I had a nice surprise today. I note that someone wrote the entry for the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Spanish over at Wikipedia.es. Having written or expanded on a couple of pages over there in relation to Anglicanism in the Middle East I’m happy to see someone wrote this in Spanish. (And it links to a brief piece on the cathedral I wrote for Anglican and Episcopal History some time ago, which is also nice.)
My colleague and friend the Rev. Phil Hill recently asked (on Facebook) me, and others, to mention ten books that had most deeply influenced our worldview. Aside from the Bible, which I think belongs to a class of its own, here are the books that came to my mind:
1. Symbol and Sacrament by Louis-Marie Chauvet
2. Constructing Local Theologies by Robert Schreiter
3. The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer in Five Volumes (that is kinda cheating, sorry, but I did read them all)
4. The Great Divorce by CS Lewis
5. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
6. The Call of the Minaret by Kenneth Cragg
7. The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam by Bat Ye’or
8. Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman by Montgomery Watt
9. For the Life of the World by Alexander Shmemann
10. Four Quartets by TS Eliot
Please take up the question on your own blog or share your thoughts in the comments.
This interview has now been released in English over at Global Missiology, in their July 2014 issue. Here is his input regarding how the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate views Muslims:
8) The Catholic Church has come under a lot of fire from ex-Muslim Christians for its statement on Islam in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, which states that Muslims adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself and does not recommend evangelizing Muslims, but to work sincerely for mutual understanding and preservejustice and moral welfare (section 3). How do you read and interpret the statement of Nostra Aetate ?
We are treating here a crucial matter: Does Vatican II advise us to not evangelize Muslims? If this is the case, why risk death by becoming a Christian, if Islam is a way to salvation?
But this interpretation would mean that the Church recognises the segregation commanded by Muslim law between non-Muslims and Muslims, who are not allowed to be reached by the Good News. If this were the case, the Gospel would be null and void because it commands us to go and baptize all peoples.
I recently had the privilege of presenting a ten-lecture course on the history of the Church in North Africa. Here are a few pictures.
Dr. Roger Dixon and I have recently co-authored an article/interview (me interviewing him) on his experience and work in Indonesia. This was published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Asian Mission (15:1). Here is a section on his experience of what are typically called ‘insider movements':
DAM: One topic of great interest today are insider movements. Proponents of IM claim that these movements exist as a work of the Spirit and apart from the initiative of Western-based missions and missionaries. I have been looking everywhere for a ‘real’ insider movement, and can’t find one. Do you know of anything that matches up to the stories we hear of movements initiated by the Spirit without foreign involvement?
RD: I understand your concern for some verifiable facts. They are hard to find.
Either the foreigners who report these movements will not identify the persons involved, or if they do, ask that the researcher not contact them because it would insert a “foreign” element (whereas they have already been a foreign element themselves). My repeated statement/conclusion is that if these reports [of Insider Movements commenced by the Spirit independent of Western missions] cannot be verified by independent research, we can’t really accept them as confirmed results by the normal social-science standards.
None of those claiming great results will respond to this. They just claim that we have to accept the reports of these people who write under pseudonyms about unknown people groups in unknown countries. It is puzzling. I have not heard of any IM groups in Indonesia or elsewhere that were not started by foreigners—mainly Americans. Though there is a strong IM strain in Korea now and some reports coming from them. Again, I personally do not know of any successful insider movements.
This is not a categorical rejection that genuine IM’s exist, of course, and I am grateful to Dr. Dixon for his precise choice of words.
More snippets to come shortly. Check out the PDF at my academia.edu site (link in the sidebar) or click here: Miller-Dixon Interview JAM.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Review of A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison (WIGtake Resources, 2014)
David Garrison is considered to be one of the most competent researchers among evangelical Christians interested in the global dynamics of world Christianity. In this book he investigates the significant number of new movements of people from Islam to Christ. He does this by dividing the house of Islam (and that is a technical term, Dar al Islam) into nine ‘rooms’, each corresponding to a defined region in the Muslim world, like the Arab room, the Persian room, and so on. Most of this book consists of these nine chapters wherein Garrison provides anecdotes and trends he identifies in those ‘rooms’. He also often tries to include the story of how this or that movement was initiated.
This book is concerned with movements, not individual converts, and this is precisely what makes it so valuable and important. There are plenty of books about why individual Muslims convert to Christ, and there are works that treat specific facets of this or that movement to Christ, but this is the first book to summarize on a global level what some movements in the nine rooms of the house of Islam look like.
Garrison is a serious researcher and knows the ins and outs of research in the social sciences. That having been said, readers who are looking for a detailed study with place names will often be disappointed. There is no way to get around these limitations though when it comes to research among apostates in the Muslim world. That something novel is happening among Muslims is incontrovertible, namely that more than ever before in history are converting to Christ. Garrison writes that his historical investigation led him to the following figures: Through the 18th Century there were no movements, in the 19th Century there were two, in the 20th Century there were eleven, and so far in the 21st Century he has identified 69 movements.
Many of his findings confirm findings from previous research: Muslims are attracted to the love of Christ as portrayed in the Bible and by Christians; security and persecution are real problems; Internet and satellite TV have played a huge role; Bible translation has been important, and so on. Garrison summarizes these and other findings in the last section of the book, while also noting that Islam itself has played a role in driving Muslims away from itself in a number of ways: Muhammad’s questionable treatment of women and non-Muslims, disappointment with the Qur’an, inter-Muslim violence, etc.
I can point to two weaknesses in this book, only one of them major. The first one is related to sources. Considering this is the first major book on this topic, the inclusion of more sources is desirable. This book really is written in a popular, and not scholarly level. That is not meant as an insult, but it limits its value for scholars. Perhaps the best way to address this would be to issue a lengthier academic book based on the same research.
Garrison’s references to medieval history represent the main failure of this book. He is clearly not aware of recent research elucidating what the medieval inquisitions were (and were not) and also the Crusades., which could have been written in 1900. When he speaks of the ‘atrocities’ of the Crusaders one might get the impression that these soldiers were exceptionally brutal or merciless. Wrong. For truly outstanding brutality one must look at the Muslim ruler and leader Baybars. And regarding the inquisitions, they took place before civil courts convened and were charged with gathering evidence, the same as our contemporary inquests. Contemporaries were sometimes critical of the inquisitors for not being more zealous in using torture, and a large majority of inquisitions were resolved with no punishment for the person under investigation. And finally, inquisitions were undertaken to investigate Christian heresy, and so Muslims and Jews could not be investigated by an inquisition, that is unless they claimed they had converted to Christianity, but in fact kept teaching aspects of Islam/Judaism contrary to the Christian faith.
One unresolved question was in relation to his rooms in the house of Islam: South America has a small but well-established Muslim population in the country of Guyana. At 7% Muslim, it is the most Islamic country in the Americas. Is there no movement there? Or should this (small) room be added?
Aside from this grievous mistreatment of medieval history, the book has much to commend it. In relation to the so-called insider movements Garrison handles the issue carefully and responsibly, sticking to description and not offering one particular case as exemplary or ideal. Garrison also manages to appreciate the limited context of previous generations of missionaries and indigenous Christians. It is all to easy to criticize the early missionaries in, say, the Ottoman Empire for not evangelizing Muslims, and sometimes those criticisms are fair, but as Garrison understands sometimes there was no possibility for this sort of witness. The same applies to indigenous Christians who century after century resisted the lure of escaping dhimmitude and the jizya (poll tax) by conversion to Islam. One can hope that this book will also be the final nail in the coffin of the C-scale, a tool which so over-simplifies complex concepts like ‘culture’ and ‘form’ to make it less than useful.
Garrison concludes his book with some practical ways that his readers can, if they wish to do so, be part of these various movements from Islam to Christ, though he is rightly clear in explaining that even with all these movements we are talking about fewer than .5% of Muslims world-wide converting to Christ. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make it ideal for a reading group or prayer group, perhaps used with the recent edition of Operation World.
(This review was originally published in St Francis Magazine, July 2014.)
The interview, from June 26th, 2014, can be listened to HERE. The main topic we discuss is conversion from Islam to Christianity.
(For people who listened to the interview and are looking for my doctoral thesis, click here and scroll down.)
And this time in French. Did you really think I only did English and Arabic?
Hope for the English translation of this (the original) to come out some time later this year. Here is one of the interview questions:
4) Une des classes que j’enseigne ici à Nazareth concerne l’Histoire de l’Église ancienne. L’Afrique du Nord a compté quelques églises très importantes comme Carthage et Hippone ainsi que de grands saints comme saint Augustin, Perpétue, Félicité et Cyprien. Pourtant, le christianisme indigène a été presque totalement absent de la région depuis des siècles. Est-ce que l’histoire des premiers chrétiens de la région représente quelque chose d’important pour les nouveaux Chrétiens d’aujourd’hui? Ou est-ce juste un fait historique intéressant, mais sans grande importance aujourd’hui?
La découverte des saints africains, surtout le plus grand d’entre eux, à savoir Augustin de Thagaste, est toujours revigorante, presque euphorique : « Si mes ancêtres lointains ont été chrétiens, il n’y a donc pas de complexe à l’être », s’est dit plus d’un néophyte. Certains déclarent après leur baptême : « je suis revenu à la religion de mes pères ! » Mais plus généralement tout le christianisme antique permet de se poser la question de la liberté de choix. Si mon ancêtre lointain a choisi librement l’islam, qu’on me permette de faire ce choix moi-même ; mais si cette religion lui a été imposée « bessif » (par l’épée), alors je ne commets aucune trahison, à l’égard de ma tribu, si je la quitte.
Read the rest of my interview with Mohammed-Christophe Bilek at Notre Dame de Kabylie.
I had the privilege of being interviewed by Al Kresta for his show Kresta in the Afternoon on Ave Maria Radio on one of my main topics of research, namely religious conversion from Islam to Christianity.
The interview begins around the 21st minute.
May 2014, at St Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas.
Final lecture of Spring 2014 for SMC1314.