How Much Muslim Context Is Too Much for the Gospel?
But by the early 1980s, other committed evangelicals felt they should push further into a new evangelism effort: the insider movements. Actually, we have always considered our approach as insider, but we have strived to remain within biblical boundaries. I have significant concerns about these newer attempts in contextualization:
- There is a tendency to encourage converts to remain in mosques and perform the attendant prayers.
- New believers are still known as Muslims, and without further identification, such as "Muslim, follower of Jesus."
- To some, it is still permissible to recite the creed, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger."
The latest controversy (one that CT covered extensively in 2011) relates to the Muslim's misunderstanding of the term "Son of God." A number of vernacular translations have translated this phrase to Isa al Masih, which is "Jesus the Messiah," or an equivalent. Not all insiders use each of the above. Contexts vary as do the opinions of missionaries and mission boards. But how much contextualization is too much? Missionaries of good will have different opinions and strategies. Prayerful respect is essential to resolve these issues.
Phil Parshall is a missionary with sim and author of Muslim Evangelism: Contemporary Approaches to Contextualization (IVP). He spent 44 years in ministry to Muslims in Asia.