Book Write-Up: Dynamics of Muslim Worlds

Evelyn A. Reisacher, ed.  Dynamics of Muslim Worlds: Regional, Theological, and Missiological Perspectives.  IVP Academic, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

This book contains papers that were presented at the Missiology Lectures of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies on November 3-4, 2016, along with three other chapters.

David L. Johnston’s contribution makes a point that I think summarizes the book.  On page 176, Johnston states:

“…Western Christians especially must educate themselves about the pluralistic nature of Muslim society and about Islamic law in particular.  This will provided a needed antidote to the current wave of Islamophobia that clearly contributes to the recruitment of young Muslims by terror organizations and, more importantly, dehumanizes our Muslim neighbors.”

The “pluralistic nature of Muslim society” looms large in this book, and the book does much more than make the simple observation that there are moderate Muslims.  Rather, the book highlights numerous examples and facets of Islamic diversity, including reformist movements and different trends in Quranic interpretation.  Although the book labels ideas and movements as “traditionalist” and “reformist,” it occasionally reveals where the situation is more complex than that, as when it shows that the movement that led to ISIS initially had more liberal tendencies.  The book also distinguishes between text-centered Islam and popular Islam, and it explores the question of why people join ISIS.  The book is educational in its description of Islamic diversity, and also in its analysis of Islam in different regions, including Europe, West Africa, and South Asia.

Missiology is another prominent feature of this book.  The approach of the book seems to be to help Christians to understand the perspectives and trends within Islam so that they can better love Muslims, encouraging them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Among the missiological approaches discussed in this book are debates, service to Muslims, finding common ground (e.g., on revelatory dreams and a belief in miracles), and inductive Bible study, which encourages Muslims to read the Bible themselves and to draw their own conclusions.  The book shuns any approach that seeks to impose Western Christianity on Muslims.

In terms of critique, the book seems to suffer from the same problem that other writings about this subject face, and that is the issue of boundaries.  One paper in the book, for example, appeared to imply that Christians in reaching out to Muslims should not emphasize the technicalities of the Trinity, and should be open to Muslims believing in Jesus within the context of their Islamic faith.  Does that imply that believing in the Trinity is non-essential to being a Christian?  The book could have wrestled with this more.

The book deserves five stars on account of its vast supply of information.  It is scholarly, and it is not exactly the sort of book that spoon-feeds readers the information.  Even those who know some basics about Islam may find themselves treading water as they read about the nuances and diversity within Islam.  Still, the book is understandable and, in its own way, down-to-earth.  While it does not tell too many anecdotes as it speaks about people and movements, it depicts real people experiencing real situations.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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