Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review - Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims

Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims

By Rick Love

Paperback: Peace Catalyst International Publications, 2013. [Amazon]
ISBN: 978-1935959502

Evangelical Christians across a spectrum of denominations and political commitments are working together to provide a response to Muslims that is faithful to the best of the Christian tradition in our post-9/11 world. These efforts find their roots in two aspects of the Christian tradition. The first is a desire to emulate the way of Christ in relating to the marginalized and the outsiders that are frequently viewed with suspicion and enmity by members of their own religious tradition. Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a primary biblical text that exemplifies the model of Jesus that these Christians want to follow in their encounters with Muslims. The second foundation for these efforts is the desire to be obedient to Christ in his call for disciples to be peacemakers.

Rick Love, through his organization, Peace Catalyst International, takes a leadership role among American Evangelicals in peacekeeping between Christians and Muslims. Grace and Truth was written as a result of Love’s participation in a global meeting of Evangelical leaders who came together to address how relations between Christians, particularly those in the West, and Muslims might be improved, and in ways that resonate with Christian faith. Love serves as the main author of this volume, although he acknowledges the input of “more than seventy leaders form around the world” (3-4). As a result, this book “is a consensus document” (5) that brings together “a spectrum of evangelical thinking” (5) and which finds a balance between slight differences of thought on the subject matter. This contributes to the layout and overlap found in the book.

The volume is comprised of an Introduction that provides a summary of helpful information and perspectives for Evangelical readers in understanding the Muslim world, and the perspective in the material that follows. This includes consideration of the diversity of categories and perspectives that make up the Muslim world, a list of the areas of agreement and disagreement in Muslim beliefs in relation to Christianity, and discussion of “significant theological and ideological diversity” (11) among Muslims. The Introduction concludes with the suggestion that Evangelicals “find a middle path between demonization of Islam and na├»ve political correctness” (13).

The next two major segments of the book include one titled “Toward Christ-like Relationships with Muslims: An Exposition,” and another “Toward Christ-like Relationships with Muslims: An Affirmation.” These two sections are very much alike, with the latter incorporating slight revisions that reflect the specific views of Peace Catalyst International. Both of these segments include a series of guidelines for Christian interaction with Muslims and the Muslim world, with nine in the former, and ten in the latter “reflecting Peace Catalyst’s revised, personalized version of these affirmations” (26). The ten affirmations include:

1.     Be Jesus-Centered in our Interaction
2.     Be Truthful and Gracious in our Words and Witness
3.     Be Wise in our Words and Witness
4.     Be Respectful and Bold in our Witness
5.     Be Prudent in our Glocalized World
6.     Be Persistent in our Call for Religious Freedom
7.     Be Peaceable and Uncompromising in our Dialogue
8.     Be Loving toward All
9.     Differentiate between the Role of Church and State
10. Support and Challenge the State

The chapters that unfold each of these guidelines or affirmations are very helpful, and it is evident that a lot of careful reflection has gone into their formulation. As such, they “describe how we can be agents of peace in a polarized world” (32) as Evangelicals embrace Muslims and share the Gospel of Christ.

The next two sections are study guides that look at each of the preceding major segments of the book. They are designed for small group and Sunday school settings as well as individual study. The volume concludes with a bibliography of materials that will be helpful for further study.

Although this volume is very small, and involves a great deal of overlap and repetition in its layout and subject matter, it provides a concise and accessible study for Evangelicals. The volume might have been strengthened with a few additions, including mention of Islam’s priority of ritual rather than belief, the addition of a few more noteworthy volumes in the bibliography, and the suggestion that the study of Islam be connected to relationships and conversations with Muslims in readers’ neighborhoods. But despite these suggestions, this is a helpful book that has the potential to overcome some of the stereotypes, generalizations, assumptions, and hostility that many Evangelicals have in regards to the Muslim world in the wake of 9/11 and the continuing “War on Terror.”

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