Book review: Evangelical Christian Responses to Islam

Anvil journal of theology and mission

Richard McCallum, Evangelical Christian Responses to Islam: A Contemporary Overview (London: Bloomsbury, 2024)

reviewed by Tom Wilson, Leicester

This is an invaluable resource for academics and students who are seeking to understand evangelical Christian responses to Islam. It is divided into three parts. First, McCallum builds on the work of Habermas, Fraser and others to argue for an “Evangelical micro-public sphere”, one of many “that together form a global network of spheres making up broader transnational macro-public spheres” (p. 15). McCallum establishes the nature of the evangelical micro public sphere on Islam, documenting the issues, participants and texts that are discussed. In the second chapter of part one he explores typologies of encounter, outlining the breadth of what it means to be evangelical and how those who identify in this way respond to Islam.

Part two dives into the issues of: Allah, Muhammad, Qur’an and Hadith, Sharia, Islamisation, persecution, violence and Israel–Palestine. Various evangelical responses to each issue are set out clearly and the subtleties and nuances of the differences between them are explained. At the end of each chapter is a helpful one- or two-page discussion, where McCallum draws together the threads of the argument and poses questions and challenges for the reader. The chapters range broadly across the globe. White men from the US and UK do dominate but other voices are present. A real strength of this book is that McCallum has gone beyond the “usual suspects” to ensure a genuine plurality of voices are heard. The final chapter outlines the range of different answers that evangelical writers give to the question “What is Islam?” The answers given are a religion, a heresy, a political ideology, a conspiracy, the enemy, demonic, an essence, diverse, Muslims and a social construct.

In part three McCallum explores how evangelical Christians talk to and with Muslims, as well as methodologies for evangelism and conversion, friendship and dialogue, and apologetics and polemics. As in part two, a wide range of strategies, approaches and global contexts are discussed. McCallum does not shy away from the difficult issues, raising the question of the ethics of any outreach or evangelism for example. The final chapter discusses types of evangelical response to Islam. As with any typology, it presents a series of theoretical constructs that may not map to real life but are nevertheless useful for opening up conversation.

In his conclusion McCallum recapitulates his argument to date and draws together the threads of his discussion, including issues such as convert care, geographical difference, race, gender, sexual orientation, and climate and environment. He sets out for the directions of future activity including the importance of education, research, hospitality and humility. He ends by suggesting Christianity is at a crossroads both in terms of what it means to be Christian and what it means for Christians to engage with Islam.

Evangelical Christian Responses to Islam is a meticulously researched and lucidly written book. Not just the discussion, but also the lists of references, make this a go-to resource for all students of Christian responses to Islam in particular, and mission studies in general. Since it is currently only available as an academic hardback, sales may be limited for the moment to libraries, but once the more affordable paperback edition is out, I would urge anyone with serious interest in Christian-Muslim relations to buy a copy of this book.

More from this issue