Thursday, February 27, 2014

“CITO” vs. “Socio-religious Insider”

Is the term “Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider” a better phrase than “Socio-religious Insider”? You be the judge: Bridging the "Socio-Religious" Divide: A Conversation between Two Missiologists Gene Daniels and L. D. Waterman.


I’m still wondering if we can define “religion” so neatly… but maybe the ““Religious” Practice” circle captures this complexity?

Related: Essentialist vs. Cultural Interpretation of Religion

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Was Paul wrong to contextualize in Acts 17?

No. See D.A. Carson (HT: Khalid Bin Malek):

SOME HAVE TAKEN 1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-5 to suggest that the way Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17:16-31) was a mistake, and that by the time he arrived at Corinth, Paul himself had recognized his error. In the passage before us he tells us how he “resolved to know nothing” while he was with them “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” So away with the quasi-philosophical preaching of the Areopagus address in Acts 17. Just stick to the simple Gospel.

There are good reasons for rejecting this false reading:

(1) This is not the natural reading of Acts. As you work your way through that book, you do not stumble upon some flag or other that warns you that at this point Paul goofs. This false interpretation is achieved by putting together an unnatural reading of Acts with a false reading of 1 Corinthians 2.

(2) The theology of the Areopagus address is in fact very much in line with the theology of Paul expressed in Romans.

(3) The Greek text at the end of Acts 17 does not say that “a few men” believed, as if this were a dismissive or condemning assessment, but that “certain people” believed. This expression is in line with other summaries in Acts.

(4) In Athens Paul had already been preaching not only in the synagogue to biblically literate folk, but to people in the marketplace who were biblically illiterate (Acts 17:17). What he had been preaching was “the good news” (Acts 17:18), the Gospel.

(5) Transparently Paul was cut off in Acts 17 before he was finished. He had set up the framework in which alone the Gospel is coherent: one transcendent God, sovereign, providential, personal; creation; fall into idolatry; the flow of redemptive history; final judgment. He was moving into Jesus’ resurrection, and more, when he was interrupted.

(6) Paul was not a rookie. He had been through twenty years of tough ministry (read 2 Cor. 11), much of it before pagan biblical illiterates. To suppose that on this occasion he panicked and trimmed the Gospel is ridiculous.

(7) Acts 17 shows that Paul thinks “worldviewishly.” Even after 1 Corinthians 2, Paul still thinks worldviewishly: 2 Corinthians 10:5 finds him still striving to bring “every thought” into submission to Christ—and the context shows this refers not simply to isolated thoughts but to entire worldviews.

(8) 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 does not cast Paul’s resolution to preach nothing but the cross against the background of Athens (as if he were confessing he had failed there), but against the background of Corinth, which loved eloquence and rhetoric above substance. The apostle does not succumb to mere oratory: he resolves to stick with “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“A Wind in the House of Islam” Released

Put this on your list of must-reads: A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison. ( Here is some text from the press release:

For the past three years, Dr. David Garrison, PhD University of Chicago, has been traveling throughout the Muslim world exploring the recent turning of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ. What he discovered is the largest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.

A 25‐year veteran of ministry to Muslims, David Garrison ventured into every corner of the Muslim world gathering more than a thousand interviews from Muslim‐background followers of Jesus Christ to hear in their own words the answer to his fundamental question: What did God use to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ? Tell me your story. The result is an unprecedented insight into God's work in the Muslim world.

A Wind in the House of Islam provides us with a historic look at how God is drawing more Muslims to Christ today than at any time in the 14‐century interchange between Christianity and Islam.

    • 328 pages complete with index, bibliography, endnotes, and glossary.
    • Hundreds of personal stories of Muslim conversions to Jesus Christ drawn from 45 Muslim movements to Christ in 33 Muslim people groups in 14 countries.
    • Small group discussion questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate conversation and self‐discovery.
    • 46 photos and illustrations with 11 maps depicting the "Nine Rooms" in the House of Islam.
    • Data tables of Muslim people groups spread across nine distinct geo‐cultural "Rooms" in the House of Islam.
    • The culmination of a journey of a quarter‐million miles from West Africa to Indonesia and everywhere in between.
    • Collaboration with academics, on‐field practitioners, and Muslim‐background informants.
    • Though informed by the latest scholarly research, the book is intensely readable and inspiring for anyone wanting to understand God's heart for Muslims.
    • This book will serve as a classic in its field. Anyone interested in God's work in the Muslim world needs to read this book.
    • Learn more at the book's website: [Lots of stuff to look at here, including videos and a blog.]

Kindle edition to be released later this spring, unfortunately.

Here is a review from Marti Wade:

In more than 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian relations, tens of millions of Christians have been assimilated into the Muslim religion. During this same time period, we can document only 82 Muslim movements to Christ.

What’s most remarkable about this, says researcher and strategist David Garrison, is that 69 of history’s 82 movements have occurred in the past two decades alone. “We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.”

To better understand and respond to this phenomenon, Garrison and his collaborators traveled to each corner of the Muslim world (which Garrison calls the nine rooms in the house of Islam) and conducted interviews with more than 1,000 former Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus within 45 of these movements. Garrison’s definition of a movement is a fairly modest one: at least 1,000 baptisms or 100 church starts among a Muslim people over a two-decade period.

The book includes a strong emphasis on context. It includes an extensive introduction and explanation of research methods and a historic survey of Christian outreach and Muslim response to the gospel both globally and in each of nine world regions. Details of each region’s history, peoples, religion, and political dynamics provide a backdrop for the stories of the Muslim-background believers who emerged from such contexts.

The book concludes with a tentative but insightful list of ten “bridges of God” (ways God is working among Muslims today) and five barriers to seeing movements like these flourish, along with five practical steps we can take right now that will align us with God’s redemptive activity among Muslims.

I finished this book somewhat disappointed, primarily because though the history was helpful, I was left wanting more: more quotes and contemporary stories, analysis of what God is using to reach Muslims today, and suggestions for the response of the global church. If the movements Garrison describes continue to grow and multiply, however, this will certainly not be the last we hear of them.

This was a huge project, and Garrison is just getting started.  I’m told there are two more phases to reporting on the 1,000 interviews.  The first might be a “In Their Own Words” which includes more of the actual interviews.  And a second project would be a deeper missiological reflection. In any case, this is one of the largest missiological projects on mission in the Muslim world ever undertaken, and I’m sure it’ll be talked about for years to come.