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.


Cody Lorance said...

Examine the traditionalist position? Amen to that. I assume you mean the extractionist/outsider/colonialist position. You know Kraft's article in the Perspectives reader does a great job of showing that it is actually a lack of contextualization which lead to syncretism.

Abu Daoud said...

This looks interesting. It seems like he is candid in saying that IM is a missionary strategy, which I think is honest. The problem is that other people allege (where is the proof? No one knows...) that there are IM's totally initiated by indigenous folks who somehow came into contact with the message of Jesus (it could happen) but, totally apart from the whatever local church may exist, decided to follow him, and not join them.

My point is, I think that when IM is framed as a missionary strategy, it is honest and good.

Don Perry said...

Thanks for posting this. Many throw stones at folks that promote IM, but it makes me think, Let him who is without assumptions or presuppositions throw the first stone.

We all have them, let's be honest about them.