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

John Span

Dr. John Span is a senior lecturer at Mukhanyo Theological College in South Africa. His PhD studies investigated the CAMEL Method of outreach to Muslims. 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. He is a founding member of Biblical Missiology as well as the Southgate Fellowship and blogs regularly at the CRCNA Network.


  1. roger dixon

    John’s simple exposition, while not covering everything, delineated clearly the critical issues. I think I know what Carl is trying to say about biases but the fact is the Scripture cuts across biases. I regret that John did not hammer the point- for the IM people- that in v. 18 Paul was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. He said it but apparently needed to say it several times. Where is the bias?

    Some wanted to know more about Jesus and the Resurrection, not about cultural accommodation. And in v. 32-34 we see that some mocked while others believed. Obviously, we don’t have all of Paul’s teaching/preaching in Athens but the verses we have are clear. It is not about adjusting to another religion.

    Another note to Carl who says that doctrine was something that “Jesus himself spent little time on.” To the contrary, his teaching is the doctrine. The Greek word for doctrine is rare in the NT. The word for teaching is often translated as doctrine. See Young’s or other concordances for teaching. Most references to teaching in the NT are about the doctrine. Let’s keep going to the Word. It will become clear where we are on point or off.

  2. John Span

    Carl. I responded to your post of June 2, 2010. There it was stated: “Each of us desire……… No one would say…………We all want to be accurate…….”. From those statements, all which seemed to encapsulate “good intentions” I responded. [I did notice in your present response that you used the words “we all want” …”we want good doctrine…” “none of us are.”] I wonder if theological categories observed in the course of church history, like skewed emphases or error have any room here?

    Oh yes, your statement about God or human-centered views did remind me of a very helpful summary piece called “Two Views of Evangelism” by Wil Metzger. Have you read it? The link is: http://www.the-highway.com/2views_Metzger.html This piece challenges one to verify if their presuppositions are Biblical. I do agree with you that each person comes to the table with presuppositions. Whether a person is open to having them scrutinized by the Spirit of truth working through the Word is another question. Rule of thumb: Scripture rarely tells us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.

    Curious as to the “good questions” that you say the quotes raised. Personally I see them as examples of dangerous theological error, and two in particular deny the Biblical texts furnished in the article. They presuppose, as Islam itself does, that there is a native goodness to Islam. Sorry. No nice guy talk here. They are in error and I make no excuse for “contending for the faith.” I would rather contend for the faith to see the unity of truth, than the sham harmony of error.

    I trust that you read the piece in the Founder’s Journal? From there, I am sure that you observed that the effects of Finney’s wrong thinking still cripple evangelicalism—nice attitudes notwithstanding. Finney detested the “cannot” doctrines of the historical church with respect to human ability. He made Scripture tell him what he wanted it to say. (Nettleton who was mentioned in the article was charged with being doctrinaire and old fashioned, and a whole lot less than soothing, but in some localities as high as 90% of those who found the Lord in his ministry stayed faithful even 20 years later. Compare this with the “new and improved methods” of Finney under whose ministry some observers estimate an attrition rate of 90% after 6 months.) Doctrine matters—eternally.
    As before: Paul to Timothy “Watch your life and doctrine closely”(1 Tim 4:16)

  3. Carl Medearis

    John, not sure which things you’re responding to that I said. But your comments do raise some good questions. It would be fun to do some biblical research on what matters more – right “thinking” or right “doing.” Or maybe we could juxtapose “right doctrine” against “right attitudes.”

    Of course, we all want to be thinking “rightly.” And we want good doctrine. None of us are thinking that we’re preaching heresy. But I wonder if attitudes and actions are more important then having your doctrines all in a row – something that Jesus himself spent little time on.

  4. John Span

    Response to Carl: Part 2
    The consequences of wrong thinking about human ability can be found in the following quotes:
    A. “Islam is partly mistaken, but mostly full of half-completed truth and suppressed truth; it began to build the right kind of house, but it veered off course and never completed it; in many respects Mohammad was indeed a warner, but he lost his way and never understood the truth about Christ.” (Private correspondence)
    B. ‘God has already placed a deep level of respect and honor for Jesus in the hearts of many Muslims.” (Rick Love, Mission Frontiers editorial April 2010–and see a response in the June St. Francis Magazine).
    C. “Nabeel Jabbour, a Navigator leader, believes that Islam as a religion started down the right track but jumped off the rails” (see Position Paper on IM on this website)

    Each of these quotes portrays a view not unlike that of Finney. God forbid that in a few years each of their authors would have to say the same “Ooops” as Finney did.
    History shows that good intentions are not enough. Was it not Paul who said to Timothy “Watch your life and doctrine closely”(1 Tim 4:16).

  5. John Span

    Response to Carl: Part 1
    To Carl As much as good intentions are honorable, right thinking is more glorifying to God. Charles Finney had good intentions, but his underlying semi-Pelagian theology (which exalts the abilities of spiritually dead corpses in a graveyard to decide for themselves to get up) resulted in a methodology that included the anxious bench to use peer pressure and the tactics of a lawyer persuading the jury for people to “make decisions.” Finney later complained that a huge number of his so called converts had fallen away. Might I refer you to an interesting study which ties the linkage between right teaching and methods, just as Mark observed?. It is called “How Does Doctrine Affect Evangelism?…” http://www.founders.org/FJ33/article1.html

  6. Douglas Pirkey

    Having been “preaching Jesus and the resurrection,” it was because he was inharmonious that they “took” Paul to the Areopagus to speak further. There, he explicitly called for repentance. IM runs contrary to Scripture, especially pertaining to the potentially inflamatory that effects repentance.

  7. francis

    “Love Not The World”

    “For the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one”…….(I John 5:19)

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.”(IJohn2:15-17)

    “If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John15:19-20)

    “Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

    “The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

    The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

    John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) ” James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James4:4)

    The “earth and it’s life forms” are The Creation of The ONE and Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”, he who is “the father of lies”, he who “has blinded the minds of those who believe not The Messiah”! All the nations of this world are under the dominion of, and serve, the “god of this world” for he provides the fuel that feeds mankind’s “imag”ination. And sadly, mankind’s “imag”ination is destroying Creation(air, water, land vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Faith, Love, Peace,, All that is Truly Good) ;-(

    Once again, the “earth and it’s life forms” are The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The current “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”.

    Those who “love this world” all serve “the god of this world”, and have their portion in the processes that are progressively destroying The Creation of The Only True GOD. “And The Only True GOD will destroy them who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18c)

    Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease(no-peace),,etc,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” all of which fuel the fires of mankind’s “imag”ination ;-(

    Thankfully The Truth Is Alive in those who have been born of The Spirit for “they no longer love this wicked, evil world and it’s things, nor do they love their own lives in this world”. They but seek and desire The Will of GOD, their Father and Creator, as they await their final transformation. “Corruptible to Incorruptible” indeed and Truth! Home, Home at last!

    Now “the ground was cursed(notice that the ground was cursed, not Adam) for Adam’s sake” because he “hearkened unto the woman”.

    Adam listened to a woman rather than obeying The Only True GOD. Yet because of Faithful Noah, The Only True GOD “no longer would curse the ground for man’s sake” because Noah obeyed The Only True GOD rather than a woman! (Genesis8:21-22) And the Faithful today are exhorted to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”

    Be not of those who deny and defy “The One GOD, Father of All”. Be not of those who are destroying Creation(water, air, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Mercy, Faith, Wisdom, Grace, Faith, Miralces,.etc.) ;-(

    “Set your affections on things above”. Desire Heavenly, eternal things. Be not joined together with those serving ‘time’ in the prison that is this world! Take heed unto The Call of “The Only True GOD” to “Come Out of her, MY people!”

    “Come out” from among those who are destroying Creation and perverting that which is Spirit. Be of those who follow The Messiah on The Way to The Truth of The Life.

    “Come out” of the worldly systems, which are but the product of mankind’s “imag”ination, and especially this world’s systems of theo’ry’logical religion.

    “Pure religion and undefiled before GOD The Father is this, to visit the fatherless(those who know not their Father[Creator]) and widows(those who have not been joined together as One with The Messiah and Our Father) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world.” (James1:27)

    Simply, all other religion is impure, defiled and of this wicked, evil world.

    “Pure religion and undefiled” is declared to be personal(oneself), not corporate.

    Faith will not create a system of religion!

    Faith is Family, not “religion”, and The Brethren of The Messiah yet seek and desire that which The Messiah sought and desired above all else:

    “Father, not my will, But THY Will Be Done”

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth……

    Truth IS, a lie is not…….

    Abide in The Truth……. francis

  8. Carl Medearis

    I’ve come back to revisit this site and the posts here several times since my interview. I appreciate the heart and spirit of much of what is written here. Each of us desire to be biblical in our missiology. No one would say they would desire to be human-centered rather than God-centered.

    We all read the scriptures through massive amounts of our own experiences and theological presuppositions. We all want to be accurate, but we bring our biases to the reading table. Acknowledging that…

  9. Mark S.

    Thank you so much! I go to a church that believes in Reformed Theology (Total Depravity, etc…), and it is refreshing that someone finally realizes that this theology impacts Missiology. When mission methodologies become about the people, then we have made a graven sin. All mission methodologies need to be about God, the center and beginning and end of all things, including mission strategy. When God is in the right position, and people are in theirs, we can then engage them with the gospel…

  10. Elijah The Saudi

    It is nice to finally read something as clear as this. For a while i have been reading IM views on Acts 17 with all kinds of methods to harmonize what Paul stated very clearly.

    No matter what the IM followers would want us to believe, Paul in Acts 17 made the “unknown God” known very clearly to his audience without dancing around their sinful nature or watering down the truth.

    Unfortunately, many IM sympathizers make the “unkown truth” of Islam even more unknown by vailing it rather…

  11. Georges Houssney

    You did not pick on a word here and there to construct your theology. This is an example of good biblical missiology. The lessons and principles are drawn from the story and not imposed into the story. Thank you for this good and well thought through work. It is very helpful.

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