Posts tagged ‘contextualization’

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.

February 22nd, 2010


Contextualization Gone Amok?

Contextualization is a brilliant Christian Missiology idea (C1, C2 and C3) that has gone amok (C4 and C5). As a former Muslim and a graduate of madrassa, I have concerns especially with C5. First, how can a Muslim claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ while he or she still believes in the Qur’an—a book that vehemently rejects his deity, death and resurrection? These three attributes make his salvation and lordship possible.

Secondly, some in C5 have stated that they were born into a Muslim family, which automatically makes them a Muslim and a part of the Muslim community; therefore, they cannot disavow themselves of their family, community and people. Their views are in agreement with Prophet Muhammad who advocated for fitra (every child is born a Muslim and should remain a Muslim). Sadly, they are incongruent with those of Jesus Christ (who they also claim is their savior), who taught, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37, NIV.) This text is just one of the examples of his teachings.

Thirdly, they seem to confuse western culture with Christianity, the same way many Muslims do. They understand Christianity only from what they hear in the news about the actions of some celebrities in the West, or from what they read in the Qur’an and the Hadith. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. One can be a Christian (follower of Jesus Christ) without embracing western culture.

Fourthly, I know of some Muslim scholars who invent excuses for the behavior of Prophet Muhammad; but I have never heard of one who wants to be a follower of Jesus Christ yet still wants to defend Muhammad. Many instances in the Qur’an and the Hadith illustrate how Prophet Muhammad’s behavior is an embarrassment. For example, he married Zainab, who was previously married to Zaid (his adopted son). He supposedly received as a revelation from Allah a decree that Zaid should divorce Zainab so that he could marry her (Surah 33). Mark you, this happened when Muhammad already had at least five wives.

Muslim scholars are mocking the advocacy of contextualization in Christianity, mostly quoting Christian scholars who are known experts in the field. One of the first hits you get when you search online is the Muslim criticism. They claim that since there is no “truth” in Christianity, Christians have resorted to desperate tactics to get new converts. Is this what we need?

I hope those who advocate for contextualization, especially for C4 and C5, should change their mind because, regardless of how they spin it, a believer cannot be a follower of Muhammad and Jesus at the same time.


Cracks in the Crescent discusses my upbringing as a Muslim, my conversion story to Christianity and the ensuring persecution. If you would like your copy, please clink on the link below. Thank you. For a limited time only, there is an offer for free shipping, which ends Friday, December 31, 2010.