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Can we use “Allah” ?

The idea of using “Allah” as the word for God is controversial in some Christian circles. It’s also controversial in some Muslim circles, as believers in Malaysia can attest.

But for me, I think that we can use Allah as the word for God and not make a big fuss over it.

Now, I am not a degrees theologian. I am quite possibly theologically wrong in this regard. I am open to correction. And this should certainly be taken as my thoughts, not an official position of our organization. But the Baptist theologians seem to agree with me – see this.

Most Muslims I have encountered – and I will admit I have not encountered many, unlike people in, say, Frontiers — are just people who happen to be Muslims, usually nominal ones, just like most Christians are nominal Christians. They are mostly what their parents were. They have a few religious ideas often tied to family or friends or patriotism. And when they say Allah, they do not have a significant systematic theology worked out. They mean God.

Some will argue that because of what they think about God or how they approach him, they are not worshipping the same God as we are. But aside from the linked article above (which argues it thoroughly an academically) two biblical cases suggest to me it is possible.

The first is the Jews themselves. We worship the same God… but differently. Our understanding and approach is modified by our beliefs about Jesus and the result of salvation on the law. It’s not as if Jesus introduced a new God–just made possible a new approach.

Second is Mars Hill where Paul spoke to the people about their statue ’to an unknown God.’ he began to reveal who this God was to them. He equated their reference to God with God and then began making this unknown God known.

When a Muslim says Allah, who is indicated? A single all powerful all knowing all present God who made us and to whom in some way we must relate.

It’s not as if there is a clear construct in their mind that there are two distinct monotheistic gods. It’s more like we hear God described and say ’that is a false image of God’ and ’that’s not the God I worship’ and ’that God doesn’t exist.’

Wouldn’t it be much the same if someone told my kids some description of me and they said ’that’s not my dad’ and then ’I don’t known the person you’re describing’ and then ’that Justin doesn’t exist.’ They aren’t denying that I am alive. They are just saying someone has a very false idea about who I am. They are interacting with a deceptive perception rather than the real me, which explains why their attempts to interact with me go bad. But it’s not like there are two Justin’s who are wholly different–a me and a different me.

I agree that there is deception at work in the Non Christian perception of God whatever religion is embraced. But I think the best way forward is to understand the Muslim wants to worship the One God–not multiple
Gods as Hindus do, nor impersonal forces, nor karma, nor spirits etc–and we need to reveal to the Muslim who Allah–who God–really is, and how much God loves them.

Most people it seems to me have less of a problem with the idea of the existence of God and find the idea that he loves them so much he would
Incarnate in flesh and die for them to be the bigger challenge to accept.

Written on an iPhone while traveling, so forgive the typos.

Passing over

It is chilling to think how air travel has empowered connection with places and peoples we want to get to while at the same time enabling us to leap right over places and peoples we have no wish to visit.

In ancient times you had to pass through many places to get to Rome or Beijing, and many were disciples ’as they were going.’

Disconnects

You’ve undoubtedly heard the old line about how if each believer won one person to Christ each year (or month, or whatever) within a short time the whole world would be saved.

Why does this approach never work? Because of the limits of our social circles. We presume that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else. In fact, we are only loosely connected, with some having many connections and others having few. Information passes through the strongly connected ‘hub’ people, and they serve as gateways. They can stop the flow of information if they desire.

Thus while it is theoretically true that everyone is connected, in fact the non Christian world is cut off from casual relationships with much of the Christian world. Thus the in the each one win one scenario, Christians would pretty rapidly run out of people to win if they stay within their existing social networks.

Mission is about leaving ones existing social circle, and intersecting a new one. We are more comfortable with the idea of winning friends and family… And less comfortable with the idea of seeking out complete strangers. It is these disconnects–when people avoid other types of people–that cause the break down of world evangelization. Intentionally intersecting a new social circle is hard work but work that must be done.

Should

Should we invite our unsaved neighbors to come to church?

Should we encourage unsaved neighbors to read the Bible and try to obey it?

Should we encourage them to read the bible with their families? With their friends? With their unsaved friends?

Should we encourage them to pray and try to obey what scripture says and see what happens as a result?

Should we encourage them to do this weekly?

If they do this weekly with friends and family, does this make them a spiritual authority?

Should we do that? What are the possible results?

Now, what if we replace the words “unsaved neighbor” with “sinner”?

Now, what if we replace “sinner” with “greedy” or “murderers” or “tax collectors” or “diseases” or “adulterers” or “homosexuals” or “thieves”?

At what point in the above list when you change the words do you start to say “no, we should not do this?”

Traveling

I am traveling to the Global Ephesus Consultation from the 10th to the 20th, and I don’t know how much I will be online during that time. If you have a pressing question send an email to justin@beyond.org.

Question it

If it starts with a big show, question it.
If it never grows up, question it.
If there is no cost, question it.

The Kingdom is a replacement, not an add-on or an upgrade.

Shifts

FROM personal destiny
TO joining the mission of God

FROM individual performance
TO community participation

FROM single headship
TO plurality of elders

FROM come and see
TO go and tell

FROM gift-centered
TO Christ-centered

FROM success by numbers
TO priority on values and behaviors

FROM attraction church
TO apostolic church

FROM that’s good enough
TO excellence for the glory of God

FROM incremental
TO truly significant

FROM personal improvement
TO global responsibility

via @ericwatt.

SEEN: Bits Seen 07

, Nov 7.

Microsoft Word dropped the requirement of buying an Office 365 subscription to edit docs in the Word app for the iPhone/iPad, shoots to no. 2 spot among free apps in Apple’s store. (I’m going to get it myself later today.)

Why not just use Google Translate for Bible translation? It’s not that simple. Here’s why (Wycliffe).

Flanagan, Jake. “Has the world forgotten the Central African Republic?” New York Times, 5 November 2014.

Livingston, Gretchen. “Will the end of China’s one-child policy shift its boy-girl ratio?” Pew Research.

“The tiny cost of failure is dwarfed by the huge cost of not trying.”
Seth Godin

Powers, wrestled with

Ephesians 6, structures that we struggle against:

Powerlessness: blindness, apathy, satisfaction, worldliness, things that neutralize power & activity.

Prisons: bondages that lock you in

Patterns of behavior that use you as fuel for cycles of relational damage, where people give and receive pain, preying on each other

Power structures, where people prey on others and multiply evil control, domination, oppression of many

Pervasive spiritual wickedness: cultural systems promoting long-term sustained evil behavior

Redemption & Resilience is about helping communities build spiritually healthy, redemptive disciplines, structures of justice, and pervasive spiritual holiness and righteousness.

Jesus never advocated military action. He was less concerned about political powers and more with spiritual powers.

SEEN: Bits seen 06

, Nov 6.

Crime and Corruption Top Problems in Emerging and Developing Countries.” Pew Research.

Iran: “Take it or leave it.” Economist, 5 Nov 2014. “You can’t shower a trillion dollars in oil money on a society in a decade and expect it to stay pious.”

Shontell, Alyson. “I tried the $2 billion contraption that Facebook bought–it’s indescribable.” Business Insider, 5 Nov 2014. On Oculus Rift, an immersible 3D technology useful for entertainment and education, among other things. Futures, Tech.

Ramzy, Austin. “Party investigators warn officials in Zhejiang province against religion.” New York Times, 5 Nov 2014. This is the same province where demolitions have featured heavily in the news. The warning was brief, and in the context of a larger statement focusing on issues of corruption and power abuses. Trends, China.

Rapid spread of Christianity in China forces official rethink on religion.” International Christian Concern, 1 Nov 2014. The pull quote is that persecution has helped the church to grow: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”

Cracks in the atheist edifice: the rapid spread of Christianity is forcing an official rethink of religion.” Economist. Wenzhou: “By 2030, there could be 250 million Christians in China, the world’s largest Christian population.”

My own research suggests there is very little correlation between persecution and church growth: it can go either way. The only real correlation seems to be that, the stiffer the persecution, the more extreme the church goes down one path or the other (growth or extinction). Mild persecution or regulation does more to dampen growth than anything. One could argue that the status quo of light persecution in China might be worse for the church, in the long run, than either open freedom or severe persecution.

Nepal’s prime minister makes religious freedom pledge.” Barnabas Fund, 15 October 2014. There has been major church growth in Nepal, but there was some talk of an anti-conversion bill.

Myanmar: the Beauty and Majesty of Myanmar, photo collage

“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
Phillips Brooks

“All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things because they reckoned on his power and presence with them.”
Hudson Taylor

“Somehow one must love the world without being worldly.”
G.K. Chesterton

“People are willing to talk with you about faith, Christianity, & the gospel, but they never will if you don’t engage them.”
Barry Sproles

“Even cell phones need 2 b turned off & fully charged every now & again 4 a long productive life. Yet we think we can live without a sabbath.”
Andy Herbek