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Archive for the ‘Insider Movement’ Category

world map missions

I thought I post an update of our posts dealing with Missions, Culture and being Biblical.  Many of the posts dealt with the Insider Movement although we also touch on different things.  The reason I posted this update is because I wrote a significant amount of more posts after our series was completed.

Enjoy!

Essays by SlimJim

Quick Thoughts on Question of those who never Heard

A Bad Theology of False Religions in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

Missionary Contextualization understood in light of the relationship between Culture and the Bible

Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslims? Taking on Shah Ali’s South Asia Report  NEW

Faulty Ecclesiology in two Insider Movement Case Studies NEW

Insider Movement’s John Travis view of Apologetics and Islam  NEW

Concerns for C. Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy  NEW

  NEW

Is it True Anyone Can be a Missionary if they Speak English?

Missions: Distinguishing between Relief and Transformational Development

Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Reality

Review: Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort

  NEW

Other Online Resources

Reformed Forum Critique of the Insider Movement and resources recommended

PCA General Assembly Report on the Insider Movement

David B.

Garner’s 5 Part Series on Insider Movement over at Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Video: Piper Responds to the Insider Movement | The Domain for Truth

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True Sons of Heaven David Marshall

David Marshall. The True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture. Seattle, WA: Kuai Mu Press, 2002. 216 pp.

This book has far too many problems that can’t be ignored.  I will begin looking at the problems first and then what’s good with the book; but the weakness far outweighs its strength and I hesitate suggesting this work to anyone else.

The first problem is rather minor but everything else that follows concerns with the content of the book.  This book has bad editing.  The book has three sections but the numbering of the section is off; for instance, part one is labeled as part two, and part two is labeled as part three, etc.    In the first chapter the endnotes are missing.  I think the editors were asleep on the wheel and honestly I think if they did a better job scrutinizing the content of the book, I think the book wouldn’t have been published in the first place because I think it does not even fulfill the expectation of an undergraduate essay.

The author David Marhsall did quote various sources but there were many times I wished he explained better what it was or who it was that he was quoting—and why was it significant.  It is not helpful for the general reader when the sources of these quotes are not explained.

The book’s thesis is that “many important symbols and ideas within Chinese culture points to Jesus” (7).  Some of his evidences of how Chinese culture points towards Jesus and Christianity does not seem to logically follow.  For instance, on page five Marshall talked about how Beijing’s Temple of Heaven had twelve red outer pillars and that the number twelve and the color red pointed to the apostles.  I don’t know how the color red necessitate that it is the apostles’ blood in view.  We must also not forget that the Apostle John was not martyred so it is hard to see 12 red pillars.  Later in the book Marshall would argue that the Forbidden Palace’s three layer roof is proof of the Trinity but this seems somewhat of a stretch.

Another of his evidence that Chinese culture points towards Christianity is Confucius.  For instance on page 9-10 Marshall claims about Confucius that he “did more than anyone in China to point people to this way.”  I would say that is a bold claim.  I have reservation with Marshall’s claim about Confucius when Marshall in the book also admitted that Confucius “did not know how to approach heaven” on page 41, that “one thing Confucius lacked: closeness to Heaven” on page 56 and also how “he did not know how to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, or fully understand why it needed to be bridged” on page 57. How can one point to the way when he is ignorant of all the essentials of the Way?  Marshall also believed that Confucius’ talk about Sheng Ren (Holy Man) anticipates the Messiah and one of his defense of this is that “Confucius never said the Sheng Ren would be Chinese” (42).  But Marshall here is making a fallacious argument from silence.  There are so much question begging assertions that the book makes about Confucius and Jesus that it is hard to keep track of them; for instance on page 68 the author claims that both Jesus and Confucius and Jesus “are going the same direction” except Jesus makes it “a dangerous adventure” (68).

Marshall also tried to argue that in the past Chinese thinkers did know the God of Christianity.  I think he failed to interact with the strongest arguments of those who disagreed and instead Marshall engaged in a defense the Chinese concept of God is personal.  While I do believe that Chinese does have some conception of a personal God that hardly makes it the Christian God.  He also failed to account for the silence of Chinese intellectual figureheads with the concept of the Trinity, something that is distinctively Christian.  Marshall’s discussion about God’s transcendence and imminence is misplaced in the debate.  Added to his confusion is Marshall’s statement that “there are passages in the Bible where the boundary between God and man appear a bit fudged, too, such as Paul’s famous ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’” (24).  When one look up Acts 17, we do see the passages affirm God’s transcendence and immanence but it does not present it as being muddled.  God is indeed transcendent but also His presence is everywhere though that does not mean God is His creature or creation.

It does not help Marshall’s cause when he is theologically weak that affects his discernment and presentation.  For instance, he talks about Nestorians as “the first Christians in China” (25) without acknowledging their heretical status.  There is the danger of syncretism in Marshall’s theology.  He claims on page 68 that “Jesus and Lao Zi were ‘spiritual brothers.’”  I wished the book was more pronounce and clear concerning sin, Jesus’ death and salvation.  Even when he does talk about those subject towards the end of the book, he doesn’t connect the relationship of sin to justification and Jesus’ work on the cross which I see as essential for one’s Gospel presentation.

His methodology is problematic because everything points to Jesus Christ, even Mao’s rebellion is something Jesus took to make part of His Way (64-65).  Marshall thinks Jesus was speaking about Mao’s regime when He said brothers will be against brothers, etc (168).  It is a bit of a stretch.  It must also be said that the same method the author use can also be used to demonstrate how Chinese culture points to say Marxism, Islam, etc.  It is a flawed and speculative method.  Plus, I don’t think Mao is a good “bridge” to Chinese culture for Christianity, given how he is a tyrant and also someone who is not necessarily held in high regards among everyone in the Chinese community.

I thought it was ironic that the author could point out “Chinese Buddhism” is “very Chinese, but not very Buddhist” (81).  At times I felt Marshall’s work ended up being more Chinese than Christian.

I think any reference to historical and political realities that the book make must be double checked.  For instance, on page 82-83 the book claims “A symbol of both Mao’s success and his failure is that under socialism, the poor learned to waste this precious grain,” with the grain referring to rice.  Supposedly, “the communists alleviated China’s chronic food shortage” (83).   I had a hard time with this personally since it goes against what history tells us of the man made famine that Mao’s economic policies produced.  In fact, Mao’s policies followed that of Stalin and Mao didn’t change it even with the Russians warning him that it wasn’t going to work since they have done it already themselves.  Given the historical inaccuracy of the statement we must ask what is the basis for Marshall to assert such a horrendous claim and he tells us following the above quote when he go on to say “When I walked by student dorms in China in the mid 1980s, I learned to keep an eye out for uneaten rice thrown through a window” (83).  Assuming this to be true, we must remember that the author’s experience in the mid-1980s was the reign of Deng Xiao Ping and not Chairman Mao.  Chairman Mao has been dead for a decade so the basis for his evidence of Mao’s economic success does not support his conclusion.

There was too many times throughout the book that the author wrote flowery descriptions that didn’t have to do with anything.  There’s a travelogue small talk feel to the book that was not appropriate for a book that was going to rigorously argue how Jesus fulfills Chinese culture.  There were pictures in the book that one has to wonder what did it have to do with anything with the chapter and pictures that made one ask the question: who is this guy?  What is going on?

As I said before the bad outweighs the good in the book.  What I did appreciate from the book is his chapter on how Buddhism cannot fulfill the expectation and longing of Chinese culture.  Of course, one might ask why must Chinese Culture be the standard to judge one’s religion in the first place and if consistent it is also detrimental to the Christian cause since not everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity.  It seems as if this didn’t occur to the author giving his silence on the issue.

I also enjoyed it whenever the author discussed Chinese character and how it points to some profound truth or confirm Biblical truths and this is probably the strongest evidence he presents in the book.  Sadly when it comes to the characters pointing to Genesis he shares in the appendix that he is skeptical of it; but if he is skeptical of the strongest evidence in his book, that doesn’t speak a whole lot for the rest of his superficial look at how Chinese culture points towards Christ.

Purchase: Amazon

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I hope you catch the irony with the title of today’s post.Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

For a few months now I have been blogging about my concern with some of the disturbing trends with recent Christian missionary methodology.  One such concern I have is the fact that some seem to be against good reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in the case of C. Peter Wagner.  He is a former professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions (it has since been renamed the School of Intercultural Studies).  In a previous post I looked at some of the problem found in Wagner’s essay “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy.

One of the things that Wagner said that I didn’t get to unpack in my previous post is Wagner’s view that Jesus prefer a demonstration of miraculous power rather than a”carefully reasoned argument” which he sees as a sign of Western “secularizing influence.”  I quote Wagner in his own words:

One of the more disturbing things we are beginning to discover is that, in more cases than we would care to think, our missionary messsage in the Third World has been having a secularizing influence.  I first realized this when I read an article by my colleague, Paul G. Hiebert, called ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ in 1982.  He begins the article by citing the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus: ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20).  Hiebert emphasized that Jesus’ reply was not a carefully reasoned argument, but rather a demonstration of power in healing the sick and casting out of evil spirits” (Wagner, 581).

As one can see, Wagner came to his position through the writing of another professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission: Paul Hiebert.  The relevant quote that Wagner read is quoted below:

The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20 RSV).  Jesus answered, not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in curing the sick and casting out evil spirits.   This much is clear.  Yet when I once read the passage from my perspective as a missionary in India and sought to apply it to missions in my day, I felt a sense of uneasiness.  As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, but by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute” (Hiebert, 407).

Note how both Wagner and Hibert appealed to Luke 7:20.  Here is Luke 7:20-23 in context:

20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the[o]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [p]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, thepoor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [q]who does not take offense at Me.”

There are problems with what these two Professors of Fuller Seminary has to say against “reason:”

  1. Wagner’s and Hiebert’s position is self-refuting in that they are both against carefully reasoned argument, and yet they end up trying to present what they think is a carefully reasoned argument for their position when they invoke Luke 7:20.  On the one hand they don’t think carefully reasoned arguments are legitimate but they inevitably presuppose the endeavor is legitimate when they try to set forth their reason against carefully reasoned argument.
  2. Wagner believes “carefully reasoned argument” is an example of Western missionary’s secularizing influence upon the Third World.  But this does not logically follow.  Wagner commit the logical fallacy of slippery slope when he thinks that carefully reasoned argument is going to lead one to become secularized.  This is not the case and portray a misunderstanding of what reasoning is on the part of Wagner; if one’s premises is not secularized but Biblically informed and “sanctified” then one will not become secularized in their conclusion.  Again, Wagner’s concern does not logically follow.
  3. It is important to exegete Luke 7:20-23 accurately.  Nowhere in the passage does Jesus condemn “presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments” (to use Hiebert’s own words).
  4. In light of point 3, it must be pointed out that both Hiebert and Wagner commit the logical fallacy of a false dilemma when they present the option as either we accept Christ’s miracle as having evidential value or we accept rational arguments as having evidential value.  Why must a Christian accept either/or instead of both/and?
  5. We can agree with Hiebert and Wagner that Jesus’ purpose of performing miracles was to confirm the truth about the claims of Jesus Christ for as Hebrews 2:3-4 attests on the nature of signs, wonders and miracles: “how will we escape if we neglect so great asalvation?[d]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)  But notice Jesus expected the right extrapolation of what the miracles mean and this proper interpretation of what does the evidence mean is act of engaging in reasoning.
  6. Point 5 enjoy further support from the immediate context in Luke 7 if one examine verse 22.  What Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist is very significant since this is an echo of Isaiah 61:1 as presented in Luke 4:18.  Jesus description of what He is doing also should make His hearers think of Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6.  This heavy use of Isaiah’s terms and phrases indicate that Jesus wants John to think Biblically in interpreting the evidence of Jesus’ miracles.  He is making an argument!  He is not merely arguing from miracles alone but bringing in Scripture to show that His miracles fulfill Messianic Prophecies.
  7. The most ironic thing about Wagner’s complaint that missionaries who use carefully reasoned arguments are “secularizing Third World Nations” is that it is those who are like him who are secularizing Third World Nations and not the ones who believed in the Sanctified Use of reason and argumentation, etc.  Note how Wagner thinks the performance of miracles are sanctified for the Christian but reasoning is not.  This is the same paradigm that secularists adopt when they separate the domain of God and the miraculous from the domain of “reason.”  Contrary to his claim, it is the Christian who do employ sanctified reasoning that is consistent in rejecting the dualism of secular/sacred.

Bibliography

Hiebert, Paul. 2009. “THe Flaw of the Excluded Middle.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 407-414.

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

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apologetics2 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.

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In our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical,” we have noted some of the problems with the missions method known as the Insider Movement.  We have pointed out their faulty theology of religion and faulty theology of culture.  Here we also want to focus on the Insider Movement’s faulty ecclesiology.  We will be examining two “case studies” that is found in the fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader.

Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

These two articles are:

Lewis, Tim and Rebecca. 2009. “Planting Churches: Learning the Hardway” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 690-693.

Guzman, Andres and Angelica. 2009. “Ourselves as Servants: Latin American Workers in the Middle East.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 700-702.

The reason why I want to focus on these case studies is because of the fact that it is one thing to see theoretical disucssions about how to do missions in missiological journals but it’s another thing to see reports of what is actually being done.  In the end, we don’t want merely “what works,” lest we fall into pragmatism but we must test all things and see if they are Scriptural.

I also picked the first article because Rebecca Lewis is one of the leaders of the Insider Movement.

Both articles are written by couples who work among Muslims.

After describing their missionary efforts, Andres and Angelica Guzman reported the fruit of their effort to reach Muslims in the Middle East:

Through all of this, several of our friends decided to become followers of Jesus.  Some (not encouraged by us) decided to follow him as Christians and some (through their own choice) decided to follow Jesus while remaining religiously Muslim.  Most decided to say outside established of religious institutions, simply calling themselves ‘believers.’ (Guzman, 701).

What is unfortunate to read here is that some of these “followers of Jesus” “decided to follow Jesus while remaining religiously Muslim.”  Even more discouraging is how both missionaries didn’t see any concern with this.  Sadly “most decided to stay outside established religious institutions, simply calling themselves ‘believers.'”  Is it alright as believers “to stay outside established of religious institutions” and just call themselves believers?

An important institution that God set up for true followers of Jesus Christ is the church.

In the first New Testament reference to the church, Jesus promised that the church will be something He will build and will last: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).

Every believer ought to be part of the church, which is also known as the body of Christ.  As Paul told the believers in 1 Corinthians,

  • “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)
  • “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Given that the church is something that Hades will not prevail over, and is something every believer ought to be a part of,  Andres and Angelica Guzman’s method and practices in the missions field fall short of Biblical standard.

The problem with the Insider Movement understanding of the church seem to go deeper than that when we read the report by Rebecca and Tim Lewis.  In writing about their missions effort they wrote:

A church was born within a natural community without creating a new group just for fellowship.  It reminded us of something Ralph Winter had said: ‘The ‘church’ (in the sense of being a committed community) is already there, they just don’t know Jesus yet!'” (Lewis, 693).

Both Tim and Rebecca ought to be commended for their strategic effort in reaching out to people in the context of their community.  However, when it comes to what the church is, their agreement with Ralph Winter is problematic.  First off, to see the church as merely a committed community is biblically unsatisfactory.  By definition, the church must be committed to it’s head Jesus Christ.  Church is not merely a community.  Secondly, the concept of “church” as a community that have yet to know Jesus is lacking in Biblical precedence.  Sure, there are God’s elect who have not come to faith yet but no where do we see the Bible describe them as already part of the church before their knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I believe if advocates of the Insider Movement would see more of what the Bible has to say about the church there might be less of this direction of believers still being able to retain their previous religion and attend their previous religious institution.

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Note: Originally I wanted to add more essays to our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” but this turns out not to be the Lord’s will because of things with pastoral ministry and my trip last week through some states in the Mid-West .  Here’s a post I didn’t get to finish until now. cfysf Can there be such thing a thing as “Messianic Muslims”?  Apparently some missiologists who are associated with the Insider Movement thinks its possible.  My contention is that this is problematic. In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry that was provided as “case studies” in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

Ali, Shah and J. Dudley Woodberry. 2009. “South Asia: Vegetables, Fish and Messianic Mosques.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 715-717.

Shad Ali is a pseudonym for a worker among Muslims in a South Asian country that is currently persecuting Christians while Dr. Woodberry is Dean Emeritus and Senior Professor of Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary’s school of Intercultural Studies (formerly called the School of World Missions).  Woodberry has been a leader of the Insider Movement. To play on the title of their essay, I think the concept of Messianic Muslims and Messianic Mosques is somewhat “fishy.” In their essay Ali and Woodberry gives the rationale for why they would call themselves “Muslims” rather than “Christians:”

Our Muslim neighbors defined ‘Christianity’ as a ‘foreign religion of infidels,’ so we often referred to ourselves as ‘Muslims’ (literally, ‘submitters to God’).  The necessity of submitting to God is certainly Christian (see James 4:7), and Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111).  When villagers have decided to follow Christ, the people continued to use the mosque for worship of God–but now through Christ” (Ali, 716).

Response: Several problems are evident in this paragraph.  First off, while Ali’s neighboring Muslims precieve Christianity as a foreign infidel’s religion, it does not logically follow therefore that missionaries and their followers should call themselves “Muslims.”  I think it is possible for missionaries and converts to say they are Christians and explain what Christianity really means to their neighboring Muslims which involves correcting preconceptions, whether real or imagined; it is also a logical possibility to use a different term to describe their new relationship to Christ than terms used by current Muslim paradigm.  Again, just because Muslims (or anyone else for that matter) have a bad preception of Christians and Christianity does not mean we now use the same label they give of themselves to identify ourselves.  This is an issue of integrity.

Secondly, Ali and Woodberry further argue that the reason why they referred to themselves as ‘Muslims’ is because in Arabic the term “Muslims” literally means ‘submitters to God’ and this term is a legitimate designation for Christian missionaries and their convert since “submitting to God is certainly Christian.”  But this is a word-study fallacy; while it is true that etymologically the term means “submitters to God,” in the actual context of 21st Century missionary outreach the term Muslims have a deeper connotation than a mere generic “submitters to God.”  Which God?  Is it the God of the Bible or the God of the Qur’an?  A follower of Islam is using the term Muslim to refer to those who submit to the teaching of Islam (including their scripture, the Qur’an) and believe Muhammad is Allah’s prophet. The term Muslims would also be understood by followers of Islam to be distinguished from those who believe Jesus Christ is God, who believe Jesus came to die as the Savior of the sins of those who would repent.  With this understanding of the term “Muslim” within Muslims’ own community, these missionaries (and their converts) are not Muslims.

Thirdly, the writers note “Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111)” but while it is true that Islamic theology sees the early followers of Jesus as Muslims, that does not mean they would designate that term today to describe current followers of Jesus since they believe Christians today have strayed from the actual teaching of Jesus (which they believe is similar to the teaching of Muhammad).

Fourthly, in the last sentence the writers mentioned about followers of Christ still continuing worshiping God in their mosque “but now through Christ;” but is it really possible to worship God in Muslim Mosque through Christ?  Remaining in a Muslim Mosque means remaining in a worship service that denies Jesus Christ as the Son.  Don’t forget the words of 1 John 2:23: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”  You cannot worship and have the Father if you deny the Son (which a Mosque does deny)! Biblically, going to a Muslim Mosque to worship is to worship with nonbelievers.  Heed the words of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15=

14 Do not be [j]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with [k]Belial, or [l]what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?


There is also dangerous implication of the fruit of the Insider movement towards ecclessiology and specifically with the church’s ordinance of baptism; few paragraphs after the above quote the two writers goes on to say:

People have only been baptized if the head of the family was baptized” (Ali, 716)

Response: I have addressed this elsewhere in this series in particular with my essay “Closer Look at Donald McGavran’s People Movement Missionary Approach versus Conglomerate Church Approach.” We must ask the question whether this is biblical: Do we see in Scripture the command that we SHOULD ONLY baptize people if the head of the family are baptized first?  Do we see any Biblical data that its okay for believers not to be baptized if one’s head of the family is not baptized?


Finally we find another theological argument for the concept of “Messianic Muslims” (and “Messianic Mosques”) towards the end of the essay:

The concept of Messianic mosques and completed Muslims (following the model of Messianic synagogues and completed Jews) still causes considerable misunderstanding among other Christians” (Ali, 717).

Response: First off, the burden of proof is upon both Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry to demonstrate that Islam parallel Judaism in order for the concept of “Messianic mosques” and “completed Muslims” to work.  Secondly, don’t forget that unlike Judaism, Islam came after Christianity 600 years later and twisted the truth of Christianity so it cannot be seen as something needing Christian theological “completion” but historically it is the rejection of Christianity.  Thirdly, whereas the Bible does teach the special redemptive role of Israel and her faith in the history of redemptive history, the Bible does not give Islam the same role; and to talk about Messianic Mosques is to make a theological move that fail to take into account the unique role of Biblical Judaism.  Here Ali and Woodberry is making an analogy that doesn’t work.  Fourthly, the idea of Messianic mosques and Messianic Muslims is not something that other Christians merely misunderstood; I believe in this essay I have demonstrated there are real legitimate problem with their arguments and their position.  Fifthly, this alleged “misunderstanding” about Messianic Mosques turns out that its not coming from Christians alone but also Muslims.  Apparently from within their own essay Ali and Woodberry acknowledges that other Muslims “misunderstood” that these “Messianic Muslims” are not Muslims at all (thought they try to play off as Muslims) when the report gives account of their persecutions from Muslims.  There is the irony from the essay’s own description of the author Shah Ali: “His identity is being concealed (There is currently persecution of Christisn in his country” (Ali, 715).

Again, I think the whole idea of Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslim is fishy.

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world map missions Our Marathon Series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” was launched on September 17th, 2014. While there were other issues being addressed there was a lot of focus in our series on the Insider Movement and the problem of faulty theology driving one’s missiology and one’s contextualization of the Gospel.  I felt that Solid Christians addressing the problem with the Insider Movement and their approach towards Mission was long overdue and I am glad to see the last two years an increases of Christian theologians addressing this problem. Below is an “index” to the posts in our series.

Essays by SlimJim

Quick Thoughts on Question of those who never Heard

A Bad Theology of False Religions in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

Missionary Contextualization understood in light of the relationship between Culture and the Bible

Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslims? Taking on Shah Ali’s South Asia Report  NEW

Faulty Ecclesiology in two Insider Movement Case Studies NEW

Insider Movement’s John Travis view of Apologetics and Islam  NEW

Concerns for C. Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy  NEW

Is it True Anyone Can be a Missionary if they Speak English?

Missions: Distinguishing between Relief and Transformational Development

Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Reality

Review: Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort

Other Online Resources

Reformed Forum Critique of the Insider Movement and resources recommended

PCA General Assembly Report on the Insider Movement

David B.

Garner’s 5 Part Series on Insider Movement over at Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Video: Piper Responds to the Insider Movement | The Domain for Truth

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john-piper

Our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” have featured some articles written against the Insider Movement and if you need a short summary of the problem in video form here is a short video by John Piper responding to the Insider Movement:

Even thought it was two years ago it is still good and have been shared around on Twitter again this month.  Speaking of twitter, in light of our series you might also want to check out our Twitter @Domainfortruth where we are tweeting and re-tweeting other resources against the Insider Movement.

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Introduction

Our series on “Mission, Culture and Being Biblical” have noted that some of the problems with contemporary missions philosophy such as that of the Insider Movement is the result of bad theology.  Specifically we have seen instances of a defective theology of false religion, sin and the church.  Added to this is also a defective understanding of the relationship between the Bible and Culture.

What is culture?

What is culture and how do missiologists define it?  It is not an easy thing to define and missiologists do acknowledge this.  For instance Lloyd Kwast, a former chairman of the Department of Missions at Talbot Seminary once said

There is probably no more comprehensive word in the English language than the word ‘culture,’ or no more complex a field of study than cultural anthropology.  Yet, a thorough understanding of the meaning of culture is prerequisite to any effective communication of God’s good news to a different people group” (Kwast, 397)

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a group made up of 33 individuals with theological, anthropological, linguistic and missional background has admitted in their Willowbank Report that

Culture is a term which is not easily susceptible to definition” (Lausanne Committee, 507).

In working towards understanding what culture is, Kwast finds it helpful to see culture as having several layers that addresses certain questions (see the image below):

Lloyd Kwast culture

I do find Kwast conceptual understanding to be helpful and especially insightful is that the core of a culture is one’s worldview.  Those familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will definitely see how apologetics will intersect with culture (a given for most) and also missions (this is by implication, given that missions deals with unreach people group with the barrier of culture).

Dr. Charles Kraft is an important figure who co-wrote a 1979 paper on a new way to reach Muslims that set the trajectory for the Insider Movement.  He describe culture in the following manner:

The term culture is the label anthropologists give to the structured customs and underlying worldview assumptions which govern people’s lives.  Culture (including worldview) is a people’s way of life, their design for living, their way of coping with their biological, physical and social enviornment.  It consist of learned, patterened assumptions (Worldview), concepts and behavior, plus the resulting artifacts (material culture)” (Kraft, 401).

I also appreciate 

What are the possible relationships between the Bible and Culture?

Bible believing missionaries are to share the truth of the Bible to those who do not know Him that is situated in another culture.  But what is the proper relationship between the Bible and culture? These are the  possibilities:

  1. The Bible has nothing to say about culture
  2. The Bible is against everything in culture
  3. The Bible is for everything in culture
  4. The Bible is for and against different parts of culture

What model of Bible relationship to Culture should Christians Embrace?

Bible believing Christians should hold to the fourth view of the relationship between the Bible and culture: The Bible is for and against different parts of one’s culture.

The problem with the first view (the Bible has nothing to say about culture) is that since culture is something that man has made then God has the progative as the Creator of man to pronounce approval or condemnation upon man’s cultural endeavor.  Recall that the definition of culture given by Kwast and Kraft who both identify that the core or deepest layer of culture is one’s worldview.  One’s worldview is inherently religious (or anti-religious) in the sense that religion has been defined by Tillich as one’s ultimate commitment.  Thus, Henry Van Til was onto something when decades ago he said that culture is one’s religion externalized.  If culture is man’s religious expression then the Bible have jurisdiction over culture since it has jurisdiction over “religious” matters.

The problem with the second view (the Bible is against everything in culture) is that culture isn’t wrong in of itself.  God’s Word does prescribe to His people answers to the different levels of questions that a culture is composed of: What is real?  What is true?  What is Good or Best?  What is done? (see Kwast’s picture above).

God is not totally against culture in of itself as evident from God’s cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [b]sky and over every living thing that [c]moves on the earth.”

Even after the Fall has taken place God reiterated the cultural mandate in Genesis 9:7.  The God of the Bible also has not categorically condemn the material side of culture per se; rather He even empowered men by the Spirit of God to do craft work as in Exodus 31:1-6.

The problem with the third view (the Bible is for everything in culture) is that since culture involves the participation of man, man who is thoroughly sinful (Romans 3:23) will inevitably bring his corruption to his cultural activity.  We should therefore not be surprised to see manifestation of man’s depravity and wickedness in every culture.

It is the third view that both the missiologists and the critics of contemporary unbiblical missiologists wishes to address but from two different starting points.

The Concern OF Contemporary Missiologists: Equivocating A Missionary’s Culture with what’s Biblical

Most contemporary missiologists are concerned that people from missionary sending church naively assume that their culture = what’s Biblical.

Concerning culture, Charles Kraft notes the problem one has of being epistemologically conscious of what is merely one’s own culture versus transcendent universal truth:

We are totally submerged in it, relating to it much as a fish relates to water.  And we are usually as unconscious of it as a fish must be of the water or as we usually are of the air we breathe.” (Kraft, 402).

Unfortunately we don’t really notice our own culture until we are exposed to another culture.  And if one is not aware of one’s own culture by being aware of another culture we face the following danger:

We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally” (Kraft, 400).

The Concern FOR Contemporary Missiologists: Letting an Unreached Culture go against what’s Biblical

A missionary or missiologist can become so cautious of everything in one’s original culture that they then end up spending all their time and energy discerning against it while failing to have the same level of scrutiny for the culture of the unreached people group.  Or one can be so zealous to see the lost come to know Christ that one then pragmatically use the vehicle of the recipients’ culture without as much discernment as they should be having.  In both instances, one can let the culture of the unreached people people group become practically more authoritative than the Bible in one’s philosophy of missions.  When this happen we see the problem of unbiblical compromises or worst: syncretism.

The Solution:

David Hesselgrave’ Three Culture Model is a helpful paradigm in thinking about the solution:

3culture missions

What Hesselgrave don’t want is the arrow with broken line between the missionary culture being transmitted to the respondent culture as Gospel truth.  Instead Hesselgrave is right to note that missionaries must go back to the Bible (arrow from missionary culture pointing to “Bible Culture”) and know it really well which the missionary then brings the “Bible Culture” to the unreached people group in their culture (arrow from “Bible Culture pointing to “Respondent Culture”).

I would add another arrow to the picture: there needs to be an arrow from the respondent culture pointing back to “Bible Culture” to convey the need for the unreached people group to go back to the Bibles themselves and see that it is taught in Scripture.  We see the Biblical support for this idea in Acts 17:11 when it talks about the Bereans that Paul was trying to reach:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Essentially what we need more of is the Bible!  In order to avoid either the senders’ culture or the culture of the unreached people group interfering with the Gospel message and biblical evangelistic method we need to know more deeply the Bible.  We need to be faithful to it and trust that it is true when it talks about the human condition and the hope of sinners.  We must not lean on our own understanding and think we are wiser than the writers of Scripture just because our day and age has become more sophisticated in cultural anthropology.

We must not forget 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who[n]are being saved it is the power of God.

Bibliography

Hesselgrave, David. 2009. The Role of Culture in Communication.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 425-429.

Kwast, Lloyd. 2009. Understanding Culture. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 397-399.

Kraft, Charles. 2009. CUlture, Worldview and Contextualization. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 400-406.

Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  2009. The Willowbank Report.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 506-528.

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davegarner

One of the leading Reformed Christian scholar responding to the Insider Movement is David Garner, a professor from the Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS).

He was the chairman for the three year study committee on the Insider Movement for his denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

He has written a five part series over at his blog with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals that must not be missed.  It took him several months but he completed at the end of last month!

The following are the links to his articles:

Stay In or Come Out

Old Trumps New or New Trumps Old?

Who am I and Who Says?

Missions: The Kingdom of Christ or the Church?

Church, Stay Out of Missions!

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Donald McGavan

A big name in missiology is Donald McGavran.  According to Wikipedia Dr. McGavran was

a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.

(Source)

He was also someone important because of his People Movement Approach towards Missions.  While McGavran did not live long enough to see the Insider Movement, I do think the Insider Movement would not be what it is without McGavran’s People Movement Approach.  I also think that some of the things he has to say about his approach in contrast to what he calls the conglomerate church approach is not fully biblical and at times I don’t see how his model necessarily avoid the very problems that McGavran fault with the conglomerate model.  I think his approach shouldn’t be altogether dismissed but instead can benefit from the following criticisms being offered.  In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by McGavran in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

McGavran, Donald. 2009. “A Church In Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Subject.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 627-632.

The purpose of his essay is not to argue that the conglomerate church approach is thoroughly wrong and his approach is the only one that’s right; rather the purpose of his essay is a little more modest as he himself said: “Let us make sure that we do it by the most effective methods” (McGavran, 632).  Essentially McGavran believes that the People Movement Approach would be more effective.  A Christian however should not just evaluate a method because it is “effective” but also how an approach align with Scripture; that is, we must evaluate any method with the question of whether it is being faithful to God’s Word.

What is Conglomerate Church Approach versus People Movement Approach?

Before we can go any further it is important to define and describe what is the conglomerate church approach and what is the People Movement Approach.  Several times McGavran describe the conglomerate church as the “one on one” convert approach.  He also described it in the following manner:

The missionary arrived.  He and his family worship on Sunday.  They are the first members of that congregation.  He learns the language and preaches the gospel.  He lives like a Christians.  He tells people about Christ and helps them in their troubles.  He sells tracts and gospels or gives them away.  Through the years a few individuals converts are won from this group and that.  Sometimes they come from a very sound and spiritual reasons; sometimes from mixed motives.  But here and there a woman, a man, a boy, a girl do decide to follow Jesus.

One single congregation arising in the way just described is almost always a conglomerate church–made up of members of several different segments of society.

(McGavran, 627).

On the other hand, in McGavran’s perspective a People Movement Approach is one in which “the goal must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations, every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred” (McGavran, 629).  McGavran gives us an example of what this approach looks like:

For example, if you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taiperi, then your goal would not be to win some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fishermen, but rather to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children, and their assistants and mechanics.  As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion.  Everybody feels at home.  Yes, the goal must be clear”

(McGavran, 629).

McGavran’s Objection to the Conglomerate Church Approach

McGavran’s chief concern with the conglomerate church approach is that it is a group that is too mixed and ends up being ineffective for outreach.  This kind of church which is a collection of various odd groups of individuals in McGavran’s opinion ends up being seen as outsiders by the community which as a result make members become ostracized.  The concern that Conglomerate Church leads members being sealed off from the community is repeated again and again in McGavran’s essay:

Once,

It is sealed off from all the people groups of that region.  No segment of the population says, ‘That group of worshippers is us” (McGavran, 627-28).

Twice,

A church which result from this process looks to the people of the region like an assemblage of traitors.  It is a conglomerate congregation.  It is made up of individuals, who, one-by-one, have come out of several different societies, cast or tribes” (McGavran, 628).

Third time,

‘You are not of us,’ they say to him; ‘You have abandoned us; you like them more than you like us.  You now ownership their gods not our gods.’  As a result, conglomerate congregations, made up of converts won in this fashion, grow very slowly” (McGavran, 628).

Fourth time,

We must not allow new converts to become seal off.  We must continue to make sure that a constant stream of new converts comes into the ever-growing cluster of congregations” (McGavran, 631).

And finally:

But is a slow way.  And it is a way which frequently seals off the converts’ own people from any further hearing of the gospel” (McGavran, 632).

McGavran’s concern faces two criticism.

First off, biblically speaking, we must not forget the Words of Jesus concerning the reality that believers of Jesus Christ will face persecution including being ostracized by one’s community for the sake of following Christ.  Note Luke 10:16, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”  Note also Jesus’ words in John 15:20-21= “20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me,they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”  McGavran’s essay does not deal with these verses which is unfortunate since these verse do speak on the topic of being sealed off from one’s community and facing rejection.  In fact, the entire essay lacks any acknowledgement of a biblical understanding of the role of people’s sin in rejecting Jesus Christ and the reason why people persecute genuine Christians.

Secondly, it seems doubtful that the People Movement Approach would do any better than the Conglomerate Church model in avoiding being ostracism.  We must also remember that believers cannot control nonbelievers from rejecting us–ultimately, it is up to them and not us.  Moreover in the essay McGavran himself acknowledge the possibility that the People Movement Approach faces the exact same difficulties as the Conglomerate Church Approach when he writes of the People Movement Approach that “all converts should be encouraged to bear cheerfully the exclusion, the oppression and the persecution that they are likely to encounter from their people” (McGavran, 629).  He adds “Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.  Please note that word ‘most.'” (McGavran, 629).  I don’t see how Mcgavran’s exhortation for the People Movement Approach is unique or any different than the exhortation of those practicing the Conglomerate Church model.

Evaluating Mcgavran’s People Movement Approach

When we look at the essay’s description of the People Movement Approach more closely, two problems stand out.

The first problem is with what McGavran has to say about baptism: 

If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately.  Say to him, ‘You and I will work together to lead another five, or ten, or God willing, 50 of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour so that when you are baptized, you will be baptized with them.’  Ostracism is very effective against one lone person.  But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen.  And when exercised against 200 it has practically no force at all” (McGavran, 630).

It is biblical to baptize an individual believer without having multiple converts with him or her as Acts 7 demonstrate with the case of Philip baptizing the Etophian eunuch.  Now I will grant that there might be some wisdom in wanting to see more people getting baptized at the same time but I think we must be careful to avoid conveying the idea that we must baptize only when many people come to faith.  I think this practice is also presumptuous.  If it turns out that conversion is taking place slower than one expected, do we then put off baptism of new believers for years until an arbitrary quota is fulfilled?  I also think the discussion of baptism also bring out the reality that the people movement approach still faces the same problem that McGavran has for the Conglomerate Church model in that the People Movement Approach (or any other approach for that manner) is still doing evangelism “one by one,” that is one individual at a time.  But even if there are sudden rush of people coming to be baptized, I also think McGavran’s reason for multiple baptism so as avoid being ostracized would also fail since we see the early church have moments when many come to faith yet believers can still face rejection from their community as in the instance of Acts 2.

The second problem has to do with what McGavran has to say about teaching versus reaching out:

One of the common mistake made by missionaries, eastern as well as western, all around the world is that when a few become Christians, perhaps 100, 200, or even 1,000, the missionaries spend all their time teaching them.  They want to make them good Christians and they say to themselves, ‘If these people become good Christians, then the gospel will spread.’  So for years they concentrate on a few congregations.

Between the two evils of giving them too little Christian teaching or allowing them to become a sealed-off community that cannot reach its own people, the latter is much the greater danger. (McGavran, 631).

I think we can easily have a false dilemma here, where MCGavran commits the fallacy of either/or when we can have a “both/and.”  Biblically we must not forget that the Great Commission is what drives Christian Missionary activities.  We must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20:

19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.”

Note how the Great Commission involves “ teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” if we don’t teach everything as one of our aim, then we are failing the Great Commission.

The Apostle Paul is a great exemplar of the Biblical model of a missionary who never lost the focus of evangelism to nonbelievers while also making sure new believers and churches continue to grow in the teachings of Christianity through face to face ministry and his epistles, some of which contain deep truths of God (think of the Epistles to Romans).

I also think McGavran falsely assume that the more teaching a believer has, the more likely he will be sealed off from their own people.  I don’t think logically that necessarily follow.  However, it is true that the more teachinga new believer recieves and applies the more that believer will become holy, which essentially mean “set-apart” for God.   Here I think McGavran commits an equivocation fallacy, in which he equivocate holiness with being “sealed-off.”

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Jay Smith

Jay Smith, Christian apologist to Muslim, spoke in 2012 on the issue of the problem of the Insider Movement.  These two videos from Youtube are great resources given that Jay Smith has a master in Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary where many of the missiologists who were the forerunners and later leaders of the Insiders Movement taught at.

Here are the videos:

I am 42 minutes into the first video thus far and I found Jay Smith to be quite fair and knowledgeable of his description of the Insider Movement.  Jay Smith begins his 19 points of contention about 39 minutes into the video.

For those who might not have the time to read the PCA report against the Insider Movement and the essays I’ve written here thus far, these two talks might be helpful for you who are audio-visual learners.

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identity

Can genuine followers of Christ (those Born Again) retain their previous “socio-religious identity”?  What are we to make of those who argue that a Born Again follower of Christ can retain their “socio-religious identity”?

The following is an interaction with an essay that was printed in Perspective on the World Christian Movement by Rebecca Lewis titled “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community:”

My Thoughts

I can appreciate Lewis’ spirit of trying not to set our own obstacles against people coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.  One thing I think that we can learn from her article is the fact that our church plant effort should take advantage of natural relations and association that already exist before our Gospel effort, rather than ignore them or worst, unnecessarily undermine them.

But I do have more problems with Lewis’ article and the Insider movement that overshadow what is helpful.

First is with Lewis’ talks about the difference between planting churches and implanting churches; the former she describe as bringing strangers together to become a new family of God in the church while the latter instead incorporates believers within their pre-existing family or community network that provide the spiritual fellowship for each other (Lewis, 674).  I have a hard time seeing that strong of a distinction between the two and don’t find as strong of a distinction between planting and implanting a church: I think Lewis here would be naïve to think that church plants are not trying to utilize pre-existing relationship for building a community of faith with those that are already part of one’s network such as family members, co-workers, friends, etc.  Moreover I believe she fail to take into account Jesus’ own teaching that the reality is that sometime those within one’s own family would reject the Gospel for Jesus Himself said “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53, NIV). It seems that when rubber meets the road even implanting a church would face the same difficulty as planting a church.

 

Secondly, she leaves the term “socio-religious identity” vague; and more importantly she does not define “religion.”  It is important for her to define her term especially when she says things such as the “insider movements affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity” while also saying “they only need to go through Jesus Christ to enter God’s family” (Lewis, 675).  Another example is her statement that “Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the Gospel” (Lewis, 675).  She believes “religion” is pit against the Gospel when she cited Ephesians 3:6 but the verse does not contrast Gospel with “religion.” (And remember since she didn’t define it, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint how exactly this verse is against “religion.”).

 

Thirdly, while she does try to give a theological argument to justify that we do not need to make people accept the “Christian religion,” I think her argument fail to account for unique instances of redemptive history.  Lewis raised the question “Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family?  The New Testament addresses a nearly identifical question: ‘Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?’” (Lewis, 674).  But I think the parallel with whether one has to be a “Christian” and that of going through “Judaism” breaks down because biblically the Gospel message that we often describe with the term “Christianity” is God’s way of allowing people (specifically non-Jews, the Gentiles) to enter God’s family.  I also believe there is a leap in logic when she merely assumed that Christianity parallel Judaism as a religion that one can ignore as a passing relic of the pass because God is doing a new thing; I think it is question-begging.

 

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PCA Report Insider Movement

Yesterday post I talked about how there are problems with some leading missionary strategists who pushes forth methods that are problematic.  This problematic movement that stresses contextualization is called the Insider Movement.  I’m glad to finally see that there are people who are responding to this biblically and exposing them.

One set of documents that are going to be important in the years to come is the report that the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) has adopted in the General Assembly meeting on June 17-19, 2014 concerning the Insider Movement.   While it is prepared for the PCA, nevertheless there will be many in other denominations that will find this report helpful.  The chairman of Study Committee on the Insider Movement is Dr. David Garner who is a professor at the Westminster Theological Seminary and someone who have extensively researched and critiqued the Insider Movement.

Both these documents are in English and are available as PDFs.

Part one of the report is titled “LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: DIVINE FAMILIAL LANGUAGE IN BIBLE TRANSLATION.

Part two of the report is titled “THEOLOGY, GOSPEL MISSIONS, AND INSIDER MOVEMENTS”

May the Lord use this to warn and equip God’s people of the Insider Movement

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religions and mission method

Introduction

This is the kickoff post for what Lord-willing will be a week long series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical.”  What prompted this series is the concern that while modern Christian missionary endeavor have encouragingly made progress with the Gospel among unreached people group at an unprecedented scale in the history of Christianity, nevertheless some of the leaders and intellectuals of today’s missionary movements have a weak theology and a problematic view of culture that hinders the effort of biblically faithful missions work .  One such serious theological problem among some missiologist is a defective understanding of a “theology of world religion” that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Here in this post I want to document that such a problem does exists among prominent missiologist and examples will be cited from several essays found in the important anthology on missions titled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (4th Edition).

Are there examples of bad theology of false religion in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

The book Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was edited by Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  The fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was published in 2009, the same year that Ralph Winters died.  Ralph Winters was an important figure in the missions world.  According to the book Winters was “the General Director of the Frontier Mission Fellowship (FMF) in Pasadena, CA” whom “after serving ten years as a missionary among Mayan Indians in the highland of Guatemala, he was called to be a Professor of Missions at the School of World Missions at the School of World Mission (Winter and Koch, 531).

Winter coauthored an essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge with Bruce Koch.  Koch himself at the time of publication was the International Facilitator of the Perspectives Global Network (Winter and Koch, 531).  In this essay, Winter and Koch in the end-note gave the following definition for “Practicing Christians:”

Practicing Christian refers to Christians of all types and associations, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans, Independents and Marginals, who are not merely nominal (Winter and Koch, 546).

Based upon this definition of practicing Christians, Winter and Koch optimistically stated that “Today, there is one practicing Christian for every seven people worldwide who are either nominal or non-Christian” (Winter and Koch, 531).  One must be a bit more pessimistic about the numbers since both Winter and Koch believe without any qualification that Roman Catholics are Christians.  Since one of the driving motivation for missions is to declare the Good News so that sinners are reconciled to God by means of justification through faith, it is kind of hard to embrace the view of justification that Roman Catholics subscribe to as being the same thing as the Protestant view of justification.  They are antithetical to one another actually; and it’s as different as heaven and hell when it comes to matter of missions and eternity.

Ralph Winter’s lack of discernment between biblical and unbiblical groups that claim to be Christian can be further seen in his essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge.  Here he addresses directly the question of what are we to think about “cultic” religious movements and the answer is concerning:

The growing edge may more and more be the kind of thing we would call cultic or a least anomalous in this country.  Does our attitude towards ‘home grown’ aberrant forms of basically biblical faith in this country match what is needed in the rest of the world?  Can we trust the Bible to eventually balance out these thousands of new, ‘out of control’ movements?  Can we digest the the plain fact that the entire Islamic tradition is, like Roman Catholicism, full of ‘non-Christian elements which we despise, yet is clearly the product of the impact of the Bible (unlike Hindu culture)?  What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?  Rather than look at the bewildering varities of forms of religious faith–at the different ‘earthern vessels’ in which the faith is contained–let’s look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God” (Winter, 394).

Sadly in the quote above and also in the rest of the essay Winter never address the issue of what does the Bible itself have to say about “anomalous” “qusai-biblical faith.”  This omission is inexcusable considering how much the Bible does talk about false teaching and false beliefs.  One might try to read the above charitably and try to say that Winters is referring to those in the West who can be uptight cherry pickers on secondary issues but then Winters’ discussion about Islam does not permit this interpretation.  It is sad to see that Winters confuses the fact that just because something has been “the product of the impact of the Bible” it must therefore mean it must be thoroughly biblical (one must not forget the possibility that a religious system can be the product of the impact of the Bible on the one hand concerning certain religious tenets while the system also pervert what the Bible teaches with other tenets).  Winter challenges the reader with the question “What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?” with the specific example of Islam and gives his answer that Christians must “look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God.”  I think the reader must not let Ralph Winter get away with his naked assertion that we peer into a religion such as Islam and say that is the kingdom of God; Ralph Winter has the burden of proof to demonstrate that God is working through a non-Christian religion and that seeing something like Islam being used by God is the kingdom of God.  Winter’s attempt to suggest we accept Islam theologically by way of arguing from the analogy of Roman Catholicism also commit the complex question fallacy since Winter assumes that Roman Catholicism is going to be accepted by the audience despite it having flaws doctrinally–but that’s not a given, especially in light of Roman Catholicism’s inadequacy with soteriological matters.

Finally another such essay we want to look at is titled From Western Christendom to Global Christianity.  The authors of this essay are also important leaders in the missionary world.  Todd Johnson is the director of the Center for the study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell theological seminary and his co-author Sandra S.K. Leeis is a research assistant for the same center; Lee has also served as a research assistant to the Executive Chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  In their essay they talk about how God was breaking the mold of Christianity that was based upon conceptions of the West (the essay calls the West the “Northern hemisphere”).  Notice what they have to say in their essay:

Perhaps surprisingly for many Northerners (and perhaps for some Southerners as well), there are encouraging signs that people from these great religious systems may not have to entirely leave their tradition to become followers of Christ” (Johnson and Lee, 392).

Followers of Christ need not entirely leave their “traditions”?

Later this week I will be scrutinizing the arguments for the view that people can become followers of Christ without leaving their identity in their non-Christian religious system.

Conclusion

It is not enough for missiologist to know other religions (the academic study of which we may call Religious Studies).  Nor is it enough to know the superficial similarities between Christianity and other religions (Comparative religion).  Christian missiologist who desire to be faithful to God must also search the Scripture and also have their missional method be informed and shaped by a biblical theology of religion.  Space does not permit to give a fully developed exposition of what that looks like but I highly recommend the book that I have reviewed titled A God of Many Understandings? by Todd Miles.

Bibliography

Johnson, Todd and Sandi S. K. Lee. 2009. From Western Christendom to Global Christianity. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 387-389, 392.

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