Oftentimes, the quality of dialogue between Christians and Muslims is hampered by the fact that Muslims simply do not know what it is that Christians believe, why they believe them, how they interpret the Bible, and what the history of Christianity is. This is not entirely their fault, as Christians all too often neglect studying their own faith and are unable to give a proper answer to these fundamental questions. It would be helpful if both Muslims and the Christians who are involved in dialoguing with them had the proper resources to be able to engage in an informed discussion. For this reason, I have come up with a short reading list of books that I highly recommend, both so that Muslims will be able to know where Christians are coming from (and why many of their objections to Christianity miss the mark), as well as so that Christians would not be dumbfounded when hard questions are asked of them by their Muslim counterparts. If anyone on the Muslim side could come up with an equivalent reading list for their side, doing so would also be helpful so that Christians would similarly be able to understand where Muslims are coming from and improve the quality of our arguments.
The first book that I would like to recommend is Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. Written by one of the foremost Evangelical theologians in North America, This 1,200 page tome is standard reading in seminaries across the English speaking world. With chapters on the Inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, Justification, Atonement and other fundamental Christian doctrines, this volume is very helpful in demystifying those Christian beliefs that Muslims are frequently incredulous about. For those who are intimidated by the size of this volume, a condensed 500 page version is available which covers the same topics, albeit in less detail, while still mentioning the most important points that every reader should take home.
After Systematic Theology, the next book I would recommend for Muslims to read is Understanding and Applying the Bible by Robertson McQuilkin. This book is an introduction to Biblical hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible). It provides guidelines on how to properly approach Biblical passages, determine the historical and grammatical context of each one, and what does and does not constitute a proper interpretation of any given passage. An understanding of Biblical hermeneutics plus an understanding of Christian theology will go a long way towards helping both Christians and Muslims handle the Bible properly, as well as explaining why it is simply not proper for Muslims to interpret Deuteronomy 18 or John 14-16 as predictions of Muhammad, or Matthew 27:46 as a denial of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross.
The next book I would recommend for my Muslim friends is The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief by James R. White. This book explains that fundamental Christian belief, defining it in such a way that it cannot be mistaken for any number of related heresies, whether it is belief in three separate gods (Tritheism) or belief in a unipersonal god who manifests himself in three different forms (Modalism). By explaining the differences and providing a correct definition of the Trinity, Muslims can avoid attacking strawman interpretations of the Godhead, and be able to more meaningfully debate Christians on their doctrine of God. It also explains why passages such as John 14:28 and 17:3 cannot be read as denials of Jesus’ divinity, and goes into the beliefs of the early church fathers to show that belief in the Trinity was not invented at Nicaea, but has been the belief of the Christian Church throughout history.
Another book that I would recommend Muslims read is Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer and Daniel B. Wallace. Written by some of the most credible evangelical Biblical scholars in the field today, Reinventing Jesus puts to rest such common and persistent myths as the idea that the Jesus story was borrowed from pagan religions, and that the canon of the Bible was determined at Nicaea. The book also goes into length on the work of textual critic Bart D. Ehrman (who is oft-quoted by Muslims despite his negative statements on the Qur’an), and shows how he misuses the textual evidence when in fact it strongly supports the preservation rather than corruption of the Biblical text. After reading this book, Muslims will hopefully think twice before ever quoting Ehrman again.
The next book that I would recommend to Muslims is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham. Dr. Bauckham tackles the crucial question of whether or not the Gospel accounts were actually written by people who actually knew Jesus firsthand and could verify the authenticity of the stories they were writing about. He shows convincingly that all four Gospels were written either by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or by men who were associated with eyewitnesses (Mark and Luke). This is very relevant, as Muslims believe Jesus was a true prophet whose followers were aided by God and regarded as Muslims themselves (cf. Surah 3:52-55 and 61:14). If that is the case, then Muslims must accept the Gospel accounts as authentic, or else they would be contradicting their own holy text. This also means they cannot flippantly reject Jesus’ claims in the Gospels to be the Saviour of the World, and the only way to the Father (cf. John 3:16, 14:6), as these would have to be accepted as the true words of one of God’s chosen prophets.
One final book that I would recommend is not written from a Christian perspective, but is nonetheless helpful for those engaged in Christian-Muslim dialogue. It is How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic by Madsen Pirie. Logical fallacies are the bane of every meaningful debate, and a book on how to detect and avoid such fallacies will go a long way towards improving the quality of Christian-Muslim discussions. Muslims will learn to avoid such fallacies as the Argumentum Ad-Populum (“Islam is the fastest growing religion!”), the Straw-Man Argument (“If Jesus died on the cross for your sins, then you can sin as much as you want and still go to heaven!”) and the Tu-Quoque Fallacy (“You can’t accuse Islam of being a violent religion because Christians have done violent things in the past too!”). Understanding the use and abuse of logic will help both Christians and Muslims be more logical in their thinking and argumentation and thus provide actual challenges to the opposing side.
There are many books aside from these that I could recommend, but for starters, these are the books that I think belong in every Christian and Muslim’s library. I do hope that everyone will make the effort to actually obtain and read these books, as doing so would help us all to get behind all the bad arguments that get slung around and produce debates that are truly worthy of the name “apologetics.”