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.

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