The Contextualization Scale's Faulty Premise

Can a person be a follower of Jesus and a Muslim at the same time?  That is the question that is right now being discussed by Lausanne Congress participants around the world.  Before I provide my own response to this issue, I'd like to provide you with the background information you will need to join the global conversation.  First, you can find the article by Joseph Cumming that prompted this discussion by clicking here. There is also a very nice video on the subject that you can view below:

Following Jesus from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

Now, on to my own response to the question.  I'd like to respond by dealing with what I feel is a faulty premise upon which this particular debate is built.

There is a premise to this discussion that I feel must be examined and, perhaps, rejected. That premise is behind the question, "The gospel must be contextualized, but how far can contextualization go without violating the gospel?" This question assumes that contextualization can go "too far." That is, it is assumed there is a kind of contextualization continuum that on one extreme features non-contexualized "normal" Christian expression and on the other full-blown syncretism. The points in the middle consist of increasingly dangerous experiments in contextualization. The debate is couched in language that presumes the legitimacy of non-contextualized Christian expression and presumes that contextual methodology is nice but fundamentally risky. 
Instead, I propose that the only truly Biblical methodology for mission, discipleship, evangelism, and church planting is one that pursues contextualization as an essential spiritual discipline. One that considers the incarnation of Jesus Christ as something of a communicable attribute of deity to be imitated by all those who would be Christ-like. I believe that the comparatively similar language of the Carmen Christi (Phil 2:5-11) and Paul's defense of his own contextualized methods (1 Cor. 9:19-23) suggests that Paul himself considered the incarnation to be an example to strive for. As Christ-followers pursue holiness, power, obedience, peace, faith, love, etc. as essential elements of Christ-likeness never to be perfectly attained in this world but always to be sought so, I believe, we ought to be pursuing the incarnational life - the life that "enfleshens" the Word among all peoples, languages, tribes, and tongues.
It isn't that I oppose debate related to the legitimacy of specific forms and practices in Christian worship, discipleship, evangelism, etc. Such debate is healthy. However, one should not assume that the so-called C1 - C3 communities that are not actively pursuing an imitation of the incarnational life of Christ are automatically legitimate. That, for example, singing "Amazing Grace" in Hindi is automatically more legitimate than chanting a Christocentric version of the "Gaytri Mantra." Why, after all, is there no debate as to the legitimacy of C1 or C2 communities? Such communities essentially deny the reality of the incarnation by their behavior (at least denying that it has any bearing on how a Christ-follower should live), reject the legitimacy of Pauline mission methodology, and often refuse to be identified with C4-C6 believers (at least as much as C4-C6 believers refuse to be identified with them). Let me suggest that believers who uncritically accept non-contextualized forms of Christian expression are not moving closer to Biblical Christianity but rather farther away from the example of Christ's own mission. C1-3 communities that are complacent and content with their status as non-incarnate, non-communicators are not following Christ as fully as they could be. The ongoing pursuit of Christlikeness requires a critical, on-going pursuit of the incarnational life. Certainly there will be disagreement as to what that means and perils (such as syncretism) along the way, but that should not dissuade us from the goal. The C1-6 scale is fatally flawed in this regard as it seems to suggest that more and more contextualization leads inevitably to syncretism and secret believers. A new contextualization scale should be created that recognizes Christlikeness as the ultimate goal of all contextualization. On one extreme are those who simply aren't pursuing Christ in this regard. On the other is full-blown, word-made-flesh incarnational ministry.

More later on this topic. I'm at the beginning of thinking through it.