Book Review: “The Dark Side of Islam,” R. C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb, Crossway Books, 2003 and “The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross,” Nabeel Jabbour, Navigators, 2008.
There are two ways to approach the relationship between Christianity and Islam. One – followed by this book – is to focus attention on all the doctrinal differences between the two. This may bring some intellectual clarity about Christianity and Islam but of course it does little to help Christians relate to Muslims. People who burn bridges before they cross them can reach no one.
The second approach is to identify bridges, points at which there is overlap. When we see what we have in common, we can easily find ways to connect with one another. Of course, if we forget that there are real differences, then little is gained by this approach because we will have little to offer. But if we neglect points of contact, we will simply remain isolated from one another and no one will be interested in what we might have to give.
Sproul and Saleeb have written a simple but clear book about the ways in which Christianity and Islam hold doctrinal positions which are at odds with one another. Centrally, of course, we differ on our understanding of who Jesus is. The Qur’an reveres Jesus as a great prophet (second only to Muhammad in importance) and accepts the teaching that Jesus was born of a virgin. It is emphatic, though, that there is no way Allah (the normal Arabic word for God) can have a son because that would mean there are two gods and because it would mean Allah had intimate relations with a human woman. So they reject the idea that God is a Father and Jesus his Son. It is important that we recognize what we have in common even here: We both are absolutely committed to monotheism and the to absolute purity and righteousness of God.
A second major area of difference between Christianity and Islam is in our view of the Bible. Islam recognizes that the Bible is a true revelation of God but believe it to have been corrupted over the years to give it a pro-Jewish and anti-Arabic slant. Islam points out, for example, that Ishmael was the first born son of Abraham and was therefore the rightful heir to the blessings of Abraham. They Bible, Islam complains, leaves the full story of God’s people at that point and follows instead only the story of the Jews.
Missions to Muslims, when based primarily on the distinctions between Christianity and Islam, have been nearly fruitless over the years. And the cost has been enormous for those few who have converted from Islam to Christianity. Missions which seek simply to share the living Lord Jesus, without seeking to confront Islam at every point of difference, have discovered almost inadvertently that a great many people can become followers of Jesus without violating all of Islam and its familial and social structures.
An excellent book to help us appreciate the second path is “The Cross and the Crescent” by Nabeel Jabbour, available at Amazon in print or as an e-book for Kindle. Jabbour, a Lebanese Christian raised in a respectful Muslim context, is very helpful for those who want to understand what it means to be Muslim. He is able to write with great sensitivity and integrity, never losing track of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but never letting himself feel superior to others. He writes with humility, love, and respect. He is a bridge builder.