Book Review: The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

It’s easy to feel ill-equipped or uncertain when it comes to evangelism at the best of times. I’d imagine that for many of us sharing our faith comes about as naturally as speaking in public. Its hard work at the best of times, especially when there’s no natural segue or a cameo appearance by Jesus Himself.

But when it comes to a Muslim neighbor, coworker, classmate or friend—how do we do share the gospel with them?

“It’s a fine question, but it has a fatal flaw. It assumes that somehow Muslims require a different gospel or a different technique, that Muslims are somehow impervious to the gospel in a way that other sinners are not,” writes Thabiti Anyabwile in the opening pages of The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence.

Striking Differences on the Essentials

The book is broken into two parts. The first is primarily theological, addressing topics of God, man, Jesus, repentance and faith and highlighting the similarities and differences between the Muslim and Christian understandings of these teachings. This was particularly fascinating to read because it truly shows how fundamentally different the two belief systems are.

The nature of God and the nature of sin

First, while Muslims and Christians largely agree on the basic attributes of God (holiness, justice, etc.), they disagree on his nature. Muslim teaching rejects the Trinity—the teaching that the one God exists eternally as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; they see it as being in opposition to the truth that there is one God (which there is). It’s a stumbling block for them, not only because of this aspect, but also the role the Trinity plays in the Christian understanding of salvation. (We’ll get to that in a second.)

Second, our views of sin are strikingly different. While Christians believe that all humanity is enslaved to sin because of Adam’s fall (Genesis 3, cf. Romans 6:6, 15-20; 7:25), Muslims deny original sin.

“Adam is not said to have sinned against God, but to have made an ethical mistake,” Anyabwile writes (p. 44). “Most define sin as simply disobeying Allah’s will. This disobedience comes from man’s weakness and ignorance, but not from a corruption of his nature.”

Further, he explains that in Muslim theology, the object of sin is man—that when we sin, we do evil to ourselves, rather than offend a holy, perfect God.

Jesus, the ultimate stumbling block

As in all things, the greatest stumbling block is Jesus Himself. Given His claims about Himself, “[t]o accept Jesus as ‘a good moral teacher’ or as a prophet as Muslims do, only to then reject His prophecy and teaching is not an honest position to take” (p. 64). The truth that Christ is both fully man and fully God is an unavoidable reality and something with which we all—whatever our background—must contend. “Who is Jesus” is the most important we will ever answer, and we must do so.

These chapters are to be considered carefully. For the Christian reader, there is much encouragement and even some correction here. It’s easy to take for granted the truths of Christianity and forget how truly distinct our beliefs are. Looking at them side-by-side with an opposing view gave me the opportunity to see them again with fresh eyes and just marvel at how audacious the claims of the Bible truly are. How ridiculous they would be if they were not true, and how wondrous they are because they are.

Be Bold, Trust Your Bible, Love Your Church, Suffer Well

The second half of the book offers thoughtful, pastoral advice as we witness in the world.

Anyabwile reminds us of the importance of hospitality and the local church to evangelism.

By practicing hospitality we’re afforded numerous opportunities for friendships and evangelism by doing something as simple as sharing a meal. The local church, imperfect as it may be, “is God’s plan for demonstrating His wisdom and love in a fallen world” (p. 143). So we should embrace the command to be hospitable and embrace the local church.

We should pray for boldness, what Anyabwile describes as the true meaning of being filled with the Spirit. “The Spirit who dwells in us will not leave us nor forsake us. He will give us what we need to testify to Christ,” he writes (p. 106).

He exhorts us to trust the Bible and use it in our evangelism. “Using the Scripture demonstrates your trust in it.” If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, we need not be embarrassed about it.

Finally, we need to develop a good theology of suffering. It is the common earthly experience for all believers (cf. Matt 16:24-25; 2 Tim 3:12; Phil 1:29; 1 Pet 2:20-21). How we react to suffering is a powerful witness to the efficacy of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection—because our hope is in Him, not in the things of this world.

Have Confidence in the Gospel

So why is Anyabwile qualified to write this book? Because it’s his story.

He converted to Islam while a sophomore in college. “I was zealous for Islam, ‘the perfect religion for the African American,’” he recalls (p. 19).

However, as he read the Quran, he found himself having to wrestle with its teaching about Jesus and, in order to be a consistent and intellectually honest Muslim, it meant coming to grips with the Bible.

He became convinced that Islam was false. Not just Islam, but he was fairly certain all religions were as well. And just over a decade ago, after a season marked by the “pursuit of the world,” he turned to Christ, discovering that in Jesus was redemption. “The sinless Son of God has indeed come into the world to save everyone who believes—even a former Muslim who was an avowed and determined enemy of the cross!” (p. 22).

That’s what makes The Gospel for Muslims important. It’s not a book about apologetics. It’s not a book about techniques. It is a heartfelt reminder of the power of the gospel from someone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psa. 34:8). And it’s a most welcome one.

Read the book and be encouraged.

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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3 Replies to “Book Review: The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile”

  1. […] year, Anyabwile released an excellent book on ministering to Muslims, The Gospel for Muslims (reviewed here). There, he offers three reasons for the necessity of holding fast to the doctrine of the Trinity: […]

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  3. […] Blogging Theologically That’s what makes The Gospel for Muslims important.  It’s not a book about apologetics. It’s not a book about techniques. The Gospel for Muslims is a heartfelt reminder of the power of the gospel from someone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psa. 34:8). And it’s a most welcome one. […]

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