by Robert Brow   (web site -

A review of "Danger! New Directions in Contextualization" by Phil Parshall, with responses by John Travis and Dean S. Gilliland, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 34.4, October 1998, pp. 404-417.

Should Muslim converts attend their mosque following their conversion? Phil Parshall accepts "a transitional period wherein the new believer, while maturing his adopted faith, slowly pulls back from mosque attendance" (p.405) But Parshall describes what he views as a dangerous development in Asia (fictional name Islampur). There 4,500 Muslim converts come from 68
congregations in 66 villages. Of these 50% go to the traditional mosque on Friday, are unclear about the Trinity, and though they do not understand Arabic they still enjoy the melodious reading of the Qur'an.

Parshall objects that "The mosque is pregnant with Islamic theology." Continuing to attend after baptism would be as deceitful as a Muslim coming to take communion with us with a view to winning parishioners over to his religion.

John Travis (a pseudonym) responds by pointing out that connected with the Islampur converts there is a believing community of ten times that number. 97% of them believe Jesus is the only Saviour, 76% attend Christian worship, and 66% read or listen to the Gospels daily. Most of these still worship in their mosque, and are part of the local Islamic social community.

Travis compares this with the situation in many of our church congregations, and adds that this approach has made it possible for many new believers to be taught from the Bible and they are open to the Holy Spirit.

Dean S. Gilliland complains that Phil Parshall had written about the need of contextualization for twenty years, but now protest against "the dangerous slide." Gilliland says that although the Islampur believers "call themselves Muslims, they are not like other Muslims." Paul baptized the families of the jailor and the businesswoman Lydia in Philippi immediately on the assumption that
the Holy Spirit would teach them. So he assumes that the Holy Spirit is glad to work "in poorly informed, sometimes misguided believers" in Islampur and elsewhere.

Last year a mosque was built here in Kingston, and they are sprouting like mushrooms in Toronto and other Canadian cities. If a Muslim came to learn in our Christian congregation, I certainly would not recommend a rejection of his or her culture. A person could talk to Jesus and look to the Holy Spirit for wisdom while still attending a Mosque on Saturday. We do not require someone from the arts and literary community of our city to stop attending plays when they come to faith.

The only definition of a Christian is in the Book of Acts. "It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians" (Acts 11:26).

The word disciple (mathytes) simply means someone who is learning with a teacher (rabbi/guru). I hate to add anything to define where and how the Holy Spirit must teach his circle of disciples.

(Posted on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association List, October 1998)

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