Biblical Missiology writes much about contextualization and its application, both the good and bad. We do this because we believe that a healthy and good biblical theology produces good and healthy biblical missiology. That a good and healthy biblical theology of missions is not only good for you, it is important for you to know and draw closer to who God really is, breaking lies and false idols in your own life, and replicating good and healthy biblical missiology and theology to others in discipleship and gospel proclamation. This is a very good thing!
We believe that understanding good and healthy theology is vital because often, in missions, this is the first theology of the Bible unbelievers hear. This is how they will perceive God, and understand what it is to be a Christian, a true follower of Christ. This is how they will learn to worship God, or learn to worship an idol if a false view of God is given to them. This is why we at Biblical Missiology, and our partner organizations and members have taken a very staunch and unyielding stance on the unbiblicalness of Insider Movements, C5 contextualization, Muslim Idiom Translations of the Bible, Common Ground and Word Movements, and Jesus in the Quran trainings. We stand biblically against any teachers, trainers, organizations and mistranslations of the Bible that promote these false teachings. We extend the hand of sincere fellowship by calling them to see the errors of their ways, confess, repent, and to preach the true and real gospel alone. 1 John 2:15-29 is clear that false teachings often rise out from within the community and they need to be seen, and shed light on. They are not to be ignored, not to be swept under the rug, and certainly not to be encouraged.
In modern Evangelical circles in the United States, there are few people who hold as much weight as John Piper. He has written books on theology, loving and savoring God, and yes, missiology. Let the Nations be Glad is no doubt one of the best missiological books out there impassioning a generation. The church John Piper pastors is Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Bethlehem Baptist has been dealing with these issues for quite sometime, trying to work with individuals and organizations to move towards a biblical stance on missions. They continue to do so. In light of the trends, they have felt it necessary to take a stand, and we applaud them in this! Below is the Bethlehem Baptist Church’s stance on contextualization. We stand with Bethlehem Baptist Church and call other churches to take such a verbal stand, not ignoring, sweeping under the rug, and certainly not endorsing false teachings about God in the name of ‘missions’. It is no doubt that this stance will change how Bethlehem Baptist Church interacts with organizations it has previously worked with. We pray for their courage, and for their implementation of this new and biblical policy. Will you join with them?
Bethlehem Baptist Church Stance:
Four Basic Boundaries in Contextualization for BBC Ministers among Muslims
Within the last couple of decades the Twin Cities has seen exponential growth of Muslim immigrant populations (150,000+), accompanied by a rapid increase in Mosques being established (110). Rather than fear and avoidance we will seek bold and winsome gospel engagement among them. Our heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that many would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! (Rom. 10:1-4). Our hope is that all BBC members will employ both biblically-integral and culturally appropriate means toward making Christ-exalting disciples among our Muslims neighbors in the Twin Cities and around the world.
Contextualization of the gospel message across cultures is biblical and necessary. However, all contextualization strategies should be within the bounds of sound Biblical teaching. Unfortunately, some contextualization strategies being promoted and practiced among Muslims today are not, from our understanding, biblically justified. Therefore, we felt it necessary to articulate the following boundaries for BBC ministers:
We believe it is not biblically justified to model or to teach that followers of Christ among Muslims should:
1. Recite the Muslim creed (Shahada): “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”
2. Continue to participate in the ritual prayers (Salat) in the Mosque
3. Identify themselves as Muslims in terms of faith commitment.
4. Remove or replace “Father” and “Son of God” in translating Biblical revelation of God and Jesus Christ in any language.
Biblical Rationale: Acts 15:19-20 Gentile Background Believers were given four restrictions to show clear separation from previous religious practices; Rom. 10:9-17 One must confess Jesus as Lord to be saved; John 5:23 Whoever does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him; 1 Cor. 10:23-33 All things lawful but not all helpful; 2 Corinthians 4:2 We refuse to practice cunning; 2 Cor. 6:14-17 Believers not to participate in worship of other Christ-denying gods.
Cultural Rationale: In Islam the form is the meaning; the meaning is the form. The two are inseparable. If Muhammad did it, it is sunna and therefore incumbent upon all Muslims to pray in the same manner. No one may add to or subtract from salat lest they be charged with the sin of bid`a (innovation), heresy. Muslims perform the obligatory prayers because Muhammad said so. Salah has a divinely revealed form and meaning. How can this form be filled with Christian meaning when Islam itself determines the meaning? Should a Muslim see a Christian performing salat he will think the Christian is a Muslim – not a Christian who has given the Islamic form new meaning.
This is not to say that MBBs (Muslim Background Believers) early in their personal conversion or sanctification process might not continue to participate in these things for a season. Many will. It is to say, however, that we as cross-cultural ministers will not encourage such participation.