Friday, July 31, 2009

St. Francis Mag Aug 2009: Insider Movement and Common Ground

Below are two articles from the August 2009 edition of St. Francis On-Line Magazine. This issue focuses wholly on the discussion about the concepts of the Insider Movement (IM).

I am aware of Jay Smith's confrontational approach to Muslim ministry and have heard him lecture before, so I could easily guess his take on IM. But I was surprised find how fair and rational he was in his assessment of the Common Ground (CG) conference in Atlanta January 2009 (I have several friends who were there too). I don't agree with everything he says, but Jay makes several profound points concerning the extremist elements of CG. I myself am going to CG in a couple months and am looking forward it after hearing so much about it.

An Assessment of the Insider Movement Principle Paradigms
Jay Smith, known for his discussions with Muslims in Hyde Park (London) went to Common Ground (Atlanta 2009). He discusses the terminology that is used by proponents of the theology of the Insider Movement. Download the article (32 pages)

The conclusion of Adbul Asad's (an acquaintance) article is a great summary of "Syncretistic C5" and "Appropriate C5" contextualization. I was privileged to read this article in 2008. His mediating position argues that C5 is good only as a transitional form of church and that IM is potentially dangerous. I really like that two page chart in his conclusion!

Rethinking the Insider Movement Debate: Global Historical Insights Toward an Appropriate Transition
Abdul Asad explains the meaning of the C1-C6 Spectrum. He uses examples from Africa and Indonesia to show that Insider Movements should be lauded, but only if they move converts to what is called 'C3' or 'C4'. Download this article (27 pages)

There are several other articles that I only skimmed. The majority of the articles are very, very critical of IM and CG. Here is the complete set of all ten articles in one pdf file. Download St Francis Magazine 5:4 (August 2009) (166 pages)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gospel Clothing

"We have to divest our gospel of the cultural clothing in which we have received it and sometimes even of the precise cultural garb in which Scripture presents it. We also have to reclothe it in cultural terms appropriate to the people to whom we proclaim it."
-John Stott, The Message of Thessalonians, pg. 181

I take this to mean that we must be familiar (experts?) with at least three cultures:
1. the cultural background of the Bible
2. the cultural context we minister in
3. and our own culture.

It reminds me also of the quote I heard from D.A. Carson: "No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture-transcending way—but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gospel Astonishment

"There is no commitment we will make as church planters of greater importance than living close to Jesus.  For church planting can become an idol factory; a prostitution ring; a cruel taskmaster; a breeding ground for addictions… we need church planters who will love Jesus with abandon, and who cultivate a lifestyle of growing in His grace and knowledge.  Until you know yourself to be slow of heart to believe the gospel, you will never cultivate a burning heart for the gospel.  Churches planted with the DNA of the gospel will be led by those who live a life of gospel astonishment."

Scotty Smith, here on pg. 15

Muslim Demographic Video

I'm not sure I like the video I'm posting below.  It is sensationalistic, mistakes Christendom for biblical faith, and seems to imply that secularism is better than Islam.  But it makes a very interesting point about the future influence of Islam.  I have heard about it from a couple different sources now.  I did not check the stats but I assume they are correct.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Islam, ESV Study Bible Articles

Here is a brief overview of Islam from the ESV Study Bible:

"Islam, the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, is found not only in the Middle East but throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. (See also The Bible and Islam.) Although historically discussion of Islam begins with Muhammad (c. a.d. 570–632), Muslims insist that Islam is God's eternal religion for all humankind and that Muhammad was simply the last and greatest in a long line of prophets. Born in Mecca, an important trading center in the Arabian peninsula, Muhammad was an orphan by age six and was reared by his grandfather and uncle. At age 25 Muhammad married a wealthy widow named Khadija, and he became engaged in various business ventures.

The Arabs of Mecca were largely animists and polytheists, although there were Jewish and Christian influences in the area. Living in Mecca, Muhammad was troubled by the polytheism and superstition all around him. Around the year 610 he began to have experiences that he took to be revelations from Allah, the one true God. Convinced that he had been called to be a "Messenger of God," Muhammad continued to receive revelations supposedly dictated by the angel Gabriel over a 20-year period. The revelations were memorized by Muhammad's followers and were eventually written and codified in the Qur'an, which is understood to be the Word of God. Muhammad regarded himself as being in continuity with prophets of the OT and Jesus. He claimed to be restoring the original revelation of God that Jews and Christians had corrupted.

But Muhammad met stiff resistance to his message in Mecca, and in 622 he and his followers moved to Medina (in western Saudi Arabia). Under Muhammad's leadership, Medina was transformed into an Islamic theocracy, and the social and religious patterns of Medina are regarded as an ideal for Islamic societies. In 630 Muhammad returned to Mecca, captured it, and began transforming the city. Then suddenly, in 632, at about 62 years of age, Muhammad died.

Questions about the legitimate successors to Muhammad resulted in the two major divisions within Islam. Sunni Islam, comprising roughly 85 percent of Muslims today, recognized caliphs (Islamic leaders) not necessarily related to Muhammad as his legitimate successors. Shi'a Islam, comprising 10 to 15 percent of Muslims, insisted that legitimate successors must descend directly from Muhammad and that Ali (Muhammad's son-in-law, who was martyred) and his sons were the rightful heirs to leadership.

Both branches of Islam embrace a strict monotheism. Islam calls for acknowledgment of the incomparable greatness of Allah and submission to his sovereign will in all of life. Allah is the eternal creator who sovereignly rules over nature and the affairs of humankind.

The religious, intellectual, and social life of devout Muslims is structured around the "Five Pillars": (1) the Shahada, or "witness" of the basic creed of Islam ("I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah"); (2) prayer; (3) fasting; (4) almsgiving; and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islam teaches that the present world will one day be destroyed by Allah and that all humankind, past and present, will then be raised to face divine judgment. Human beings have a weakness of will and a tendency toward sin. Although humans are tempted by Iblis (the devil), it is within their power to resist and remain faithful to the will of Allah. In the judgment, each person's deeds will be impartially weighed in the balance. Salvation is strictly on the basis of submission to Allah and faithful adherence to the teachings of Islam. Some will be admitted to Paradise, others consigned to Hell.

Jesus is mentioned frequently in the Qur'an. He is called the Messiah, Son of Mary, Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Word, and Spirit of God. Jesus is portrayed as a great miracle worker and one of the greatest of the prophets. The virgin conception of Jesus is affirmed in the Qur'an.

But the Qur'an omits Jesus' teachings as contained in the Gospels and provides no narrative description of his ministry. The Qur'an depicts Jesus as explicitly disclaiming deity (5:109–119) and includes numerous denunciations of what seem to have been views that were common in Muhammad's lifetime regarding the Christian doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity (cf. 4:171; 5:17; 9:30–31). Although a great prophet of God, Jesus is said to have been in no sense divine. Particularly offensive is the Christian title "Son of God," which is understood by Muslims as referring to physical generation. "Never has Allah begotten a son, nor is there any other god besides Him" (23:93). Muhammad seems to have thought of the Trinity as consisting of the Father, the Virgin Mary, and their child, Jesus.

Traditionally, most Muslims have believed that Jesus was not crucified. Surah 4:155–159 denies that Jesus was in fact killed on the cross. A widely accepted interpretation of this text has been that the Jews tried to kill Jesus but were unable to do so, and that God rescued him and carried him away to a safe place in the heavens. Islam denies the need for a Savior and the substitutionary atonement. The Qur'an states that "no soul shall bear another's burden and that each man shall be judged by his own labors" (53:38). Salvation is by works. "On that day no soul shall suffer the least injustice. You shall be rewarded according only to your deeds" (36:54)."