by Timothy George
The premise of the popular television quiz show “Jeopardy” is to give a statement, after which the correctly-responding contestant asks a question which that statement answers.
Zondervan, 5300 Patterson SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, 2002, 159 pages, $12.99.
—Reviewed by George W. Murray, president, Columbia International University, Columbia, South Carolina.
The premise of the popular television quiz show “Jeopardy” is to give a statement, after which the correctly-responding contestant asks a question which that statement answers. In “Jeopardy” style therefore, you would think that the question “What is a strict, conservative Bible-believing Christian?” would be the proper response to the following statement: A person who believes in the literal, verbal inspiration of Scripture, who holds that Jesus is God’s virgin-born Messiah, that Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day return to do battle with the antichrist and in the end truly reign on earth. Moreover this person believes in the existence of Satan, angels and demons, and that after death everyone will either go to heaven or to hell. This person is against evolution and believes God created the world in six literal days, is a teetotaler, pro-life and committed to traditional family values. And, this person is deeply patriotic, is against pacifism, deplores the separation of church and state, and believes that government (ideally) should enforce God’s will in every area of society. But the proper response to this statement could also be: “What is a devout, conscientious Muslim?”
Timothy George certainly got my attention by opening his book with these amazing likenesses between Islam and Christianity. He quickly points out, however, that along with the striking similarities between those two religious systems, there are also radical differences. Then George addresses the heart of the matter: the doctrine of God as understood by orthodox Muslims and Bible-believing Christians. In answering the question, “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?” George says “yes” and “no.” Since the Father of Jesus is the only God there is, in that sense he is the God of every person who has ever lived, including Muhammad. But in another—and decisive—sense, the Father of Jesus is not the God of Muhammad, for Christians have radically different understandings of the nature and character of God (130).
This is one of the best books I have ever read about Islam, the world’s second largest and fastest growing religion. It should be required reading for every serious Christian, not only because of the light it throws on Islam, but even more because of its solid presentation of God’s character, seen through the biblical teaching of the Trinity and the Incarnation. While an abbreviated version of Chapter Three appeared in Christianity Today (February 4, 2003, 28-35), reading that article is no substitute for the entire book, every chapter of which is easy to read and helpful.
George makes it clear that Christians, not Muslims, are his target audience, and that his purpose is to strengthen the faith of believers, not to demolish the arguments of opponents. This book purposely is not a vigorous apologetic against controversial practices such as Islam’s treatment of women, its practice of polygamy or its understanding of the state. Rather, it is to help Christians better understand the one true God of the Bible who has eternally existed in three persons and has revealed himself to us through his Son. George’s excellent explanation of the Trinity in Chapter Four, “Why the Trinity Matters,” and in Chapter Seven, “Truth to Tell,” is worth the book’s entire price. His courageous biblical exposition, coupled with an irenic spirit and true, loving evangelistic passion for Muslims make the book worthwhile.
Other helpful features include a glossary of key Muslim terms, an excellent bibliography for further reading and the entire Nicene Creed.
Check these titles:
Cragg, Kenneth. 2000. The Call of the Minaret, 3d ed. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications.
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb. 1993. Answering Islam. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker.
George, Ron. 2000. Issues and Insights into Church Planting in the Muslim World. Crowborough, East Sussex, UK: WIN.
Parshall, Phil. 1989. The Cross and the Crescent. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.
Woodberry, J. Dudley, ed. 1989. Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road. Monrovia, Calif.: MARC.
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