Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lessons From Nabeel Qureshi's Book

I recently read Nabeel Qureshi's Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014). It's the story of a Muslim layman's conversion to Christianity, written for the general public, so it addresses the issues in an introductory to intermediate way. Since Qureshi's conversion involved a vision and some dreams that apparently were miraculous, he provides eyewitness testimony to some Christian miracles. The book is interesting, moving, and well written. If you want to read more about it, there are hundreds of reviews of the book at Amazon alone. What I want to do in the remainder of this post is highlight some portions of the book that stood out to me on subjects other than Islam.

- Qureshi discusses some paranormal dreams experienced by his relatives and other Muslims (65-7). The experiences of Qureshi's family illustrate something Steve Hays and I have addressed in previous posts. Christians shouldn't assume that miracle reports among non-Christians are fabricated, demonic, or non-Divine in some other way. Qureshi's book doesn't give us much information by which to evaluate his family's miraculous experiences, but, as a general principle, it would make sense for God to be supernaturally active in a family like Qureshi's. The family would not only produce a convert to Christianity, but even one as prominent as Qureshi. Christians are sometimes too quick to dismiss miracles among non-Christians as non-Divine. For anybody who's interested in reading more about how Christians should evaluate reports of miracles among non-Christians, see the relevant posts in my series here. And there are a lot of other posts on the subject in our archives.

- Qureshi mentions that the miracles he experienced just before and just after becoming a Christian gradually diminished over time (285-6). They centered around the most desperate time in his life, when he most needed God's intervention (287). I can say the same about my own life. The most miraculous events I've experienced have been during times of desperation. (And, no, those desperate circumstances don't provide any good naturalistic explanation for what happened.) More significantly, Craig Keener, who's studied the history of miracles in depth, has noted that miracles have a tendency to occur more where they're needed more (e.g., miraculous healings in parts of the world with less medical care available). Qureshi's experience is an illustration of that tendency.

- He repeatedly mentions the prominence of intellectual issues in leading him to Christ. The Christians he encountered for most of his early life were highly ignorant of the relevant issues, and the Muslims he later consulted for responses to Christian arguments didn't have much to offer. But considering that Christianity is so much more dominant than Islam in this culture, and considering the fact that Christians have the advantage of having the truth on their side, the intellectual neglect among Christians is especially appalling. Qureshi had the benefit of eventually encountering Christians like David Wood and Mike Licona, but that's a rare experience. Here's something Qureshi wrote about his relationship with Wood:

"What I needed was something that would not let me get away with my biases. I needed something that would mercilessly loop my bad arguments before my eyes, again and again and again, until I could avoid them no longer. I needed a friend, an intelligent, uncompromising, non-Muslim friend who would be willing to challenge me." (117)

David Wood provided that. Do you provide it for people in your life? Does your church provide it for people?

- Notice what Qureshi says about the importance of persistence: responding to arguments "again and again and again" (ibid.). Yet, many Christians give up easily. Once they encounter a small or moderate amount of resistance, they walk away.

- Qureshi writes about how he and his Muslim father responded to a play at a church service he (Qureshi) was invited to by a Christian classmate in high school (94-8). It's a devastating example of how non-Christians, even ones coming from a worldview as weak as Islam, are unimpressed by so many of Christianity's modern evangelistic efforts. Qureshi and his father laughed at the play and found it "silly", "trying to play on people's fears and emotions", etc. (95) I wonder how many readers of Qureshi's book will notice that what Qureshi is criticizing in that chapter occurs so frequently in Evangelical churches and in a lot of other contexts in the Evangelical world.

- There isn't just a problem with Christians making too little effort to argue for their own belief system. They also don't know much about Islam. Qureshi writes:

"Regarding Muhammad, Westerners rarely knew anything. I could say whatever I wanted about him and others would believe me. Of course, I did not try to deceive anyone, but it was not hard to make a case for Muhammad to the average Christian, simply because of their ignorance." (84)

I suspect that many of those people spend a lot of time listening to discussions of Islam in contexts like news programs and talk radio. Yet, they know little about Muhammad's life or Islam in a religious context. They ought to spend less time on news, politics, and such and more time on subjects like theology, history, and apologetics.

- It's encouraging to see a book that's so critical of intellectual shallowness getting such good reviews and significant endorsements. But I wonder how many readers are failing to learn some of the lessons they ought to be taking away from Qureshi's book. Look at how shallow many of the reviews are at Amazon, for example. I'm glad that the book is getting high ratings. But how do you read a book that places so much emphasis on intellectual issues, apologetics, etc., then go post a positive review at Amazon that's one or two sentences long, with poor grammar and spelling? I suspect that many people who read Qureshi's book or hear his story will give inordinate attention to the miraculous events surrounding his conversion while neglecting the major role of apologetics and other intellectual matters in the larger context. (But even the miracles involve intellectual issues, such as how to interpret his vision and dreams and their role in the larger framework of evidence for Islam and Christianity.) Some people will focus on the fact that a Muslim has converted to Christianity, without much interest in the intellectual issues involved. I hope Qureshi's book will lead a lot of his readers to more intellectual maturity. But the Amazon reviews illustrate how that often doesn't happen much, if at all.

- You come away from the book with a strong sense of the primacy of God. Qureshi had to give up a lot to become a Christian. The book powerfully expresses the value of God above family, friends, education, a career, and everything else. That's an important message, in the United States and in every other culture, and it's one of the reasons why I'd recommend the book even for people who don't have much interest in Islam.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing this review to us, Jason! Looks like I need to order a book :-)