Monday, February 18, 2013

Messianic Jews and Insider Movements

It is often said that Muslims who belong to insider movements are much like Messianic Jews. Messianic Jews are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, yet claim to remain Jewish, and do not normally call themselves Christians. In the same way, IM Muslims are following Jesus but within Islam.

So they say.

Little problem though: Most Jews don't believe that Messianic Jews are Jews at all. They are converts from Judaism to Christianity. Pure and simple--even if they are, ethnically, Jewish. Evangelical Christians are the only ones who, without reservation, accept that Messianic Jews are real, true Jews.

There is a good article on this topic by David Novak at First Things for anyone who would like to learn more. I suspect that we will find the same thing with IM Muslims--that eventually, their own claims to be real Muslims notwithstanding, the Umma will decide they are just misguided or deceitful Christians.

In other words, if insider Muslims are like Messianic Jews, it means the only people who really think they are Muslims are evangelical Christians, not fellow Muslims.

15 comments:

Inseparable said...

When I was young, I was taught that a Roman Catholic could not be a true Christian and remain in the Catholic Church. So does that mean that those in the Roman Catholic Church that are believers are not Christian because of my definition or the definition of some other Fundamentalist Christians?

Don said...

Inseparable, I have heard this sentiment also, but there is a serious fallacy in this.

The largest difference between Roman Catholicism and its Protestant/Evangelical counterparts concerns the nature of the church. Roman Catholicism believes that it is an active mediator between man and God while the others (supposedly) do not.

I say "supposedly" because, if you say that your relationship with God is independent of your church relationship, and then tell people that they must leave Church X to be a Christian, then you obviously do not believe what you say about salvation and church affiliation.

My experience is that Roman Catholicism tends at the parish level to discourage serious commitment to God for the laity, which is liked to their idea of church but which is ultimately a pastoral problem. Thus, Catholics whose lives are God-oriented will either find a place in the RCC or will leave. But to tell them they must leave is yet another attempt to do God's job for him.

Don said...

Sorry "liked" should be "linked".

Abu Daoud said...

Inseperable, from a sociological point of view, it does indeed matter. This is the case because communities control their own boundaries and efine who is in and who is not in. Christians by and large regard Catholics as Christians (your former church being a dissenting but small voice). By and large Christians right now do not accept Mormons as being Christians. Ergo, they are not Christians. Similarly, Jews control who is and is not Jewish, and Muslims do too. Perhaps God has his own point of view, and perhaps he thinks that a Jew can really be a Jew and 'follow Jesus' without being a Christian. We don't know these things. We do know, however, that Jews by and large do not regard 'Messianic Jews' as being an authentic way of being Jewish.

Inseparable said...

Obiviously, the both of you have forgotten the attitude the the vast majority of Protestants until the last few decades. Just go back a read a bit more of Martin Luther to discover how he perceived the RCCC and the Pope. Don't forget the idolatry of the RCC and its worship of the Mother of GOd... Anyway, the point is that is does not really matter what the majority of Jew, Islams, or Christians think, but what matters is the faith of the individual towards Jesus. I personally know of a Muslim who became a Christian, was rejected by his family so he left for 7 years, but now is back working with his family opnenly as a Muslim that worships Jesus. His family has decided to accept him even though it means other relatives criticize the family. Although he is openly as worshiper of Jesus, he also openly referes to himself as a Muslim. His ID card still states that he is a Muslim and he sells Halal food.

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

I somewhat agree.

But isnt is the scripture which decides who is faithful and who is not.
If I want to know if Jehovah's witnesses are Chrisitan, I turn to the bible and its commentaries.

Now emphasis on the fact that we need to use commentaries. Taking texts at face value often misleads people.

I.J. Abdul Hakeem said...

Just out of sheer curiousity (since this sort of related to the subject), what do most Protestans (and/or Catholics)
thinks of Greek Orthodox and Syriac Christains?

Abu Daoud said...

Inseparable: actually I think your example helps my argument--that religious communities can and do change their points of view. You are right that until relatively recently Protestants and Catholics thought the other group's faith was fundamentally flawed, but not anymore. In the same way, maybe some day Jews will decide that Messianic Jews are good to do. That is, however, not the case today according to David Novak's article.

As to your friend, I am not making any judgment about his salvation or the sincerity of his heart. Only God knows such things. I am also glad his family has accepted him back after he left Christianity and the Church (which is precisely what he did, it appears). But his family is just one family. What does larger Muslim society say about him? And most importantly, what does he teach his kids?

You see, when I think about the Church's mission to Muslims, I take the long view, not the short one. Having a faith that can be passed down to kids and that kids can understand and live with is important. So what does he tell his kids? That is the most important question. As a grown up he may well be comfy with a sort of Jesus-following Muslim identity, but what about the kids? What about the wife?

Abu Daoud said...

Abdul Hakeem: Liberal Protestants respect the old Orthodox Churches a great deal. Evangeliclas waffle though: on the one hand they disagree with the theology (if they even understand it), on the other hand they respect them a great deal for living for centuries under the inhumane system of dhimmitude.

Inseparable said...

Abu Daoud, My friend has not left the Church anymore than he has left being a Muslim. He still attends Church services and identifies himself also as a Christian or follower of Jesus. One of the problems I see is that we are trying to sort between apples and oranges too much. If he had not returned to work with his family, he would not have been able to bring them into an acceptance of his faith. Now they have not yet followed his faith, but they view it positively. In this way his impact is larger in the Muslim community than if he had not returned. The argument should not be whether or not he should be an "insider", a term which he has never heard, but that he should be able to find a way to live within the community of his family which first rejected him, but now has accepted him in spite of different faith views. I don't think we need to conclude whether the insider movement is right or wrong, but to allow a broad expression of practice lest we close possible situations where an MBB may have a larger impact as an insider rather than being totally isolated. Each situation of each individual will be different.

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Inseperable. I was not saying that the IM is either right or wrong in my post, I was saying that if it is like Messianic Judaism, then they will not be considered real Muslims by Muslims. I think that is a pretty solid point an my experience bears it out. Muslims by and large do not feel like MBB's like your friend are really actually Muslims. As a Christian I don't define who is a Muslim and who is not--that is for Muslims to do.

But you are saying that your friend identifies himself as both a Muslim and a Christian at the same time? Is that correct?

Inseparable said...

Yes Abu Daoud, My friend identifies himself as both as he must identify himself as a "Chirstian" because he follows Jesus as Messiah, but he also feels that he is a Muslim as he belongs to that culturally, and he is truely one submitted to God. For him his faith in Jesus makes more able to be sumbitted to God, therefore a better Muslim. As I consider many who call themselves Christian, not really followers of Jesus, so certainly I do not expect most Muslims to consider one like my friend to be a true Muslim. However, as I mentioned earlier, I was taught that Roman Catholics are not true believers, but that assumption is not right. So in the end many beleivers did not all come out of the RCC but those Protestant believers outside the RCC accepted them as ligit Christians staying in the RCC.

Abu Daoud said...

Inseperable: first, let me clarify that I respect your friend and wish him the best of luck. I know many MBB's and am very aware of hos difficult dealing with family often is.

That having been said, I would ask the following question: do the people at church know that he sometimes and in some ways calls himself a Muslim? And does his family know that he sometimes identifies himself as a Christian?

My point is not to criticize him. But rather to point out what the original post was about: that faith communities set their own boundaries. Yes, those boundaries can move (as with your Catholic example), but I wonder how these two communities (church and his family) would feel about his manner of self-identification.

Or perhaps he does what so many MBB's feel forced to do--continue to id as Muslims with Muslims and Christians with Christians, all the while never having the freedom to integrate the two identities into one, stable, new identity.

Inseparable said...

"That having been said, I would ask the following question: do the people at church know that he sometimes and in some ways calls himself a Muslim? And does his family know that he sometimes identifies himself as a Christian?"

Yes to both questions. I can sit in his Halal restaurant in front of his family and openly speak to him about his Christian faith. Last time I also prayed with his mother in the restaurant who was ill.

Abu Daoud said...

Insep.: Well, that is very interesting. All I can say is he has an unconventional family and an unconventional church, who will accept his unconventional dual-hybrid identity.

Again though, I must wonder what other Muslims say about him, and also: how does he raise his kids? This is the key question.