Bridging the Divide Network

In the October 2017 issue of Missio Nexus’ publication, Anthology, the article “Transforming Perspectives” caught my attention. The article reflects on the five consultations that have taken place since 2011 organized by the Bridging the Divide Network (BtD). This network has brought together people with different perspectives on Insider Movements to increase understanding in a safe environment. The article describes the consultation:

Nearly two hundred scholar-practitioners have been involved at some point, scores of papers have been presented and responded to, and dozens of group discussions have covered a range of topics related to ministry approaches among Muslims.

Anthology October 2017 vol. 5 no. 2, 22.

The article focuses on five vignettes to address the question:

Yet sometimes people have wondered aloud: “Is anyone changing their perspective at all? Or does everyone just air their own opinions and go home with no concrete results?

Anthology, 22

Reading the vignettes was encouraging. Are all my concerns about insider movements resolved? No, but some are. The following quotes from the vignettes encourage me that these consultations are bringing clarity and understanding to the discussion both in agreements and disagreements.

Having participated in five consultations in which deep and frank wrestling with the issues occurred, I have come to know and trust insiders and the expatriates who serve alongside them. Though I remain concerned about serious flaws in IM approaches, I have been impressed by the deep desire for faithfulness to both Christ and the Scriptures that I have seen in so many IM ‘alongsiders.’ I feel increasingly confident that when those close to Insider Movements discern serious distortions, they will do their best to address them and influence the leaders of the movements in healthy directions.

Don Little, Anthology, 22.

Second, I have seen ways I have not been careful enough in my interpretations of some historical narratives in the Bible when describing how I see insider movements as biblical. I appreciate the help others have given me in understanding this weakness and I am rethinking a number of ways I have used passages like 2 Kings and John 4 in the past. I still think they speak to the conversation, but I realize through my friends in the BtD community that I have drawn more from them than they actually say to us. I want to rework my thinking on this.

Kevin Higgins (italics original), Anthology, 24.

First, prior to 2010, I had seen an alarming number of materials from believers presenting the Qur’an as ‘God’s Word.’ I was encouraged at the end of BtD 2012 that our gathering summarized: ‘The Holy Bible is God’s Word and our anchor. The Qur’an is not inspired by God. There is no salvation in Islam. Muhammad is not a prophet sent by God in the biblical sense.

L. D. Waterman (bold and italics original), Anthology, 24.

Eighth, through BtD interactions I see significant diversity of belief and practice between various insider movements and within movements. It now seems to me unhelpful to present arguments either promoting all IMs as one collective entity or condemning all IMs as one collective entity. … Based on testimony from an array of credible sources, my current understanding is that IMs are really happening, consisting largely of believers who are my brothers and sisters in Christ, normally practice water baptism as a sign of personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and teach and use the Bible as the only inspired word of God. I find these things quite encouraging.

L. D. Waterman (bold original), Anthology, 26.

These quotes from the Anthology article are encouraging but there remain significant areas of disagreement. While there is a core of participants who have been part of all the consultations, participants vary from meeting to meeting. This seems to affect the extent of agreement and even results in a change of the extent of agreement. While the BtD 2013 report did not encourage recitation of the Shahada, the BtD 2015 did not reaffirm this consensus. The BtD 2015 outlines more issues of ongoing differences than previous reports, such as, “the extent of the gap between Islam and biblical faith” (BtD 2015 Report, 2). Under the heading ‘General issues of on-going differences’, the 2015 Report states:

We heard a scholar of Islamic studies strongly affirm that human beings could not be saved if it were not for the fact that Christ is both divine and human and that God is Triune. He also affirmed that these biblical truths are essential for spiritual growth and sustainability of movements. Some movements are struggling with understanding, embracing, and communicating these biblical teachings in their contexts. We need to pray, offer resources, and do further work together to address these concerns.

BtD 2015 Report, 2.

There is encouragement and there are on-going concerns in the BtD consultations. I am glad to see that they are not dismissing Christ’s humanity and deity along with the Trinity as optional beliefs. Indeed they are core doctrines that cannot be compromised.  I encourage you to read the material available online at https//btdnetwork.org. The BtD 2018 Consultation will meet in June focusing on “Spiritual Freedom and the House of Islam.” Let’s pray for open discussion and discernment. May the Bible be the final authority for faith and practice.

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