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Whitman: A Lesson in Honesty

August 12, 2011

The king said, “The Christian who was here before you lied to me.”

Reverend Roy and Dora Whitman

Rev. Roy Whitman was one of the first evangelical preachers in Jordan.

Reverend Roy Whitman presented his card to the guard at the royal palace and asked to pay respects to Abdullah, king of Jordan. It was the holiday at the end of Ramadan, back when the city of Amman was just a crossroads in the desert. Abdullah was Jordan’s founding monarch, though, truth be told, the English set him up as king after the First World War, and, when Saudi mounted camel riders attacked Abdullah’s outmanned Bedouin fighters, the English strafed the Saudi cavalry and made it known that Abdullah was their man. (The English and the Americans still make sure the crown stays on the head of Jordan’s king. The current ruler, also named Abdullah, grew up in England and, upon become king, spoke better English than Arabic.)

Whitman waited his turn, and when summoned, congratulated his majesty in a manner befitting the occasion, as was Whitman’s custom. But this time Abdullah said to him, “The Christian who was here before you lied to me. I asked him to explain to me the difference between Christianity and Islam, but he said, ‘Your majesty, Muhammad and Jesus were like brothers.’ Now, Reverend Whitman, I want you to tell me the truth.”

If I have space at the end I’ll tell the rest of the story.

It has become fashionable in our day for some Christians, like the one of whom Abdullah complained (an Anglican priest, as it turned out), to obscure the glorious person of Christ for the sake of something like friendship or peaceful feelings with Muslims.

For the sake of good feelings, a Christian may agree not to talk about anything troublesome that has happened between Christians and Muslims in history, except for the Crusades. I’ve just read Thomas F. Michael’s fine book, A Christian View of Islam: Essays on Dialogue. His only references to history are to “the outrage of the Crusades” and to “colonial injustices and indignities.” Is this the accurate view of Crusades, or the predisposition of someone whose partisan mind has been made up?

But now that Rodney Stark has written God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, and now that many Muslim sources from the time of the Crusades have been translated into English, such as The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf, we are safe in saying that the truth is not served by surrendering either the doctrines of the Bible or what really happened in history for the sake of friendship. It has been my experience that Muslims expect Christians to stand up for what they believe and for what really happened in history.


Jordan was recognized as an independent nation on in 1946, and Abdullah was made king. He ruled until his death in 1951.

So, what happened in the palace that day when Abdullah asked for the truth? Whitman gathered his thoughts and preached the gospel to Abdullah that day. Whitman preached Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only sufficient Savior, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He preached the crucifixion, the resurrection, the Great Commission and Christ’s glorious ascension to the right hand of God. It was a day Whitman recalled for the rest of his life.

As for king Abdullah, not long afterwards, on July 20, 1951, he crossed the Jordan River to meet with Israeli officials (as he had several times previously). But he was shot and killed by a Palestinian who was afraid the king was about to make peace with Israel. Three Arabs were executed for their part in the plot. Abdullah was succeeded by his grandson, Hussein, who came to the throne at the tender age of 15 and remained in power until he died in 1999 (making him the longest living monarch of the 20th century, except for the current king of Thailand). Hussein achieved what his grandfather attempted, securing a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

So, let’s read history and appreciate what we read, for by knowledge we get wisdom, and wisdom is more to be desired than gold.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Patrick Bonnesen permalink
    October 19, 2011 10:52 pm

    Hi Bob:
    I did not realize you had worked with the Kurds.
    Where I am attending language school, I meet a lady named: Ana Lorena Raven that was telling me she wished she had more contact with Islamic missions because she worked in Iran with Kurds for a spell until she was placed in jail for sharing the Christian faith.
    I gave her this blog to look at.

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