<a href="https://biblicalmissiology.org/author/jspan/" target="_self">John Span</a>

John Span

John Span has worked with his family in West Africa among an unreached 'Fulani' people group for the last ten years. His mentors have challenged him to think theologically, especially in the area of missions to Muslims and he desires to inspire others to do the same. In the last year he has been a frequent contributor to the St. Francis Magazine.

6 Comments

  1. Jeff Morton

    djohn wrote:
    “What I see on this web sight is anger toward those who would choose to remain in the culture. Claims of blasphemy when those who embrace contexutalization for Islamic contexts want to make heart belief central but keep cultural norms.”

    I think you’re right and wrong.

    You’re right that the emotion you sense–anger–is due to a sense of betrayal from fellow missionaries. Few times have we seen the Bible twisted and spun to make it say when one wishes than with the insider movements proponents. And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with anger when it is under control and focused in the correct direction.

    You’re wrong that we are angry with insiders. The direction of our anger is not the insider himself, but the western missionary who promotes the problematic, short-sighted, social science-reliant methodology.

  2. Fred Farrokh

    Djohn asserts that the “building where the person goes to pray should not really matter.” While it is true that God is not limited by time and space and therefore can hear any prayer uttered in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, djohn’s comment betrays an unfamiliarity with the Islamic context, ironically.

    Djohn’s thinking has led insider movement advocates to encourage “Muslim believers” to continue attending and praying in the mosque. It is impossible to participate in congregational salat without following the uniform standing, bowing, and kneeling patterns of the Muslim jama’ (unless you arrive late and are playing ‘catch up.’). IM advocates have conceded this, but many will nevertheless encourage their disciples to go through the motions of salat while uttering silent biblical prayers to Jesus.

    There are at least two contextual problems here. First, when Muslims are called to worship at the mosque, the muezzin chants in repetition: “I bear witness that Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.” Anyone who enters the building (unless it is part of an educational field trip) will be assumed by the jama’ to be spiritually, audibly, and physically under this declaration. This is the same Muhammad who declared that Jesus was neither Lord nor God, neither did He die on the cross nor rise from the dead. Shall a person who holds to biblical beliefs about Christ enter a building to pray in unison with, and thus deceive, those who believe the opposite?

    Second, this “building” is known as “masjid,” “the place of the sajdah.” From childhood we were taught the point at which the forehead touches the ground during the sajdah is the position in which the Muslim is completely submitted to Allah. Allah is the one who sent the seal of the prophets, Muhammad, who declared that Jesus Christ was no more than a prophet. Should a person who believes that Jesus Christ is Lord, God and Savior prostrate himself in way that will deceive all of the other sincere Muslim worshippers? What will the Lord Jesus Christ think as witnesses this scene, looking down from heaven?

    Djohn’s assertion, when played out, ultimately leads to both to a disrespect of the Muslim community and a denial of Christ’s Lordship by His supposed disciple. The mosque belongs to Muslims. A proper respect for that community, as well as the long term interest of discipling those who have truly trusted Christ, should lead us to the conclusion that those who truly believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ should not go to pray in the masjid.

  3. Avatar

    The comment by djohn is an apples vs oranges example. The Judaizers taught circumcision as a the sign of conversion to Judaism. Other peoples practiced circumcision but it was not imbued with the meaning that the Judaizers gave to it, a meaning that was at odds with the truth of God’s grace. The example of prayer posture is a great example as you can find examples in the Bible of various postures in prayer. Nevertheless, to pray in the form of Salat, even if one changes the words to be Biblically-appropriate, will often communicate something different to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But there is more which this commenter fails to admit – many IMers are not simply imitating prayer postures but praying the actual Salat which confesses Muhammad to be God’s Messenger, which in Islam is greater than a prophet, and implies that he is the Seal of the Prophets, including the lie that he is greater than Jesus Christ!

    The NT never allows Gentiles to continue worshipping idols – Paul, by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, told us that sacrifices to idols are sacrifices to demons. The false religion of Islam (i.e. a false representation of God sans the statue) is just another homage to the demonic. Who dares to join Christ with Belial (Satan)?

    If this commenter is a married man I wonder if he would mind his wife going through the motions of intimate acts with other men. I mean, if acts of intimacy between spouses is valid then why would it be wrong for the commenter’s spouse to do the same with other men, especially if her thoughts are fantasizing about being with her husband?

    Have we not been betrothed as a pure virgin to Christ? Have not our hearts been changed and circumcised from hating God to loving Him? Let us not forget the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It seems to me that this commenter has run out of oil and is asking us to share ours with him.

  4. Avatar

    @djohn,

    I think you have hugely misunderstood the issues. No one is objecting to the cultural forms i.e. “the posture in which a person prays … The building where the person goes to pray … The way person dresses, etc…” What does matter is their theology and their identity i.e. do they see themselves in unity with the universal body of Christ or do they see themselves in unity with their Muslim brothers? When they go to worship, do they worship with other believers in Christ and submit to biblical teachers or do they worship with other Muslims and submit to the teaching of Muslim Imams? When they pray, do the cite the Shahadah and the Islamic ritual prayers or do they pray to “Our Father” in a way that mirrors the instructions Jesus gave us about how we are to pray? It really comes down to an issue of identity, not of culture. This issue has never been about cultural forms it has always been about true biblical faith. Long before this issue became so public in January of this year the controversy was known as the “C4/C5 controversy.” Both C4/C5 adopt almost identical cultural forms; however, C5 goes beyond just the adoption of culture, it adopts much of the theology of Islam; C5 is true syncretism and that is the problem. Personally, some aspects of C4 make me uncomfortable because they can lead to legalism, i.e. if a Halal diets become a requirement of faith for example, but the real issue is encompassed in the very serious doctrinal compromises of C5. I think it is important to realize the IM proponents often describe C4 to their western audiences when they are really implementing C5. Here are the results from one survey of IM adherents that hopefully will help you understand the problem of IM much more clearly.
    96% still believed that the Qur’an was one of four holy books from heaven, along with the Torah (Law), the Zabur (Prophets) and the Injil (Gospel).
    66% even said that the Qur’an was the greatest of the four.
    45% do not even affirm that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Trinity).
    Ref: Source: Phil Parshall, “Danger! New Directions in Contextualization,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 34:4 (October 1998)

  5. Avatar

    Funny as you were talking about the Judiaziers I could not help but think that those who are represented by this blog site really reflect that description.

    If we really believe that salvation is the gospel plus nothing then the gospel should able to penetrate through any culture not requiring external cultural changes but rather internal heart changes.

    Therefore the posture in which a person prays should not really matter. They building where the person goes to pray should not really matter. The way person dresses, culturally speaking,(not relating to issues of modesty) should not matter.

    Really external cultural experessions of Islam should not matter if a person has made a real heart decision to invite Christ into their life.

    What I see on this web sight is anger toward those who would choose to remain in the culture. Claims of blasphemy when those who embrace contexutalization for Islamic contexts want to make heart belief central but keep cultural norms.

    So I ask who are the real Judaizers here? Is it those that would choose to worship the real divine Jesus from within their cultural context or those that criticize them for not addopting a “church” culture that looks like what Christians expect.

    I like the concept. It would seem like Biblical Missiology could benifit from asking themselves the question are we asking insiders to embrace the Gospel plus arab christian culture, western christian culture, africian christian culture?

    While syncretisim is a concern and should not be taken lightly those accusing should always examine their own hearts. You devalue the gospel by requiring people to extract themselves and embrace ‘Christian Culture’ along with the gospel. Jesus + Christian Culture = Nothing

  6. Avatar

    They may have embraced good things, but the Judaizers were all wrong. They were wrong in what they valued and their priorities distinguished their false doctrine from the truth. Remember what Paul thought of them in Galatians 2. They were fakes; promoters of a false gospel. The way we make gospel choices does not simply distinguish the wise from the unwise but also distinguishes between those that grasp the core gospel truths and those that follow another gospel.

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