Do We Need Heresies on the Mission Field? Can Heresies Be Clouds with a Silver Lining?
No Perfect Church
No one person in any tradition will be entirely satisfied with everything about the others, but we do admit that insofar as they understand and believe the Bible and accept Christ as Lord and Savior they are going to be better off. Yet, we greatly differ, even as to Biblical authority.
- The Greek Orthodox are still officially convinced that God inspired the Greek Old Testament.
- The Roman Catholics for over 1,000 years would not hear of anything reliable other than the Latin Old Testament.
- The Protestants came along and chose the Hebrew Old Testament. We're getting closer!
By 1996 the "chaotic" global impact of Protestantism has spawned a very wide variety of new, vibrant forms of Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic versions of the faith--a swarm of heretical and not- so-heretical movements which are found in almost every mission field.
Start with Africa
The statistics have been quoted for years that Western missionaries have planted 350 denominations in Africa, but 6,000 "African Independent Churches" (AICs) have emerged on their own. These range from wildly heretical to not so bad. They range from tiny movements to large ones--like that of Simon Kimbangu, which is in the millions, and is actually getting more Biblical every day. (Missionaries are divided about this as well as other groups).
Go to Latin America
A torrent of new, enthusiastic movements of many strange forms are bursting out in all parts. (And I don't mean the Spiritists.) Some are theologically unitarian, yet are eagerly studying the Bible. About ten new congregations are born each week these days. Both Catholic and the older Protestant movements are watching in horror. Nine out of ten new churches each week are something else.
How about India?
About two thirds of the people in India (see chart on page 11) are virtually unscratched by any form of Western Christianity. Meanwhile, a number of rarely-mentioned movements have arisen in India that take the Bible very seriously and wrap its faith in cultural forms which are not foreign to Hindus. Most of these movements seem wrong to Westerners and to most of the Westernized millions of people in India that have for centuries been "repressed" by Hinduism but who in the last century have welcomed Christianity despite its Western form.
As for India, this issue of Mission Frontiers gives some specific examples. See the two fascinating articles on pages 10 and 12. Also, note the two-part article (pages 14-18) which has been reprinted from Evangelical Missions Quarterly (the joint publication of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies). That article should not seem too heretical coming from that source! What about the Muslims?
We don't have room for all the things we gathered for this issue. We are still expecting a short article about an amazing movement in which thousands of Muslims have become Bible reading, Bible believing followers of Christ--but still call themselves Muslims.
However, you can write for our MF Supplement to this issue. See box just to the left.
I have often been accused of looking only on the rosy side of world evangelization. What about the one-billion bloc of "hopeless" Muslims?
"How in the world are we going to accomplish a whole lot with Muslims by the year 2,000 when in 150 years of Protestant missions (since William Carey) we have not made more than a very slight dent in the massive Muslim block?"
The answer: Not by doing what we are doing. I'll admit this. But what if those Muslims, who revere Jesus, are in fact "close to the Kingdom?" What if some brand new variety of Islam faithful to Christ suddenly sweeps the Muslim world?
Is this thinking utterly absurd? Is there something--anything--that could happen that would sweep the Muslim world?
OK, the massive Hindu bloc is just about the same. Only a handful of caste Hindus have come to Christ in 150 years. Is there something-- anything--that could sweep the Hindu world for Christ?
These momentous issues arise as the countdown of history unfolds before us. They relate vitally to the question of what is Christianity, and how necessary is it for Muslims, Hindus and Chinese to adopt Western ways in order to follow Christ.
This issue of Mission Frontiers may be very, very disturbing for those who have not clearly understood the true (and radical) meaning of evangelical faith. From it we understand that God will not settle for less than our hearts: words and deeds must flow from a new inner being, not be pasted on the outside. This means that going to church does not save you, etc.--see article on next page for Biblical background.
Paul was "not ashamed" of a Gospel which meant real divine power within either Jewish or Greek clothing (Rom 1:16). Can we too believe the Gospel is the saving power of God within either Western or non- Western clothing? Will we oppose any further "Reformation?" How will it look in India, within Islam? The next few pages will address these issues more in depth.