Guest Blog: Biblical Foundations and Guidelines for Contextualization (Pt 5)
Editor’s Note: This guest blog is written by the IMB’s Regional Leader for Central Asia. It is a six part series, giving the biblical foundations and guidelines for contextualization, and making application to Christian ministry in the Muslim world. This series will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming book “Look What God is Doing in the Muslim World.”
The Message of the Good News
We can use their book as a bridge to the Gospel, as long as we do it in a way that does not imply divine inspiration or equality with the Bible.
We can choose our terminology carefully, and delay the use of red-flag terms like “Son of God” in favor of other equally-Biblical terms until we have reached the point where we can explain those red-flag terms Biblically.
We can and should utilize the full scope of Biblical narrative to establish a worldview in which the Gospel is intelligible. The Bible doesn’t jump straight from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3 to the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1. God took centuries to establish who He is, what He requires, what humanity is like, and what He intended to do about it, before He brought Jesus on the scene. The worldview of the Old Testament is essential to understanding the Biblical Gospel. Most Muslims who come to Christ do so after exposure to a broad scope of Biblical revelation over a period of time. Take the long view. In each conversation, ask yourself, “What Bible/Gospel content can I add to their understanding today?” In this context, and in the oral cultures that make up so much of the Muslim world, chronological Bible storying is a wonderful tool!
We can and should utilize a variety of communication genres and media to communicate the message of the Gospel. Some cultures revel in poetry, songs or proverbs – all of which are found in Scripture. Explore the internet, audio, TV, video, and print media. Find out what genres they use to communicate worldview truth. Find out what media they use and respond to the most. Use any and all genres and media that are appropriate.
We can utilize whatever name for God is most appropriate in any given language, including Allah. We must import Biblical content and correct past understandings with any word we use for God.
We can utilize the Arabic forms of other names and terms in the Bible, rather than forms from other foreign languages like English or French or Russian or Dutch.
We should stress that we are calling people to a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and not to ethnic treason and the abandonment of their cultural identity.
We do not need to attack Islam directly.
At the same time:
We can never downplay the central doctrines of the Gospel – particularly those that contradict Islam or that cause offence to Muslims. Many examples could be given here, but in a Muslim context we need to take special care that we never deemphasize the Deity of Christ, the reality of His death and resurrection, the necessity of His substitutionary sacrifice, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the integrity, inerrancy and finality of the Bible, and the radical nature of conversion, which is so extreme that it can only be described in terms of death and new life.
We can never downplay the necessity of repentance.
We can never deny or excise any part of Scripture or any Biblical terminology, including the term “Son of God.”
We can never construct a chronological Bible story set and call it an oral Bible. Chronological Bible story sets are wonder tools for evangelism and discipleship, but only the full text of the Bible is the Bible, and an oral Bible must be the actual words of the Bible presented in audio rather than print format.
We can never remove, substitute or downplay the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We can never give the impression that we believe that Islam, Muhammad or the Quran are of divine origin.