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A review of Answering Islam, updated and revised. By Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb.

Nov 21, 2002

Baker Books, 1993, 2002.

Norman Geisler is one of America’s leading Christian apologists. He is also one of the most prolific, with well over sixty titles to his name. In this volume he teams up with a former Muslim to present one of the most detailed, scholarly and up-to-date-assessments of Islam yet offered by the Christian community.

Answering Islam is a thorough examination of the major teachings and beliefs of Islam. The book is comprised of three main sections. The first deals with the various core teachings of Islam: the Koran, the place of Muhammed, the Muslim’s view of man and salvation, and the doctrine of God (Allah).

A number of issues are dealt with in these opening chapters, including the place of prophets in Islam, the Muslim concept of creation, the place of Christ in Islamic thinking, and the nature of eschatology in Islam. Were the book to finish here, the reader would have been treated to a wealth of information and insight into Muslim beliefs.

But the second section takes us much further, offering an in-depth Christian assessment of some of these doctrines. Three subjects are given extensive treatment: the nature of Islamic monotheism, the person of Muhammed, and the claims of the Koran.

Concerning strict Muslim monotheism, a number of issues are covered. The unity of Allah is closely examined, as is the notion of divine sovereignty. The authors show that Allah lacks the personal, loving nature which the God of Judeo-Christian beliefs presents. Instead Allah is seen as harsh, authoritarian and utterly transcendent. Muslims know nothing of the personal intimacy which Christians have with their Lord. Yes, the God of the Bible is transcendent, but he is also immanent as well, making him one to both fear and love simultaneously.

And the utterly deterministic nature of Allah makes any concept of personal freedom and responsibility difficult to maintain in orthodox Islam. The extreme fatalism and strict determinism found in Islam result in a master-slave relationship, instead of the close friendship which Christians can enjoy with their God.

The chapter on Muhammed is equally revealing and incisive. The authors carefully assess his character, his claims to miracles, and his concept of prophethood. And the chapter on the Koran looks at its claims to being divinely inspired. But the supporting credentials are just not there, argue the authors.

Finally, the third major section of the book offers a positive defense of key Christian doctrines: the deity of Christ, the Trinity, salvation, and Biblical authority. As these are main stumbling blocks for Muslims, the authors present a detailed defense of these biblical concepts, interacting with Muslim misunderstandings along the way.

On top of all this, there are 6 extensive appendices on such issues as Muslim religious practices, Muslim sects and movements, and Muslim attacks on the New Testament. But most readers will race to Appendix 5, “Islam and Violence”.

In the wake of September 11, many will want to know if Muslim militancy is an integral part of Islam or an aberration of it. The authors provide a close inspection of the concept of jihad, or holy war. The authors contend that there are plenty of Koranic texts which appear to justify acts of violence and aggression. Indeed, it seems to be an essential feature of Islamic teaching, as found in the Koran and the hadith, or oral tradition of Islam. Both lend support for armed attacks on non-believers.

The authors point out that such justification for holy war is not comparable with what appears to be the Old Testament equivalent. This order to fight was limited in both time and place, while the Islamic version appears to be universal and timeless. Warfare in the New Testament is clearly spiritual in nature, and church and state have their separate spheres (“Render onto Caesar…”). But Islam knows no such distinction. Thus political power and religious authority are seen as one by most Muslims. Here, and in many other areas, Islam differs radically from the Christian faith.

In an age which appears to see all religions as being largely the same, and in a culture where Political Correctness reigns supreme, it is hard to make theological and ethical distinctions. But that we must do, and this book helps us to do just that in regard to the two main religious movements of our day. Many other good books exist which evaluate Islam from a Christian perspective. However, if you can afford only one, this should be your choice.

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