Insider Movements and a Denomination: The PCA

Greg Strand – February 4, 2013 2 Comments

The PCA is in the midst of a multi-year study and discussion about the Insider Movement among Muslims. Travis Hutchinson*, “Insider Movement Introduction”, briefly explains what the Insider Movement is, and he follows this with some of the problems associated with this ministry, theologically, socially, missionally and denominationally.

The email concerns something which is huge in the missions world, but largely unknown in the rest of Christendom, the subject of “Insider Movements.” Basically, it is the idea that people can become followers of Jesus without leaving Islam. Since the Koran mentions Jesus (as “Isa”) and since there are strains of Islam that emphasize Jesus’ return, this seems plausible to some. The thinking is that the “insiders”, who don’t leave Islam and are not baptized, are kind of like Jews in the first century that placed their faith in Jesus but kept practicing Judaism.

The theological problem is that it makes baptism and the visible church optional and tends to accept Mohammed as a prophet and the Koran as a true revelation of God. Socially, it begs the question whether these believers will be able to hold onto their odd Christiano-Islamic beliefs without being “corrected” by all of the orthodox Muslims they are spending their time with. Missionally, many conservative missiologists are claiming that the “insider movement” is actually plundering the visible church rather than converting Muslims. Denominationally, some people (more informed or misinformed than I) claim that there are people associated with the PCA who are either sympathetic to Insider Christianity or are working with people who are sympathetic to it. The idea seems to be that by passing a resolution condemning Insider Movements as unbiblical, we’d be guarding the truth in a very fragile mission field.

*”This is the blog of Travis Hutchinson, the pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church of Lafayette, Georgia. I teach biblical and theological studies at Covenant College, serve as the chairman of the Tennessee Valley Presbytery Theological Examination Committee and preach in the largest log cabin in Walker County.”

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Insider Movements and a Denomination: The PCA

  1. Greg
    “who don’t leave Islam” [They don’t leave “Islam” in the sense of their Muslim socio-cultural community, but they do abandon those Islamic beliefs which are contrary to the Bible}

    “are not baptized” [Most are water baptized, though some view baptism as reference to Spirit-baptism]

    “visible church optional” [They often do not participate in the institutional Christian church that is associated with another ethnic group or nationality, but they do typically fulfill biblical functions of ekklesia in home groups]

    “tends to accept Mohammed as a prophet” [Most do not see him as a prophet equal to biblical prophets, some feel God had some sort of mission for him to the Arabs in turning them away from idolatry to Abrahamic monotheism, and some do not accept him as a prophet, but do show respect].

    “the Koran as a true revelation of God” [various views are held my insider believers: many find it of great value as a bridge to lead other Muslims to Christ; the Bible is their ultimate authority]

    “Socially, it begs the question whether these believers will be able to hold onto their odd Christiano-Islamic beliefs without being “corrected” by all of the orthodox Muslims they are spending their time with”
    [If they are insider movements, then they must be more than holding their own against traditionalists]

    “Missionally, many conservative missiologists are claiming that the “insider movement” is actually plundering the visible church rather than converting Muslims.” [I am not aware of the support for such a claim. The vast majority of believers in these movements have had no contact with the institutional Christian church]

    “Denominationally, some people claim that there are people associated with the PCA who are either sympathetic to Insider Christianity or are working with people who are sympathetic to it.” [This is true—among them are some highly esteemed mission leaders]

    “The idea seems to be that by passing a resolution condemning Insider Movements as unbiblical, we’d be guarding the truth in a very fragile mission field.”[A PCA study committee is currently assessing the biblical validity of this phenomenon and is to give its report in the 2013 meetings of the General Assembly].
    Did you see the articles in the current Christianity Today (Jan 2013)? “Where is Christian?”

    • Abdul, thank you for your response to the post on how the PCA is approaching the IM. A couple brief responses. First, I believe it is important to help people to understand this, which is one of the reasons I have included a number of posts addressing MBB and the IM. Second, this is a post from someone within the PCA who is interacting with the decision before the PCA denominationally. It is important for local churches and denominations to address this. Third, it seems you are describing the best of situations in all the areas listed; if only that would be true. Instead, there are numerous variations within each of those areas. On the one hand, there are some who are faithful to the biblical truth within the Muslim context as you explain. On the other hand, there are others who are syncretistic and not Christian. Not all would be as you describe; there is a spectrum. Fourth, if you read earlier posts, you will see I included references and quotes from a number of the articles in Christianity Today. Fifth, keep reading as I address the translation issue in forthcoming posts. Finally, thank you again for your reply. This is a very important discussion to have, centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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