“(W)hat is the unique perspective of a Christ-follower individually and the kingdom of Jesus collectively to the current conflicts of the West with the Muslim world?” asks Mike Kuhn in Fresh Vision for the Muslim World (p. 15).
“The stakes are high because the church is commissioned to make disciples of the nations” (p. 160). Because of that commission, Mike Kuhn raises a number of interesting, challenging, and sometimes troubling questions and offers insights gained after twenty-two years of working among Muslims in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. His goal is that we “accept the call to live the gospel in the world and among Muslims” (p. 84).
“Will (Muslim Christ-followers) find us ready to stand with them as they establish the church among their people?” (p. 29).
“Who are the people of God?” (p. 136).
“Do Christians care most about military victory for their political allies or the containment of the evils of war? Second, what message are we sending to the church?” (p. 160).
“Is Western-style democracy the hope for the Muslim world?” (p. 218).
“How do we live in the world with its empire-like systems and institutions and still maintain our primary loyalty to the kingdom of Jesus?” (p. 250).
“How might Jesus respond” to the Islamist threat? (p. 255).
This is definitely a book about vision and perspective. Kuhn divides it into five sections: “A Visionary Paradigm,” “A Historical Perspective,” “A Theological Dimension,” “A Reality Check,” and “Steps to Incarnation.” The historical section presents both the traditional Western and the Muslim viewpoints of the Crusades and the confrontations between Islam and the West since then. At times this section tempted me to fling the book across the room; however, I’m glad I pushed past the irritations. One of those irritating aspects of this section is a blame-the-church attitude in Islam’s taking over Christian areas of northern Africa by the sword. Also while he criticizes the church of the seventh century for cultural prejudice and providing few Bibles, he overlooks the fact that few Bibles were available anywhere due to the slowness of hand copying.
Kuhn does a good job identifying the differences between Islamic and Christian thinking on sin, atonement, righteousness, and other doctrines. He raises a question about extreme evangelical support for Israel and posits two positions on identifying the Israel of God in the New Testament. Some readers will object to his position, but he presents it in a thoughtful, humble manner with Scripture that lessens the objections and raises the likelihood that readers will at least consider what he suggests.
Another important issue is contextualization in missions. How do we separate Christianity from western cultural so that we are true to Christ, but do not enforce non-biblical western standards on Christians of other geographical areas?
The author presents an interesting discussion on the problem of Islamic jihad. How can moderate Muslims separate the two meanings of jihad and promote the personal warfare against sin when Mohammad engaged in evangelism via the sword? Unfortunately he doesn’t deal with the treatment of women much and says little against the persecution of Christians. He encourages Christians to enter into incarnating the gospel to the point of facing persecution ourselves.
Section V on incarnational living is helpful to any Christian, for Kuhn encourages each reader to live missionally and explains it so that those of us living in a secular society and the missionary living in a Muslim society can see the similarities and importance of deliberately following Christ in daily life. This section has already proven helpful and thought provoking to me. Kuhn warns against the undermining of Scripture by disobedience, carelessness, and equating our social standards and government with Christianity. He reminds us of the importance of letting the Word speak for itself: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him” (John 6:44).
Kuhn has a reasoning, humble, but impassioned tone. He uses Scripture, logic, and anecdotes to get his points across. Each chapter ends with a section called “Seeking Fresh Vision” in which he summarizes and applies what he has taught. Most chapters include a list of additional resources at the end also.
Over all, I think Fresh Vision for the Muslim World would be a good book to read for those who have the opportunity to work among other ethnic groups, especially missionaries. It would be an excellent book for teachers to include in college classes for missionaries. Kuhn’s ideas are worth considering for more than just those working among Muslims and would be helpful in spite of potential disagreements with him on some positions. Anyone uncomfortable with having their established ideas and positions challenged will not enjoy the book. I certainly didn’t enjoy some aspects of it and would not have purchased it after just glancing through it, but it has enriched my thinking and my approach to living incarnationally. I recommend it.- Debbie W. Wilson, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
After living for more than two decades in the Middle East, pastor, author and college Arabic instructor Mike Kuhn wonders if there can be a fresh vision for the Muslim world—one not rooted in media lies or personal fears but in the values of Christ’s kingdom. Is the only option to fight, to eradicate, to judge? Or can the mindset of confrontation give way to one of incarnation?
In Fresh Vision for the Muslim World, Kuhn challenges readers to love the Muslims down the street and across the world with the love of Christ. Kuhn’s vast experience and research show readers that Muslims today have the same hopes and spiritual needs as any of us. With practical suggestions, Kuhn helps readers leave the path of isolation, fear and self-preservation and choose a less-traveled road: a path of self-awareness, empathy, and deep listening. Choosing the latter path is radical. It is difficult. And it is a step toward seeing Jesus Christ receive his rightful place of honor among a people longing to know him.