Volume 37 - Issue 2

High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel

By David B. Garner


In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) passed an overture entitled, “A Call to Faithful Witness.” This overture, while sounding alarms on biblical translations that render the familial terms for God (Son, Father) with less offensive terms in the target language...

1. Messianic Muslims and Muslim Evangelicals

1.1. What Is IM?

In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) passed an overture entitled, “A Call to Faithful Witness.”1 This overture, while sounding alarms on biblical translations that render the familial terms for God (Son, Father) with less offensive terms in the target language, also brought ecclesiastical attention to increasingly popular approaches to missions described as Insider Movements (IM).2 Called now Jesus Movements by some,3 these controversial methods have gained traction in regions where the Christian gospel has historically encountered harsh opposition. Motivated by the perceived scarcity of measurable fruit in places like Bangladesh and other predominately Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu countries,4 evangelical missionaries have employed IM techniques since the 1980s. In the 1990’s, IM popularity expanded around the globe as many missionary practitioners became enamored with its tactics.5 Since these two formative decades, various forms of IM practice have entered the mainstream, crossed organizational and denominational boundaries, and now shape much of evangelical missions.

To their credit, IM-ers have sought to address certain missiological blind spots and have implemented greater methodological self-consciousness, seeking to halt unwittingly importing Western culture under the banner of Christianity.6 Measuring the success of that rectification to cultural imperialism is not our present concern. Rather we attend here to the more controversial facets of IM thinking. Many IM proponents insist that Muslims who convert to Christ should hold fast to various Islamic practices and avoid the identity of “Christian” altogether. This avoidance exceeds the realm of labels, as converts are called to remain inside Islamic religion and retain their Islamic cultural and religious identity. It is fair to say that most IM advocates intend that these remaining and retaining insiders not simply carry on their cultural and religious practices unthinkingly, but do so with an eye toward recasting these religious traditions and exposing their fellow Muslims to Isa-Masih (Jesus the Messiah).7 Some IM-ers assert that Christian missionaries should get “inside” the social and religious boundaries by public conversion to Islam, and some western missionaries have become practicing Muslims to deliver the message of Jesus.8 Still others assert that genuine Islamic perspective affirms that the “religion revealed by all the prophets (e.g., Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad) was originally the same . . . ‘true Islam’ is what real Christians believe.”9

How have such paradigmatic changes in missions gained traction? Though causes surely vary, ultimately IM practice prevails because of conviction. Affirming their commitment to Scripture, many have grown to believe IM methods alone honor the gospel’s integrity, that these movements alone follow the Spirit of God today. In fact, IM advocates view their missiological methods as not only within the scope of biblical permissibility, but rather as mandated by how Scripture portrays apostolic patterns. Is this so? Has IM unearthed the buried jewel of historic missions, recapitulating the first-century successes recorded in Acts? Is IM’s interpretation and application of the interface of apostolic method and first-century religion rich rediscovery or radical redefinition?

Piloting IM thinking is a set of determinative hermeneutical commitments, and it is these hermeneutical features that will serve as the focus of our analysis. Professing converts and missionary practitioners could surely be found to defend IM practice and proclaim evidence of its fruit. However, neither a battle of anecdotes nor listings of alleged successes and failures adequately reckon with IM practice. IM thinking needs addressing according to Scripture, and IM-ers themselves have discerned this need. As criticism has mounted, IM advocates have openly defended IM practices, producing not only anecdotes and statistics, but also arguing from Scripture itself. Such defenses have come primarily from missiologists and missionary practitioners, most with strong ties to Fuller Seminary’s renowned innovative missiologists, such as Donald McGavran. So integral to IM is this Fuller foundation that before we can adequately address its hermeneutical contours, we must understand the historical and conceptual impetus for these contours—that is, the cultural anthropology and missiology of McGavran and his colleagues.

1.2. A New Map for Missions

At the end of his influential life, McGavran cried out, with all of his missiological gravitas, for a “giant step” of prayerful deployment of frontier missionary societies to “focus on the unfinished task of world evangelization!”10 In this forceful plea, McGavran claimed that missiological zeal for the unreached masses would succeed only if combined with deliberate, tactical mobilization. Emotion without strategy is empty, and as he assessed his contemporary landscape, existing missions structures appeared woefully deficient to the monumental task. “Unless here in America literally thousands of new frontier missionary societies are founded, in thousands of local churches in most Churches (denominations), the ‘unreached peoples’ will not be reached.”11 Notwithstanding the exaggerated American-centric dependence for worldwide evangelistic success, one can only appreciate McGavran’s vision and zeal.

McGavran proved himself a fearless maverick and strategist, a perpetual advocate for creative cultural analysis and attendant missiological corrections. In a fashion similar to and openly sympathetic to the controversial formulations of fellow Fuller professor Charles Kraft, McGavran paradigmatically relied upon cultural anthropological and sociological research.12 Assessing his ardor and analysis, one should also note here his foreboding definition of unreached peoples. Tucked neatly in the rallying call to mobilization lies a striking distinction between reached and unreached peoples, an underlying sociological concept that has birthed a powerful impetus for IM. McGavran asserts,

An “unreached” ethnos or segment of society is one in which individuals who are Christ’s followers are perceived by their fellows to have “ left their own people and traitorously gone off to join another people.” Putting it positively, a people is to be considered reached when its members who become Christians are perceived by their fellows as “still our people who are pointing the way to what they believe as a good path for us all to follow.”13

The so-called traitorous departure of Christians, which McGavran bemoaned as early as The Bridges of God in 1955, 14 generated early rationale for missiological recalibration. Taking aim at the “problem” of converts leaving their families and their social identities, and marching in step with McGavran’s vision for the world and angst over measured missions failures in resistant cultures, missiologists such as Charles Kraft, Ralph Winter, Kevin Higgins, John and Anna Travis, Dudley Woodberry, and Rebecca Lewis have drawn the IM map. By extending the boundaries of McGavran’s “people groups,” they have found ways to affirm a broader range of religious and cultural neutrality.15 McGavran consistently opposed missiology shaped by Western individualism,16 and IM proponents have elevated such “people groups” and “people movements” into a decisive paradigm, asserting broader acceptability of their non-Christian religious identity and practices, and encouraging “believing families . . . [to] remain inside their socioreligious communities.”17Capitalizing on McGavran‘s categories IM advocates have advanced extant socio-religious identity to a place of functional stasis and prominence,18 so that following Jesus means appropriating him within the boundaries of existing religions.

Thus, according to IM missiological cartography, the best route toward creating a growing body of Jesus followers is to insist they (1) remain in existing cultural, social, familial, and religious networks and (2) retain their unique religious identity and practices. Asserting that much of what Westerners discern as church are truly “man-made ecclesiastical structures,”19 IM strategists call us to accept and promote such non-Christian communities of those who follow Jesus. All roads may not lead to Jesus, but the Spirit of Jesus surely blazes redemptive trails in non-conventional, non-Christian, ways.20

1.3. God and the Apostles: The First Insiders?

The conviction of the IM promoters, self-consciously evangelical, is resolute: “What is truly at the heart of the insider movement paradigm is the God Who is at work directly among the nations, including their religions, to make in each a people for Himself. These are His movements, and He is the true Insider.”21 To IM theorists and practitioners, proclaiming the gospel to the unreached peoples of this age requires these correcting methods, methods that, they argue, emulate the behavior of the apostles. IM missiologists effectively see themselves as restoring biblical missions. With an eye to emulating courageous apostolic method, IM advocates ask, what did Jesus really do? What did the apostles do? What did the early church do? And what would they do today to reach peoples whose cultural and religious identities are thoroughly non-Christian? What would they do to reach people whose identities, relationships, and existence center in and survive only in these non-Christian, even anti-Christian contexts?

Reflecting on Paul’s missionary-zealous “I would become” words in 1 Cor 9, J. Dudley Woodberry, Professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, raises the question about twenty-first-century emulation/application of apostolic method:

If Paul were retracing his missionary journeys today, would he add, “To the Muslim, I became a Muslim”? . . . Would he and the Jerusalem Council endorse Muslims being free to follow Jesus while retaining, to the extent this commitment allows, Muslim identity and practices, just as these Jerusalem leaders endorsed Jews being free to follow Jesus while retaining, to the extent that commitment allowed, Judaic identity and practices? 22

2. Insider Movement Hermeneutics

2.1. Rebecca Lewis and IM Advocacy 23

With such questions ringing in our ears, we turn now to Rebecca Lewis, the daughter of another Fuller missiologist, Ralph D. Winter. In her writings, Lewis has attempted to rigorously defend IM and to define its legitimate parameters. In what sense can or should religious and cultural identity remain unchanged when trusting Jesus Christ? In what sense can we properly “assert that Christ calls people to change their hearts, not their religions”?24 Not only a theorist, but a seasoned practitioner among the Berbers of North Africa, Lewis self-consciously reflects upon her own mission undertakings. Her growing corpus of publications, most of which is accessible on the Internet, has also elevated her influence for promoting and practicing IM.

Before addressing her thought directly, let me commend Lewis for her clear writing, general hermeneutical consistency, and energetic presentation. Her McGavran-esque vision for worldwide evangelism combined with a refusal to accept humanly constructed boundaries for kingdom work is at a formal level commendable. “We’ve never done it that way before” is an unconscionable, disastrous posture, one that finds no turf in Lewis’s thought. In addition, though it is an all too common practice to isolate the gospel message from the method of its proclamation, Lewis rightfully asserts the indivisibility of the two.

Employing a hermeneutical and methodological approach typical of the prevailing IM thinking, Lewis’s crystallized defense of IM appears in an article entitled, “The Integrity of the Gospel and Insider Movements.”25 This particular article will henceforth serve as our primary, though not exclusive, point of reference for analysis since it usefully distills key theological and missiological arguments that expose prevailing IM hermeneutics. Those either curious or concerned about IM will find here an accessible exposition of its interpretive and theological underpinnings, as well as a window into its practical implications. Attuned to IM critics, Lewis appeals that we revisit both how we understand the Christian gospel and assess IM. While her article renders nothing fundamentally new to IM discussions, its numerous engagements with Scripture, its compr

[1] Overture 9 of the PCA General Assembly 2011. As instructed in this overture, the 2011 General Assembly moderator of the PCA appointed a study committee to produce an analytic report on Insider Movements. Published in May 2012, Part One of this report focuses on Bible translation and divine familial language. The report also includes the full text of the final version Overture 9. See “A Call to Faithful Witness, Part One—Like Father, Like Son: Divine Familial Language in Biblical Translation,”–17–12.pdf (accessed May 21, 2012).

[2] There is not just one version of the Insider Movement, and some prefer the language of Insider Movements. For our purposes IM represents both the singular and the plural. Extensive explanation, defense, and debate about IM can be found in numerous issues ofEvangelical Missions Quarterly [EMQ], International Journal of Frontier Missiology or International Journal of Frontier Missions [IJFM], and St. Francis Magazine [SFM]. For a sympathetic look at IM, see the articles at (accessed May 28, 2012); see also, Kevin Higgins, “The Key to Insider Movements: The ‘Devoteds’ in Acts,” IFJM 21:4 (2004): 155–165. A recent 18-author critique of IM comes in Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel (ed. Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton, and Bill Nikides; Garden Grove, CA: i2 Ministries, 2011). For a simpler but insightful introductory critique of IM, see Jeff Morton, Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant? (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2012). For direct interchange between proponents and opponents of IM, see the entire issue of St. Francis Magazine 5:4 (2009).

[3] See Kevin Higgins, “Discipling the Nations and the Insider Movement Conversation,” Mission Frontiers 33:1 (January–February 2011): 26–27. Other identifiers include, “Movements to Jesus within Islam (Buddhism, Hinduism),” “kingdom movements to Jesus,” “Jesus movements that multiply disciples obedient to the Bible within different religious traditions,” “the Kingdom paradigm,” and “incarnational movements.” Cf. Morton, Insider Movements, 5.

[4] For the sake of expediency, we will focus our attention primarily on IM in the Muslim world.

[5] Closely aligned to IM is C-5 on the C-Scale taxonomy, created by John Travis (“Must All Muslims Leave Islam to Follow Jesus?” EMQ 34 [1998]: 411–15). The C-scale presents a spectrum of “expressions of faith by MBBs [Muslim background believers],” where the “C” represents a different type of “Christ-centered community.” For a gentle yet formidable critique of C-5, see Timothy C. Tennent, “Followers of Jesus (Isa) in Islamic Mosques: A Closer Examination of C-5 ‘High Spectrum’ Contextualization,” IJFM 23:3 (2006): 101–15.

[6] IM advocate John Travis argues that Christian terms and Christianity bear liabilities antithetical to the gospel. “In the Muslim context, the word ‘Christian’ . . . connotes Western culture, war (the Crusades), colonialism and imperialism.” Muslims “associate Christianity . . . [with] negative aspects of present day Western culture like immodest dress, sexual promiscuity, disrespect of elders, indulgence in alcohol, Hollywood violence, narcotics and pornography” (John Travis, “Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa,” IJFM 17:1 [2000]: 53–59). Cf. J. T. Smith, “How Islamic Can Christianity Be?” (accessed May 28, 2012).

[7] For more discussion of these tactics, see also Phil Parshall, “Danger! New Directions in Contextualization,” EMQ 34:4 (1998): 404–10; Stan Guthrie, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century (rev. ed.; Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2005), 130–35; Warren C. Chastain, “Should Christians Pray the Muslim Salat?” IJFM 12:3 (1995): 161–63; Basil Grafas, “Insider Movements: An Evangelical Assessment,” (accessed May 26, 2012).

[8] This fact has been confirmed by direct correspondence with missionaries in secure areas; these particular tactics are also affirmed, albeit guardedly, in John Travis, “Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa,” 55. Tennent (“Followers of Jesus,” 108) notes that some C-5 advocates, including Travis, have moved away from calling westerners to become Muslim for the sake of evangelism. Cf. Roger Dixon, “Moving on from the C1–C6 Spectrum,” SFM 5:4 (2009): 14; republished in Chrislam, 96.

[9] Bernard Dutch, “Should Muslims Become ‘Christians’?” IJFM 17:1 (2000): 17. One of the issues debated between IM advocates is the true prophethood of Muhammad.

[10] Donald A. McGavran, “A Giant Step in Christian Mission,” Mission Frontiers 1:3 (1985): 31–33.

[11] Ibid., 32.

[12] See, for example, Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), vii–xviii, 93–95. See Charles H. Kraft,Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979) and Charles H. Kraft,Anthropology for Christian Witness (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996). For points of sympathy and critique regarding Kraft, see Harvie M. Conn, Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology in Trialogue (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 149–50, 167–76, 329–38.

[13] McGavran, “Giant Step,” 31–32 (emphasis original).

[14] Donald McGavran asserted, “To Christianize a whole people, the first thing not to do is to snatch individuals out of it into a different society” (Bridges to God: A Study in the Strategy of Missions [New York: Friendship, 1955], 10). McGavran, responding to the rugged individualism that still dominates western evangelicalism, argues for “people movements” that seek to advance the Christian faith in a way that “the social life of the individual is not destroyed” (16).

[15] IM advocates, in keeping with Fuller missiology, define religion in terms of cultural norms. See, e.g., Charles H. Kraft, “Is Christianity a Religion or a Faith?” in Charles H. Kraft, ed., Appropriate Christianity (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2005), 83–97.

[16] McGavran, Bridges, 16, 34, 68–99.

[17] Rebecca Lewis, “Promoting Movements to Christ within Natural Communities,” IJFM 24:2 (2007): 76 (italics original).

[18] We would be remiss here to neglect the contemporaneous and correlative theological changes at Fuller Seminary. Having established itself with explicit commitment to biblical inerrancy in 1947, Fuller openly abandoned its commitment to full biblical inerrancy by 1965. As reliance upon cultural anthropology and sociology increased, trust in Scripture correspondingly diminished. This shift in authority represents an entirely different epistemological, hermeneutical, and methodological (missiological) paradigm. See George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1987; repr. 1995); Norman L. Geisler and William C. Roach, Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 17–24.

[19] Rebecca Lewis, “Can the Kingdom of God Break Out of Christendom? Expecting the Unexpected,” Missions Frontiers 33:3 (May–June 2011): 15.

[20] Some IM proponents make explicit the temporary nature of “Messianic” Islam, where practices like “mosque attendance may only be a transitional part of some C5 believers’ spiritual journey” (John Travis, “Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa,” 55). This transitional feature of IM or C5 practice is neither shared by all nor made explicit by most.

[21] Kevin Higgins, “Inside What? Church, Culture, Religion, and Insider Movements in Biblical Perspective,” SFM 5:4 (2009): 91.

[22] J. Dudley Woodberry, “To the Muslim I Became a Muslim?” IJFM 24:1 (2007): 23. Cf. Brian K. Peterson, “The Possibility of a ‘Hindu Christ-Follower’: Hans Staffner’s Proposal for the Dual Identity of Disciples of Christ within High Caste Hindu Communities,” IJFM 24:2 (1988): 87–97. Georges Houssney provides an insightful critique of Woodberry’s thesis in “Would Paul Become Muslim to Muslims?” in Chrislam, 62–76.

[23] I am grateful to Rebecca Lewis for her responses to an earlier version of this analysis. Her comments have helped refine this article for its final form.

[24] Guthrie, Missions, 132–33. The sharp distinction between religion and relationship serves paradigmatically in IM, reflecting the religion vs. faith categories espoused by Charles H. Kraft. Cf. Tennent (“Followers of Jesus,” 111) also highlights the “trap” of yielding to the false dichotomy of “personal” versus “propositional.”

[25] Rebecca Lewis, “The Integrity of the Gospel and Insider Movements,” IJFM 27:1 (2010): 41–48, available at (accessed 11 July 2012).

[26] Dick Brogden, a seasoned missionary to Muslims in Africa, critiqued an earlier article by Rebecca Lewis (“Insider Movements: Honoring God-Given Identity and Community,” IJFM 26:1 [2009]: 16–19), where he challenges numerous IM presuppositions. See Brogden, “Inside Out: Probing Presuppositions among Insider Movements,” IJFM 27:1 (2010): 33–40. This article is particularly useful, as the author has allowed a running commentary of response from Lewis to his critique.

[27] See, for example, Rebecca Lewis, “Underground Church Movements: The Surprising Role of Women’s Networks,” IJFM 21:4 (2004): 145–50.

[28] See, for example, Rebecca Lewis, “Strategizing for Church Planting Movements in the Muslim World: Informal Reviews of Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity and David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements,” IJFM 21:2 (2004): 73–77; idem, “Promoting,” 75–76; idem, “Honoring,” 16–19; idem, “Can the Kingdom,” 15; idem, “Possible Pitfalls of Jesus Movements: Lessons from History,” Missions Frontiers 33:3 (May–June 2011): 21–24.

[29] On this basis, Higgins elevates the seriousness of the IM proposals: “Similarly, I see Insider Movements as fueling (and being fueled by) a rediscovery of the Incarnation, of a thoroughly biblical approach to culture and religion, of the role of the Holy Spirit’s leading God’s people to ‘work out’ the gospel in new ways, and of an understanding of how God works in the world within and beyond his covenant people. And we may be forced to re-evaluate some widely held ideas and practices of our own” (Higgins, “Devoteds,” 155–56). That Higgins emphasizes Christ’s incarnation as missiological exemplar rather than Christ’s redemption as substitutionary underscores a thoroughgoing theological misalignment.

[30] Lewis, “Integrity,” 47. See also Lewis’s development of an alleged historic basis for the spread of the gospel “along pre-existing social networks” (“Strategizing for Church Planting Movements,” 75; “Honoring,” 17–18).

[31] Rebecca Lewis’ response in Brogden, “Inside Out,” 33, note a. IM frequently emphasizes that IM and C-5 thinking are descriptive, not prescriptive.

[32] Even if it could be shown that IM movements have been spontaneous (a debated assertion), that assessment does not warrant turning analysis into system, description into prescription. Spontaneity does not inherently signify divine blessing.

[33] For an explanation of bounded and centered set paradigms, see Paul G. Hiebert “Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories,” Gospel in Context 1:4 (1978): 24–29.

[34] While influential in missiological discourse, Hiebert’s bounded-set versus centered-set distinction fails to satisfy conceptually or practically. Bounded sets necessarily possess centering features, and centered sets necessarily operate within certain boundaries. Moreover, any claims that these paradigms are mutually exclusive or that one is inferior to the other cannot be biblically defended. Charles Van Engen (Mission on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996], 183) builds his “Evangelist Paradigm” around centered-set assumptions. He claims, “The major question is not to what religious system a person belongs. Rather, the crucial issue is one’s center. The ultimate question is the question of discipleship, of one’s proximity to, or distance from, Jesus the Lord.”

[35] Lewis, “Promoting,” 76 (emphasis original).

[36] Rick Brown, “Biblical Muslims,” IJFM 24:2 (2007): 65–74; John Travis, “Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa,” 53–59; Peterson, “Possibility of a ‘Hindu Christ-Follower,’” 87–97; (accessed May 26, 2012).

[37] Lewis insists on two distinct characteristics of IM: “1. The Gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks, which become the main expression of ‘church’ in that context. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a ‘church.’ New parallel social structures are not invented or introduced. 2. Believers retain their identity as members of their socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible” (“Honoring,” 16, emphasis original).

[38] Lewis, “Can the Kingdom,” 15.

[39] Lewis, “Promoting,” 76.

[40] This difficulty is exacerbated in view of identity confusion. Are insiders Muslims? Are they Christians? Are they Muslims and Christians? What really does “Messianic Muslim” mean?

[41] Lewis, “Integrity,” 46.

[42] Ibid., 42.

[43] Ibid.

[44] In keeping with the Fuller analysis (see note 15), religion, for Lewis, stems from a people group, defines their context, and functioning primarily as a feature of cultural identity rather than bearing spiritual or moral significance.

[45] Lewis, “Integrity,” 42.

[46] Ibid., 45.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid., 46.

[49] Ibid., 44.

[50] For more on the biblico-theological character of circumcision, see John Fesko, Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2010), and Meredith Kline, By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968).

[51] Our point here does not force a decision concerning paedo- or credo-baptism, but rather insists upon the inherent spirituality of circumcision as both Testaments attest. [Editor’s note: Cf. David Gibson’s <a href= “” target- “new”>article in this issue of Themelios</a>: “Sacramental Supersessionism Revisited: A Response to Martin Salter on the Relationship between Circumcision and Baptism.”]


[52] While it is not the majority view, this author concurs with O’Brien’s interpretation that the circumcision of Christ is the eschatological judgment borne in his own body (Col 2:11–12). Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon (WBC; Waco: Word, 1982), 117–18.

[53] John Murray wisely reminds us, “Our knowledge of the Bible, if it is to be really adequate, must be knowledge of the Bible as it is, and must reflect . . . [its] organic character . . . . We must understand that the whole Bible stands together and that fibres of organic connection run through the whole Bible connecting one part with every other part and every one truth with every other truth” (“The Study of the Bible,” in Collected Writings, vol. 1: The Claims of Truth [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976], 5).

[54] Though Lewis comments especially on John 4 and Acts 15, other favorite IM texts include Num 22–24; 2 Kgs 5; 1 Cor 7; 1 Cor 9; and the book of Jonah. See Bill Nikides, “The Insider Story: Theology,” in Chrislam, 12–22; idem, “Lost in Translation: Insider Movements and Biblical Interpretation,” in Chrislam, 44–61; Tennent, “Followers of Jesus,” 105–9.

[55] See Lewis, “Integrity,” 42. Lewis also treats John 4 and Acts 15 in “Honoring,” 17–18.

[56] Lewis, “Integrity,” 42.

[57] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[58] Fortifying the already explicit eschatological contours of the passage is the emphasis on the Spirit. See D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (Leicester: IVP, 1991), 224–26.

[59] Lewis, “Integrity,” 43.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid., 44.

[63] Ibid., 45.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Such ambiguity and truncation have become common in much missiological argument. For example, Van Engen (Mission on the Way, 183–87) proposes three missiological implications of his “Evangelist Paradigm”: (1) faith particularism, (2) cultural pluralism, and (3) ecclesiological inclusivism. While we appreciate the unambiguous assertion of salvation in Christ alone, this model fails to consider adequately critical epistemological questions, clouds the relationship between faith and culture, and by a truncated definition of the church, effectively distances personal faith from Scripture’s determinative teaching on ecclesiology. “As Paul declares in Romans, and we see modeled in Acts, to confess with one’s mouth and believe in one’s heart that Jesus is Lord—that is all there is. Nothing else really matters. All else is to be held lightly. Everything else is negotiable.” (184)

[66] David B. Garner, “Did God Really Say?” in Did God Really Say? Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture (ed. David B. Garner; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2012), 154–59.

[67] All too often eschatology is improperly relegated to speculative charts and graphs seeking to depict the chronology of future events. Scripture presents eschatology in an unambiguously different sense, connecting the OT and NT in a historico-genetic, two-age fashion (cf. Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology; repr., Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1994). A building anticipation of the coming Messiah in the Last Days characterizes the OT age. The NT presents Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of that anticipation and explicitly exposes his first coming in terms of its epochal significance (see, e.g., Heb 1:1–2). In short, Jesus launches the Last Days; he inaugurates eschatology. Historically and theologically speaking, we are not awaiting the Last Days; since the first century a.d., we have been in them.

[68] See, for example, Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2007), 198–238.

[69] See John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955).

[70] Lewis, “Integrity,” 44.

[71] Ibid., 43.

[72] Isolated apostolic instruction (e.g., 1 Cor 7) for continuing circumcision should be understood according to the transitional age of the first century. “The one mark of sociological distinction formerly did have religious significance but does so no more—circumcision” (Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians [NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 311).

[73] While arguing consistently for unity of the body (in identity and spiritual obedience), Paul does not deny the presence of differences between the Jew and the Gentile (Gal 2:15). In fact, in 1 Cor 7:17–24 (cf. Lewis, “Integrity,” 46), he urges the first-century Jews and Gentiles to pursue New Covenant obedience, while not concerning themselves with their circumcised or uncircumcised status—a vital matter of obedience under the Old Covenant (cf. Gal 2:3). Paul here very practically evidences his understanding how the eschatological age brings the spiritual obedience of circumcision to an end. “Paul’s concern . . . is not that they retain their present social setting, but that they recognize it as a proper one in which to live out God’s call. . . . Thus he tells them that being in Christ does not negate their present situation; but neither is he arguing that it absolutizes it. . . . The gospel absolutely transcends, and thereby eliminates altogether, all merely social distinctions. In Christ Jew and Greek together, whether slave or free, make up one body” (Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 309, 311–12). Though IM advocates seek to find a contemporary parallel in Islam, Jay Smith demonstrates the falsity of the parallel: “The problem with saying like or remaining in Islam is that Islam is both a religion and a culture. Staying in Islam means to take on all the religious connotations, as well as its spiritual power. In these verses [1 Cor 7:17–24] Paul does not suggest Gentiles stay as pagan worshippers in their local temples” (Jay Smith, “An Assessment of IM’s Principle Paradigms,” in Chrislam, 286). Cf. Tennent, “Followers of Jesus,” 107.

[74] Lewis, “Integrity,” 45.

[75] Ibid., 47.

[76] The vigorous cultural distinctions presented here simply do not withstand scholarly analysis regarding the Hellenized Jewish world of the first century. See, e.g., Martin Hengel, Jews, Greeks and Barbarians: Aspects of Hellenization of Judaism in the Pre-Christian Period (trans. John Bowden; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980); James D. Newsome, Greeks, Romans, Jews: Currents of Culture and Belief in the New Testament World (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992). Even if, as Louis Feldman contends, Hengel’s Hellenization thesis is overstated, history defies any radical difference between Jewish and Gentile culture (Louis H. Feldman, Judaism and Hellenism Reconsidered [JSJSup 107; Leiden: Brill, 2006]).

[77] Higgins, “Devoteds,” 155.

[78] Lewis, “Integrity,” 45.

[79] Ibid., 41.

[80] Ibid., 46.

[81] Ibid., 45.

[82] See Phil Parshall, Muslim Evangelism: Contemporary Approaches to Contextualization (2d ed.; Colorado Spring: Biblica, 2003), 199–210. See also, H. L. Richard, “Unpacking the Insider Paradigm: An Open Discussion on Points of Diversity,” IJFM 26:4 (2009): 180; Higgins, “Inside What?” 74–91. Bill Nikides critiques Kevin Higgins and Donald McGavran for their relegating sacraments to something less than central church practice. Bill Nikides, “A Response to Kevin Higgins’ ‘Inside What? Church, Culture, Religion and Insider Movements in Biblical Perspective,’” SFM 5:4 (2009): 98n8.

[83] “The theological framework and analysis present in C-5 writings has been overly influenced by Western individualism and the privatization of faith which tends to keep the doctrines of soteriology and ecclesiology at arms’ length” (Tennent, “Followers of Jesus,” 111).

[84] The authority of Jesus (“the Lord of glory,” Jas 2:1) singularly shapes the gospel-defined religion that is “pure and undefiled before God, the Father” (Jas 1:27a), and unites his church (1 Pet 1:22–23). Biblical religion “must be in harmony with the divine standard (para tÅ� theÅ� kai patri, ‘before the God and Father’), and so acceptable in his presence—acceptable religious observance related to ‘God our Father’” (D. Edmond Hiebert, James [Chicago: Moody, 1992], 126).

[85] For treatment on the authority and teaching of Scripture for worship (i.e., the “regulative principle”), see Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship Reformed according to Scripture (rev. and expanded ed.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002); Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, J. Ligon Duncan III, eds., Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2003), 17–105; Terry L. Johnson, Reformed Worship: Worship That Is according to Scripture (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic, 2000); G. I. Williamson, “The Regulative Principle of Worship,” (accessed May 20, 2012).

[86] “Some Messianic Muslims say the shahada, but not all of them are true believers in it. Nominal Muslims say the shahada, but they are not true believers. Some of them are engaging in dissimulation—masking one’s inner thoughts and intentions. That is not the same as deceit, which involves the manipulation or exploitation of others rather than mere social conformity or self-protection.” Rick Brown responds to Gary Corwin in Gary Corwin, “A Humble Appeal to C5/Insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions,” IJFM 24:1 (2007): 12. This article includes responses from five proponents of IM.

[87] Brother Yusuf also responds to Corwin in Corwin, “A Humble Appeal,” 12.

[88] Because of its localized autonomy, relativism moves irresistibly to individualism.

[89] Lewis, “Integrity,” 45.

[90] Lewis insists (“Honoring,” 18) that insider movements properly “affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity, but only through Jesus Christ, to enter God’s family.”

[91] See Tim and Rebecca Lewis, “Planting Churches: Learning the Hard Way,” Mission Frontiers 31:1 (January–February 2009): 16–18.

[92] Tennent, “Followers of Jesus,” 113.

[93] Lewis frequently juxtaposes the constant (extant social structures as the context for the expression of faith) and the dynamic (the becoming and transforming influence of faith on the existing socio-religious structure). The unexplained interface of these constant and dynamic elements issues a dissatisfying obscurantism. See Lewis, “Honoring,” 16.

[94] Lewis, “Can the Kingdom,” 15.

[95] Cf. Lewis, “Promoting,” 76.

[96] Other cultures have done the same.

[97] Lewis, “Integrity,” 41, 42.

[98] Lewis is explicit about this transcontextual parallel elsewhere: “Can we see that the Muslims are like our Samaritans, with their Abrahamic religion, and the Hindus are like our Gentiles, with their idols and temples?” (“Honoring,” 19).

[99] Lewis, “Integrity,” 44.

[100] Ibid., 47.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Dennis E. Johnson, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1997), 4. Johnson urges readers to read Acts in view of Luke’s purpose to show what God has done in Christ; to read Acts with a view to the theology of the NT epistles; to read Acts in a way that honors its deeply rooted OT thought structures, Hebraistic styles, and theology; to read Acts in coordination with Luke; to read Acts in view of its structural signposts (5–13).

[103] Ibid., 5.

[104] Walter L. Liefeld, Interpreting the Book of Acts (Guides to New Testament Exegesis; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 58.

[105] Lewis, “Can the Kingdom,” 15.

[106] “A new convert not only has faith, he or she is brought into a common faith” (Tennent, “Followers of Jesus,” 111).

[107] Ayub Edward, “Observations and Reactions to Christians Involved in a New Approach to Mission,” in Chrislam, 256.

[108] “Flirting with Frankenstein: Insider Movements from the Inside,” in Chrislam, 238.

[109] Lewis, “Integrity,” 46.

[110] See Geerhardus Vos, “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980), 3–24.

[111] The Westminster Confession of Faith 1.9 states well Scripture’s final interpretive authority: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.”

[112] Lewis, “Possible Pitfalls,” 22–24.

[113] See David B. Garner, “A World of Riches,” Reformation 21 (April 2011), (accessed May 20, 2012).

David B. Garner

David Garner is associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Pastor of Teaching at Proclamation Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

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