An accessible and accurate translation of the Quran that offers a rigorous analysis of its theological, metaphysical, historical, and geographical teachings and backgrounds, and includes extensive study notes, special introductions by experts in the field, and is edited by a top modern Islamic scholar, respected in both the West and the Islamic world.
Drawn from a wide range of traditional Islamic commentaries, including Sunni and Shia sources, and from legal, theological, and mystical texts, The Study Quran conveys the enduring spiritual power of the Quran and offers a thorough scholarly understanding of this holy text.
Beautifully packaged with a rich, attractive two-color layout, this magnificent volume includes essays by 15 contributors, maps, useful notes and annotations in an easy-to-read two-column format, a timeline of historical events, and helpful indices. With The Study Quran, both scholars and lay readers can explore the deeper spiritual meaning of the Quran, examine the grammar of difficult sections, and explore legal and ritual teachings, ethics, theology, sacred history, and the importance of various passages in Muslim life.
With an introduction by its general editor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, here is a nearly 2,000-page, continuous discussion of the entire Quran that provides a comprehensive picture of how this sacred work has been read by Muslims for over 1,400 years.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Here is a brief and helpful article from Steve Smith at Mission Frontiers: 4 Stages of a Movement. For me, it quickly helps explain some of the major tensions/issues that arise when a Kingdom movement breaks out in an unreached people group (UPG) who are near-culture to a institutional church. Well meaning institutional church leaders often use their own paradigms of training for equipping emerging leaders in the movement phase (stage 2) which may actually threaten the movement.
Unfortunately, these same emerging leaders often quickly try to mimic an institutional church which is inappropriate and unsustainable at that time. Similarly, new believers in UPGs who have been taken out of their contexts for short-term training often feel they need to aim for the institutional church far too soon.
In all honesty, “we have to ask whether it is fair to expect a movement to survive only as a movement. Either the movement disintegrates or it becomes an institution, this is simply a sociological law. Every religious group that started out as a movement and managed to survive, did so because it was gradually institutionalized” (Bosch 1991, 52). Yet I believe this truism is partially why we need to continually reimagine afresh what the church looks like in each generation of every people and place. For instance, as is our reality today, the sheer numbers of Muslim refugees who are coming to faith in many places where an institutional church exists should compel the church to rethink her very nature as the body of Christ. (There are other issues (or cans of worms) like the “homogeneous unit principle” to discuss as well – but more on that later.)
Here are some highlights the the article:
Throughout history, most movements have gone through four phases or stages (and sometimes back again through grass-roots movements) [unreached – movement – formalizing – institutional]. Failure to understand these can create unreal expectations that are inappropriate for a given stage of a movement…
[Stage 3 – Formalizing] The result is that normal disciples can be intimidated from doing the work of the ministry. They do not have the abilities or specialized training/credentials of the professional leaders. Therefore, the concept of the priesthood of the believer (in terms of “every member a minister”) wanes. A smaller percentage of disciples continues in ministering to others. No one intends for this to occur, and many pastors will do their best in stages three and four to build up their church members as ministers and leaders, but the “clergy/laity” divide becomes more profound…
[Stage Four – Institutional] The upshot is that the concept of priesthood of the believer wanes drastically. Believers bring their lost friends to church rather then lead them to faith themselves…
[Stage Four Workers in Stage One] The early church does not appear to have entered this final stage until the Fourth Century A.D. Most movements progress through these stages. The difficulty comes when we lack this historical perspective and try to make sense of movements at earlier stages. What happens when a missionary leaves a stage four church and tries to do evangelism and church planting in stage one? Inadvertently he tries to plant stage four disciples and churches because that is all he knows…
[Stage Two Workers in Stage Four] What happens with believers from stage one or two who visit leaders and churches in stage four? A not-uncommon consequence is death of the movement phase and immediately entering the formalizing and institutional phase.
[Stage Four Leaders Watching a Stage Two Movement] When our whole frame of reference is stage four, it is easy to criticize what we see in stage two. We can easily label the house churches as “not real churches.” Or, we can require that leaders meet certain credentialing requirements before they can perform the ordinances. Or, as we feel compassion for pastors that are bi-vocational, we may dedicate money to fund them full-time, thereby creating a benchmark that is no longer reproducible. In all, we can kill a movement when we implement extra-biblical requirements that are a yoke too heavy into these early stages…
The challenge is to keep a movement at the movement stage as long as possible and to not let the formalizing impede the progress of the kingdom. But when it does begin to slow down, going back to simple biblical processes and methods of earlier stages can spark a new movement.
Read the whole thing.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
In very recent church history, church planting movements or disciple making movements (DMMs) have been observed in several different contexts which are characterized by rapid reproduction within a social network (usually in collectivist societies) of groups of seekers or new believers who study the Bible together and seek to obey its teachings.
In one sense, the DMM “strategy” is not actually a prescriptive methodology but a descriptive account of such movements. Yet books such as Contagious Disciple Making portray DMM as indeed a well-defined methodology. This is because the method of DMM has been reverse-engineered from the phenomenon itself.
All new religious/social movements have a mechanism that drives their propagation into society, and DMMs are no exception. According to my friend Christopher Johnson, all DMMs have in common 1) a standard, transferrable liturgy for each meeting, 2) a specific set of easily reproducible Bible lessons, and 3) accountability for evangelism (others would also add extraordinary prayer to this as well). DMMs are not an organic or spontaneous movement of reproducing house churches (HT: NVH). They are a highly organized movement with a clear mechanism (DBS and immediate accountability) for multiplication and diffusion into a social network.
I would therefor argue that the DMM methodology is not biblical per se, but neither is it unbiblical. It is a synthesized strategy that explains why and how new Jesus movements are spreading today (especially in collective cultures). I don’t find examples of the DMM strategy in Scripture, and yet I don’t see anything in Scripture that would contradict the approach, generally speaking.
However, it does seems to me that the DMM strategy needs to be embraced fully- it is not something that one can choose certain elements from and discard others (like inductive Bible study). Like a car engine, if one piece of the mechanism fails then the vehicle may break down.
Both those who are pro-DMM and those who are cautious of the approach would do well to recognize the nature of DMMs. If there is wisdom in the method then it deserves our serious attention! But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be presented as the biblical approach for engaging lostness.