Who uses so called “Muslim friendly” translations of the Bible?

October 9, 2012

Review of Chrislam:How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel

Dr. Keith E. Eitel

Dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Professor of Missions, and Director of the World Missions Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas (2005 to present).

Lingel, Joshua, Jeff Morton, and Bill Nikides, Editors,  Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel, revised ed. Garden Grove, CA: i2 Ministries Publishing, 2011.

In the art of contextualization many elements converge.  Outcomes are important.  Generally, one’s theological premises regarding the integrity and authority of the biblical text in relation to a given social context determines the resultant form of contextualization.  Variant starting points and convictions lead to differing models.

Ever since Christians and Muslims first encountered one another there has been religious social exchange, sometimes deadly and other times more congenial.  Since the closing decades of the 20th century there is an ongoing renewed emphasis on applying the principles and techniques of contextualization of the gospel to Islamic peoples, and again there are varied models.  The kaleidoscope of options and views is made more complex by globalism’s transmission of religious pluralism.  The latter deemphasizes uniqueness and promotes blends of religious affections.  This goes beyond toleration, it trends toward an embrace of all, even contradictory truth claims.

To the believing Christian who takes the Bible seriously and listens to its own claim to be God’s revelation with the consequent level of authority that concept conveys, these late modern (some say postmodern) realities threaten the integrity of the gospel message.  That being the case, perhaps with Paul’s precedent reaction found in Galatians 1:6-10 the editors and contributors of this volume are embolden to contend for the faith in the same fashion. They clearly indicate that they do have a set of biases in entering the discussion of Insider Movements [IM][1] and in assessing the results of such practices.  Indeed there are variant practices among IM advocates.

Included in the scope of their critique are practices or techniques that orbit around those that advocate IMs, though not entirely synonymous with them.  Examples of over contextualized communication techniques, for example, are so called Muslim friendly translations of the Bible.  These entail dynamic equivalent license and laxity with the actual text of the Bible to make it less exclusive and more palatable to those engrained in the matrix of Islamic thought and tradition.  IMers seem willing to modify and even distort the names of God, Jesus, and other essentials of the gospel’s prophetic voice like the death and resurrection of Christ which collectively distinguish God’s revelation from others religious truth claims.  The Quran, the level of respect afforded Islam’s prime prophet, Mohammed, and Muslim friendly evangelistic models like the CAMEL method are all subjects of concern as IMers are equally fluid regarding these elements and co-mingle them with biblical concepts so that the outcome is something else; the syncretistic blend is neither distinctly Christian nor Islamic.  The compounded concept is Chrislam.

This book is refreshing and brave.  It is refreshing to see a book state its biases and foundations of thought openly and then develop an argument to stand or fall as the evidence may dictate.  It is brave because this book is a minority report in relation to larger groups of mission practitioners who are set on conveying the uniquely genuine savior-God, Christ, and an exclusively efficacious gospel with relativized and pluralistic techniques.  For Bible believing missionaries, especially those engaging Muslim contexts, students preparing to go to such places, and pastors who lead their Great Commission churches to do the same, this book is must reading.

[1]The editors define this term as, “We use the term insiders to designate the new Christians from Islam practicing an amalgam of Christianity and Islam or Chrislam.”  Introduction, p. 1.


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Carol Noren Johnson

Have used Jewish New Testament as translated by David H. Stern. Love the translation to Philippians 2:14, for example:”Do everything without kvetching or arguing.” I love to say “quit your kvetching”!

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