Isaac, Munther and Botrus Mansour, eds. Towards a Renewed Mind. Nazareth: Nazareth Evangelical College, 2021. – Book Review
More than twenty-five contributors worked together in order to honor the contributions of Dr. Salim Munayer, founder of Musalaha and a professor who taught at Nazareth Evangelical College and Bethlehem Bible College. They took advantage of the occasion of his retirement and surprised him with this book. They decided to write a theological book reflecting on contemporary Palestinian issues from a progressive evangelical perspective. Their perspective is progressive because they don’t subscribe to a fundamentalist worldview that overlooks engaging the public square biblically and critically. The uniqueness of this Arabic book (428 pages) lies into two main areas: its authors and its content.
The authors represent a new Palestinian Evangelical mindset. The seeds of this mindset were first sown at Bethlehem Bible College and later developed through its faculty, its partners, and relationships. It is worth mentioning that in addition to Bethlehem Bible College, Musalaha, Come-and-See as well as Nazareth Evangelical College played a significant role in developing a theological greenhouse for these prophetic voices. The contributors represent a new theological leadership and are characterized by the following:
(1) their approach is credible and academic. Almost all the contributors have consulted numerous references and have critically engaged contemporary scholarship on the addressed topics. Many of them have doctorate degrees or are PhD students. All of them are theologically trained.
(2) The authors are self-critical and are humbly searching for a greater compatibility with the biblical worldview. They have the courage to address vexing and controversial issues in respectful ways.
(3) The authors represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and ages. Some are very young and others have already retired. Both men and women participated in writing. This diversity enriched the essays and provided an opportunity for addressing topics that are not usually addressed in evangelical churches.
(4) The authors provide a rigorous theological leadership and a courageous prophetic voice. They sail into new but needed lands.
(5) The authors are well versed with ecclesiastical ministry. Many of them are actively involved in church ministry.
(6) The authors see themselves as part of a bigger Christian family that includes many denominations. Although they focus on the evangelical church, they don’t reject or attack other denominations. They seek to shape their identity in a fraternal framework that includes other denominations.
(7) The authors exemplified a strong commitment to a holistic gospel. They affirm the centrality of scriptures and see it as the final authority in their theological enterprise. At the same time, they want to read scriptures contextually embodying the gospel to all the inhabitants of Israel/Palestine and beyond.
The new mindset of the authors not only provided a rational theological approach but also a list of topics that are not usually addressed from the pulpit. The topics of the book are shaped and even determined by the Palestinian context. First, some addressed the political context theologically. Several articles challenged Christian Zionism and pointed out its ethical and theological failures. This theopolitical engagement did not stop at criticism but moved into providing theological and practical suggestions for the Palestinian evangelical community. Second, several essays addressed the theological and missiological contexts dealing with topics that are contextually significant such as the Virgin Mary, or faith and science, the role of the Old Testament, justice, Islam, Judaism, and other topics. Third, some essays dealt with the socio-theological context, challenged the oppression of women, studied the topic of shame, and reflected on the supremacy mindset of some Israeli Jews. Fourth, some essays addressed the historical context and even the environmental context.
Following are the main titles and authors of the essays
1. Preamble – Dr. Bishara Awad
2. Introduction – Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac and Mr. Botrus Mansour
3. The History and Theology of Evangelicals – Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac
4. Faith and Rationality – Mr. George Abdo (PhD Student)
5. The Lord Prayer – Mr. Pierre Tannous (Theologian and teacher)
6. Stop! Give Lament a place! – Miss Lama Mansour (PHD student at University of Oxford)
7. Why do I read the Old Testament? – Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho
8. Less Known Characteristics of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mrs. Abeer Odeh Mansour (Theologian)
9. Christian Mission in the Palestinian Context – Rev. Dr. Jack Sara
10. The Importance of Theological Education for Empowering the Church – Mrs. Grace Zoughbi Arteen (PhD Student)
11. The Role and Status of Women in the Evangelical Church. What does the Bible Say? – Dr. Madleine Sara.
12. Can Our Country Have a Church for Both Arabs and Jews?: A Lesson from History – Mr. Bader Mansour (Baptist Historian)
13. Islam in the Evangelical Palestinian Context – Mr. Daniel Bannoura (PhD student)
14. Loving Our Jewish Neighbor: Confronting the Jewish Supremacy – Mr. Daniel Munayer and Mr. John Munayer.
15. Evangelicals and Peacemaking – Miss Shadia Qupti (Peacemaker and Activist)
16. The Incarnational Mission and Christian Giving – Mrs. Shireen Awwad Hilal (Theologian)
17. True Spirituality and Social Justice – Mr. Anton Deik (PhD Student)
18. The Environment and Eschatology – Mr. Joseph Khoury (PhD Student)
19. Shame in Our Arabic Culture – Dr. Rula Khoury Mansour
20. Palestinian Evangelicals Challenging Christian Zionism – Rev. Dr. Alex Awad
21. Politics and Evangelical Life – Dr. Jonathan Kuttab
22. Are Palestinian Christians a Prophetic Voice or a tool for Colonization? – Mr. Jack and Mr. Sam Munayer
23. A Personal Testimony from a Palestinian Evangelical Journalist – Mr. Daoud Kuttab
24. How Can a Palestinian Christian Relate to His/Her Citizenship in Israel? – Mr. Botrus Mansour
Last, these essays are written in very good Arabic despite minor linguistic problems. I also agree with Rev. Dr. Riad Kassis that the divisions of the book into four sections: The Evangelical Mind and Christian Living (articles 3 – 8), The Evangelical Mind and the Church (articles 9 – 14), The Evangelical Mind and the Public Square (articles 15 – 19), and the Evangelical Mind Encountering Contemporary Issues (articles 20 – 24) is superficial. Nevertheless, each essay is worth the price of the book. I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage purchasing this book and engaging its provocative as well progressive evangelical thinking. I also hope and pray that this book will one day be accessible to English speakers!