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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Riding the camel again

In an earlier post, I introduced you all to something of which I recently heard -- the "Camel" method of evangelism. I found a link to the booklet/tract Camel Tracks...Discover the Camel's Secret in a comment made by Wes Kenney on Grace and Truth to You. I'm going to discuss some points from the "Camel Tracks" booklet. I've chosen it because it is available online for all to read. I know I have a varied readership, and this is somewhat Southern Baptist specific. I hope it won't be too irrelevant to most of you.

First, I want to address a few items I view as
red herrings.
1. The use of the name "Allah" for God when speaking/writing in Arabic. Some people may object to this, but (as far as I can tell) for most people this is a non-issue related to a language in which "Allah" means "God" or "supreme being" generically.
2. Mentioning the words of a Greek poet or Cretian prophet, as did Paul. Again, possibly there are some people who object to even mentioning the Koran when talking to a Muslim. That is not my objection. Really, I don't think anybody objects to a statement like "even the Koran says such and such about Jesus." [BTW, has anyone taken the time to notice that Titus 1:12,13 is closer to an insult than a bridge to evangelization?]
3. Americanizing the gospel. I don't doubt that there are some people who wish to export Westernization and Americanization with the Christian gospel.
T. P. Crawford warned about this exported western culturization back in the 1800s, and I think he was correct. To oppose the "Camel Method" of evangelism is not equivalent to desiring to export "Western Christianity" to all points of the world.

Now I will refer to specific things about and/or mentioned in
Camel Tracks...Discover the Camel's Secret by Kevin Greeson.

1. This booklet is written as if by one who converted from Islam to Christianity. Is Greeson, "a church planter, coach and trainer with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention", a former Muslim? I don't know, but I doubt it.* Note, though, on p. 18 Greeson says this was "recreated from the experiences of numerous Pakka Muslims..."
2. Greeson expresses gratitude to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and others for financing the translation of the Koran from Arabic into the languages or the world (p. 1). I personally can't get to a point of gratitude for someone increasing the readership of a false holy book. BUT, I do understand the point. Muslims who cannot read the Koran in their own language must rely on an interpeter rather than interpreting and understanding it themselves. The interpreter on many points could be far more radical than the book itself.
3. Greeson uses "Allah" for God throughout the tract/booklet. This tract is not in Arabic, where "Allah" is the word for God. It is in English. But the words of the tract are directed to Muslim readers, who would understand "Allah" as supreme being (but who would also understand "Allah" as the god of Mohammed and who gave the Koran). The BIG problem I have with this is not the use of the word "Allah", but rather that I cannot see that Kevin Greeson anywhere makes any distinction that God/Allah/Jehovah of the Christians and god/Allah of the Muslims is not the same God/god.** [Note: this should not be confused with red herring #1]
4. In my opinion, the booklet sends a mixed message about Islam, Allah, Muslims, and Mohammed. For example, on page 2, Greeson exhorts, "Do not miss out on Allah's message. Do not rely on someone else to tell you the message of Allah. Instead, find a Qur'an translated into your own language and together let's discover in it a treasure that will change your life." Now I think I can understand that Greeson really only wants the reader to understand the part of Allah's message that he discusses in the tract. But there is an implication that the Koran is Allah's message. Where does he make it clear that all of the Koran is not Allah's message?

5. Further, Greeson clearly abstains from calling Isa's (Jesus') converts Christians. Rather they are "Pakka Muslims" -- "true" Muslims or "complete" Muslims (p. 4). This implies that the faith of Mohammed and the Koran just needs to be clearly understood (rather than rejected). Muslim means one who surrenders/submits (to God), and Islam means surrender or submission. Certainly a convert to Jesus Christ ought to be one who submits to God. "Camel Tracks" says that "According to the Qur'an (Koran), the followers of Isa (Jesus) are Muslims!" (p. 13). Yes, we can justify this by saying that Jesus followers are 'those who surrender' (Muslims). But are we (and the Muslim reader of this tract) really to believe that is what the Koran means when it says that?? More likely it means that Muslims in the normal sense believe they are the true followers of Isa (as opposed to Christians being the true followers). Also notice on page 15 Greeson asks the reader to think "about the Muslim festival of korban." When he uses "Muslim" there, surely he means in the "normal" sense. This tract freely obscures the line between Christianity and Islam.
6. Strangely -- to me at least -- when Kevin Greeson refers to the Prophet Mohammed, he often writes, "the Prophet Muhammad,
peace be upon him..." (e.g. pp. 4, 11) Now why would a preacher of the way of the Nazarene proclaim a benediction upon a false prophet? I can't think of a good reason. I'm sure someone is poised with a cultural explanation. But really?
7. "A cow with only one leg cannot stand, but when he stands on all four legs, he is strong. A 'Pakka Muslim' read all of the Kitabs." (p. 9) In context of discussing Islam's four holy Kitabs (books; Taurat/Torah, Zabur/Writings, Injil/Gospels, & the Koran), Kevin Greeson gives us this illustration. I understand he wants to steer the Muslim back to the writings that precede the Koran, but in the end this attempt actually says the Complete Muslim needs all four of the Kitabs -- which includes the Koran -- to be strong. Paul said the inspired Scriptures are sufficient.

The seven points listed above are drawn from "Camel Tracks" to illustrate why I believe that at worst it comprises a pattern of deception, and at best exhibits a fear to clarify the claims of Christ. While there may be some passages in the Koran that are compatible with Biblical teaching, it is also true that most of its material is not. Further, the religion of Islam holds that Judaism and Christianity (and their writings) distort the message of the God of Abraham and His prophets. Muslims do believe that Jesus was a prophet. They also believe that He was just a man and not the son of God.

Finally, that brings me to a couple of related points. First, despite the tracts' "Islamic bridges" to the world's Muslims, in the end the concluding paragraph sounds a lot like trite Western easy evangelism that downplays repentance and faith in favor of a suggested prayer.*** Second, the whole idea seems to place salvation in a method. Oh, yes, I realize not directly so (and perhaps not deliberately). But I think we have bought into "how-to-ism" and some kind of idea of "methodology conversion" -- we don't make converts because we don't use the right methodology; we will make converts if we use the right methodology (and this very generally so; not just in the case of the "Camel Method"). On Bart Barber's
Of Muslims and Mohammed, Les Puryear cautions: "We need to confess and repent of our arrogance and pride and turning away from trusting fully in the God of the Bible and His ability to reach those whom He has sovereignly elected before time began. Methods and strategies will not save one lost soul."

* according to the book description at
Amazon.com
** Of course, this is a little problematic, in that Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim "the God of Abraham". I have up to this point, though, understood that most Christians do not believe that the God who inspired the Old and New Testaments called Mohammed to be His prophet or gave the Koran as His words.
*** To be fair, there is no "repeat after me" prayer involved. But the tract suggests the prayer and its contents generally.
**** In
The Heart of a Baptist, Malcolm Yarnell says the "Camel" method encourages new Christians "to hide their faith, continue attending mosque or temple, and otherwise act like Muslims or Hindus. Ralph Winter and his U. S. Center for World Mission apparently consider baptism a Western rather than a biblical activity." [p. 11 online]

8 comments:

GuyMuse said...

Just an observation. It seems that those who are doing the most writing about the weaknesses and fallacies of the "Camel" method of evangelizing Muslims are those who are not actually down in the arena trying to win Islamic peoples to Christ. It is one thing to criticize from the bleachers and another to be on the playing field. I know we get a lot of negative feedback from folks questioning what it is we do on the field, yet when I invite them to come join us and to help us do it the "right way" they aren't willing to leave their comfortable, secure lifestyles to come join us in the task. I would rather listen to someone who has gotten their hands dirty out in the fields of harvest, than someone writing opinions from their pastoral office back in FBC, USA.

For those who continue to question those on the front lines actually engaged, my question would be, have you prayed for these folks today? They need our prayers. Reaching Muslims is very difficult and those actually involved need heavy prayer support for wisdom.

GuyMuse said...

P.S. I need to clarify that in the above comment I am referring mainly to those bloggers who are writing a lot on this subject, but have no real personal experience trying to engage Muslims with the Gospel. It is just that many are quick to point out weaknesses without ever having to deal first-hand with some very tough issues. I know I grow weary personally of fielding criticisms from folks who are quick to point an accusing finger at methodology, yet are not doing anything themselves to engage the lost for Christ. If you sense a bit of frustration in my comments, it is because I am indeed frustrated at how quick people are to point a finger and yet are doing nothing themselves to address these very real issues.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Guy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I can understand the frustration of being "in the game" and receiving criticism from someone "on the sidelines". It is also easy to be against something and for nothing. But even an "old maid" can read her Bible and learn something about marriage. The fact that she has not put it in practice nor experienced it personally does not invalidate the truth of it (if it is indeed true). To me, the "Camel Method" stands or falls based on Bible principles. If Bible principles indicate it is wrong, then it is wrong. If Bible principles indicate it is right, then it is right. Of course, we definitely will run into varied interpretations of the Bible on the subject.

As I reflect on what you write, I can't agree that only those on the foreign fields are the ones "in the game". Everyone wherever they are should be "in the game" (we are laborers together with God), though we realize everyone isn't. I agree that there are some pastors (too many) in the US who have cushy jobs and don't "get their hands dirty". In fact, I personally believe in an unpaid plurality of pastors for "established" churches. Itinerant ministers are the ones who need to be supported (IMO, that is the kind of ministry Paul is talking about in I Cor. 9).

I appreciate your sharing your feelings on the matter. I would also be interested in how you from your perspective look at different points of the "Camel Method" as used inthe Camel Tracks booklet.

Thanks.

AndyHigg said...

Concerning PBUH (Peace be upon Him), this is the traditional phrase that always follows the name of Mohammed. To not include it is sacrilege...of the same sort as depicting Mohammed in cartoons. So this is a cultural concession.

GuyMuse said...

R.L.,

Your points are well taken, thanks for sharing. I admit to being oversensitive about these kinds of matters and probably was over reacting to some things I have read recently on other blogs on this same subject that just rubbed me the wrong way, and was letting off some built up steam on your blog. Sorry 'bout that!

On another note, I was pleasantly surprised to hear you believe in an unpaid plurality of leaders in the local churches , along with itinerant workers being the ones supported by the churches. We also believe and practice this with the new church plants here (though we haven't gotten very far with the paid itinerant workers yet.)

Keep up the good work on a great blog. I always enjoy reading what you have to share.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Andy,

I have been searching on the internet to find a more detailed description of the foundation of the "peace be upon him" benediction, but have yet to find anything explicit. I have no doubt that it is traditional and cultural. I further have no doubt that I could not conscientiously say it. Though it be traditional and cultural, it definitely has religious connotations.

Guy,

No need to apologize for expressing your feelings and opinions. I hope to run an "open blog" that allows people to express themselves -- except for spammers, porno, etc. If I have a different opinion I will not be offended -- in extreme cases I may need a little deep breathing time before replying! ;-) Hopefully we bloggers/readers can express ourselves when we differ and still come out being friends. Also interesting that we've come to the same (or similar) conclusion concerning paid/unpaid ministry.

Paul Kullman said...

1. This booklet is written as if by one who converted from Islam to Christianity. Is Greeson, "a church planter, coach and trainer with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention", a former Muslim? I don't know, but I doubt it.* Note, though, on p. 18 Greeson says this was "recreated from the experiences of numerous Pakka Muslims..."

I can answer your #1 question. Kevin is not a former Muslim, but a Baptist from the cradle. I have known him for 29 years and his parents are "salt of the earth" believers as we co-labored at the same church together. His mother sent me the original printing of the "Camel", but I did not get around to reading it past the first forty pages. I will finish it next week. Hopefully, I will then post a few comments on Bart's blog once I catch up with the rest of the pack.
BTW, Kevin has a heart for the Muslims and served many years in the 10-40 window. He has the "scars" to prove it.
Enjoying the discussion.

Blessings to all;
Paul Kullman
(deep in the mission fields of Aggieland)

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Paul. I was fairly certain this was correct. But not knowing Kevin or about his background, I didn't want to say for sure. Thanks for coming in and giving the right information.

You write, "Kevin has a heart for the Muslims and served many years in the 10-40 window. He has the 'scars' to prove it." I just want use that as an occasion to point out that I do not write questioning Kevin's love, sincerity, or salvation (I'm not saying that you think I do) -- just whether the "Camel Method" itself is Biblically sound (and whether it follows the Apostle Paul's method on Mars Hill, as some are saying).

Btw. Paul, welcome to "Seeking the Old Paths". Come by again.