by Gareth Lee Cockerill
This book, built on lessons from Hebrews, will help Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) persevere in pilgrimage.
William Carey Library, P.O. Box 40129, Pasadena, CA 91114, 2002, 175 pages, $12.99.
—Reviewed by Warren Larson, Director of Muslim Studies, Columbia International University.
This book, built on lessons from Hebrews, will help Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) persevere in pilgrimage. Since Muslim converts all too often turn back to Islam it addresses a real need. Another reason for its relevance is that Hebrews appears to treat conversion as a process, rather than a point, and this seems to more accurately depict most MBB experience.
The author, who served in Sierra Leone for nine years, divides the work into two parts: Part One, “The Pilgrim Road” (Heb.10:32-12:29) talks about God’s call to conversion, but wisely goes on to explain that this usually includes suffering. I still remember a Pakistani MBB who said, “A Muslim can never convert for the sake of convenience.” Hence, MBBs must steadfastly look to Jesus as guide. Part Two, “The Pilgrim’s Helper” (Hebrews 1-10) also focuses on Jesus as the only one who can save from sin, intercede, defeat the devil and make people holy.
A major strength of this short volume is that it encourages MBBs to be beavers for the Bible. It is only through teaching that they can mature and prepare for suffering. Though a dream may initially draw them to Jesus, like Jewish believers, they desperately need solid food. Ample material is found here for Christian workers to help them grow. For example, the Passover, Red Sea, Jericho and Rahab narratives illustrate how God can deliver, but as Cockerill shows from Hebrews 11, God may choose not to.
So what is a convert to think of the Islamic pilgrimage’s pagan practices? A technique employed by the author is to introduce each chapter with an aspect of the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage), but most converts will likely not see these as helpful links. In fact, Hebrews seems to address a stagnated context-ualization that was holding back Jewish believers. Similarly, MBBs must give their total allegiance to Jesus. Though not a major criticism, I would remove multiple references to hajj, in order to avoid any hint of syncretism.
Finally, this book encourages me to take a fresh look at Hebrews—not just for Muslim converts—but for its message to me. The danger in my pilgrimage is also to become weary, to lose my grip and not finish well.
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