A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook
Part III of IV
- Part I
- 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
V John Travis’ Response (to Parshall’s article): “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?” 1
John Travis (a pseudonym) notes that “…people are saved by faith in Christ, not by religious affiliation. Muslim followers of Christ (i.e., C5 believers) are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, even though they do not change religions.” This last point is a basic tenet of the Insider Movement as a whole—Muslim followers of Jesus don’t need to change religions, i.e., become “Christians,” or enter the Kingdom of God through “Christianity. 2
Defending the results of the “Islampur” questionnaire, Travis states that “over half understand the Trinity well enough to affirm God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (p. 668). That understanding of the Trinity, says Travis, is “astounding” as compared to his impressions of what typical American evangelicals believe. However, Travis’ comment raises major issues, of which I’ll mention two. First, we don’t have any details about the questionnaire or how it was administered in order for us to make any judgment as to these C5 believers’ understanding the Triune nature of God, much less make any general comparison to what American evangelicals believe. 3 Dixon, an intercultural education specialist by training (on top of his extensive experience as a missionary in S.E. Asia) observes that there is no way to verify such findings because everything is anonymous. Indeed, as he observes, many of the IM proponents use pseudonyms and write about unidentified groups in undisclosed locations. Noting that the standard reason given for the withholding of names, places, etc., is “security,” Dixon concludes, “We are at the mercy of the interpretation of a few who do not allow other missiologists to peruse the full text.” 4
Secondly, if only a simple majority of those questioned say they believe in God as Triune—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (which logically includes belief in Jesus’ Deity)—doesn’t that say something about the kind of teaching these leaders are getting? 5 For Orthodox Muslims, belief in the Deity of Jesus Christ constitutes the unforgivable sin of shirk, attributing a partner to God, because it violates the fundamental Islamic doctrine of Tawhid—the absolute unitary oneness of God. 6 However, this concept of oneness is in contrast to the Biblical concept of the oneness of essence within the Godhead, e.g., Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”
In keeping with Parshall’s suggestion in New Paths (as noted above), Travis, like many other Insider Movement proponents, equates a “follower of Isa” with a Messianic Jew (hence, “Messianic Muslim”). At the same time, Travis attributes a status to Islam similar to that of Judaism with respect to faith in Jesus Christ. He refers to the first believers in Christ going to the Temple (Acts 2:46) as rationale for C5 believers attending the local mosque. However, in the context of the first chapters of Acts, the new believers, being so numerous (Acts 2:41), were most likely meeting in Solomon’s Colonnade (Porch), specifically mentioned in Acts 3:11 and 5:12 (where Jesus also spoke with the Jewish leaders, John 5:23). So, it’s a stretch of the imagination to say that these first believers went to the Temple in order to worship in the same way as they had prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection; most assuredly, they didn’t offer sacrifices because Jesus had already offered Himself as the ultimate sin offering (see Acts 2:38; Heb. 7:27, 10:12, etc.). They went from house to house and “broke bread” together, which refers either to sharing the Lord’s Supper (remembering His death) or having a common meal together, or both.
In the survey taken, Travis defends the C5 believers’“high regard” for the Qur’an but says nothing about the fact that half of the leaders place it above the Bible in terms of authority! He says “an apologetic response concerning the Qur’an must be developed whereby the truth in it can be affirmed (especially for purposes of a bridge for witness) yet it is not put on equal (or superior!) status to the Injil” (p. 669). One would think that this issue deserves full and immediate attention in light of the very real possibility of syncretism occurring in this “Messianic Muslim” movement!
In the section “Reinterpreting Muhammad and the Quran,” Travis strongly believes in the efficacy of reinterpreting Islam so that
(a) the Qur’an serves as a bridge to the Gospel, and
(b) followers of Isa can still remain in Islam (p. 671).
He starts off saying, “Can individuals be a part of the community of Islam and not affirm standard Muslim theology? Yes, so long as they remain silent about their unorthodox beliefs” (p. 671). But from Parshall’s understanding of the “Islamapur” C5 believers, the “nearly half” who go to the mosque affirm Muhammad’s prophethood (p. 666). In what ways, then, does Travis intend that they be “silent” with respect to their “unorthodox beliefs” (such as believing that “Jesus is the only Savior”)? It seems clear that by Travis’ own admission—if I understand him rightly—these “Messianic Muslims” hold beliefs that, from the respective source religion (or belief system, as revealed in either the Bible or the Qur’an), are contradictory; e.g., if one believes “Jesus is the only Savior” in its Biblical sense, then the belief in Mohammad as the “Seal of the Prophets” (as the Shahada essentially declares) cannot also be held. 7
Furthermore, Travis sees that the solution to the problem of C5 believers remaining in their religion is this: “Certain aspects of the role of Muhammad and the Qur’an must be reinterpreted” (p. 671). It bears repeating: intentional reinterpretation of a religious belief to fit into another religious framework is not intellectually honest. 8 We evangelical Christians certainly take offense at a liberal theologian’s reinterpretation Christ’s bodily resurrection, reducing it to a symbolic “event.” As well, we reject a Muslim’s claim that the name “Son of God” implies that God had sex with Mary—a prime example of reinterpretation to fit the doctrine of Tawhid. Similarly, an orthodox Muslim has every right to object to attempts to reinterpret texts of the Qur’an; e.g., Surah 3:55 has been reinterpreted as God raising Jesus up from the dead (hence, death/crucifixion first), whereas the orthodox interpretation is that God took Jesus straight to heaven, thus escaping crucifixion, in accordance with the standard interpretation of 4:157: “…They said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them….” 9 The problem with the reinterpretation of certain passages in the Qur’an is that this procedure violates the hermeneutical principles that we conservative Christians argue for: maintaining the integrity of the original text, pursuing the author’s intended meaning in its historical and linguistic context. 10
VI. Ralph Winter’s Response to Parshall’s “Going Far Enough?” 11
In endorsing IMs, Winter’s response reveals a lack of historical information concerning Christianity and Islam: “Indeed, for centuries there have been millions of ‘Muslims’ who believe that Jesus is the Son of God….” (p. 671). 12 He makes no reference to any specific movements that would account for the “millions.” If Winter’s estimations were roughly accurate , there wouldn’t seem to be the very recent movement among certain mission agencies advocating the removal of the presumed objectionable familial names of God—“Father,”“Son,”“Son of God”—and the substitution of other expressions in translations in Muslim majority cultures (see the Fact Sheet 13 to the petition on Biblical Missiology’s website: www.biblicalmissiology.org, as well as examples of Muslim Idiom Translations complied by Adam Simnowitz. 14). Winter’s follow-up point shows a superficial view of the religion: “…whether believers in Jesus are called Muslims or Christians does not make a whole lot of difference when it comes to precise doctrinal fidelity to the Word of God.” 15
In addition to Tawhid, the defining doctrine in Islam is that the Qur’an is the final, verbally inspired revelation from God. Muhammad is called “the Seal of the Prophets” (Surah 33:40). While there are verses in the Qur’an that encourage Muslims to follow the Scriptures of the “People of the Book”—what the Torah and Injil had said (e.g. Surah 3:30, 5:46-48, 10:94, etc.), other verses refer to certain Jews and Christians who deliberately changed the message (2:75, 79; 3:78; 5:12-18). In other words, most Muslims say that the three Books that were originally from God (the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel) have been corrupted by certain Jews and Christians, 16 thus leaving only the Qur’an as the only authoritative Word of God. With his optimistic comments about the possibility of “the Torah and Injil simply need[ing] to be rediscovered within Islam the way the Bible has needed again and again to be rediscovered within Christian and Jewish history” (p. 671), one sees a significant accommodation Winter makes for IM missiology.
VII. Rebecca Lewis, “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community”: 17
The Theology of Kingdom Circles
Like Travis, Rebecca Lewis insists that followers of Jesus
(a) need not leave their birth communities to become part of an outside church plant,
(b) nor give up their socio-religious identity. (pp. 673-74).
As a result, “insider movements are ‘implanted’ when the gospel takes root within a pre-existing community,” in contrast to the usual “aggregate church” (comprised of individuals from different socio-religious backgrounds), which results from a church-planting effort that forms “a new structure” apart from the Muslim community (pp. 673-74). Lewis argues her two points based on “Kingdom Circles” theology: regardless of their religious background, people come into the Kingdom of God only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, without having to go through “Christianity” (p. 675). (See Part IV on Lewis’ use of John 4 and Acts 15 to support the IM view that a person coming to Christ would not need to join another religion—Judaism is cited in these cases.)
In other words, as a religion with its set of beliefs and practices, it appears that “Christianity” has no privileged position among the world’s religions with respect to providing the knowledge that would facilitate one’s commitment to Christ. Along that line of reasoning, which characterizes Insider Movements in general, a Hindu (or a Buddhist, and so forth) would not have to give up his/her Hinduism (Buddhism, etc.) to become a follower of Jesus. Nor, as a reductio ad absurdum, would one have to give up his/her “Christianity” to embrace Christ! Obviously, everything hinges on one’s definition of “Christianity.” For example, are we talking about historically conservative “Christianity” or otherwise? Neither Travis nor Lewis discusses this issue at all in these articles. 18
Furthermore, what would the relationship be between one’s knowledge which constitutes “Christianity” as opposed to his/her knowledge of Christ Himself? We know that Biblical Christianity necessitates a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but often we hear believers saying that they don’t have a “religion” but a “relationship” with Christ, often citing Jesus’ continual conflicts with the Jewish leaders of His day. Linguistically, the word “religion” is undergoing a change called degeneration or pejoration, 19 at least among evangelical Christians.
However, if IM proponents distinguish following Jesus from having a “religion,” how would they characterize the cognitive state of the follower? Certainly, the person would have to have some beliefs about Christ to follow Him 20 What would the status of those belief statements be to an outsider (say, a social scientist)? Wouldn’t they constitute the person’s “religion”? The difficulty is that attempting to separate one’s relationship with Christ from his/her faith commitments leads to an indeterminate, if not confused, state of mind (and heart, speaking Scripturally). Paul lamented that his fellow Jews “had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge … being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God” (Rom. 10:2-3). One cannot really separate following Christ from true, Biblical Christianity! 2122
From the N.T., we learn that our knowledge of the fact that God united us with Christ in His death and resurrection allows us to participate in His sanctifying work of renewing our minds and restoring us into the Image of His Son (Rom. 6:1-11, 8:28-29; Col. 3:9-10). All of this, and more, is entailed in the Scriptural description of having a relationship with Christ, i.e., knowing Christ (Phil 3:10). The bottom line is that faith is not empty of cognitive content, which is otherwise known as “religious beliefs.” 23
Another way to look at Kingdom Circles theology is to examine its epistemological claims. So far as I know, Kingdom Circles proponents do not distinguish among the kinds of knowledge:
(a) knowing that (“belief,” or propositional knowledge) is associated with the tenets of religion, along with
(b) knowing how, which is associated with its practices; both of these are contrasted with
(c) knowledge of acquaintance, i.e., knowing Christ personally.
The problem is that these states of knowledge are not mutually exclusive categories, as even Scripture shows. Consider Jesus’ criticism of the Jewish leaders for failing to come in faith to Him through the O.T. Scriptures (John 5:37-39). I.e., the O.T. prophecies provide the cognitive content by which inquirers could assess whether Jesus was really the Christ that the O.T. prophets spoke of. 24
Personal, transformative knowledge of Christ is based on the historical truth of Scripture, constituting propositional knowledge. Otherwise, a belief in “Jesus” without knowledge of the true referent (perfect God and perfect man)and the historical content (His teaching, His redemptive work on the cross, His resurrection and ascension, etc.), could be cultic and dangerous. 25 Thus, to say that no one needs to “go through” Christianity to get to Christ is simply naïve because one must have some prerequisite knowledge of who Jesus Christ is in Scripture, which the Holy Spirit uses to convict a sinner and lead the person to repentance and faith in Him. 26
Furthermore, Kingdom Circles theology ignores the whole motif of progressive revelation from Genesis to Revelation, with its grand theme of Redemption—promised in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15 immediately after the fall (the “Protoevangelium”) and developed in God’s Covenants, most notably beginning with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). The resurrected Jesus said this to two forlorn disciples: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:24-27). Surely, to see the connection of God’s Covenants in the O.T., especially from Abraham through David, and the New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah (ch. 31) and Ezekiel (ch. 36), is to affirm that Biblical Judaism provides the basis for the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. As we know, the O.T. was the first disciples’ inspired Scriptures, and remains so for us today, even as Augustine famously said, “In the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed; in the New Testament the Old Testament is revealed.” 27
Since Kingdom Circle proponents wish to distance themselves from political, cultural, and other abuses associated with the term “Christianity” (not to mention “Christendom”), they might well remember that the word “cross” itself will remain a stumbling block to those who insist on using the Crusades as an example of what followers of “Christianity” did to their cultures. Evangelists need a considered response to this predictable objection. Nevertheless, the Gospel of a crucified and risen Savior will always be an offense to the natural mind.
VIII: Some Elaborations
Now, what is the nature of the religion of Islam, such that a C5 believer can still embrace it as well as Christ as “Savior” at the same time? Is it the oneness of God? Is it the belief in the prophethood of Jesus Christ (“Isa al Masih”)? Is it a matter of one’s “submission” to God? The Qur’an and the Hadith 28 define very explicitly what that submission entails: the Sunnah (traditions from the Qur’an and the Hadith) of Muhammad are to be imitated by every Muslim.
Concerning Isa al Masih, the Qur’an has very specific statements that we should make note of:
- He was born of a virgin (Maryam; Mary). (Surah 3:47; 19:16-22)
- He was a prophet/messenger of God, without sin. (Surah 4:171; 19:19)
- He performed miracles. (Surah 5:110)
- He was called a “Word” and a “Spirit” from God. (Surah 4:171)
However, according to the Qur’an,
- Isa denied that he was Deity—“The Son of God” (God has no partners; to say otherwise is the gravest sin of shirk). (Surah 5:72; 112:3)
- God is not “Three” 29 (Surah 4:171; 5:75; 5:116)
- He did not die on the cross, but someone who looked like him did. (Surah 4:157)
- There is no need for atonement because God will forgive the repentant. (Surah 11:52).
- Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God’s command cost them their place in the Garden in Paradise “for a time” (Surah 2:35-39; 7:20-25), but there is no inherited sinful nature in their descendants. 30
- The Bible, consisting of the three Books, the Taurat (Torah, Law of Moses), the Zabur (the Psalms), and the Injil (“Evangel” or “Gospel” 31) have been corrupted by the Jews and Christians and are thus not authoritative; only the Qur’an is the fully authoritative Word of God (see above). (Surah 2:75, 79; 3:71,78; 5:13) Note: I know that there are other verses that refer to the truthfulness of the Book of “the People of the Book” (e.g., 2:136, 10:94, 29:146).
Thus, we see that the major doctrines of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) are denied in Islam. Culture and religion are intricately connected, so there is no way to separate culture from Islam any more than form and meaning can be neatly separated in language (see Part I).
To be sure, there are long-standing differences of opinion among Christians ministering to Muslims concerning the use of the Qur’an in evangelism. As we’ve already seen in the “Islampur” survey, almost all those “key people” among the Jesus followers consider the Qur’an not only inspired by God but even greater (more authoritative?) than the Bible (p. 666). IM proponents justify the use of the Qur’an on the basis of certain proof texts in both the O.T. and N.T. In each case that I’ve investigated, however, I’ve found that explanations offered by conservative Bible scholars and teachers have been more consistent with the principles of Scripture as a whole than what these IM proponents have offered. For the most part, proof texts which IM proponents use come from narrative passages in Scripture, not didactic ones. 32 Sometimes, they cite Bible passages which quote non-Biblical literature as support for C5 believers using the Qur’an (either in a transitional state in their newfound belief, or as a permanent fixture in their faith in the Bible and in the Qur’an).
For example, Paul’s reference to a 3rd Century B.C. Greek poet in Acts 17 that “we are his [God’s] offspring” accords with both the innate sense of creatureliness as well as the creation account of Genesis 1. Notice, though, that Paul adds a qualifier (“…as even some of your own poets have said”). In Titus 1:12, Paul’s qualifier references “[o]ne of the Cretans, a prophet of their own” to underscore the long-standing moral decadence of the society (even by Cretans’ own admission), as a backdrop to his challenge to Titus to appoint elders who are “above reproach,” etc., in every church on Crete.
But, getting back to Athens, note that, at the outset, Paul quickly moves to give semantic content (both identification of reference and semantic sense) to “the unknown god,” 33 as inscribed on an altar (Acts 17:23 f.): “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world….” Paul wanted the Athenians to know that his description was about the Creator of the universe. Hence, without inferring that these poets were Divinely inspired, Paul quoted them to show that these selected statements were in line with the truth of Scripture as he proclaimed the Gospel to the Athenians (Acts 17), as well as gave pastoral counsel to Titus on Crete (Titus 1). Thus, in general, the truthfulness of any statement (whatever the source) is contingent on its correspondence with the facts, 34 and so it may be true just in case it corresponds to some state of affairs in the world, or to some other aspect of God’s general revelation (Rom. 1:19-20).
Now that we have seen some of the shortcomings of Kingdom Circles, which Rebecca Lewis subscribes to, in the next section (Part IV), we’ll investigate Lewis’ ideas on C5 believers retaining their Muslim identity and remaining within their religious communities.
- John J. Travis, “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?” in Perspectives, pp. 668-672. (Reprinted from Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Vol. 34, No.4 (Oct. 1998). ↩
- Travis, “Must all Muslims,” page. 668. See the following section on “Kingdom Circles.” ↩
- See further discussion along these lines in Roger Dixon “Moving on from the C1-C6 Spectrum” in Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. Rev. ed. Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton, Bill Nikides, eds. (Garden Grove, CA: i2 Ministries Publishing, 2012), pages.88-99. ↩
- Dixon, “Moving on from the C1-C6 Spectrum,” page. 93. N.B. Dixon maintains an active consulting ministry among the Sundanese believers in West Java, Indonesia, regarding evangelism and church planting (see www.sunda.org, especially on the model of contextualization being used). ↩
- To say that the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible is to state the obvious, but what is the implication of such a statement? That the concept is unbiblical? Or that it has historical roots in 4th Century attacks on heresies like that of Arius, who taught that Jesus had a finite beginning, and was therefore not fully God? (See Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), Ch. 14. Bruce A. Ware. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), Ch. 2; and D.A. Carson. Jesus the Son of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), Ch. 3. Some of the C5 proponents like Rick Brown and Joshua Massey would have us believe that “the Son of God” was a Messianic title in Scripture, whereas “the Son of God” being an affirmation of His Deity was the result of 4th Century Greco-Roman thinking (see Rick Brown. “The ‘Son of God’: Understanding the Messianic Titles of Jesus.” International Journal of Frontier Missions, Vol. 17:1 (Spring 2000), pages. 41-52; and Joshua Massey.
“Misunderstanding C5 and the Infinite Translatability of Christ.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly (July 2004) (Unabridged Online Edition). This is obviously a topic that requires a separate article. ↩
- The redundancy is intentional; the monotheism of Islam is that God (Allah) is alone, has no “partners” (which in popular thinking construes an absolutely warped view of a “trinity” consisting of God, Mary, and Jesus; see Surah 4:171; 19:35; 10:68; 72:3. (The term “Tawhid” is not found in the Qur’an, though the concept most certainly is.) ↩
- Please, no objections, to wit: “That’s Greek thinking” or “That’s a product of the Enlightenment”! God made our minds to work in such a way that the law of non-contradiction expresses the principle, so that we might distinguish truth from falsehood (even as Adam and Eve were first tempted in the Garden; Gen. 3:1-5); it was formulated in various ways in both East and West from antiquity. (Should we be surprised? That’s how God created the world to work.) Remember both Moses’ and Joshua’s parting words to the Israelites: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life….” (Deut. 30-19-20); and “Choose this day whom you will serve….” (Joshua 24:14-15). There ARE opposites with God, with dire consequences if we make the wrong choices. There’s also forgiveness through the blood of Christ—yes, it took God’s supreme sacrifice to cleanse us and indwell us—and that’s the heart of the Gospel. ↩
- I’m not trying to sound “holier than thou”: any Christian may lapse into that kind of thinking, but its ease in doing so is not an excuse for doing so. ↩
- The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an, trans. by Abdullah Yusif Ali. (Istanbul, Turkey: Asir Media, 2003). ↩
- In the face of “the new hermeneutics” of reader-response theory, for example. I understand, however, that determining the historical context is not the same kind of issue in Qur’anic hermeneutics as it is in Biblical interpretation. ↩
- Ralph D. Winter. “Going Far Enough?” in Perspectives, pages. 670-71. ↩
- See also Winter’s article, “The Kingdom Strikes Back” (pp. 209-27) in Perspectives, regarding supposed changes in Islamic interpretation of Jesus’ death after the Crusades (p. 222). Space limitations don’t permit a study of this claim. ↩
- https://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/LostInTranslation-FactCheck.pdf ↩
- https://biblicalmissiology.org/2013/03/04/translation-chart-for-muslim-idiom-translations-of-the-bible/ ↩
- What’s also puzzling is this statement: “Early Christian theologians have struggled to define at different times Arian, Athanasian, Monophisite, Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim theologies, etc., as heretical, without singling out any one of them as “non-Christian” (p. 670). What an assortment of theologies Winter identifies! And he includes Athanasius, whom, more than anyone else at the Council of Nicea (325 AD), God used to craft the orthodox Trinitarian Creed of the Church, in the face of the growing Arian heresy. In fact, for Athanasius, the formulation of the Nicene Creed was just the beginning of a life-long battle against Arianism, as he was repeatedly forced into exile, depending on which emperor was in power. (See Philip Schaff.. History of the Christian Church (8 volumes). 5th rev. ed. Vol. 3, pages.622-37. (Reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 2006). ↩
- No one can pinpoint a time period when this corruption allegedly took place. See William Goldsack’s well-reasoned defense against the claim that the Jews and Christians corrupted the text of their Scriptures in The Bible in Islam:
- Rebecca Lewis, “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community” in Perspectives, pages. 673-75. See also David Garner’s most insightful critique of Lewis’ culture-centered hermeneutics that is typical of IM proponents, “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel” (The Gospel Coalition, Themelios (on-line journal); Vol. 37 No.2 (July 2012):
- I’m deducing that “Biblical Christianity” would either be considered an oxymoron or be discounted as irrelevant to the issue of entrance into the Kingdom of God. ↩
- See Morton Bloomfield and Leonard Newmark. A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English. (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), pages.359-60. ↩
- I’m referring to Biblical “believing” (from Greek verb pisteuō, one definition being “to be convinced of,” which helps us understand James’ argument in Jas. 2; see W. F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, transl. & eds., W. Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1952. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1957), pages. 665-67 (def. no. 1). (This is an earlier version of the most recent edition: Revised and edited by F.Danker (Third ed., 2001; usually abbreviated BDAG). ↩
- See also Bill Nikides’ exposition of the Church as the result of God’s Covenant in Christ Jesus in
- On a personal note, I work at a large secular university and occasionally hear from fellow Christian faculty members about some student giving up his/her faith (including due to intimidation) for lack of spiritual grounding in Christ and His written Word. I won’t get into the issue of whether these students were or weren’t believers; the situation is very sad, no matter one’s position on eternal security. Note Peter’s double-pronged admonition: “… In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….” (I Peter 3:15). ↩
- James’ Epistle (1:26-27) distinguishes between “religion that is pure and undefiled before God” from “worthless” religion in terms of
(a) how one controls his/her tongue,
(b) how one treats orphans and widows—i.e., demonstrating love toward the powerless and abused, and
(c) how one remains uncorrupted by the surrounding world—all evidence of true faith in the “implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (1:21).
Alternatively, Paul expresses it in a negative fashion, after enumerating what “lovers of self” manifests as in the last days: “…having the appearance [form] of godliness but denying its power” (II Tim. 3:5). Surely, a Christianity that is devoid of the Presence and power of Jesus Christ working in the lives of those who profess Him is a stagnant and hypocritical Christianity, under the judgment of the Lord of the Church (Revelation, Chs. 2-3). ↩
- The Berean Jews were commended for “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed….” (Acts 17:11-12). ↩
- This obviously doesn’t mean that one must know everything about Jesus to be saved; see Rom. 10:9-10. ↩
- I understand at least one of the problems that proponents of Kingdom Circles are concerned about, namely, that a lot of the cultural baggage of those who claim to be Christians gets in the way of those from other cultures seeking to know Christ (and this is on top of the oft-heard caricatures of Christians as drunkards, immodest, pork-eaters, Crusader warriors, etc.). But to develop this kind of unscriptural teaching is certainly not the answer to the problem. Rather, evangelists should admit that
(a) not all that has been done in the name of “Christianity” represents what Christ would do in His people;
(b) we believers all unconsciously reflect our native cultures in varying degrees, but not, by God’s grace, the antichrist world system (I John 2:15-17); and
(c) that although we sin against our Lord, we desire to be Christ-like, asking His forgiveness and following His Word in dependence on His indwelling Spirit. ↩
- Augustine. Questionum in Heptateuchum Liber 2: 73 (20, 19); www.augustinus.it/latino/questioni_ettateuco/index2.htm.
- The Hadith are collections of the sayings and customs of Muhammad gathered during the early centuries following his death. ↩
- Adam Simnowitz (personal communication) states that the literal translation of the relevant portion of Surah 4:171 should be: “God is not the third of three”; some English translations use the word “trinity”; hence, the claim that Christians are guilty of tritheism (popularly understood as Father, Mother, Son; see Surah 5:116). ↩
- See Salaam Corniche, “Fitrah and Fig Leaves: Islamic and Christian Teachings on Sin” (St. Francis Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct. 2013): www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/images/stories/islamic-and-christian-teachings-on-sin.pdf ↩
- In the Qur’an, “Injil” is equated with the New Testament as a Book given to Jesus (Surah 5:46; 57:27). ↩
- See Bill Nikides’ excellent discussion of the most commonly cited narrative passages in the O.T. and N.T. which IM proponents typically use to support their claims. Bill Nikides, “Lost in Translation: Insider Movements and Biblical Interpretation” in J. Lingel, J. Morton, and B. Nikides, eds. Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. Rev. ed.) Garden Grove, CA: i2 Ministries Publishing, 2012), pages.44-61. ↩
- In Greek, the phrase is without the definite article, so the phrase can also be rendered “an unknown god.” ↩
- Details aside (regarding theories of truth), on this view, linguistic symbols such as “words” must have both sense (semantic information) and reference (denotation) to the external world, not just to other symbols. ↩