Saturday, July 21, 2007

Of Muslims and Mohammed: Redux

The esteemed and omnipresent blog comment personality, Anonymous, has charged that I have deliberately misquoted The Camel in my previous post. He is way off base. But, to dispel any doubt among those who have not read the book, I offer the relevant passage in its entirety. Also, I offer the relevant passages from the Qur'an in their entirety—not just in the snippets that Greeson has quoted.

Barrier #4: What Do You Say about Mohammed? This is the big question. Muslims take great offense at those who would profane their prophet. The best bridge to overcome the barrier of Mohammed is to simply say: "I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." The Qur'an does not say that Mohammed was the greatest prophet. It does say that he was the "seal of the prophets" in surah al-Ahzab 33:40; seal only means the last, not the greatest. (Please note: We are not saying that Mohammed was a true prophet or the seal of the prophets, we are only making you aware of what you might face from the Qur'an.) Then ask your friend to read surah al-Ahqaf (the Sandhills surah) 46:9 in which Allah instructs Mohammed to say:
I am no new thing among the messengers, nor know I what will be done with me or with you … I am but a plain warner.
Likewise in surah al-Imran 3:144, Allah says of Mohammed:
Mohammed is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him.
We see in these passages that neither Mohammed nor his followers claimed that he was the greatest prophet. Then you can ask your friend, "What is life's greatest question?" The greatest question of life is "What will happen to me when I die?" We see from surah al-Ahqaf 46:9 that Mohammed did not claim to have a certain answer to that question, for himself or for his followers. Then you can take your Muslim friend to the Injil. Show him passages such as John 6:4 and especially John 14:1-6. <quotation of John 14:1-4, 6, NIV> Clearly Jesus does have the answer to life's greatest question.
Here is a full quotation of the Qur'anic passages cited: Surah al-Ahzab 33:40. Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things. Surah al-Ahqaf 46:7-9. When Our Clear Signs are rehearsed to them, the Unbelievers say, of the Truth when it comes to them: "This is evident sorcery!" Or do they say, "He has forged it"? Say: "Had I forged it, then can ye obtain no single (blessing) for me from Allah. He knows best of that whereof ye talk (so glibly)! Enough is He for a witness between me and you! And he is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." Say: "I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear." Surah al-Imran 3:144. Muhammad is no more than an apostle: many Were the apostle that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah. but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude. Every one of these ayat refers to Mohammed as a prophet…every one of them…explicitly. I compliment Greeson when I assert that he does not believe what any of these ayat say about Mohammed, fairly read. The problem is that Greeson is encouraging us to answer a Muslim prospect's honest question with the dishonest answer "I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." Even in the passages that Greeson cites, he does not agree with what those verses (ayat) say about Mohammed. Of course he doesn't—he's a Christian. For those of you who do not own the book yet, I have posted this so that you will not have any reason to wonder whether I am misconstruing the text of Greeson's book. We need to have an honest and open discussion of what this book says. I want to facilitate, not hinder, that endeavor.


A Simple Student @ SWBTS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Simple Student,

Please...I really am not trying to hide anything here. I'm going to add your section to my quotation in the OP. I just KNOW that I'm going to wind up with the entire text of the whole book posted on my site before I can acquit myself of the charge of selective quotation.

And then Kevin Greeson will file a copyright suit against me! :-)

A Simple Student @ SWBTS said...

Sorry to be so obtuse. I just think that the final paragraph helps to explain his initial statement. Walking away from the conversation, the Muslim (or hopefully now the follower of Christ) will no longer have any doubt as to the exclusivity of Christ as expressed in John 14:1-6.

I removed my comment so that KevinG won't come after me ;)

If I thought that you were trying to hide something, I probably would have either spoken up or I would have voted with my eyes (aka discontinued reading your blog). As I have commented before, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and insight. Thank you for even engaging The Camel. There are more than a billion Muslims out there who need Jesus. All tools are just that tools. The more they can be enhanced, the better.

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

Certainly, I am not critiquing John 14! :-) A lot more John and a lot less Qur'an, and I would be happy.

My point is not that Greeson is saying anything wrong about Christ, but that he is saying something about Mohammed that he does not really believe. This is all the more important because the question is about Mohammed, not about Jesus. I want us to present to Muslims precisely the sort of thing as John 14. But John 14 does not address at all what we are saying about Mohammed. What would we say about Mohammed? That he is not a prophet. That's what we really believe. That's what we want the prospect to believe. The point of these two posts is simply that The Camel is deliberately dishonest at this point, albeit dishonest for the most noble reason that I could ever imagine anyone being dishonest.

But just maybe, God doesn't need us to do that kind of favor for Him?

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear A.S.S.A.S.W,

Hearing this book proposing the Camel method of witnessing to Muslims described as a "tool" that may need enhancement disturbs me. Paul had VERY strong words to say about anyone who would preach a message not in line with the Gospel message that Paul preached. (Please refer to Galatians 1:6-9.) If this book prescribes a message that is not the true Gospel message, then it is not a slightly faulty tool---it is "another Gospel," and the one who presents it is strongly condemned by the apostle.

I hope I don't sound too harsh, sir. But this is very dangerous ground Brother Greeson is treading.

Love in Christ,


R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, thanks for continuing to engage this topic. This discussion is needed.

It is hard to discuss The Camel - How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ in depth when one doesn't have the book. Wes Kenney linked to Camel Tracks, so I read that. That was enough to confirm that I don't want to buy the book. So rather than engaging it, I decided to post with some references to the "Camel tract" here. Sorry about the shameless promotion of my blog :-D.

Bart Barber said...

Robert L.,

As always, great posts. They reflect a greater maturity than mine, but with no less candor.

Anonymous said...

"The esteemed and omnipresent blog comment personality, Anonymous"...

If you don't want to be respectful of "Anonymous" commenters, then set your blog to not receive anonymous comments. If you don't want anonymous comments then set your blog up to not receive them. You don't come across as an approachable person through this comment of yours.

I will not be back to your site as you do not appear to be one who is open and approachable.


R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, throughout the discussions of the "Camel Method" I have noticed quite a bit of appeal to the example of Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Someone (on another blog) said that the "Camel" technique is similar to Paul's technique on Mars Hill and those who are attacking the "Camel" method should not do so with considering its similarity to Paul's approach. Another wrote of Paul using a "bridge" at Mars Hill, taking people from where they are to where they need to go. An anonymous m praised the "Camel" method because it helps bridge from the Koran to the NT "in a non-offensive way."

We don't need to shrug off the similarities that exist, but neither do the supporters of the "Camel" method need to ignore the dissimilarities. If understood correctly, some points about Paul and Mars Hill are: on arriving at Athens he began to reason with Jews in the synagogue, God-fearing Gentiles, and whoever on the street (in the market) that would listen; the philosophers had encountered Paul before his sermon on Mars Hill and he had already broached the claims of Jesus and the resurrection; before mentioning the unknown God, Paul told them they were too superstitious/too religious; he declared their worship of the "God they did not know" to be ignorant and incorrect; he showed that even their own writers spoke of a creator God who logically cannot be conceived of as an idol; and he began to speak of repentance, judgment and the assurance of Christ as judge through His resurrection. It appears at this point Paul's sermon may have abruptly ended with a mocking crowd (though some wanted to hear more).

All that to ask this: just how similar is Paul's sermon/method to a method that praises the Koran, agrees with what the Koran says about Mohammed, pronounces benedictions on the prophet of Islam, and obscures the line between Christianity and Islam?

I don't think we can say that Paul's approach was exactly non-confrontational or inoffensive, and though he uses the "unknown god" and what certain of their poets had said, he draws a clear line between the idolatry of the Athenians and the claims of Jesus Christ that he was making.

Bart Barber said...


In the comment that started it all, you said, "It's amazing how you take a snippet and try to make an argument out of it. I don't take people like you very seriously."

You got more respect than you gave.

Many people use the anonymous comment feature to keep from setting up a Blogger account, but they identify themselves in the comment body. Some people, like "Simple Student" make anonymous comments without going through the anonymous feature of Blogger...i.e., they have a screen name account that does not reveal identity.

Anonymity in and of itself is not the problem here. Some people remain anonymous without being catty. But to come to my blog, accuse me of misrepresenting the book (while you misquote it), and then dismiss me as someone you don't take seriously...well, it is mighty convenient to do so from the position of anonymity, isn't it?

So, farewell. Somehow we'll muddle on without you, I guess.

Bart Barber said...


Thanks for your observations. You have anticipated some of what I will say in a subsequent post in this series: "Of Muslims and Mars Hill"

This whole alliteration thing is really taxing my creativity.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Even I almost succumbed to the temptation of using alliteration in my "Riding the Camel again" post. But I got over it before I posted the comments. ;-) Over-alliteration in sermons is usually like fingernails scratching a chalkboard to me.

I think one important point is that Paul had already broached the subject of Jesus and the resurrection before he used the "bridges" of "the unknown god" and "certain of your own poets". (The point is in my last comment, but I didn't really bring it out.) The whole idea of "the Camel", if I understand correctly, is to keep Jesus and the gospel hidden until the bridge is built to get from Islam to Christianity (such as it is). I just don't think the Mars Hill discourse is an example of that.

Robby Partain said...

Bart - Just wanted to say thanks for the time you are investing in this issue and the forum you have created for Camel discussion.

As I try to figure out what to think about missions methodology in Muslim contexts, I'm finding it to be a very complicated question. Towns and Stetzer deal with the broader issue of gospel contextualization in their book Perimeters of Light. I commend it to all who are thinking through missions philosophy and methodology in cross-cultural situations at home or abroad.

It appears to me that some aspects of The Camel, as you have pointed out, go too far in affirming Muhammed, thus being dishonest in the effort to present the gospel. It also appears that some Camel critics are saying, in essence, that evangelism in a Muslim context is just like evangelism anywhere else and to even talk about culturally appropriate methodology is an offense to God and the simple gospel. I find this to be extremely naive. I don't think it is wrong to try and be wise, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, in how we approach people with the message of Christ.

Anyway, you are doing us a fine service by facilitating this discussion. Separating Camel wheat from Camel chaff is a challenge - and an important task for missions right here in North America where Muslim people groups are growing rapidly.

Thanks much!

For souls,


Bart Barber said...


You couldn't be more correct about the relevance of this question not only in far-flung parts of the world but also right here at home. Thank you for your involvement in spreading the gospel in Texas.

I have tried to keep my critique of The Camel focused on a few major things. I recognize that I am not a missiologist by training or expertise, and I want to leave plenty of room for you experts on the finer points. I would only insist upon a few basic things: Let us deal honestly and respectfully with those whom we wish to introduce to Christ. Let us deal honestly and submissively with the Bible and the gospel that we proclaim. Let us make clear to everyone everywhere that coming to Christ always means leaving something else behind. For Muslims that means leaving behind Islam, however difficult that might be.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Back off of vacation!

As to Brother Partain and contextualization, according to Brother Greeson's presentation of the Camel Method in 2001, the Camel Method is between a 4 and 5 in contextualization. Brother Greeson explains contextualization in the presentation. He apparently sees the Muslim religion as part of the culture that needs to be left undisturbed.

As you have said, neither am I a missiologist, but would one believe when a redneck Klansman converts to Christianity that person should denounce slavery as fruit of salvation? But, they would not have to denounce the cross, only what the misrepresentation of the cross. They could keep eating green beens and hamhocks for supper and brains and eggs for breakfast.


Bro. Robin said...

"Brains and eggs for breakfast."

Bro. Tim, you just got the redneck award of the year. Congrats!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Tim, my mind must be in la-la land. When I first read your words "green beens and hamhocks," my mind took it in as "green eggs and ham." I guess I need to cut back on reading Dr. Seuss!! ;-)

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Bart,

I definitely think your next online poll should be:

Can a person simultaneously be both a legitimate Christian and someone who eats brains for breakfast?


Welcome home, Brother Tim---I hope you had a great time on vacation.

Love in Christ,


Tim Rogers said...

Brother Jeff,

You have to understand that the best food you have ever eaten is brains and eggs. It is redneck to the core. If one has never eaten brains and eggs for breakfast one has no right to even look at NASCAR on Television.


Thanks. It is good to be back from a time of relaxation.


Bill and Merrilea said...

You wrote: “A person carefully following this method [CAMEL] is never instructed to confront the Muslim god as false. He is never instructed to confront Mohammed as a false prophet—he is rather carefully and explicitly instructed in saying just the opposite.”

I feel you’ve missed the whole point of CAMEL if you think that is all there is.
Note on CAMEL: It has nothing at all to do with the Gospel. It’s a precursor to it before the Muslim would turn a deaf ear.

CAMEL keeps them interested till they hear, understand and respond to the Truth (After the actual CAMEL presentation). Going right into the falseness of their Allah and Mohammad will only produce their knee jerk reaction and they will blast Christianity. Since that is not where most Muslims live, think or believe (rather what they are taught and blindly regurgitate) it will not get us anywhere in Islamic witness as it hasn’t for the whole history of Islamic existence. Take a look at what is happening in the Muslim world today and look at where folks are coming to Christ. Take a look at how they are coming to Christ.

Why address those apologetic issues if it is moving them away from considering the claims of Christ before they even hear them? Those issues you bring up will and are being dealt with. An evangelist I’m partnering with came into my office today and said he’s addressing very similar questions with Muslim seekers. BUT, he first got their attention, respect and listening ear by using CAMEL. The relationship continues and their theology is changing to come into submission to God’s Word. Faith is being birthed. Don’t rush it. It’s a huge jump for Jesus to be simply a prophet to the Son of God as it is for a Muslim to realize his prophet is not reliable when compared to John 14:6. Give Muslims time to process it and believe it. Let God do the same work in his heart as yours, though he’s got a tradition that teaches differently than yours. You and I were brought up believing in some kind of God and his son Jesus Christ. Christmas was ‘in our face’ every year. Not so to every Muslim coming to faith in South Asia or Indonesia. Give them so room to understand.

CAMEL never was meant to not confront. It was meant to open a wedge to then exploit that openness with the skandalon – Christ and the gospel. I'm an SB IMBer in Greeson's region. I'm not defending him, nor CAMEL. I'm simply an insider who has experience in Muslim evangelism, discipleship and church planting. If you talk to Muslims you’ll recognize there are some things that immediately shut them off. I’m not validating some sort of passive-feel-good-friendship evangelism either. Jesus needs to be ‘in their face.’ What I am saying is tact and respect. Paul does not immediately address the blasphemy of the idolatry in Acts 17 either. He opens a wedge and exploits it for the truth. I’m grateful conversations of this nature are finally making their way to blog-worlds.

Also, if you’ll research you’ll recognize that believers in Arabic speaking countries do use ‘ALLAH” to refer to Jehovah God of the Bible (Egypt Christians for example). I’ll leave that research to you as I’ve been there, done that. No one I know practicing CAMEL….Christian background believer or Muslim background believer – believes or practices that the ALLAH of the Koran and the Yahweh of the Bible are theologically the same (though most Muslims in South Asia do believe this!). If folks out there are saying that, they are perverting the practice of CAMEL.

Obviously there are differences between the two. They are not the same. But, I dare say that the ‘God’ of Roman Catholic Mexico is strikingly different than the God of the Bible. What are you going to call God when working there – ‘Dios’ as they do? That same word needs re-defining. Similarly with Islam. Take what you are talking about and move it outside of the English language. Even our own word ‘god’ has pagan roots. Let’s get beyond the etymological use down to what people mean when they use those terms. As Muslims interact with the Bible, their theology will evolve to be aligned with the Truth if they believe….as will anyone’s theology when coming to Christ.

What CAMEL tries to do is to get Muslims to begin seriously taking a look at the ROOT of the matter. I appreciate your point about what the rest of the Koran says about Mohammed. But, the point is not to make more educated Muslims. It is not to develop a full orbed theology … it’s simply to draw out those called-out ones by throwing at them some spiritual bread crumbs to get to the table full of Truth.

Frankly, dissecting of CAMEL by Christian background believers in the US misses a significant point. …maybe the Muslims coming to faith aren’t as literate as MDIVers but they certainly have a genuine faith that is growing day to day in the face of real persecution and ‘shame’ brought to their families due to their conversions. Somehow I honestly think you are throwing out the baby with the bath water. CAMEL was not an invention of Greeson but of Muslim background believers. Greeson simply recorded what appeared to be a way Muslims en mass have been coming to Christ and this was one of the keys. I refer you to the IMB’s analysis of that work which genuinely identified true believers.