Bill Musk again brings his great knowledge of Islam to bear in his latest book, Kissing Cousins? Musk expresses several goals: (1) "If followers of each faith could better understand where each religion is 'coming from', maybe hope could be engendered for more positive relating and communicating across the gap between them....Attitude-change is my major aim" (p. 14); (2) "My aim, in this book, is to shift comparison...towards one in which parallels are discovered about how the two faiths have actually found expression on earth" (p. 15); (3) "In this book I have tried for the most part to help Western Christians see themselves and the history of the development of Christianity vis-ą-vis Islam from a perspective different from their own inherited one. I have questioned whether that history/ 'on the ground' truly reflects the attitude and priorities of Christianity's founder, Jesus Christ" (pp. 278-9).
The author also explains how Islam sees itself. He sets up comparisons and contrasts between Islam and Christianity in the areas of prophetic callings, the Quran and the Incarnate Word of God, development of doctrinal positions, historical tensions, and views on Jesus, sin, and judgment.
To make the text more understandable, he includes photos, charts, maps, an appendix on transliteration, a bibliography, glossary, notes, and an index. The style of Musk's writing is scholarly though highly interesting. The reader will find a knowledge of history, particularly church history, and basic Christian doctrine helpful.
Musk's insights from his knowledge of the Middle East enlighten the reader on Scripture. He provides an interesting history of the development of the "original sin" doctrine. He explains how Muslims defend the idea that Jesus was a Muslim hundreds of years before Muhammad. He raises some interesting ideas on the amount of contextualization from Islam that is helpful in bringing Muslims to the Lord.
Unfortunately, this is one of Dr. Musk's more abstract and troubling books. He provides few accounts of Islamic life that made The Unseen Face of Islam so fascinating.
What makes this book troubling are some of the questions he raises about Islam's relationship to Christianity. At times, his viewpoint is hard to pin down because he raises questions without answering them. I found myself asking, "Is he saying that Christianity has a more bloodthirsty history than Islam? Is he saying that the Spanish shouldn't have driven their Muslim conquerors out of their country in the Middle Ages? Is he saying that we should soften our teaching on the incarnation to appeal to Muslims? Is he saying that the religion which cuts people's hands off for stealing and kills women, but not men, for adultery or even getting raped, is more just than Christianity?" Sometimes, I was not sure of his position.
One issue that he discusses early in the book is a comparison between Muhammad as a prophet and the Old Testament prophets, particularly Moses. He finds many correlations. However, he never answers the question of who gave the prophets the messages. Did God give both Muhammad and Moses messages for their people? Musk seems to suggest that. Is Musk just looking at the prophets as men burdened by the weight of idol worship who preached repentance among their people? Why would God send an Old Testament-style messenger to call people back to a law-based faith after the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Why would God send a messenger who denies the crucifixion and resurrection and points to Muhammad as being as great or greater than Christ?
In less troubling areas, Musk questions the West's commitment to international justice because Israel was not forced to return land taken by Israel during its defensive wars, but Saddam Hussein was forced to give up Kuwait after seizing it.
He compares much of the Evangelical community in America to the Islamic and Jewish terrorists. "The Gush Emunīm in Israel, the Islamists of both Sunni and Shia variety and the dispensationalist, Christian Zionists of America constitute strong, if minority, voices in their respective 'civilizations.' Each promote violence in the name of God" (p. 389).
He finds that "the Christian denial, throughout post-Constantinian history, of Christ's commitment to non-violence makes that faith's sword-taking the more reprehensible" compared to Islam's (p. 388). This comes up in other places, as he finds much less objectionable the Christian blood being spilled in Constantinople by the Muslims than Jewish and Muslim blood spilled by so-called Christians during the Crusades. Why aren't both equally objectionable? Isn't it true that any time people are promised heaven or paradise without regard to their works or behavior that some of them will behave brutally? We have it in the history of both religions.
Probably the most troubling aspect of the book is its position or lack thereof on the inspiration and veracity of the Scripture. A minor element of that is his discussion on the "development" of the names of God in both religions, as though it is separated from how God gave His names. This problem grows when Musk quotes Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's questioning God's ordering the killing of rebellious children, whether God would set loose bears on young people mocking Elisha, or the striking down of Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit. Instead of defending the veracity of the scripture in this "uncomfortable territory" (p. 389), Musk goes on a page later to write, "Whether in more extreme manifestation, or just for being people with a strong allegiance to 'suspect' scripture, religious cousins--Muslims and Christians--are today being tarred with/ the same brush" (p. 390).
Dr. Musk offers much of worth in this book on understanding our own faith and Islam. Those who work among Muslims may find much helpful material here, but I hope Dr. Musk will clarify his position in another printing of this work. Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
Through the years, Islam and Christianity have experienced serious conflicts, and current differences are presenting new challenges. In this powerful book filled with striking insights, author Bill Musk unravels misconceptions and seeks to change mistaken views for the better.