Thursday 3 August 2023

Islam, Britain and the Gospel - John Coonan, John Wijngaards, and William Burridge - CTS Onefifties

Islam, Britain & the Gospel
John Coonan
John Wijngaards
William Burridge
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784695378
eISBN 9781784695095
CTS Booklet CL11

Over the last several years I have read over 300 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. In 2018 during the 150 Anniversary of the CTS they released special editions of 25 of their most popular and influential booklets, they were released as a series called Onefifties. And were released between late 2016 and early 2018 I believe. I have been slowly working my way through them. I have picked up all of them in eBook format. We are told about the series that:

“CTS Publisher Fergal Martin said, “1868 to 2018 we feel is something to celebrate. We have delved into our archives of thousands of titles and uncovered countless gems that celebrate the huge range and diversity of CTS publishing across a century and a half. The CTS archive represents a unique and valuable resource chronicling the changing concerns of the Catholic population of the British Isles and beyond over the last 150 years. There is something original and special here for everybody. Our hope is that readers can dip into the past – and find the present.”

The description of this volume is:

“In the last half of the twentieth century, mass immigration brought Islam, amongst other things, to Britain for the first time. These are some contemporary religious responses.

Mgr Coonan’s text is really a primer on Muslim belief and practice; it clearly notes the main differences between Christian and Muslim teaching (on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the nature of God, for instance) but does not explain why one might prefer one to the other, nor about different branches and styles of Islam.

William Burridge’s Our Muslim Neighbours adapts some of Coonan’s material. He gives a notably sympathetic account of the social reality of Islam, and portrays (for example) the place of women in Islam in a wholly positive light. He briefly discusses differences within Islam.

Neither of these texts criticises Islam, nor makes any apologetic effort on behalf of Christianity.

Our third text is more constructive. John Wijngaards, a well-known Scripture scholar, addresses head-on the common Muslim allegation that the Gospels have been deliberately altered to conceal the true nature of Jesus. He gives a clear and patient argument for the authenticity of the Gospel text.”

The three original volumes contained in this booklet are:

Islam Comes To Britain - 1979
Our Muslim Neighbours - 1987
Can We Trust The Gospels? -1985

They are interesting selections for the best of the CTS over the preceding 150 years, especially in a post 9/11 World, with the grooming gangs in England over the last few decades. Reading this in 2023 during massive Islamic riots in France that includes burning down many buildings including churches, and defacing of the National Holocaust memorial, make it hard to read without conflicting feelings.. Doing some research I do not believe that Coonan has any other published books, and Burridge only has the original volume, on the other hand I found over 20 volumes attributed to Wijngaards. Looking at his other titles there is nothing that appeals to me and just from the titles a few are circumspect. So again I cannot help but wonder at the inclusion of these in this collection. Was it a mere act of political correctness, at attempt at appeasement, or really just a mistake? I have read hundreds of books from the CTS over the last several years, and this is only the second one that theologically and politically I have questioned. 

The chapters and sections in this volume are:

Islam Comes To Britain 
     Mosques in London – and Rome
     The Teaching
          The Qur’an
          Tradition (Sunna)
          Muslim Law (Shar’iah)
          The Credo of Islam
     Sacred Books
     Resurrection and Last Judgment
     Concerning Christ
     Concerning Our Lady
     The Practising Muslim
     The Profession of Faith
     Ritual Prayers
     The Community of Islam
     Christian Mission and Islamic ‘Calling’, Da’wah
     Islam shares with Christianity belief in:
     Islam differs from Christianity:

Our Muslim Neighbours 
     Submission to God
     The Five Pillars of Islam
     The Message 
     The Muslim family
     The rights of women
     Christians and Muslims
     Islam shares with Christianity belief in:
     Islam differs from Christianity:
     Divisions in Islam
     Some useful names and addresses
     Books and pamphlets

Can We Trust The Gospels? 
     The origin of a myth
     The text of the Gospels
     The nature of the evidence
     Guardians of Tradition
     A new beginning

The two contrasting lists of similarities and differences are identical in the first two pieces it is:

Islam shares with Christianity belief in: 
1. One God;
2. The Last Judgment and future life;
3. The Resurrection;
4. The value of prayer, fasting and almsdeeds;
5. The virginity of our Lady;
6. Angels;
7. The existence of evil – the devil.
8. It gives a special place to our Lord as a prophet.

 Islam differs from Christianity: 
1. It does not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.
2. It rejects the Divinity of Christ.
3. It rejects His death on the Cross.
4. It rejects the claims of the Catholic Church.
Both religions are expansionist: the Catholic Church through mission, Islam through Da’wah, or calling.”

The first two pieces seem to be written by authors who have drank the kool-aid and I found them both so blatantly out of touch even for when they were written that it is hard to believe. The final piece does have some great sections on defending the validity of the Gospels. But the vast majority of the volume is just not worth the time.

If I was not committed to reading and reviewing all the books in the CTS OneFifties Series, I would have added this to the ‘did not finish’ pile early on, within the first few pages of the first two pieces. The third piece has some great merit but not enough to outweigh the other two. This is only the second volume I have read from the Catholic Truth Society, of over 360 book and booklets read that I cannot recommend, that I gave 1/5 stars. 

There are many great books in this series and from the CTS, this is not one of them!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For all reviews of books in the CTS Onefifties Series click here.

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