The author, Matthew Kaemingk, teaches theology, ethics, and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary.
He begins by noting that dominant responses to Islam in the West are deeply polarized. Yet, he believes they have 3 points of coherence:
- “Both believe the solution to be relatively clear and straightforward.”
- “Both believe the state should be the primary agent in their proposed solution.”
- “Both speak as if there are only two possible solutions . . . of dealing with the politics of difference.”
The author, critiques these two dominant responses, then attempts to articulate an alternative—a third way forward.
The author writes for “Chrisitans who sense a deep need for an alternative response to Islam that begins and ends with Christian conviction—not the simplistic ideologies of the right and left.” He also writes for non-Christians, who are interested in peering over the fence.
In his critique of the dominant responses, the author challenges the instincts toward hegemony, uniformity, and assimilation that often arise out of the growing push toward nationalism. However, he acknowledges that Muslim immigration presents “very real and very deep cultural and political challenges to the Western status quo.” He challenges those on the political left of this issue, noting that they often “fail to fully recognize or wrestle with the reality that Muslim immigrants are brining real challenges and real questions to the future of Western culture and politics.”
He notes that “dismissing those on the right as nothing but racist and Islamophobic has long been a convenient way for those on the left to avoid discussing the real challenges of multiculturalism.” The book is his attempt to correct this weakness by building a strong exploration of the theological foundation of Christian view of pluralism. This was one of the most helpful ways that this author contributed to my own understanding.
Kaemingk notes that Europe has been wrestling with the question of Muslim immigration much longer than has the US and has a higher concentration of Muslims. He turns to Holland, specifically, to examine lessons from the Dutch response to Muslim immigration that may inform US Christians as they attempt to find the alternative way.
In the introduction, the author outlines a brief definition of pluralism and the nuances a Christian navigates as she develops her convictions regarding pluralism.
The remainder of the book is laid out to help Christians wrestle with the complexity of Islam’s challenges to the West. He turns to the Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper, who was very influential in forming Christian response to Islam in 19th century Holland.
He examines Christian theological arguments against hegemony, uniformity, and assimilation. Then he turns toward examining constructive arguments for Christian pluralism and how these arguments may need further development to address the current issues of Islam in the West.
He then devotes a chapter to reinforcing Kuyper’s deep conviction that Christian pluralism must not be limited to theological arguments in the head. Nuanced pluralism must be an issue of heart-felt desire for Christians as they relate to Islam (and other religions) in the West.
Finally, he relates stories from Christians in Holland, demonstrating how persons and groups, in everyday callings, have attempted to embody Jesus’ justice, hospitality, and grace. He concludes by examining ways that US Christians can take these examples and lessons and apply them to our own context.
The author relies heavily on the work of Abraham Kuyper. Not every Christian reading this book may fully identify with Kuyper’s Reformed theological view. However, I believe every reader will be challenged to a deeper critique of his own views on pluralism and will find helpful prompts to developing a more nuanced alternative path forward. Thus, I recommend the book.