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The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is currently happening in Cape Town (16-25 Oct 2010). Our man on the spot, Iwan Russell Jones, is blogging for us from inside the congress with news and comment. Check back here each day for new posts.

Lausanne is held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance. The 2010 congress has brought together some 4,000 leaders from 198 countries for dialogue and action on the critical issues of today, including world faiths, poverty, HIV/AIDS and persecution.

Lausanne is also running a virtual congress with video clips and other resources. There's also a Twitter feed and Facebook page.

 
Christians in Muslim countries

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 20 October 2010, 8:59

TUESDAY 19 OCTOBER – There are all kinds of conversations going on here about the relationship of Christianity with other religions, especially Islam. This is a particularly sensitive issue and the conference organisers are keen to ensure that nothing is said or done that makes life more difficult for Christians who are living in Muslim countries.

Last night I had an extraordinary conversation with an American guy who told me that there’s a growing movement in the Islamic world for people who have come to faith in Jesus to remain cultural Muslims and to continue praying at their mosques. To my surprise he expressed strong support for this development: he argued that it is wrong to expect any new believer to abandon their culture and adopt an utterly alien culture, yet this is exactly what Western Christians have required of Muslim converts.

He likened the situation to that described in the Book of Acts, where there was a bitter debate among the early Jewish Christians about whether new Gentile converts had to adopt the practices of Judaism in order to be accepted into the Church. The matter was finally settled at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) where Paul established the principle that because the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too, there was no need whatsoever for them to abandon their cultures and to become culturally Jewish. In the same way, he said, Muslim converts should not be expected to abandon their culture.

My conversation partner has strong connections with the Muslim world and he assured me – despite my incredulity – that this is really happening in a number of places. And he also told me that he knows of Christians who are so opposed to this development that they have reported the matter to local imams, leading in some cases to beatings and even death.

I have absolutely no way of verifying any of this. But I do know that other delegates far more knowledgeable than me are having very similar conversations – and are taking the matter very seriously.

Comments

This is becoming a very significant issue in the world of Bible translation. Just as we evangelical Christians believe the Bible to be God-inspired and life-changing, so the devout Muslim loves the Koran. We Christians believe that the Word became flesh (in Jesus)... many Muslims believe that the Word became text (in the Koran). What does this mean for Bible translation?

Well… many Muslims cannot accept that Jesus was conceived by Mary of the Holy Spirit, because the words imply that God had a physical (sexual) interaction with a woman. This is deeply blasphemous to a Muslim. Even for him to read the words, ‘Son of God’ places him in an unforgiveable position.

There are some who believe that the Bible translations aimed at Muslims should avoid such contentious phrases, because otherwise no Muslim will even pick up a Bible, let alone read one.

There are more and more Muslim-background believers coming to know Christ and to love him, but who continue to view themselves as Muslims. The challenge for us is to welcome them, support them and encourage them. Let’s try to leave aside all ‘straining at gnats’ if we can.

Jon Wheeler, Wed 20 Oct, 15:34

Thank you for sharing this encounter – it’s the people stories like this which make me realise how much I have. The reported reaction of some Christians reminds me of a number of ‘Christians’ who cannot accept God’s working with others in any way different to their own limited experience.

Big John, Wed 20 Oct, 10:09


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Iwan Russell-Jones is a TV producer based in Cardiff.
   
 
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