Read the entire article HERE.
David Cashin's article, "Diaspora Ministry to Muslims in Japan, New Zealand, and Sweden" has just been published in the July edition of Global Missiology. This article reviews diaspora ministry to Muslims in three countries which Dr. Cashin visited while on sabbatical. Japan, New Zealand and Sweden are considered as paradigms of three levels of islamization--“trader stage”, “emerging Islamic communities,” and “established Islam.” Each of these levels presents different kinds of challenges and approaches in sharing the Gospel with Muslims. Dr. Cashin outlines some of the strategies that are being pursued following a grid of mono-ethnic and multi-ethnic congregations as well as traditional and house church approaches. The article particularly highlights the movement of Iranians toward the Christian faith.
Read the entire article HERE.
My article "Augustine on redemption in Genesis 1-3" was recently published by the South African theological journal Verbum et Ecclesia. Below is the abstract:
Many theologians, including those concerned with theology of mission, frame the drama of God’s story and mission (missio Dei) through the three major acts of creation, fall and redemption. Others add that the new creation ought to be regarded as a fourth act. Although this framework describes the entire biblical narrative, creation, fall and the hope of redemptionare, of course, quite present in the first three chapters of Genesis. In this article, I endeavored to engage with the commentaries of the African church father Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) to grasp his thoughts on redemption in Genesis 1–3. In his Genesis works, Augustine was primarily concerned with clarifying the doctrine of creation and, relatively speaking, had far less to say about redemption. That said, Augustine was, quite interested with Scripture’s story of redemption in his magnum opus De Civitate Dei [City of God]. Thus, in this article, I explored two major questions: first, why did Augustine pay so little attention to redemptionin Genesis 1–3? Second, how did he articulate and relate redemption in these chapters? It was shown that while his primary focus was to articulate creation, his thoughts on redemption were probably limited some because of the insufficiency of his Old Latin Bible translation and perhaps because of other distractions in ministry. Furthermore, it was argued that Augustine’s doctrine of redemption was a subset of his discussion on creation – specifically, that the second Adam (Christ) brought new life to God’s image bearers affected by the fall of the first Adam.
My aim was to establish Augustine’s thoughts on redemption as a point of dialogue for theologians of mission endeavoring to clarify a theology of mission. As most mission theologians do not consult Augustine in their work and as most early Christian scholars do not read Augustine missionally, this study offered fresh insights for both groups of scholars.
Read the complete article HERE.
Posted by Ed
In recent months there has been an international outcry concerning a Sudanese woman named Miriam Yehya Ibrahim who was sentenced to death in an Islamic court in Sudan for apostasy from Islam. What made the case sensational was the fact that her only connection to Islam was through her long vanished Muslim father. Her mother was Christian and she had been raised as a Christian. But in all systems of Islamic law, the child of a Muslim father must be a Muslim. Her “offense” of apostasy from Islam came to light through her marriage to a Christian man. This added another layer to the controversy. In all systems of Islamic law, a Muslim woman is forbidden to marry a non-Muslim man. Thus her marriage to a “Christian” was considered tantamount to apostasy from Islam. The court officially excommunicated her and the punishment of excommunication is death. On top of all this she gave birth to her second child while in prison. You might call it a perfect storm of factors that managed to pierce the general western media silence on the mistreatment of Christians in the Muslim world. Even in the New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof opined on the importance of “freedom of religion.”
This ruling was apparently overturned but the woman remains essentially a hostage in the US Embassy in Khartoum looking for a way to leave the country. As Christians, we need a deeper understanding of what lies behind these events because they are actually preparing the way for the Gospel. At issue here is the concept of “takfir” or “excommunication.”
Excommunication in Islam has been traditionally applied to individuals as a means of social control. This is how it is being applied in Miriam Ibrahim’s case. Only on a few occasions, such as the case of the Kharidjites of medieval Islam, was it applied to an entire group of Muslims considered as heretics. But this has changed in the modern period. Virtually every Islamic council on earth, including those in the West, have excommunicated Ahmadiya Muslims and all members of the Bahai faith. In both cases, excommunication has led to physical punishment and in some cases to mass murder. As bad as the mistreatment of Ahmadiyas is, they are at least a group who claim to be Muslim. But what are we to make of the condemnations of the Bahai, who follow a completely different religion?
Islamic law rigidly defined anyone born of a Muslim father as automatically Muslim and forbids marriage of Muslim women to non-Muslim men. The intention was to give a demographic advantage to Islam such that when military conquest was not an option then demographic growth would lead to political hegemony over time. The founders of the Bahai faith were all former members of Shi’a Islam. Thus all their descendants are considered apostates from Islam. Hence the need to officially “excommunicate” them.
How does this prepare the way for the Gospel? Islamic law is a system of religious apartheid; the separate and unequal treatment of people based upon their religious beliefs. Events across the Muslim world are demonstrating that truth over and over. This is not just intolerance for Christians but also for Muslims who fall shy of theological correctness. And the definition of that theological correctness is getting narrower and narrower. Excommunication has reached such a level that various Jihadi groups are now excommunicating each other. The leader of al-Qaeda in Syria just released a statement declaring that the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria (former ISIS) are “the group of Khawarij” the same heretical group in medieval Islam that was excommunicated and destroyed. In this context Muslims are more discouraged with Islam than ever before in history.
Rather than reacting with rage at the mistreatment of Christians, recognize their sufferings as opening the door for Muslims to receive Christ. God is sovereign and He is working out His purposes through the suffering of his people. This is truly a redemptive suffering that prepares the way for salvation across the Muslim world. We short-circuit God’s purpose when we react negatively to Muslims. This is the time to love Muslims and show them the glorious Gospel path. God is preparing the way for this. Their hearts are being prepared for the message of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Posted by Dave
In "Religious Freedom in Peril," New York Times, op-ed columnist, Nicolas Kristoff takes on a new topic. Usually, his focus is on the worldwide abuse of women. For example, one popular book[i] claims more girls in China and India have been killed in the last 50 years than men killed in 20th-century wars. When a girl is born, rather than celebration, it is a death sentence. Kristoff routinely writes on topics like FGM (female genital mutilation), child marriage, educating girls, rape or domestic violence. That said, his social media blogs include concerns about child pornography , free speech, human rights, racism, and the plight of Palestinians.
In this article, however, he broaches an "awkward topic"--Muslim culpability in religious repression. The context is mistreatment of a pregnant Christian woman. Sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for converting, Meriam Ibrahim was lashed 100 times, and currently lives in the US Embassy because of governmental refusal to let her leave the country. Kristoff then goes on to list other abuses: in Malaysia a severe law disallowing Christian use of the word "Allah"; in Pakistan, an attorney is shot dead for defending a man falsely accused under the brutal blasphemy law; in Iran, a lawyer is given 9 years in jail for defending a Christian "apostate" pastor. He also mentions indiscriminate slaughter of Shi'ites, and persecution of Pakistani Ahmadis, who can be arrested for saying "Peace be Upon Him" (Muhammad).
Kristoff knows that discussing such incidents of global religious repression by Muslims is tricky and argues they have not always treated minorities this way: For instance, Muhammad's AD 628 document guaranteed the safety and security of monks in St. Catherine's monetary, and even stated that a Christian woman must not be forced to marry a Muslim without her approval. He further cushions his criticism by reminding us that others have also engaged in religious repression, such as inflicted on Jews in Europe 50 years ago. He reminds us that Muslims themselves are persecuted in places like Myanmar, but states they suffer most at the hands of fellow-believers. He fears that Islamophobes and Islam-haters in the West could use his words to fuel fear of Islam as a violent religion, yet insists that such acts by Muslims cause greater damage to them and their religion than Islam-haters could ever accomplish.
What then are we to make of Kristoff's soft approach? Frankly, I applaud his careful choice of words, because we also have a checkered past; Islamophobia is prevalent in the West[ii] and racism still exists. Nevertheless, his point is clear: This "sad index" is proof of rising Muslim religious intolerance. He urges all of us to speak up, and sets a good example of how to do so with humility, understanding and respect.
[i] Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. He and his wife Sheryl WuDunn co-authored two other books: Thunder from the East, China Wakes, and a fourth is due this fall, A Path Appears: Enriching the Lives of Others--and Ourselves.
[ii] Some research suggests negative views of Islam are higher among white evangelical protestants. Do we take Christ's command seriously to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? “Views of Islam Remain Sharply Divided.” Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious & Public Life, September 9/04 and http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Views-of-Islam-Remain-Sharply-Divided.aspx, April 29/10.
Posted by Warren Larson
Constantine Campbell, jazz musician (and professor of Greek and New Testament) claims,
"The arts are all about life [and] Jesus is all about life" and that there shouldn't be a barrier between the arts and the gospel. He asks, "Shouldn't the beautiful message of Jesus be conveyed and communicated in a beautiful and creative way?"
Indeed, many Christians on mission have no place for the arts in their ministry and some are quite fearful of the arts and artistic environments. On the other hand, some Christian attempts at the arts have not always been excellent.
So how do Christians embrace the arts in outreach and connect with the sub-cultures of artists?
Posted by Ed
I just finished reading Nabeel Qureishi's book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. This is one of the best books I have seen that walks the reader through the mental processes and questions of a devout Muslim who eventually confesses Christ as Lord. Although Qureishi's background is somewhat special as an Ahmadiyya, the convictions that he holds and the questions he asks are typical for devout Muslims. I appreciate the warm family relationships that Qureishi describes which help us to see both the attractiveness of many Muslims and the terrible cost of conversion. The approach of Qureishi's Christian friend is exemplary and would be a very good model for other Christians to emulate in their outreach to Muslims. I also greatly appreciate the diversity of the Muslim world which the book illustrates. Ahmadiyyas have been declared apostate (murtad) and excommunicated (takfir) by virtually every Islamic council in history and have suffered immense persecution because of it. It is helpful for Christians to recognize that the people suffering the most from Islamic orthodoxy and radicalism are other Muslims! Qureishi's greatest contribution may well be inspiring Christians not to regard Muslims as the enemy, not to recoil from them as objects of fear, but to see them as people desperately in need of the message of Jesus. This book gets my top recommendation for Christians everywhere to read.
Posted by Dave
I'm very happy to share that my new book Mission in the Early Church has just been released. This project grew out of classroom lectures and discussion in history of mission courses taught over the past eight years and I pray it helps Protestants in particular answer the question: so what happened in mission between Paul and William Carey? At present, the book can be purchased at the Wipf and Stock web site or through Amazon. Below is a brief summary and some endorsements.
How did Christian mission happen in the early church from AD 100 to 750? Beginning with a brief look at the social, political, cultural, and religious contexts, Mission in the Early Church tells the story of early Christian missionaries, their methods, and their missiology. This book explores some of the most prominent themes of mission in early Christianity, including suffering, evangelism, Bible translation, contextualization, ministry in Word and deed, and the church. Based on this survey, modern readers are invited to a conversation that considers how early Christian mission might inform global mission thought and practice today.
"Edward Smither not only offers a much-needed corrective by covering a characteristic so integral to church, but he does it by balancing thorough scholarship with readability and contemporary relevance. Smither does not limit his narrative to expansion of Christianity in the West alone but provides a global perspective on early church history à la Andrew Walls."
—Allen Yeh, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies and Missiology, Biola University's Cook School of Intercultural Studies, California
"Too many Christians suppose evangelism began when modern Westerners decided to bring the gospel to the ignorant masses of the world's darkest continents. As both a missiologist and ancient church scholar, Edward Smither is perfectly positioned to recover the truth that missions began in the New Testament and never stopped expanding during the church's earliest centuries. Writing with easy-to-read clarity and an expert's mastery, Smither tells a forgotten story that no Christian should miss!"
—Bryan Litfin, Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute, Illinois
"Smither in Mission in the Early Church has filled an important gap in historical mission studies by surveying the vibrant mission practice of the early church. Smither's insights into the way the whole church was mobilized for mission has profound implications for us today. The sheer variety of how this mighty stream of lay witnesses bore witness to Christ is nothing short of breathtaking! It's an enjoyable and informative journey—I recommend it."
—Timothy C. Tennent, Professor of World Christianity, Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky
"Mission in the Early Church is the book of choice for readers seeking a concise introduction to this oft-overlooked era of mission history. Smither thematically summarizes a vast array of sources to provide an overview of the early spread of the Christian faith. Sidebars and discussion questions connect the ancient story with our story on mission with God today."
—Craig Ott, Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois
Posted by Ed
Through the kind permission from Wipf and Stock Publishers, a free excerpt of Rethinking Constantine is now available for download HERE. The excerpt features Glen Thompson's excellent chapter, "From Sinner to Sinner? Seeking a Consistent Constantine" where he in part looks at the faith of the emperor. Here's a taste:
Seventeen hundred years after gaining control of the western Roman world, Constantine remains one of only a handful of Roman emperors whose name is still widely recognizable. This is due primarily to the new relationship that he formed between himself, the Christian church, and the empire and its legal system. Yet even some of the most basic aspects of that relationship are still hotly debated by scholars. This chapter presents a brief overview of the past several decades of Constantinian scholarship and then addresses several areas where history and theology converge and where consensus is still lacking. In particular, an Augustinian approach is used to examine the motives for and timing of Constantine’s conversion and to evaluate his Christian “walk.” The final section examines how both Christians and pagans viewed the emperor in the years following his reign, and this serves as a further check on the earlier sections.
Posted by Ed
I am sometimes quoted as saying that since biblical times the point of the spear of the mission of God has been the soldiers and merchants. God is obviously re-mobilizing marketplacers around our globally connected world in new-old ways. Indeed, we live in a world that needs social entrepreneurs and even more so, those who proclaim the good news of Jesus and disciple each other while connecting with people at their points of need. Consider this example of a multi-purpose, triple bottom-line, "win win," self-sustaining venture out of Nashville.
Where do YOU fit in the mission of God?
Posted by Mike
As the World Cup kicks off today, check out this documentary on the faith journey of 5 international players:
Posted by Ed