Monday

What is wrong with Biblical Missiology's Critique of the Insider Movement?

Photo By JD Hancock
I had made a note to myself that I should eventually get around to responding to an article that I often see tweeted and retweeted related to contextualization.  The article appears on the website Biblical Missiology and was written by Georges Houssney.  You can find it here if you like: "What is Wrong with the Insider Movement".

Let me begin by saying that the article itself is difficult to take seriously. It offers no citations (I'll return to this point in a moment) and is very poorly edited.  I understand that Houssney is not a native English speaker, but it is still incumbent upon Biblical Missiology to raise their standards of editing and research if they are to present the most reliable and helpful information and debate possible to the Church.

Further, it is very difficult to respond point-by-point to this article.  Let me explain why:

1. There is no such thing as "The Insider Movement" -- A very, very common mistake (or tactic) made by proponents of "outsider movement" methodologies is to refer to those who pursue contextualization in mission as "The Insider Movement".  We are supposed to all share the same views, values, approaches, etc.  Houssney's article is entirely built upon this completely false premise.  There are in fact many different insider movements among different people groups which take different positions on many issues.

By using a term like "The Insider Movement", Houssney and others seem to be trying to foment opposition towards all insider approaches (i.e. contextualization) by attributing all the high-shock-value positions to all proponents of contextualization.  As a case in point, in this article Houssney wants his audience to believe the following:

- The Insider Movement affirms the Quran as God's word.
- The Insider Movement believes that the Quran contains the message of salvation and has the power to transform.
- The Insider Movement holds Muhammad in high regard.
- The Insider Movement relies on a purely cognitive approach to evangelism which effectively denies the role of the Holy Spirit.
- The Insider Movement has a low view of the universality of the Church.

The fact of the matter is that those who pursue contextualization among Muslims have a number of different views on these and other issues.  Houssney should take the approach of arguing against specific practices or forms instead of simply trying to oppose an entity which doesn't actually exist.

2. There are no citations!  Houssney at various times charges certain entities (e.g. "Common Ground", "Camel Method") with advocating particular practices or taking certain positions.  However, we are given no information about the specific details of these nor are their links to articles or resources that we can examine.  It is really pretty impossible to engage meaningfully with Houssney on these points as a result.  We aren't, for example, given specific information about who "Common Ground" is nor do we know what they actually have to say.  We are left essentially having to take Houssney's word for it.  This is not acceptable.  I strongly encourage Brother Houssney to do the hard work of providing specific quotations and citations that allow us the opportunity to fully engage this debate.

3. There is no substantial interaction with Scripture.  With all of Houssney's charging "insiders" of failing to give proper place to the Bible in their evangelism, it is ironic that he himself utilized it so sparingly in his article.  His central charge is that "the Insider Movement is unbiblical", but he doesn't actually demonstrate this from Scripture.  Note:

- In his first three points he doesn't use the Bible at all to support his positions.
- In point two he suggests that "insiders" incorrectly use Acts 17 to support their approach but doesn't explain how this is done nor provide a counter-exegesis to support his own view.
- His references to Bible verses in points 4 and 5 are decorative at best (not that it is surprising for "outsiders" to neglect context). Houssney does not demonstrate exegetically how these verses are supposed to support the points he is trying to make.

Thus, Houssney has failed to provide meaningful support of his claim that insider approaches are unbiblical. Without a clear, biblically-based argument, it is impossible to have a real exchange as to whether or not contextualization is biblical.

Conclusion
In the end, I am left once again feeling that Biblical Missiology is still not an organization worthy of serious attention.  My own position on contextualization aside, it baffles me that they would publish an article that is so inadequately conceived, written, edited and researched.  It further puzzles me that individuals would actually consider it worthy of a "retweet".  My hope is that BM will remove the article and ask Houssney to go back to the drawing board. There cannot be progress made in the Body of Christ on the issue of contextualization unless we are all committed to high-standards of debate, research, mutual understanding, and communication.  I humbly call my brothers and sisters in Christ at Biblical Missiology to rise up to this higher standard for Christ's sake.  I am certain that they are capable of doing so.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this assessment. That is partly why I wrote "The Complexity of Insiderness"(http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/32_2_PDFs/IJFM_32_2-Farah.pdf)- to help people get away from the politics of the situation. I get the sense that opponents of "insiderness" (which they assume is a bad word) try to lump everyone in the "Reinterpreting Insider" category/label, which is not helpful, fair, or true. Oh how I wish there would be more light than heat in this discussion. However, I do think people like this are starting to see more clearly since 2012. I hope the upcoming reviews of "Understanding Insider Movements" will be more nuanced than appraisals of other "IM proponents" (whatever that means) have been in the past.

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