Book Review: Lingel, Joshua, Morton, Jeff & Nikides, Bill (eds.) 2011. Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel

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This work should be seen as a response to an intense discussion in church and missionary circles in the United States about approaches to contextualization in the Islamic sphere. Among other things, it is about Bible translations that are adapted to the Islamic world in their language use and that are mostly supervised and supported linguistically, technically and financially by so-called Insider Movements (IM), but partly by Western organizations.

The Faculty of Theology in Biola has been particularly prominent in the discussion, as it has taken the lead in preparing general statements on this subject for some church federations (free churches). The essays presented here constitute a very detailed and courageous collection and summary of research from the last decade. The collection is impressive for its scope, the use of a tremendous amount of opinions and publications on the subject, and the presentation of both sides. Proponents and critics, from the latter circle the work comes, come to the language and find hearing. Unfortunately, so a downer of this work, the proponents are always described from a critical point of view. In addition to the critical editors, Georges Houssney, John Span, Roger Dixon, David Talley, Emir Caner, David Abernathy, Adam Simnowitz, Abdul Qurban, Edward Ayub, Elijah Abraham, Bassam Madany, Sasan Tavassolie and old sources (Zwemer, Cook) have their say.

The editors rightly assume that the “problem” of contextualizing Bible translations in the Islamic world can only be answered in close connection with the “Insider Movement” developments. Consequently, and for the benefit of the reader, they develop their critical argumentation on the basis of numerous perspectives of insiders and outsiders. It is primarily the insider accounts that enrich the debate.

The editors divide the problem into the three subject areas of missiology, theology, and translation studies. From a theological-missiological point of view, the chapters on hermeneutics (chapter 2) and

– on hermeneutics (chapter 2),

– missiology (chapter 3) and

– the insider perspectives (chapter 5)

a rich fund of critical arguments on ethical, hermeneutical, sociological, and psychological issues of this kind of contextualization. For the field of contextualized Bible translations and for Bible translators, chapters 2 and 4 give a good overview of the theological-missiological reservations. These include the ingratiation with Islam, the abandonment of the doctrine of the Trinity, the betrayal of Christians from an Islamic background, who use the family names in the description of the Trinity to distinguish themselves from Islam, and many more arguments.

The entire account is based on two arguments. First, the insider movement and the spectrum of contextualization in Islam (C1-C6 spectrum) developed by Travis is criticized, thus rejecting the option of a “dualistic presence” as a “Muslim” Christian. This would remain with good conscience attached to the Islamic background on a sociological level. Secondly, approaches to a linguistic-cultural contextualization in the Islamic area are moved into the realm of syncretism. A vivid anecdote in the introduction (pp. 8-10) describes the tension of this problem. A Western Christian “Jim” and a local Christian from an Islamic background “Tahwil” engage in a dialogue in which it becomes clear that Tahwil is mentored by Jim, but the latter picks up so much from Islam that Tahwil no longer knows whether he is actually a Christian or a Muslim.

This book is a fund for discussion. For critics, it provides a summary and categorization of the many issues surrounding this subject. For proponents, it provides insight into the movement’s potential weaknesses, as well as a comprehensive overview of the main arguments from a critical perspective. For readers unfamiliar with the discussion, the criticism in this book is so strong that it is not possible to get an objective impression of the subject only with the help of the book.


Insider Movements ; Bible translation ; missionary movement ; century of Bible translation ; global church ; glocal church ; church development aid ; church workers