Half-Devil, Half-Child - A Summary

Article by   June 2013
halfdevilhalfchild93.jpgEditors' Note: This is a summary of the documentary, Half-Devil, Half-Child. You can preview the documentary and order it here.

What is the great deception that has consistently threatened the missionary enterprise? It is the mistaken notion that we have something - anything - to offer other than Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

Half-Devil, Half-Child reveals how this deception has bewitched the Insider Movements (IM). IM attempt to strip the gospel down in such a way that it can be clothed in the garb of any culture/religion. To IM ideologues this re-clothed Jesus looks more authentic simply because he looks like them. The process of expertly de-culturizing the gospel from its original context and then re-culturizing it in the context of another religion has resulted in an accommodating Jesus who is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. The experts are for hire or, at the cost of your soul, you may become an expert yourself. The outcome of such hybrid thinking? As the title of the documentary suggests: half devil, half child.

Rudyard Kipling's poem of the same name has become an emblem of "the white man's burden" of colonialism. IM has taken on this burden in its neo-colonial mission of exploitation and subjugation under the guise of an enlightened path to Jesus. Proponents of IM offer to Muslims the Jesus of the Quran, teaching Muslims that they need not leave Islam in order to follow Christ. IM offers to those who have already converted to Christianity the "reward" of returning to Islam as "insiders".

As the documentary explains, the financial engine of IM runs on a steady stream of anecdotes involving pseudonyms and unverifiable numbers (the IM following is not measurable because adherents identify themselves as Muslims with distinctives that are difficult to identify). Even the Muslims in Bangladesh are astonished by the extravagant claims of thousands upon thousands of Muslim-followers-of-Jesus. "A Muslim can never believe that Jesus is his savior," says one Muslim in the film. Interestingly, this Muslim understands better than many evangelical missionaries the sharp distinctions between Islam and Christianity. IM proponents, he says, are "bluffing themselves and bluffing society." Why? Here we encounter a striking dichotomy of opinion. Evangelicals in the West often respond with something like, "These are good missionaries with noble intentions making great sacrifices in the cause of the gospel." But this Muslim's analysis is quite different: it is all about the media and money.

"Why are you damaging our reputation?" is the anguished cry from Bangladesh, where the realization is dawning that "not all missionaries are angels" and, in fact, may be messengers bearing a different gospel. One national leader, taught by the IM to reside half-clothed in the never-never land between Islam and Christianity, makes a heart-wrenching confession: "I am nowhere."

What is this cancer that is afflicting the body of Christ? Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California offers a historical/theological answer (1). When generations of Christians in the West have assumed a dichotomy, if not a contradiction, between "getting saved" and joining the church, then it is no surprise that the Christianity they carry with them is individualistic to the core. The concept of believers remaining in the mosque becomes nothing more or less than a benign cultural alternative. The "gospel" preached by such individualistic Christians is simply reworked to suit relativism. Insider Movements are the mission strategy of the postmodern "emergent church." Somewhat more sinister is the fact that such a missionary strategy is unwittingly supported by some of the most ardently confessional churches. 

The documentary goes on to note that tragically, these "missionaries have not been able to be brothers of nationals in this country." This is according to Rev. Edward Ayub, Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh. Why? Because, in true colonial fashion, these missionaries attempt to purchase the 'brother' relationship, which has never been for sale. We must listen to Ayub carefully, because if we believe that the church is one commissioned body, then the quality of our familial relationship is of central importance.

Regarding our identity as believers, the contrast between how historic Christianity conceives this identity and how proponents of IM conceive it is striking. Throughout history, and even today in Iran for example, people have been willing to die rather than deny their identity in Christ.  This is the most vivid testimony both to the global church and to the world of the supreme value of the gospel. On the other hand, in the film Dr. Horton observes that no one seems to be called to be martyred in IM.

If it is the gospel (and nothing else) that unites us then we are one body in Christ, one family.  The tangible evidence of this united familial relationship is sacrifice - limitless sacrifice until the gospel shines ever brighter in its clarity. Are we in the West willing to relinquish the "white man's burden" and take up, under the law of Christ, the burden of unity with our Muslim background brothers? This film offers substantial hope to a missionary enterprise in a perilous condition in the words of the ancient hymn: 

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth,
her charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth

Phlilp Mark is a long-time missionary in Muslim lands.

1. This quote and the others are taken from the documentary.

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