Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenges of Islam – Book Review

Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenges of Islam
Review by Dr Robert Dutch, Bristol Baptist College

This review is by a Western evangelical student who attended Colin Chapman’s ‘Islamics Course’ (2006) at Redcliffe College and is now studying the MA in Intercultural Studies in Asian Contexts. First, the review summarises the book’s target audience, key thesis, thought and main ideas. Second, it evaluates the book’s strengths and weakness. Finally, it summarises the book’s impact.

Target Audience, Key Thesis, Developing Thought and Main Ideas
Chapman’s target audience is twofold. First, for people requiring ‘a basic introduction to the faith and practice of Islam’ (p. 9) taking little/nothing for granted and summarising essential information. Second, he provides ‘a textbook in courses on Islam in colleges and seminaries of different kinds’ (p. 10). His readership is British/Western Christians while engaging with international Islam including Asian contexts. However, Muslims and the media read such books, as Woodberry (2008:xiii) acknowledges.

His key thesis concerns ‘relationships between Christians and Muslims, and the relationship between Christianity and Islam’ (p. 11). He wants Christians to respond appropriately to Islam’s challenges by reviewing their attitudes/prejudices and understanding Islam/Muslims better in a changing/challenging world. These perceived challenges are: numerical growth, culture, politics, theological and ideological. Chapman sees these new challenges raising new questions and he desires informed Christians offering genuine responses.

He takes readers on a planned journey to develop their attitudes and beliefs/practices, using five parts (36 chapters plus a conclusion). Part One ‘Relating to Our Muslim Neighbours’ addresses personal relationships between Christians and Muslims, understanding their culture and examining our attitudes. Part Two ‘Understanding Islam’ explains Islam’s diversity, beliefs/practices, contemporary issues, women and terrorism.  In Part Three ‘Entering into Discussion and Dialogue’ Chapman introduces the ‘main controversial issues’ between Muslims and Christians helping us learn from the past and develop positive/fruitful ways of dialogue using new models. Part Four ‘Facing Fundamental Issues’ addresses theological/biblical questions, including Qur’anic teaching on Jesus and Christians, conversion and politics/jihad with Christian responses. In Part Five, ‘Bearing Witness to Jesus’, Chapman reaches his destination.  He has developed his readers’ attitudes and understanding, equipping them to be informed, respectful and genuine witnesses. The conclusion clearly recaps and consolidates his main ideas.

Chapman’s main ideas are encapsulated in the titles of the five parts (see above). Working from an evangelical perspective he wants Christians to be informed, genuine and sensitive witnesses. He develops historical, biblical, theological and ethical perspectives/lenses. While using the authority of the Bible he effectively engages with the Qur’an, hadith and various authorities.

Strengths and Weaknesses: An Evaluation

1. Strengths
The book’s many strengths begin with building on his successful first edition. His ‘Preface to the second edition’ helpfully explains its development from the first edition (Chapman 1995) following 9/11. A new chapter examines ‘Islamic terrorism’ while the chapter ‘Facing the political challenge of Islam’ is rewritten. But these do not dominate his agenda. He follows the 1995 structure with five parts and Part Five renamed ‘Bearing Witness to Jesus’. The five parts provide a good structure for readers to follow Chapman’s developing thought.  Chapter headings and order are very similar to the first edition so readers already familiar with this should recognise the common structure. His 1995 edition’s 346 pages are expanded to 432 pages. Chapman, as an evangelical Christian, ably uses his knowledge/understanding and wide experience of Muslims/Islam to lovingly inform and challenge Christians. He also effectively uses his wide teaching experience to clearly teach readers. The extensive use of Scripture in supporting his position will be appreciated by evangelicals.

The text is clearly formatted with a good size font, sufficient headings, bullet points and citations. The five parts begin with quotation(s) and a statement of purpose as a ‘road-map.’ For example, Part One begins ‘The emphasis in Part One is on personal relationships between Christians and Muslims’ (p. 17), while Part Two notes ‘The aim of Part Two is to present Islam as much as possible from the point of view of Muslims, to describe the faith and practice of Islam in a way that Muslims will recognize as accurate and fair’ (p. 57). He wants his readers to stand in Muslim shoes and appreciate their worldview. Important Arabic words (English spelling) are introduced. Moreover, Chapman effectively uses figures/tables, e.g. Figure 4.1 (p. 60) ‘The different faces of Islam,’ and Table 7.1 (pp. 78-79) ‘The life of Muhammad’.

Part One ‘Relating to our Muslim Neighbours’ is on-target for the reader is introduced to Muslims as people and readers should appreciate their culture. Here he allows Muslims to speak with Islam – A Brief Guide (n.d.). In examining attitudes, he asks readers to reflect on common comments, e.g. ‘Look at the way they persecute Christians!’ (p. 39). Chapman uses various statements and then skilfully turns these around towards self-reflection. Only after this groundwork does Chapman introduce Part Two ‘Understanding Islam’ where he demonstrates that Islam is not monolithic. He persuasively and sensitively leads his readers forward developing their understanding. Part Five ‘Bearing Witness to Jesus’ clearly completes his book. Christians are now equipped to engage with Muslims/Islam. His conclusion is comprehensive.

Chapman’s study is up-to-date, balanced and dialogical with citations supporting his arguments. His engaging style develops careful arguments. He thoughtfully addresses current global issues (e.g. chapter 36: ‘faith schools’, wearing the veil, freedom of speech/respect, shari‘a law in Nigeria, Islamization in Malaysia and contextualization). Contexts include the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa and Asia. Chapter 30 ‘Counting the cost of conversion’ discusses apostasy in the Qur’an, hadith, shari‘a and human rights which are especially important in countries like Pakistan. Underlying everything is his understanding and love for Muslims, respect for them and a peaceful approach. But he holds firmly to the gospel without compromise, urging Christians to engage with Muslims.

2. Weaknesses

Despite the book’s many strengths it shows some weaknesses.

First, the author is introduced on the back-cover with no further description to inform his readership. In contrast, Ida Glaser (2005:14-15) writes ‘About me’ for two reasons: (1) authors can be ‘academic’ and ‘objective’ but their beliefs/experience  affect their writing and (2) theology and inter-faith relationships are not just theoretical but part of our lives. An explanation for readers unaware of Chapman’s previous work, publications and reputation, would be beneficial.

Second, there is no bibliography. For example, to find Moucarry the index must be used to locate a page number and endnote.  The 1995 edition included five bibliographies (‘Resources for further study’). So why is one absent here? Further, the book uses endnotes not footnotes which are much quicker to use. In the main text, quotations are occasionally given without identifying the author and it is necessary to reference the endnotes. Sometimes citations have no author identified in the text or endnotes. Chapter 35 (‘Explaining Christian beliefs about Jesus’) and chapter 36 (‘Some issues facing Christians today’) are devoid of endnotes.

Third, no additional resources are provided. Contrast this with Saal (1991:173-186; 205-214) who provides resources and his annotated bibliography. Swartley (2008) also shows how this can be achieved. Chapman should have included a single resource for books, articles and internet sites. The text includes: (p. 247), Cross and Crescent ( and (p. 347). The first site connected as expected but the other two did not display the expected material. Free internet sites could be identified, e.g.,, and

Even within chapters, opportunities for identifying further resources are missed. For example, chapter 2 ‘Appreciating Islamic culture’ only has three references. It could have referenced Mallouhi (2004), Musk (2004a) with Strong and Page (2006). Chapter 16 ‘Women in Islam’ could have referenced Sookhdeo (2005a and 2005b) who worked with London’s Muslims. The chapter, although good on Islam, fails to discuss arranged and forced marriages, which are relevant to British Asian Muslim Women, as shown by Shah (2009) who escaped a forced marriage. No discussion/references warn of the distinction between unregistered Muslim weddings in mosques and UK civil weddings.  This can disadvantage women. Although this chapter (p. 173) identifies that Muslim men are allowed up to four wives, when earlier Chapman (p. 30) cites Islam – A Brief Guide that marriage ‘is a solemn, simple contract between a man and women’ this version of Islam for a Western audience is left unchallenged.

For chapter 17 ‘Islamic Terrorism’ readers must use Chapman (2005) for further resources. He could have mentioned Gabriel (2002) former professor of Islamic history at Al-Azhar University and Musk (2003). In chapter 22, ‘A deeper look at the main Muslim objections’ Chapman notes ‘At some stage it may be necessary to discuss questions concerning biblical criticism’ (p. 222) but does not give resources. This chapter could reference Masood (2001) on the Qur’an and Bible for ‘evidence of reliability’ and ‘errors and contradictions’ plus the Gospel of Barnabas. References could include Moucarry (2001) and Musk (2004b).

Fourth, a glossary is required for Arabic, specialist terms (e.g. Gnostic, Monophysite and Nestorian, p. 279) and significant names, as Musk (2005:409-418). While Chapman helpfully explains Islamic terms and transliterates Arabic there is no quick reference system. Readers unable to remember earlier explanations or who sample individual chapters are unsupported.

Fifth, as Chapman’s book addresses British/Western Christians some European demographic data for Muslims would be useful, updated from his study course (2003:6). For example, Abbas (2005:xiii) notes ‘There are approximately one million South Asian Muslims in Britain, representing nearly two-thirds of all Muslims in the UK.’ The total Muslim population is around 1.6 million. He could reference the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (2005).

Sixth, two small errors were noticed. In discussing ‘our attitudes’ Chapman refers to Jews and Samaritans (p. 53) noting ‘The Jews despised the Samaritans for their mixed ancestry, which resulted from intermarriage between Jews in the northern kingdom of Israel and Assyrians who were brought to the area after the fall of Samaria in 721 BC (2 Kgs 17:24-41).’ However, recent scholarship disputes the relevance of this biblical passage; see Williamson and Evans (2000). Moreover, Chapman (p. 220) has the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus in the British Museum but it is in the British Library (Greenlee 2008:26-27).

Summary of Book’s Impact
Chapman’s knowledge, understanding and experience of Muslims/Islam together with his evangelical faith and wide experience readily equip him to write this second edition of Cross and Crescent. It effectively builds on the good foundation of his first edition while addressing new challenges/questions. His preface clearly explains the reason for the update and the introduction identifies the five perceived challenges of Islam.

His key thesis, developing thoughts and main ideas unfold within the structure of his five parts. The desire to be accurate, balanced and sensitive shines throughout. His love for Muslims is effectively shared. Beginning by asking Christians to evaluate their attitudes/prejudices to Muslims/Islam provides a solid foundation for the book. The text is clear and figures/tables support his arguments. His target audience covers general Christian readers and students. He states (p. 9) that it is a basic introduction taking little/nothing for granted and this is largely met. He carefully leads and explains as he moves forward.

The book has many strengths as a rich resource for general Christian readers and students. Those readers familiar with his 1995 edition will appreciate this update while new readers will appreciate its sound structure and developing arguments. Readers are informed/ challenged to change attitudes, increase understanding and be willing to sensitively engage with Muslims as witnesses for Jesus. The material is global, e.g. European and Asian.

Nevertheless, the book has some weakness particularly from a student’s perspective. There is no biographical description of the author. It lacks a bibliography and endnotes are used rather than footnotes. Additional resources are not identified either separately or within chapters for interested readers. A glossary is required and information on Muslim demographics.

The book’s impact will be positive for general readers and students. It is engaging reading. Recommended as a course textbook, after reading it I bought my own copy!

Books and Articles
Abbas, Tahir. ed. (2005) Muslim Britain: Communities under Pressure, London and New York: Zed Books
Chapman, Colin. (1995) Cross and Crescent: Responding to the challenge of Islam, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press
_______. (2003) rev. edn. Cross and Crescent: A study course, developed by Colin Chapman on Islam for Christians, London: Church Missionary Society
_______. (2005) ‘Islamic Terrorism’ Is there a Christian Response? Grove Ethics Series E139, Cambridge: Grove Books
Gabriel, Mark A. (2002) Islam and Terrorism, Lake Mary: FrontLine
Glaser, Ida. (2005) The Bible and Other Faiths: What does the Lord require of us? Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press
Greenlee, J. Harold. (2008) The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers
Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (2005) Islam in Britain: The British Muslim community in February 2005, Pewsey: Isaac Publishing
Islam – A Brief Guide (n.d.) London: The Muslim Educational Trust
Mallouhi, Christine A. (2004) Miniskirts, Mothers & Muslims: A Christian Woman in a Muslim Land, Oxford and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books
Masood, Steven. (2001) The Bible and the Qur’an, Carlisle and Waynesboro: OM Publishing
Moucarry, Chawkat. (2001) Faith to Faith: Christianity and Islam in Dialogue, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press
Musk, Bill A. (2003) Holy War: Why Do Some Muslims Become Fundamentalists? London and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books
_______. (2004a) Touching the Soul of Islam: Sharing the Gospel in Muslim Cultures, Oxford and Grand Rapids: Monarch
_______. (2004b) The Certainty Trap: Can Christians and Muslims afford the luxury of fundamentalism? Oxford and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books
_______. (2005) Kissing Cousins? Christians and Muslims Face to Face, Oxford and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books
Saal, William J. (1991) Reaching Muslims for Christ, Chicago: Moody Press
Shah, Hannah. (2009) The Imam’s Daughter, London: Rider
Sookhdeo, Rosemary. (2005a) 2nd edn. Secrets Behind the Burqa, Pewsey: Isaac Publishing
_______. (2005b) Stepping Into the Shadows: Why Women are Converting to Islam, Pewsey: Isaac Publishing
_______. (2007) 2nd edn. Stepping Into the Shadows: Why Women are Converting to Islam, Pewsey: Isaac Publishing
Strong, Cynthia A. and Page, Meg, eds. (2006) A Worldview Approach to Ministry Among Muslim Women, Pasadena: William Carey Library
Swartley, Keith E. ed. (2008) Encountering the World of Islam, Atlanta: Authentic Publishing
Williamson, H. G. M. and Evans, C. A. (2000) ‘Samaritans’ in Evans, Craig A. and Porter, Stanley E. eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background, Downers Grove and Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 1056-1061
Woodberry, J. Dudley. ed. (2008) From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices and Emerging Issues among Muslims, Pasadena: William Carey Library

Back to Issue 34

Have your say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s