Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mission History and Humility

I’ll be attending the Bridging the Divide conference next month (I’m sure I’ll post what I can on that later).  In order to prepare for the dialogue I’ve been thinking a lot about humility.  I think this cartoon (you’ve probably seen this before) puts a lot in perspective rather quickly. (Click on the picture if you can’t read the text.)

Related: Quarrelling and Blog Arguing

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rejoicing Within a Zone of Ambiguity

“When I hear reports of movements of “Muslim followers of Christ” (MFC) who retain their “socio-religious identity,” I find myself rejoicing within a zone of ambiguity.”

- Bartlotti, Leonard N. Seeing “Inside” the Insider Movement: Exploring our Theological Lenses and Presuppositions. 2012.

Now that’s a nice opening line.  The debate has certainly benefited from charitable voices like this which frame the discussion outside of its tired categories.  Add this paper to your list of must-reads and study it as an exercise in humility.  Here is the abstract:

Insider Missiology is actually based on multiple theological presuppositions. Examining the various “strands” of IM assumptions can help us move toward more nuanced understandings and theological engagement. This paper identifies nine “lenses” (“filters,” assumptions, background beliefs) that affect how IM is presented, and critiqued. Where one stands on these constituent theological issues affects how one “sees” Insider Movement(s) and assesses IM missiology. The goal of this paper is to help both proponents and critics of “Insider Movements” recognize that there is a range of defensible positions on these constituent presuppositions, more than a few of which fall on a spectrum of biblical orthodoxy and evangelical faith. This paper attempts to the advance the dialogue on Muslim contextualization by calling for further study, discussion, and research, and encourages evangelicals to affirm evangelical unity, delight in (or at least tolerate) evangelical ambiguity, and create space for evangelical diversity on these issues.

I would also want to make explicit that Traditionalist (including some appearing to be Fundamentalist) missiology is also based on multiple theological/epistemological presuppositions.  At some point we need to switch the focus from Insider and instead examine more closely the assumptions within the Traditionalist position(s). In any case, Bartlotti demonstrates that there are a “range of defensible biblical positions on each issue” (26).  The issues are:

  1. Ecclesiology/Church
  2. Authority (role of the outsider)
  3. Culture
  4. Pneumatology/Holy Spirit
  5. History
  6. Doing Theology
  7. Other Religions
  8. Islam
  9. Conversion-Initiation

Read the 31 page paper for a discussion of each.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Longing for Community: Church, Ummah, or Somewhere in Between? (2013) now available

Update: Longing for Community now available on Kindle.

Longing for CommunityYou can now order Longing for Community: Church, Ummah, or Somewhere in Between? edited by David Greenlee from William Carey Library:

Understanding the strength and unity of the ummah— the worldwide Muslim community—and its role in an individual’s identity is essential in comprehending the struggles that Muslims undergo as they turn to faith in Jesus Christ. It has been a place of security, acceptance, protection, and identity; turning away from it entails great sacrifice. Where, then, will Muslims who choose to follow Jesus find their longing for community fulfilled: ummah, church, or somewhere in between?

Longing for Community compiles the research and reflection of twenty missiologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and linguists—among them Muslims who have become believers in Jesus Christ— presented at the second Coming to Faith Consultation in February 2010. The contributors explore the multiple levels and hybrid nature of social identity, pointing to the need to free our discussions from single- dimensional scales, which are far from adequate to describe the complex nature of conversion and lived-out faith. Beyond the issue of identity, the contributors offer important lessons from mission history, explore liturgy as an appropriate vehicle for teaching, discuss appropriate means of communication, and point to both the need and contextually appropriate possibilities of greater involvement of women in training and ministry.

Earlier this year I reviewed Longing for Community for EMQ and it’ll be in their July 2013 issue.  Here is part of what I said:

… By moving beyond sterile arguments and using real-life case studies, Longing for Community has the potential to significantly reduce the polarization of views concerning the Insider Movement… This is an invaluable resource documenting the “grace of God” (Acts 11:23) among Muslims which proves again that missiological research can be accessible, exciting, and edifying… All who desire to see Muslims transformed in Christ and in community with His people (Eph. 2) should study this game-changing book with their colleagues. We owe David Greenlee a debt of gratitude for his continued efforts in respectfully challenging our various missiological theories of conversion.

Buy the book. (I wish it were available in digital format. Is there a reason it isn’t?)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians: Abstract

From Duane Alexander Miller:

This is the abstract to my doctoral thesis, Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians, which I will be submitting in a few days and defending this summer:


Since the 1960’s there has been a marked increase in the number of known conversions from Islam to Christianity. This thesis asks whether certain of these ex-Muslim Christians engage in the process of theology-making and, if so, it asks what these theologies claim to know about God and humans’ relation to God.

Utilizing the dialectic of contextuality-contextualization of Shoki Coe, and the sociology of theological knowledge of Robert Schreiter, the thesis seeks to answer these questions by the use of two case studies and an examination of some of the texts written by ex-Muslim Christians. Lewis Rambo’s theory of religious conversion and Steven Lukes’ theory of power will be used to clarify the changing dynamics of power which have helped to foster modern contexts wherein an unprecedented number of Muslims are both exposed to the Christian message and, if they choose to do so, able to appropriate it through religious conversion.

The two case studies are of a Christian community which founded a Muslim-background church in the Arabophone world and some Iranian Christian congregations in the USA and UK Diaspora.

Aspects of the contexts of these believers are investigated in some detail, including motives for religious conversion, numbers and locations of the converts, how apostates may be treated by Muslims, changes in migration and communications, and the Christian concept of religious conversion. The concept of inculturation which helps to describe the meeting of a specific community with the Christian message will aid in analyzing the communities and individuals being studied.

The final chapter brings together the various threads which have been raised throughout the thesis and argues that ex-Muslim Christians are engaged in theology-making, that areas of interest to them include theology of the church, salvation and baptism, and that the dominant metaphor in these theologies is a conceptualization of love and power that sees the two divine traits as inseparable from each other; they represent a knowledge about who God is and what he is like, which, in their understanding, is irreconcilable with their former religion, Islam.


To read the present draft (XIII) click HERE.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

“Narrative, Identity, and Discipleship” by Jens Barnett (2009)

Barnett, Jens. (2009), “Narrative, Identity and Discipleship”, in Musafir: A Bulletin of Intercultural Studies, 3:2, Dec 2009, pp3-5. DOWNLOAD

Narrative, Identity, and Discipleship is a brief article which examines our epistemological assumptions of discipleship among MBBs with special reference to socio-religious identity.

I appreciate Barnett’s willingness to grapple with the complexity of conversion and identity for MBBs while avoiding simplistic models and conclusions.

See also: