islam is peaceful, and this is binding on all catholics" then perhaps you may have a point. But no such official binding statement has been given. That being the case, Catholics can have whatever opinion they want on Islam, as is evident in this debate. But I think that if one truly studies Islam, they will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that it is a violent religion. So I think Robert Spencer was spot on in his analysis of Islam. Whether Islam poses more of a threat than the Enlightenment, I'm not sure, but I'm leaning more towards Islam.

goethechosemercy said...

My question to the people who organised this is: Where are the Muslims?
end quote.

This Christian is thinking the same thing.
I would much rather have Spencer debate a Muslim scholar than an apologetic, multiculturalist Christian.

Damon Whitsell said...

Spencer coming to Texas A&M, Muslim Brotherhood-linked MSA cowers in fear

Spencer said,

"The MSA at Texas A&M, where I am speaking tonight, was invited to bring in a speaker to debate me, but they refused."

"Once again, one would think that if I were really so wrong about Islamic supremacism and jihad as they claim, they'd be able to find someone to wipe the floor with me and end my baneful influence forever, or destroy my case with a few pointed questions."

Jeff said...


It's not "apart from Christ" at all.

If you have ever read the Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, you may remember the encounter between a Tash-worshipping soldier and Aslan.

The soldier worships Aslan and Aslan tells him that though he worshipped Tash by name, he was really worshipping Aslan. All his worship is credited to Aslan, because in his heart, that's who the soldier meant to worship.

Lewis, as you know, was no Catholic. Nor was he a liberal Christian.

goethechosemercy said...

While the Catechism may tell us that Muslims and Christians adore the same God, let us never forget that Muslims follow him in error.
Read St. John Damascene, "Heresies" to understand the early Christian case against the holiness of Islam.
Islam is profane.
Mohammed is a false prophet.
In Jesus's day, people were casting out demons in his name, yet they remained unbelievers in him.
Such people are not adopted, but alienated to salvation.

Ree said...


I said apart from faith in Christ, not apart from Christ. I'm aware of the RC distinction. And although C.S. Lewis is equally unbiblical on this idea, he doesn't claim infallibility.

Ree said...


Your RC "logic" doesn't work. Although Muslims use many of the same words to describe the attributes of God that Christians do, the "god" they actually worship is an evil caricature of the true God.

Jesus told even the Pharisees, teachers of the true Scriptures, that their father was the devil. And yet the RCC would have it that Muslims, followers of a false revelation that advocates all kinds of evil, are worshippers of the true God.

mkvine said...


You already agreed that the Catholic Church says that Muslims have an "imperfect" understanding of God. If they have an imperfect understanding of God, then of course they will have an imperfect theology and an imperfect world view. So it is no surprise that faithful Muslims can be harmful to society, and thats the point and the topic of the debate. But as Jimmy Akin said "Failure to accept this revelation of the Christian age does not stop Muslims from worshiping God any more than it stops Jews. It means only that they know less about God and that they have erroneous corollary ideas (for instance, that Jesus is not the Son of God)." Which leads them to different world views, in this case, a violent one.

However, the subject of the debate was whether a Muslim who adheres to Islamic doctrine can be harmful to society. The Church nowhere says that all Catholics must believe that all Muslims are peaceful. If you could find me an authoritative statement from the Church that is binding on all Catholics which says that, then I will concede the point. I will be waiting for that statement.

Kyrie Eleison

Ree said...


You and I both know there's no such statement and that there never will be. The RCC always speaks out of both sides of its mouth, and it always allows itself to have things both ways. I don't really expect to ever convince a Roman Catholic that their magisterium is a sham, but for anyone who's willing to follow the logic of Scripture instead of the logic of the RCC, this is apparent.

Jesus never said that the Pharisees went wrong because they had an "imperfect" understanding of God. Once again, He said that their father is the devil. But that's not the kind of statement a post-Vatican II magisterium would ever make about the followers of any religion.

But I'm not expecting any concessions from you.

mkvine said...


I didn't know that you wanted to "convince Roman Catholics that their magisterium is a sham" nor did I know that you were expecting any "concessions." This whole time I thought the discussion was about whether a "Good Muslim Is a Bad Muslim," but apparently true colors come out. As I expected, you did not provide any official statement from the Church saying that all Catholics must believe Islam is peaceful no matter what. Thank you for your kind admission.

Kyrie Elieson

Ree said...


Is an official statement from a living infallible Islamic source saying that Islam is a violent religion required for me to confidently infer it to be?

Ken said...

Many of you are mistaken in your belief that the catechism is considered as I fallible by the Church. This is false. This is explained by pipe emeritus benedict in the link below

Ken said...

There seems to be confusion as to whether or not the catechism is infallible. The answer is no. I've posted a link that explains.

Spencer is well within his rights as a catholic to hold to his current position unlike Hans kung etc.