Bible Prophecy





Information Center





March, 2012

Book Review
Muslims, Christians, and Jesus by Carl Medearis

Reviewed by David Irvine

I first became aware of the “Insider Movement” (IM) (also referred to as contextualization and common ground movements) and the different levels of “Contextualization” (C1- C5) when I went to Iraq in March 2004. I had not been back to the Middle East since 1975 and in the atmosphere of danger and war these ideas of presenting the gospel to Muslims using the Quran and protecting new believers from danger, keeping them in their own community, along with getting away from “imperial western cultural Christianity” looked exciting and sounded promising.

I agree wholeheartedly with Carl Medearis when he says that one on one relationships are the key to fruitfulness and we are not there to win arguments or to export western culture. We should engage Muslims in a serious conversation about who Jesus is and stick with conversations about the scriptures and God. [1]

As I have studied the depth and meaning and effect of this missiological movement I have looked in scripture and become more and more troubled. I believe it has good intentions, it sounds good at first, but I see no evidence anywhere in the Word of God where IM, as it is defined today, is practiced or taught. On the contrary every time God calls one to be His, He calls them out, many times out of their land, out of their culture, out of their religion and even out of their family. IM, on the other hand, teaches that it is not only OK but desirable to remain. We are a “called out” people. What are we called out to be, Jew, Greek, Western, or Eastern? We are called out and admonished to gather together as one body. IM teaches that Hindu believers should not mingle with “Christians”; Muslim believers are not to mingle with western “Christians” etc… in order to preserve themselves in their culture and keep themselves from ostracization and danger.

From the beginning Satan has led man astray by saying basically; “Did God really say…?” He has continued ever since. What he says usually has truth mingled in it so it is enticing.

The enticing things that are mixed into the Insider Movement are the politically correct “tolerance,” postmodern view of reality, and love is above all. If you believe in absolutes you are intolerant, everyone has their own “story” and understanding, who are you to judge them? God’s love is the most powerful thing in the universe, even over truth and justice, so be loving and not judging/discerning. Speaking about sin and judgment is very taboo, it offends people. Give them hope, make it easier, they may be a little confused about Jesus deity and the validity of other religious teachings/scriptures but will come to know truth in the end if they earnestly seek him. The West is evil and misunderstands the East. Therefore minimize/villanize the one and elevate/champion the other.

As I said in 2004 and continue to say, it is too bad that Jesus and the apostles did not know this Insider Movement, it would have saved many from beatings, torture and death for their faith. Paul would have remained in Judaism; the Greek converts would have remained in the temples of Zeus, Athena and their cultures. Continue this movement through history and the Germans and Dutch should have remained in their culture and Norse paganism, etc… oh, but they would say that they loved and believed in Jesus of course.

Many of the complaints that IM proponents use to justify their movement are valid ones, for example; are we imposing western ideas and church practices on other culture believers; are we acting like the scribes and Pharisees; are we vilifying and afraid of Muslims (or any other religion); are we willing to meet them where they are; are we culturally sensitive; etc.??? To make the leap from “we have been wrong in these areas to “therefore the gospel must be softened and made more seeker friendly” is not valid.

The question is not whether there are saved believers who are still in Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, or any other culture or religion, I believe that there are. The real question is should they stay and continue to identify themselves as such? IM teaches that it is for their safety and cultural identity that they should stay. Does that match what we see in scripture? Are they creating a new Jesus that fits their needs? Which Jesus would you or they die for?

In his book Carl spends most of the book legitimizing Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an. He is very generous in that regard. In support of his conclusions in the 178 page book he makes reference to parts of Biblical passages eight times, providing citations for only six of those. Here are his references:

1.      “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15-16 [2]

2.      “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.” I Cor 9:22-23 [3]

3.      Jesus approved the activity of a believer outside the disciples’ small group. Mark 9:38-40 [4]

4.      “There is no other name by which people can be saved.” Acts 4:12 [5]

5.      Jesus said “follow me” to a couple of men two thousand years ago… (he gives no reference) [6]

6.      God accepted the gentiles just as they were (story of Cornelius) Acts 11:18 [7]

7.      Love God and love people (he gives no reference) [8]

8.      Bridges between two worlds – people of the way (Acts 9:2; 19:23; 24:14; 24:22) [9]

I read these references to see what the context is and if they support what Carl claims.

1.      Carl says that God will reveal Himself to each individual in a unique way, arguing the deity or son-ship of Jesus will only reinforce preexisting barriers. We can introduce people to Jesus and He will take the responsibility of asking each person “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15-16 (p.84) [10]

The real question of Matthew 16 is whether or not you are wheat or tare, good soil or bad, good or bad leaven/teaching/doctrine and a mustard seed, the smallest seed becoming a tree like the kingdom of God. The context is that of false faith and true faith, false believers and true believers, the true kingdom, and how you answer the question “who do you say that I am?” determines true or false faith. The context does not say that we can stay away from the deity of Jesus, or that each individual (for the West) and community (for the East) can say who they think Jesus is; to do so is false faith.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells parables to the multitudes (Parable of the soils, the wheat and tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the dragnet, and the householder). He talks about hearing and not hearing, seeing and not seeing. Then Jesus is rejected in Nazareth by his own culture and religion He was not an Insider believer. Next in Matthew 14 Jesus feeds the 5,000, walks on water and heals many. This leads to a showdown in chapter 15 with the Scribes and Pharisees over “tradition.” They ask him “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” (Mt 15:2 [11]) Evidently these disciples also were not Insider believers. Jesus’ answer is definitely not an “Insider” friendly one that would support staying in one’s religion, culture and tradition. He says: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Mt 15:3) A few verses later the disciples come to Jesus and say: “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Mt 15:12) Carl says we should not reinforce preexisting barriers. Jesus answers that “Every plant that my heavenly father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.” (Mt 15:13-14) Jesus heals many more and feeds another 4,000. In Mt 16:11-12 He rebukes His disciples for thinking of bread when He was talking about false leaven or doctrine (a word Carl does not like) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. This is the background of the question Jesus asks in verse 13 “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Carl only quotes verse 16 to support not talking about Jesus as deity, yet it is the main topic of this verse which sets up verse 16.) The disciples answer, “some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (“or one of the prophets” – that is exactly what Muslims say, but it is the wrong answer) Jesus asks for the right answer, “But who do you say that I am?” verse 15. Peter answers, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Again Carl leaves this out because it does not support his argument. For someone promoting contextualization he takes verses of scripture out of their context.

2.      This is the proof text of “contextualization” “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.” (I Cor 9:22-23) [12] The key to this verse is Paul’s qualification in verse 21 which Carl leaves out – “…(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ.)” Of the things that are discretionary, Paul is flexible, but of the things toward Christ he is not. He does not change or soften the gospel.

3.      In chapter 5 of the book, Carl deals with common questions and gives his responses.  The first question is about the inspiration of the Qur’an. He says that “… Jesus is the way, and any method or way to come to him is legitimate if the seeker finds Christ as the answer to the souls burning need.” (What is the souls burning need? To have hope? To have culture and family? No, to have the Son of God save him from eternal death) He goes on to say that “even Jesus, when his disciples objected to a believer outside their small group casting out demons and healing people in his name approved the activity (Mark 9:38-40), because there is no other name by which people can be saved (Acts 4:12).” [13] The context in Mark does not teach anything about “Insiders” simply that there is no neutrality when it comes to belief in Jesus. Either you belong to Him or you do not. That “disciple,” not of the twelve, was not an insider as opposed to them. Later Carl says that two of the disciples are insiders – see # 5 below. Is Carl saying there are two separate insider groups in one religion, Judaism?

4.      Carl leaves out the context of the Acts 4:12 quote[14] because it again contradicts what he is trying to sell. Acts 4 begins with the priests, the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees “being greatly disturbed that (Peter and John) taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) So they took Peter and John into custody.  The next day the Sanhedrin (the rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas… and many others) asked, “by what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7) Peter responds with the gospel and defines the “name” of verse 12. He says, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other name under heaven given among men by which you must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12) Again these very verses contain exactly what Carl says should be left out so as not to offend. What Jesus is Carl selling? A Jesus “You know…That guy who lived in the middle east two thousand years ago.” [15] A Jesus who is your friend and will give you hope and a kingdom? Peter and John were then commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (not a watered down Jesus but the Jesus who was crucified, who God raised from the dead, who is the chief cornerstone). Peter and John said, “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” (verse 20) It sounds like Carl is on the side of the Jewish leaders (an Insider) telling us what we cannot say when talking about Jesus 

5.      In chapter 7 on “Muslims who follow Jesus,” Carl gives an example in Ali. Carl says “Accepting Jesus as his teacher had taught Ali to make Jesus his leader, and in turn had taken him to the revelation of who Jesus really is-Savior and Master. At no point had Jesus ever said to my friend, ‘You must change your name, go to a Western style church, and give up your family and tribe.’  Instead Jesus said the same two words to Ali that He’d said to a couple of men in the same region about two thousand years ago: ‘Follow me.’”  [16]

I think Carl is quoting from Matthew 4:19 where Jesus tells James and John to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men. The impression Carl gives is, that these two disciples, like his Ali, did not have to leave their culture, religion or family. The context is diametrically opposed to Carl’s Insider agenda. Just 3 verses later and basically immediately when called, the two “left the boat and their father.” (Verse 22) Contrary to staying safe and secure with their families in their religion and culture, not only were these two, but all the disciples, were severely persecuted. James was martyred by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2). All but John were martyred. Carl’s flippant and sloppy use of scripture just amazes me.

6.      On the next page of chapter 7[17] in order to show that a Muslim Insider believer should be accepted as he is, Carl uses the story of Cornelius and quotes Acts 11:18 to show that God accepted the Gentiles just as they were.

Again he takes something out of context to prove contextualization. Acts 10 begins by describing Cornelius as a Gentile who is in fact not staying in his own Roman culture of paganism but who is “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household…” He was a gentile who had abandoned his pagan religion to worship Jehovah (verse 2) so he is already not an insider. An angel tells him to send for Peter who will tell him what he must do.  Peter then has a vision about what is and is not unclean (which is contrary to his culture and religion) and is told to go to Cornelius’ home. Cornelius gathers his family before Peter and says, “Now therefore we are all present before God, to hear all things commanded you by God.” (Verse 33) In verses 34 to 43 Peter preaches to them. What he says is not seeker friendly and contains the very things that Carl says we should avoid in speaking our “Jesus” to Muslims because it will offend them. (verse 36- Jesus is Lord of all, verse 39- Jesus was killed by hanging on a tree, verse 40- God raised Jesus on the 3rd day, verse 41- He arose from the dead, verse 42- Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead,” verse 43- “To Him all the prophets witness that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (It is interesting that Carl never mentions sin in the book.) In Acts 11 Peter defends God’s grace – that the Gentiles could receive God’s salvation apart from becoming Jews and following the law. Did Cornelius and his family stay in his own culture and religion? Hardly, he feared God, looked for what he had to do, not how he could stay, left his religion, and was given clear teaching or doctrine about who Jesus was - the Son of God who was killed on a cross and rose again – he and his family became true followers, called out ones into a new way.

7.      In Chapter 7 “Standing on the bridge, Muslims who follow Jesus” pages 142 and 143, “A Christlike perspective” Carl tells us he wants to guide us, empower us, and give us confidence in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of God.  He says we have the greatest commandment: “Love God and love people.” “Love has always been and will always be the strongest force in the universe.” He then tells us not to be afraid as we engage Muslims. To encourage us he refers to the first chapter of Joshua and Matthew 10:28.

I found what I think he is referring to by “Love God and love people” in Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:34-39.  The greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34 – 39) Do you love God if you change the gospel, water down His word, and tell only what is not offensive about His Son and the cross? Or, do you love people if you tell them they do not have to enter through the narrow gate, or do not have to give up that “one thing” they are lacking and give them false hope? The context before and after these verses is amazing. Jesus is dealing with the unbelieving Sadducees and guess what the topic is - The deity of Jesus and resurrection. Carl and IM would have you minimize these.

The first issue I have is with Carl’s claim that “Love has always been and will always be the strongest force in the universe.” That is popular today but not biblical. Yes it is His love for us that compels us to love others as He does. But His love does not supersede His justice, His sovereignty or any of His other attributes. If that were the case Jesus would have accepted the Rich Young Ruler (as a perfect Insider) in Mark 10:17ff,  “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’” Although very “good” the Rich Young Ruler did not believe that Jesus was “the pearl of great price” he was not willing to give up all he had, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. He went away not entering the narrow gate. But how can that be - Jesus loved him - he wanted another Jesus. “You can want God’s love, grace, forgiveness, blessing, and the inconceivable bliss of heaven – you can want it badly – and never get it.” [18]

The second issue is - why is Carl using scripture to tell us not to be afraid yet teaching the Insider to avoid these threats by minimizing the basic and foundational truths so they can remain in their religion?

Carl quotes, “Be strong and courageous, Do not be afraid [19] to us in going to the Muslims. The context of the first chapter of Joshua talks about entering, invading and conquering the Promised Land. That does not sound like an “Insider Movement” thing to do. In light of that conquest, God tells Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper where ever you may go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’” (Joshua 1:6-9) These scriptures in their context refer to all believers out of all cultures and all religions to stand firm on “all that is written” in our scripture, not to “turn from it,” to the right or left. The Insider Movement has turned aside from it by elevating “love” above God’s justice and Jesus deity, by minimizing sin and the cross in order to not cause offence, then claiming snippets of scripture completely out of context to support their creation of a better gospel, a different Jesus. And lest you use logic to argue against this new teaching Carl says “the Eastern perspective on logic is totally different than ours in West.” [20]

So, love God and love people - absolutely! But the God and people defined in scripture, not the permissive politically correct, tolerate all, of this postmodern world we live in.

Carl goes on to say. “Jesus himself, in the Gospels, said, ‘Do not fear those who kill the body…but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28 NASB).” [21]  If you actually read Matthew 10 instead of pulling a verse out, you will find that Jesus was sending the Twelve Apostles out to the lost sheep of Israel. He did not tell them to go as insiders or to teach the Jews to be insiders. He said:

·      “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Mt 10:16)

·      “beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.” (Mt 10:17)

·      “You will be brought up before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (Mt 10:18)

·      “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” (Mt 10:21)

·      “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22)

These twelve were not sent in to their own religion and culture to teach how to be an insider. They were sent in to teach that the King had come and His kingdom was at hand, they did not minimize who the King was in order not to offend. He did not teach them how to talk about Him so they would not cause a rift in families. Jesus knew that their message would mean opposition. It would mean brother against brother, father against child, children against parents etc… He said not to fear them. He instructed the twelve “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” (Mt 10:27) The message I see here is not one of safety as an insider but boldly speaking what Jesus taught about himself – all of it. In light of “preaching from the housetops” and speaking everything “in the light” verse 28 says “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. As Peter and John said, “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

8.      “People of the way” (Acts 9:2; 19:23; 24:14; 24:22). Carl uses these verses to equate the people of the Way with Abou Hamza, a Muslim Insider believer, who he describes as a man standing on a bridge between two worlds.

·         Acts 9:2 – Saul is searching for any who are “of the Way.” They are not Insider believers because Saul, the Insider, is seeking to kill them for going outside of their religion and culture.

·         Acts 19:23 – “There was a great commotion about the Way.” These were not Insider believers bridging two worlds. They had come out of the local culture and religion. Because of that and their bold preaching about the truth of Jesus and evil of their former idolatry the temples and silver smiths throughout Asia were losing members and money from the idol and pagan worship.

·         Acts 24:14 – Paul defends himself before Felix. “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.”  Paul is bold about what the Old Testament says about Jesus and he preached it even though it was offensive to his former culture and religion. Paul identified himself with “the Way” which as seen in all the other references to it, is not an insider movement. It is a called out movement.

·         Acts 24:22 – Felix says he adjourned the proceedings because he had more accurate knowledge of the Way. Why was Paul in custody? Acts 23tells of the plot against Paul. The Jews, Pharisees and Sadducees, wanted to kill him. Not because he was an insider, but because he was preaching the full message about Jesus. Too bad Paul did not know about the insider movement, perhaps it would have saved him.

Going back to Matthew 13-16, Jesus said that these tares, the bad soil and the leaven, bad doctrine, will be with us until the end of the age. We must “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Mt 16:5)

In summary, I think you see that I am opposed to the Insider movement. I see it as an attempt to soften the gospel which produces false hope and false faith. That does not mean that there are not those who are believers and saved who are still “inside” their culture and religion. It is to say that is not where they belong. God calls out, saves and transforms lives in every culture of the world. They become new creatures and follow a new “way.” To remain identified with any religion that is anti-truth is not a good thing, including those that claim to be Christian. God did not call us to Him that we would have wonderful happy lives. On the contrary He promised tribulation (John 16:33, Acts 14:22, John 15, 18-20, 2 Tim 3:12). Our joy is in Him.

David Irvine

[1] Carl Medearis, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships (Bethany House, Minneapolis Minnesota, 2008) 48 and 49.

[2] Medearis 84

[3] Medearis 84

[4] Medearis 102

[5] Medearis 102

[6] Medearis 134

[7] Medearis 135

[8] Medearis 142

[9] Medearis 148

[10] Medearis 84

[11] My quotes are from the New King James Version – and no, I do not believe the King James is the only version to use, it happens to be the Bible I have.

[12] Medearis 84

[13] Medearis 102

[14] Medearis 102

[15] Medearis 162 Carl may think that is cute and a non-threatening, non-religious way to talk about Jesus but I doubt you would find anyone who knew Jesus (beginning with His disciples and apostles) who would be so flippant!

[16] Medearis 134

[17] Medearis 135

[18] John MacArthur, Hard To Believe: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 2003),  IX.

[19] Medearis 143.

[20] Medearis 34.

[21] Medearis 143.


Read more from David Irvine on postmodernism and the Insider Movement within Islam here.

For more on Carl Medearis, the Insider Movement, and the recent controversy concerning Bible translations for Muslim people groups see: "Failure to Translate" by Eric Barger, Take A Stand! Ministries, www.ericbarger.com.

For more on David Irvine's discovery concerning postmodernism and Bible translating also read "Holding Translators Accountable" by Emily Belz, World Magazine, October 8, 2011.

Contact David at: irvine.dm@gmail.com


(c) copyright 2012, David Irvine

Subscribe to Eric Barger's Take A Stand! N E W S L E T T E R click here!

Take A Stand! Ministries - POB 279 - Spanaway, WA 98387