I wrote this book review for our Kairos magazine, Volume 21, No. 21 (14-27 Nov, 2010).
Peter Kreeft, Between Allah & Jesus: What Christians can learn from Muslims (IVP Books, 2010)
Book Review by David Schütz, Executive Officer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission
Peter Kreeft’s book represents an entirely new approach to writing about the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and one which I believe is entirely in line with the Catholic insistence that dialogue with those of other faiths is necessary in order to reach understanding of both the positive agreements and the real differences.
Kreeft, a Catholic apologist and teacher of philosophy who has written more than 60 books, takes Muslims and Islam seriously precisely because he takes his Catholic faith seriously. “Between Allah & Jesus” has something positive to say about Islam, and also something to say about how authentic Christianity should engage Muslims. He is clear that there is a war being fought by both Christianity and Islam, but he is equally clear that the common enemy in this war is Western secularism not primarily one another.
Kreeft achieves this new perspective by the old and (today) little used genre of “literary dialogue”. By putting different points of view into the amounts of different characters, the author is able to present several points of view at once while remaining at arms length from the point he himself is making. The reader overhears the conversation and draws the conclusions.
“Between Allah & Jesus” is set in the context of Boston College, an American Jesuit institution at which Kreeft himself was once a teacher of philosophy. It has four main characters: three students (‘Isa Ben Adam, an orthodox Arab Muslim; Libby, a black feminist Christian; Evan, a conservative evangelical Christian) and a Jesuit priest, Fr Heerema, who is a professor at the College. The dialogues alternate between the characters, but all of them are with the Muslim student, ‘Isa. Kreeft’s characters broach a wide range of issues in morality and theology that are relevant to the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, including war and pacifism, abortion and feminism, prayer, and the identity and nature of God.
By using three different Christian characters, Kreeft shows that our dialogue with Islam does not take place on a single level, but is determined by how Christians themselves interpret and live their own Christian faith. I believe that Kreeft is accurate in his portrayal of ‘Isa’s beliefs, although I would like to test this by giving the book to a Muslim friend for his judgment. What emerges above all is that Muslims can teach Christians the need for the virtue of courage and strength of conviction.
Kreeft has achieved something special with this book. Readers will learn accurate information about Islam, and at the same time learn how to critique some popular myths about Islam and about what Christianity’s proper response to Islam should be.