Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Muslim's Heart

I recently purchased A Muslim's Heart: What Every Christian Needs to Know to Share Christ with Muslims.My first impression was one of disappointment when I realized that that there simply wasn't much there: The book was fairly small (measuring 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches), including the appendices only 63 pages in length.

It was an impulse purchase that I reasoned might be helpful in my PhD research. After reading it in less than 2 hours, I can't say that it is completely unhelpful, but the small page size and number means that the amount of information and instruction is quite limited.

Had I investigated a little more, I would have seen that it was reporting only 61 pages on Amazon. And it's likely, I would not have paid $8.99 for such a small book.

One thing for certain that I learned from buying/reading this book is the value of a good title and subtitle. What is it that every Christian needs to know to share Christ with Muslims? That's what I wanted to know, and exactly what drew me to buy the book.

Having said all that, I do want to point out some things that were helpful. But before I do, I want to offer a few caveats.

The subtitle is an effective oversell, which both drew me in and ended up creating disappointment. Certainly there is some helpful information inside, but do I really "need" this information to share Christ with a Muslim? I don't think the book meets the expectation.

"This guide is intended primarily for someone who knows some basic facts about Muslims, but doesn't know what to do with them" (xiv, emphasis in original). The simplicity of the book (e.g. Islam 101) suggests that it is actually for the raw beginner, which is not bad or wrong, it just doesn't seem to match the author's expressed audience. Further to this point, I didn't really see where the reader gets help in "know[ing] what to do with them [the facts]."

Almost every chapter could be improved with more detailed explanation or application.

The Positives:

The book was easy to read. Even though the author recommends not to read it at one sitting, it's very easily done (I read it in 2 hours), which makes it easier to go back and re-read more interesting/important parts.

Based on his bio and various references within the text, the author apparently has extensive experience and connections in various parts of the Muslim world, which lends some credibility to the things he says. Along these same lines, Hoskins was candid in explaining that over a 20-year period he and his family have had the opportunity share the Gospel with some 100 Muslims, and have seen 4 come to faith in Christ (xiv-xv). The reason that I see these statistics giving him credibility is that many who are unaware of the realities of witnessing in the Muslim world might think 100 and 4 are quite small numbers for a 20-year span. He doesn't shy away from the possibility that others might judge him to be ineffective or worse. I appreciate that.

The chapter themes are logical and helpful in preparing for ministry among Muslims.

Chapter Two, The Muslim Worldview is probably the most important chapter in helping a Westerner understand the "Muslim mind" and be able to develop a relationship that might lead to effectively sharing Christ. The Worldview Contrasts chart on page 10 is very helpful in comparing Western and Eastern (i.e., Muslim) values.

Chapter Three, Relational Tips also offered some helpful cultural information that can make relationships with Muslims more likely. While many of these weren't new to me, they serve as a good reminder of some important and common social differences between Westerners and Arabs/Muslims.

Chapter Four, Emergency Apologetics: Answering Common Objections was instructive. The objections listed are, in my experience and research, among the most common offered by Muslims. His answers were reasonable and helpful to move the conversation along.

I also appreciated a few things in Chapter Five, Six Keys to Communicating the Gospel. He suggested that saints should pray, "asking God to bring about crisis situations in [Muslim] friends' lives" (40). Crisis has been a major theme in the conversion testimonies of my research respondents.

Focusing on the long term (42) is an important principle in trying to develop relationships in the Muslim world. He correctly connects this to issues of trust, which often differ between the East and West.

Also in Chapter Five is the good suggestion to ask questions (42). Questions are a wonderful method of engaging a Muslim because it gives them the opportunity to speak for themselves, and oftentimes reveals what that person does/doesn't actually believe.

The Suggested Reading List (Appendix 2, 57-9) might be helpful for some. It is arranged topically and covers a number of important themes in this field.

I might recommend this book for the beginner to get a simple overview of Islam, but would suggest a more studied person take a closer look at other resources.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baptist House Jerusalem Vandalized

JPost - Reuters
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the Baptist House in Jerusalem has been vandalized again. The story offers a good historical recap of the various acts of vandalism that have happened there over the years, including the arson that led to the rebuilt sanctuary that appears in the accompanying photo.

For those that don't/can't read Hebrew, the graffiti says, " Jesus the son of a whore. Price tag. We will crucify you." The article explains a bit about the first two phrases, but totally disregards the latter. I'll add a few more thoughts about these phrases.

1. Israelis commonly refer to Jesus as Yeshu, rather than Yeshua. Because this usage/identification is so common, many Israelis honestly believe his name to be Yeshu, which is an acronym for "May his name and memory be erased." Some counter that the acronym explanation is simply a Christian attempt to gain sympathy. If that's the case, what's the explanation for the use of Yeshu, rather than the common Hebrew name Yeshua? 

2. "Price tag" is the call phrase for a group of West Bank Jews who are vandalizing mosques and other buildings in a similar (or sometimes more severe) way.

3. The JPost completely disregards the phrase, "We will crucify you." That coupled with "price tag"  might be intimidating for those who are left to wonder who did this, and whether it may have future implications. Because the perpetrators are unknown, those questions remain unanswered. I wonder why the JPost didn't mention the most threatening graffiti? Update: The JPost did mention this phrase in a previous article.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

40 Questions about the End Times

Having lived in Israel for many years, meant being asked about the "End Times" on a regular basis: "When do you think [insert event] will happen?" "Where do you think we are in the time line?"

It also meant being presented with seemingly every conceivable End Time scenario. This was so prevalent that I found myself avoiding the topic altogether. Rather than my time in Israel causing me to understand the End Times better, I think it caused me to be grow somewhat dismissive of the topic, which I regret.

If you are like me or are genuinely confused about the End Times, Kregel's new book, 40 Questions About the End Times,might be helpful.

If this book is as good as 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law,another book in Kregel's 40 Questions series, then Eckhard J. Schnabel will have made an important contribution to the End Times discussion.