Darkness is falling on my kampung (neighborhood) as I carry my six month old baby down the narrow path to my house. We’re coming home after studying the Bible with a family who lives nearby. From four different mosques I can hear the Magrib prayers echoing throughout the valley. Just before the last turn to our house, I’m stopped by an elderly woman, “Jangan! Jangan! Harus tutup kalau bawa bayi keluar sekarang!” (Don’t! Don’t! You must cover your baby if you carry him outside right now!). She is afraid for the safety of my son. In her mind, the brief interval at dusk between the call to prayer which ends the day and the call to prayer after dark which begins the new day is a restless time in the spirit-world. It is particularly precarious for infants naively taken outside the shelter of their homes by unwitting parents. It exposes them to evil spirits who could potentially harm them, and terrorize them throughout the night. Trying to ease her look of fright, I smile and say, “It’s alright Ibu. God will protect him from the evil spirits.”
This Muslim woman’s worldview is as much colored by superstitions and folklore as it is Islam’s holy book – the Qur’an. She, along with hundreds of millions of other Muslims in Indonesia, combines formal Islamic faith with ancient Hindu and animistic beliefs and practices. In fact, for most like her the ancient superstitions play a more dominant role in day to day life. She is a folk Muslim and seeks not only to please Allah, but also pacify capricious evil spirits lurking in the twilight. Syncretism of this sort, far from being esoteric and impractical, has a very pragmatic purpose – if all the known powers are pacified then there’s no reason why she and her family can’t be blessed with healthy, prosperous lives.
When the Islamic world is surveyed, it’s clear that folk Muslims are not in the minority. Some have identified as much as 75 percent of all Muslims as folk Muslims. Blending Islamic faith with folk beliefs, in other words, is not a new phenomenon as it has been happening from Marrakech to Manila for centuries. It is no surprise, then, that many Muslims would also be willing to syncretize Islamic faith with many of the Bible’s truths about Jesus (Isa). It is also not surprising that their motives wouldn’t be any different than when they combine Islam and animism – pacify known powers for the sake of obtaining physical blessing. Many of them, recognizing that God answers Christians’ prayers, pray using Jesus’ name. His name has become a “power word” through which they seek Allah’s help.
None of this is surprising, nor is it foreign to the pages of scripture. In Acts 19, for example, we read about the sons of Sceva attempting to use Jesus’ name for their own purposes. Theirs was also no doubt a folk faith. However, what is surprising is missionaries are not only failing to confront the type of syncretism mentioned above, but are promoting, justifying, and attempting to build a biblical-theological basis for it. It has, in short, become a legitimate methodology to reach Muslims with the gospel in the eyes of many missionaries. This methodology is often labeled “the insider movement” (IM), which is perhaps a bit misleading. Calling it a movement implies it’s homogenous with agreed upon beliefs and practices. Most missionaries, even those in support of IM, would tell you this is far from the truth. However, there are some general characteristics that those who are considered IM share, most basic of which is identity. They maintain that someone can be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and still remain within Islam. In short, they can be Muslim followers of Jesus.
There are many reasons why missionaries and IM “believers” are insisting that Muslim background believers can stay within their socio-religious community (Islam) and be faithful followers of Christ. However, if the conclusion itself doesn’t bear the weight and scrutiny of the scriptures, then no justifying reason can be legitimated. It is the current author’s conviction that IM has not only been weighed, measured, and found wanting by the scriptures as a methodology, but in fact constitutes a tacit denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, to profess to be a Muslim is a de facto denial of Jesus Christ. The self-ascription, “Muslim follower of Jesus,” is inherently contradictory at best, and damning at worst. This I hope to demonstrate by looking at a few key passages in the New Testament.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul was writing to a group of believers who were continuing to have some degree of association with their former pagan religion. Although Paul had already given them commands and prohibitions regarding interaction with their past religion (see 1 Corinthians 8-10), apparently they didn’t listen too closely to what he had written. So, he writes them again about the same subject, wanting them to see what was ultimately at stake. Relevant to the discussion about IM are the words:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:14-18
In these verses, Paul abruptly comes to the heart of his message to the Corinthians about associating with paganism – if they fail to “go out and be separate,” then they fail to obtain God’s accompanying promises, “I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me.” In other words, their eternal salvation was ultimately at stake.
The main command in these verses is found in the first sentence, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” But, what does that mean? Does it mean they should extract themselves from the unbelieving world around them in order to live in “Christian ghettos” safe from all those nasty pagans? There were several Christian villages, for example, created by the Dutch in West Java in order to help converts escape Islam. In some places they built massive Western church buildings where their liturgy could be faithfully carried out each week. Over the last 100 years or so these communities have become ingrown and fractured. They’ve had little if any effect on the millions of Muslims around them, and now Islamicists are encroaching on their backyard. In order to get to one near my house, you have to drive by the local Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders’ Front) office. Now, there may be a time and season for extraction similar to what produced these villages, especially if persecution is severe (one HeartCry evangelist in Indonesia was forced to flee to a different province for seven years). But, extractionism and ghettoism is not what Paul has in mind. He would be sending a very mixed message, indeed, if this is what he meant (read 1 Corinthians 5:10)!
With the words “unequally yoked,” Paul is alluding to a prohibition found in Deuteronomy 22:10that forbid a farmer from using an ox and a donkey together when plowing. Like other prohibitions in Deuteronomy, this unnatural combination would “violate the purity of the species.” In this specific context, then, Paul is concerned about the purity of the Corinthian believers if they were to be “yoked” together with unbelievers. So, he makes “a prohibition against forming close attachments with non-Christians…In expanded form the principle might be expressed thus: ‘Do not form any relationship, whether temporary or permanent, with unbelievers that would lead to a compromise of Christian standards or jeopardize consistency of Christian witness.'” The purity he has in mind, as we shall see below, is more than moral purity. Paul is not solely concerned with the Corinthians’ ethical holiness, even though it is no doubt a part of the holistic picture he paints in these verses. But, his concern is much broader and deeper. He wants the Corinthians to be consecrated morally and religiously in light of who they are in Christ.
In order to more thoroughly explain his prohibition and the reason for giving it, Paul goes on to ask five rhetorical questions, all of which give insight into the purity he has in mind. The first question is moral – “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” The obvious answer is that no one who lives a life practicing righteousness can walk hand in hand with someone practicing lawlessness. The second question is spiritual – “Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” The answer is that no one who knows the light of God’s truth can have genuine fellowship with someone living in darkness. The fourth question (more on the third below) is about those who have faith – “Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” Again, the obvious answer is one of contrast. Through faith believers partake of Christ, something they do not share with those who do not believe. The fifth question, finally, is about religion and worship – “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” The answer is that those who are the temple of God (the church) do not worship the same reality nor in the same way as those in a false idolatrous religion.
The third question was kept for last because it is foundational to all the others. It should be understood to be about two kings who represent two vastly different kingdoms – “What accord has Christ with Belial?” (Belial is the Hebrew word for the devil). These two kings have nothing in common. Their goals, their desires, their character, their loves, their hates, and the nature of their kingdoms stand in vivid contrast. No two kings or kingdoms could be more juxtaposed. Morally they are different – one is righteous, the other lawless; spiritually they are different – one is light, the other is darkness; their citizens are different – believers in Jesus Christ belong to one’s kingdom, unbelievers to the other’s; and the religion and worship they engender are different – one leads men to worship the living God, the other prostrates men before idols and incense and false gods. These five rhetorical questions are used to show the Corinthian believers that they can have no spiritual relationships with unbelievers. In short, as Christ’s followers who are in union with him they belong to a vastly different spiritual community; thus, any sort of partnership, fellowship, accord, portion, or agreement with a false religion and its adherents is impossible. “Go out from their midst and be separate,” then, is not a call to geographic extraction but to maintain a distinct identity as Christ’s followers in the midst of an ungodly world, especially one which wears the gaudy veneer of false religion.
Now the question must be asked if words intended for a Corinthian church living among pagans can be faithfully applied to Christ’s followers in Islamic contexts. Does it do justice to Paul’s original intent to take commands for those in a polytheistic culture and apply them to those living in a monotheistic culture? Some people don’t think so. They argue for a substantive difference in Muslims’ religion and morality compared to pagans. The difference is so great you cannot possibly place them in the same category, nor can you apply prohibitions regarding one to the other. So they say. But, to think in this manner not only demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to properly appropriate the core truths Paul is emphasizing, but also portrays a naiveté concerning Islam’s true nature. Although Islam’s belief content differs greatly from Corinthian paganism, any view of Islam informed by the Bible must come to the conclusion that the sources of both are one and the same.
The Father of Lies
John 8 is perhaps the most heated exchange between Jesus and the Jews. In it Jesus declares many truths about himself and the work he came to accomplish. In response, the Jews became increasingly hostile and attempted to kill him (v. 40). Jesus then tells them, “You are doing the works your father did” (v. 41). Then, to remove any ambiguity he states,
If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (v. 42, 44b).
Remember, Jesus is not speaking to pagans when he makes these statements, but Jews. He’s speaking to people who have inherited a religious system based upon true divine revelation. They were “the Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). But, in spite of having a true religion which gave every advantage, they still could not accept what Jesus told them about his person and work. Why? They were children of the devil, the father of lies. It was the lies of the evil one which kept them from seeing the truth in Jesus’ words. When he stated three times in chapter 8 that he was Israel’s covenant God (ego eimi, or “I am,” in vv. 24, 28, 58; see Exodus 3:14), he was not understood the first two times and almost stoned for blasphemy the third time. When he spoke of his crucifixion (v. 28), and setting them free from slavery to sin (v. 36), their inability to comprehend led Jesus to declare about them, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (v. 47). In short, Jesus’ person and work were incomprehensible to them, bearing witness that their true source did not spring forth from the true divine revelation found in the Hebrew scriptures, but from the devil himself. This is a harsh reality, but it demonstrates that the dividing line between all that’s true and all that’s a lie centers upon Jesus’ person and work. All spiritual and religious truth finds its pulse in what’s true about him; anything else comes from the polluted well of Satan’s lies.
How, then, would Islam measure up to Christ’s words in John 8? Is it even possible to state with confidence, or is it arrogant to even try? In my experience, many Western missionaries have sang songs of Jubilee over how much the Qur’an says about Jesus. Some even speak of how God is using it in redemptive ways to reach Muslims. It is true, Jesus (Isa) is mentioned many times in the Qur’an. He’s considered to be the greatest of all prophets (excepting Muhammad), sinless, born of a virgin, worker of miracles. But, after the caravan has passed and all the dust settles, the Qur’an denies that which is of primary importance – the person and work of the biblical Jesus. In Islam’s holy book, Isa is no more than “another Jesus” Paul chided the Corinthians about (2 Cor. 11:4). He was a great man, but only a man. To suggest he was God is to commit shirk, the worst possible sin in Islam. Here are the words of the Qur’an:
They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ, “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah – Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God…Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger…” Al Ma’idah: Surah 5:72-73, 75.
Isa, this messenger, lived a perfect life, yes. But, to suggest that Allah’s holy prophet became a curse by dying on a tree is foolishness! Allah would never allow his prophet to die in such a disgraceful way. Here is the testimony of the Qur’an concerning Jesus’ death:
That 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, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not” Al Nisa: Surah 4:157.
To state with any degree of confidence that the true source of the Qur’an, and consequently Islam, is the devil would be interpreted as narrow-minded “naïve realism” to many people (missionaries included). But, Jesus’ followers have always been able to speak with confidence where we know that God has spoken (2 Peter 1:19). There should be no doubt that Islam as a religious system is rooted in the lies of the devil. There are many different types of Muslims in the world with many different beliefs; no one questions that reality. But, there are specific beliefs all Muslims share everywhere – whether they’re Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, were educated in a Wahhabi or Deobandi madrasah, or in an Indonesian pesantren. They all deny what the Bible teaches about the person and work of Jesus Christ. This, in the eyes of Muslims worldwide, is part and parcel of what it means to identify oneself as a Muslim. For centuries Islam has maintained certain “identity codes” that are rooted in the Qur’an and Hadith, and woven into the very fabric of these is a denial of the most important biblical truths about Jesus. From its inception, Islam was intent on rejecting core Christological truths and recapitulating Jesus (Isa) as only a prophet. This is perhaps why he is mentioned so much in the Qur’an – Muslims were trying to reinterpret him and make him fit into their own story.
So, we return to our question earlier: can Paul’s injunctions and prohibitions to the Corinthian church be applied to Jesus’ followers in Islamic contexts? I am persuaded that no other answer could possibly be given in light of what was just discussed other than an emphatic, “Yes!” What, then, are the implications for those from a Muslim background who would follow Jesus? God commanded the Corinthians through Paul’s letter, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them.” In order to faithfully follow Jesus Christ, those from a Muslim background must obey this command by maintaining a distinct moral, spiritual, and religious identity from the Muslims around them. Failure to do so will also mean failure to obtain God’s covenant promises. Failure to do so will mean they identify themselves with a false religion that is in darkness; failure to do so will mean they align themselves with unbelievers who deny the person and work of Jesus Christ; failure to do so will mean they make themselves one with a religion that is a part of a kingdom in opposition to Christ. In identifying with Islam they juxtapose themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, tacitly denying him.
Making Sense of Jesus’ Words
I am convinced that Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians must be understood in this manner if one is to be faithful to Jesus in a Muslim context. This is also the only way to make any sense of Jesus’ own words in the Gospels. Jesus spoke about the difficulty his followers would face for openly identifying with him, especially in places that are hostile to the gospel. In order to communicate the cost of discipleship, he said many hard things that caused the weak and those seeking physical blessing to turn back (John 6). One such scripture passage, laden with the gritty realities of following Jesus, is Matthew 10:32-39.
In this passage Jesus is giving instructions to his twelve disciples before sending them out two by two. Although spoken to the twelve, Christ’s followers throughout history have always seen in these words an ongoing depiction of how they should live in spite of the sociological consequences for following him. Jesus’ words point beyond the twelve to encompass all disciples – “So everyone” (v. 32), “whoever” (vv. 33, 37, 38, 39). These words, then, are intended to convey Christ’s demands for all of his followers regardless of context. So, for both the disciple in the ancient Near East living among Jews and pagans, or in Indonesia living among Muslims, Christ’s words sketch a picture of obedience and its potential dire results.
In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (vv. 32-33). Jesus could not be any clearer. A necessary requirement for all his disciples is they acknowledge him before others. Ned B. Stone house writes, “Jesus makes the entire position of men in the world to come, whether for weal or woe, to depend upon their relationship to and attitude toward him in this present world.” They must confess him; they must identify with him. If they fail to do so, he will likewise deny them on Judgment Day. This means they must “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather [they must] fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28).
What people say with their lips is very important. This couldn’t be more emphatically stated than when Jesus said, “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). In the context, Jesus was saying that people’s words – what they say – give evidence for what’s in their hearts. Anyone who continually confesses Jesus before others gives evidence of the true disposition and loyalty of their heart. The opposite is true, as well. Anyone who consistently denies Jesus gives evidence their heart has never been changed by his grace.
As I have attempted to prove above, those who claim to be “Muslim followers of Isa” consistently deny Jesus Christ every time they take for themselves the self-ascription, “Muslim.” More often than not, they simply claim to be Muslims without adding any modifying phrase. Some are able conscientiously to do so because they claim the word “Muslim” means, “One who submits to God.” Their reasoning: “Who wouldn’t want to say they’re someone who submits to God!” They insist this is what they’re communicating when they confess it before others. This, to me, is very ironic especially given their reasons for not wanting to identify as a Christian. Many refuse this title because they say it’s misunderstood by Muslims, who believe a Christian is someone that “eats pork, drinks alcohol, and practices free sex.” They refuse to use “Christian” based upon the perception of a Muslim hearer. What seems to get lost in this line of reasoning is the perception of a Muslim hearer when they hear someone confess to be a Muslim!
This incoherent thinking demonstrates the lies they’ve bought, and the way they numb their own consciences. If the self-ascription, “Muslim,” only communicated its etymological meaning, then their reasoning would be valid. However, “Muslim” communicates much more than the bare meaning, “One who submits to God.” It communicates that someone is a part of the religion of Islam. It communicates that someone believes the words of the Shahada, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.” Embedded in this identity and confession is a belief in God’s radical oneness, and implicitly a denial of what the New Testament teaches about Jesus Christ. Embedded in this confession is also the belief that the Qur’an is the true and final revelation from God which abrogates any given previously – for “Muhammad is his prophet.” Any Muslim who takes the Qur’an seriously understands Muslim identity in this way.
In Matthew 10:34-36, Jesus goes on to state, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” These were the social consequences for openly identifying with Jesus Christ in first century Palestine. Jesus’ followers’ love for him produced hatred and animosity in their family members. D. A. Carson writes, “As many Jews in Jesus’ day thought the coming of Messiah would bring them political peace and material prosperity, so today many in the church think that Jesus’ presence will bring them a kind of tranquility. But Jesus insisted that his mission entailed strife and division (v. 34). Prince of Peace though he is, the world will so violently reject him and his reign that men and women will divide over him.” These divisions, according to Jesus, will take place in the relationships that are most near and dear. But, as Jesus demands, his followers love for even their own families must pale in comparison to their love for him. They, as well, must be more terrified about God not accepting them than not being accepted by family and community. If love and fear of family and community is greater than love and fear of Christ, then that person is not worthy of him and cannot be his disciple (see Luke 14:26).
Why would a man be set against his father, and a daughter against her mother? Why would a person’s enemies be those of his own household? It happens because Christ’s true followers’ identity is found in him and not in the religion of their family and community; their true identity is found in One despised and rejected by their family. They are not floating down the river of their culture, but have banked on Christ. This was certainly true of one co-worker in Indonesia who was almost murdered by her family. While praying soon after she came to faith, she began to feel convicted about keeping her faith in Christ a secret from her family. She felt that it was her responsibility to tell her parents what God had done in her heart. Before telling them, she went and spoke with another believer and said, “I can’t live like this much longer. I need to be free. I want my parents to know and I don’t want to hide it anymore.” It was then after telling her parents of her new faith that they starting planning to poison her.
Anyone considering following Jesus should consider the consequences of following him, especially living in community-oriented Muslim cultures. Jesus tells us to count the cost (Luke 14:27-28). Family and community are what often keep many people from leaving Islam and following Christ. The insider movement has attempted to remove this obstacle altogether. One primary reason they insist potential Christ followers call themselves Muslim is so they can stay within their oikos (Greek for biological family). But, as Jesus clarified, a true disciple will be hated by an oikos who hates him. In removing this obstacle, IM has removed the necessary crucible every would-be follower of Jesus must pass through in order to follow him in lands where Allahu Akbar! is heard five times daily from mosque loudspeakers. IM would have people believe they’ve made it easier for Muslims to follow Jesus. But in severing the cost of discipleship from the discipleship process, they have cut people off from the Jesus who is both Lord and Christ.
I’m sure that some people will interpret this article as insensitive to the difficulty people face coming to Christ in Muslim societies. Perhaps they think these are easy things to say as a Westerner who has had to face minimal persecution and ostracism in following Christ. What I’ve sought to convey, though, is not my own thoughts, opinions, or experiences. I hope I’ve conveyed something of what was spoken 2,000 years ago by two Jews – one who was crucified, and the other beheaded for his faith in the one crucified. For too long, missiology as an academic discipline has relied upon the experience and credentials of the missiologist as a source of authority. Maybe this demonstrates how it has evolved into a sociological and anthropological discipline, disconnected from the Holy Scriptures as its authority. I believe this is something that needs to change. Someone’s experience and academic training should not govern their ability or inability to be received if they speak meaningfully and biblically about a situation in a mission context. Experience and academic training ought to bring insight, but at the end of the day it is God’s word that stands unrivaled. The primary job, then, of the mission practitioner is to apply God’s word cross-culturally in all its variegated beauty. This I have attempted to do in a small way in this article.
In my own experience, I have tried to be patient and sensitive with those who profess to be Muslim followers of Jesus. I have attempted to correct them with gentleness, pointing to what the Bible teaches about the most basic realities of discipleship. But, I’ve seen that IM teaching has entered their hearts and they cannot let go. IM offers them an easy road – they get to have their cake and eat it. They get to float down the stream of society unopposed, all the while thinking Jesus is their savior. Occasionally, they pass by other indigenous believers who have swam against the current with all their might in order to arrive safely on the river’s banks. When they do meet these believers who have suffered, they seem to feel uneasy of their talk of sacrifice, being persecuted, and leaving everything to follow Christ. These believers who have suffered, as well, cannot understand how others could believe following Christ will cost so little. I often hear them say, “Pak Matt, mungkin ada udang di balik batu” (“Mr. Matt, maybe there’s a shrimp behind the rock” – an Indonesian idiom about hidden motives).
Hidden motives or not, what’s clear either way is they’ve aligned themselves with a religion in darkness. This was obvious and painful to me recently when I went to a wedding. The bride was the daughter of a father and mother who both claim to be Muslim followers of Jesus. They claim to love Jesus and know him in a saving relationship. But the entire ceremony, led by local ustads and an imam, was centered upon the Qur’an – they chanted from the Muslim holy book, sang songs inspired by it, and exalted the prophet Muhammad. I wondered how this husband and wife could conscientiously take such a central role in that ceremony if they genuinely loved Christ. I couldn’t help but feel that Jesus, as he did on a cliff outside Nazareth so many years ago, had eluded their grasp.
I also cannot help contrasting that wedding with another I was able to attend a few years ago. It was the first wedding among Christ’s followers in Bangladesh’s Meitei people. These believers had faced a lot of persecution in the previous years because of their faith, and also as a result of boldly proclaiming the gospel throughout their villages. Everyone, though, was excited – almost giddy – that at last two of their own were getting married. They finally wanted the opportunity to show their family and friends that their faith in Christ could be expressed in the cultural forms of their people. So, they played music, wore clothes, and structured the ceremony in a way that was very similar to the Hindu weddings in their culture. But, one thing was very different. Everything they did was centered upon Christ. He had become their life, their identity. The bride and groom’s families refused to come to the wedding, and I could see the pain in their faces. But, they were comforted, encouraged, and strengthened by the other believers around them. Those believers had become their new family, and together they had shown what a true indigenous expression of the Christian faith could look like.
Some people may also feel that I’ve made the issues surrounding IM too simplistic. Maybe they feel I haven’t offered a nuanced view of the Qur’an and the possibility of finding truth within its pages. Maybe they feel I’ve taken Jesus’ words too literally and haven’t made allowance for the necessary interval of time babes in Christ need in order to grow in boldness and their understanding of the scriptures. Perhaps these things are true. I feel, though, that too often Christians don’t take the Bible seriously enough. Too often we say, “Yes, that’s true, but…” Could it be that the great bane of evangelicalism is not that we don’t understand how to apply the Bible in various different cultures and contexts, but that we’ve nuanced into obscurantism the claims and demands of the one who has been given all power and authority?
For other people, perhaps I’ve made the issues surrounding IM a bit too complex. They may ask why there is even a need to put forward an argument that someone cannot be a Muslim and a follower of Jesus. After all, isn’t the answer obvious? In short, “No,” the answer is not obvious to all people. IM and its teachings are growing and have taken root in most Muslim countries throughout the world. This has been happening quietly for the past 30 years or so, behind the backs of many North American churches. It is only recently that many of the issues have come to the surface, but like the proverbial iceberg I’m afraid only a fraction has been seen. Christ’s followers who believe God’s word must take a stand against IM’s false teaching and offer thoughtful and biblical responses. This I have sought to do in a small way in this article. May God help us to be more faithful to him and his mission.
- Rick Love, Muslims, Magic, and the Kingdom of God (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2000), 2.
- Doug Coleman, A Theological Analysis of the Insider Movement Paradigm from Four Perspectives: Theology of Religions, Revelation, Soteriology and Ecclesiology (Pasadena, CA: William Carey International University Press, 2011).
- J. A. Thompson, Tyndale Commentary, ed. Donald J. Wiseman, vol. 5, Deuteronomy, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1974), 257.
- Murray J. Harris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 2 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 6:14.
- Dean S. Gilliland, “Modeling the Incarnation for Muslim People: A Response To Sam Schlorff,” Missiology 28, (2000, July 1), 335.
- Bradford Greer, review of A Theological Analysis of the Insider Movement From Four Perspectives: Theology of Religions, Revelation, Soteriology And Ecclesiology, by Doug Coleman, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 28:4 (Winter 2011), 205. Naïve realism is the epistemology which states that people can make true propositions based on the raw data available to them through sensory experience.
- Ned B. Stonehouse, Origins of the Synoptic Gospels: Some Basic Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), 190.
- D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 1, The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 10:34-36.