Overture 9 from the PCA’s Potomac Presbytery expresses grave concern concerning the practices of the “Insider Movement” regarding their translation practices and asks for the formation of a study committee to advise MTW on this matter. The “Insider Movement” (IM) is a term for a variety of organizations and philosophies that are attempting to “contextualize” the Christian message for various cultures around the world.
The issue comes to the fore in the matter of Bible translating. IM seems to want the current cultural situation to play as significant a factor in Bible translation as linguistic considerations. For example, they want to translate “son” as “messiah” in reference to Jesus because it is offensive to Muslims.
A member of Potomac Presbytery has provided a helpful link to an article that discusses the Insider Movement. The first part of the article will help you understand more about this movement before we consider it at General Assembly this year:
The last four decades have witnessed a major shift in missionary thought and practice. The Lausanne Movement, launched in 1974 at the world congress in Switzerland, sparked a worldwide revolution of innovative approaches to missions. Driven by a strong desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our lifetime, myriads of mission agencies implemented major changes in their mission statements and strategies. This gave rise to an ocean of new methods and approaches.
This paper will focus on the Insider Movement (IM) because of the growing concern in missions circles about the philosophy and practices of the movement, especially in Muslim contexts. Some agencies have drafted position statements barring their staff from extreme contextualization practices.
It is worthwhile to note that God has been doing wonderful things among Muslims all over the world. The numbers of conversions to Christ are unprecedented. Although the IM claims huge results, most of the fruit is produced by national believers who faithfully preach and teach the word to their own people, often unbeknownst to western missionaries. Due to the scope of this paper we will not be addressing fruitful practices. Rather, we will expose the unbiblical concepts and practices of the Insider Movement.
What is the Insider Movement?
Insider Movement is a fairly recent term used to describe a variety of approaches such as Common Ground, Common Word, Camel Method, and the C1-C6 scale of contextualization.
Although leaders of these movements do not all agree on details, they share common convictions. Some of them object to being categorized as Insiders. However, an examination of each approach reveals that they hold in common similar views of Islam, Muhammad, and the Qur’an. Consequently, their view of God, Christ, and the gospel are impacted.
David Hesselgrave, a prominent missiologist, wrote in “Contextualization that is authentic and relevant” (International Journal of Frontier Missions 12(3):115-119.):
It is obvious that a wide variety of meanings, methods, and models are attached to the word contextualization… Still in its infancy, that word has already been defined and redefined, used and abused, amplified and vilified, coronated and crucified. (Hesselgrave 1984:693)
Nevertheless, the writings and practices of Insiders demonstrate a number of presuppositions that they seem to agree on. Generally, Insiders tend to have a positive view of Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an. Many believe that Muhammad is some sort of prophet from God, that the Qur’an is at least a partially inspired word from God that points to Jesus, and that Islamic culture is not contradictory to the biblical message.
Therefore, they do not invite Muslims out of Islam (they would call this “extraction”). Rather, they ask Muslims to follow Jesus while remaining Muslim and participating in Islamic religious practices such as prayer in mosques, reading the Qur’an, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Proponents of these approaches are extremely vocal. They have been given major platforms in seminaries, publications, and international conferences.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Georges Houssney was raised in the predominantly Muslim city of Tripoli, Lebanon. He came to faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager. Soon God grew a deep love for Muslims in his heart, and he began to sense God’s call for full-time service among them. Well-known for his work supervising the translation and publication of the Bible into clear modern Arabic, Georges and his family moved from the Middle East to the United States in 1982 to minister to international students. Georges is passionate about reaching internationals here and abroad with the great news of salvation. He writes and lectures internationally about ministry to Muslims, and he strives to awaken a new generation who will proclaim the gospel boldly. Georges is founder and director of Horizons International and does Muslim evangelism training through his training Engaging Islam.
Read the entire article here.
Wes White is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. This story first appeared in his blog at www.weswhite.org and is used with his permission.