BOOK REVIEW of CHRISLAM: HOW MISSIONARIES ARE PROMOTING AN ISLAMIZED GOSPEL (Amazon Digital, 2012)
When I entered the arena of ministering to Muslims over 15 years ago, a whole new world opened up to me that has enriched my life and ministry in countless ways, through both other missionaries, as well as dear Muslim and former-Muslim friends—ways for which I will eternally be grateful.
I am continuously on the lookout for new materials, methods, trends, etc. that in God’s wonderful providence, continue to increase as the years pass. One of these resources is Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel, edited by Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton, and Bill Nikides. It is a critique of what has become known collectively as the ‘Insider Movement’. Having originated in South Asia (specifically, Bangladesh) it is a highly controversial, widely disbursed and influential attempt at ‘contextualizing’ the Gospel to a Muslim’s particular needs and worldview. Each chapter is written by a different author, which provides a global perspective on the subject. I picked up a copy at a recent outreach to Gulf Arabs in Switzerland and felt a review will be of benefit to many of you.
Chapter 1: Insiders’ Perspectives
This first chapter sets the context for the rest of the book, striving to present a balanced and objective ‘Insider’ perspective of this movement. The challenges, problems and justifications that led to its birth.
Chapter 2: IM and Hermeneutics
Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation, specifically here interpreting the Bible correctly. Quickly the hermeneutical problems related to IM are presented with a call to a deeper examination of favorite (proof) texts that are advanced to sustain and promote the Insider Movement.
Chapter 3: Missiology of IM
Here the missiological principles are challenged and brought under a greater magnifying glass, with an explanation of the C1-C6 contextualization scale.
Chapter 4: IM and Translation Problems
The cruciality and centrality of ‘Son of God’ (which for a Muslim is one of, if not the greatest, blasphemous ‘titles’ there are) is powerfully addressed. This was very enriching to revisit the essence of the identity of Jesus, our blessed Savior, “God of gods, and Lord of lords.” Deut. 10:17
Chapter 5: Inside Out
Hearing from former ‘Insiders’ (all ex-Muslims) is especially refreshing, particularly being participants from the beginning, and those for whom the whole focus is intended. They each eventually came to the conclusion that as James stated: ‘…a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways’ (1:8, KJV) and are some of the movement’s fiercest critics. A few pertinent comments: ‘The avoidance of persecution and repression is the principle logic driving this insider movement’ (p. 254). ‘Many missionaries from different nations are wasting money in order to “win Bangladesh for Christ”’ (double quotes mine, p. 256). “Most of the converts with whom I associate are outraged and hostile to IM. Actually, outrage and hostility is an understatement… We converts suffered persecution for the Lord. We carry this with honor’ (p 265-266).
Chapter 6: IM, the Past and Present
The IM movement is one that is fueled, financed and promoted by western missionaries. Note: ‘As many as possible’ seems to be a common motivation in IM circles. In conversation with IM promoters, the introduction of numbers suggests that one of the primary reasons the IM is attractive is their numerical success. I have heard that anywhere from 100,000 to millions have come to Christ through this methodology. The implication is the ‘ends justify the means.’ (p. 280)
By historical precedent it seems inevitable that IM adherents will be absorbed into the normative, orthodox body of Islam. The great ‘apostle to the Muslims’ Samuel Zwemer forewarned of the impossibility of attempting to serve two Lords…Jesus and Mohamed. As Jesus Himself said, ‘No man can serve two masters…’.
I feel the strongest chapters are 4 and 5, with their strident affirmation of Jesus as the Son of God, and the testimonies of former Muslims as well as IM participants.
This book is indispensable for missionary candidates; established, veteran missionaries working among Muslims; missions’ committees; pastors; or anyone who is at all interested in reaching Muslims for Christ. I have dear friends who would vociferously disagree with this book, and myself as well, but I believe that regardless of what side of the issue one may fall on, it is crucial to wrestle through the arguments presented. For IM adherents, as sincere and passionate as they may be, they need to honestly and truthfully work through the presented challenges to their convictions; to all those who want to see Muslims come to know Jesus Christ, the living Son of God as Lord and Savior, it behooves us to be aware not only of what God is doing in awakening many to His Son, but also, to the inherent, subtle and demonic distractions that will arise during this same process.