Book Review: Cross and Crescent

This is the first book about Islam from a Christian perspective that I have read, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. Colin Chapman is (or was, at the time this book was published) a lecturer in Lebanon. He begins the book by talking about how to understand Islam. Then he moves on to how Christians might interact with Muslims, and closes with a section on how Christians might share their faith with Muslims.

I appreciated Chapman’s irenic tone above all. I found it a genuinely Christian alternative to some of the “West vs. East” culture war rhetoric that I have witnessed in the United States, especially within the last 10 years. He is measured in his recommendations, and takes pains to allow Muslims to describe what they believe in their own words. That said, he doesn’t gloss over the differences between Christianity and Islam. I especially enjoyed his conclusion on walking the way of the cross in relation to Muslims:

Walking the way of the cross in relating to Muslims will mean following the example of One who was willing to cross barriers of race, class, sex and religion in order to meet people in the midst of their joy, pain and need. For some of us this may mean surrendering any power and privilege that are part of our history and culture, and ‘taking the very nature of a servant’ (Philippians 2:7). The cross will constantly call us to leave the safety of our own circle and to reach out to that other community or that other individual in love and hope.

Walking the way of the cross in understanding Islam will mean trying to get inside the mind and heart of Islam, not to judge or condemn but to sit where they sit. Words such as identification and empathy can be more than easy slogans. Sooner or later, however, we will have to understand why, from the Muslim point of view, the cross is a symbol of weakness, shame and defeat. In their way of thinking it is both a stumbling block and foolishness, and can never be the final clue to the working of an all-powerful God. (345-6)

Negatively, I thought some of his quotes from other writers were longer than necessary, and he repeated himself more often than necessary. Apart from those quibbles, I’d recommend this book to a Christian seeking to respond to Islam in a distinctively Christian way.

Christianity and the American Revolution

I know I shared a quote from this book yesterday, but I couldn’t resist sharing another juicy one:

… the American Revolution became imbued with a religious cast not because Christians of that era were especially adept at applying Christianity to politics, but because so many people of religious fervor came to consider the political order of as much ultimate concern as the church itself. The same kind of intensity that Jonathan Edwards used in proclaiming the need for repentance and faith, John and Samuel Adams displayed in declaring the need for political liberty. In this sense the American Revolution represents more the product of a residual Christianity, its base deeply eroded, than it does the infusion of genuine Christian principles into politics.

from The Search for Christian America, 153-154