Friday, December 30, 2011

Dr. Warren Larson's Review of "Chrislam"

Dr. Warren Larson, the former director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University has given a helpful review of the book, Chrislam: How Missionaries are promoting an Islamized Gospel (Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton & Bill Nikides, eds. i2 Ministries Publications, 344 pages, $25). The book has apparently been put together to counteract much of what is being perceived as syncretism in the Muslim world by Christian missionaries, mostly the "Insider Movement."  Dr. Larson calls the editors out in their preface:
On the negative side, the Preface (iii-iv) is especially troubling: It contains inaccuracies, misperceptions and unbiblical attitudes.  A statement in the second paragraph, “… [W]hat is at stake is not our personal relationships with brothers and sisters” suggests it does not matter what we say about fellow-believers, as long as we tell what we think is the truth.  A comment in the third paragraph makes a generalization about all IM ministries:  “… [N]o churches are planted …” Such sweeping statements set the tone for what is to follow.  This book is reactionary, primarily a work of extremes, including an alarmist and inflammatory title. 
Not all is negative. He does praise the authors of some articles in some of the sections:
On the positive side, sections one and five have the most value: The first section quotes IM proponents extensively, however taken out of context, may give impressions never intended by the authors.  Section five gives Muslim converts (mostly Bengali) a voice in expressing strong opposition to IM; however other Bengalis could be called upon for the exact opposite view.  
I have not read this book, but should I be given the opportunity, I would probably take it with a grain of salt. The topic of Insider Movements hit the Presbyterian Church of America (P.C.A.) earlier this year at their General Assembly when one church presented a motion for the denomination to disassociate itself from organizations associated with the Insider Movement, primarily SIL, Wycliffe, SIM, and the Navigators. What came out of that was a recommendation that churches "could" stop support of such organizations if they wanted to and several churches have, from what I know, even though the missionaries they support may not be involved in Muslim missions or the Insider Movement at all.

After this recommendation came out at the PCA General Assembly, I tracked down an article written by George Houssney, a missiologist and very vocal critic of any kind of contextualization. Basically, he had written a position paper on the Insider Movement back in 2010. The PCA used this position paper as justification for making their recommendation that churches could stop support to certain organizations regardless of what the missionaries being supported were doing. So, who was targeted? Nabeel Jabbour, a Syrian, now American Citizen, who worked in Egypt for the Navigators, now living in Colorado Springs was one. I count him as a friend of mine whom I have also had the pleasure of taking a class from at CIU. Quoted from the paper:
color portrait of Nabeel Jabbour
Dr. Nabeel Jabbour (Image via Wikipedia)
Nabeel Jabbour, a Navigator leader, believes that Islam as a religion started down the right track but jumped off the rails. (Said to me personally during a three hour meeting in my office.) He mentioned several Muslim reformers whom he admires. These, and many others who have bought into the Insider mentality believe that Islam needs to be reformed, not abandoned.
Now, I am almost positive that this is taken way out of context, as is most of what Houssney is offering as proof of syncretism. Phil Parshall does not appear to be targeted, but I'm fairly certain that SIM is targeted because of his association with them, even though he advocates a C3-C4 approach to contextualization. The CAMEL method of the IMB was targeted even though it has been very effective and is more of a C4 level of contextualization. Basically, there were a lot of generalities, quotes taken out of context, and  bad research. Incidentally, Dr. Jabbour is now on a study committee for the PCA to look at the Insider Movements as a result of the recommendation at the General Assembly.

I am sure the editors and authors of "Chrislam" are well-intentioned, but we must do careful research and quote people properly rather than have an agenda. This happens too often in Christian circles and people get hurt. I'm providing several links to the papers mentioned in this post here at the bottom for you to do your own research.

Jay Smith's Assessment of Insider Movements, C5 Missions Strategies
At The PCA General Assembly – Statement concerning errors of “Insider Movements” translations approved, but stumbles over procedures on approving a study committee

Position Paper on the Insider Movement by George Houssney

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