As a follow up of that interview, he interviewed me recently for his podcast. Listen to the whole interview here and check out the other resources at his blog. I really enjoyed talking with Stephen and I think you’ll enjoy the podcast.
CH: You write: “After living in the Middle East for most of a decade, I must say that I find the public religion of Muslims (and Eastern Orthodox Christians) compelling and refreshing. Yes, sometimes it can be confrontational, but the introspective Christianity of the West with its quietism and compartmentalization strikes me as defeatist, bland, and feeble-hearted.” This relates to one of the key elements of secularism, the internalization of belief. You expanded on this in the book, but I wonder if you have seen this done in a Western context?
DM: The word introspective is from Latin and means looking inwards. The response to this is public religion, meaning an expression of religious commitment lived out in the midst of the people. I have seen baby steps towards this in America—it is easier in Europe. A church opened its grounds to local families for a movie night and it was well-attended, for instance. But that was still on the church grounds. I remember doing theology at the pub in Edinburgh with a local church. The deacon, who was quite liberal I’ll say, and I went to buy pints at the bar and this old Scotsman just saw his collar and started telling him about God. The point is he wore his collar in public, and that allowed a space for witness.
I’m in Spain and I wear my clericals several times a week because our cathedral is a very busy place. One day an old Spanish lady stopped me in the street and said, “I’m glad to see a priest wearing a collar! They used to do that all the time!” So obviously she thought I was a Roman Catholic priest, not an Anglican deacon, but it doesn’t really matter. We need to find ways of bringing the presence and reality of our religious commitment into the public world. No, we don’t need to be confrontational and abrasive—though we should realize that God may indeed call us to that sometimes. And here is me as the evangelical preacher who wants a practical application for everything: be deliberate about saying grace with your family when you eat out. Hold hands, bow your heads, make the sign of the Cross. Not to impress people. But to witness to Christ. To witness that his Church is still alive and well and it’s there at Applebee’s or Taco Cabana.
Some time ago Dr. Roger Dixon and I published 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 IMs exist, of course, and I am grateful to Dr. Dixon for his precise choice of words.
The interview begins with Al Fadi asking me about my own conversion to Christianity, and then about what motivated me to learn about Islam and then research religious conversion from Islam to Christianity. Here the great story about a church of MBBs that was planted accidentally! (At 14 minutes or so.) Near the end he asks about the main factor that attracts some Muslims to the Christian faith.
The podcast was published on December 31st of 2016. You can find the original at iTunes, or just listen to it right here:
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.