Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why did Jesus have to die?... and what liberal and some emerging theologians and Muslims have in common, J.D. Greear

Posted by J.D. Greear, author of the book Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (2010):

There are multiple things that Christ accomplished for us when he died on the cross. He "paid" our sin debt (Romans 3:25-26), "cleansed us" from defilement (1 John 1:9), defeated the powers of darkness (Colossians 2:15), reversed the curse of death (Galatians 3:13), gave us a model for how to love others and overcome injustice (1 Peter 2:21), and demonstrated to us how much God loves us (Romans 5:8), just to name a few. Theologians call these the "theories of the atonement."

In recent years, the 1st of those, the penal substitution "theory of the atonement" (the idea that Christ satisfied the wrath of God by taking upon Himself the penalty for our sin, thus paying our sin debt) has fallen out of favor with more sophisticated theologians (read: liberal and some 'emerging'; also on popular books like The Shack). They believe that "penal substitution" is based on a Westernized justice theory that modern man has progressed beyond. God does not demand that justice be served in forgiving our sins, they say, so Christ didn't have to die to pay any sin debt. He was stopping the curse of death, demonstrating His love for us, and defeating Satan. To believe that Jesus died to pay a debt to God's justice, they say, makes God sound barbaric and guilty of cosmic child abuse (demanding Christ die so that He could forgive). Ironically, this is exactly what Muslims say.

This, of course, goes directly against the teaching of passages like Romans 3:25-26 and Isaiah 53:5-6. And, as Jim Belcher points out in his book Deep Church [my favorite book of 2009], "penal substitution" is ultimately the basis for all the other "theories of the atonement." They are only true because Christ died for our sins.

The penal model forms the foundation of the Christus Victor model (Christ’s victory over the principalities and powers at the cross). Christ's victory is gained... through penal suffering.’ (How can victory be gained if sin is not first atoned for? How can we start to live in the kingdom if our sins are not first forgiven and we are given new power to live in the service of and obedience to the kingdom?) (p. 116)

I think this is a great paragraph... How did Jesus defeat the powers of sin and death? By paying for our sin. How did He ransom us? By paying our sin debt. How did He stop the curse? By satisfying it in our place. Why was His death a demonstration of love? Because He paid a debt we could never pay.

This point is one I also try to make in my new book Breaking the Islam Code. In that book, I suggest that presenting the death of Christ in terms of cleansing, rather than forgiveness, is better when sharing Christ with Muslims. Muslims are reminded every time they wash and pray of their defilement before God, and presenting to them that Jesus' blood can wash their hearts clean resonates with them more immediately than does the idea that Jesus' paid a sin-debt). That does not imply, however, that "cleansing" is in contrast to, or eclipses, "penal substitution,"  because the reason Jesus' blood cleanses us from sin is because Jesus paid our sin debt. If you won't think me too egotistical, I'd like to quote myself...

I want to be careful implying that cleansing and forgiveness are two fundamentally different things. They are not. When 1 John 1:9 says that we are “cleansed” to have fellowship with the Father, this happens by the faithful and just forgiving of our unrighteousness. It is because Jesus paid our sin debt that we can be cleansed and have fellowship with God again. What I am saying is that emphasizing that we are cleansed, and that we can through this cleansing stand in God’s presence again, has more appeal to the Muslim than simply saying that Jesus settled our outstanding accounts at the register of God’s justice.

Related Posts:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

From “Guidance” to The Way

Here are a couple posts today that illustrate the difference between Biblical faith and Islam.  I will underline for emphasis what I’m hinting at.  The first is from Duane Miller on the The Two Adams of Islam and Christianity:

The fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity is then anthropological—or more precisely, hamartiological. Adam did sin, he was indeed punished, but in no way did his guilt develop into what Christians have variously called original sin or original stain. In the Adam narrative [in the Qur'an], as in Gen 3:15 and 3:21, we already have intimations of how this narrative will play out. In the Qur’anic narrative God appears to simply forgive Adam, and then warns him to follow his guidance and not turn from his message. In the Genesis narrative, however, we have hints that God will somehow conquer the serpent through Eve, and furthermore God himself sacrifices an animal to provide garments for Adam and Eve indicating that their garment of fig leaves was not sufficient for covering their nakedness. Both of these would become important images for the early Christians as they struggled towards the formulation of the orthodox tradition. (pp 503, 4)

Miller, Duane Alexander. 2010. ‘Narrative and Metanarrative in Christianity and Islam’ in St Francis Magazine, Vol 6:3, June, pp 501-16.

The next is Jesus at the Centre from Of First Importance:

“There is nothing in the Gospels more significant than the way in which Jesus deliberately places Himself at the very centre of His message. He does not say with other teachers, ‘The truth is everything, I am nothing’; He declares ‘I am the truth.’ He does not claim, with the founders of certain ethnic religions, to suggest answers to the world’s enigmas; He claims to be the answer — ‘Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.’ He does not offer the guidance of a code or a philosophy to keep men right through the uncertainties of an unknown future; He says, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’”

- James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (Vancouver, BC; Regent College Publishing, 2002), 122.

May we learn how to turn Muslims from “guidance” to The Way.

Related: Islam is Guidance: A Complete Legal Code for Humankind

Friday, May 28, 2010

June 2010 Issue of St. Francis Magazine

From the latest issue of St. Francis Magazine.  Most of the articles focus on the Trinity.

The Trinity is incredibly important for our faith and our witness, Taylor Smythe

In this article, Smythe argues that the theology of the Trinity is not an afterthought, but central to the Christian faith. It has implications for our personal life, but also for how we view the organization of our societies by politics. >>Download pdf

The Trinity in Mission to Muslims, Bassam Madany

Bassam Madany has enjoined a life of mission in the Arab World. He believes that the Trinity is core to the Christian message. In this article he recalls how he discussed this article of the faith with Muslims. >>Download pdf

'Son of God' in Biblical perspective, Bradford Greer

In this article, Bradford Greer enters into the debate between Rick Brown and David Abernathy about the meaning of the term ‘Son of God’. He disagrees with both gentlemen. A middle position? >>Download pdf

The Trinity in the light of 1 John 4:18, David Abernathy

Abernathy shows how the love of God, for being eternal, has always needed more ‘others’ in the same Godhead. And the love that is enjoyed within the life of the Trinity makes human community possible.>> Download pdf

Explaining the Trinity to Muslims, n.n.

In this article you receive a wealth of information about what Muslims exactly believe about our Trinitarian views, and you will also get much practical help in how to talk about the subject with Muslims. >> Download pdf

Narrative and Metanarrative in Christianity and Islam, Duane Miller

Islam and Christianity each have coherent metanarratives, and in investigating the similarities and differences we gain important insights into the nature of both of these religions. Oops… should not use that word. >>Download pdf

St Paul's speech on the Areopagus, John Span

Did Paul, when he preached in Athens, suggest that the unknown god the Athenians worshipped, was really the YHWH that he proclaimed? This paper is a great exegetical tool for understanding what happened on the Areopagus! >>Download pdf

Straw Men and Stereotypes in Mission Frontiers, John Stringer

In this article, John Stringer discusses an editorial article from the April 2010 issue of Mission Frontiers. He believes that those who support the insider movement idea are mistaken in their view of other missionaries, of the Church, and of the Gospel. >>Download pdf

Complete Issue of St Francis Magazine 6:3 (June 2010)

This is the complete St Francis Magazine 6:3 (June 2010) issue. >>Download pdf

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“You Should Know This Man”

You should know this man (Discover Islam)

You may be an atheist or an agnostic; or you may belong to any of the religious denominations that exist in the world today. You may be a Communist or a believer in democracy and freedom.

No matter who you are, and no matter what your ideological and political beliefs, personal and social habits happen to be. You must still know this man.

Encyclopedia Britannica confirms: “…a mass of detail in the early sources shows that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were likewise honest and upright men.” (Vol: 12)

Bernard Shaw said about him: “He must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much-needed peace and happiness”. (The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936)

He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a State, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings and completely revolutionized the worlds of human thought and behavior for all times to come. His name is Muhammad (P.B.U.H) .

Born in Arabia in the year 570 CE, he started his mission of preaching the religion of Truth, Islam (submission to One God) at the age of forty and departed from this world when he was sixty-three.

During this short period of 23 years of his prophethood, he changed the entire Arabian peninsula from paganism and idolatry to the worship of One God; from tribal quarrels and wars to national solidarity and cohesion; from drunkenness and wickedness to sobriety and piety; from lawlessness and anarchy to disciplined living; from utter bankruptcy to the highest standards of moral excellence. Human history has never known such a complete transformation of people or a place before or since – and imagine all these unbelievable wonders took place in just over two decades…

Keep reading

Here is the conclusion.

We invite you to make a discovery of this wonderful man, Muhammad (P.B.U.H), , the like of whom never walked on the face of this earth.

It seems to me that Muslims talk much more about Mohammed than they do about God.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two More Short Videos from Crescent Project: Sonship of Christ and the Bible and Qur’an

"Sonship of Christ" discusses how Jesus Christ, being a man born of the virgin Mary is the Son of God.

"The Bible and the Qur'an" compares the Christian Bible with the Qur'an.

You can see all 4 videos including the one about Mohammed and the Trinity here.

(HT: Dar al-Masih)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Religion (aka Moralism or Islam) vs. the Gospel

I like this chart from Justin Buzzard adapted from Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything.  (HT: Kingdom People)

Moralism (aka “Religion” in the above chart) is a disease that robs people of enjoying Jesus in the freedom he provides from the cross.  Perhaps Islam’s largest flaw is that it endorses moralism (see Islam is Guidance: A Complete Legal Code for Humankind).  But Muslims are not the only ones guilty of playing religion.  Sometimes I slip into this error when I take my eyes off Jesus.  So I need this chart to help me preach the gospel to myself as well as to Muslims.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Motivation: Fear or Love?

From Roy Oksnevad, director of Muslim Ministries at the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College posting on Warren Larson:

It is my contention that the Christian community or Church needs to keep its priority on presenting Christ in the midst of turmoil. The Church is to be compelled by the Love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14). In fact the love of Christ (I John 4:18) should be stronger than our present fear. Books such as Hammonds focus on the bad in Islam. I doubt that it has any feel for the struggle that Islam is currently facing. The sad thing is that Muslims have no answer to the current crisis. The Church does!

When I speak in churches and I am asked about the dark side of Islam, I talk about the current political situation in which Jesus found himself. The Romans had perfected human torture to a fine art form. The government was very corrupt necessitating Jesus’ parents to flee as refugees to Egypt and to move out of the area of Jerusalem for self-protection. The religious leaders were corrupt and had lost the true vision of their faith. Yet, Jesus’ message was not to feed the fears, apprehensions, and tensions under which the occupied peoples lived. He preached the gospel. We the Church need to do the same.

Read the whole thing. (2 pages)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thabiti M. Anyabwile on the CAMEL Method

Thabiti M. Anyabwile is an MBB and a council member for the Gospel Coalition where he also blogs.  He has recently written a book called,  The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence.  He says this about his book:

The burden of the book is to offer a simple but transformative encouragement: If you know the gospel of Jesus Christ, you already know everything you need to know to see your Muslim friend, neighbor and co-worker made new in Christ.  Apologetics is helpful.  Knowledge of history useful.  But only the gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.  When we open our mouths to share the message the power of God comes flowing out!  We need confidence in the message.

I really appreciate this exhortation, “When we open our mouths to share the message the power of God comes flowing out!”  Amen! 

While on his blog I noticed someone asked him about the CAMEL method.  He said this:

I’m not a big fan of the CAMEL method. My general concern with some of these methods is that in order to establish common ground and contact, they sometimes concede too many things that are not true from a Christian perspective. So, for example, I think it’s a bad idea to treat the Qur’an as though it’s revelation from God. I know Muslims believe that and will defend that, so we should take their belief seriously. But in the process, we should not affirm the error. Much of the common ground and points of contact we seek is readily available without affirming things we’ll later have to reject. In that sense, our methods should always include “truth in advertising.”

I just want to offer some very brief comments on this.  It is possible (desirable) to use the CAMEL method and not affirm the inspiration of the Qur’an.  Jesus and the Apostles modeled for us to start sharing the gospel with people where they’re at.  For Muslims, we simply enter into their story and lead them to the Biblical Jesus: his life, work on the cross, and establishment of the Kingdom.  We begin affirming the truth Muslims already know, and then move on from there.  You can do this without treating the Qur’an as revelation.  Muslims already have preconceived ideas about Jesus.  We want to move them to Biblical truth, and the CAMEL method can be one place to start.

You may not know about the CAMEL method.  Here are a couple of their videos:

UnderstandingMuslimWorldview from Camel Method on Vimeo.

Isa Knows the Way to Heaven from Camel Method on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Good to Great to Godly

Here is an article from Leadership Journal, called Good to Great to Godly by Mike Bonem.  Bonem is a pastor and a Harvard MBA.  His article discusses the tension between the practical and supernatural aspects of leadership and strategic planning.  Here is the intro:

"We need more structure in our decision making. Without that discipline, we'll never accomplish anything."

"We're a church, not a business. We need to rely on God. We can't operate like the corporate world."

Ever been on one side or the other of this argument? Or perhaps in the middle? The tensions are present in most churches in America today. As corporate "best practices" are applied to church life, church leaders struggle to make sense of it all.

These tensions are not just present in churches, but in apostolic church planting teams as well! 

The central thesis in the book business book Good to Great is that having the right people on the leadership team is more important than having the right direction.  If the right people are leading, the organization will succeed and move in the right direction.  But having the wrong people in leadership will collapse the organization.  Christians, however, sometimes take a different approach, articulated by the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire- virtually anyone can lead as long as they are fully devoted to following God.

You can see from the below quotes how Bonem deals with this tension:

The "best practices" from business have much to offer regarding decision making, but they omit the greatest asset available to congregational leaders—the promptings of the Holy Spirit…

Many congregations have lay leaders who have been involved in strategic planning in the marketplace and are ready to offer this expertise to benefit their church. Many congregations need a more disciplined approach to setting future direction and priorities. There is great potential in this collaboration, as long as the leaders know that any congregation that doesn't leave room for God in its planning will be disappointed…

The church is not a business, and if we run it like one, God might end up as just one of the constituents to be considered, not the One for whom the whole thing exists.

And while it is not a business, we're foolish if we ignore the reality that a church has many characteristics that can be made better with organizational wisdom. We can't read Jesus' parable about counting the cost before building a tower (Luke 14:28-30) without hearing the down-to-earth decisions to be made. Or see Jethro advising Moses to appoint officials to share the leadership burden (Exodus 18), and not recognize the need for a sustainable organizational model. Then there are the lists of qualifications for deacons and elders (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1), which clearly show that it's important to have "the right people on the bus," leading our churches.

Business thinking is not the answer, but it is part of the answer…

I don't quite agree with Cymbala that God "is not looking for smart people." I know that God doesn't need me to accomplish his plans, but I live with the mystery that he has chosen to assemble the body with a unique variety of gifts for his purposes. It is in this context that we should see the best of business and spiritual leadership put to work.

Bonem correctly addresses the tension from both sides of the extreme.  Strategic planning doesn’t preclude the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and following Jesus sometimes means learning from common knowledge.

I had this principle displayed before me at a recent conference for my mission agency where the leadership was proposing a new organizational structure for the entire agency.  Some leaders were talking about a sense many people were having that the current structure was faulty and bureaucratic, while other leaders shared the management principle that when an organization grows by 40%, it usually requires a change in structure to accommodate the growth.  This was the merger of listening to conventional wisdom and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Read the whole thing (5 pages).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Biblical Missiology Interviews Carl Medearis

Read the interview here: Carl Medearis author of Muslims, Christians and Jesus.

Ten questions were asked.  Here are the topics:

  1. Islamic/Christian view of God
  2. Kingdom circles
  3. Gospel as “good news” only
  4. Ultimate goal in building relationships
  5. What constitutes saving belief
  6. The community of believers
  7. Do communities of MBBs exist
  8. Building bridges
  9. Danger of legitimizing extremes if overly positive
  10. The Book “Son of Hamas”

Biblical Missiology considers Carl “insider.”  But from what I’ve read of Carl, most of his practices/views would fall into C4 (Biblical Missiology is against C4 too).  Here are a couple of Carl’s comments:

That’s what we want – to be found in Christ. Not to be either Muslim or Christian.

So a Muslim may still be confused about the prophethood of Muhammad and the authority of the Qur’an or the divinity of Jesus and still be saved. But we don’t desire for him to stay there.

I imagine that Carl would wholeheartedly agree with Abdul Asad’s post on appropriate C5 (still the best chart out there on contextualization!).

Related: When should we focus on the cross?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries: The Process and Parameters of Contextualization with Special Reference to C5 Approaches to Muslim Ministry

Here is a paper by Rick Love (check out his new site and blog) titled Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries: The Process and Parameters of Contextualization with Special Reference to C5 Approaches to Muslim Ministry (2005).

Here is the introduction:

The topic of contextualization is a personal passion and biblical topic over which I have spilled much ink. Because of this, I am too often dissatisfied with both missiologists and theologians on the subject. More often than I would like to admit, evangelical missiology, as practiced, reflects “the marriage of mediocre anthropology and shallow theology” (Burrows 1995:175). But it is also true that evangelical theology too often reflects a monocultural perspective without evangelistic orientation. Thus, as I have argued elsewhere, Evangelicals are genuinely in need of “missiological theologians and theological missiologists” (Love 1995), especially as we seek to evaluate C5 approaches to contextualization among Muslims.

Love’s paper defines the gospel and evangelicalism, discuses the process of contextualization from a “centered-set” approach, and sets Biblically-based boundaries for the parameters of contextualization around of the person of Christ, the work of Christ, and our confession of Christ.

The paper is very interesting (if you’re into this sort of stuff!).  If you read it, make sure to soak in all the footnotes too.  I especially appreciated the section on the problematic practice facing C5ers of affirming the Shahada.

The confession, “Jesus is Lord” (Ku,rioj VIhsou/j) was a masterful contextual term used by the early church. Ku,rioj was used in the Septuagint to translate the term “Yahweh.” Thus, for a Jewish audience, confessing Jesus as Lord was a bold proclamation of Jesus’ divinity. And since the OT was the Bible of the early church, we can conclude that this was the meaning intended by the early church whenever they confessed Jesus as Lord.

Confessing Jesus as Lord was also the way believers affirmed their loyalty to Jesus (the one and only Lord) in contrast to Hellenistic deities, which were called “lords” (Ku,rioi). In addition, it was used to profess their allegiance to Jesus in contrast to “Lord Caesar” (Ku,rioj Kai/sar).

The paper concludes:

So where does this put me on the C scale? C4.5 is as far as I’d go –depending on the context!  I cannot affirm the Shahada. But I can affirm the fact that there are millions of Muslims who don’t believe standard Islamic teaching about Muhammad’s prophet hood either. So there still seems to be plenty of room for C5ers to identify with the community of Islam, remain insiders, and see messianic movements among Muslims.

One of the goals of this paper is to show how a “theological missiologist” addresses the issue of evangelical boundaries. I have tried to illustrate what it would mean for a missiologist (or missionary) to dig deeply into the Scripture, our evangelical heritage, and into the context of his or her target people to theologize cross-culturally.

If I have been successful, then I have paved the way for the next hurdle facing C5ers: How will these insider movements relate to the Church universal – the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church?

Read the whole thing (21 pages).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Perceptions of Islam among Protestant Pastors

I’m reposting all of the below from Ed Stetzer.  It is important for us to know what many of our churches think about Islam.  Be sure to read the comments from Stetzer’s post as well.  Here you go:

“The Christian Post has released some brand new data about the views of Protestant pastors in regard to their views of Islam.

The article explains:

Protestant pastors in the U.S. have a negative view of Islam and more than half agree with Franklin Graham's statement that Islam is an "evil" religion, according to a just-released study by LifeWay Research. More than 4 in 10 agree that Islam is dangerous and promotes violence.

Be sure to read the whole story here, but this excerpt may help:

Protestant pastors were asked which is closer to their beliefs: Graham's widely reported comment that Islam is "a very evil and a very wicked religion," or former President George W. Bush's remark that "the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion."

Forty-seven percent of the pastors surveyed believe Graham's assessment of Islam is accurate, and an additional 12 percent agree with both Graham's and Bush's statements. Twenty-four percent agree with the former president's statement only. The rest could not decide.


This graphic helps illustrate some of the other questions asked:


The survey indicated:

  • Three out of 4 pastors disagree with the statement, "Christians and Muslims pray to the same God"
  • Eighty-two percent say Islam is "fundamentally different from Christianity."
  • Forty-two percent agree that Islam "promotes violence."
  • Four in 10 say the religion is "spiritually evil."
  • One in 3 says Islam "promotes charity."
  • Twenty-eight percent consider the religion "relevant today."

You can download the full PowerPoint presentation at the LifeWay Research web page.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Islamic Paradigm for Peaceful Co-Existence with Other Faiths?

Warrick, thanks for posting Chawkat Moucarry's article on Muslim-Christian dialogue last week.  I am in total agreement - we don't need to shy away from dialogue.  But rather, we should embrace a rigorous dialogue.  True dialogue in the religiously pluralistic world of today is the ability to convince or be convinced.  We must therefore reject the fluffy nonsensical approach to dialogue that just keeps talking in circles, as if there were no real differences between faiths.  But we should also spend time focusing on the similarities between our faiths that lead to a more peaceable co-existence, even if we disagree on important doctrines.  After all, Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Mt. 5:9) for nothing. 

One of the criticisms against Islam is that it has no paradigm to support peaceful co-existence with other religious communities.  If it is to come into the globalized, religiously plural world of the 21st century, Islam will have to develop a theological and practical framework where dhimmitude or full submission into Dar al-Islam are not the only options for other religious communities in their midst!

Along those lines, I want to plug a really neat website.  It is called the Free Muslims Coalition, and it's founder, Kamal Nawash, is quite a man.  I applaud his efforts for peace despite our difference of religious opinion!  Kamal, my prayer is that many more young Muslims will follow your example for the sake of peace in our religiously plural world.  But I also pray that one day you will see that true peace is ultimately only found in a person - and his name is Jesus Christ.