Summer 2012, Vol.
Questions Muslims Ask: What Christians Actually Do (and Don’t) Believe
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press)
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Hausfeld,
Director, Global Initiative: Reaching Muslim Peoples, Assemblies of God World Missions;
Associate Professor, Urban and Islamic Studies and Director of the Center for Islamic Studies, AGTS
Mark has spent the last twenty years working in Muslim contexts globally and continues to do so.
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Robert Scott, a British born, Anglican educated, conservative Christian, has a passion to empower Christians and Muslims to know the faith and practice of biblical Christianity. He accomplishes this purpose through his insightful multipurpose account, Questions Muslims Ask: What Christians Actually Do (and Don’t) Believe.
Scott’s unique approach informs the reader regarding what biblical Christianity actually believes and does not believe. The chapters take into account the Muslim’s assumed perspectives of Christian beliefs. He writes this book for the Christian to understand not only vital Truths of biblical Christianity, but also for the Muslim to properly understand Christian beliefs and practices.
Each chapter of the book covers vital theological issues that Christians must comprehend in order to establish their personal faith as well as to share that Truth with their Muslim acquaintances. Each chapter speaks simultaneously to the Christian and Muslim reader. Therefore, this novel approach delivers a text that could be given to a Muslim friend and/or studied together. Whether a Muslim reads the book individually or with a Christian, it would accomplish the purpose of the text—communicating understanding of actual Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
Scott looks at the essential Christian beliefs and how Muslims perceive what Christians believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, Christian practice, and Western culture. The author addresses these major considerations in the form of questions Muslims ask. For example: How can God be born and God be murdered? Who is this God of the Bible in the Old and New Testament that makes covenants with people for salvation? The Trinity—does this equate with three gods?
The author then discusses the differences between biblical faith and culture. How can Christians practice their faith and yet be so publically immoral? Many Muslims see Western cultural practices and confuse it with Christian belief. The true Christ-follower knows this is not the case, but one cannot assume the Muslim understands this concept. The book concludes by addressing questions about the reliability of the Bible and the nature and character of God.
Each chapter ends with specific questions directed to the Christian and Muslim reader. The questions challenge the Muslim and Christian to reflect cognitively and spiritually with the intent of establishing proper biblical interpretation and understanding.
The methodology of this text allows the Christ-follower to get into the Muslim’s head, because, as the saying goes, “Perception is reality.” Scott’s approach informs readers who have not studied Islam or worked extensively with Muslims regarding key issues of importance. He correctly discusses the important misunderstandings Muslims assume about biblical Christianity by communicating the actual “dos and don’ts” of biblical Christianity.
Scott, based on his research and experiences with Muslims, selects topics of importance to Muslims as pertaining to their understanding of Christianity. This is unique because most texts on this subject provide an apologetic regarding what Christians believe the Muslim should know. Scott’s approach first considers the Muslim’s flawed and assumed beliefs about Christian belief and practice, which better prepares the Christian reader to engage Muslims in meaningful and intelligent dialogue.
I appreciate how Scott does not give unneeded attention to Islamic theology, the Qur’an, or even the prophet of Islam, Mohammed. He touches on these subjects lightly where necessary, but not extensively, and rightly maintains the focus of the book. Having lived and worked in Muslim contexts globally for twenty years, my personal experience in developing relationships with Muslims for friendship and missional dialogue proves Scott’s approach correct. It is far more effective to focus on biblical Truths than to give undue attention to Islam, the Qur’an, and Mohammed. Muslims are uninformed regarding actual biblical Christianity; therefore, discipleship for a Muslim begins the moment he or she meets a true Christian.
The author effectively uses anecdotal narratives in the book for emphasis, which illustrates that Scott is not writing from an experience vacuum. He exemplifies a “practitioner/ scholar” who evangelizes and disciples Muslims in his life settings. His stories communicate this, which makes for existential reality.
Scott provides excellent additional resources in the notes for each chapter. He includes helpful explanations for further detail on points he makes in the main text. It also includes hyperlinks to Web sites that can enhance the Christian and Muslim readers’ understanding on the topics discussed and encourage future study and research.
From my perspective, I believe Scott presents a weak view on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit in signs, wonders, and miracles is essential to ministry to Muslims, due to their extreme interest in spiritual power. The author could have placed greater emphasis on this point in Chapter 4 where he discusses “Divine power and claims.” In my experience and estimation, the power of the Holy Spirit plays an essential role in seeing a Muslim embrace Christ. The gospel not only proclaims life through the spoken word, but should also be demonstrated in power, as taught and modeled in the Gospels and Acts. Muslims long for such connection with God and the Holy Spirit is the answer to that question.
Read this book before giving a copy to a Muslim friend. Knowledge of the contents of Questions Muslims Ask will prepare the Christian reader to know his or her own faith better while also enlightening him or her regarding the issues at the heart of a Muslim’s objections to Christianity. After reading the book, share it with a Muslim friend of your gender and ask that person if he or she would like to go through the book together. The result will have Kingdom furthering results.
I enthusiastically recommend this book due to its unique approach of addressing Muslims and Christians simultaneously. The author effectively identifies the essence of what Christians need to know and what Muslims perceive of Christianity. The book also deals with the questions a Muslim reader faces pertaining to his or her understanding of biblical Christianity.
Monday, October 29, 2012 9:36 AM