Saturday, May 28, 2011

From the Eyes of Hope

A documentary on the Arab-Israeli conflict from college students Joe Miller and Anna Medearis, From the Eyes of Hope won best documentary at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth this month in Seattle.  It's well worth the $5 download or $12 DVD.

Thanks, Joe and Anna, for showing the world that there are college students who care about real issues for the sake of the Gospel of Peace. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Online Qur'an Resources


Online Qur'an Resources:

The Qur'an is the central text of Islamic ritual and belief, expanding at myriad levels in everyday life, national reflection, and transnational exchange for most of the one billion plus Muslims. Yet it remains a closed book to most non-Muslims or to anyone not familiar with the grammatical structure and semantics of the Arabic language.

Given the religious overtones of the current "war on terrorism," Islam's holy book needs to be taught to American students in a way that both stresses the multiple interpretations among Muslims and the view from a secular but respectful non-Muslim stance. This site provides access to a variety of viewpoints, Muslim and non-Muslim, on the Quran.

For a bibliography of scholarly books and articles on the Qur'an, click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Gospel for Muslims Lecture by Anyabwile

Former Muslim Thabiti Anyabwile gives a 1 hour lecture called, “The Gospel for Muslims” at the Gospel Coalition 2011 National Conference.  For better or worse, he insists on using Christian terminology and leading conversations with classical reformed theology in his approach to Muslim evangelism.  While I think there are more fruitful and more biblical approaches, it was beneficial for me to hear him articulate some concepts.  I also appreciated his bridge-building with Muslims and that he uses the Qur’an.

See also Thabiti M. Anyabwile on the CAMEL Method.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tim Tennent on the Death of Bin Laden

Tennent always has a knack for putting things in perspective...
Reflections on the death of Osama bin Laden By Timothy C. Tennent
The death of Osama bin Laden has reminded me of the recent discussion surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, about who might end up in hell.  It is interesting that modern discussions about such matters invariably find a way to put ourselves in the category of the “righteous” and hell is reserved for Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and Osama bin Laden.  The Scriptures point us in a different direction.  Paul is determined to silence the endless self-righteous talk which ends in self-justification, whether stemming from Jews who live under the Law or Gentiles who do not know the Law, but only have their own conscience.  Paul finally bluntly declares that God’s righteousness is being revealed “so that every mouth may be silenced” (Rom. 3:19).
This is important because as Christians we must recognize that the evil which we so often want to identity in the “other” is actually in us as well.  We are capable of all the atrocities which we find so unimaginable, such is the depth of human depravity.  Osama bin Laden was, through his death, sent to a higher court for final judgement.  Someday we will stand at that same bar of judgement.  Paul declares that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).  The only hope for any of us is in the grace which God has revealed in Jesus Christ.  He is the only one truly righteous.  Death, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes are all regular reminders of human frailty and that the whole of creation is “not right.”  We must cast ourselves on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Let Osama bin Laden’s death be a reminder not of the wickedness in the “other” who has “finally gotten what is due him,” but rather a sobering and humbling reminder of the nature of the human race to which we all belong.  Augustine wisely said that we are sinners by birth and by choice.  The whole human race is in rebellion against God.   We are “in Adam” and we are willful participants in that seminal rebellion.  The fundamental struggle of our time – or any time – is not about the West versus radical Islam.  The struggle is between the righteousness of God and the rebellion of the human race against God’s righteousness.  We are all part of that rebellion, right along with bin Laden and Pol Pot. Until we see ourselves in the Cambodian killing fields, the falling Twin Towers and Nazi concentration camps we really haven’t fully grasped the depth of our own human fallenness, nor the height of God’s amazing grace in Christ.
Can't really disagree with that theology - sobering yet worship-inspiring for the believer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can Outsiders Counsel Insiders?

From the editorial by Rick Wood of the May-June 2011 issue of Mission Frontiers on Jesus Movements (see my comments below):

To say the least, the phenomenon of Bible-believing followers of Jesus identifying themselves as Muslims, Hindus, etc. has become a hot topic of discussion in mission circles and beyond. In some cases it has led to persecution of these Jesus followers by those in the Church who believe that this phenomenon is a corruption of the faith. Some have even appealed to governmental power to suppress such expressions of faith. As Rebecca Lewis explains in her article starting on page 21, this has been a common practice over the centuries by those trying to maintain what they feel is the “correct” expression of the faith. Tragically, it has led to the martyrdom of tens of thousands of people who were seeking to follow Jesus. In our day, such practices should not be tolerated by any follower of Jesus.

Whether we think that Jesus Movements are a good or bad thing, I hope that we can all agree that these people have the right to follow Jesus according to their conscience and should be free to do so without harassment by people who claim to know the better way to follow Jesus. It is their choice to make whether they stay within the culture of their birth or not, and we should respect their choice.

Jesus Movements are indigenous movements that need to be left to flourish on their own without the kind of outside influence or control that could rob them of their indigenous character and even endanger lives. The members of these movements need to be the ones in charge of the contacts they have with believers and ministries from other cultures. History has shown that even well-meaning endorsement of Jesus Movements can be dangerous. Mission organizations, no matter how well intentioned, need to allow Jesus Movements to take the lead and not try to claim ownership of or authority over these movements.

As followers of Jesus from different cultural backgrounds, we must be willing to allow God to establish biblical faith in other cultures in ways that looks very different from our own. One day, when we stand before the throne of God and worship Jesus along with people from every other tribe and tongue, I do not think we will worship God out of the uniformity of one “Christian” culture but out of the unique cultural expressions of every people. In this way God will be most glorified.

Just a word of caution from my perspective: I wholeheartedly agree that all people have the right to determine their own socio-religious identity, and that outsiders have historically been paternalistic in this matter. 

But I don’t want to overreact and say the outsider can have zero input.  Would I be humble enough to allow a Zambian Christian to counsel me in my contextualized American Christianity? I hope so.  Sometimes outsiders can offer the most prophetic insights! 

I’m just trying to caution what I perceive to be the pendulum swinging too far in this discussion.  I think we can all agree that outsiders can offer insights to insiders, but without claiming ownership or trampling on another’s conscience.  And in the end, in any case, Scripture holds the final authority.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Miroslav Volf on OBL’s Death

From Volf’s blog entry on Christian Century, Fear and relief:

My friends' responses and my own memories of the horror of 9/11 and its aftermath nudged me to the following considerations:

  • Osama bin Laden was the most infamous voice of hatred and the most dangerous purveyor of terror in today's world. Clearly, a significant measure of good has been achieved in that an evildoer of such magnitude is no longer scheming about how to harm and kill innocent people--as well as seriously disrupt the lives of just about all of us (airport scanners!).
  • For the followers of Jesus Christ, no one's death is a cause for rejoicing. This applies to Osama bin Laden no less than to any other evildoer, large or small. Jesus Christ died for all; there are no irredeemable people. The path of repentance is open to anyone willing to walk on it, and no human being has the right to permanently close that path for anyone.
  • We are right to feel a sense of relief that a major source of evil has been removed. But we should reflect also on the flip side of that relief: the nature of our fears. As the King hearings and state-level anti-Sharia bills indicate, many people in our nation find themselves under a spell of a "green scare" analogous to the red scare of the 1950s. But fear is a foolish counselor, and our war in Iraq--unnecessary, unjust and counterproductive--is evidence of this.
  • Osama bin Laden was killed through an action that instantiates American exceptionalism. We will never consent to grant other nations (China, as an emerging superpower?) the right to intervene in other sovereign states the way we just intervened in Pakistan. As believers in the one God, Christians are universalists. We should not ourselves exercise rights we are unwilling to grant to others. This basic principle of morality should apply to international relations as well.

The death of Osama bin Laden has not left Muslim terrorists in utter defeat, but it has significantly weakened them. They are losing ground in other ways as well. As the Arab Spring from Tunisia to Yemen indicates, among Muslim communities--especially the urbane young--democratic revolution is more attractive than the terrorist solution. The doors are open to pursue anti-extremism strategies more in line with the Christian faith than the "war on terror" has been. By doing this we can build on fundamental values that unite Muslims with many Christian (as well as Jewish and humanist) citizens of Western nations.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

The God of Mission (Part II of The Mission of God, Wright)

Here is my attempt at a brief summary of Part II of The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative by Chris Wright. (Part I here.)  Keep reading for why I think this is relevant for readers of Circumpolar.

God is a missionary God (in a class of his own compared with other ‘gods’) who longs to be glorified by making himself known among all the nations through Israel as creator, ruler, judge, and savior.  Jesus shares the identity of God and personally fulfills this mission.  Biblical monotheism is driven by God’s will to be known as God, and generates praise from those who come to see God through Christ.  “All our missional efforts to make God known must be set within the prior framework of God’s own will to be known.  We are seeking to accomplish what God himself wills to happen.  This is both humbling and reassuring” (129).

But the problem is that fallen creation, demons, and human constructs seek praise at the expense of God’s glory.  Thus, for God to be known as God in Christ, idolatry must be confronted in all its forms.  All idols are “something” in the world, but also “nothing” compared with the living God.  Other ‘gods’ can be either demons or human constructs or both, but the ‘gods’ are much more commonly connected with human sin in the Bible.  “Not that we owe the devil any exoneration, but neither should we shift the blame on to him for what is our own responsibility (another trick we learned as early as the Garden of Eden)” (162).

Mission must expose and unmask the gods.  Idols are destructive but also destructible.  Idols are things that entice us, things we fear, things we trust, or things we need.  Idols deprive God of his proper glory, distort the image of God in us, and are profoundly disappointing.  God is waging war against those forces that try to mess up his plans for his creation.  The battle belongs to the Lord.

“Combating idolatry can take may forms.  The Bible itself prepares us to recognize that different approaches may be relevant in different contexts” (179).  There is theological argument (Rom. 1:18-32), evangelistic argument (Acts 14, 17, and 19), pastoral guidance (1 Cor. 8-9), and prophetic warning (esp. to the people of God themselves).  “Since God’s mission is to restore creation to its full original purpose of bringing all glory to God himself and thereby to enable all creation to enjoy the fullness of blessing that he desires for it, God battles against all forms of idolatry and calls us to join him in that conflict” (188).


So what does all this mean for ministry to Muslims? While I think the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible are the same referent (with notable differences), the idol in Islam would mostly be Islam itself, depending on the individual Muslim of course.  Islam is all about Islam.  For some Muslims the idol would be Mohammed, and I think many honest Muslims would actually admit that this is often the case. 

Your thoughts?