Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: Insider Movements by Jeff Morton

Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant by Jeff Morton is a must read for anyone involved in ministry and missions to Muslims or anyone involved in supporting missionaries overseas (which should include the whole Church). The issues here are of paramount importance. As a worker among Muslims, I have seen the dramatic influence of Insider Movement methodology at work. Jeff Morton's book is a balanced presentation and critique of Insider Movements. It is not an angry diatribe or a weighty academic study as some may characterize Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. It is an accessible, practical, and persuasive explanation and evaluation of what is going on in most missions to Muslims around the world.

Insider Movements are defined in different ways but a basic description within Muslim Ministry would be a multiplication of Muslim converts who remain inside the religion of Islam so as to not lose their cultural identity. This missiological model has become increasingly popular, especially in missions to Muslims, where it seems the majority of missionaries have been influenced by Insider Movement methodology. Yet few outside of the world of ministry to Muslims are aware of this approach. This book is a timely interaction with the foundations and practices of Insider Movements.

Jeff Morton has produced an excellent and concise evaluation of Insider Movements and the methodology surrounding them. The writing remains clear, engaging, and even entertaining in the midst of bringing important exegetical, theological, and academic approaches to bear. Morton brings a careful and well balanced critique of the the thinking, theological processes, and strategies of Insider Movements by evaluating primarily the Theology of Religions present within the method. The majority and finest part of the book interacts with the scriptural basis of the IM position. Morton educates, evaluates, and persuades with great fluidity and maintains a smooth progression of ideas and evaluations, building his case carefully from the basis of scripture.

Some of Morton's conclusions about Islam will make missionaries uncomfortable, and a few will be tempted to dismiss Morton out of hand because he finds little to nothing worth a convert retaining within Islam. He disagrees that some things within Islam are salvageable. Unfortunately he allows the reader to interpret what this means practically, and some may paint Morton (and already have) as a harsh "extractionist" who demands all former Muslims don a starched white shirt and tie, sit in a pew, and sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" in a language they've never learned. This is the way opponents are demonized within missiological debate. Regardless of how missionaries feel about this conclusion, they must engage with Morton's exegesis of scripture and his interaction with the interpretations that proponents of IM use to found their case.

Morton's work, though concise and easily read, is an exceptional challenge to IM theology. He engages the majority of texts used to develop IM paradigms as well as quoting and engaging published interpretations. These issues include such questions as: Was Melchizedek a pagan priest? Did Elisha endorse worshipping Rimmon when speaking with Naaman? Were the pagan sailor's in the book of Jonah in a relationship with God? Were the Samaritans in John 4 and Acts 8 converts who retained their pagan religion? Was Acts 15 an example of entering the kingdom through Jesus without Christianity? Is Acts 17 evidence that scripture values socio-politico-religious identities? Does 1 Corinthians 7 mean Muslims should stay Muslim? Does 1 Corinthians 9 instruct us to become Muslim to reach Muslims? All of these texts and interpretations are introduced, fleshed out, and interpreted with transparent exegesis.

The book concludes with a brief discussion of conversion and a final analysis of Insider Movements. It includes appendices which feature a twenty page case study of IM in West Java. The case study is an illuminating, disturbing, and essential look at how Insider Movements occur outside of the textbooks and conferences in the real world.

I have been waiting for a solid but brief and accessible critique of Insider Movement methodology to appear. This book is almost exactly what I was looking for, and I hope that Morton's colleagues will produce more along the same lines. I will be buying multiple copies to distribute to workers, churches, and inquirers.

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