The PCA General Assembly’s consideration of the Insider Movement report

Written by Andrew C. | Wednesday, June 26, 2013

kingdom CirclesThe Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met in Greenville, South Carolina 17-20 June 2013 for its 41st General Assembly. Commissioners flying and driving into that growing and vibrant Southern city may have gotten more than they paid for. As a long-time observer to the GA, I can say that meetings are sometimes long-periods of boredom occasionally interrupted by moments of inconsequence. Doing things “decently and in good order” does not generally make for engaging theater.

This GA lacked nothing in the category of drama. One of the more anticipated events in the four days was the consideration of the PCA Study Committee on Insider Movements, which included both a majority report and minority report. This missiological creation referred to as the insider movement, teaches that people come to Jesus most effectively when they do not leave their families, communities, and (here is the rub) their birth religions. Translation for those who do not know “anthropology-speak”: Rather than going to Jesus outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13) in faith, and leaving behind their former way of life, including their religious practices, converts are urged to remain inside their former religious affiliations.

This idea, championed on the floor by some prominent church leaders: Mark Bates, pastor of Village Seven PCA in Colorado Springs, Rick Hivner, and Nelson Jennings, formerly of Covenant Theological Seminary (the denomination’s seminary), supported the minority report in adopting a taxonomy distinguishing absolutely between different degrees of “Muslim.”

I was confused. Having read both reports, it appeared to me that Dr. Nabeel Jabbour, the author of the minority report, was asserting that being a nominal Muslim was better than being a strict one. Perhaps I need to go back to school, but it seemed to me to imply that one kind of Muslim was further away from God than another. Two questions came to mind: Is there any such thing as a Muslim not fundamentally shaped by religion? And is there any such thing as an Islam closer to God than some other form of the same religion? Is not Islam a fallen religion, a structure like the Tower of Babel, erected by inherently religious humans to worship a false God?

It seemed that in the drama of the General Assembly that the church was perhaps sleepwalking away from its historical understanding of the relationship of Christ to the visible, historical church (equated to Christendom in the minority report) and to the religions of the nations. You could feel the beginnings of a change in the climate after the assembly boxed itself into a corner. Rather than choosing be either the majority or minority reports, it voted to follow the lead of Pastor Bates and vote to combine both reports into a single report, by appending the minority to the majority report. I wonder if the sense of the assembly mirrored the feeling of the designer of the Titanic when he descended below decks and discovered that the hole in his boat was a lot bigger than he thought.

Tensions rose when the commissioners engaged in an extended debate on the floor concerning the Arabic word for God, “Allah.” It was passionate and quite confusing. From my perspective as an observer, it tangled up two ideas: (1) That “Allah” is an Arabic word and (2) that the God of Muslims is or is not the same God worshiped by Christians (from my perspective, of course, he isn’t!).

While Dr. Jabbour carefully explained that Arabic Christians have historically called God the Father “Allah,” he disclosed what seemed to be two more problems with his ideas. First, the God of Muslims is monistic. It is only one and never three. It can never be the same God as the God of the Bible. It could also never be the God of either Christians or of the Christian church. In other words, the very idea of God irreducibly divides Muslims and Christians.

Jabbour and other’s use of Allah is not wrong because it is an Arabic word. It is wrong when it obscures the fact that a religion of light cannot also be a religion of darkness. Perhaps Jabbour has no choice. Maybe that is the only way he can justify keeping followers of Christ in the mosque. I am sure that he could not do so if he felt that Islam was inherently evil. It was self-evident that he does not, neither Hivner nor Jennings, believe that Islam is completely fallen. Rather, it has to be seen by them as in some way redeemable, transformable from the inside.

That brings to me a scoring of style not just content. On this basis, the advocates of the minority report clearly almost won the day. If the vote to recommit the reports back to the study committee had not been narrowly won, the PCA would have been on record of accepting radically different ideas concerning the nature of religion, the nature of the church, the nature of conversion, and the exclusive connection between Jesus and his church. How did such a state of mutually assured destruction (think of the day when Americans and Soviets came close to blowing up each other and our planet) almost win out? That one is easy. Style.

The advocates of the minority view were masters of style. They quickly promoted a wholly ambiguous, homey, emotional, and misleading report by presenting it as being eminently practical and compassionate. It rated high in emotional intelligence (EQ). It was the love report. The majority report, a masterful and balanced (perhaps over-balanced) treatment of truth, religion, a covenantal reading of Scripture came across as somewhat obscure and fussy. It needed to be more direct in its conclusions and recommendations. Finding bottom lines at times required a magnifying glass. Its introduction was erudite and profound but, in this reporter’s view may have sailed over the commissioners’ heads.

Well, the PCA received a reprieve this week. It came dangerously close to plummeting off a cliff it did not even see coming. The committee has another year to refine and resubmit its report. It is hard to see how the minority report can change unless it becomes even more indistinct and misleading. Perhaps it can apply more camouflage to hide the fact that it thinks that Muslims can remain Muslims and not leave the mosque. No amount of assurance that syncretism is avoided or that doctrinal standards required by the Bible are maintained can alter the fact that, at the end of the day, Islam remains but Christianity is not needed. With that said, the majority report needs its pencil point sharpened; it needs to make its points clearly and simply.

The constituencies behind each will also begin to mobilize for next June. In this GA, it was clear that advocates of the minority report were prepared. They crowded the microphones and set the pace. The advocates of the majority report were unprepared and late. They get one more chance to get it right.

Andrew C. lives and works East Asia in a sensitive country.

The original posting of this article can be found here.

That’s just your interpretation!

QuestionThe cry “That’s just your interpretation!” is something that is echoed over and over again in discussions about theology and Scripture today. In our postmodern culture, both inside and outside of the church, it has become acceptable to believe that each person is free to decide what the text of Scripture means for them personally without regard for what the author himself intended to say. It is assumed that the meaning of the text is determined by the reader’s response to the text alone. As part of my study of the Psalms, I have been reading “The Psalms as Christian worship: A Historical Commentary”  by Waltke and Houston and was both surprised (and encouraged) by their unrestrained condemnation of postmodern reader/response theories. I wish more Christian leaders would speak as boldly as they have done here. Postmodern reader/response theories are at the heart of the translation controversy that has involved many well known bible translation organizations and it is good to see well respected Christian leaders and scholars step up and address this issue.

Here are a couple of quotes from their commentary:

“Let me segue here. The allegorical approach of Christian commentators cannot be used to defend postmodern interpretation, which gives priority to the reader’s response to the text, not the author’s intention. To be sure, both the “allegorizers” and the postmoderns impose meanings on a text not intended by the author, but postmoderns basterdize the Christian commentator’s allegorical method. The church’s commentators allegorized the text, but they were orthodox, pastoral, and above all Christ-centered, whereas postmoderns are, for the most part, apostate, anthropocentric, and self-serving, and so deconstruct the author’s intention to foist their own political and/or social agenda on Scripture to validate their elitism, while accusing the Biblical writers of doing the same thing.”

“The psalms also are and effective “read” for the emotionally disturbed Christians, more enthusiastic than wise about their faith. With the loss of transcendence today, it suggests we need the Psalmist once more, to lead us through the confusions of postmodernism, to consider how lacking in Biblical integrity is much that purports to be ‘Christian.’”

Psalm 121

A song for[i] the assent

 

I gaze towards the hills[ii]

Where does my help come from?

My help is from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth.

The one who guards you will not let your foot slip,

He never sleeps.

He never sleeps nor slumbers,

The one who guards Israel

The Lord is your guard[iii],

The Lord is your protection at your right hand[iv].

The sun will not harm you by day,

Nor the moon at night.

The Lord will keep you from every evil,

He will guard your soul.

The Lord[v] will watch over you when you come and when you go,

From this moment until forever more.


[i] In the MT, this Psalms stands alone with the title “song for the assent (שיר למעלות)”; the other Psalms in this group all have the title “song of the assent (שיר המעלות).” This variant is not found in the DSS (11QPSa), the LXX, or the Aramaic Targums and so may not be original; however, it is far more likely that an ancient scribe would have corrected this to harmonize it with the remaining Psalms in the group than to change it in a way that makes it makes it different from the others in this group. Because this kind of textual error would be so easily identified, it is much more likely that the MT reading is original and the other texts reflect an emended text.

[ii] lit. “I carry my eyes to the hill”.

[iii] 11QPSa reads “the one who guards Israel will not sleep in the night” or “In the night the Lord is your Guard.” Flint and Ulrich prefer the latter division of the text but the text itself seems to favor the former. The text reads “ולא יישן שומר ישראל בלילה יהוה שמרכה”

Ref: 11QPSa in the DSS digital library (left column, 4th line)

[iv] 11QPSa reads “Your protection (or shade) is over your right hand”

[v] 11QPSa reads “He will watch over you”

Is Jesus the product of sexual relations between God and Mary?

Jesus in IslamInsider Movement[i] proponents tell us that we cannot use the words “Son” or “Father” in reference to Jesus or God in translations of the bible intended to be used in Muslim contexts. They insist that these words are understood by Muslims to refer only to biological relationships that result from sexual intercourse and that when a Muslim hears these words used in reference to God or Jesus, they will understand these words to mean that Jesus was the product of sexual relations between God and Mary. While it is true that Muslims often do misunderstand the title “Son of God” to mean that Jesus is the biological offspring of God and Mary, the reasons for this misunderstanding is very different than what IM proponents have suggested. Let’s look a little more deeply into this issue and understand why this phrase has been misunderstood by Muslims and why some suggestions for correcting this misunderstanding by replacing these words in translations of the bible with alternative phrases are misguided.

  1. Insider Movement (IM) proponents suggest that the words for ‘son’ and ‘father’ in languages spoken in Islamic contexts can only be used to describe a biological descendant. However, in languages like Arabic, Amharic, Turkish, Bengali, etc… where these claims have already been evaluated, they have been demonstrated to be false.  In these languages words for ‘father’ and ‘son’ are used very similarly to the way that they are used in English, Greek, and Hebrew (and many other languages). Arabic speaking Muslims use a wide range of idiomatic expressions that use the word ‘son’ to refer to non-biological relationships like ‘son of the Nile[ii] (ابن النيل)’ ‘son of the Road[iii] (ابن السبيل)’, etc… which demonstrates that these words are not limited to the narrow semantic range of meaning that IM proponents have suggested. It is true is that Muslim believe that Christians teach[iv] that Jesus is the biological offspring of God and Mary but this is a very different issue than what is often presented by those promoting IM. To date, bible translators who have proposed that we use other words in place of ‘father’ and ‘son’ have not identified a single language where the natural words for ‘son’ or ‘father’ only describe a biological relationship. Note: I have spoken personally with dozens of native speakers of these languages and with missionaries who serve in countries where these languages are spoken and they have all denied that this limited semantic range of meaning is inherent in the words, like ‘father’ and ‘son,’ that describe familial relationships.

  2. Sometimes IM proponents will suggest that because Muslims, in general, only refer to their own biological descendants as ‘sons’ that this proves that the word ‘son’ can only be used to refer to a biological descendant. While the claim about how the word ‘son’ is used in many Islamic contexts is mostly true the conclusions that form the basis of IM arguments are not. To understand what is actually happening, it is helpful to know a little more about the related Islamic law and its origins. In Islam, adoption is absolutely prohibited for Muslims; however, Muslims do understand what adoption is just like we all understand what adultery, lying, and theft are even though these are also prohibited. Muslims recognize that others do adopt sons and they recognize those relationships as father/son relationships. In the Arab culture, adoption was once embraced and most Arabs had adopted sons. Even the prophet Mohammad himself had an adopted son named Zayd. However, when Zayd was grown and married, Mohammad desired to have Zayd’s wife for himself but the existing law prohibited a father from taking his son’s wife. Conveniently, Mohammad had a new revelation from God that abolished the practice of adoption and nullified all existing Muslim adoptions. With adoption abolished, Mohammad was now free to marry his former son’s wife (which he did). Today, Muslims recognize that Zayd ibn Mohammad (زيد بن محمد)[v] was Mohammad’s adopted son. They remain unconfused about Mohammad and Zayd’s relationship even when direct familial language used in to describe their relationship. Because Islam teaches that God does not have sons nor does God adopt sons, Muslims can never call God ‘Father’ and that is a significant issue that must be overcome when ministering to Muslims.

  3. The alternative phrases that IM proponents have proposed (or used) in bible translations targeted for Islamic contexts fail to communicate important aspects of sonship i.e. the rights of authority, inheritance, etc… that are integral aspects of being a son. These ideas about sonship are shared by Islamic, Hebrew, and western cultures when speaking about the rights of a son and are reflected in stories like the Parable of the vineyard in Luke 20:9-16  where the legal rights of a son are an integral part of the story itself. Christ’s rights as the true heir of God is an important part of Christian theology and if a phrase used to translate the title “Son of God” does not communicate the legal rights of a sonship then it will miscommunicate God’s relationship to his only Son.

  4. Islam teaches that the Christian Scriptures have been corrupted[vi] and when we use alternative language for words like ‘father’ and ‘son’ in bible translations intended to be used in Muslim contexts, it provide proof to Muslims that claims about the corruption of the Christian Scriptures are in fact true. This makes it much more difficult for Muslims to overcome their inherent distrust of the Christian Scriptures.

The recently released WEA report raises concerns about translations that have tried to overcome misunderstandings about Christianity by changing the translation itself when these misunderstandings are better addressed through teaching and commentaries. By changing familial language in our bible translations, we are only trading one misunderstanding for others that are equally problematic. While it is true that Muslims really do understand the phrase “Son of God” to mean that Jesus is the product of sexual relations between God and Mary, it is important to understand WHY they believe this. It is not because the words for ‘father’ and ‘son’ are only understood to refer to a biological relationship as IM proponents frequently suggest, it is because Islam teaches that Christians teach that Jesus is the biological son of God and Mary. It is this misunderstanding about what Christians teach must be addressed through dialog, teaching, and commentary. Removing the words ‘father’ and ‘son’ from translations of Scripture will not resolve these misunderstandings because it is not the words themselves that have been misunderstood, it is the misinformation about what Christians teach that has caused this misunderstanding.


[i] The Insider Movement is an ideology that is being adopted by a growing number of evangelical missionaries who believe that one should retain their original religious identity when they come to follow Christ; conversion to Christianity is seen as unnecessary (or harmful). These missionaries believe that Muslims should remain Muslims, Hindus should remain Hindus, Buddhists should remain Buddhists, etc…  What this looks like in practice varies significantly among different groups promoting IM. Almost all believe that one should continue to worship in their prior religious communities and those on the extremes suggest that very little of a persons prior religious beliefs needs to change after they become “followers of Christ.” For example, a Muslim who comes to follow Christ may continue to reject a belief in the divinity of Christ, affirm Mohammad as God’s preeminent prophet, and the Qu’ran as God’s perfect inspired word. The beliefs of a “Muslim follower of Christ” often are far more compatible with Islam than they are with Christianity.

Note: The Insider Movement ideology has been adopted by a significant number of men and women in leadership positions of well know missionary organizations like Wycliffe/SIL, Frontiers, YWAM, etc… Many churches are unknowingly supporting missionaries who have adopted this controversial ideology. Many missionaries within these organizations still do oppose IM but determining who is supporting it and who is not can often be difficult (see deciphering the Missionary code). This is an issue that every church needs to address with the missionaries they support because there is a growing acceptance of IM within many missionary organizations.

[ii] Arabic speaking Egyptians refer to themselves as a “son of the Nile”

[iii] “Son of the Road” is a frequent phrase used to describe a traveler in the Qu’ran. S. 2:177, S. 4:36, S. 8:41, S. 9:60

[iv] Islam teaches that Christians believe that God, Mary, and Jesus form the Trinity, and that Jesus is the offspring of God and Mary. Some of the passages from the Qur’an which form that basis for this teaching are listed below.

 [He is] Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He does not have a companion and He created all things? And He is, of all things, Knowing. (Sura 6:101)

And [it teaches] that exalted is the nobleness of our Lord; He has not taken a wife or a son (Sura 72:3)

O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (Sura 4:171)

They have certainly disbelieved who say that Allah is Christ, the son of Mary. Say, “Then who could prevent Allah at all if He had intended to destroy Christ, the son of Mary, or his mother or everyone on the earth?” And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them. He creates what He wills, and Allah is over all things competent. (Sura 5:17)

They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers. They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. (Sura 5:72-73)

And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son. (Sura 19:92).

[v] Zayd b. Mohammad is frequently referred to as Zayd b.Haritha Al-kalbi as a demonstration that adoption was abolished. More information about the incident with Zayd can be found at http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/zaynab.htm

[vi] “What Christians now hold in their hands is not the Gospel to which the Qur’an refers, but their gospels do contain parts of that text, which according to the Qur’an is corrupted” The Qur’an and the Gospels, Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah

Insider Movements – Gutting the Bible

Article by Philip Mark  June 2013

Abrahamic2Hindu-Followers-of-Jesus? Messianic Muslims? Is this something that we should be excited about? Or does it represent the most serious threat to the gospel that the modern missionary movement has yet encountered? David Garner’s article “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel” (1) is important because it gets under the skin of certain innovations in missions and to the heart of what they are missing – an organic, all-encompassing, gospel-centered hermeneutic. The message of the Bible, not only in its whole, but also in each of its parts, is the story of God’s redemption of his people in Christ Jesus.
I have spent most of my life among missionaries and institutions dedicated to reaching Muslims with the gospel. Ours is a unique frontier of Christian presence in the Muslim world, an Evangelical subculture, a sort of ‘eco-system’, if you will. A variety of perspectives and approaches have been cultivated in this eco-system for good and for ill, including what are known as Insider Movements (IM). (Continued Here)

 

You can’t legislate morality!

legislation2As our country wrestles with moral questions on topics like abortion, gay marriage, etc.., some Christian leaders are telling us, with increasing frequency, that the discussions about public policy have no place in the church. They tell us that the battle for peoples hearts will not be won through the legislative process and that by taking a stand on “political” issues we are alienating those who most desperately need to hear the Gospel message. Often they tell us that there are many interpretations of Scripture and we cannot expect others to accept our interpretation. The Christian leaders who tell us these things do raise some valid concerns but their response to these concerns has been largely misguided. Let’s take a look at the issues they have raised and see why the answers provided by some Christian leaders are inadequate.

 

You can’t legislate morality!

This is probably the most deceptive of all the arguments made because virtually all legislation is rooted in morality. We have laws against murder because we believe it is morally wrong to commit murder, we have laws against theft because we believe it is morally wrong to steal, we have laws against slavery because we believe it is morally wrong to own slaves, etc… The issue has never been about whether we should “legislate morality,” the issue has always been about deciding which standards of morality should form the foundations of the laws we enact. Christians have a lot to offer our country in relation to this topic and it would be a tragic mistake to chose not to participate in this important national debate.

 

You can’t change a person’s heart through legislation!

No arguments here! This is a point on which we should all agree. Scripture is clear that salvation cannot come through the Law. It is only through the unmerited grace of God that we can come into a relationship with our Lord and Savior and it is through that relationship that we are saved. However, that does not mean that there is no purpose for having laws, it only means that the purpose for having laws is not to change a person’s heart. Paul tells us in Romans 7 that the ultimate purpose of the Law was to reveal sin. Sin always produces broken relationships and it God’s laws that provide the boundaries that protect those relationships. In other words, it is the Law that provides the framework for order, civility, and love in our society. We should remember that God, who created us, understands better than we what boundaries should protect our relationships and our society functions best when we choose to be guided by the laws given to us by our creator. Additionally, when laws are founded on God’s law, they provide opportunities for sinful people to see their own depravity in ways that they may not have otherwise had and those who see their own depravity can more easily recognize their need for a Savior.

 

Everyone has their own interpretation of Scripture!

God’s law is the standard by which we measure good and evil and it is the light that reveals sin in the darkest places of a man’s heart. One of the best ways to obscure that light is to suggest that Scripture is unintelligible. If understanding Scripture is only guess work then no one can be sure what boundaries exist or when those boundaries have been crossed. While it is true that there are places in Scripture where two people honestly seeking answers will arrive at very different conclusions, there are also many places where an honest investigation of Scripture reveals the same answers to everyone. While we recognize that many people today have their own opinions about how Scripture should be interpreted, it is equally important to recognize that simply having an opinion about what Scripture means does not automatically mean that there is merit to that opinion. An interpretation of Scripture is not valid just because someone believes it, it is valid when there is historical and linguistic evidence to support it. In many ways, the study of Scripture is similar to study of science; while there may be competing theories that seek to explain the world around us, not every competing theory is equally valid and in many cases, there really is only one theory that can adequately explain all of the evidence we see. Sometimes there is room for honest disagreement but at other times disagreement is only demonstration of either ignorance or willful deception and we have made a tragic mistake when we fail to recognize this.

 

Concluding thoughts

We need to be grace filled when we enter into public debates regarding the laws that govern our land but we also need to be willing to declare the truth found in God’s word. We must remember that God desperately loves even those who oppose him most vigorously and he has called us to demonstrate that love to those who hate him but we also must remember that it is not loving to hide the truth from those who most need to hear it. We should do all that we can to avoid causing offense but we need to recognize that some will take offense simply because we have lovingly spoken about God’s love for them and his plan for their lives. Christ himself, who modeled a perfect picture of love, grace, and truth was hated by those who had rejected his message, why should we expect a different outcome?

 

Kevin DeYoung, Collin Hansen, Trevin Wax discuss this topic in this short video.

Should Christians Try to Legislate Their Morality? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Psalm 120

A song of accent

 

In my distress, I called out to the Lord and he answered me.

Lord deliver my soul[i] from those with lying lips and deceitful tongues.

What is given to you and what will be gained by a lying tongue?[ii]

Only the sharp arrows of mighty men and the burning embers of their fire.

Woe is me because my stay has been prolonged, I continue to dwell in the tents of gloom[iii].

For too long my soul has remained with those who hate peace.

I am peace[iv] but when I speak, they are ready for war.



[i] Lit. Snatch away my soul.

[ii] While most versions see Yahweh as the agent, it is equally possible that the lying tongue is the agent; the latter provides better continuity with vs. 2. See “Baker commentary on the Psalms, Vol 3”

[iii] John Goldingay notes that Kedar and Meshek are very different places, in the opposite directions from Canaan. Meshek is in Turkey, to the northwest. Kedar is a nomadic shepherding tribe in the Arabian Desert, to the east and south of Canaan. These two peoples were not thought of as more warlike or hostile to Judeans than many others. Additionally, In Hebrew it is sometime difficult to know when a proper name is intended because most names are composed of words that form the normal everyday Hebrew vocabulary. The LXX translation of this verse gives us a hint that a proper name may not have been intended, it reads“my stay has been prolonged, I have lived among the tents of Kedar” suggesting that at least Meshek was understood as something other than a proper name at a very early point in History. The context itself suggests that the author many not have intended to name specific places but instead wanted to speak of the gloom that confronted those in the diaspora.

[iv]  Most Hebrew Mss. Read “אני שלום” (I am peace) but BHS notes that two Mss. read “אני לשלום” (I am for peace). The LXX differs here significantly and reads as follows “with those hating peace, I am peaceful.”

An Interview with James White about His Book, “What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an”

Need to know about the QuranThe following is an excerpt of an interview published on the Gospel coalition website.

Sometimes there comes a book that changes the way we think and talk about a subject. That book generally pushes us into deeper fundamental understanding of a theme and helps us see from there the things we did not know or somehow missed. Such books stir fresh thought, fresh zeal, and renewed efforts to see and act in the world according to truth. We need a book to do that for us and to us because we’re so prone to settle into intellectual ruts and hand-me-down assumptions.

I think James White’s new book, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an, is a book that changes the Christian understanding of Islam and its holy book. You can read an excerpt of the book here. I had the privilege of reading James’ book in manuscript and offering the following endorsement:

James White has given the thoughtful Christian a game-changer for Muslim-Christian dialogues about the Qur’an, the Bible, and our claims to truth. For too long, Christians have remained largely ignorant and even reluctant toward one of the world’s largest faiths. We no longer have reason for either ignorance or reluctance thanks to White. I know of no other introduction to the Qur’an and Islam that is as technically competent and easy to read as James White’s What Every Christian Should Know About the Qur’an. This book is my new go-to source and recommendation for anyone wanting a thorough introduction to the thought world of the Qur’an and the Muslims who revere it. For irenic, honest, charitable and careful discussion of the Qur’an, this is the best resource I know.

James deals extensively, charitably and clearly with the Qur’an itself. He’s not lobbing rhetorical grenades or wildly flinging accusations and half truths. He’s incisively investigating the history, theology, and transmission of the Qur’an in a way that’s accessible to any intelligent reader.

I had the privilege of sending James a few questions regarding the book. I hope you find this interview helpful and that you’re moved to buy and read this book.

1.       You write, “I believe the best, weightiest, most useful refutation is the establishment of the truth of the gospel” (p. 9). Some apologists appear to think all the other arguments are the “best refutation” of Islam. Why and how does the gospel best establish the truth and refute error?

Islam came after the Gospel (despite Islamic belief otherwise), and includes as part of its teachings the rejection of the heart of the Gospel itself (the Person of Christ, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and hence the exclusivity of Jesus the Messiah as the sole means of peace with God).  Hence, Islamic apologetics is first and foremost a “gospel” activity, and the goal of the Christian must always be to make sure the Gospel in all its glory and power and grace is made known to the Muslim who has almost never heard it with clarity.  Further, given the position of Islam as the “last” revelation, surely the argument is properly made that the Qur’an’s understanding of the faiths it seeks to correct or refute must be accurate, as God is said to be the author of the Qur’an.  But when we demonstrate error on the part of the Qur’an in reference to the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or the gospel, we are helping the Muslim to examine the claims of the Qur’an in an objective manner.

2.       Must Christians be experts in the Qur’an in order to engage their Muslim neighbors and friends about the faith?

If a believer were to be ministering in an Islamic country, or even in places such as Dearborn, Michigan, a knowledge of the Qur’an at a certain level would be necessary to be effective in the long run, to be sure.  The more we know about the presuppositions of those with whom we speak, about their worldview and language, the more effective communicators we will be.  One surely does not have to be an “expert” on the Qur’an to engage their Muslim neighbors, but just as having read the Book of Mormon is a great advantage in witness to a Mormon, being able to show the Muslim that you have respected them enough to gather some knowledge of the Qur’an is a tremendous advantage.  One of the great problems that exists between our communities is the fact that most Christians know very little about Islam and the Qur’an, and most Muslims know very little about Christianity and the Bible.  Both go on what they have “heard,” and that body of hear-say is normally far from accurate, and can be a great hindrance in any meaningful dialogue.

Read the rest of the interview HERE

Reaching Muslims with the Gospel of God

MuslimLigonier Ministries published an Interview with Abdul Saleeb, a former Muslim who has come to faith in Christ. His interview provides a lot of good insights about Islam and what it takes to reach Muslims for Christ. He rightly reminds us that “talking to Muslims will also challenge Christians to become better equipped in their own faith. It will require Christians to dig deeper into the Scriptures, theology, apologetics, and church history in order to respond to the questions that Muslims often ask”. Are you ready to accept the challenge to understand your own faith better?

Abdul’s Interview is both enlightening and inspiring and a very good place to begin understanding how we can truly love our Muslim neighbors in a way that reflects Christ’s love in us.

Did Jesus believe the bible?

torah scrollAndy Davis, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina has written an excellent series of articles showing what Jesus believed about Scripture, its inspiration, and its authority for our lives. Many churches today have allowed an ever increasing skepticism about the reliability and authority of Scripture take hold; maybe it is time that we stop and reconsider what Jesus,  the author and finisher of our faith, believed about Scripture and remember that it is Jesus we are called to emulate.

What is Christ’s View of the Bible? Introduction

Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture

Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture

Christ Taught the Unbreakable Permanence and Authority of Scripture

Christ Lived Sinlessly Moment by Moment by All Scripture

Christ Staked His Life on the Word of God

Christ Proved His Deity by a Single Word of Scripture

Christ Proved the Resurrection by a Single Verb Tense in Scripture

Christ Instilled Passion for the Scriptures in His Followers

What Scripture Says, God Says

What is Christ’s View of the Bible? Conclusion