What is the Biblical Support for Insider Movements?

Part 3 of Understanding Insider Movements begins:

Are insider movements biblical? Or are they merely a missiological strategy with scant theological legitimacy, as some critics assert? (Kindle loc. 4234)

This part of UIM contains a dozen biblical and theological studies that advocates of insider movements believe form the biblical foundation for insider movements.

Frankly, I’m not convinced. These studies jump too quickly from the biblical text to the point being asserted. They appeal to selected passages. In my opinion, they are examples of proof-texting. For instance, the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is frequently cited in favor of continuing in one’s socio-religious context. After Naaman says he “will not offer burnt offerings or sacrifice to any god but the LORD” (v.17 ESV), he asks, “when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” (v. 18 ESV). It is far from clear that Naaman’s situation parallels what IM proponents are advocating. Further it is not clear that Elisha’s response, “Go in peace” (v.19 ESV) is giving approval or granting pardon. There are many passages, such as Deuteronomy 5:7-8 and Isaiah 42:8, that clearly prohibit worship of other gods. Why appeal to an ambiguous passage?

Timothy Tennent observes:

It is difficult to fully evaluate the application of II Kings 5:18,19 to a C-5 situation because of several contextual ambiguities in the text. We do not know, for example, precisely why Namaan’s [sic] master would be leaning on his arm as they enter the temple. … We also do not know if Naaman raised this issue before Elisha because he feared for his life if he did not accompany his master and bow down beside him in the Temple. … The point is, there are sufficient ambiguities about the text to make it difficult to use in any proper exegetical way to contribute  substantially to this discussion. – “Followers of Jesus (Isa) in Islamic Mosques: A Closer Examination of C-5 “High Spectrum” Contextualization,” International Journal of Frontier Missions, 23:3 (Fall 2006), p 108.

Chapter 24 of UIM is titled: “Jesus in Samaria: A Paradigm for Church Planting among Muslims.” Kevin Higgins develops parallels between Samaritan religion and Islam that are based on speculative historical reconstruction. He freely admits his assumptions:

Outside of Jesus’ instructions to the woman at the well, Scripture is silent about what Jesus taught these Samaritans during those two days. However, his Jewish followers, having heard him say “neither in Jerusalem,” continued to worship in Jerusalem since they understood the real meaning of his teaching. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that Samaritan believers also understood Jesus’ teaching and continued to worship in Spirit and truth on Gerizim. Just as the Jewish followers of Jesus continued to participate in the cultural and religious life of their Jewish community, we can safely assume Samaritan believers did likewise, with one major difference: they were now disciples of Jesus.

Historical evidence is scant to prove Samaritan believers continued to worship within the Samaritan religious system, but if they did not, there is a strange silence about this in Acts 8, where the apostles do not mention a “proper place” for worship or an alternative to Samaritan religion. (kindle location 5286)

Indeed there is a lot of silence and assumptions in finding insider movements in John 4!

Another pair of passages frequently linked in support of insider movements are Acts 15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. Rather than delve into the argumentation here, I refer you to three articles, the first by a proponent of insider movements and the others by a critic:

  • Kevin Higgins, “At Table in the Idol’s Temple? Local Theology, Idolatry, and Identification in 1 Corinthians 8-10,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 31:1 (Spring 2014) 27-36.
  • Doug Coleman, “The Jerusalem Council and the Insider Movement Paradigm” published in Global Missiology, October 2014.
  • Doug Coleman, “The Idol’s Temple and the Insider Movement Paradigm: An Examination of 1 Corinthians 8-10: published in Global Missiology, April 2015.

A helpful article highlighting the hermeneutical issues when citing the Bible on both sides of the debate is Rob Haskell, “Insider Movements and the Bible: An Exercise in Mere Hermeneutics.” available online at this link.

Understanding Insider Movements contains a number of chapters citing biblical support by advocates of insider movements. Jeff Morton’s book, Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant offers critique of their use of Scripture (he is a little too sarcastic but is worth reading). Doug Coleman’s A Theological Analysis of the Insider Movement Paradigm from Four Perspectives: Theology of Religions, Revelation, Soteriology and Ecclesiology, EMS Dissertation Series, 2011 also helpfully engages the discussion (though harshly reviewed in UIM).

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