Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write off the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Scot McKnight - The Relevancy of God's Word to Contemporary Culture

Click here for Scot McKnight's Lecture

Scot McKnight
Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies
North Park University, Chicago, IL

Scot McKnight's latest book, The King Jesus Gospel (Sept 2011), is here discussed in his lecture (linked above), The Relevancy of God's Word to Contemporary Culture presented at the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (Oct 3, 2011) Text and Culture pastoral seminar (reviewed more fully at http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/10/symposium-text-and-culture.html).

McKnight discusses several significant biblical themes (sketched briefly below) as part of what should be the broader spectrum of Evangelicalism which we have previously shown here in this blog to be some (but not all) of the hallmarks of the Emergent Christian movement. These declarations help to create a counter-balance to the excesses of Evangelicalism's narrower theological ideologies; wishing to portray the fundamentals of the Christian faith beyond the Reformation's encapsulation of it (through Protestantism), back to the very era of Jesus and his disciples, in the life-and-message of the New Testament's ancient text itself.

Consequently, Emergent Christianity would be in complete agreement with these broader Evangelical statements and would applaud our Evangelical brethren to likewise embrace these fundamentally obligatory statements in light of the furor raised in the aftermath of Rob Bell's Love Wins book made in the spring of 2011. The issues of Hell and Universalism are not what is at issue here... but the deeper issues of a Reformational Protestantism that withholds a fuller expression of biblical theme and subject matter. For if anything, Emergent Christianity has reacted against Evangelicalism's more doggerel expressions of perfunctory worship and dogmatic theologies, to the very re-expression of the life and love that is found in Jesus, uninhibited by man's contrived religious and creedal positions.

However, this is not to say that we are ignoring 2000 years of church history, but rather, that those years must be re-examined in light of the message of the New Testament's revelation as we better understand it now today. More so when examining late Judaism's apprehension of the covenant of God, the life-and-faith of its covenantal community, and the hope and promises based upon that same covenant (sic, please refer to the New Perspective of Paul - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/09/understanding-new-perspective-on-paul.html). Hence, our previous understanding of the New Covenant has been uplifted and given newer salvific import through the ministry, atoning death and redemptive resurrection of Jesus. A new covenant that no longer proselytizes Gentiles into the Jewish faith, but an expanded eschatological community which includes both Jews and Gentiles on equal status, adopted through rebirth into the Kingdom of God. A community of believers which is held in eschatological tension during this ecclesiological age (the church age) until Christ's Parousia (return) when the Kingdom of God will be more fully displayed.

For these many reasons, Christianity - by whatever name it calls itself (emergent, evangelic, protestant, catholic, orthodox, etc) - must uplift its many separate theologies to be truer and more faithful to its fullest revelatory expressions. For the old wineskins of past creeds and counsels, denominations and movements, can no longer hold the new wine of the Gospel. It requires a newer wineskin that can expand with its fermentation process and can reach out to all the people-groups of the world and not just the Westernized or Easternized elements of the Christian faith. But to the Jew, the Muslim, and the Asian groups of our global communities through acclamation of what Jesus has done through the New Covenant made (cut, enacted) by his sacrifice as Redeemer of all men everywhere.

And so, we seek eschatological communities of faith - better known as kingdom communities - in all of their many separate adaptations and assimilated understandings of Jesus. Global communities of believers who embrace a multitude of diverse, pluralistic expressions of God's love and life, mimicking the parable of the tree (of life) become home to so many different types of birds now roosting in its heavenly branches. This is the true universal church of God, not a homogenous, static, religious institution bereft of human expression, unassimilated, and demanding religious allegiance to corporate zealotries. But a heterogeneous, dynamic, spiritual faith flowing with a multitude of worship forms and statements, assimilating each distinctive dress of Christian embrace through the local-and-regional garbs of global faith-communities worldwide. Faith communities that embrace God's freedoms and charters. That find the fulfilling liberties promised through God's humbling graces of servitude to one another in deep fellowship with the Spirit. United in expression but diverse in population. Finding strength in diversity and wholeness in unity. These are the grace communities of the scriptures - having come through the fires of persecution and trials of suffering, casting all heavenly crowns before the feet of their Savior and Lord, the Lamb and Lion of God, our crucified Redeemer and risen Re-Creator.

God's kingdom is to become "one new man" composed of many different peoples, dialects, heritages, customs, and cultures. Some an eye, some an ear, some feet, others hands, each gifted with an aspect of ministry and song, story and mercy, by an infinite God mending the whole and presenting to himself its completed re-union. This is the truer picture of the Kingdom of God. And it is to this picture that Emergent Christians wish to present to their Evangelical brethren to embrace the many Jesus brotherhoods of the world in diverse ecumenic revival. Not to the distillation of the Word of God nor its truths, but to its richness and fullness of expression through many minds and hearts. Beginning with the opening of the Word of God to re-assess and re-imagine God's plans for renewal, restoration, revival, reformation, redemption and resurrection of his creation. Who would uplift our poorer plans and frail statements, our separatistic expressions and divisional organizations, to His fuller vision of healing, life and community. It begins by returning to Jesus' ancient words and gospel message in revelatory address to mankind. It begins by renouncing older, acrimonious church histories for a revitalized, newer history envisioned by re-opening our stubborn wills and prideful hearts, and submitting our cherished traditions to God's fuller story. One that begins with God's faithful remnant found on each sacrificial page of their corporate testaments and personal witnesses to his love and grace. Let us then lay down our exclusive doctrines and dogmas, and reunite as brothers and sisters in corporate creed and charter, blood-bought and dearly prized.

R.E. Slater
October 17, 2011


The Relevancy of God's Word to Contemporary Culture
  • What is Biblical Relevancy? Neither a mirror of culture nor a reduction of message
  • Culture, Compromise, and Corrupted Christian Traditions
  • The Primacy of Christology (New Covenant) over Soteriology (Calvinism)
  • God's Love Expressed in the New Covenant and through Salvation History
  • Biblicism and the MultiVocality of Scriptures (sic, Christian Smith)
  • Authority of Revelation v. Authority of Church Tradition
  • Discerning Truth & the Wisdom of God: All good theology leads to the gospel of Jesus
  • The Comprehensive Gospel v. Reductionism (creeds and confessions)
  • Cultural Criticism (sic, Peter Rollins): What is most relevant is most often anti-cultural
  • Family Terminology in the Bible: God's love in the midst of family dysfunctionalism
  • Critique of the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic (sic, Bill Webb): Paul is not a prisoner of a pre-set cultural hermeneutic (Ex. "slavery")
  • The Ethics of the Kingdom of God: - Personal & Social Justice in the Gospel of Jesus

India's Anuradha Koirala Protecting the Powerless

Want to get involved? Check out the Maiti Nepal website and see how to help.

Rescuing girls from sex slavery

By Ebonne Ruffins, CNN
April 30, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT


Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) -- Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until 2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day.

"I used to be really sad and frustrated with what was happening in my life," she said.

The daughter of Nepalese peasant farmers, Geeta -- now 26 -- had been sold to a brothel in India by a member of her extended family. The family member had duped Geeta's visually impaired mother into believing her daughter would get work at a clothing company in Nepal.

"The brothel where I was ... there [were] many customers coming in every day. The owner used to verbally abuse us, and if we didn't comply, [she] would start beating us with wires, rods and hot spoons."

It was not until Geeta was 14 that a police officer rescued her and brought her to a safe house compound run by Anuradha Koirala. The 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal, have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of Nepal's sex trafficking victims.

"Families are tricked all the time," said Koirala. "The trafficking of the girls is done by people who are basically known to the girls, who can lure them from the village by telling them they are getting a nice job. It's a lucrative business."

By raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and providing safe shelter and support services, Koirala and Maiti Nepal have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993.

According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to 15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India and then sexually exploited each year.

Koirala's own history in an abusive relationship led her to her crusade. For most of her young adulthood, she taught primary school English in Nepal. But when her relationship took a violent turn, her life's "purpose and responsibility completely changed," she said.

"Every day, there was battering. And then I had three miscarriages that I think [were] from the beating. It was very difficult because I didn't know in those days where to go and report [it], who to ... talk to."

After the relationship ended, Koirala used a portion of her $100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence.

By the early 1990s, an increasing demand for help and persistent cases of violence against women compelled Koirala to do more. Maiti Nepal was her brainchild for giving voice, legal defense and rehabilitation to victims of sex trafficking.

Stolen from home

Roughly translated, Maiti means "Mother's Home." The group has facilities throughout Nepal and India, but most of the rehabilitation work takes place at its main campus in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Koirala said girls from the brothels arrive empty-handed, sick, in many cases pregnant or with small children, and "psychologically broken."

"When the girl first comes to Maiti Nepal, we never, never ask them a question. We just let them [be] for as long as they need. We let them play, dance, walk, talk to a friend," Koirala said. "They are afraid at first, but eventually they will talk to us on their own."

The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children.

"I cannot say no to anybody," Koirala said. "Everybody comes to Maiti Nepal."

Accommodating its population of close to 400 women and children requires a large staff of teachers, counselors and medical personnel -- and dozens of bunk beds. Many of the staff are sex trafficking survivors now committed to helping rehabilitate other girls. The work is funded by grants and donations from around the world.

Post-rescue recovery is comprehensive. Maiti Nepal provides medical treatment, psychological and legal counseling, formal court filings and criminal prosecution, all for free.

While some of the girls are able to return to their families, many of them -- particularly those with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases -- become socially stigmatized and are no longer welcome in their home communities. For these girls, Maiti Nepal becomes their new, and possibly last, home. A hospice on the compound's grounds houses terminally ill patients.

"The hardest part for me is to see a girl dying or coming back with different diseases at an [age] when she should be out frolicking," Koirala said. "That's what fuels me to work harder."

The group's ultimate goal is to help girls become economically independent and reintegrated into society.

"We try to give them whatever work they want to do, whatever training they want to do, because when you're economically empowered, people forget everything. People even forget [she is] HIV-positive or was trafficked," Koirala said.

Koirala and at least 50 trafficking survivors also participate in what she calls social preventive work outside the campus. Their community awareness camps educate families in rural villages and city slums about the dangers of sex trafficking, and a daily patrol at crossing points along the India-Nepal border successfully rescues an average of four Nepali girls a day.

"Our girls are border guards who have been trafficked themselves. They easily recognize a girl that is being trafficked or will be trafficked," Koirala said. "The girls need no motivation from me. They know the horrors of the brothel, and they are here to save their sisters."

Some girls who are trafficked choose to remain prostitutes for life because their home villages will not accept them. But Koirala says that among those rescued by Maiti Nepal, there isn't a single case when a girl has returned back to the streets.

Geeta's recovery is one of the group's success stories. Today, she works at Maiti Nepal as a peer educator and also helps with the group's awareness camps. She credits Koirala and Maiti Nepal for the strength to keep living and the confidence to join the fight against sex trafficking.

"Anuradha is a hero. ... She's courageous," Geeta said. "She gave me my faith back. ... If Maiti Nepal wasn't there for me, I would be dead by now."

Want to get involved? Check out the Maiti Nepal website and see how to help.


CT - Muslim Missions Then & Now

Muslim Missions: Then & Now

How a terrorist attack reshaped efforts to reach Muslims.

J. Dudley Woodberry
posted 9/08/2011

Ten years ago, my wife, Roberta, and I were in Peshawar, Pakistan, two blocks from the Taliban hospital. We were in the home of our son and his family, joining in a farewell party for a Christian pilot. Another pilot approached us and said, "I don't know whether I should tell you the news now or after the party." Of course we said, "Now." He said the BBC had just reported that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

A quick check on the Internet showed a little picture of a building with a quarter inch of a flame—one that radiated heat and light through the following decade to where we stand today. That heat and light has generated conflicting responses: increased resistance and receptivity to the gospel among Muslims, and increased hostility and peacemaking among Christians. It has been the best of times and the worst of times for relations between Christians and Muslims.

Muslim Receptivity

Of course, the roots of Muslim resistance to Christianity go back to some of the earliest encounters with Christians, but tensions have increased significantly during the past century. Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood reacted to the secular and Christian culture introduced by European colonizers and missionaries. I met with leaders of the outlawed Brotherhood in Egypt during the late 1970s, and it was evident that while some were peaceful and some were militant, all felt that secular Islam was their primary enemy. By 9/11, some offshoots began focusing on the "distant enemy": economic, military, and political centers in New York and Washington. The subsequent televised pictures of non-Muslim bombs dropping on Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan elicited further Muslim hostility toward the "crusading West."

Opposition to Christian witness intensified in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2010, when Muslim converts to Christ were imprisoned and threatened with the death penalty. In Pakistan, Muslim converts to Christ were imprisoned for apostasy; they were later released—and then killed on the street. This past year in Pakistan, both the Muslim governor of the Punjab region and the Christian minister of minority affairs were murdered just for opposing the law against apostasy.

Terrorism raises questions not only about missionary safety and transparency, but also about the appropriateness of certain forms of witness in some Muslim contexts.

On the other hand, more rigid or militant forms of Islam often increase receptivity to the gospel. This happened during the Khomeini Shiite revolution in Iran in 1979 (22 years before 9/11) and the Sunni Taliban takeover in Afghanistan that facilitated 9/11. In fact, Iran and Afghanistan reveal a broader pattern: Whenever Muslim governments have adopted a militant type of Islam or have tried to impose a form of Shari'ah law—and where there has been a local example of an alternate, friendly Christian presence—Muslims are attracted to the gospel. But persecution often follows.

The receptivity has also been particularly noticeable when Muslim factions are at odds—such as the Mujahideen militias after they had driven the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989, the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and the herdsmen and villagers in Darfur. Such hostilities and their resultant migrations, natural disasters in Bangladesh and Aceh, and ethnic resurgence among the Kabyle Berbers in North Africa have all led to an increased receptivity to the gospel.

Also, in spite of growing suspicion and hostility, a large percentage of Muslims have remained peaceful. My wife and I witnessed this on our return trip to Peshawar on September 11, 2002. Before sunrise, we flew down the western edge of Iran, the very place that birthed not only the Khomeini revolution but also some of the most beautiful poetry about Jesus (e.g., "Seek healing from the Christ, for he from … every fault can set you free"; Jami, 15th century). The predawn prayers for God's glory and mercy recited by the Muslim passengers on our flight echoed the prayers the hijackers had uttered to steel their nerves, but for violent ends.

During a layover in Dubai, we visited the reception room in the former mud house of the ruling family, where thousands of cups of Arabic coffee had been served with traditional Muslim hospitality. At the madrasah next door, students had been taught rabbinic-like values such as obedience, justice, and honor, not the hate of the Taliban. On the final leg of the flight, the old man beside me, with his bare feet under him, rocked back and forth in his seat, chanting prayers for protection. Finally, as we landed in Peshawar, the call to prayer floated from many mosques, representing the variety of Muslims present in the nation—some militant, some peaceful.

New Christian Debates

We have seen a comparable polarity among Christians, which in turn has affected missionaries and their supporting churches.

Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham made statements that suggested Islam was an evil religion incapable of reform or genuine dialogue. This continues to be one stream of thought on Islam among some Christians.

At the same time, 9/11 prompted both Christians and Muslims to work on peace-building. When anti-Muslim feelings ran high after the tragedy, Christians in Seattle sat by the entrances of Islamic centers to dissuade irate people from doing harm. My wife offered to go shopping with our Muslim Pakistani neighbors. Fuller Theological Seminary began regular meetings with local Muslims and joined with the Salam Institute at the American University in Washington, D.C., to foster peace-building without denying the need for mutual respectful witness. Yale Divinity School helped facilitate a series of consultations with Muslims on "A Common Word," centered on passages in Muslim and Christian sacred texts about loving God and neighbor. North Park University and Seminary likewise helped organize a series of evangelical and Muslim dialogues. Evangelical missionaries such as the Southern Baptists have, in general, opposed the negative stereotyping of Muslims in favor of a more cordial attitude.

In theology, Christian literature on Islam runs the gamut from apologetics (Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb's Answering Islam) to bridge-building (Kenneth Cragg's A Certain Sympathy of Scriptures).

In prophetic writings, we've seen conflicting interpretations of the roles of Israel and Islam in the end times (Colin Chapman's Whose Promised Land? vs. Mark Hitchcock's The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel).

In spiritual encounter, the approaches range from confrontational (Grant Jeffrey's War on Terror) to reconciling (Christine Mallouhi's Waging Peace on Islam).

In terms of evangelism and church planting, some Christians argue that converts from Islam can retain their Muslim social identity, while others argue that a complete break with Islam is required.

Dealing with Terror

The tragedy of 9/11 has raised a number of new issues, and the ever-present possibility of terrorism has forced missionaries to Muslims to consider anew the role of suffering in discipleship. Ten workers in Afghanistan, two of them personal friends, paid with their lives last year. Security training for missions personnel—what to do when personnel are kidnapped, for example—is now part of missionary preparation. To avoid attracting unnecessary attention (and thus hostility) to missionaries to Muslims, names of specific people, places, countries, and organizations are now largely left out of articles like this one. Many mission organizations are reluctant to send missionaries with children to such dangerous areas.

At the same time, for the sake of integrity in the communications age, Christian workers are striving to make their ministries and identities more transparent. Following the example of Paul, who combined being a genuine tentmaker with being a witness, they seek to have an integrated identity.

Terrorism raises questions not only about missionary safety and transparency, but also about the appropriateness of certain forms of witness in some Muslim contexts. Two young women in Afghanistan, going against the missions consensus at a time of tense government relations, went ahead and entered homes with Bibles and the Jesus film in hand. This led to their imprisonment and to the expulsion of all known Christian workers in the nation the week before 9/11. But it seems that God, in his providence, used this situation to get those expelled out of harm's way from the subsequent bombing and fighting there.

Mission Developments

The most significant missions development since 9/11 has been the increased number of students who want to be missionaries to Muslims. The first class I taught on Islam after 9/11 had 100 more students than usual. This interest built on the emphasis of the "AD2000 and Beyond" and Lausanne movements on the "10/40 window," the section of the world that includes major non-Christian religions. Increases in student numbers were also the result of interest in Muslims raised by the 1979 Khomeini Revolution in Iran. Todd Johnson, an editor of the Atlas of Global Christianity, has calculated a 26 percent increase between 2005 and 2010 in the number of missionaries working in Muslim-majority countries.

Corresponding to broader trends in globalization, many missions to Muslims have formed global networks to identify Muslim people groups who have yet to hear or respond to the gospel. These networks have started sharing personnel and resources. A book and companion CD I edited, From Seed to Fruit, is the product of such a network.

Overall, we are seeing Muslims following Jesus as never before in history. They are choosing a spectrum of identities that embrace the gospel without abandoning their origins. Some are identifying with churches that use the language and worship styles of foreign missionaries. Others are using indigenous language and worship styles but with a clear Christian identity. Still others are retaining as much of their socio-religious Muslim identity as possible while confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord and the Bible as their supreme authority. There are even imams who preach from the Bible in their mosques. God appears to be working across the board.

Some missions personnel champion an attractional church model in which converts make a clear break from their socio-religious background. Others practice a transformational model where they plant the gospel among people who remain in their socio-religious community and, like yeast in dough, are transformed as they study the Bible under the guidance of the Spirit. Needless to say, there is considerable controversy over these differences in approach (see "Muslim Followers of Jesus?" Christianity Today, December 2009). So a consultation was held in upstate New York in June to correct misunderstandings and misrepresentations, to encourage discussion in grace and truth, and to reach as much of a consensus as possible.

A New Flame

The recent "Arab Spring" offers both hope and concern. Like 9/11, it started with a fire: the attempted self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor after he was shamed by authorities. The flames ignited revolts in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Christians took part in initial demonstrations for democracy, and in Egypt, Muslims and Christians protected each other during prayer. Christians were even able to preach in Tahrir Square. But concern remains that sectarian strife will continue to plague Egypt as police have become less effective.

A recent worldwide Gallup poll indicates that although a majority of Muslims want democracy, they want Shari'ah to have some role. This may just mean the inclusion of Islamic values or, alternatively, more rigid laws that make Christians second-class citizens and conversion from Islam unlawful. The nature of future law will depend on whether more conservative groups like the Muslim Brotherhood take control of Egypt and other nations. Just how many Muslim countries will be changed in the near future is unclear. But certainly the rising, more secular youth are beginning to push aside the bin Ladenism of the past—even though more terrorist attacks may occur.

What led to that bin Ladenism and 9/11—the post-Soviet fighting between Mujahideen, the rise of the Taliban, and terrorist camps—resulted in thousands of Afghans fleeing to Pakistan, where they were put in refugee camps. In one of these camps outside Peshawar, conditions were dismal. Since refugee children ran around barefoot in intense heat and cold, a Christian organization brought in hundreds of sandals. The group decided it would not just distribute the sandals but wash the children's feet first. To do this, they enlisted as many Christians as possible, including our daughter-in-law, who carefully washed the children's filthy feet, put medication on their sores, and prayed silently for them before giving them the sandals.

Some months later, a primary-school teacher in the area asked her children who the best Muslims were. A girl put up her hand and said, "The kafirs" ("disbelievers").

After the teacher recovered from hearing this, she asked, "Why?"

The girl replied, "The Mujahideen killed my father, but the kafirs washed my feet."

Ultimately, the future of missions to Muslims will be affected less by the flames of 9/11, or even the flames that started the Arab Spring, than by the inner flames that are ignited if we so follow our Lord, who modeled the basin and the towel, that our Muslim friends may echo the words of the disciples in Emmaus: "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

J. Dudley Woodberry is dean emeritus and senior professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.


Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today also published a sidebar on how a suburban Chicago church ministers to Muslims at home and abroad.

For more on the Atlas of Global Christianity visit AtlasofGlobalChristianity.org.

Previous articles by and about Woodberry from Christianity Today and our sister publication Christian History include:
Can We Dialogue with Islam? | What 38 Muslim scholars said to the pope in a little-known open letter. (January 31, 2007)
Islam's Culture War | Author says Muslims are troubled by our morals more than our politics. (March 8, 2005)
Christians & Muslims: Christian History Interview—Justice and Peace | Because broken promises fueled Islamic militancy, the road to stability must be paved with good faith. (April 1, 2002)
Other CT articles on 9/11 include:
How Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11 | Christian leaders describe how that fateful day shaped how they see the world. (September 7, 2011)
Wake-up Call | If September 11 was a divine warning, it's God's people who are being warned. (November 12, 2001)
Where Was God on 9/11? | Reflections from Ground Zero and beyond. (October 1, 2001)
CT has more on terror, Islam, other religions, and missions.