While counting and identifying Muslim converts to Christianity is difficult because such conversions are usually penalized in many Islamic societies, recent research suggests this group of Christians might be distinct both from the traditional churches of their own lands and from Western missionaries and their method of “contextualization,” or making Christianity relevant to a particular culture.
In his research on Muslim converts or Christians of Muslim Background (CMB), Duane Alexander Miller of the University of Edinburgh conducted interviews with Muslim converts to Christianity both in Muslim majority societies and those in the U.K. and the U.S., as well as studying two congregations in a Muslim majority society for his dissertation in world Christianity. He finds that these Christians are not necessarily opposed to the idea of contextualizing the Christian message to their particular situation, but they tend to mistrust the imposition of such a program on their churches from foreign missionaries while at the same time holding a strong evangelical faith that conflicts with the traditional Eastern churches (which tend to view Muslim coverts as controversial).
Miller notes that missionaries have promoted “insider movements” which hold that one remains Islamic in culture even while believing in Jesus Christ; thus they are seen as becoming “Muslim Christians” or “Christian Muslims.” The CMB’s have strongly rejected this approach. This can be seen in the case of the Iranian CMB’s Miller interviewed as they identify more with a Persian or Iranian identity over against Arab and Islamic culture. They are more likely to oppose the recent Western missionary idea that the convert can remain in the mosque and respect some of the teachings of Mohammad; the CMB’s Miller encountered have little interest in such a project, believing that Christians should make a clean break with their Muslim past.
Related to this is the strong importance CMB’s place on the role of the church (and the initiation of baptism) as a new family and source of support that is essential in making the break from Islam, especially since such a decision can carry a high personal cost. One theological CMB emphasis different than that of the Western churches is that they view Christ’s atonement in term of God’s love rather than in terms of Christ being made to suffer for God’s punishment of sin.