I am taking an anthropology course and have come across a great quote from Nida contrasting Christianity and Islam:
While the Koran attemtps to fix for all time the behavior of Muslims, the Bible clearly establishes the principle of relative relativism which permits growth, adaption, and freedom under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible present realistically the facts of culture and the plan of God by which He continues to work in the hearts of men, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The Christian position is not one of static conformance to dead rules but of dynamic obedience to a living God. (bold added) – Eugene Nida, Meaning Across Cultures, 1954, p. 52
This contrasts the sharp and unbending approach of a sharia’ religion against the Christian worldview which is that God works with and through cultures. As Muslims seek to understand Christianity, it is easy for them to assume that our view of the Bible is similar to how they view the Koran. But it is very different. The evangelical position is that God uses the local culture to glorify Himself and that the Christian message can use local expression. Muslims see Arabic language and culture as a unifying force within Islam. Christians see multicultural expressions of faith as far more powerful.
Herein is where Islam and secular believers have something in common. They think that Christians hold the Bible up as an immovable set of laws to be obeyed. They fail to see God’s redemptive hand in using the Law to highlight our sinfulness and His mercy (by the way, it’s our fault that they think that).
I understand that some in the fundamentalist camp will shudder at Nida’s use of the phrase “relative relativism.” What he is writing about is not a relativistic morality. Rather, he is highlighting the incredible elasticity of the message of the Bible as it translates into various cultures around the world.