EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the “C1 to C6 Spectrum” was first introduced in EMQ’s pages in October 1998, we have published articles advocating a variety of perspectives about contextualized practices in Muslim settings. Most are written by missionaries, so when we received Jonathan McNeil’s interview of Dr. Ali, a Muslim-Background Believer (MBB), we knew that it brought to the table one of the voices that has been noticeably absent from the print discussion available outside of Muslim settings. At the same time, we knew that Dr. Ali’s is only one of the many MBB voices. Thus, we invited Kevin Higgins to respond in a way that represented a different voice. It is our expectation that you will read these two articles together, seeing in them a point/counterpoint approach that will give you a broader perspective on the many issues involved. Together, they illustrate where the sides agree—and where ongoing clarification and discussion are needed.
Essential Christianity needs to be seen as a faith instead of a religion if we are to talk sensibly about contextualization. For only a faith can be expressed in any set of cultural forms. Ours is not intended to be a religion that gets transplanted and, although adapted a bit, is really the same set of forms from culture to culture.
Essential Christianity needs to be seen as personal instead of structural. We seek to communicate a Person, not a system. To do that, we need to be personal and relational, since we are the major part of the message we seek to communicate.
And essential Christianity needs to be seen as a process in which people engage under the direction of the Holy Spirit instead of a product produced in one society and transported to another. We are to seek to plant seeds, not to transplant whole trees. It is this faith, this Person, this process that contextualization is all about.
How will new believers understand and live out their faith in a situation where there is little or no biblical background?
In order to accurately convey divine fatherhood and sonship, translators need to use expressions that are as equivalent in meaning as possible to the Greek and Hebrew terms for social son (huios and ben) and social father (patêr and âb) and to avoid biological expressions of the form God’s Offspring or the Procreator of our Lord Jesus Christ, because these are understood to signify biological relations generated through a sexual act of procreation.