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February 4, 2020

Mennonite missiologist writes on peacemaking in evangelical book

Written by  Micah Brickner
 Eastern Mennonite Mission global consultant Dr. David W. Shenk was invited to share his ministry reflections on this question in an October 2019 publication called Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God?: Four views. Eastern Mennonite Mission global consultant Dr. David W. Shenk was invited to share his ministry reflections on this question in an October 2019 publication called Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God?: Four views. Micah Brickner/EMM

SALUNGA, Pa. — “Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God?” is a perennial question that has led to much division in Christian theological circles. Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) global consultant Dr. David W. Shenk was invited to share his ministry reflections on this question in an October 2019 publication called Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God?: Four views.

Shenk’s thesis is about “how Christians can affectively minister to Muslims while focusing on our respectfully held differences.” Throughout his essay, Shenk exemplifies the theme, “Often, our key distinctions have led to fruitful dialogue and ministry opportunities” (p. 225).

Beginning with a compelling personal narrative of he and his wife, Grace, serving with the Somalia Mennonite Mission beginning in 1963, Shenk provides a uniquely Anabaptist reconciliatory approach to the book’s prompt.

Shenk writes, “The legacy of the crusades lives on in modern wars. In times like these our world desperately needs to hear of the man on a cross who cried out in forgiveness and reconciling love” (p. 232). 

“The cross of Constantine and the Muslim jihads has given the church and the world a tragic and heavy burden. In contrast, Jesus offers salvation! He is our peace in these tumultuous times, writes Shenk (p. 232).

In 2015, an evangelical college professor posted on social media a photo of herself wearing a hijab. Quoting a statement from Pope Francis about Muslims and Christians, Dr. Larycia Hawkins stated, “We worship the same God.” 

This post, subsequent action taken by her institution, and responses from the masses drew significant attention to this critical question. 

The editors of this book write in their introduction, “The main question of this book is not a new one, and we are not the first to ask it. But this question came to prominence among evangelicals in 2015 when tenured Wheaton professor Larycia Hawkins was placed on paid administrative leave for comments made on social media ...” (p. 9).

The book contains four different views on this question in addition to two pragmatic ministry reflections, of which one is Shenk’s. The views presented in this book include a religious pluralist view, a “same God” view, a shared revelation view, and a different conceptions view.

While the book’s contributors span a theological spectrum, its general editors are evangelical academics from Liberty University. Dr. Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. is an associate professor of theology and Dr. Christopher Gnanankan is a professor of theology and world religions.

“... engaging Muslims does not require that we shrink back from our Christian convictions and differences as we minister to them” (p. 236), said Shenk. “In all things, we should seek to make Jesus Lord and to be ready to give a defense for the hope within us. Yet we should always do this with gentleness and respect. Let us therefore seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11)!”

Echoing Shenk’s essay, Campbell and Gnanankan write, “In no way should placing emphasis on key differences keep us from a commitment to peacemaking in the way of Christ” (p. 17).

This book is part of the Counterpoints series published by Zondervan Academic in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Counterpoints series includes nearly 40 titles, providing “a forum for comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians.”

Shenk is a prolific author, having written 20 books on topics such as Christian-Muslim relations, African church history, peacemaking in Africa, and sharing the gospel in secular culture. He and Grace are both members of EMM’s Christian-Muslim Relations Team.

This team desires to equip Christians around the world for life-giving relationships with Muslims through dialogue, witness, peacemaking, and hospitality. Shenk and his colleagues speak boldly and train persistently to build bridges of loving and respectful connection between Christians and Muslims, while faithfully confessing Christ.

You can read a sample or purchase a copy of this book at zondervan.com and other distributors.