Part II: A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook


A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook 

Part II of IV

  • Part I 
    • Introduction
    • Some Background on 20th Century Cultural Anthropology and Contextualization
    • Charles Kraft’s Notion of Culture: “Culture, Worldview and Contextualization”
  • Part II
    • Phil Parshall’s Warning to Insider Movements: “Going Too Far?” (in light of his 1980 book, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism)
  • Part III
    • John Travis’ Response (to Parshall’s article): “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?”
    • Ralph Winter’s Response to Parshall’s “Going to Far?”  
    • Rebecca Lewis, “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community”
    • Some Elaborations
  • Part IV
    • Lewis’ Notion of “Pre-Existing Communities” Becoming The “Church” and C5 Believers’ Retention of Their Socio-Religious Identity
    • Harley Talman, “Become Like, Remain Like”: The Identity Question Revisited
    • Summary and Final Thoughts


IV. Phil Parshalls Warning to Insider Movements: Going Too Far? 1. (in light of his 1980 book, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism) 2

Parshall’s paper is presented as a set of cautions regarding IMs, and, ostensibly, it appears to represent the other side of the issue of radical contextualization of the Gospel to Muslim audiences. Nevertheless, in the rather brief history of the “contextualization movement,” Parshall actually helped to lead the way in the 1980’s in developing these approaches, some of which eventually morphed into various IMs. In his 1998 article, however, Parshall denies that he ever went beyond C4. 3 To his credit, Parshall draws a sharp line between C4 and C5 believers (see the end of his article for a brief description of John Travis’ C-Spectrum). To his credit, Parshall draws a sharp line between C4 and C5 believers (see the end of his article for a brief description of John Travis’ C-Spectrum).

In his New Paths in Muslim Evangelism, Parshall advocated for the need to explore and experiment with new approaches to evangelize Muslims. Knowing he would be criticized even for discussing “contextualization,” Parshall reminded his readers that the Western Church could not be apathetic to the fact that Muslim people, whose nations had now become politically free, nevertheless die daily by the thousands without Christ (pp. 16-18). I said in the beginning that I would not scrutinize motives, and certainly not Parshall’s. But I think it’s fair to examine the kinds of issues he raises and positions he advocated in developing his contextualized approach.

Let’s begin by mentioning the “Incarnational Model” he advocated (p. 98 f.), in which missionaries should accept and adapt to the local culture, using its language, living simply among the people, being nonjudgmental about the cultural patterns of the people among whom they would live as servants. 4 Perhaps all but the last point would be standard fare for latter-half 20th Century missionaries who purposefully moved away from the often-perceived “colonial patron” approach, with its isolationist “mission compound,” etc. By the mid to late 20th Century, missiologists of all evangelical stripes had already called for an end to the neo-colonial approaches of missions past. 5

Taking his cues from Kraft’s distinction of “relative” cultural forms/practices and associated “supracultural meanings” and the priority of conveying those meanings, whatever the forms (p. 56), [/ref] Charles H. Kraft. Christianity in Culture. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), page. 99. [/ref] Parshall advised cross-cultural evangelists to look for similarities between Islamic and Christian practices and meanings. Later, he added a significant qualification:   “…these practices [in Islam]will all require a certain measure of reinterpretation” (p. 59). The motivation in the communicator’s search for similarities is that “…the closer we can relate to Muslim form, the more positive will be the response to our message, particularly in initial states of evangelistic effort” (p. 59). Parshall concluded that there were parallels between the practices of Islam and Christianity, beginning with the Five Pillars, claiming “…there is a basic similarity in form though not always in meaning” (p. 58). Here are brief statements he made for each of the Pillars (with some ellipsis): 6

  • As to the Shahada, the Islamic creed, which acknowledges Muhammad to be God’s Messenger/Apostle (and by inference, the final Prophet), Parshall proposes a biblical counterpart:

And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (I Tim. 3:16; italics are Parshall’s).

“What Shahada could better replace the Islamic confession?” Parshall asks. (p. 58).

Comment: Although Parshall did not endorse the continued confession of the Shahada for Muslim converts, whether they need a functional equivalent to the sine qua non utterance act of Islamic identity is open to question.

  • Prayer (salat) is common to both religions.”

Comment: Firstly, this statement is a truism of religions in general. Islamic salat includes certain prescribed Qur’anic recitations, the Shahada, repetitions of I extol the holiness of my Lord, the Great!,” formal rituals, like ablutions, movements and postures, specific times for the event, etc.; absent any of these features, and it isn’t salat any longer. 7 Interestingly, Parshall describes these prayer rituals later in the book and advocates for their retention by followers of Christ (pp. 200-04).

In the Bible, prayer (private and corporate) is not restricted in terms of either content or form, 8 Jesus focused on one’s heart attitude toward God the Father, warning against self-seeking motives. 9 10 As an expression of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession (e.g., Psalm 100:4; Phil. 4:6; I Tim. 2:1-2), prayer is based on a restored relationship with the God who has redeemed us through Christ’s atoning sacrifice to make us His adopted children, “Our Father….” (Matt. 6:9 f.; Rom. 8:15-17). 11

  • Fasting is an exhortation of Scripture as it is in the Islamic faith.”

Comment: The most important fast in Islam, sawm, occursduring the month of Ramadan each year (from sunrise to sunset; Surah 2:183-187) and is obligatory for all Muslims (unless there are health restrictions; e.g., those sick must make up the days missed once they are well again).

Our Lord said that His disciples would fast, but note the difference between the Pharisees’ ostentatious approach and that of Jesus in Matt. 6:16-16; also 9:14-15, where Jesus implies that fasting is an expression of mourning to see their Lord, and to see Him work during crises. Far from being an expression of self-righteousness or a means of earning God’s favor, fasting is truly humbling oneself before God in order to serve Him through the Holy Spirit in a needy world (see Isaiah 58:3-7 and Luke 18:9-14).

  • Almsgiving is enjoined in the Bible as well as the Quran.”

Comment: From Surah 2:261 f., Muslims who are able to are commanded to give alms, zakat (customarily 2.5%) to the poor in the community. “If ye publish your almsgiving, it is well, but if ye hide it and give it to the poor, it will be better for you, and will atone for some of your ill-deeds. Allah is Informed of what ye do.”(2:270). 12

For the Christian community, giving is built on the tithing commandment in the O.T., and giving to the Lord is another expression of worship which doesn’t even have quantitative boundaries in the New Covenant. 13 While much could be said about giving from Jesus’ teachings as well as the apostles’, what stands out is not a particular amount to give back to the Lord, but rather being good stewards of what He has graciously entrusted to each person (see II Cor. 9:6-15). Described as “a man after [the Lord’s]own heart” (I Sam. 13:14), David, in providing precious gifts for the Temple that his son Solomon would build, captured the essence of giving in his prayer, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (I Chron. 29:14, NIV)—i.e., giving is not a means of gaining merit from God, but rather an act of worship to return what is His in the first place, as we minister to the needs of others.

  • “The pilgrimage to Mecca bears a close semblance to the practice of Christians who take the ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to the Holy Land ‘to walk where Jesus walked’” (pp. 58-59).

Comment: This is truly a stretch of Parshall’s imagination: there simply is nothing equivalent to the hajj in the New Covenant! 14 We are commanded to walk as He walked (by the power of His indwelling Spirit), not where He walked (e.g., I John 1:7, 2:6).

Further Discussion: The Equivalence Issue (“This is That”): 15

Attempts by missiologists in the 20th Century to determine the this is that trajectory from the N.T. Church (as construed from the N.T. Epistles) to churches in contemporary world cultures were largely influenced by cultural relativism as propounded by 20th Century anthropologists and by the notion of functional equivalence by influential missiologists (see Part I). Recall that Eugene Nida, the leading popularizer of cultural anthropology for missions programs, used the same principle of functional equivalence for Bible translation work (calling it “dynamic equivalence”; see Part I). As noted above, Kraft, following Nida’s “dynamic equivalence” approach to Bible translation, discussed “dynamic equivalent churches.” 16 The issues being raised were not lost on Parshall’s thrust in New Paths. Note Parshall’s claim (p. 56):

Our focus, then, should be primarily on meanings, rather than simply on forms. Cultural forms are described as relative; different forms may convey similar meanings in different societies. There are, apparently, no forms that convey exactly the same meanings to the peoples of every society. When God communicates to people of different cultures, therefore, He uses different cultural forms to convey the same absolute supracultural meanings.

Hence, Parshall advised that in Bible translation, to correctly capture a meaning, e.g., an object of sacrifice acceptable to God, symbolized by a lamb (his example), a translator may have to substitute another animal (or object) just in case in the culture under consideration, a lamb is deemed abhorrent to the people (pp. 56-57). So, let’s take a very plausible case of a tribe that sacrifices pigs to the gods (because pigs are a valuable, and costly, source of meat to the people). The Bible translator, using a dynamic equivalent expression for “lamb,” substitutes the word “pig” wherever “lamb” is used in Scripture (I won’t write out the supposed “functionally equivalent” expression for “the Lamb of God”). Now, suppose Islam spreads to this people group, and new Muslim converts discover how Jesus is described in the locally translated Bible. The previously determined solution to the pagan tribe now becomes a major stumbling block to the converts to Islam. The main point is this: where does one draw the line to determine “absolute supracultural meanings”? It’s easy to say that the Scriptures (in the original manuscripts) are authoritative and inerrant, but when the methods of “dynamic (functional) equivalence” always take precedence in the process of translation, the lines of absolute truth easily become blurred. Why not translate this key Christological term literally and use a footnote when “lamb” occurs in Scripture? Let Scripture interpret Scripture: from Old Testament to New Testament, the revelation of God and His work is progressive (see Part IV). 17

Now let’s consider Parshall’s focus on “supracultural meanings” (vs. “relative cultural forms”) in his extensive discussion regarding baptism in New Paths (pp. 189-97; 257-58). After surveying Muslim objections to converts being water baptized, Parshall advocated the need to find a functional equivalent that would be less objectionable to Muslims. Without committing himself to a specific form, Parshall accepts Warren Webster’s 18 meaning of baptism as a “rite of passage” (p. 196). Sociologists and cultural anthropologists would most likely agree to this “meaning” of baptism 19 Despite his wanting to avoid “disturb[ing]basic biblical truth,” (p. 196), I find Parshall’s investigation of the Biblical significance of baptism to be somewhat shallow. In Romans 6, we learn that believers are linked historically to Christ through baptism, so that His death and resurrection become theirs, and their identity is now in Christ. 20 In Colossians 2:12, Paul states that believers have been “buried with him [Christ] in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God.” This is a spiritual reality that is played out in the physical world. 21 “Initiation rite” may capture the essence of joining a club or a social group, but that is hardly what the apostles were talking about. In the end, notwithstanding the great resistance in Islam to believers’ baptism, Parshall’s consideration of finding a functional substitute is at odds with the Lord Jesus’ literal command in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

To return to Parshall’s quest to find similarities in faith and practice to serve as “a bridge” in communication, remember that he stated that “…these [Islamic] practices will all require a certain measure of reinterpretation” (p. 59). First, we may ask a legitimate question: “Who gives a cross-cultural evangelist the right to reinterpret Islamic practices?” Surely, we object when a Muslim tries to reinterpret a Biblical statement to prove a point; and we do so by showing that the Biblical context rules out the suspect interpretation. Second, Parshall didn’t elaborate on how each practice could be “reinterpreted”—that is, unless he intended the following statements to cover all aspects (p. 59):

It should be pointed out that the Muslim performs all these obligations as a means of obtaining merit. This, of course, is incompatible with the Christian message of grace. But what the Muslim needs is a change in focus (i.e., meaning) rather than a mere change in forms.

Third, Parshall’s terminology here is imprecise, equating “a change in focus” with a change in “meaning,” thereby implying “a certain measure of reinterpretation” (stated in the previous paragraph). Actually, the quote really deals with a change in motivation that entails a radically different theology—to show “gratitude and love to Christ” instead of attempting to gain merit (p. 59); i.e., renouncing one’s own works as inadequate to please a holy God and embracing God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Fourth, if cultural forms are “relative,” subject to change, while meanings are primary (pp. 56-57), why the reversal here in retaining the exact forms and reinterpreting them (i.e., changing the meaning)? This discussion clouds the issue of what is really at stake. Finally, if no merit is gained by the performance of these acts, should a new believer in Christ be pre-occupied with retaining these rituals in light of Jesus’ commands in Matthew 5-6?

Moreover, I would submit that, analogous to the structure of a language, any cultural or religious activity is defined in terms of both the observable form 22 and the intangible meaning. In Islam, performance of these pillars constitutes worship; yet God is unknowable in Islamic theology, in stark contrast to our relationship with God as our Father through His adoption of us as His children in Christ Jesus. 23

Parshall likened his contextualization approach to building “theological bridges to salvation” (the title of Ch. 6). Nevertheless, he admitted that “[t]here is a raging current flowing between the banks of Islam and Christianity. In certain places, the river is narrow and the banks are close to each other, while in other areas the gap appears totally unbridgeable” (p. 128). However, the latter conclusion Parshall attributed to “a simplistic approach,” which he described as uncompromisingly negative about Islam (p. 129). Instead, he invoked the Incarnation as Christ’s bridging the gulf between God and man 24 as our mandate to do likewise with Muslims. 25 Thus, Parshall continued to seek other bridges from the Qur’an, including some of the descriptions of Jesus (“Isa”) as the “Word of God”: He adds, “Certainly this title is more helpful than others such as ‘Son of God’ or ‘Lamb of God.’ This designation can be a launching pad to show the Muslim that Jesus is God’s eternal Word of redemption, rather than just another prophet” (p. 140). While it is true that Isa is referred to as Allah’s “Word” (or “word”) in Surah 4:171, the context of the verse makes clear that the “People of the Book” must not “exaggerate” that Isa is more than a “messenger of Allah and His word” [“Word”]: “…say not ‘Three’—Cease! (it is) better for you! Allah is only one God. Far is it removed from His Transcendant Majesty that He should have a son….” (4:171b). 26 In other words, how would a Muslim understand Jesus’ being the “Word,” as opposed to a Christian who understands John 1:1-3, 14 and I John 1:1-3? At the very least (if I may borrow an insight from linguistics) 27 a careful description of how Jesus can be understood as revealing the nature of God, analogous to a word (its form) give a meaning tangible expression: the Eternal Word took on human form in His incarnation both to reveal who God is (John 1:14, 18; 14:8-9; Heb. 1:3a) and to take our place as the Substitute for sin on the cross, to redeem us (Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 1:3b). And only the Holy Spirit can make the written Word of God real to the hearts of inquiring minds.

Referring to Parshall’s brief list of references to Jesus Christ (p. 140), I must state that “the Son of God” is not a title; rather it is His Name, His Identity with respect to God the Father: the Second Person of the Triune God. “Jesus” is His Name as the Incarnate Son of God, meaning “The LORD (Yahweh) will save” (Matt. 1:21) and “Christ” (“Messiah”) is His Title as God’s Anointed Deliver—God’s Prophet, Priest, and King (cf. Isa. 61:1-3, Luke 4:17-21; Acts 10:38).

Finally, it’s unclear to me why Parshall diminishes the importance of the description of Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” Why wouldn’t the significance of the term be important to discuss as John the Baptist uttered it (John 1:29), especially in light of the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al Adha), which Parshall elsewhere (pp. 144-47) singles out as “a bridge”: it not only commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice of his son (Ishmael in Islam) as they sacrifice animals like lambs, but also, among many Muslims, the Festival is associated with the sacrificial offering for their sins, which, again, Parshall emphasizes (pp. 144-47). I don’t think one needs to immediately make a correction that it was Isaac, not Ishmael, who was about to be offered up, but rather to describe the need for substitutionary sacrifice for the penalty of sin—a critical truth to stress to those whose theology doesn’t admit to the problem of original sin, nor, as a consequence, a need for a Savior.

Concerning the Incarnation, I’ll briefly mention two issues:

(1) Regarding the unique event in history, there is simply no analogue to the Eternal Word becoming flesh: He became the God-Man in order to redeem us: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15); “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil: (I John 3:8); see also Matt. 20:28; John 10:10-11; Titus 2:14; Heb. 2:17, etc.

(2) The Incarnate Word Himself revealed God the Father to those around Him through His continuous dependence on the Father: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? …. [T]he Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:9-10). God’s redeemed children are called the “Body of Christ”—the Church—because Christ the Head lives within His people (Eph. 1:22-23). Thus, the Church is called to be His ambassadors (II Cor. 5:20; see the whole context). This is the Church’s identity and mission on earth. So, when Paul said, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant of all, that I might win more of them,” he was discussing his freedom in Christ to identify with the different people to whom he proclaimed the Gospel. He did not discuss any changing of the Message itself; in fact, he pronounced anathema [a curse]on anyone who attempted to change the Gospel message (Gal. 1:6-9).

As a consequence of this emphasis on similarities, parallel practices, etc., what might we say about a convert’s perceptions of his/her new relationship with Jesus? Here are a few possibilities:

  • That this relationship is a fulfillment of, or an addition to, Islamic teaching.
  • That it consists of doing similar kinds of activities to he/she had previously done.
  • That it, too, is a works-based (dare I say) “religion”?
  • That worshipping God is similarly manifested, the focus being on the performance of religious practices.

With respect to involvement in a local church, Parshall recommended that Muslim converts not join already existing local churches because they are comprised of non-Muslim converts “with a Western church flavor imported by missionaries”; rather, they should form their own local “homogeneous church” (p. 160). Furthermore, Muslim inquirers would feel more at home in an all-Muslim-background group of believers in Christ (p. 161). Note that Parshall was also open to converts from Islam being called “followers of Isa” rather than “Christians” (p. 164).

Decrying the “conversion and extraction” methods of missionaries among Muslims (p. 185), Parshall advocated that Muslim converts stay within their communities and witness discretely to their friends and family; in fact, he said that “[t]here is no option to flee if the situation becomes difficult,” adding that a “mighty volume of prayer must be raised for this one to multiply to at least ten” (pp. 185-86). Yes, local believers should be encouraged to remain where they are, if possible. However, while I appreciate the fact that Parshall experienced persecution, I don’t believe that Westerners should dictate a “no option” call for a persecuted Christian from a Muslim background. (Of course, his advice came before the most recent waves of intense persecution with the resurgence of militant Islam.) 28

Finally, just as the “Jews for Jesus” movement (begun in the early 1970’s) “want to be good Jews who follow Messiah Jesus, 29 Parshall strongly implied that there could be a “Muslims for Jesus (or Isa)”; or “Messianic Muslims” Movement 30 The problem is that, unlike Islam, Biblical Judaism is the context (the byproduct) of Gods revelation to Abraham and the patriarchs; God’s design was that ancient Israel be a kingdom of priests to serve the nations (Ex. 19:5-6).

Accordingly, in precisely the various areas of contextualization that he presented in New Paths, Parshall raises his concerns to IM proponents in “Going Too Far?” almost 20 years later. He states that in all his years of ministry to Muslims, he never denied the cross or fell into syncretism, insisting that his approach has remained at the C4 level, i.e., among other things, those who came to faith under his ministry were “followers of Isa,” but no longer considered “Muslims” by their compatriots. 31 Yet, in New Paths (pp. 160-62), he advised new believers to form their own congregations, instead of joining local evangelical churches, and emphasized the importance of retaining and reinterpreting, where necessary, Islamic practices, such as the Five Pillars, as we’ve seen. Therefore, the relative isolation of these believers in gathering for worship, in effect, would have allowed them to retain Islamic forms of prayer, etc., much more so than if they had mixed with believers from other backgrounds.

My main point in all of this discussion is that Parshall’s introduction of his highly contextualized approach in New Paths in 1980, including his questions for consideration and experimentation, helped pave the way for the next generation of cross-cultural communicators to take his ideas beyond where he was theologically comfortable. What we see, then, is the law of unintended consequences at work.

Along with other missiologists, like Ralph Winter and Charles Kraft, Parshall helped to build “the slide” of high-level contextualization, which he admits in his 1998 article (“Going Too Far?”) is “incremental and can be insidiously deceptive” (p. 665). His call to “bring these issues before our theologians, missiologists and administrators” reveals the unfortunate lack of open communication between missiologists and church leadership in the 20th Century; most sadly, this situation continues to the present.

In “Going Too Far?” Parshall expresses both encouragement and apprehension about the results of interviews conducted by unknown researchers of “key people” among the reported thousands of “Messianic Muslims” in the C5 movement in “Islampur” (undisclosed location); he writes (p. 666):

Nearly all of the key people interviewed indicated a very strong value on reading the New Testament and meeting regularly for Christian worship. Most would say that Allah loves and forgives them because Jesus died for them. They pray to Jesus for forgiveness. Virtually all believe that Jesus is the only Savior, and is able to save people from evil spirits. On the other hand, nearly all say there are four heavenly books, i.e., Torah, Zabur, Injil, and Qur’an (This [sic]is standard Muslim belief, i.e., Law, Prophets, Gospels, and Qur’an) of which the Qur’an is the greatest. Nearly half continue to go to the traditional mosque on Friday where they participate in the standard Islamic prayers which affirm Muhammad as a prophet of God.

In “Going Too Far?” Parshall expresses both encouragement and apprehension about the results of interviews conducted by unknown researchers of “key people” among the reported thousands of “Messianic Muslims” in the C5 movement in “Islampur” (undisclosed location); he writes (p. 666):

Nearly all of the key people interviewed indicated a very strong value on reading the New Testament and meeting regularly for Christian worship. Most would say that Allah loves and forgives them because Jesus died for them. They pray to Jesus for forgiveness. Virtually all believe that Jesus is the only Savior, and is able to save people from evil spirits. On the other hand, nearly all say there are four heavenly books, i.e., Torah, Zabur, Injil, and Qur’an (This [sic]is standard Muslim belief, i.e., Law, Prophets, Gospels, and Qur’an) of which the Qur’an is the greatest. Nearly half continue to go to the traditional mosque on Friday where they participate in the standard Islamic prayers which affirm Muhammad as a prophet of God.

My question to Parshall is this: How can people be leaders of this C5 movement and not uniformly confess that Jesus as the only Savior and that the Bible is the only inspired written Word of God?

Parshall’s 1998 article strikes a slightly different tone from his 1980 text with regard to new (C5) believers continuing to attend the mosque 32

The mosque is pregnant with Islamic theology. There, Muhammad is affirmed as a prophet of God and the divinity of Christ is consistently denied. Unique Muslim prayers (salat) are ritually performed as in no other religion. These prayers are as sacramental to Muslims as partaking of the Lord’s Supper is to Christians. How would we feel if a Muslim attended (or even joined) our evangelical church and partook of communion…all with a view to becoming an “insider?” [sic]This accomplished, he then begins to promote Islam and actually win our parishioners over to his religious persuasion.

Without stating it directly, Parshall implies that elements of Insider Movements are syncretistic, beyond the bounds of contextualization that he had set forth some twenty years earlier. Further, with respect to the question he poses, “Can the Mosque be redeemed?” his implied answer is “No” (pp. 666-67).

Perhaps, the clearest statement Parshall articulates in this paper concerning contextualization is this: “This slide is incremental and can be insidiously deceptive, especially when led by people of highest motivation” (p. 665). Indeed it is! Syncretism is a likely consequence of a philosophy of missions influenced by cultural relativism, especially when efforts are made either to incorporate practices of Islam into Christianity (through functional equivalence) or to reinterpret any beliefs/practices that are contrary to the true Christian faith, as we shall see in the responses to Parshall’s article in the next section.



  1. Phil Parshall, “Going Too Far?” in Perspectives, pp. 663-667; taken from his “DANGER! New Directions in Contextualization” in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 34:4 (October 1998)
  2. Phil Parshall. New Paths in Muslim Evangelism: Evangelical Approaches to Contextualization. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980)   33To differentiate between the two works of Parshall discussed in this review, I’ll use the past tense for what Parshall says in New Paths, and the present tense for what he says eighteen years later in “Going Too Far?”
  3. See John Travis’“The C-Spectrum” in Perspectives (pp. 664-65). In brief, the C-Spectrum is intended to delineate levels of “contextualization” of “Christ-Centered Communities,” with respect to

    (a) “language”—foreign or local;

    (b) “culture” (e.g., patterns of everyday dress and behavior);

    (c) “worship forms” (e.g., style of gathering, praying);

    (d) “degree of freedom to worship with others” (with historic churches in the region); and (e) “religious identity” (“Christian” vs. “Follower of Isa” ~ “Muslim follower of Isa” [or even “Messianic Muslim”]). Here are the three most relevant levels for our purposes, C-3 to C-5 (C-6 being a nonvisible community of “secret believers”):

    C-3: “Contextualized Community Using the Daily Language of the Surrounding Muslim Community and Some Non-Muslim Local Cultural Forms”:

    “Religiously neutral forms may include folk music, ethnic dress, artwork, etc. Islamic elements (where present) are ‘filtered out’ so as to use purely ‘cultural’ forms…. [Believers] may meet in a church building or more religiously neutral location. C3 congregations are comprised of a majority of Muslim background believers … [and]call themselves ‘Christians’.”

    C4: “Contextualized Community Using the Daily Language and Biblically Acceptable Socio-religious Islam Forms.”

    “Similar to C3, however, biblically acceptable Islamic religious forms and practices are also utilized (e.g., praying with raised hands, keeping the fast, avoiding pork, alcohol, having dogs as pets, using Islamic terms, dress, etc.) … Meetings [are]not held in church buildings… [and believers]identify themselves as ‘followers of Isa the Messiah’ (or something similar).”

    C5: “Community of Muslims Who Follow Jesus Yet Remain Culturally and Officially Muslim.”

    “C5 believers remain legally and socially within the community of Islam. Somewhat similar to the Messianic Jewish movement, aspects of Islamic theology which are incompatible with the Bible are rejected or reinterpreted if possible. … Unsaved Muslims may see C5 believers as theologically deviant and may eventually expel them from the community of Islam. C5 believers are viewed as Muslims by the Muslim community and think of themselves as Muslims who follow Isa the Messiah.”

  4. See discussion on the Incarnation later in this section.
  5. Again, let me emphasize that Roland Allen in the early 20th Century had much to criticize about these non-Biblical approaches to missions. See Rolland Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (5th ed.). London: World Dominion Pr., 1960.
  6. The bulleted formatting is mine.
  7. Jens Christensen. Mission to Islam and Beyond. Blackwood, South Australia: New Creation Publications, 2001, pp. 178-81 f. (originally published as The Practical Approach to Muslims. Upper Darby, PA:North Africa Mission, 1977). Christensen cites Hughes Dictionary of Islam, pages. 466-68, in revealing the contents of the Salat. Christensen was a life-long missionary to the Pathans in the NorthWest Frontier Province of Pakistan and, among other notable accomplishments, was an esteemed Christian theologian throughout Pakistan and translated the N.T. into modern Pushtu.
  8. However, the pattern Jesus gave His disciples (“the Lord’s prayer” in Matt. 6:9-13) is that God’s children pray to the Father, in Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 16:26), by means of (or “in”) the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:18, Jude 20). As well, there are prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, intercession (e.g., I Tim. 2:1-2; Phil. 4:6).
  9. What is critical is the relation of the worshiper to God Himself—probably best defined in terms of faith in who He is and in His covenant promises, humility before Him as Almighty God, and worship of Him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See Mt. 6:5-15; Luke 18:1-8; Eph. 3:14-21; Heb. 11:6).
  10. Of course, “public prayer” in the N.T. was the prayer of the members of Christ’s Body, assembled in His Name to seek His will; e.g., Acts 4:23 f.; I Tim. 2:1-4.
  11. It’s not clear whether our Lord expected His disciples to only recite “The Lord’s Prayer” verbatim, or to use it as a model for prayer to the Father, or both. Obviously, historic churches differ on this issue; nevertheless, most believers can recite it (at least in the King James [Authorized] version).
  12. The Glorious Quran Translation; trans. by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall. Second English Translation. 2003. ( Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2003).
  13. Consider Jesus’ evaluation of the widow’s giving two small coins—all she had—into the Temple treasury as greater than all that the rich were giving (Luke 21:1-4). In other words, it’s not the quantitative amount, but the proportion of what one gives in light of what he/she has and the attitude in which he/she gives it (II Cor. 9:7).
  14. See below on Jesus’ comments to the Samaritan woman regarding the place of worship in John 4:21-24.
  15. Cf. Acts 2:16: “This is what [i.e., that which] was uttered through the prophet Joel.”) On the Day of Pentecost, following Jesus’ ascension, the apostle Peter announced to the crowd in Jerusalem the O.T. equivalence—or, to be more exact, the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy—concerning what was happening among the 120 assembled believers when the Holy Spirit filled them, thereby forming the Body of Christ (Acts 2:32-33 and I Cor. 12:13).
  16. See Charles H. Kraft. “The Church in Culture—A Dynamic Equivalence Model” in Down to Earth: Studies in Christianity and Culture. John R.W. Stott and Robert Coote, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980), pages. 211-230.
  17. Three comments on Parshall’s discussion here are in order:

    (1) In light of this book on Muslim evangelism, why did Parshall choose “lamb” as the term to find a dynamic equivalent for?

    (2) Parshall confuses two kinds of meaning in his exposition:

    (a) what I’ll group together (oversimplifying) as the “pragmatic meaning” and the “presuppositional meaning” of a statement in a linguistic and situational context (here related to the usage of the notion of an animal sacrifice in an Islamic context); and

    (b) the lexical meaning (“sense”) of the words (the “dictionary definition” of individual terms).

    (3) Parshall is unclear about the notion of “form” (not just here, but also elsewhere): in linguistics, units of “form” range from parts of a word (a “morpheme”), to a word, to a phrase, to a sentence (and many would add, to “chunks of discourse”). Thus, the inaccuracy in his statement: “[T]he more literally the form is translated, the greater the danger of losing the biblical meaning, unless, of course, the form just happens to have a similar meaning for the receiving people” (p. 57).

  18. Webster was general director of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society at the time of Parshall’s writing.
  19. Technically, this is not a synonym but a categorical expression, of which “baptism” is deemed an instance.
  20. Being “in Christ” is not commonly referred to by IM proponents.
  21. I won’t go into the issue of when a new believer should be baptized, nor the specifics of how either.
  22. Here, to avoid getting too technical and diverting the reader’s attention from the subject at hand, I’m avoiding the notion of abstract forms used in syntactic theory. So the term “observable form” is an oversimplification.
  23. I am aware that there are mystical sects in Islam, such as the Sufis, who view reading the Qur’an and praying as an expression of communing with Allah (see Parshall, New Paths, pages. 130, 147-51).
  24. Quoting Erich W. Bethman. Bridge to Islam. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1963). pages. 201-02.
  25. Quoting Fuad Accad. “The Qur’an: A Bridge to Christian Faith.” Missiology. 1976; vol. 4 (no. 3), page. 339.
  26. The Glorious Qur’an Translation. Trans. by Pickthall.
  27. I’m aware of a rich body of literature on the Logos and the Wisdom of Prov. 8, for example.
  28. To understand the magnitude of the persecution of Christians worldwide, one only has to consult the websites of ministries to persecuted Christians and families of martyrs, such as Voice of the Martyrs [], Open Doors [], International Christian Concern [], or Barnabas Aid [].
  29. From Moishe Rosen, founder of the Jews for Jesus, which Parshall quotes (pp. 60-61) from James Hefley. 1971. The New Jews. Wheaton, IL” Tyndale House, p. 134.
  30. Parshall brings the reader right up to the point of making that conclusion, p. 61.
  31. See John Travis, “The C-Spectrum” in Perspectives, pp. 664-65.
  32. Parshall, “Going Too Far?” in Perspectives, page.666.

About Author

Don has a B.S. in missiological studies, Nyack College; an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language, New York University; and a Ph.D. in Linguistics, New York University. He taught in and directed ESL programs for 50 years, and linguistics for about half of those years. His published books include Intensive Course in American English Grammar, Series I (Prelim. Ed.), co-editor. American Language Institute, New York University (1964), Modifying English as a Second Language Materials, and Placement Guide; University of State of New York (1975), and The Language Gap. [on the uniqueness of human language] Zondervan, Probe Ministries (1984). He has served as a teaching elder for many years.