Posts tagged ‘syncretism’

October 19th, 2010

Muslim Followers of Jesus? A Response to Joseph Cumming

I wrote this in response to Joseph Cumming’s advance paper, Muslim Followers of Jesus? He has written it for Lausanne World Congress which is taking place in Capetown, South Africa. The discussion is on Islam and Christian outreach to Muslims. You can read his entire article here. He wrote:

Ibrahim was a well-respected scholar of the Qur’an, a Hafiz. When he decided to follow Jesus, he closely examined the Qur’anic verses commonly understood as denying the Trinity, denying Jesus’ divine Sonship, denying Jesus’ atoning death, and denying the textual integrity of the Bible. He concluded that each of these verses was open to alternate interpretations, and that he could therefore follow Jesus as a Muslim. Soon members of his family and community came to share his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Ibrahim was also imprisoned for his faith, but unlike Nabil, Ibrahim still wanted to follow Jesus as a Muslim. Nonetheless some whom he led to Jesus no longer see themselves as Muslims. Ibrahim and Nabil are friends and respect each other as brothers, though they disagree about their identity.

Ibrahim seems to suffer from identity crisis. A Christian, possibly from Muslim background, should sit down with him and talk with him about how his identity should be in Jesus Christ. Ibrahim doesn’t have to leave his culture but to continue living in obedience to Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, observing some of the five pillars of Islam is syncretism. I don’t know what else to call it when even the Hadith shows Muhammad invented these practices. How could Ibrahim come up with “alternate interpretations” of the Qur’an when for 1400 years these verses have had zero alternate meaning?

Here is my personal story. I came to know the Lord in August 1989. Then in April 1990 I met a Kenyan national missionary who had a great idea. [We are still friends :) .] He wanted me to go back home to my own people so that I could live with them and be a Christian witness. Sad to say at that time the Kenyan government representative in my home area had already severed my ties to my family due to persecution. My missionary friend was oblivious to danger I had faced. He was a big believer in C4 contextualization. (His library contained books from leading advocates for C scale.) Had I followed through with his idea, I would have either been hurt or dead. Even sadder, this missionary’s idea came to fruition in 1995. He had about 20 C5 believers. To date, none of them has come forward to publicly profess his or her faith in Christ. One of them had a wife of Christian background who died a few years ago. He refused to have a “Christian” funeral for her. She had a Muslim funeral. Do you see the problem here? She was dead as a “Christian” yet she couldn’t be buried as one! Not that it mattered but there is a serious flaw in a Muslim background believer’s (MBB) thinking if he or she still practices some core Islamic teachings. Proper discipleship is the only antidote to this morass that has befuddled Christian outreach to Muslims. I hope and pray Lausanne Congress charts the way forward.

Another severe problem facing Christian outreach to Muslim is scriptural integrity in Bible translation. Christians already struggle explaining to a Muslim how the Bible has not been corrupted yet some organizations don’t get the idea. An organization that does Bible translation for a Muslim audience has a hard time translating the New Testament because of the term “Son of God” in the Gospel and other epistles. There is a bizarre case in Ethiopia where major errors have been made, thus compromising the meaning of certain verses. You can read that story here.

I believe some western Christian scholars are behind this confusion in Christian outreach to Muslims. They have no idea what problems they have created for MBBs and Christian workers among Muslims. Muslims are already mocking Christian scholars who advocate for C4, C5 and C6. Can’t we get the clue? It is time for us to put our egos aside and preach the Gospel without diluting its message. After all, it is “the power of God unto salvation.” A big thank you to Brother Joseph Cumming for keeping this discussion alive.