Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, and Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity.
If the gospel is news about a new relationship, then how we socially understand relationships will inform our view of the gospel. Do Asian, Arab, and African MBBs view the gospel in a different form than Western Christians? I think we’re beginning to see this emerge in missiological research (from this article):
4. A Patron – Client View of the Gospel
Like Yehia, Hanaan grew up very disillusioned with the hypocritical lifestyles of some fundamentalist Muslims she knew. One night a man in a brilliant white robe holding a staff appeared in her dream and told her that she was correct to doubt Islam. The next morning she described this event to her loving and devout Muslim father, who told her the person from her dream was Isa al Masih. Eagerly she went to the Qur’an and read everything she could about Jesus, who continued to show up in dreams for many years at key moments in her life.
According to her testimony, Hanaan joined herself to Jesus long before she met another Christ follower who studied the Bible with her for the first time. Like Hanaan, MBBs appear to bond themselves to Christ in a patron-client relationship as they initially begin to understand His lordship and even the atonement.
A biblical, missiological view of conversion must take into account the social context of the first century Mediterranean world (Asia and Africa are much closer to this worldview today than is the West). Relationships were conceptualized around the concept of “patronage,” where “they saw their gods as patrons and benefactors and their own conduct as clients” (Crook 2004, 254). “In this hierarchical society, where the status of the person you follow and to whom you give allegiance is very important, the position of Isa becomes the focus of reconsideration” (Edwards 2013, 84). MBBs relate to Christ in ways that are difficult for Westerners to understand, but make sense in their worldview. Yet this understanding of salvation is commonly found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Christ is our ultimate Patron (the Divine Lord), we must be found “in him” and part of the new people of God.
1. A Patron – Client View of the Gospel – There is only one gospel, but it is always expressed in only one of its various forms (Keller 2008 – [this is a foundational article in missiology]). The legal, moral guilt presentation of the gospel, while definitely biblical, has been over-emphasized by Westerners in Muslim lands. Can we begin to use the Patron-Client form…: Through faith, we are joined with the glorious Messiah in his life, death, and resurrection. He gets our loyalty (praise, glory, and honor) and we get his life in us, removing our shame and defilement. Could this be the form of the gospel that is most relevant to Muslims?
There is a lot more to discuss about patronage. For now, use this concept as a hermeneutical key to understand Paul’s talk about being “in Christ.” See also this helpful, brief video about the patron-client relationship in anthropology (missiology is the intersection of theology and the social sciences):
Next: Part 5, Conversion in Layers of Identity.