Saturday, October 17, 2009

Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques, Tennent IJFM Fall 2006

Last night I posted an article on C5 contextualization that I liked, only to realize tonight after reading Followers of Jesus (Isa) in Islamic Mosques: A Closer Examination of C-5 "High-Spectrum" Contextualization that what I liked about it was the C4 parts!

The article was written by Timothy Tennent and is now a chapter in a book he later published. I encourage you to read the whole article (15 pages). Here are Tennent’s conclusions from the Biblical/Exegetical section (pg. 109):

In conclusion, this survey demonstrates that the key texts and the commentaries/expositions about these texts in C-5 literature fall into two general categories: 1. Texts and commentary which actually support C-4 and are not germane to the C-5 discussion. 2. A wide-spread use of proof-texting whereby a pre-determined conclusion has already been reached and then texts are found which provide some kind of vague support for the idea.
From the Theological section (pg. 111-112):

In conclusion, an examination of the current evidence of the theological content of C-5 believers in Jesus as well as the general theological framework of the advocates of C-5 reveals the following. First, C-5 writings tend towards theological reductionism by tacitly embracing a narrow, minimalistic view of salvation. If these new believers are not encouraged to unite their fledgling faith with the faith of the church, then it is unlikely that these new believers will be able to properly reproduce the faith, which is the whole reason the C-5 strategy exists; namely, to reduce every possible barrier so that the gospel can more easily reproduce among Muslims. Second, the theological framework and analysis present in C-5 writings has been overly influenced by Western individualism and the privatization of faith which tends to keep the doctrines of soteriology and ecclesiology at arms length. Joshua Massey concedes this point when he observes that “C-5 nomenclature was quickly adopted by those whose theology of mission is more Christ-centered than church-centered.” While Massey is quite correct in criticizing an ecclesiology which merely extends a Western, structural form of Christianity into the Muslim world, we must not forget that we cannot have a Christ-centered theology of mission which does not place the church at the center of Christ’s redemptive plan. Rejecting this old “proselyte-model” does not and should not necessitate a rejection of a proper ecclesiology. Indeed, as Lesslie Newbigin has pointed out, “true conversion involves both a new creation from above…. [and] also a relationship with the existing community of believers.” To encourage Muslim believers to retain their self-identity as Muslims and to not find practical ways to identify themselves with the larger community of those who worship Jesus Christ reveals a view of the church that is clearly sub-Christian.

Finally, the separation of the ‘personal’ from the ‘propositional’ in the Muslim world can only lead to a dangerous separation of the person of Christ from the church’s proclamation about Christ. This separation fails to attend to the proper connection between our personal testimony (however thrilling and exciting) and the Apostolic proclamation of the gospel. This is not just a hypothetical concern, as this dichotomy has already begun to emerge in such articles as, “Proclaiming a ‘Theologyless’ Christ” by Herbert Hoefer, a leading proponent of ‘high spectrum’ contextualization. Hoefer writes, “Can we look upon the church as a house with many doors? It doesn’t matter which door you use to enter. As you explore the house, you will come to the fullness of truth. The key to each door in the house is the acceptance of Jesus as Lord of one’s life. How one explains that is a matter of freedom and creativity, in consultation with the others in the house.” The unintended result of this view is that personal experience can be used to ignore the specifics of the Apostolic proclamation. Or to put it in the popular terminology of post-modernism, the Apostolic ‘meta-narrative’ takes a back seat to the personal narratives of those who come to Christ. However, our personal faith in Christ must be brought into resonance with the Apostolic proclamation about Christ. Undoubtedly, millions of people come to Christ every year with a deficient theology. But it is central to the task of discipleship to help new believers conform their faith to the faith of the church. Pragmatism and cultural accommodations can never be allowed to trump the theological integrity of the gospel message. This is not to raise questions about the justification of any of these new believers, but rather it is a commitment to make sure that from the very beginning we are committed to raising up believers whose personal faith resonates with the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
From the Ethical Issues section (pg 113):

In short, one’s religious identity with Jesus Christ creates a necessary rupture with one’s Islamic identity or our identity in Jesus Christ would mean nothing. It is unethical to pretend this discontinuity does not exist or to act as if it is merely a matter of cultural forms. Rather, as I have often been told by missionaries who work in the Islamic world, it is more like a ‘fifth column’ inside Islam which, when discovered by Muslims creates such a strong negative reaction that it inadvertently damages the credibility of Christians and feeds further distrust towards those who follow Christ. A more open witness in a straightforward, but contextually sensitive way seems to hold the greatest promise for effective and ethical Christian penetration into the Muslim world.
From the Conclusion (pg. 113):

I think that the best approach is to see C-5 as a temporary, transitional bridge by which some Muslims are crossing over into explicit Christian faith, hopefully to one of a C-3 or C-4 character. On the one hand, a wide number of C-3 and C-4 church movements have long and distinguished track records showing that they are sustaining faith in the lives of MBBs without major cultural disruption and yet maintaining historic Christian orthodoxy.
Phil Parshall said this in response to the article (pg. 125):

Thorough, thoughtful and respectful. Dr. Tennent has done a masterful job of incisively disecting the major issues that differentiate the C’s. Of all the writings on the subject, this is the work that goes deeper and broader in setting forth the problems many are experiencing with C5 or as it is also known, the “Insider Movement.”

I so appreciated the theological focus. It is interesting how both C4 and C5 utilize the same Scriptures to bolster their positions. The exception is I Cor. 7:20, which I have never understood as a C5 apologetic. These verses are clearly on another track.

Tennent more than adequately discounts the comparison of First Century Jewish converts to Christianity being aligned with 21st Century C5 “Insiders.” The differences loom too large to ignore.

I would also agree that “Muslim Believer” would be a more appropriate term for C5 believers than “Muslim Background Believer.” However, some C5ers advocate only the identity of “Muslim” with no qualifier.

One of my frustrations has been that the Insider Movement uses the same arguments to bolster their position as C4 folk do, and then make it sound like it originated with them. We C4 missionaries, for 30 years, have been an Insider Movement—have always advocated MBBs remaining in their culture, job, family, and sociological circle. Our strong position is to avoid what we consider to be theological and/or ethical compromise. I do recognize that we come out on different sides of the fence as to what comprises compromise!

YES to C5 as a starting point, but always with a laser beam focus on going down the scale to C4 within an appropriate timeframe. And always with a focus on keeping MBBs maximally within their own sociological structures.

Let me be clear. I have high esteem for my colleagues who are engaged in the “Insider” approach to Muslim ministry. I do not consider them to be ultra-pragmatists or purposefully deceitful. They long for the Kingdom to be extended. Our methodologies may, at times, be in conflict, but not our hearts’ desire that Muslims come to explicit faith in Christ.

May our Lord be glorified as we seek to proclaim the “only name whereby men may be saved.”


joie said...

Warrick Farah said...

Hi Joie,

Thanks for the link! Did you find Tennent's article more or less convincing than Jay Smith's?