Living Among The Breakage – Contextual Theology-Making and Ex-Muslim Christians – by Duane Alexander Miller

Living Among The Breakage – Contextual Theology-Making and Ex-Muslim Christians © Duane Alexander Miller 

Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016. ISBN: 9781498284165. $32.00.

This is a report commissioned by Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Living Among The Breakage: Contextual Theology-Making and Ex-Muslim Christians by the Rev. Dr. Duane Alexander Miller presents pioneering frontline research in a global sector of World Christianity – the indigenous theology of Christians from a Muslim background (CMBs). Compelling in its creative simplicity, Living among the Breakage is a disciplined, systematic, analytic work of ‘contextualization from within’, in a concerted effort to analyze the distinctive theology of the CMB churches worldwide.

This book deals with the mission of God in our world, in a multicultural context. In missiology, applied theology for ex-Muslim Christians specifies how to make Muslims into Christians and what they should look like. Ex-Muslim Christians develop their own theology, asking questions while identifying problems and challenges, emerging from their own specific contexts. This work is a concerted effort to explore their questions and evaluate their solutions and conclusions. What theologies do ex-Muslims make? What knowledge about God and forms of ‘Godknowledge’ do they propose? What are the contexts in which Theology-making takes place? Who are theology-makers? What are their goals and qualifications? Do ex-Muslim Christians assemble a new order and vision of God, humanity and society? Are they Theology-Makers, involved in Theology-Making?

This book transforms our perception of Christianity, portraying the vivid reality of Ex-Muslim Christians, who believed so passionately, sincerely and deeply in Jesus, only to be imprisoned, tortured, and exiled from their homeland. Through them, persecution comes alive. Blessed because they were persecuted, they lost what they valued most to love Christ and Him crucified. They suffered terribly for their inexorable decision to exercise their inalienable human right to choose, of their own volition, how they would worship God.

With the advent of Modernity and rapid social change, the authority of the most reliable socio-religio-political institutions endured a renunciation, breakage and fragmentation of identity. Some Muslims, seeking life and meaning, turned to Christianity. The modern world is a context with viable questioning. The authoritarian power of the old structures is eroded. Modernity asks questions with new options and makes meaningful, purposeful, valued choices, entailing greater freedom to choose, and the obligation to choose (Peter Berger’s heretical imperative).

Contextual theology-making is the dialectic between contextuality and contextualization, citing Shokie Coe’s “In Search of Renewal in Theological Education,” Theological Education 9 no. 4 (Summer 1973), 241-242: “This dialectic between contextuality and contextualization indicates a new way of theologizing.” Contextuality is wrestling with God’s world to discern this particular moment. Contextualization is the wrestling with God’s word such that His Power, the divine form of contextualization, enables us to follow His steps to contextualize. It requires the community to discern its contextuality, with recognized voices to formulate its mind, as it critically evaluates itself and the world to discern what God does in the world. To evaluate its contextuality, the local church reflects on theological topics, addressing social justice and political issues, to understand its contextuality, of that critical assessment making the context significant, to engage in contextualization. Organic contextualization, the ecumenical model of contextualization, is the preferred theoretical framework for theology-making. Directed contextualization represents theology for and not theology by. Inculturation is a theoretical model to analyze the meeting of a non-Christian culture with another Christian culture. It does not show how theology-making takes place, depicting it only as one facet of inculturation.

What is God knowledge (theology)? What are the types of theological output? Different societies understand knowledge in different ways. How human knowledge communicates across cultural boundaries is shaped by local circumstances. The sociology of knowledge proposes four categories to constitute theology or God knowledge.  The four varieties of God-knowledge are theology as variations on a sacred text, theology as wisdom, theology as sure knowledge, and theology as praxis.  The first form of theology includes commentaries on Scripture, narrative, and anthology. The second form envisions theology as wisdom, concerning the meaning and interiority of human experience, in seeing the visible and invisible world as a unified whole. Wisdom theology discerns the unity of the world. The third form is theology as sure knowledge, which constructs a system to explain the unity of the world. With urbanization in Europe, and the division of labor creating the formation of universities, theological reflection came to be viewed as the work of professional teachers rather than the purview of regular people who taught because they had reflected theologically. It is this differentiation between types of contextual theology and sociology of theological knowledge. The fourth form is theology as praxis, the ensemble of social relationships including and determining the structures of social consciousness. Praxis isolates false and oppressive relationships, attempting to disentangle true consciousness from false consciousness. Theology as praxis is closely related to liberation theology. Praxis claims that God-knowledge leads to and is incomplete without the transformation of society and the subversion of unjust social structures.

With the theory of the dialectic of contextualization, and with its refinements relating to theology-making, we understand what theology-making looks like. With the sociology of theology, we are perceptive to the diversity of forms of God-knowledge (theology) which exMuslim Christians produce. Furthermore, the theology-making of the ex-Muslims studied by the Rev. Dr. Miller is closely associated to power, for it is an expression of agency, involving the formation and reformation of overarching social and cultural orderings. The issue of power over people, power to act and control people, is crucial to our understanding of apostasy, conversion, and the context in which ex-Muslim Christians make their own theology. Theology-making occurs within a cultural, religious and political context. Understanding the nature of power and how God’s power can be mediated helps us to understand that context. Revelation and translatability are integral aspects of the context wherein theology-making may take place.

In Chapter One, how to understand theology-making and power is presented: directed contextualization, organic contextualization and inculturation. While not perfect, the most helpful model is the framework of organic contextualization developed by Shoki Coe. Robert Schreiter’s work clarified some varieties of theological knowledge. Regarding who makes theology – the community is the theology-maker, though a leader or representative acts as a spokesperson for the community.

Chapter Two considers religious conversion, apostasy and becoming Christian. As most ex-Muslim Christians are evangelicals, how evangelical Christians understand conversion is explained, and what is expected of the convert. Lewis Rambo’s theory of conversion is evaluated. The realities faced by apostates are an integral aspect of their context.

In Chapter Three, the historical context of the Twentieth century is explored when hundreds of thousands of Muslims became followers of Christ. Estimates of the numbers of converts are provided. Using a questionnaire, those factors are discussed which facilitated the increase in Muslims who decide to follow Jesus. These factors are related to the concept of power. The increased inability to limit the growth of Christianity among Muslims is presented. The question of the new realities that facilitated the growth of Christianity among Muslims and the additional aspects of the globalizing context of CMBs is discussed.

Chapter Four is a case-study of an evangelical, Arabic-speaking, Christian congregation in the Middle East, which actively welcomes Muslims converts, starting an ex-Muslim Christian congregation, to act as a bridge. Some members of this community live and work in a context where Christians suffer violence or imprisonment. This chapter explores the linkages between conversion, power, and identity-formation in the context of a Muslim-background congregation (MBC).

Chapter Five examines Liberation and Wisdom in the Texts of Ex-Muslim Christians to evaluate them as theological texts, the predominant theology being liberation theology for Muslim societies. The Rev. Dr. Miller finds in these theological texts a wisdom theology, according to Robert Schreiter’s “local theologies,” an expansion of Coe’s model. CMBs are engaged in discerning their own needs, selecting a medium of communication, and proposing possible solutions for meeting these desires through theology-making.

Chapter Six is a case study of Iranian Diaspora Christians in the American and British Diaspora engaged in theology-making, representing one of the largest movements from Islam to Christianity ever. Political, economic and religious realities in Iran are discussed to explain this numerically significant conversion movement. How Iranian Christians utilize anti-syncretism, ritual and kerygma in contextual theology-making, and the special place of baptism are discussed. Key challenges and facets of their contextuality facing the communities are presented.

Chapter Seven, an analytical chapter, addresses the core issues of contextuality,
contextualization, conversion and power. It also proposes some overarching themes and concerns to connect the varying ex-Muslim Christians. The context of ex-Muslim Christians and religious conversion can only be understood with a theory of power. After outlining Steven Lukes’s radical theory of power, how two different traditions within Islam and Christianity relate power to their Scriptures is given. At the heart of the contextuality of ex-Muslim Christians is an understanding of religious conversion – why Muslims convert, the repercussions and how Muslims perceive the act of apostasy.

The nature of God’s power and how we relate to it can only be understood with an understanding of God’s love, centered in Jesus Christ who demonstrates that sacrificial love is the supreme and ultimate form of divine power, shown in acts of love and mercy. This conviction, an axis upon which theology-making revolves, is present in every facet of theology-making in this book, from liberation and wisdom to confronting persecution. With a sympathetic and sensitive realism, Miller studies the conflict of ex-Muslims caught in the throes of transition from the “old” to the “new” while struggling to adapt to rapidly-changing realities, different contexts, and new identities; who succeed against all odds, to make significant contributions to the dynamic fabric and living texture of the global Church.



Frontline Research and Education in Christianity and Islam

This blog engages in creative and constructive research and education in Christianity and Islam, both in their historical and contemporary contexts. Reverend Dr. Duane Alexander Miller’s doctoral thesis “Living Among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and Ex-Muslim Christians” from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, PhD in Divinity, Center for the Study of World
Christianity, 2014, was subsequently published as a book with the same title by Pickwick Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers in
2016. In this book, Rev. Dr. Miller presents pioneering
frontline research in the indigenous theology of Christians from a Muslim
background (CMB)s, in a global sector of World Christianity.