Good Questions on Contextualizing the Gospel

Question from a student - " I have a question/comment. When I was watching the insider movement video, there were a few things that I just could not agree on. I'm not currently directly involve with any M work (yet), but I've heard many workers share and teach on their work, and we would use "Isa Al-Masih" to refer to Jesus, it's contextualized to the local context, and I have not seen a hindrance for using that term. Also, because of the situation here (which i'm sure in many other countries as well), where M are not allowed to convert out, and it's actually written in the law of the country, and we are not allowed to 'evangelize' to them, I know that some MBB have made the choice to continue going to the mosque while praying to Jesus, and even sharing about Jesus inside. Also, instead of saying "I am a Christian", say "I am a follower of Christ" is better, because religion and the Malay culture is so intertwined for them, and they have been so entrenched in the culture, that the word "Christian" is actually like taking them even out of their culture. (Not sure if this is making sense). For example, there was an elderly man whom they were reaching out to. One day he finally accepted the Lord and they said, "Congratulations you're now a Christian!" and he got soooo offended. I've heard ppl from different C1-C5 share, and I think that each has its own unique situation, and I believe that the Lord can use all things for His glory. Anyways, that's just my 2 cents.
Could you expound more on how you would explain the trinity? I know you talked about how the stone tablets are believed to be eternally beside allah and that is similar to the Logos, the Son, being alongside the Father eternally. Also, in Gen 1, the Spirit is hovering over the waters, and "Elohim" being a plural form. How else would you talk about the trinity?
My response:

The issue of contextualizing the gospel is essential to get straight. I would recommend you go deeper in the subject.... The book Chrislam is probably the best resource that has been written on it. Joshua Lingel had many top scholars and missiologists contribute to this book.

I would say that using the language of "Isa Al-Masih" as a starting point isn't bad, However, we must be clear that The Qur'an has a different Jesus and there really isn't any way for a person to be follower of "Isa Al-Masih" but still be a M' and actually have a genuine salvation experience. What defines being a follower of Jesus is to "obey all that Jesus commands in the bible. If they want to follow Jesus they must come to the conclusion that every other religion represent false God's and false prophets and must be repented of. Followers of Jesus must obey the words of Jesus according to scripture.

Salvation according to the Apostles and the early Church fathers was centered around Jesus as fully God and Fully man and His substitution atonement on the cross, and His bodily resurrection, and receiving the Holy Spirit (thus believing in the trinity is essential to conversion). People don't have to have a deep understanding of God being trune but the trinity is essential to salvation ... Jesus says in John 7... If you don't believe that I AM [YHWH] you will die in your sins. Paul quotes Acts 2:32 in Romans 10 saying whoever confesses in their hearts that Jesus is LORD [YHWH] and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved... whoever calls on the name of the LORD [YWHW - Jesus] will be saved.

So this becomes a discipleship issue. Those M's that are interested must be shown that Jesus is fully God and died an atoning death and that their faith is false. Their Jesus is wrong, and their prophet is not a prophet.... And their God is not the God of the bible in any sense.

We would never encourage a hindu to remain a hindu and just follow Jesus, we would never tell a budhist to do that, or any other religion.... so why do we with Muslims? Is it because we start with the social difficulties and work our way backwards toward the bible? Biblical discipleship is the opposite we start with the bible and work our way to the social issues? Biblical contexualization is how does scripture work with culture NOT how does culture work with scripture. the starting point is everything....

I don't think we should ever shy away from using the word christian. That may be offensive but that's ok... a M' would never ever give up their name and just say they follow Muhammad so why should we give up our precious name that all the Apostles and early church fathers shed their blood over.... Lets remember the main question the Romans asked the early Christians during the roman persecutions was .... are you a Christian .... when they boldly said yes they were crucified or burned or thrown to the beasts... This was the Apostolic spirit. A faithful witness. If our name is a stumbling block then we work hard to help them overcome that stumbling block but we cannot renounce our name. Because being a Christian ties us to the global universal church and Jesus said He would build his Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. His church was built upon the Apostles teaching and doctine and central to that is High Christology Hymn singing and partaking of the Lords supper as the central worship elements for all time until Christ comes. So there is no room for a Jesus Mosque etc. The Apostles baptize believers and plant churches and suffer persecution in the process. Worship expressions can and should take on a cultural flavor but singing to the Trinue God and taking Communion, and baptism are not optional but are universal to how the church as and always will function. I would say that being connected to the global Christian Church is a chief way and means of receiving the grace to mature and finish as a true disciple of Jesus. For salvation must be walked out daily and "centers around" daily commitment empowered by the Holy Spirit and so it is possible for people to fall away from grace and be cut off from the vine if they don't stay steadfast in the truth. Its virtually impossible to stay in persevering faith if one isn't doing it in community with other believers.

This is why hypercontexualized insider movements don't often last past 1 generation of believers.... when the center of you family and community life is that of a different religion and you never find a new family then you just simply won't make it. Jesus says this is my Mother and sister and brother.... those that hear my words and obey, Jesus says, if one doesn't "hate" his brother, mother, and father in comparison to Me is not worthy to be my Disciple. Jesus is re-orienting the Apostles family as the family of God to be found in the Church - the Christian community first and formost.

In America we see youth often calling themselves Christians but never get connected to the Church and their main community is that of the "tax collectors, and sinners" and they never mature and eventually live lives entrenched is sin and darkness. We are called to go minister to the "tax collectors and sinners" but not to have them be their primary community be that... Matthew stopped being a tax collector and became a disciple. He couldn't be both. M's are unrepentant sinners just as tax collectors and sinners ... just as we used to be.

I don't think we have to tell a M to leave the mosque the scriptures will do that for us clearly ..... All we have to do is say ... ok you think you are ready to follow Isa ... lets see what that means .... Put the Qur'an away and pick up the Bible. Ok lets read all the words of Jesus and lets do all of them together... I'll do them with you. Lets start reading in Matthew. Read the Sermon on the Mount with your Muslim Friend. Ask them "OK what Is Jesus asking us to do? What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Don't let them get away with watering down the text... what does the text say? Ask them what blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled them for Jesus name means? Pray with them prayers of repentance going to the cross for forgiveness and receive the grace to follow Jesus' commands. When you start with the Gospels and you read them with a M there really isn't room to be an insider. For they called out... many said to Jesus I want to follow you.... and what did He say... "let the dead bury the dead, but you come and follow me," or "whoever seeks to save his life will lose it," or "whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back in not fit for the Kingdom of God," etc. etc.

Jesus boldly confronted and polemically addressed the false ideologies of His day. So how would the Jesus of the Gospels deal with M's that are so aggressive against His divinity and atoning death? He told the rich young ruler to go sell all and come follow Him, but He didn't run after Him when the choked on the message. Most M's won't like the gospel, we don't want to make it any more offensive than it is ... but we can't water it down. Following Jesus is a radical re-orientation of leaving all and becoming a new creation.... the old is gone the new has come.

I think until we as a church are willing to suffer be thrown and jail and suffer martyrdom as the Apostles and the early church were we will continue to try to make being a Christian an easy and wide road when in reality it is a narrow path and few are those that find it.

Missions is primarily about proclaiming the glory of Christ to the lost. We shouldn't try to make a baby eat a steak and we shouldn't try to get a M to understand the entire message right away. However, if we are spoonfeeding them the right meal then it is small bites of the same glorious story... Small bites of steak are still steak, We don't feed people Chrislam in hopes that one day they will eat Christ and get rid of -Lam ....

in regards to the trinity:

The trinity can be defined as humanities experience of God's self revelation in history.

Meaning... We don't start with our minds and our pre-existing worldviews on what being God means.... We start with how God has revealed Himself to Humanity. So with a M we say ok lets start 2600 years before the Qur'an... How did God reveal Himself to Humanity from the beginning? Start with the Torah..... Then work through the O.T. and the prophecies about the Messiah, etc.... The Jews weren't expecting a divine Messiah in the 1st century, but they were every very monotheistic, but even 1st century Jews had diversity within the divine identity [light, word, wisdom were more than attributes in the old testament but they are personified] So there was evidence about this plurality or diversity within the divine identity in the conversation from very strict monotheistic jewish sects. See Richard bauckam Jesus and the God of Israel

The word Trinity isn't in the bible ... but When the Jewish Apostles who were very strict monotheistic Jews had to reckon with God's self disclosure in Jesus Christ. The Apostles were convinced that Jesus was divine and the Apostles attributed the divine name YHWH {the tetragramaton, I AM THAT I AM....] to Jesus not the Father... seen all over the New Testament. This is seen in its highest form as the Apostle Paul re-writes the Jewish creed the shema in 1 Cor. 8:6 saying there is one God, the Father and one LORD Jesus Christ. (see the comment below about plurality within the O.T. Shema). So Strict Monotheism includes plurality within the divine identity. Jesus being the incarnate Logos or eternal Son (Ps. 2, Prov. 30). Gives Clarity to Elohim being Father, and Himself as Son. (Most clearly Synoptic prayers and the book of John). So the New Testament or [better said the New Covenant] gives us progressive revelation clarifying the identity of the Godhead. We are sure that this was a huge stretch for the Jewish Apostles to make the leap believing that a human was inclusive in the divine identity but they DID come to that conclusion.... The theology and doctrine of the trinity was formulated as the early Jewish Christians formulating clarity and language in light of their living breathing experience with the divine Son and the Divine Spirit that now lived inside them. This expectation was dimly seen looking back but by in large the Jewish scholars of the 1st centry missed this and it wasn't a formulated messianic expectation. (though there are plenty of Jewish targums (commentaries on the O.T.) that point to a divine messiah prior to Jesus) For these references see Appendix on Messianic expectation in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim

The Christians were ultimately deemed heretics by the Jewish synagogue because of their faith and belief in Jesus. (for at the beginning they didn't see themselves as starting a new religion.. .they would have seen themselves as fulfilling the OLD Covenant and Jesus instituting the prophesied New Covenant at the LORD'S supper. But when the Jews rejected this New Covenant movement ... they formed synogogue prayers condemning the Christians to eternal punishment and expelled them. Thus the early Christian worship expression was very close to how they would have worshiped in the synagogue (except that Passover meal was now every Sunday in the Eucharist instead of once a year) (this type of contextualization cannot be used in the Christian M' debate since Christianity is not a different Religion all together than that of the OLD Testament but rather the fulfillment of it - we still hold the O.T. scriptures as the word of God - we would never do this with any other book... and lets not forget that the early church used the O.T. as their only scriptures for the first 30 years of its life.

M's pride themselves upon Allah's oneness as God. However, the Qur'an is seen by most Sunni Muslims as eternally existing on Stone Tables and coming down to us exactly preserved as those tablets. I use this point to show that they have their own plurality in what is Divine. Is the Word of Allah different than Allah? or is it the same? Is it eternal? Since those tablets are also pre-existent and eternal could they be worshiped? So did the Tables become incarnated in the manuscipts of the Qur'an?

So If Allah is compassionate has he ever related and shown compassion to anyone? The answer is NO, because of His transcendence He has never actually related to anyone so His names are just names they have never been demonstrated to actually be attributes.

The Trinity is the opposite ... the Father has always been a father enjoying perfect relationship with His eternal Son and the Spirit, the Fellowship of the Trinity is How God's eternal attributes are able to be demonstrated. God is love because the Father has always been able to love upon His Son. Allah is actually not able to love cause He can't be relationaly connected to anyone

These are more theological and philosophical answers but I like staying biblical:

Gen 1:26 Let US make man in OUR image

That is why in the Shema, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!’, the ‘our God’ part is plural in the Hebrew (literally ‘our Gods’ and the word for ‘one’ is echad – a compound unity, not absolute unity as in the word ‘yachid’.) Arnold writes ‘If Moses had intended to teach God’s absolute oneness as opposed to His compound oneness, this would have been a far more appropriate word (yachid) to use.’ But he didn’t! He used echad which is used in such passages as Gen 1:5 where evening and morning are called one (echad’) day. Gen 2:24 where when man and woman come together in marriage and are called ‘one flesh’. Ezra 2:64 where the whole assembly was one, though of course it comprised of many people. Or Ezek 37:17 where the two sticks are combined to become one. These are all uses of echad and show that it is a compound unity.

The Prophesied Messiah was declared to be Divine in the O.T.

The many Angel of the Lord appearances in which the Son of God comes to earth in human form (not human flesh yet), stunning some of His people into the realization that they had just seen God (Genesis 16:13; Judges 13:22).

Isaiah’s prophecies of the Messiah being called “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14) and “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6)

Micah 5:2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.

The conversation between the LORD and the Lord in Messianic Psalm 110.

In Zechariah 12:10, the Lord says “They will look on me whom they pierced.

Psalm 45:6-7 - Elohim is applied to two divine personalities in the same verse! The second Elohim is called the God of the first Elohim! Only makes sense in terms of the Messiah being God, the son of God as other verses have shown!

Jeremiah 23:5-6 'The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

all three personalities are used in the same passage such as Isa 48:12-16 where God the creator of the earth is speaking and says that He has been sent by another, Jehovah, together with a third person, the Spirit of Jehovah. This is the trinity! And it is clearly seen in the O.T. The three are seen also in Isaiah 63:7-14.