Uncategorized

THE LIBERATION OF DIALOGUE

Kerygma,

a Greek work in the New Testament for “preaching” – to cry or herald the salvation of Jesus. Or more specifically an approach that the early church took for oral history and proclamation. 

More specifically,

a storied approach that the early church took for oral history and proclamation. 

Martin Accad, the famous missionary to the Muslim world, once wrote an incredible piece [1] on the nature of Christian-Muslim dialogue. In the book, he argues that the twin fears of syncretism and polemics, which many think are inevitabilities of having a dialogue – thus should be avoided – do not dialogue at all. For Accad, syncretism isn’t dialoguing because it destroys the differences, and polemics is not dialogue because it destroys the voice of the other, drowned out through the persistence of one’s “rightness.” The good news here is that dialogue is somewhere in between, on a spectrum.

It isn’t a good worship service I’ve preached at unless someone accuses me of being a universalist. Often I wonder if they are right. If there is one thing I know is that I have made a conscious effort to recognize where my faith has been colonized by southern polite society, and root it out like the poison it is!

I wasn’t sure what grade I would get when I took Accad’s quiz. Formerly, my wife and I thought we would be missionaries to the middle east and still have that dream in our hearts. Therefore I was sure I would get some sort of syncretistic results because of our affinity for the insider movement in the mid-east, even though we aren’t syncretists. The result was a “26”, making my relation to Muslims and their culture of a Kerygmatic nature. I was shocked, but I was not appalled.

Accad’s arguments are solid and informed. I agree that dialogue is a fear amongst many evangelicals, with the predominant fear being some form of Chrislam or syncretism that is few and far between. The extremes of syncretism and polemics shatter dialogue, as Accad says, and are not actual dialogues, therefore the act of dialogue is to traffic somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Well, I gleefully accept this as reality, given that we often don’t know what we should and are shut off to the Spirit’s leading because we are too busy trying to either not offend or offend-to-convert.

Uncomfortable

I understand why some are uncomfortable with the categorizations because much of them seem to put us there unfairly, not accounting for the whole of lived experience, but these quadrants can be helpful in adjusting for our own individual biases.

The Kerygmatic approach is appealing because it begins with our worldview and learning to think correctly about the world around us. Whatever our worldview, it will produce activism. And that kind of faith must be conducive to reality as it is, not as we imagine it to be. In my own experience, simply talking about Jesus (gospel-ing) is the best method to conversion and encounter. Sure, Jesus told people they were wrong but He seemed to prefer a storied approach where he told them the truth “from the side” – in hopes that those who had eyes to see would see. I don’t see how this is any different today amongst Muslim people groups.

The idea that God is above every religious system, a human phenomenon, makes sense to me, and liberates me from having to defend a system that many associate with conquest (especially in the mid-east!). We are able to trust God with the results as we throw the seed into the soil, and pray for the heart. Jesus seemed convinced that if you speak to the heart of the matter (the Kingdom of God) then hang-ups have a way of getting torn down in the process of discipleship. Walking around telling people how right you are, is just another way of presuming western sensibilities upon a culture that is not accustomed to such things.

We are to learn and proclaim. But why is this not the typical approach we find in our culture? The answer I believe is very simple: we as a western church are divorced from the early church (the ante-nicene) fathers, as well as the Gospel proclamation found in the book of Acts. And if we were honest, we would say that we don’t see any Billy Graham-style sermons in the text. Instead, we find vessels of proclamation and humility, demonstrating the power of God through storied revelation.

Biblical Examples

If you look at Peter in Acts 2, he is content to give everyone a short history lesson. With Stephen the martyr, he is also content to give a massive history lesson, pitting his examples against temple-theology. Paul at Mars Hill takes advantage of the history he has learned from the Romans on the religiosity of the culture, just enough to declare who the unknown god was: Jesus. And it is with these examples in mind that I propose the following method. We should learn more about Islam before we rely strictly upon Christian authors with vague ambitions, stretching towards preparing Christians for the apocalypse. Then, once we know a little more, make friends with such people, and simply declare who Jesus is FOR them. Not the Jesus AGAINST them.

If anyone wants the article, send me a message and I’ll email you the link!


[1] Martin Accad, Christian Attitudes Towards Muslims and Islam, p. 29-47

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *