"The Jews say: 'The Christians have naught to stand upon; and the Christians say: "The Jews have naught to stand upon.' Yet they study the same Book."
Favorite Quote from the Holy Bible:
"Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them."
Any major structured belief system will adequately deal with its opposition. Whatever else makes the same claims about life or contrary claims about existence must be dealt with for any religion to be taken seriously. When reading through the Bible we see this sort of thing on many occasions and it is referred to as an "apology" or defense of faith. In the days of early Christianity this defense took on the Gnostics as well as the unbelieving Jews as well as organized Roman religion. The Christian apology focuses, not surprisingly, on Christ. By doing so it shows the rational behind the belief and the need for the central figurehead Jesus.
The Christian apology today takes on all comers in what can appear to be an all out grudge match against the world. Each modern Christian apologist takes it upon himself to reveal to the world why Christ is King and all other religions have not the slightest bit of sense to them. Rarely will one encounter an mainline apologist that seeks a middle ground or concedes a point to open up a conversation. It is quite "turn or burn" when it gets to the end of things. This is the exact point many of them make against the Muslim belief system, that it is harsh and unforgiving, but it is clear to see that the blazing lake burns the toes of all who attempt to point to those who belong inside.
As the Christian apology defends the importance of Christ and his teaching, the Muslim apology in this sura focuses on the lack of action, or "work of faith", inside of the Jewish and Christian communities at the time. Written long before current events the words of the Qur'an still bring parallel to the mind of the modern reader. In fact many of the criticism directed and believers long ago are issues the Church still deals with today. Through these verses Christians and Jews are accused of being morally corrupted and falling out of line with their own belief system. A statement that was sure true when it was written and is still true today.
The other major accusation is that those who do not follow the Qur'an are simply mistaken and at flawed understanding of the Creator. This too is an argument put forth by Christian apologist all the time. Each says, the Muslim and the Christian, "If you really think about it, I mean really think then you'll decide on our side." THERE IS AN ISSUE WITH THIS THOUGHT PROCESS.
There is a point in every argument where it can be broken down. For the Ethical Standing agrument placed forth in this section of the Qur'an we can all say, "Well there are some who are bad and some who are good regardless of what religion they are." That true statement breaks apart an otherwise sound argument. Even one of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis had a classical argument for the deity of Christ, "Either he is a liar, a madman, or who he said he was." However as Richard Dawkins posits in of his writing Lewis ignored a third possible option, "Jesus could have simply been mistaken about who he was, and the record of him made into something fantastic so people would follow." This statement as well presents an option that keeps Lewis' argument from being "full-proof" as many assume it to be.
Every apology has "terms" in which the defense works, if they are not accepted then the argument is not even valid. May believers from every background assume we all agree on these terms universally, we do not. At some point all of us need to realize that religion, at a point, becomes about filling in the cracks in the argument with "faith" or agreeing to the terms that are set forth by their religion and disregarding the terms of another. We have all decided our paths in life, and have the free will to challenge another on their path, but please let us do it understanding the we have faith, they have faith and let that be the starting point for a long dialog not a series of monologues.