Understanding the mission of Christians and Muslims
Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Mission of Two Communities
David W. Shenk
Herald Press, 2003. 283 pages
The Christian and Muslim communities are both missionary movements. Their mission target is the same. However, the way each community sees this mission is drastically different. To understand their mission, convergences and divergences must be identified.
Author David W. Shenk is an Anabaptist theologian as well as an Islamic scholar. In addition, Shenk has a long and rich experience of mission and dialogue with Muslims. His faith as a believer in Jesus and his witness is very impressive throughout the book. The Muslim contribution appears through anecdotes, dialogues and conversations held with Muslims in the past 40 years.
Shenk shows that the mission of both communities is to reach the world by the word of God, each through its own understanding and ways. As an area of convergence, Muslims and Christians agree on the God of Abraham. Any step forward from that point, however, will encounter many misunderstandings that need to be identified and corrected. There are very deep differences between the two communities in both theology and missiology.
One significant divergence is about the power of God. Islam proclaims God cannot suffer for us while the gospel proclaims that He does suffer for us. Moreover, mission in Islam is carried on through the power of the sword; the gospel proclaims it ‘should be carried on through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are issues the author should have addressed; for example, the principle of abrogation in the Qur’an versus their claim of corruption in the Bible. For instance, the Qur’anic verse 2:256 has been abrogated by the verses of war. Therefore, using this verse to show that Islam is tolerant towards other faiths is irrelevant.
This book is excellent for both Muslims and Christians. Teachers of world religions whether in academic or church settings, missionaries and all evangelical Christians would find the material interesting and very helpful. It is well done. I recommend it.
—Emmanuel Ali El-Shariff Abdallah is Arabic correspondence coordinator at Family Life Network, Winnipeg, and an evangelist to the Muslim world.