Friday, October 03, 2008

Book Review: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? by Timothy George

Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Understanding the Differences Between Christianity and Islam
By Timothy George
Zondervan, 2002
Category: World Religions, Evangelism
ISBN: 0310247489
140 pages
Indexes: Further Reading List, Key Terms for Islam, Historical Timeline
$12.99 MSRP

Timothy George was raised in a family that was “a little charismatic,” emphasizing the experience of emotion in worship rather than the stimulus of the mind.(1) Although not encouraged to attain higher levels of education or to pursue formalized training for ministry, in God’s good providence, George was afforded an opportunity to study at Harvard Divinity School where he was “the only evangelical Christian.”(2) George now serves as the dean of Beeson Divinity School, an interdenominational, evangelical institution (and seminary home for the present author). His commitment to evangelicalism includes a high view of the sovereignty of God as well as the trinitarian nature of the Godhead. Beeson’s affirmation of this trinitarian nature is evident in its admissions application(3) requiring each potential applicant to interact with the Apostles’ Creed, which is explicit in its trinitarian understanding.

This trinitarian understanding also lies at the heart of Timothy George’s book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? as it “is the necessary theological framework for understanding the story of Jesus as the story of God.”(4) George’s impetus for writing the book came in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. In an effort to help others understanding the basic tenets of Islam in light of orthodox Christianity, he has offered this book as a tool. He is quick to say that “this book is not a vigorous apologetic against Islam and its many controversial practices…[but] the doctrine of God is at the heart of both Islamic theology and Christian faith. All other issues, however important, are secondary and derivative.”(5) George argues that Islam rejects the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, and salvation by grace(6) and any effort to evangelize Muslims must inevitably deal with these issues.(7) Oftentimes these issues are misunderstood by Muslims and these misunderstandings have found their way into the Qu’ran. George suggests avoiding the perils of Muslim-Christian debate as it is highly possible to “win and argument and lose a soul.”(8)

The author primarily uses both the Qu’ran and the Bible to outline the basic beliefs of Muslims and Christians. He also quotes Muslim and Christian scholars showing a great balance of research. The author interestingly shows many of the compatibilities between the two holy books as though passages from the Qu’ran could feasibly have been written as passages in the Christian Scriptures.(9) However, it is not sufficient in any evangelism effort to simply point out the similarities between Christianity and any other religion. We must go one step further and preach Jesus Christ as “crucified, risen, and coming again.”(10)

Throughout the book, the author is attempting to answer the question posed by its title: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? George cautiously answers both “yes” and “no” while he illuminates the need for us to examine and explain the use of terminology that may be misleading.(11) The “yes” comes from the fact that “the Father of Jesus is the only God there is” and therefore he is the God over every other person who has ever lived, including Muhammad.(12) He responds with a “no” because Christians and Muslims “have radically different understandings of the character and nature of God.”(13) However, because of the “yes” answer Christians should have a passion to resolve the “no.” This should not lead us to a prideful contempt of our Muslim neighbor; rather, it should compel us to shed “evangelical tears”(14) for those who are trusting in their own works-based righteousness and not in the atoning death of Christ. A reading of this important and informative book will help each of us to do so.

(1) Conversation with the present author September 11, 2008.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Beeson Divinity School’s application for admission may be accessed here Accessed 9/25/08 for the purpose of this review.
(4) Timothy George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Understanding the Differences Between Christianity and Islam (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 59.
(5) Ibid., 16.
(6) Ibid., 41.
(7) Ibid., 132.
(8) Ibid., 128.
(9) Ibid., 71.
(10) Ibid., 74.
(11) "[We] cannot say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God without qualifying biblically what we mean by same and what we mean by God." Ibid., 131.
(12) Ibid., 129.
(13) Ibid., 130. Thoughts on the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, and salvation by grace alone are the predominant distinctions between the two.
(14) Ibid., 90.

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