In our September blog’s series “Mission, Culture and being Biblical” we gave special attention to the danger of the Insider Movement in which their philosophy of missions were evaluated biblically and logically. In particular, we noted that the Insider’s Movement’s method of doing missions suffer from the defect of having an unbiblical theology of other religion, an unbiblical view of culture and an unbiblical theology of the church. Here we also want to focus on the Insider Movement’s faulty view of apologetics and while the movement is not monolithic and not everyone will necessarily share the same view of apologetics, we will focus more narrowly on the teaching of a key leader of the movement name John Travis. What he has to say strongly resonate with those in the Insider Movement. We will examine Travis’ view of apologetics as part of his missionary approach towards Muslims found in his essay titled “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?” This essay is from the fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader. At the least I hope that this post can encourage those within the Insider movement to think more along the lines of what Scripture has to say about apologetics. In writing about the need for an apologetics to deal with an Muslim region called Islampur, John Travis writes,
Concerning the high regard for the Qur’an among Islampur believers, an apologetic response concerning the Qur’an must be developed whereby the truth in it can be affirmed (especially for purposes of a bridge for witness) yet is is not put on equal (or superior!) status to the Injil. Fortunately, until such an apologetic is developed the Islampur believers are regularly reading the Injil rather than the Qur’an” (669).
I am glad that Travis finds it fortunate that these “believers” are regularly reading the Injil (New Testament Gospel). But I find his reaction to the Islampur’s believers’ high view of the Qur’an as problematic. He wants Christian apologists to develop an apologetic that affirms that Qur’an.
First off, why focus on “affirming” the Qur’an when these believers are already regularly reading the Gospels in the New Testament rather than the Qur’an? Isn’t the goal to go to the Bible (Old and New Testament) since it is God’s Word?
Second, isn’t also backwards to go back to the Qur’an even according to Travis’ own beliefs if these believers are already reading the NT and he himself believes the Qur’an is not equal nor superior to the Gospel? Why try to promote third rate products so to speak when you can give someone something that is first class?
Third, is the goal of Christian apologetics really to defend another religion’s Scripture?
Fourth, he assumes that an apologetic must be developed to use the Qur’an as a bridge for witness; but Travis never mention or interact with the content of the Qur’an since this is important when we discuss whether the Qur’an can be used as a bridge in the first place. Does the Qur’an explicitly teaches a theology that is antithethical to Christianity and the Bible? This would seriously limit the Qur’an as a witnessing bridge towards Christianity if it is a bridge that is with holes and weaknesses.
Fifth, there are many resources on Christian apologetics on Islam, most of it refuting it and also handling Islamic objection towards Christianity. In fact, the apologetics’ endeavor with Islam has been going on for hundreds of years. I wished Travis would have shared what he thinks of the apologetics Christians have given over many generations rather than be silent on it and then merely assert that he wished an apologetic would be developed to affirm the Qur’an. I think it is appropriate to ask why we must affirm the Qur’an in the first when the overwhelming majority of Christian apologetics does not, or at least explain why he thinks many of his fellow Christians are wrong in their approach given that his view is that of a minority.
Sixth, it might be that Travis does not see the place for “negative” apologetics, in which one refute other worldviews and other religion’s Scripture. I do think Scripture does give a place and role for “negative” apologetics.
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)
In Islam, the Qur’an is raised up above against the Old and New Testament (which is the source of knowledge of God). 2 Corinthians 10:5 demand that we destroy it (intellectual and biblical refutation).
For more on what we have written in the past on how to witness and engage in apologetics with Islam check out the index to our series.