Contextualization or Syncretism?

By: Derek Brotherson
Format: Soft cover

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Contextualization or Syncretism?: The Use of Other-Faith Worship Forms in the Bible and in Insider Movements

As Christians seek to follow Paul's example of becoming like all people in order to win them to Christ, a key question arises: How far is too far? Is there a point where appropriate contextualization becomes gospel-distorting syncretism? With the growing prominence of Insider Movements in the Muslim-majority world in recent decades, these questions have become especially urgent and hotly-debated.

Based on an in-depth, biblical-theological study of key Bible texts used by Insider Movement proponents and critics, this book provides a groundbreaking assessment tool for distinguishing contextualization from syncretism. It provides an invaluable resource for those engaged in ministry among Muslims, for those with questions about Insider Movement practices, and for all who seek to grow in their understanding and practice of biblically-grounded and authentic contextualization of the gospel.


“Brotherson has crafted a classic exploration of issues that divide Evangelicals on the subject of how far is too far in contextualizing the gospel in ministry among Muslims… He is concerned that the Insider Movement has inadequately exegeted a variety of Scripture passages. This work is the best I’ve seen by an experienced practitioner. I highly commend Brotherson’s book.” – Phil Parshall, SIM retired

“Brotherson’s thorough study brings a much-needed voice to the ongoing discussion surrounding contextualization, particularly in Muslim contexts… Through meticulous analyses of biblical texts and careful treatment of Muslim forms of worship, Brotherson has much to teach us about a ‘theology of worship and forms.’ This is a foundational study for any future research on contextualization and Insider Movements.” – Ayman S. Ibrahim, Director, Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Brotherson makes a vitally important contribution to debates surrounding the tension between contextualization and syncretism in mission. His consideration of arguments for and against Insider Movement (IM) methods is welcome. Much discussion of IM from both sides is polemical and undignified, involving far more heat than light. This book is the antithesis of that, being measured without any agenda, irenic, and extremely helpful. Brotherson’s research speaks into a great gap within today’s church.” – Peter G. Riddell, Senior Research Fellow, Australian College of Theology

“This book is indispensable to any discussion on ministry – teaching, preaching, evangelism, and church planting – because all of ministry is cross-cultural, whether we realize it or not. The book’s real value is its careful sifting of relevant biblical texts to provide the exegetical warrant for its conclusions. Contextualization or Syncretism? is a knowledgeable guide as we navigate the delicate line between contextualization and syncretism.” – Sam Chan, author of Evangelism in a Skeptical World.

“This is a remarkable achievement. Brotherson lucidly applies careful scriptural analysis informed by biblical theology and missiological experience of a seasoned practitioner to the sensitive and hotly debated topic of insider movements… Contextualization or Syncretism? also provides specific applications that aim to strengthen dependence on Christ and seek his glory. I hope it gets a wide reading!” – Alan J. Thompson, Senior New Testament Lecturer, SMBC