Note: Originally published in 2011 on Biblical Missiology, this article offers an excellent overview of the Insider Movement and a biblical response.
An astounding phenomenon, though not exclusive to ministry to Muslims, is overtaking much missionary work among Muslims. A growing number of professing Christians involved in witness to Muslims are a part of what is called, “Insider Movements,” or the “Insider Movement.” This controversial approach to ministry has resulted in many of its proponents to affirm that Muhammad was a prophet from God, the Quran is at least partially-inspired Scripture, and it is possible for Muslims to retain their Muslim identity as “Muslim followers of Christ.” Such beliefs have resulted in radical practices such as professing Christians and former Muslims legally converting to Islam and the production of “Muslim-idiom translations” of the Bible that do not literally translate such words and phrases as “Son of God,” “Son of Man,” and “Son,” in reference to Jesus and “Father” in reference to God.
Another equally amazing aspect of this phenomenon is the relative ignorance of the Insider Movement among churches and individual Christians in the West, including those who pray for and financially support its proponents. This is especially striking when it may not be an exaggeration to say that every evangelical organization in witness to Muslims is affected in some way by the Insider Movement.
What is the Insider Movement?
According to definitions given by several proponents:
An insider movement is any movement to faith in Christ where the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks, and where believing families, as valid expressions of faith in Christ, remain inside their socio-religious communities, retaining their identity as members of that community while living under the lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible. 1
You follow Jesus as a Hindu, as a Muslim, as a Buddhist, or as whatever other variety of socio-religious community you might be from. 2
The Insider Movement for Muslims is any approach in which Muslims are told that they can retain their Muslim identity and have saving faith in Jesus Christ. The premise is that this will allow such believers to remain “inside” their family and community and be witnesses to them. If such believers identify themselves as “Christians” it would most likely force them “outside” of their families and communities and cut off their ability to witness to them. Fouad Accad, a late director of the Bible Society of Lebanon, while not using the phrase “Insider Movement” in his book, Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam, nevertheless strongly advocates for this approach:
If a Muslim could trust Christ without alienating his family and friends, he could become a means within his own community to testify to them…Today there are Muslims trusting Christ in Muslim lands who do not consider that they have become “Christians” (the word has a political connotation to Muslims), but instead see themselves as having become truly Muslim (the word Muslim means “surrendered to God”). 3
“Muslim-idiom Translations” of the Bible
Another important aspect of the Insider Movement is the rise of “Muslim-idiom translations” of the Bible. It may be argued that the initial idea for some of these “translations” was unrelated to the Insider Movement, but the two have since come to be closely allied.
These “translations” have appeared in audio, printed, and video versions of the Bible. The list of languages in which at least any portion of Scripture has incorporated such “muslim-idioms” and/or its guiding principles is growing. The author is aware of such “translations”, whether in part or in whole, in various dialects of Arabic, as well as in the Baluchi, Bengali, Dari, Indonesian, and Malay languages. Three very controversial aspects of such “idioms” have to do with:
1. Replacing filial language (i.e. “Father”, “Son of God”, and “Son”)
2. A non-literal translation of “Son of Man” in reference to Jesus Christ
3. the use of Islamic honorifics (using Islamic titles for Jesus and other Biblical people that Muslims regard as “prophets”. This includes using “Master/Mister” prior to the name of Jesus, “the Prophet” prior to proper names like Moses, David, Solomon, etc. and using the phrase, “peace be upon him,” after the names of “prophets”)
In order for an approach or movement to be considered biblical it must be able to withstand the scrutiny of the Old and New Testaments. While the following is not a comprehensive list, looking at four of the foundational premises of the Insider Movement in light of Scripture will help us to arrive at a proper assessment:
1. Insider Movement Premise: being an “insider” will result in witness to family and others in one’s community
Challenge: Witnessing is the result of obedience to God’s Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Consider some biblical reasons for witnessing:
- excitement about what Jesus has done for us (Mt. 9:30-31; Mk. 1:43-45; Mark 7:36-37; Lk. 5:14-15)
- the fear and love of God (2 Cor. 5:11-15)
- Jesus’ call to proclaim the Gospel (Mk. 3:13-14; Rom. 1:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:16)
- Jesus’ command to witness to everyone (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:45-48; Jn. 20:21)
- The Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 24:49-49; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4ff.)
Another consideration concerning witness is how Jesus, the Apostles, and first Christians (i.e. Jews) regarded their identity. Believers were taught and practiced baptism, which was a public identification of following Jesus (Jn. 4:1-2; Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38-41). They also met together for instruction (Acts 2:42-47). There was no known effort to highlight their being Jews in order to witness to unsaved family and friends. This is all the more remarkable when we remember that First-Century Jews faced similar pressures and persecution as do Muslims for following Jesus Christ.
2. Insider Movement Premise: being an “insider” will result in acceptance of such a witness
Challenge: Jesus’ teaching and experience while on earth was exactly the opposite of this premise: “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor” (Mt. 13:57). The people of His community wanted to kill him after He preached to them (Lk. 4:28-30), His family considered him mentally deranged (Mk. 3:21, 31-32), and his brothers did not believe in Him (Jn. 7:2-5). Consider the following passages from the Bible that stand in contrast to the above premise:
- Jesus promised that some will accept our witness while others will not (Jn. 15:20)
- Jesus promised to divide households (Mt. 10:34-39)
- in marriages where one spouse is a believer and the other is not, there is no guarantee that the witness of the believing spouse will result in the salvation of the unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:16)
- Jesus told the Apostle Paul that the Jews (his community) would not receive his testimony and commanded him to go to the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-21)
It is impossible for any human to save the soul of another human. Redemption of the soul is the work of God (Ps. 49:6-9; Mt. 19:25-26) and the convincing work that leads a person to be saved is also the work of God, the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:6-11). This is not to minimize the role of witnessing but it does counter the false presupposition that remaining “inside” one’s family and community guarantees acceptance of the “insider’s” witness.
3. Insider Movement Premise: “Muslim” has no religious significance – it only refers to culture
Challenge: By assigning a new meaning to “Muslim” that Muslims themselves do not accept is at best disingenuous and at worst deceptive. The retention of “Muslim” as an identity is based on creating a double entendre in which it means one thing for “Muslim followers of Christ” but another for “regular” Muslims who properly understand the term to mean an adherent of Islam which includes the belief and confession that Muhammad is the final prophet of God and that the Quran is God’s Word. The Bible is very clear regarding the importance of truth and honesty:
- God does not lie and cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18)
- Jesus, God incarnate, is the Truth (Jn. 14:6)
- Satan is the father of lies, not God (Jn. 8:44)
- Believers are to “put off” lying and tell the truth (Eph. 4:25)
- 2 Cor. 4:2 – Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
4. Insider Movement Premise: Filial language (i.e. “Father” and “Son”) and the phrases “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are not divinely inspired terms that must be literally translated
Challenge: If the Bible is divinely inspired (2 Tim. 3:15-16) so that even the use of a word in its singular form (e.g. “seed” in Gal. 3:16) points to Jesus, how much more three of the most important designations of our Lord: “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Son of Man”? Jesus’ use of different names and titles for Himself is consistent with God’s self-disclosure through different names in the Old Testament. If these three designations can be substituted with other words and phrases ultimately these terms are superfluous to understanding the Person of Jesus. Consider the significance of the following:
The word Son:
- At Jesus’ birth (Lk. 1:32)
- At Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3:17)
- The Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:5)
- A clear claim to divinity (Jn. 5:16-26; 10:24-39)
- In the Trinitarian baptismal formula (Mt. 28:19)
- In Old Testament prophecies of Jesus (Ps. 2:12; Is. 9:6)
The term Son of God:
- At Jesus’ birth (Lk. 1:35)
- Even Satan and demons recognized this fact about Jesus (Mt. 4:3ff; 8:29)
- This was Peter’s great confession of faith (Mt. 16:16)
- The primary conclusion that people must come to about
- Jesus in order to be considered believers (Jn. 20:31)
- Old Testament revelation concerning the Creator’s nature (Pr. 30:4)
The Term Son of Man:
- Jesus’ most-used title for Himself
- Old Testament phrase referring to humanity (Num. 23:19; Ps. 8:4; Ez. 2:1, et. al.)
- Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah (Dan. 7:13; Mt. 26:64)
- Provides a linguistic “parallel” by which to help understand “Son of God”
The Word Father:
- The only way Jesus addressed God in prayer with the
- Exception of His quoting Ps. 22:1 while on the cross
- The way believers should address God in prayer (Mt. 6:9)
- The way God desires to relate to people (Mt. 5:45;
- Prodigal Son: Lk. 15:11-32)
- The word points to the believer’s intimacy with God (Rom. 8:15; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 4:6)
- The word points to the unity and intimacy between God the Father and Jesus the Son (Mt. 11:27; Jn. 1:18; 10:30; 17:21)
- Is in the Trinitarian baptismal formula (Mt. 28:19)
The goal of any Bible translation must be faithfulness to the original texts. To “translate” according to an audience’s sensibilities, real or perceived, changes the focus from conveying the Author’s intent to what pleases people — a very slippery slope indeed!
Many individuals within reputed evangelical missions organizations, publications, and programs involving denominations and para-church ministries have been promoting “Insider Movements” as both a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit among Muslims as well as a biblical method of culturally-sensitive or contextualized way of effectively ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims. In light of the Bible’s teaching, some of the foundational premises of the Insider Movement are seen to be in error. Ultimately, the Bible does not allow for retaining any identity that conflicts with one’s commitment to Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear that commitment to Himself takes precedence over all other affections and identities (see Mt. 10:32-39; Lk. 14:25-35). The Insider Movement, regardless of intent, is a syncretistic approach that is biblically untenable. A great missionary to Muslims, Samuel Zwemer, wisely observed, and with which we conclude:
A passion for Moslem souls does not mean that we are to compromise or to conciliate at any price. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” 4
- Becky Lewis, “Promoting Movements to Christ Within Natural Communities,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology (24:2 Summer 2007): p. 75. ↩
- H.L. Richard, moderator, “Unpacking the Insider Paradigm: An Open Discussion on Points of Diversity,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology (26:4 Winter 2009): p. 176. ↩
- Fouad Elias Accad, Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 8. ↩
- Samuel Zwemer, “Father, the Hour Has Come, Glorify Thy Son,” How Rich the Harvest, (New York: Revell, 1948), 118. ↩
I have not felt the need to respond to you; however, in light of finding out that you went to Mecca and prayed with Muslims is helpful information for those reading your comments to realize at least something of your true beliefs and practices.
I’m a recent student of these issues, and I found this article very helpful. I would like to mention a couple things. I thought Rebecca brought up a couple interesting points about citizenship and identification, which the author mentioned in his first point.
First of all, I think what really concerns us about IM is that it allows the denial of being a Christian either outright or partially as in – “Muslim follower of Jesus.” I’m sure it couldn’t be argued that Paul ever would have denied being a “Christian” whether by word or deed. It’s true that Paul used his Roman citizenship on a couple of occasions to save himself a brutal beating. However, many different types of people were Romans. As I understand it, when the Romans began persecution, all they required was that someone acknowledge the Emperor as God – something most world religions could easily do. So Roman citizenship wasn’t really a culture or religion. It might be better understood as analogous to Egyptian or American citizenship. It must never replace Christ.
Much is made of early Jewish contextualization. Christianity is fulfilled Judaism. In fact, Paul often redefines the terms Jew and Israel for us in the NT. The term “Messianic Jew” does have true meaning, because “salvation is of the Jews”. The early apostles wrestled much with this question, and the apostle Paul did make some concessions. It’s also appropriate to note that some of Paul’s most scathing remarks are addressed to “Judaizers” who were telling his converts they had to keep the Jewish law. Whether early Jews still felt obligated to keep the law wasn’t really contextualization as we use the term.
Carl mentioned that “Son of God” meant something different to 1st century Jews than to us. But “Son of God” means something different to different people the world over. To set up a standard that a Word of scripture has to mean the same thing to everyone is a tall order! Can you imagine translating ‘grace’ or ‘faith’! As the author pointed out – “Son of God” is defined in the scripture by the places in which it is used – the relationships it describes, etc. If you remove the Words, you remove the concept. I know it’s so limiting to linguists to say you have to use this word, but you do. The words are defined in scripture. You lose the words and you lose the trinity.
This is Perry Pennington again. I lost my username and password because it’s been over a year since I read this, so posting under a new username.
Anyway, I want to reply to your comment. You write:
“I do not appreciate that insinuation (which is an ad hominem attack) that I am Islamophobic and am allowing my “personal prejudice” to dictate my theological reflection.”
You’re absolutely right. I apologize for unfairly criticizing you with an ad hominem. I do think there is prejudice and Islamophobia out there that contributes to much of American evangelicals’ negative view of Muslims. But I did not read that in your article. I unfairly connected your article to things that I have seen in personal experience.
What I meant by “incomplete perspective” (your point #5) on the insider movement, is that in countries where religious persecution is present and dangerous, the insider movement is more likely to spontaneously occur, in my opinion. Right or wrong, that’s reality. You sense that more in countries that are majority Muslim, less in the US.
My desire to see gospel contextualized for diverse Muslim contexts means moving the conversation away from “methodological” conversations like the insider movement, forms of worship etc., on to proper theological conversations about what the gospel looks like from the perspective of Muslims meeting Jesus.
Perry Pennington. Great points
Thank you to Carl Medearis. This article puts up a straw man, then knocks him down very well.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the IM movement is that it actually does exactly what Islam did to many people living under Islamic rule: it identifies Islam as being intrinsically identified with the peoples that are called Muslims. Actually, for many Muslims “Islam” is unnatural and at odds with all their deeper instincts about how life is to be lived. No one can watch birthday parties and weddings and anniversaries in the Arab world and not see that life and color and joy are much more inherently Arabic traits than the dull, routine, and flat practices that Islam imposes. The mosque and the culture that it imposes upon Arab peoples is alien and constrictive to Arab peoples. Be careful not to shrink and contort the kingdom of God to fit into a mold that distorts its fundamental nature. Christ’s kingdom fits Arab cultural norms much better than the Islamic mosque does.
While I do not fully understand, agree, or disagree with the IM, I am in favor of the Camel Method. To me, the Camel Method seeks to get Muslim converts to the One True God and Jesus Christ as God’s one and only way to be reconciled with God, but teaches these new converts how to remain within their families and communities in an effort to get more converts to Christ. I do believe that all new converts, babes in Christ, need to be discipled and nurtured in the things of Christ, but I also believe that they are going to be able to follow Jesus in seeking and saving that which is lost in the Muslim world because they already have contacts, already know the language, and they already understand the culture. I believe there is a Biblical precedence and a legitimate need for the underground church planting movement with MBBs in the Muslim world, and even in the free world, for that matter. MBBs can live in the Muslim world and not belong to the Muslim world. The main thing is that they understand that they have crossed from death (being outside of Christ) to life in Christ. They are no longer of this world, just as Jesus Christ was not of this world. The reason they are still in this world (or the Muslim word) is to be an ambassador for Christ and to be used by Christ to call men and women to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“A. Jesus was an insider. That’s the whole idea of the incarnation (or contextualization, if you will).
B. It’s hard to “witness” to someone if you’re not there. It seems you approve of the opposite of an “Insider” so I guess that would be an “outsider.” In other words, how in the world are you against someone staying “inside” their culture so they can witness.” Carl Medearis
Contextualization is not the Incarnation. The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 2.5). “Mediator” (Î¼ÎµÏƒÎ¯Ï„Î·Ï‚) denotes the role that only the incarnate Son of God could have executed, guarantor of the Covenant of Promise (Genesis 22; Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8). It is the role of the One who in hypostatic union accomplished for both parties as fully a member of both parties what no one else could.
What you do, contextualization, is different than what is the incarnation and this matters in the extreme. You claim the incarnation for the validity of your premise for the Insider Movement but the incarnation is not about missions; it’s about the establishment of the New Covenant, something no mere mortal could ever accomplish. When the Son of God put on flesh he was no less the Son of God yet you are willing to relate to Muslims as if the fact of his being the Son is negotiable.
This manner of yours is convoluted: “C. Here’s the “God” that Muslims believe in: He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He created and loves us. He is the All-powerful (omnipotent), the all-knowing (omniscient), and the all-present (omnipresent). He is the eternal judge. He is fully holy and righteous. And he is the God who saves, heals, comforts, offers compassion and mercy – and the God who’s wrath needs atonement (Although Muslims do not believe that is provided through Christ). So is it the same God? Of course it is. Do Muslims have full revelation of who he is and who Jesus is? No. Do they need that understanding? Yes. See, those two questions are easy to answer with one word.” It is no wonder that you say “I’m mixed on this one, to be honest.” Since when is being mixed an exception for you? You say Muslims believe in the “same” God [of the Bible] but the Bible says, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2.22, f.). You are not mixed; you are duplicitous.
The Son did not come to our culture as if he had to indigenize himself culturally; he became one of us to atone for us. When you go to Muslims and encourage them to remain adherents of Islam and misinform them of the truth of the One who came to us, not only are you completely incongruent with the incarnation, you are presenting a mongrel in whom there is no salvation.
“A. Jesus was an insider. That’s the whole idea of the incarnation (or contextualization, if you will).” Your statement is false.
So much to say to this well-meaning but extremely simplistic article…
There are premises made by the IM folks (a faulty notion in itself) and then the author’s four challenges. I will very briefly comment on each one. (I wish I had more time to give this some serious thought, but I think a few comments will still be helpful).
1. Insider Movement Premise: being an “insider” will result in witness to family and others in one’s community. Challenge: Witnessing is the result of obedience to God’s Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Consider some biblical reasons for witnessing….
My thought – so many other ways to think about this then the way the author chose. A few would be:
A. Jesus was an insider. That’s the whole idea of the incarnation (or contextualization, if you will).
B. It’s hard to “witness” to someone if you’re not there. It seems you approve of the opposite of an “Insider” so I guess that would be an “outsider.” In other words, how in the world are you against someone staying “inside” their culture so they can witness.
C. Paul was also an insider and used his “insider-ness” to his advantage (for the sake of the gospel).
While the scriptures you used are helpful and, obviously, true – they are not the whole picture.
2. Insider Movement Premise: being an “insider” will result in acceptance of such a witness. Challenge: Jesus’ teaching and experience while on earth was exactly the opposite of this premise…
You use only the “negative” passages to prove this point? There are MANY passages in the scriptures that talk about how everyone loved Jesus and they all wanted to follow him. They wanted to make him king at least twice – because they loved him so much!
It seems you have a love of persecution. I’ve seen this in many Christians. The ones who like to think they preach the hard, real and true gospel of Jesus Christ. That since persecution did happen and is promised, we should almost use it as a litmus test. Why? There are many examples (more than the other) of people gaining great favor from following Jesus. In both the Old and New. Why not focus on those?
if you think it’s in response to a “seeker friendly” IM model that you believe tries to avoid persecution, then you’d be missing the point. Let’s not simply react to the other’s reaction by overstating what is opposite. And, for the record, I and the people I work with are NOT thinking that we’re trying to avoid persecution. In fact, I’ve never heard that brought up and don’t think that myself.
If I’m an “IM Guy” as some would say, then let me do a Paul sort of thing here and tell you this – I’ve been in prison four times. Been stoned. Had the windows broken out of my car. My van torched. Been kicked out of Lebanon twice. Spit on. Cursed. And kidnapped in Iraq. All for the sake of the gospel. So don’t tell me that IM folks just want to avoid persecution!
3. Insider Movement Premise: “Muslim” has no religious significance – it only refers to culture. Challenge: By assigning a new meaning to “Muslim” that Muslims themselves do not accept is at best disingenuous and at worst deceptive.
Again, an overreaction. Of course the term “Muslim” is all-encompassing. It has to do with religion and culture. And everything else. I don’t know any IM people who would say that it ONLY has to do with culture. But it is more than a religious distinction for sure. Do you not agree with that?
So that’s why I don’t call myself a “Muslim” (and I know only a small percentage of folks who even venture partway down that path). But the use of the word “Christian” is easily as problematic. It’s funny that you can’t see that your argument against using the term “Muslim” is the same as what we would say about the word “Christian.” (A term not used by Jesus and not commanded anywhere in the Bible – so an odd word to hang on to anyway….).
4. Insider Movement Premise: Filial language (i.e. “Father” and “Son”) and the phrases “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are not divinely inspired terms that must be literally translated. Challenge: If the Bible is divinely inspired (2 Tim. 3:15-16) so that even the use of a word in its singular form (e.g. “seed” in Gal. 3:16) points to Jesus, how much more three of the most important designations of our Lord: “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Son of Man”?
I’m mixed on this one, to be honest. I think we need to explain what we say – no matter what words we use. That’s why I tell people that whether they say they are “followers of Jesus” or “Christian” or “MBBs” or “MBs” or whatever – it will need to be explained in both a biblical accurate and understandable way.
Here’s the issue at stake – as I see it. Words don’t live in a vacuum. It’s a simplistic argument (used often by all sides in any given debate) that says something like “Well the Bible clearly says this – just read it.”
Bright theologians have been interpreting and re-interpreting the Bible for years. From Aramaic into Greek. Into Latin. And into a zillion English Bibles. Phrases have meanings. They had a very specific Jewish first century context when they were spoken. They don’t always make sense now. So we either choose to leave the words as they appeared then (with our best attempts at literal translations) or we change the words to carry the meaning (as we see it) in whatever culture we’re in.
Frankly, I’m still a fan of the first approach. We keep the words and quickly explain. Place a footnote in the text to explain the meaning of the term “Son of God.” Since we know the term left alone will NOT communicate what Jesus intended his first century Jewish audience to hear.
But to simply say that it’s heresy to change words in English (or Arabic, or whatever) makes the point simplistically silly. And to accuse those people of heresy, who are giving their lives for the same things you are – is a terrible thing.
The conclusion – that IM is “syncretistic” is always the attempted final blow. Who wants to be accused of that? No one? And so it can appear that preaching the “hard stuff” or the “narrow way” verses and calling Muslims to repent, believe, be baptized, pray the sinners prayer and then become Christians is the way to go – with sure persecution following. But there are so many scriptural examples of those following Jesus who did not do that and who were not persecuted and who did stay inside their camps, that it’d be a mistake to call them all heretics (syncretists is the nice word used for heretic).
And finally, how about we allow the Holy Spirit to sort some of this out? I know you value yourselves as God’s missiological watchdogs – but what if God was big enough to take care of the heretics and you could spend more time reaching Muslims?
Your friend (from the other side)
To Madam Lewis:
Thank you for replying to the author of this post. You say, “Let me say: I am not a member of “The Insider Movement” as you define it in the first paragraph.”
Is that really true? Perhaps you are not a member, in the sense that you were not saved out of Islam. (Oops, that might be politically incorrect to some ears, as I am inferring that one needs to be saved out of Islam–as per a Biblical view of world religions— whereas many IM proponents would like to say–as per a sociological view of world religions– that one should be saved “within Islam”.)
Yet, Mme Lewis, your descriptions surrounding Kingdom Circles, and those around the Samaritan woman published elsewhere would tell me that although you may not be an ex-Muslim, you are one of the strongest advocates for people retaining their identities as Muslims, and as such that makes you an Insider Movement proponent. Your own words attest to that in your reply. Forgive my forwardness, but I think you have it wrong.
Case in point with the Samaritan woman. If I am reading correctly, you seem to insinuate that Jesus thought it was unimportant where she worshiped. That is not correct. She, like Jewish people, and like Muslims are pre-occupied with sacred space, i.e. a temple or a mosque. Jesus came and blew that all away. He said, in effect, “you want to see sacred space, I am it.” Remember Jesus calls Samaritan women, Muslims and Jews to forsake their notions of sacred space and to become part and parcel of Him who is the personification of the temple—the true intersection of heaven and earth—the place where God dwells, and by default become integrated into his church which is the temple.
Every mosque, however, which is the center of the Muslim identification points to the Ka’ba which is said by Muslim writers to be the intersection of heaven and earth. Ever thought about the fact that it is cube-shaped, needed a cleansing, and is black? This is the ultimate un-temple and un-holy of holies, and yet you appear to think that the where of worship is unimportant.
More than that, Jesus emphasized the how of worship, namely in spirit and truth. This is the crux of the debate, in my view. I would like to see a scriptural defense, with exegesis defined by the rules of exegesis, and not by reading meanings into the text as frequently done by IM–without a lot of sentimental anecdotes to distract the readers—of how IM would define that phrase and how it would be applied in a ministry context. Are you up to the challenge, also as Perry suggested? It seems that is what Biblical Missiology is about.
You say in your conclusion:
“Ultimately, the Bible does not allow for retaining any identity that conflicts with one’s commitment to Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear that commitment to Himself takes precedence over all other affections and identities (see Mt. 10:32-39; Lk. 14:25-35).”
I full agree with the second sentence but do not believe the first sentence is true. In addition to his supreme identity in Christ, Paul retained both his identity as a Roman citizen and as a Jew, and even encouraged Timothy to get circumcised to clarify his identity as a Jew. The Roman citizen identity associated people with polytheism, Greek philosophy, military dominion (over places like Jerusalem), the practice of infanticide, homosexuality, slavery (a full third of the population of Rome was slaves) and, later, worshipping their emperor as a god. The Jewish religious identity associated Paul with temple leadership was anti-Christ, having gotten Jesus killed, with the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, with martyrdom of other believers (also Jewish in their identity, like Stephen), and with an entrenched legalism that Jesus had condemned as “whitewashed sepulchers”.
It seems to me that neither Paul nor the other apostles seemed to believe that their new-birth identity in Christ required them to strip themselves of their birth identities, and to, by breaking the Jewish religious laws (to prove they were no longer trusting in it for their salvation), be forced to leave their communities. Likewise, Paul did not encourage Greek believers to put off their Roman citizen identities, or Greek identities, and to depart from their cities and families (which ate meat offered to idols), but to remain in their context and eat without asking questions (among other things).
The transformations Paul required were 1) theological (trusting in Christ alone— an overarching new-birth identity, as you state above) and 2) putting off sinful thoughts/attitudes/behaviors. A transformation of the spirit, mind and character. I found it very informative to actually make a list of all the changes Jesus and Paul teach must happen, and those they actually teach are not important (e.g. Jesus’s interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4 where she immediately asks about religious observance, in the temple or on their mountain). Our job as missionaries is to teach them to observe all the Jesus commanded.
Some people think that Jesus commanded us to leave our families, but even he made sure from the Cross to ask John to take care of his mother, and while his brothers did not believe him at first, his brother James became the head of the Jewish community of believers. The verses you quote above (in section 2) are not commands but predictions of what will happen in some cases, and God’s promise to help those who suffer the ultimate loss, that of their family, through faith in Him.
Let me say: I am not a member of “The Insider Movement” as you define it in the first paragraph and subsequently, because you list many things that characterize this movement, none of which I agree to, except one: I believe that believers in countries like the one I live in, [where Muslim is a legal identity determined by your father’s ethnic identity, and a Muslim cannot change his legal identity, nor a Christian born in a Christian ethic group, nor a Jew (e.g. a Jew cannot become a non-Jew by becoming an atheist), etc.], do not have to change their birth identity or citizenship to boldly testify to the saving power of Christ in their life and have . I disagree that their faith will be so compromised that God will reject their faith as valid, even if the community around them does (as in the case of Stephen who was martyred by fellow Jews).
I believe that they, like Paul, can have a commitment to Christ that “takes precedence over all other affections and identities” as you say, and still have other identities. For this, they will be persecuted (Paul was persecuted by both Jews and Romans, James was killed by fellow Jews), probably more than those “self-extracted believers” that leave their communities and countries and change their earthly citizenship (sometimes without even revealing to their families that they are believers, out of fear of persecution or being cut off).
You said, “Perhaps what the Insider Movement may mean by stating that Muhammad was a prophet is simply that just as Allah used evil Caiaphas to prophecy regarding how Isa was to die for the people, so also He chose to use some of Muhammad’s writings as bridge work to the holy scriptures.”
While not all Insiders I’ve met will flatly say that Muhammad is a prophet on the level of the Old Testament Prophets, there are those in the Insider Movement who will say as such. Their material also clearly says as such. The spectrum within what we define the Insider Movement is diverse, and they may agree on some issues and not others. Basically C5 is what we consider mainstream Insider Movement.
You said, “The motive behind the apparent “double speak” might be to avoid “unnecessary” persecution. If it is, then I’d be a little less on board with adopting such a stance SOLELY for the sake of avoiding it.”
I honestly think this is a large portion of why the Insider Movement exists in the first place. Avoidance of persecution. Thus, concepts of secret believers (C6) and Insiders (C5) were created to make it easier for people to feel comfortable with what was going on. The second reason I think the Insider methodologies has grown to its current fame is its claim to vast converts. To that I’d say prove it, which they say they won’t because of security issues. So I have to trust the national believers in those countries, and they say the numbers aren’t there, and that the Insiders are causing all sorts of problems. And secondly I’d ask to those who do ‘convert’, convert to what? Doesn’t matter if people get over your contextualized standard easier, if what they get into is not the full truth of Christ, it’s just as lost as to what they were before.
Ultimately, this is why we’re so concerned, and take this seriously. The theological beliefs of what the Insider Movement is peddling is so divergent from orthodox Christian belief, and biblical truths, that we have no choice but to call it what it is. A divergent system that is not Christianity, but some other belief system, while like Christianity, isn’t. The Insiders even pride themselves as it not being ‘Christian’. Simply, it is heresy, cultish, and frankly, no better than Jehovah Witnessism, Mormonism, and every other false religion whether or not it claims to be with Christ or not.
As per your question about the Camel method, we did write an article, and I’d encourage you to put comments under that article.
Perhaps what the Insider Movement may mean by stating that Muhammad was a prophet is simply that just as Allah used evil Caiaphas to prophecy regarding how Isa was to die for the people, so also He chose to use some of Muhammad’s writings as bridge work to the holy scriptures.
The motive behind the apparent “double speak” might be to avoid “unnecessary” persecution. If it is, then I’d be a little less on board with adopting such a stance SOLELY for the sake of avoiding it.
I don’t want this thread to be derailed, but I would really enjoy seeing more discussion regarding The Camel method. Kevin Greeson was interviewed on his book and methodology and gave several really good responses. If we can agree that the extremes of Insider Movement vs. Traditionalist are both in enough need of modification to warrant better discussion, I believe we might have a more productive time discussing something along the lines of Greeson’s work. But, again, emphasizing there’s no silver bullet (except His love in and through our hearts, our testimony, and the power of the Holy Spirit).
@Perry. Since I am the author of the article I would like to respond to your criticisms. I do not know what to make of your response as you seem to contradict yourself by criticizing my writing this article yet stating that you agree with it. Below I will address your concerns with both answers to your questions along with some questions for you:
1-I wrote concerning Muslims because I was asked to write this article about the Insider Movement(s) among Muslims by another organization. This is a reprint of that article, with the exception that it does not contain several typographical errors that were made in the original publication.
2-I have heard that there are Insider Movements among Hindus in passing references, mainly in International Journal of Frontier Missions (ijfm.org). I do not minister to Hindus but to Muslims. This is what God has called me to do. Just for the record, I do not believe that a person can be a follower of any other belief system AND a follower of Jesus Christ. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Animism, various cults like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, et. al. are incompatible with what the Bible teaches about following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since you have mentioned this concern, why do you not write a broader-based article addressing the Insider Movement(s) beyond that concerning Muslims and submit it to Mark S. who is the editor-in-chief of this website? Such an article would be very helpful to all of us who care about this issue.
3-I do not appreciate that insinuation (which is an ad hominem attack) that I am Islamophobic and am allowing my “personal prejudice” to dictate my theological reflection. With a good conscience I can say that I am obeying the call of God on my life to witness to Muslims.
4-The charge that I have not offered “to fix the problem” is also an ad hominem attack regarding the article’s content. Since you agree with the article (as stated at the beginning of your last paragraph) why are you also disparaging it in this way? I disagree with your charge that referring to Scripture (i.e. the Bible) is somehow NOT a solution. How easily we forget that Muslim social structure and society is very similar to first-century Jewish culture and that the “hard sayings” of Jesus were first spoken – without apology – to them!
5-While I do minister to Muslims in a non-Muslim country I have spent significant time in Muslim countries and ministered to Muslims in Muslim countries; moreover, you know nothing of the Muslim peoples to whom I minister, which is extremely “tight-knit” and from a family/social aspect bears very little to no difference to those Muslims living in their homelands. This is not simply my “take” but what many of the Muslims here tell me and what is highly observable to even the newest of observers.
I would like you to specifically mention what are the “serious concerns driving the Insider Movement phenomenon” that living in a non-Muslim country renders such ministers to have an “incomplete perspective.”
6-You insinuate (again) that I am only saying “no” to the Insider Movement(s) as opposed to offering “accurate, Biblical theological foundations for Muslim-background believers.” The very reason that I offer so many Scripture references is to present “accurate, Biblical theological foundations” whether the reader is an “MBB” or not. Based on all but one response that I have received from this article (not including your comments) ALL have expressed thanks for grounding my analysis in the Bible.
“The reality of “Insider Movements” is this: it doesn’t mean “believes in Muhammad” so much as it means “doesn’t really believe in the deity of Christ”
According to the Insider Movement advocates that I have spoken with, heard, and/or read their works, almost all of them acknowledge Muhammad to be a prophet (Navigators personnel and literature, Common Ground seminars, Belief of Ismail tract, Jesus in the Qur’an seminars, Global Teams, and the TOAG/TAG groups). Your experience may be different than mine but if you probe just a little you will find that the Insider Movement among Muslims is almost all about acquiescing to the “prophethood” of Muhammad – how else is one to explain the encouragement and tolerance of “Muslim followers of Christ” repeating the Islamic confession of faith (al-shahadatain/al-kalima), which confession is part and parcel of the 5 daily prayers (salat) and integral to the pilgrimmage to Mecca (hajj), all of which are said to be permissible practices by most, if not all Insider Movement proponents.
8-You state that “current discipleship” of MBBs “fails to interpret the gospel theologically to the Muslim context.” Please explain to whom you are referring by “current discipleship.” Secondly, what are specific areas in which you feel that such “current discipleship” is failing in the realm of Muslim contextualization?
As Scott has responded, “So please continue-what can be done to complete the process of Muslim contextualization for Muslim-background believers?” I would add to this that I would like you to provide relevant Scriptural references as I have done.
I’m not sure I can even stomach reading this article past the first paragraph.
First, the author is lumping and exaggerating.
Second, he says, “It may not be an exaggeration to say that every evangelical organization in witness to Muslims is affected in some way by the Insider Movement.” Well, of course! But they’re also affected “in some way” be the theory of evolution. Or “in some way” by capitalism. Or Marxism. But is that influence significant enough to become alarmed?
He’s only stating what we already know: That there are aspects of the Insider Movement that need modification.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, run the other way and start shouting at Muslims that they need to burn the KO-ran, accept Jeezez as the Son uh Gawd or they’ll burn in hell like they’re so-called prophet MoHAMmed. Such things have no place in the witness to Muslims.
What is clear is that Muslims come to Christ in a diversity of manners. There’s no silver bullet, but protecting against the extremes is a good practice. Let’s just not do it at the expense of good practices–some of which were started among genuine Muslim believers themselves!
Perry, I agree with you; if our work is centered around a personal agenda rather than where the Spirit is leading us, that’s a big issue. But IS there an Insider Movement among Hindus? It seems to me that given the rates of growth of Islam and Hinduism (Islam is far and away the fastest growing religion of the world, while the term ‘Hinduism’ vaguely refers to all the religions of a secular nation thrown together–it is growing very slowly) Islam is something we should consider to a greater depth if there is a problem as severe as this one going around. Certainly, in the future, Christianity will face more challenges from Islam than Hinduism, or from any other religion in the world besides secularism; I believe the Body should be prepared to meet these.
I’m assuming you mean contextualization within Biblical boundaries. :) Whenever I hear the word ‘contextualization’ the hair on the back of my neck goes up–where I am there’s a little too much contextualizing, not enough Gospelling. But of course it has its place. So please continue–what can be done to complete the process of Muslim contextualization for Muslim-background believers? It seems like a pretty broad problem; the only thing I can think of is prayer, and a lot of it.
I agree. Insider Movements have little theological foundation. BUT, How come articles of this kind always focus on work among Muslims, and none addressing work among Hindus? Could it be that the wave of Islamophobia sweeping the West right now is driving this “theological” critique? We’re just culturally more comfortable with Hindus and therefore less threatened by an insider movement among them. If we tell ourselves that we’re somehow “above” letting personal prejudice influence theological reflection, it’s time for a wake up call.
Most of the critics seem to have only ideas about what is wrong, and no help on how to actually fix the problem. It also bears remembering that those who have not lived and worked among Muslims in a Muslim country have an incomplete perspective on some of the serious concerns driving the Insider Movement phenomenon.
I agree with this article, but think that the solution is not in NOT doing Insider Movement work, but in accurate, Biblical theological foundations for Muslim-background believers. The reality of “Insider Movements” is this: it doesn’t mean “believes in Muhammad” so much as it means “doesn’t really believe in the deity of Christ”. Current discipleship of Muslim-background brothers and sisters who believe in Jesus is not sufficient, because it fails to interpret the gospel theologically to the Muslim context. That may seem like a no-brainer, but we shouldn’t assume that the gospel and theology have been successfully contextualized for Muslim contexts. I don’t think it has.