Saturday, December 31, 2011

Larson’s Review of Chrislam (Anti IM/C4-5 Book)

From Review of Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel:

Chrislam: How Missionaries are promoting an Islamized Gospel

Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton & Bill Nikides, eds. i2 Ministries Publications, 344 pages, $25.

–Reviewed by Warren Larson, Former Director of the Zwemer Center, and Associate Professor of Muslim Studies, Columbia International University, South Carolina.

The best thing to be said about this book is that it addresses critical issues in mission to Muslims. Insider movement (IM) proponents have received ample press in the past (Mission Frontiers and IJFM) and this text deems it high time to present another perspective. It calls for careful exegesis (62-76) of passages like I Corinthians 9:19-22. It insists Muhammad was not a prophet in any sense of the term and the Qur’an is not divinely-inspired. It opposes removing familial language for God from Muslim-friendly translations (199-226), and though SIL and Wycliffe Bible Translators have issued new guidelines saying “Son of God” will be translated literally in most cases, sees the loophole large enough to justify many problematic “exceptions.” Many readers will resonate with such concerns but question the content and tone of this text.

Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel consists of twenty-five chapters and is written by numerous authors. It contains a foreword, acknowledgements, preface, three appendices, bibliography, and an index. Material is divided up into six sections that deal with various subjects, including hermeneutics, translation, missiology, testimonies/interviews of former Muslims, and resources of IM websites, an index and references from both the Bible and the Qur’an.

On the positive side, sections one and five have the most value: The first section quotes IM proponents extensively, however taken out of context, may give impressions never intended by the authors. Section five gives Muslim converts (mostly Bengali) a voice in expressing strong opposition to IM; however other Bengalis could be called upon for the exact opposite view.

On the negative side, the Preface (iii-iv) is especially troubling: It contains inaccuracies, misperceptions and unbiblical attitudes. A statement in the second paragraph, “… [W]hat is at stake is not our personal relationships with brothers and sisters” suggests it does not matter what we say about fellow-believers, as long as we tell what we think is the truth. A comment in the third paragraph makes a generalization about all IM ministries: “… [N]o churches are planted …” Such sweeping statements set the tone for what is to follow. This book is reactionary, primarily a work of extremes, including an alarmist and inflammatory title. Nor is it put together well: One chapter (100-115) argues that Christians should treat Islam like an Old Testament ban, because after all, it is a pagan religion. And Samuel Zwemer’s article (306-308) on secret believers is misplaced; a more fitting quote would have been: “We must become Moslems to the Moslem if we would gain them for Christ” (The Moslem Christ, 183).

This book demonstrates that evangelical Christians have failed to settle an important question peacefully: To what extent can one remain culturally and religiously “Muslim” while seeking to follow Jesus? The opinion of this reviewer is that differences of opinion on such a controversial topic can only be clarified through careful scholarship, mutual respect and face-to-face dialog.


Adam S said...

This comment is awaiting moderation on Warren Larson's blog.

Dr. Larson,

As you well know, I am the author of the article, ” How Insider Movements Affect Ministry: Personal Reflections,” in Chrislam. It is exactly for the accomodating response reflected in this review that I wrote my piece. Unless we are willing to confront false teaching, regardless of what that means for ministry cooperation and friendships, we dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal and uncreated Son of God, whose identity as such can never be “conveyed” by “meaning-based” “equivalents” and whose glory demands our open allegiance to Him alone. By accomodating false teaching in the name of “peace” we also jeopardize our relationships with one another because it is impossible to love one’s neighbor as oneself if someone does not love God which includes contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Love is never based on that which is false, regardless of how friendly and pleasant one may be.

To infer in the last sentence that this book lacks “careful scholarship” is at the very least an unproven charge. You must provide specific examples of how any of the articles fail to do so even if it is from my article. For instance, you claim that Insider Movement advocates have been misquoted. Then give an example of how it has been misquoted. I know that this may not be your way of doing things but upon further reflection your review comes across as reactionary instead of providing a helpful critique. The closest that you come to this is by referring to Dr. Talley’s article, “Pagan Religious Practices and Heretical Teaching: What Is to Be Our Attitude? Gleanings from the Old and New Testaments,” in which I would respond that you have not fairly represented his argument. Yes, Islam should be rejected; but the New Testament rejection of false beliefs NEVER calls for the physical annihilation of those who hold to them. Dr. Talley makes no such argument but rather highlights the principle that the worship of God can never be mixed with other belief systems.

Your review gives the impression that for Christians to criticize and critique one another is a cardinal sin. This is an unbiblical stance and one that you have not honored by your criticism of the critiquers! You yourself do not hold to Muhammad being a prophet nor the Quran being inspired Scripture. Yet by your swift rush to condemn this book and come to the defense of the advocates of Insider Movements is at the very least, tacitly deferring to those within Insider Movements who do believe and practice these things.

Your quote from Zwemer is totally out of context and you make it appear that he would have been supportive of Insider Movements. Anyone who reads The Moslem Christ cannot validly conclude that Zwemer argued for adopting a Muslim identity. That article about secret believers, by the way, reflects his continually expressed conviction that Jesus Christ demands of us open identification with Him alone and a complete commitment to Him. You have seriously misrepresented him. You are fully aware that to the day of his death Zwemer always wrote and spoke of Christianity and Islam being two competing and incompatible beliefs.


Abu Daoud said...

Hi All,

First of all, kudos to Adam for writing a response to my friend Warren. I look forward to hearing his response.

Second, I have to admit that I dislike the title of the book a great deal. There are already two relatively small but very real movements, based out of Africa, that cauldron of creative syncretism (which does not bother me), that go by the name Chrislam of their own volition:

So, while I have not read the book, I do think a different name would have been more appropriate.