Archives For Insider Movements

Question:

I am trying to find out something about the new Muslim friendly translation to be done by Wycliffe/SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics). What is this about, and do you have any information about this?

Response:

This is an important question. It is very important to note that there are two interconnected issues, and we must extricate them so that we can appropriately respond to each individually and then also the two together, because they are related. The one issue is that of ministry to Muslim Background Believers (MBB) and the Insider Movements (IM) focusing on contextualization (C1-C6). The second is focused on the question you raise, that of translation, specifically the divine familial language.

First, a translation for Muslims has already been done for part of the Bible that attempts to be culturally sensitive to translating “Divine Familial Terms,” such as “God the Father” and the “Son of God.” What has happened is that due to numerous questions and concerns and people/churches pulling their financial support from Wycliffe they have stopped promoting and translating so that their translation theory can be appropriately addressed by experts.

Second, most from Wycliffe/SIL who have been a part of this up to this point are missiologists, not biblical scholars or theologians. Though they may understand the dynamics of translation and though they may understand the importance of understandability of translations in the receptor language, they are often less sensitive to the importance of a word and the use of a word across the canon. “God the Father” and the “Son of God” are such words/expressions.

Third, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has put together a panel to serve as an Independent Bible Translation Review with the following task:

In the light of certain controversies about Bible translation, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as a respected and trusted global evangelical association, has been asked to form a panel to independently review Wycliffe and SIL International’s translation of “God the Father” and the “Son of God.” The panel’s mandate includes reviewing SIL’s translation practices; setting boundaries for theologically acceptable translation methodology particularly in Muslim contexts; and suggesting how to practically implement these recommendations.

The Panel consists of the following scholars/experts:

  • Milton Acosta, Old Testament
  • Donald Fairbairn, Early Christianity and Historical Theology
  • Atef Gendy, New Testament
  • Ida Glaser, Biblical and Islamic Studies
  • Rob Haskell, Systematic Theology
  • Karen Jobes, New Testament
  • Ghassan Khalaf, Biblical Studies and Theology
  • Melba Padilla Maggay, Social Anthropology
  • Scott Moreau, Intercultural Studies
  • Kang-San Tan, Mission Studies
  • Roland Werner, African Linguistics & Theology
  • Dudley Woodberry, Mission Studies
  • Robert Cooley, Panel Moderator

This Panel met in November 2012, is scheduled to meet a second time early this spring, with an anticipated final report due in April of this year.

Finally, D. A. Carson has written a book on this issue: Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012). As with most everything Carson writes, it is excellent.

Collin Hansen interviewed John Piper last year regarding the “insider movement”: “Piper Responds to the Insider Movement.”

Hansen states the following about this six minute interview:

John Piper depends on many experienced missionaries and pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church who help him discern the related issues: whether new followers of Jesus Christ can stay in the mosque, continue to call themselves Muslims, refer to Jesus as the “Son of God,” and so on. In this interview, he tells me what he appreciates about the impulse behind the Insider Movement and why Westerners struggle to understand the consequences of belief among Muslim-background believers.

Piper also raises an important problem with the Insider Movement not always appreciated by its proponents: the staunch opposition of many Muslim-background believers who have sacrificed so much to follow Christ and reach their friends, family, and neighbors with the gospel.

Regarding contextualization, Piper believes that C4 is as far as one should go.

One of those involved/engaged in missionary outreach to which Piper refers in this interview is his former colleague at Bethlehem Baptist, Erik Hyatt. Hyatt served as Pastor for Global Outreach from 2002-2011, at which time he transitioned into Bethlehem’s Church Planting Residency as training to church plant this fall.

In this piece linked below, Hyatt shares how he and Bethlehem Baptist had to come to terms with contextualization among Muslims. Through this, they developed questions for missionary candidates, “Questions and Biblical Guidelines for Missionaries among Muslim Peoples.”

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.”

“Gene Daniels,” missionary among Muslims for the past decade, interviews a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) about his Christian faith lived out in the midst of an Islamic country/culture: “Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque,” Christianity Today 57/1 (January/February 2013)

The editors of Christianity Today include a preliminary word to Daniels’ interview:

Can people from other religious traditions genuinely follow Jesus without becoming “Christians”? The question is a point of much dispute within today’s missions world. Those who follow Jesus yet don’t formally express Christian faith are said to belong to insider movements. And no insider movement has received more attention than Muslims who embrace Christ yet stay within their Islamic community. “Insiders” are hard to access due to cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers. As a result, many Christians have taken positions on insider movements without ever having met or spoken with someone who belongs to one. In the following exclusive interview, we hear from just such an insider.

The following is the synthesis of two interviews conducted in 2011 with “Abu Jaz,” a key leader in a movement that describes itself as the People of the Gospel. This group represents several thousand Muslims in eastern Africa who have converted to faith in Christ during the past decade, but who have remained in their Muslim communities. Abu Jaz is married and has three children. He started following Isa al Masih (“Jesus the Messiah”) as the Savior 18 years ago.

One of the most interesting statements in this interview addressed becoming a believer, syncretism, discipleship and sanctification/transformation.

First, we cannot rule out syncretism at the beginning of a new believer’s life. The purpose of discipleship is to separate their old beliefs from their new beliefs. So when they put their faith in Jesus, they may have at the same time Muhammad in their heart. But when they start to pray in the name of Isa for their own need, they experience joy, assurance, and peace. And when they pray in the name of Jesus and find people healed and demons cast out, they completely stop thinking about Muhammad. It is a process of the Holy Spirit.

A few questions to ponder:

  • What do you think of this statement? Do you agree/disagree?
  • How much syncretism can be allowed/accepted (acceptable) and a person truly be a Christian?
  • How long would syncretistic beliefs be allowed/accepted after being born again (conversion, becoming a Christian or a believer, regeneration, or other such descriptions of this same supernatural birth)?
  • Does syncretism affect both belief and behavior? How are belief and behavior affected by becoming a Christian?
  • In becoming a believer and in the subsequent conformity into the image of Christ, what and how much is instantaneous and what and how much is progressive? Specifically, how might this affect one’s view of syncretism post-conversion? More generally, how might this affect one’s view of a life of  sin prior to coming to Christ?
  • Is this a (super)natural aspect of the sanctification process, such that the sins, habits and patterns of life prior to Christ are progressively, by God’s grace, put away (mortification), and the graces of Christ are put on (vivification)?
  • How and at what point would you determine this would be a normal and progressive part of the Christian life, and how and at what point would you determine the person has not truly become a Christian?

Though I only included a brief, though important, quote that prompts many questions, I would encourage you to read the complete interview. It will provide a perspective from one who serves as a missionary among Muslims, and a Muslim who lives as an insider.

It should foster greater understanding of this issue, and enable you better to ponder, pray and process it and then to discern an appropriate God-glorifying, Christ-honoring, Spirit-illumined, biblically-faithful response.

In our ongoing discussion about Muslim ministry and Insider Movements, Phil Parshall, a former missionary among Muslims, raises the question about how far the gospel can be contextualization it is accommodated or compromised: “How Much Muslim Context Is Too Much for the Gospel,” Christianity Today 57/1 (January/February 2013).

Parshall addresses some of the early history of this approach to evangelism, how he considered his own ministry as an insider, and some “significant concerns” about this broadened understanding and acceptance of contextualization. Parshall fears that much of this new understanding of contextualization leans more in the direction of gospel accommodation than it does in gospel transformation.

But by the early 1980s, other committed evangelicals felt they should push further into a new evangelism effort: the insider movements. Actually, we have always considered our approach as insider, but we have strived to remain within biblical boundaries. I have significant concerns about these newer attempts in contextualization:

  •  There is a tendency to encourage converts to remain in mosques and perform the attendant prayers.
  • New believers are still known as Muslims, and without further identification, such as “Muslim, follower of Jesus.”
  • To some, it is still permissible to recite the creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger.”

The latest controversy (one that CT covered extensively in 2011) relates to the Muslim’s misunderstanding of the term “Son of God.” A number of vernacular translations have translated this phrase to Isa al Masih, which is “Jesus the Messiah,” or an equivalent. Not all insiders use each of the above. Contexts vary as do the opinions of missionaries and mission boards. But how much contextualization is too much? Missionaries of good will have different opinions and strategies. Prayerful respect is essential to resolve these issues

In the past few years it has been the translation of “Son of God” in Bibles used among Muslims that has been one of the primary concerns raised by missionaries, mission boards and local churches supporting missionaries among Muslims.

There are two separate but related issues: contextualization and translation. One must work hard at understanding each of them separately, and then how they relate to and impact one another.

We will continue our discussion tomorrow.