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.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011
10. Salvation sans Jesus? A good point I wish Rob Bell had considered.
9. The Purpose (Vision) and Task (Mission) of Missions These are the most important questions we can answer.
8. The Qur’an as a bridge to… Do we want MBBs to think the Qur’an led them to faith?
7. “I am an Atheist and a Muslim” When Muslims say “Muslim” they tend to think in cultural categories. When we say “Muslim” we tend to think in theological categories.
6. One Cross, One Way, Many Journeys, Greenlee “How we conceive of conversion determines how we do evangelism.” Enough said.
5. Polygamy and Creation Make points Muslims can agree with.
4. Was Mohammed a prophet? How different people nuance the question.
3. Thinking Missiologically About Dreams What do we do when our Muslim friends dream of Jesus?
2. My take on the DG national conference: The difference between evangelism and missions Good exhortation from Abdul Asad on the importance of the unreached nations.
1. The best article on the C3-C5 debate in the last couple years Get yourself caught up on the debate and learn what the real issues are.
From Our Top 10 Books of 2011 by Relevant Magazine:
The starting point for Lee Camp’s stunning new book is that Christians should take Jesus at His word when He said, “Love your enemies.” This requires a commitment to self-examination as well as the practice of empathy—“empathy that may not agree, approve, or necessarily even tolerate, but nonetheless seeks to understand.” Camp suggests taking the question that was on everyone’s lips after the 9/11 attacks (“How could they do this to us?”) as an authentic agenda for understanding: “What in their experience, in their presuppositions, in their vision, could contribute to the deeds or words or actions we find so unjust and horrid?” Reading Who Is My Enemy reminded me of the growing pains I’d get as a kid, usually at night. It was going to be uncomfortable for a while, but I knew I was going to wake up bigger.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
This book has been recommended to me at least four times in the last couple years. Maybe now I’ll get around to reading it!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
From Ant Greenham, Assistant Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at SEBTS, and author of Muslim Conversions to Christ: An Investigation of Palestinian Converts Living in the Holy Land. See also his research published as an article in St. Francis here: Key factors why Palestinian Muslims became Christians.
My friend Tony Maalouf [author of Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line] argues persuasively that the magi, or wise men, who visited Jesus in Bethlehem, were Arabs. They came from the east (i.e. from present-day Jordan, or thereabouts), not from the north, like Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, who imposed centuries of hegemony over God’s people as they waited for their Messiah.
Whether they were Arab or not, the magi were quite likely influenced by Babylonian wisdom, as their name suggests. But they definitely had the wisdom to discern that a particular star, whatever it was astronomically, signified an extraordinary birth. In fact, the infant they went to see was not only King of the Jews, but one worthy of worship (Matt 2:2). How did they know this? While not excluding the supernatural, I would like to suggest they read and believed that portion of the Jewish Scriptures written in Aramaic, almost certainly a language they read with ease. The portion concerned is Daniel 2:4–7:28.
Reading just this Scripture, they could conclude two things: From the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire, there would be four kingdoms, the last superseded by an everlasting kingdom, set up by God himself (Dan 2:44). The Babylonians, Persians and Greeks had come and gone. They were now in the era of the fourth kingdom, Rome. So it would stand to reason to look for a sign (such as an unusual star) which signified God was about to fulfill his promise. Second, God’s promise was centered in one like a Son of Man, who would be given eternal dominion, and enjoy the adulation of all peoples, nations and languages (Dan 7:13–14). So what else could they do, but respond to the star by going to Jerusalem and inquiring after one who was both human king and divine Lord?
Herod, that impetuous Roman ally, would try to negate God’s kingdom by slaughtering the infants of Bethlehem (Matt 2:16). But God’s word is true, and Jesus was spared to live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, rise from the dead, and return one day in glory. The magi, it seems, had the wisdom to understand this. Once they reached their goal in Bethlehem, they worshiped the child Jesus (but not his mother, or Joseph), and presented him with gifts of gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priestly mediator), and myrrh (to foreshadow his death, Matt 2:11).
This advent I am living among a delightful group of Arab believers in Jordan. They certainly have the wisdom to place the Jesus born in Bethlehem, who came to save us from our sins, at the center of attention. As we move into Christmas, it is my prayer that everyone reading this would do so too.
Ant Greenham, December 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
From his blog:
- Speaking of Jesus: the Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis
- Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd
- The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus by Bruxy Cavey
- The Powers That Be: Theology For A New Millennium by Walter Wink
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright
- The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More than our Lips by John Dickson
- Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller
- Allah: A Christian Response by Miroslav Volf
- Real-Time Connections: Linking Your Job with God’s Global Work by Bob Roberts Jr.
- Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty by Mustafa Akyol
Read his post for an explanation of each book.
Here’s another book that looks very interesting, Textual Criticism and Qur'an Manuscripts. From Amazon:
In this study, Keith Small applies the principles of textual analysis to twenty-two manuscripts—most of them early—that contain Q. 14:35-41, which describes how Abraham settled his son—presumably Ishmael—in Mecca. Based on a careful and systematic analysis of the manuscripts, Small traces the historical development of the Qur'anic text from the rise of Islam until the 10th century CE. Comparison of the manuscripts with the evidence of literary sources suggests that the text remained open and fluid during the first half of the seventh century, and that the production of a standard text was not completed until the end of that century. This editorial project, sponsored by the Umayyad caliphs, resulted in the destruction of most if not all of the earliest manuscripts, with the result that it is currently impossible to recover the original form of the text. This is an important contribution to scholarship on the Qur'an. (David S. Powers)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
If you’re like me, you’ve experienced a fair bit of fatigue concerning the contextualization debate among evangelical circles over the last couple years. Sometimes it seems the issue is getting more and more polarized, with some calling the other a heretic, although there is still hope that all the sides can come together. In any case, I’m kind of tired of reading the same old arguments and trying to cover the blitz of articles coming at us.
So if you want to get caught up on the most recent articles and thinking, and are trying to find a common path that we can (almost) all agree on, then search no more. Inside/Outside: getting to the center of the Muslim contextualization debates, by J. S. William tackles all these issues and more. (I also want to brag that Circumpolar’s Abdul Asad is quoted a couple times in the article.)
While not trying to advocate a certain stance per se, J. S. William summarizes the C5 arguments, clears up common misunderstandings about them, and tries to get past the surface arguments to the heart of the matter. In bold is an extended outline of the 38 page article – with my own personal (and sometimes tangential) comments of the point at hand:
- Introduction – There is a firestorm of controversy around the idea of “Muslim followers of Jesus.” Unfortunately there is often more heat than light.
- Basic Positions on the Debate – There is a difference between “insider” and “C5,” although the terms are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably. Both sides have similar levels of experience, expertise, and conviction. Critics range from total rejection (sometimes very mean-spirited criticism) of C5 to respectful engagement with it.
- Points of Confusion – What the debate is NOT about.
- C5 means Christian missionaries saying they are Muslims – Practically no one does this and no one advocates it.
- C5 is about avoiding the persecution Jesus promised – C5ers do not try to avoid all persecution. The point is that persecution, when it does happen, should be because of someone’s faith in Jesus and not for the wrong reasons. Many insiders themselves suffer for Christ. C6 follower of Christ may temporarily hide, but this is not desirable and usually due to extreme circumstances.
- Like the Emergent Church, IM waters down doctrine and/or redefines orthodoxy to the extent of subsuming orthodox Christian doctrine to orthodox Islamic doctrine – The real association between the two is the asking of questions like, “How do we reach a resistant sector of the global society with the Gospel? Is it perhaps our methods that are flawed?” IMO, the church in every generation needs to self-asses if they are biblical.
- IM does not encourage believers to gather as a “Church” –What we need to do is define the biblical term “ekklesia.” C5 proponents want ekklesia. There can be missional reasons for a MBB going to a mosque.
- All Muslims believe and practice the same thing, so to be an Insider is to believe and Practice those same things – Islam is extremely diverse. What does it mean to be a Muslim? The answer varies considerably. See the posts: “I am an Atheist and a Muslim” and Islam is Not a Civilization.
- Only one approach is necessary – C5 could definitely be wrong or at least unnecessary in some contexts.
- IM advocates manipulative language in order to sneak in Muslim accommodation and undermine Christian orthodoxy – This charge is subjective and judgmental.
- Areas of remaining tension and discussion – What the real issues are:
- Can meaning and form be separated from one another? Moreover, is it appropriate and necessary to translate words and forms based on “meaning units” (dynamic equivalency) rather than “word-for-word” or “form-for-form” conversion of terms? – The principal of dynamic equivalence actually has broad, deep support among evangelicals. Fundamentalists are usually against it.
- Are meaning-based translations that seek alternative terms from those that have historically offended and distracted Muslim audiences able to maintain accuracy and faithfulness to the intended-meanings of the text? – This is a tough call. The “Son of God” translation issue for Muslims is extremely complicated, and it may never have a clear answer.
- Are there significant numbers of true followers of Jesus who continue to identify themselves as Muslims? Is it important that Western outsiders verify and evaluate this? – Yes many Muslim followers of Jesus exist, although just because something happens doesn’t mean it has God’s approval, nor that it needs Western approval.
- Is following Jesus a “religion”? If so or if not, what does this mean for our understanding of a religion such as “Islam”? – This is a key issue. I have actually written a “Worker Scale” (a la the C Scale) that shows 4 different paradigms how we as evangelical workers understand the theology of engagement with other Religions: 1) Destruction Model “Christianity destroys Islam”, 2) Replacement Model “Christianity replaces Islam”, 3) Redemptive Model “Christianity redeems/changes/transforms Muslims”, 4) Fulfillment Model “Christianity fulfills Islam”. I’m thinking of posting or publishing this W Scale soon.
- What are the elements of genuine Christ-centered discipleship? What role do tradition, historical Christian confessions, foreign missionaries, and the Holy Spirit’s leading have in bringing someone into genuine conformity to Christ-likeness? – The process of discipleship is messy, it is messy in every context, but it is a process nevertheless. The point is to get MBBs firmly grounded in their identity in Christ and in the Bible and in community with one another. But how MBBs eventually work out their socio-religious identity and how they deal with idols in their culture is a process they need to be prepared for, not just told what to do by a cultural outsider.
- To what extent does a follower of Jesus need to visibly relate to the global body of Christ and traditional churches in their regional area but outside of their typical community? – “Most likely, this debate has more to do with the question of “when” not “if.”” They key is to view all movements as transitional in nature. How many years did it take until “Christianity” was formed in the 1st or 2nd or 3rd Century Mediterranean world? As Bosch says in Transforming Mission, “Either the movement disintegrates or it becomes an institution, this is simply a sociological law. Every religious group that started out as a movement and managed to survive, did so because it was gradually institutionalized” (52).
- How should Insiders view and talk about Mohamed? – See the post Was Mohammed a prophet? for various ways people try to answer this question. Continued allegiance or faith in Mohammed will obviously not help MBBs grow spiritually. MBBs need to be grounded in Christ and Word alone. But how they talk about him when witnessing is a different matter. Syncretism is a serious threat for all of us, not just MBBs. Each culture has it’s idols: Mohammed, Islam, or the Mosque could all be potential idols for MBBs.
- Conclusion – Although we will not totally agree with one another (I disagree with myself at times), Rom. 14-15 teaches us not to judge one another. Love and humility is needed. JS William closes the article by offering seven statements he hopes we can all agree on (I include them in their entirety):
- We aim to see vibrant, Jesus-loving and Jesus-centered communities that are faithful to the Scriptures and living out their discipleship in their community.
- We aim to see people meaningfully connected to their unbelieving social networks, without denying or diminishing Jesus' centrality, for the sake of the Gospel.
- We aim to see strong, robust, transformed families.
- We aim to live out the biblical calling of teaching, rebuking, warning, and loving new believers as Christ is formed in them.
- We aim to be listeners and learners in the midst of that process; we know we bear cultural baggage and we want as much as possible for the Gospel to be implanted within the new culture and to avoid setting a foreign cultural standard.
- We believe that those who are joined to Jesus will suffer in this fallen world and will suffer especially for their devotion to Jesus. Though some might look to avoid pre-mature persecution, we do not believe persecution can be completely avoided nor that it should be. "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim 3:16).
- Though our time-frames differ for accomplishing it, we aim to see Jesus-centered communities from Muslim backgrounds connected to and embraced by the global body of Christ.
So go ahead and read the whole thing for some light, leisurely reading during the holidays.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Talking about Israel and the Arabs is a minefield among evangelicals.
There is probably no quicker way to be labeled anti this or pro that.
– Mike Kuhn, pg. 109
For anyone working with Muslims the issue of Israel is bound to come up eventually. So what is the way forward?
For starters, here is a short article: How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus (HT: JC).
One great secular resource is the very unique book called The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. It’s a narrative non-fiction that displays the humanity on both sides of this complex issue. I have heard that both Palestinians and Jews claim the book is fair. But more than fair, it’s also an enjoyable, fascinating read!
See also chapter 7 in Fresh Vision for the Muslim World by Mike Kuhn.
For a solid and balanced biblical-theological perspective, see John Piper’s Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. Piper also has some shorter resources:
- Israel, Arabs, and the Family of God
- Prophecy and the Invasion of Lebanon
- Do Jews Have a Divine Right in the Promised Land?
It’s nice to know we don’t have to take sides on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The important thing is to use this issue to point our Muslim friends to Jesus, the hope of all and our only lasting peace.
Related Post: Christ at the Checkpoint