A month or so ago a good friend circulated some material (long) on Insider Movements to his extensive email list. One of his recipients is a Christian journalist, of whom many of you would be familiar. He is a deeply committed Christian and is involved with reporting on the Islamic world, missions and Christian persecution.
He didn't know what the Insider Movement was and humbly asked that someone pare it down for him. This highlighted for me two things: First, the general ignorance that Christians have to this issue and second, the need for simple explanations.
Here is the email I sent back through the list. My only real claim to being a good person to write this is that I'm pretty much a novice and so if you are too, this may help you.
I never saw a reply to your question, so I thought I’d send a quick summary (tho I am assuredly not the person to do it). Maybe this answer will at least be simple, but probably not nuanced.
The email concerns something which is huge in the missions world, but largely unknown in the rest of Christendom, the subject of “Insider Movements.” Basically, it is the idea that people can become followers of Jesus without leaving Islam. Since the Koran mentions Jesus (as “Isa”) and since there are strains of Islam that emphasize Jesus’ return, this seems plausible to some. The thinking is that the “insiders”, who don’t leave Islam and are not baptized, are kind of like Jews in the first century that placed their faith in Jesus but kept practicing Judaism.
The theological problem is that it makes baptism and the visible church optional and tends to accept Mohammed as a prophet and the Koran as a true revelation of God. Socially, it begs the question whether these believers will be able to hold onto their odd Christiano-Islamic beliefs without being “corrected” by all of the orthodox Muslims they are spending their time with. Missionally, many conservative missiologists are claiming that the “insider movement” is actually plundering the visible church rather than converting Muslims. Denominationally, some people (more informed or misinformed than I) claim that there are people associated with the PCA who are either sympathetic to Insider Christianity or are working with people who are sympathetic to it. The idea seems to be that by passing a resolution condemning Insider Movements as unbiblical, we’d be guarding the truth in a very fragile mission field.
I’d be happy to send any interested people articles on Insider Movements written by conservative and orthodox reformed missiologists explaining these issues without all of my mistakes. I’m sorry for any misrepresentations in this email!
Grace and Peace,