Whatever Happened to Christianity? is a question posed to “Muslim scholars and thinkers” by Dr. Fred Farrokh, a former Muslim and regular contributor to The Journal of Biblical Missiology. According to Islam, Christians have “gone astray” from Jesus’ teaching. In light of this claim, Farrokh asks Muslims to seriously consider “when, where, and how” this straying could have taken place. In light of the writings of the New Testament; the rapid, widespread growth of Christianity; and the testimony of early Church Fathers, Farrokh convincingly shows that the Islamic charge of Christians having gone astray is unsubstantiated. He concludes with a clear, heartfelt challenge for Muslims to follow Jesus.
- This short and very readable monograph of 136 pages consists of a preface; acknowledgments; and eleven chapters separated into four parts:
- The Islamic Claim Of Christians Having Gone Astray
- Bridges Within The Early Church
- An Inquiry Into The Reliability Of The Portrayal Of The Lord Jesus’ Life And Teaching As Represented In The New Testament
- Outstanding Challenges
Part I (chapters 1-2) provides us with the basis for why Muslims interpret “those who are astray” from Sura 1:7 as referring to Christians. Because the Qur’anic portrayal of Jesus is at odds with the biblical account, it created a need to explain this difference. Farrokh highlights “[t]hree leading Islamic theories…as to when, where, and how Christians have gone astray” namely, “Jesus’ alleged crucifixion…the apostle Paul…[and] the Islamic doctrine of tahrif, or corruption of Scripture” (14).
Part II (chapters 3-5) begins with a short overview of the Bible and a brief comparison of the differing views between the Christian and Islamic views of the divine inspiration of their respective scriptures. Farrokh then writes about the “great eight witnesses,” that is, the eight known authors of the New Testament (NT), namely, “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude” (24). This is followed by brief accounts of Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, and Origen, whom Farrokh refers to as “bridge persons” (33) as well as the New Testament manuscripts. The final chapter of this section is dedicated to a treatment of the Apostle Paul.
Part III (chapters 6-9) focuses on four key biblical doctrines that are contrary to Islam, all of which are understood by Muslims to be evidence that Christians have strayed from Jesus’ teachings: belief in a personal, loving God; belief in the divinity of Jesus; belief in the Triune God; and belief in salvation by faith. Farrokh provides abundant quotes from the Bible as well as relevant cross-references. He shows that each of “the great eight” NT authors was in agreement regarding these orthodox beliefs.
Part IV (chapters 10-11) honestly addresses that where Christians have strayed throughout history, “[s]cant evidence can be provided that the core body of Christ has irreversibly strayed from Christ’s intended desire, will, or teachings” (110). Farrokh points out three areas he considers as truly straying from historic biblical orthodoxy: as individuals, allowing politics into the Church, and elevating certain traditions over the Bible such as the Roman Catholic tradition of elevating Virgin Mary above the explicit teachings of Mary’s status in the Bible. The final chapter recaps each of the previous chapters. Farrokh concludes with references to some of his own experiences and by appealing to the Muslim reader to not give in to any threats from fellow Muslims that would dissuade him (or her) from reading the Bible or becoming a Christian. He notes that “[m]any Muslims are coming to Christ Jesus in our lifetime” along with an implicit call to become a Christian: “Perhaps your courageous example will give them [i.e. other Muslims] added strength to set out on that journey as well.”
Whatever Happened to Christianity? deserves a wide readership, especially among Muslims and Christians. Dr. Farrokh presents sufficient evidence from the Bible and early Church history that Christians have not “gone astray” from Jesus’ teachings. His open acknowledgment that he was a former Muslim adds a personal touch that will, by the work of the Holy Spirit, result in willingness among Muslim readers to seriously consider the contents of this book and follow the author’s example of reading the Bible and becoming Christians by repenting of sin and having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Two of the strongest points of this book are: first, Farrokh shows how “the great eight” authors of the NT were all in agreement regarding those core orthodox beliefs which are denied by Islam; and, second, he develops how the early, expansive geographical growth of Christianity and the core beliefs taught from the Bible mitigate if not eliminate any possibility that core beliefs from the Bible such as the Trinity and its subset of the deity of Jesus Christ, are evidences of “straying.”
Farrokh’s sound scholarship is evident throughout the book. His quotation of the Hadith (i.e. purported sayings of Muhammad) and Tafsir (i.e. commentary on the Qur’an) in pointing the reader to the source of the Islamic interpretation that “those who are astray” (Sura 1:7) refers to Christians is important for at least the following two reasons: one, he is relying on primary sources which makes it easy for readers to locate and verify if he has accurately and honestly presented this information. Second, these quotes illustrate that Islam is not – and can never be – based on just the Qur’an but is entirely dependent on how the Hadith, Tafsir, and Sira (i.e. the purported biography of Muhammad) interpret the Qur’an. In Part III, Farrokh’s knowledge of the Bible is on full display and provides an excellent resource for Christians to show representative, yet fully sufficient reasons from Scripture to answer some of the most common Muslim objections to Christianity.
To conclude, this book meets a great need for those involved in evangelizing Muslims and discipling Christians who were formerly Muslims. It would be ideal to see this publication translated into other languages as well as discounts provided for bulk purchases. It would also be helpful if its contents could be turned into a tract for mass distribution. Much thanks to Dr. Farrokh for this excellent publication.
Amazon link: Whatever Happened to Christianity?
Publisher: Wipf and Stock (May 23, 2023):
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-6667-7182-4
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-6667-7183-1
ebook ISBN: 978-1-6667-7184-8