Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: The Search for the Truth about Islam by Ben Daniel

4 out of 5 Stars
Author: Ben Daniel
Publisher: Westminster / John Knox Press
Reading Level: Easy

I knew very little about Islam before reading this book but the growing Islamophobio from Christians concerns me. I recently interacted with a relative on Facebook who argues Muslims shouldn’t be able to serve in public office, while frequently complaining about the government wresting religious liberties from Christians. I fear this kind of duplicity becoming common. We have let fear control freedom.

I say all that without diminishing the harmful and devastating atrocities carried out by terrorists who claim Islam as their faith. But here’s the thing. Talk to any atheist who has read a book by Hitchens and they can tell you that Christians have sometimes resorted to violence in the name of God. It’s not a strictly Islamic problem. It’s a human problem. We could argue whether one tradition encourages violence more but that would need to be discussed by historians and religious scholars far more familiar with the history of both religions.

I would urge Christians to love their neighbors including Muslims; as a matter of fact, we need Christians who love God and love the gospel enough that they are willing to die if necessary to spread the gospel in countries where the gospel may not be welcomed. When death is imminent we should rest in Christ. “To die is gain.”

What I loved about the book. Daniel weaves stories and relationships throughout The Search for Truth about Islam. He talks to Islamic scholars in America and discusses hot topics like jihad, gender, and scripture. It’s not a doctrinaire book. It reads like a story. He introduces you to real life people.

My only concern is flippancy with language. I would usually not nitpick. I’ve got pretty thick skin. He describes the amazing food scene in Berkley, CA. It sounds wonderful when he exclaims, “My God, I love Berkely!” (p. 48). I don’t know how to read that any other way that using God’s name irreverently. Or another place he describes searching for the Church of Holy Sepulchre, “About the time you’re getting desperate (and you’re thinking of buying something from mike just so he’ll give you directions), you see a sign that ‘St. helena road,’ and you think to yourself, ‘What the hell’” (p. 9). Two serious words with serious consequences. I don’t see how using them is helpful.

Without much clarification he describes Muslims as children of God and brothers (pp. 16, 28). If meaning we are all created by God and having intrinsic value as humans than yes. Honestly I’m not sure because he doesn’t say. He also says,
Much of the Qur’an’s 114 suras and more than 6,000 ayas are dedicated to praising God using phrases and words that are entirely comfortable to a christian. In fact, on a couple of occasions, I have used passages from the Qur’an liturgically in worship services at my church; no one in my congregation noticed. (p. 110)
I’m not comfortable at all with reading parts of the Qur’an in a Protestant church’s liturgy.

On the one hand, you have an invaluable good of insisting on fairness and love from Christians towards Muslims but, on the other, you have confusion surrounding language, doctrine, and liturgy. As always read using discernment but especially towards the items mentioned.

A free copy of this book was provided by Westminster / John Knox Press. If you plan on purchasing The Search for Truth about Islam, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.

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