by Comments, Questions, Interaction from Readers
An Open Letter to Phil Parshall. In the July 2004 issue of EMQ (293) Phil Parshall wrote, “I do not want to end my life…known as a heresy hunter. Yes, I will continue…to voice my concerns. But if I am to err toward imbalance, I want to be on the side of love, affirmation and lifting up my colleagues as better than myself.”
An Open Letter to Phil Parshall
In the July 2004 issue of EMQ (293) Phil Parshall wrote, “I do not want to end my life…known as a heresy hunter. Yes, I will continue…to voice my concerns. But if I am to err toward imbalance, I want to be on the side of love, affirmation and lifting up my colleagues as better than myself.”
That sentiment is Christian and good. But it is easily interpreted as implying that, in order to make sure all of Parshall’s colleagues think well of him (i.e., that he is not a “heresy hunter”), his analyses of missiological proposals henceforth will be extremely guarded or even severely muted.
By definition, Christian missionaries are disseminators of the gospel. By implication, they are both preservers (otherwise they will not have a true gospel) and innovators (otherwise they will not have an understanding audience). Sometimes missionaries major in preservation at the expense of innovation and at those times we have special need for innovators. At other times missionaries major in innovation and then they have special need for preservers.
I first met Parshall many years ago when he was very much the innovator. On the whole, his proposals were not only imaginative but also good. Some of them needed the tempering afforded by the criticism (in the best sense of that word) of others and lessons drawn from personal experience. Now his ongoing study and extensive experience have combined to make him more cautious and something of a preserver as well as disseminator and innovator.
When Parshall was younger he did not hesitate to inform the missions community of his often innovative and entrepreneurial proposals. That was okay. We needed to hear them. They gave us pause and made us think. But I would encourage Parshall to continue to inform us of his honest concerns, particularly with regards to the evangelization of Muslims. He should communicate those concerns clearly and courageously irrespective of the fact that some may think ill of him no matter how courteously and kindly he might articulate them. That’s okay. We need to hear them. They give us pause and make us think!
— David J. Hesselgrave
Response to David Hesselgrave
What an honor to receive affirmation and a gentle critique from one of my most highly esteemed missiological mentors. Few have stood for the faith with such fervency and long-lasting effect as has David Hesselgrave. All those involved in the great enterprise of missions are in his debt.
When I expressed concern about how my legacy would be enshrined (in print, if not in stone), I was not consciously thinking about the opinion of my fellow Christian pilgrims. My comments, dealing with critiquing those who disagree with me, came from a Bible study I was engaged in on the subject of judging my brethren. The Lord spoke to me about my inadequacy to be a final repository of absolute missiological truth…at least in regard to Muslim evangelism. But, as David says, that “maturing” doesn’t preclude an ongoing voice in discussions on strategy and theology.
It has been exactly thirty years since our team initiated what is now referred to as the C4 contextualized approach to Muslim outreach. In 1975 I was the “radical,” as the leader of that team. Now, holding to that same position, I am the “conservative.” So the question is, have I matured, or has the onlooking missionary community matured?
— Phil Parshall, SIM, Manila, Philippines
>> C5 Articles Based on False Assumptions
Joshua Massey’s article, “Misunderstanding C5: His Ways Are Not Our Orthodoxy” (July, 2004) was very stimulating. He made a number of thought-provoking and helpful points, such as his discussion of the extent to which our concept of Christianity has been shaped by Western world views.
However, Massey’s article also contained some dangerous assumptions. I would note only the two most serious.
First, Massey appears to equate Islamic culture and religion with first-century Jewish culture and religion. This is a naive and incredibly dangerous foundation on which to build. By never mentioning that one system was built on inerrant revelation and the other on less-than-inerrant messages, he commits a fatal flaw in his analysis.
Related to this, Massey’s expectation that Kingdom truth will “permeate… Islamic institutions” appears to be a groundless dream. If Kingdom truth didn’t permeate the institutions of first century Judaism (which shared thirty-nine books of scripture with Jesus’ followers), what ground has anyone to expect it would happen within Islam?
Second, Massey offers a straw man when he writes: “Christians tend to be very uneasy with such an understanding of Muhammad [as rasul], assuming he may take Christ’s place of ultimacy.” That’s not the issue. The more salient concern is receiving as a prophet someone whose proclamation contradicts essential biblical teaching at numerous points.
Massey attempts to avoid evangelical reaction to calling Mohammed a prophet by using the words rasul (messenger). But rasul simply means “prophet (apostle).” We do everyone concerned a disservice if we fudge on the distinction between prophets sent by God, and other messengers who said some true things about God. Blurring this distinction will not lead anyone in the right direction.
— A church planter among Muslims in Southeast Asia