Saturday, September 28, 2013

Understanding Islam & Christianity by Josh McDowell and Jim Walker

The authors begin by showing the agreements between Muslims and Christians. They then focus on questions Muslims ask about Christianity (mostly Jesus).

They move to how the two differ over what it means that Jesus is God's Son, answering the Muslim objections. They also look at other titles given to Jesus, including the title “Son of God,” what Jesus meant by it, how the Jews understood it, and why the Muslims reject it. The Quran's teaching on the subject is compared with the Bible. They explore the understanding and history of the Christian's Trinity, revealing the Muslim misunderstanding. They answer Muslim objections to the belief.

Next they address the atonement and the Muslim objections to it. They explore the differences in the understanding of “salvation” by Christians and Muslims. Then they answer the Quran's claim that Jesus was not crucified by examining the evidence from the Old Testament, Quran, New Testament, historians, and medicine.

The Muslim claims that the Bible predicted Muhammad are investigated, both the “counselor” Jesus foretold and the “prophet” Moses foretold. Both ideas are soundly defeated.

Then the authors address the Muslim claim that the Bible has been “corrupted.” (I don't understand why this wasn't the first topic covered. The authors admit that the use of the New Testament in proving answers to previous issues relies on its reliability. (183) So why not prove its reliability before using it as proof?) They also clarify how the New Testament Canon was determined. (This is McDowell's expertise and it shows. Fifty pages of the book are given to this topic.)

Next is an evaluation of the Quran. They note, “Muslims believe that the Quran in their hands today is a copy of the heavenly Quran. It is eternal, uncreated, an attribute of Allah.” (235) They then give evidence to show that the Quran is, in fact, the creation of men. They also show how the truth of the Bible is confirmed in the Quran. This is followed by an evaluation of Muhammad's life.

I am not sure of the value of this book. For a Muslim to read it, or for a Christian to use it in dialog with a Muslim, the Muslim would have to accept the Bible as accurate. The authors themselves admit, “Most sincere Muslims we've met and with whom we have discussed this topic [of the crucifixion] are adamant in insisting that Jesus was not crucified and for the most part disregard any evidence that says otherwise. We can understand that mentality when one believes the Quran is from God and is afraid to question his own faith.” (132) My understanding is that Muslims believe the Christian Bible has been “corrupted” and the Quran corrects it. The authors do show that the Bible is affirmed by the Quran, but that is at the end of the book, not the beginning.

The scope of this book is limited. There is nothing about heaven, how non-Muslims live in a Muslim society, jihad, etc. This book basically covers the persons of Jesus and Muhammad. I think the title is a bit of a misnomer.

The authors freely quote other sources, lots of other sources, and at length. So if you've read much on the topic, this book may not contain new information for you. This book would serve as a limited introduction to a comparison of Islam and Christianity, specific to a few topics.

Josh McDowell accepted the challenge to investigate the claims of Christianity while a college student. He committed his life to Christ and for 50 years he has been sharing his testimony and evidence that God is real and relevant to our lives. He received a bachelor's degree from Wheaton College and a master's degree in theology from Talbot Theological Seminary. He has been on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for almost 50 years. He and his wife have four grown children and five grandchildren. They live in Southern California.
Jim Walker has been involved in Islamic ministry and research for over 20 years. He has taught numerous seminars for Christians interested in learning about Muslims' faith.

Harvest House Publishers, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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