Thursday, December 25, 2014

Faculty Publication: Islam and the Last Day

NETS faculty have contributed to a newly published book.

The volume is titled: Islam and the Last Day: Christian Perspectives on Islamic Eschatology, edited by Peter Riddell and Brent Neely, our seminary vice president.

The book contains an article by Duane Alexander Miller on the eschatological views of ex-Muslim Christians and one by Brent Neely on the Muslim Antichrist figure, the Dajjal.

Other topics covered in the book include articles on Sunni apocalyptic traditions, the Shi'ite Mahdi, Ahmadiyya eschatological thought, women and Islamic eschatology, the "torments of the grave" concept, eschatology in Arabic and Malay texts, and so on.

Here is a link to the Amazon page for the publication:

Islam and the Last Day (MST Press, 2014)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faculty Publication: The Bricolage of Global Anglicanism

This church review by Alex Miller of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in San Antonio, Texas, was published in Anglican and Episcopal History in March of 2014.

Holy Trinity is a church belonging to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, itself a member of both the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which calls itself a province-in-formation.

Read about the origins of this parish as it hived from Christ Episcopal Church (San Antonio) and incorporated multiple different Anglican influences into its worship.

Download the PDF from or click here: Miller_AEH_San_Antonio-libre.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Azar Ajaj and Phil Sumpter on the Convention of Evangelical Churches in Israel (CECI)

We are happy to now publish our third Mary's Well Occasional Paper of 2014. Written by Azar Ajaj and Phil Sumpter, it offers an account of the origin and contemporary situation of the Convention of Evangelical Churches in Israel (CECI), or as it is commonly called in in Arabic, al majma3.

Here are the first sentences:

In 2005, representatives from five Christian denominations in Israel—Baptists, Assemblies of God, Open Brethren and Church of the Nazarene (the latter including a smaller denomination within them, the Christian Missionary Alliance)—formed a coalition in order to make a bid with the Israeli government to gain recognition as an “official religion,” a unified entity entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as Israel’s other officially recognized religions. The purpose for seeking such a status was primarily practical, for non-recognition by the government inhibits the day-to-day functioning of individual congregations. 

Click HERE to download and read the entire PDF of volume 3:3 of Mary's Well Occasional Papers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Moh-Christophe Bilek on being a Berber Christian and convert from Islam

Alex Miller recently interviewed Moh-Christophe Bilek. Mr. Bilek is a native of Algeria and of Berber background, as opposed to Arab background. Bilek is also involved in Internet-based outreach and apologetics.

Miller and Bilek's interview was recently published in French (here) and then translated into English for Global Missiology (here). Here is one of Miller's questions with Bilek's response:

Miller: One of the classes I teach here in Nazareth is on Early Church History, and North Africa had some very important churches like Carthage and Hippo, and great saints like Augustine, Perpetua, Felicitas, and Cyprian. Yet indigenous Christianity was almost entirely absent from the region for centuries. Do you feel like that early history means much to the new Christians today? Or is it just an interesting but unimportant historical footnote?
Bilek: The discovery of the African saints, and mainly the greatest of them, Augustine of Thagaste [traditionaly known as Augustine of Hippo], is always vivifying and almost blissful: If my distant ancestors were Christians, then there is no shame in being one, more than one convert has said to himself. Some have declared after their baptism, I came back to the religion of my fathers! But more generally speaking, ancient Christianity enables oneself to ask the question of freedom of choice. If my distant ancestors chose Islam freely, then I can make the same choice myself; but if this religion was imposed on him bi seif (by sword), then I do not commit a treason toward my tribe if I quit this religion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Logsdon in Israel: an interview with Azar Ajaj

Our seminary and Logsdon have partnered together for some time. Recently, a student from Logsdon interviewed our seminary president, Azar Ajaj, and wrote an article summarizing what he learned.

Here is a section:
The focus of NETS is unique in the fact that it “is the only [Arabic] Evangelical college in Israel,” according to Ajaj. This fact allows NETS to specifically focus on training those individuals who know their cultural context the best: indigenous Christians centered on presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ in a relevant way to their community.
Read the whole interview HERE.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mary's Well Occasional Paper 3:2: "Oh Christians, Leave our Lands"

We are pleased to announce our second occasional paper of 2014. The topic and tone are very different than what we have published before. The topic though (and you must read the paper before you understand its point) is worthy of your attention.

Please read it with care and withhold your judgment until the end. Here is the link:

Oh Christians, Leave our Lands, by Ahmad Al-Sarraf. Mary's Well Occasional Papers 3:2.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Publication: Alex Miller on the C-scale

Our lecturer in church history and theology, Alex Miller, has recently co-authored with Dr. Roger Dixon, an article/interview on Dr Dixon's many years in Indonesia. Here is a section on the 'C-scale' in the introductory section of the article by Dr Miller:

In terms of background information, the C-scale refers to an early attempt to classify congregations or ‘Christ following communities’ (but not ‘churches’) according to how ‘contextualized’ they are. The word ‘contextualization’ originates with the educational and missiological theory of Shoki Coe (1973, 1974), a Taiwanese pastor and educator, and in its original form envisioned the next step beyond indigenization. That is, contextualization was something done by the indigenous Christians, it was not done for them. By the time that Travis devised his scale, which ranged from c1 (a church speaking a foreign language and Christians exist as an ethnic/religious minority) to c5 (people who identify themselves as Muslims of some kind[1] and use the religious and cultural forms of Islam, and remain culturally and officially Muslim). Western evangelicals had lost the original (Asian) meaning of contextualization and had instead decided that contextualization was something to be done by missionaries for people of other cultures. The intention behind this was to ensure that the Good News would reach people in a cultural and religious form that would not be objectionable to them. This vision of contextualization (in Islamic contexts, at least) placed a great deal of emphasis on how people dress, what greetings they use, whether or not they eat pork or drink alcohol, whether their women cover their heads, and so on. Some missionaries even went so far as to legally convert to Islam so they could be a Muslim to the Muslims, in their attempt to imitate St Paul’s own practice (1 Cor 9:20).  This concept, that a Muslim (or Buddhist or Hindu or Taoist) can follow Jesus while remaining an ‘insider’ to their religious community is at the heart of so much debate today, and Dr Dixon shares his insights on the topic in the interview.

Read the whole article/interview, in the Journal of Asian Mission, a publication of the Asia Theological Association, of which NETS is a member. Links for the PDF can be found at or Miller's blog.

[1] Some (like Travis 2000) have advanced the unfortunate term ‘Messianic Muslims’ for such people. All Muslims, though, accord the title ‘Messiah’ to Jesus son of Mary, so technically, all Muslims are already Messianic.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Alex Miller reviews Garrison's 'A Wind in the House of Islam'

A Wind in the House of IslamA Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review of A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison (WIGtake Resources, 2014)

David Garrison is considered to be one of the most competent researchers among evangelical Christians interested in the global dynamics of world Christianity. In this book he investigates the significant number of new movements of people from Islam to Christ. He does this by dividing the house of Islam (and that is a technical term, Dar al Islam) into nine ‘rooms’, each corresponding to a defined region in the Muslim world, like the Arab room, the Persian room, and so on. Most of this book consists of these nine chapters wherein Garrison provides anecdotes and trends he identifies in those ‘rooms’. He also often tries to include the story of how this or that movement was initiated.

This book is concerned with movements, not individual converts, and this is precisely what makes it so valuable and important. There are plenty of books about why individual Muslims convert to Christ, and there are works that treat specific facets of this or that movement to Christ, but this is the first book to summarize on a global level what some movements in the nine rooms of the house of Islam look like.

Garrison is a serious researcher and knows the ins and outs of research in the social sciences. That having been said, readers who are looking for a detailed study with place names will often be disappointed. There is no way to get around these limitations though when it comes to research among apostates in the Muslim world. That something novel is happening among Muslims is incontrovertible, namely that more than ever before in history are converting to Christ.
Garrison writes that his historical investigation led him to the following figures: Through the 18th Century there were no movements, in the 19th Century there were two, in the 20th Century there were eleven, and so far in the 21st Century he has identified 69 movements.

Many of his findings confirm findings from previous research: Muslims are attracted to the love of Christ as portrayed in the Bible and by Christians; security and persecution are real problems; Internet and satellite TV have played a huge role; Bible translation has been important, and so on. Garrison summarizes these and other findings in the last section of the book, while also noting that Islam itself has played a role in driving Muslims away from itself in a number of ways: Muhammad’s questionable treatment of women and non-Muslims, disappointment with the Qur’an, inter-Muslim violence, etc.

I can point to two weaknesses in this book, only one of them major. The first one is related to sources. Considering this is the first major book on this topic, the inclusion of more sources is desirable. This book really is written in a popular, and not scholarly level. That is not meant as an insult, but it limits its value for scholars. Perhaps the best way to address this would be to issue a lengthier academic book based on the same research.

Garrison’s references to medieval history represent the main failure of this book. He is clearly not aware of recent research elucidating what the medieval inquisitions were (and were not) and also the Crusades., which could have been written in 1900. When he speaks of the ‘atrocities’ of the Crusaders one might get the impression that these soldiers were exceptionally brutal or merciless. Wrong. For truly outstanding brutality one must look at the Muslim ruler and leader Baybars. And regarding the inquisitions, they took place before civil courts convened and were charged with gathering evidence, the same as our contemporary inquests. Contemporaries were sometimes critical of the inquisitors for not being more zealous in using torture, and a large majority of inquisitions were resolved with no punishment for the person under investigation. And finally, inquisitions were undertaken to investigate Christian heresy, and so Muslims and Jews could not be investigated by an inquisition, that is unless they claimed they had converted to Christianity, but in fact kept teaching aspects of Islam/Judaism contrary to the Christian faith.

One unresolved question was in relation to his rooms in the house of Islam: South America has a small but well-established Muslim population in the country of Guyana. At 7% Muslim, it is the most Islamic country in the Americas. Is there no movement there? Or should this (small) room be added? 

Aside from this grievous mistreatment of medieval history, the book has much to commend it. In relation to the so-called insider movements Garrison handles the issue carefully and responsibly, sticking to description and not offering one particular case as exemplary or ideal. Garrison also manages to appreciate the limited context of previous generations of missionaries and indigenous Christians. It is all to easy to criticize the early missionaries in, say, the Ottoman Empire for not evangelizing Muslims, and sometimes those criticisms are fair, but as Garrison understands sometimes there was no possibility for this sort of witness. The same applies to indigenous Christians who century after century resisted the lure of escaping dhimmitude and the jizya (poll tax) by conversion to Islam. One can hope that this book will also be the final nail in the coffin of the C-scale, a tool which so over-simplifies complex concepts like ‘culture’ and ‘form’ to make it less than useful.

Garrison concludes his book with some practical ways that his readers can, if they wish to do so, be part of these various movements from Islam to Christ, though he is rightly clear in explaining that even with all these movements we are talking about fewer than .5% of Muslims world-wide converting to Christ. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make it ideal for a reading group or prayer group, perhaps used with the recent edition of Operation World.

Reviewed by Dr. Alexander Miller 
Lecturer in Theology and Church History
Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary

(This review was originally published in St Francis Magazine, July 2014.) View all Dr. Miller's reviews

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Azar Ajaj on the 'Price Tag' attacks

Our seminary president Azar Ajaj has composed a brief statement and reflection on the 'price tag' attacks that have taken place at a number of Christian and Muslim sites throughout the region.

Read the whole thing at Come and See, Nazareth's Christian website. A PDF can also be downloaded through Azar's page.

Student News: the ordination of Ziad Farraj

NETS is proud to share that Ziad Farraj has been ordained to be a pastor for the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel, where has been called to pastor for one year the Baptists congregation in the city of Rama.

Ziad is in the final stages of completing his Bachelor of Divinity.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Faculty Publication: "Religious Freedom in Israel-Palestine"

An article by our lecturer in Church History, Alex Miller, was recently published in St Francis Magazine, Vol 10:1, April 2014.

The title of the article is "Religious Freedom in Israel-Palestine: may Muslims become Christians, and do Christians have the freedom to welcome such converts?"

Here is the abstract:

This research represents a continuation and elaboration on Miller’s research for the Christianity and Freedom project, presented in Rome in December of 2013. This article seeks to understand the challenges and context of Christians who are also ex-Muslims in the Holy Land. Attention is paid to the difference between the contexts in the West Bank and Israel, and how the established Christian Churches sometimes safeguard their own precarious sense of security by turning away Muslims who seek to know more about the Christian faith and converts from Islam.

You can download the PDF from Dr. Miller's page or from St Francis Magazine.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Faculty Publication: Through my Enemy's Eyes

NETS is happy to share with you the publication of Through my Enemy's Eyes authored by Salim Munayer and NETS faculty Lisa Loden.
This book addresses the universal theological dimension of reconciliation in the context of the Israeli Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian divide. Palestinian Christians and Israeli Messianic Jews share a belief in Jesus as the son of God and Messiah. Often, though, that is all they have in common. This remarkable book, written in collaboration by a local Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Messianic Jew, seeks to bridge this gap by addressing, head on, divisive theological issues (as well as their political implications) such as land, covenant, prophecy and eschatology which separate their two communities. The struggle for reconciliation is painful and often extremely difficult for all of us. This unique work seeks to show a way forward.
Find more information at Through my Enemy's Eyes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Time in Nazareth, by Nancy Slater

Nancy Slater recently came to Nazareth as part of the visiting group from Hope International University. She has written a helpful reflection on her time here. Here is one portion of her reflection:

To say that my time in Nazareth as Hope’s first student to stay three months has changed my life is an incredible understatement!  One of the things that encouraged me to register in the Master’s program at HIU was the opportunity for international studies.  I was thrilled to join the other students on this adventure that began for me on January 1, 2014. It is my hope that after you read a bit of my adventures that you, too, will consider planning a life-changing adventure of your own! 
My life began to change when the reality of actually being in the Holy Land finally set in. The class “Christianity and Islam” reground the lens of my worldview and presented the reality of Islam as it impacts the Middle East and the world.  I learned that in order to bring the Word to Muslims, we must first understand their beliefs, establish a relationship based on respect.  We can then ask, “Why do you believe as you do?” in order to open the door for an exchange of beliefs that lead to conversion.  The lectures presented so thoughtfully and thoroughly by Azar Ajar, Brent Neely, and Makram Mesherky, were even more impactful because the presenters are Christian citizens of Galilee who live as a minority often are persecuted by others. 
I discovered that there was no better way to know the Bible than to see it in living color--to walk where Jesus walked at Magdala, to visit the location of the fishes and loaves miracle, to stand on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and look east to the Golan Heights as He might have done.  In Jerusalem I had to look beyond the sea of noisy pilgrims from every corner of the world, ignore the din of souvenir sellers, and concentrate on the very spot where I was standing in order to focus on the historic significance beneath my feet.  I was standing at Station VI of the Via Delarosa. [...]

Read the rest of her reflection by clicking HERE. We also look forward to visits from other students. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Visiting students from Hope International University

We were recently privileged to receive a group of scholars from Hope International University in the USA, with whom we have a partnership. This was an excellent time and both the faculty and the students were blessed. Here are two pictures of this wonderful group touring the Holy Land and learning not only by reading but by seeing with their own eyes.

The top picture is from Caesarea and the lower one from Megdala.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Doctoral Thesis of Duane Alexander Miller

Nazareth Seminary is glad to announce that Alex Miller, lecturer in church history and theology, has completed his doctoral work for the PhD in Divinity through the University of Edinburgh. The thesis is titled Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians. The citation information follows:

Miller, Duane Alexander. 2014. Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis. Edinburgh, UK: University of Edinburgh.

The thesis has been printed as a book (Sep. 2016) and is available from the publisher or Amazon.

Key words: contextualization, religious conversion, contextual theology, liberation theology, Iranian Christians, theology-making, world Christianity, Shoki Coe, Lewis Rambo

Here is the abstract:

Since the 1960’s there has been a marked increase in the number of known conversions from Islam to Christianity. This thesis asks whether certain of these ex-Muslim Christians engage in the process of theology-making and, if so, it asks what these theologies claim to know about God and humans’ relation to God.

Utilizing the dialectic of contextuality-contextualization of Shoki Coe, and the sociology of theological knowledge of Robert Schreiter, the thesis seeks to answer these questions by the use of two case studies and an examination of some of the texts written by ex-Muslim Christians. Lewis Rambo’s theory of religious conversion and Steven Lukes’ theory of power will be used to clarify the changing dynamics of power which have helped to foster modern contexts wherein an unprecedented number of Muslims are both exposed to the Christian message and, if they choose to do so, able to appropriate it through religious conversion.

The two case studies are of a Christian community which founded a Muslim-background church in the Arabophone world and some Iranian Christian congregations in the USA and UK Diaspora.

Aspects of the contexts of these believers are investigated in some detail, including motives for religious conversion, numbers and locations of the converts, how apostates may be treated by Muslims, changes in migration and communications, and the Christian concept of religious conversion. The concept of inculturation which helps to describe the meeting of a specific community with the Christian message will aid in analyzing the communities and individuals being studied.

The final chapter brings together the various threads which have been raised throughout the thesis and argues that ex-Muslim Christians are engaged in theology-making, that areas of interest to them include theology of the church, salvation and baptism, and that the dominant metaphor in these theologies is a conceptualization of love and power that sees the two divine traits as inseparable from each other; they represent a knowledge about who God is and what he is like, which, in their understanding, is irreconcilable with their former religion, Islam.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Samuel Kuruvilla, Mary's Well Occasional Paper, Vol 3:1

Dr Samuel Kuruvilla is the author of our first Occasional Paper for 2014. The name of the paper is 'Contextual Theological Praxis as Resistance: Palestinian Christian Peace-building in the Occupied West Bank'.

Click HERE to download the PDF.

Abstract: This article deals with the different approaches that the Palestinian contextual theology movement ‘Al-Liqa,’ the liberation theology movement ‘Sabeel’ and the intercultural movement ‘Diyar’ consortium have taken towards resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict, given their similarities as well as divergences in the light of the intersection between theology and politics. The contextualisation of theology and politics in Palestine has a long history, especially in the light of the tortured history of that nation in world affairs. Palestinian Christians have long been controlled and influenced by Western Christendom and it was only in the middle part of the last century that a so-called ‘contextualisation’ movement rose among them that sought to place the culture of the Palestinian people right at the centre of their faith and practice. This article has sought to show how the Diyar Movement in Bethlehem has and can have an impact on Palestinian society, irrespective of party and religious affiliation, as it has sought to bridge the secular-religious divide within Palestinian society. 

Keywords: Palestine, Palestinian Theology, Liberation Theology, Sabeel, Al Liqa’, Contextualisation, Diyar 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013, the year in review

Our seminary president, Azar Ajaj, has composed this summary of some of the significant goals that we have accomplished at NETS throughout 2013. Download the PDF of the progress report HERE.

Throughout 2013 we also published three Mary's Well Occasional Papers, which you can download here:

MWOP 2:1, by Philip Sumpter, "Bibliography of Arabophone Christianity in Israel and Palestine".

MWOP 2:2, by Azar Ajaj, "Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary: the first six years".

MWOP 2:3, by Brent Neely, "Caesarea and the Mission of God".

We also saw in 2013 the establishment of our presence on Wikipedia (in English, at least), and sharing a number of old and hard-to-find documents through our blog.

Our seminary also saw some key changes in personnel, with the departure of our founding president, J. Bryson Arthur, and the appointment of our second and current president. Also, Phil Hill returned to Wales and Alex Miller to the USA. But 2013 also saw the addition of Andraus Abu Ghazale as our new director of ministerial formation, and a new initiative to visit local biblical and historical sites under the direction of Kamal Farah which has been well-received by local Christians.

We look forward to more accomplishments in 2014.