Emerging Muslim Followers of Jesus?

In the late 1980's, I met a Muslim follower of Jesus. Razul [he had changed his name] dressed in an Arab robe, went to the mosque to pray to Allah, and followed Jesus. To be a Muslim, he told me, was to be someone "submitted to God" and he was submitted to Allah through Isa (Jesus).

At the time, there was not much discussion on it, at least not in my circle. Now its a big topic. I want to pick the conversation up again and have some discussion. Its really important . . . much MUCH more important than other blog subjects like why John Piper invited Rick Warren to the Desiring God Conference [are we really THAT shallow?].

Last year I blogged very very briefly on Christianity's next and greatest challenge, suggesting that our response to Islam will be one of the defining factors for this century. I also sensed at that time a transition in the global Christian movement in regards to this matter. This has increased. Bigtime!

In that post I pointed to an article on a Christian response to Islam. Since then, others have appeared including a bombshell of an article by Joseph Cummings called Muslim Followers of Jesus, Although a Lausanne publication, the article does not necessarily represent the official view of Lausanne, which is better summed here with a Christian response to Muslims,

Phil Parshall, responding to Joseph's article from the cautious side, points to the Bible as a guide while John Travis suggests that God is doing something new and that Christian followers of Jesus should honor and befriend the Muslim followers of Jesus. The comments that follow each response are lengthy but worth reading. I would be curious to hear what you think.

And related to the question is this one – Is Christianity equivalent to the way of Jesus or is it simply a construct designed by people to help them in their faith? If It is, then who should decide what it looks like? If it is not, then why should a decision to follow Jesus involve a conversion from one religion to another?

So, I hope to post a number of thoughts and questions related to this theme. Please join me over the next few weeks and lets come up with some answers. Dont be shy.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

11 Comments

  • It’s a word thing. I normally equate “Christianity” with the way of Jesus. “Christian” is used with a range of meanings, including referring to a European culture with a bit of Christ in it.
    Likewise someone can be following Jesus and do/be much of what of what would be regarded as “Muslim”. One can’t believe/practice ALL of what would be expected of a Muslim by the “core” of Islam, but they could easily fit in the middle of the spectrum of those who regard themselves as “Muslim”.
    But the other word in play here is “religion” (I’ve reflected on this a lot). People think a lot about the named religions: Buddhism, Hindu, etc…. In the Australian census 64% ticked a box to identify as some brand of Christian. These aren’t the Christians we want to see increasing… Some Christians object to using the word “religion” to describe the Way – “I’m not religious, I follow Jesus”.
    But if religion means what’s important to you or what your life revolves around, that’s precisely when we ought to say yes, we are religious about Christ. And on that definition of religion, our main religions include football, acqusition, and Me!, with some Christians and other minorities thrown in.
    And when those things count as relgions, then syncretism isn’t just something those silly converts in Africa do, it’s something I’m guilty of as well.
    Someone may ask “Can you be both Christian and Buddhist?” I reply “Can you follow Jesus and football?” Someone will answer “football is OK, but Jesus must come first”.

  • To fully understand the impact Jesus is having among Muslims who understand His ways in the context of their culture, traditions and lifestyle one has to be immersed in their culture.
    It is important to recognize that what God is primarily doing is reuniting Abraham’s broken family.
    It is also important to accept the fact that this is something new that can only be explained using new terms, new images, new understandings that go beyond our traditions. So we must listen and learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters.
    In my experience, I have found that it is best to approach this reality from a position of humility and with a desire to learn.
    I once asked a Muslim friend why so many of them were having visions of Jesus while I knew of very few Christians who had this type of visitation. He said… “Christians have pictures of Jesus so you have no need for Him to appear to you”.
    I think that this answer is appropriate for this whole new experience.

  • Is Christianity equivalent to the way of Jesus or is it simply a construct designed by people to help them in their faith?

    That depends on your definition of Christianity ..
    .. however, this is largely beyond the point.
    To posit it as *simply* a construct does a dis-service to all those Christians around the world who have successfully managed to form a Christian praxis that is contextualised to their own particular cultural mileau – be they tribesmen in New Guinea, Latinos in the barrios of South America or untouchables in the slums of India.
    That said there two possible problems for ‘Muslim followers of Jesus’ – firstly, does being a ‘follower of Jesus’ accepting that it’s only through Grace we are saved? Or are they simply creating another ladder to God(allah) via following the example of Jesus. Secondly, the Christian life is one to be lived in the context of a community of believers, and whilst I can see that this sort of approach might be absolutely necessary for short periods of time, I don’t see it as a long term mode of discipleship that scales upwards and outwards.

  • Which Christianity? Anglican Christianity? (Roman) Catholic Christianity? Baptist Christianity? Orthodox Christianity? My Christianity? Yours? Which is really equivalent to the way of Jesus?
    In the first century the Christian community began by thinking of itself as part of the wider Jewish community and wondered what to do about these Gentiles that seemed to be coming to Christ and sharing the experience of the Holy Spirit without becoming Jews first. In the end following Jesus became incompatible with following orthodox Judaism just as it was incompatible with pagan beliefs and lifestyles.
    I do however, agree with Travis that “Christian followers of Jesus should honor and befriend the Muslim followers of Jesus.” But we will all need to allow ourselves to be challenged by each other as to where our determination to follow Jesus/Isa is going to put us in conflict with our own communities and cultures.

  • Interesting, I’ve mostly heard of positive developments among muslims living in thoroughly Islamic cultural settings, where the gospel message is presented in a cultural mold that fits the surroundings.
    I’m interested to hear what is happening among the ever increasing numbers of muslims living in Europe. In that environment they’re on the defense, so to speak, and might be less open to accepting the religion of their host-countries since that might be seen as compromise.
    Are there similar stories of muslims in europe or other western countries that turn to Jesus whilst holding on to their islamic culture?

  • As someone who’s been an “insider” to the discussion I know the thrill of the prospect of these highly contextualized “C-6” movements.
    Conversely, as someone who has come out of the discussion to study theology more seriously I can also see the problematic implications. We might have a full-fledged heterodox movement on our hands, maybe even the beginnings of another cult – all the while fully sanctioning it as a viable Jesus movement, albeit in Muslim garb.
    While the potential remains for these Muslim followers of Isa to eventually move closer to orthodoxy, don’t hold your breath. They may love Jesus deeply, but never embrace Trinitarian theology, never embrace the Creeds, might never even embrace Jesus as God. What do we do with that?
    The only thing I can say about these c-6 movements is that it’s not like it’s up to us to stop or to change anything. The miracle is that these movements are happenign on their own – or are they?

  • thanks Wayne. The article in the beginning is more of a c4 vs c5 discussion – most folk i know are not too impressed with c6.
    if those numbers draw a blank to anyone here, read the article at the top.

  • My observation, based on Bible: Genesis 16. It talks about Abraham’s wife’s servant Hagar, Ishmael was fathered by Abraham; Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isiah was fathered by Abraham. God giving blessing to Abraham after almost sacrificing Isiah that he will be blessed with millions of descendants. Line of Hagar and Ishmael would be today’s Arabs and generational line of Sarah and Isiah would be today’s Jews, eventually today’s Christians. I have good reason to believe: Muslim,Jews and Christians are actually worshiping same God. Any 2-cent thoughts?

  • Thanks for those links Andrew, they were brilliant. I think there’s a really important identity debate to be had as to how closely we need to own the word “Christian”. The New Testament is very ambivalent about it, with the usage being limited, and the most positive reference being in 1Pet 4:16, where it seems to be more to do with “bearing the name of Christ” rather than “bearing the name ‘Christian'”. So how we use the use of the “Christian” today should bear the New Testament’s weighting of the word in mind.

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