Friday, July 20, 2007

Of Muslims and Mohammed

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." (emphasis mine) -The Camel (2007), 144
In my previous post I observed that Muslims must reject Mohammed as a false prophet just as Mormons must reject Joseph Smith as a false prophet. Kevin Greeson correctly observes that the status of Mohammed is a delicate subject in dealing with Muslims. Consider the worldwide reaction to the publication in 2005 of a group of editorial cartoons depicting Mohammed (see Wikipedia's summary of the event here). In addition to the book's implications upon Islam and the Qur'an, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was perceived to have disrespected Mohammed, resulting in a fatwa calling for his assasination. Dr. Jerry Vines received voluminous criticism for his June 10, 2002, observation that Mohammed was a "demon-possessed pedophile" (Mohammed had sex with a nine-year-old girl). Yes, to regard Mohammed as anything less than the "seal of the prophets" is to offend a Muslim. The methodology of The Camel is not a new one—it is simply the practice of stripping away the skandalon ("offense") of the gospel to make it palatable to those whom it offends. The Camel is tested at this point when it deals with the question of Mohammed. Here is the moment when an evangelist to Muslims must face what Greeson calls "the big question." That question, by the way, is not strictly about Mohammed but also has implications for whether one can receive the Christian gospel while remaining an adherent of Islam. How does The Camel respond to this question? Greeson writes: "I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." Well, what does the Qur'an say about Mohammed?
  1. It says that Mohammed is a true prophet of God, and the last of such (i.e., "the seal of the prophets") 33:40.
  2. It says that Mohammed was inspired by god in the writing of the Qur'an (10:2; 18:110).
  3. It says that in the Qur'an Mohammed included nothing besides what was revealed to him by god (10:15-16).
  4. It says that Jesus predicted the coming of Mohammed (61:6).
  5. It says that Mohammed is the "beautiful pattern" for human living.
So, there is what the Qur'an says about Mohammed. Greeson's plan is for evangelists to tell Muslims that they "agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." Does Greeson really agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed? No. In the beginning of the book he clarifies that he does not intend to "endorse...Mohammed." Indeed, in the very next paragraph after encouraging missionaries to say, "I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed," Greeson makes it plain that, although the Qur'an refers to Mohammed as a prophet, Greeson does not regard Mohammed as a prophet. Greeson's bewiildering progression in a scant two paragraphs is:
  1. I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed.
  2. The Qur'an says that Mohammed was a true prophet.
  3. I do not agree that Mohammed was a true prophet.
Huh???? Greeson's intent is to direct the Muslim prospect to a particular passage in the Qur'an in which Mohammed asserts his mere humanity and his connection with other prophets who have gone before him. The long-term goal is to attempt to demonstrate from the Qur'an that Jesus is a greater prophet than Mohammed was. But in doing so, they dodge a direct question about the Christian view of Mohammed by falsely stating affirmation of what the Qur'an says about Mohammed, when what they really intend to do is show that one phrase of what the Qur'an says about Mohammed is not entirely incompatible with Christianity. The rationale is simple—avoid putting the prospect into the position of having to choose between Jesus and Mohammed. Indeed, following The Camel one would prefer to sidestep this question entirely. This section only appears in the "advanced Camel" section training one to deal with objections raised by the Muslim prospect. The choice between Jesus and Mohammed is a skandalon for Muslims. But I ask you, can you really present the gospel without bringing a Muslim to the point of having to make this choice? Can one genuinely be a Christian and "agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed"? I don't think so. I understand, sympathize with, and applaud the motivation—a powerful desire to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. It is the methodology that bothers me. When people who do not agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed say that they do agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed, all to keep from injecting any tension between the false prophet Mohammed and a decision for Christ, they are simply being dishonest with a prospect in order to try to win them to a decision. And with that, I refer you back to my previous post.

31 comments:

volfan007 said...

and herein is the great problem with the camel method.

david

Robert said...

You may have noticed that your church FBC Farmersville has a photograph of Americana sports gear as the centerpiece of its front page. And you're presuming to tell people of other continents how not to reach their cultures for Christ?

Confronted with a rich young ruler Jesus did, in fact, offer a further condition to following him. It's been a while since I met Paige Patterson and a few years since I was on the campus of SWBTS. But I'm guessing that there is still something of a Texan Baptist blindspot at abandoning earthly wealth to follow Jesus.

In a nutshell, you should listen more to believers from the rest of the world, and pontificate less.

Bart Barber said...

Robert,

Congratulations on being the first to bring the ad hominems to bear here! Sooner or later someone will show up with a desire to discuss the actual content of the post.

AndyHigg said...

Now I feel awkward to be that person who wants to discuss content!

Well, Robert does raise a good point (see my comment on the previous post) but the issue is not spreading American-style Christianity, but Christ and Him crucified...in fact, that is also skandalon to Muslims. Their thinking is "if Isa is a prophet of Allah, then he cannot be put to shame." Thus the Quran teaches that Judas was crucified for his role as betrayer of the prophet Isa...haven't read Camel, does Greeson address this?

Also, Christ commands us to leave father, mother, family and worldly concerns to follow Him...this is skandalon to many from family-centered societies.

Jesus didn't say it would be the easy or "fun" path, just the straight and narrow one!

R. L. Vaughn said...

In defense of the good name of Roberts everywhere ;-D, I'd say that second post not only contains ad hominem argument, but also sounds a little like pontificating!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, I haven't read the book, so I am glad you're reviewing it. This afternoon I did read the Camel Tracks tract (magnifying glasses needed) that I printed from the link Wes Kenney gave. IMO, there is a pattern of deception in this method.

Les Puryear said...

Bart,

The apostle Paul said, "we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23).

Please correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't scripture say that the claims of Christ will be offensive to the natural man?

Does not scripture claim that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin through the Word which is a two-edge sword which pierces to the division of soul and spirit?

Did not God say that His Word would not return to Him void, but that it would accomplish the purpose for which He was sending it?

Then why do men seek to ways to change men's hearts outside of the power of God's Word?

Why do we not just "preach the Word" not giving heed to the "fables" of men?

This "Camel" method stuff appears to reveal that we have missionaries on the field who do not trust in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working in and through God's Word.

If the Word of God preached by a God-called Messenger of God under the leading of the Spirit of God is not enough to reach a target population, then why do men think they can come up with something better?

I tell you, the more I hear about the vanity of men in lieu of the power of God, the more discouraged I become in SBC leaders, trustees, agency heads, pastors, and missionaries. 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. Only the power of Christ working through His messenger faithfully preaching God's Word is the answer.

Les

Bart Barber said...

Andy,

The error (intentional or not) in the argument of many who have opposed my statements is simply this—because I have pointed out a system of contextualization that goes too far, they would like to pretend that I am contrary to any contextualization whatsoever. But that is a non-sequitur.

Who is God? Who is Jesus? Which are the scriptures? What is the gospel? Who are the false and the true prophets? These are not items open to contextualization. Thank you for acknowledging the problems of American Christianity (which I also acknowledge) while recognizing that these issues go much deeper to the level of "Christ and Him crucified."

Bart Barber said...

R. L.,

The very best thing that could happen from my series is for people to read the book, the tract, or some presentation of this method for themselves. I'm glad that you have read the tract.

Bart Barber said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Do not miss Les Puryear's comment. He says it so well, touching what are really the foundational issues here.

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Contextualization is a sticky issue...hope you are ready for many, many, many opinions.

I'll just say that my experience with Muslims is they are much more moved by the WAY a Christian lives. This, is what I have found that opens the door more. However, what do I know, I'm just a stupid seminary student. :)

Dougald

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, 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." [p. 11, online] Do your concur with that after reading the book?

I guess my question to those defending the 'Camel' method is this: is it alright to encourage new Christians to hide their faith, continue attending mosque or temple, and otherwise act like Muslims or Hindus; or, are you saying the 'Camel' method does not do this, or are you saying something else?

Anonymous said...

Very good discussions. I feel that I can learn a lot from both sides.
Although I am not so sure I think Muslims should be encouraged to attend the Mosque as a former Muslim, especially while hiding their conversion, one thought did come to my mind. Did not Paul continue to go to synagogue to share with the Jewish people? Are Paul's actions much different than a Muslim going back to the Mosque? I ask this honestly not to stir up some argument.

Act 13:14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
Act 13:15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying,
"Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it."
Act 13:16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: "Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.
Act 13:17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.

Then....

Act 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.

I realize that the MBB's would not be there in the Mosque long after they witness to their conversion and actually may be killed or lose all they have, but is there a scriptural precedent for going back to the Mosque to be a witness?

I ask this honestly to hear what others think.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for joining the discussion. I do not think that "going back to the mosque" is really the issue here, at least as far as my opinion goes. I'll be addressing the missionary methodology of Paul in a future post (it will be entitled "Of Muslims and Mars Hill").

Anonymous said...

I believe that the actual response is "I believe what Muhammed has written about himself in the Qur'an." that is... something like .. I am just a simple messenger, I do not know where one goes in the afterlife... Then, you engage a conversation about the one who does know where one goes in the afterlife (Jesus). It's more than what you represent here. 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.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

I have quoted directly from the book. I have encouraged everyone to go directly to the source and read the book for themselves. I have included an explanation of what Greeson hopes to accomplish in this section (to demonstrate that Jesus is a greater prophet than Mohammed). You have given more of the details of his argumentation, but I have misrepresented nothing here.

Some folks have trouble taking seriously people who post anonymously and will not take responsibility for their own comments. As for me, I am glad to take your comments seriously and interact with you.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

I failed to mention the tremendous irony, given the way that The Camel handles the Qur'an, that someone defending The Camel could be criticizing me for quoting something out of context.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS said...

When I first read your post "Of Muslims and Mohammed," I thought that you had clearly put the first nail in the coffin of the Camel method. So I decided to actually read pages 144 and 145 for the first time. A disclaimer before I get to my assessment: I am a simple student. I am not a super-genius Ph. D. from Oxford or even SWBTS. I am just a mere student. So I am sure that you will blow my argument out of the water. However, IMHO, I think that you are misreading pages 144 and 145. I am not Kevin Greeson so to be sure, we would have to ask the author for clarification (I believe the meaning lies with the author's intent instead of the reader's response). It's unfortunate that The Camel is a book instead of a blog!

When I read the "Barrier #4" section, I imagined an actual conversation between an evangelist and a Muslim. When the evangelist says "I agree with what the Qu'ran says about Mohammed," the evangelist is not saying that he/she agrees with everything the Qu'ran says about Mohammed as Greeson clearly states on p. 144. If Greeson wanted to say that the evangelist agreed with everything the Qu'ran says about Mohammed, the evangelist would have needed to qualify by saying "I agree with EVERYTHING what the Qu'ran says about Mohammed." Instead, the evangelist QUALIFIES his statement with surah al-Ahqaf 46:9 and surah al-Imran 3:14. The evangelist further QUALIFIES these surahs by explaining what he understands them to mean. These state that Mohammed is saying nothing new or greater than those who have preceded and that he does not know what will be done with himself or others (i.e. with respect to eternity). Once the evangelist has established this, he asks what is life's greatest question (i.e. "what will happen to me when I die?"). The evangelist points out that Mohammed cannot answer this, logically we should look at what came before and what it says. At this point, he directs us to Jesus words IN THE BIBLE that suggest that Jesus is the exclusive way (Greeson suggests John 6:47 and John 14:1-6). This is the skandalon of the Gospel!

The Camel Method is not removing the skandalon of the gospel in overcoming Barrier #4 rather this is part of making "a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." 1 Peter 3:15b (emphasis mine)

The Camel Method shows respect to the other person by opening the doors through which the person already has the permission to hear Jesus. The evangelist's job is to invite them through the door to get to the truth about Jesus as God moves in their heart to hear and hopefully accept the gospel.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

P.S. Until you engage the author directly, you are merely writing your own interpretation of what he is saying. That is why I think it would be important for you to contact him so that you do not fall prey to misrepresenting his views.

Bennett Willis said...

Would the problem with this technique be lessened if the Christian said, "I agree what what is said about Mohammed in [what ever chapter/verse is in the Quran]."

You have to do something not to create instant barriers.

Bennett Willis

A Simple Student @ SWBTS said...

A couple more reasons that you might want to consider engaging the author directly:

1. You are accusing him of lying. This is serious and should be dealt with directly IMHO.

2. I want to add that until you engage the author directly you are merely pointing out weaknesses with HIS BOOK. Your arguments might be addressing the method. They might not. We would have to ask Kevin if that is what he meant.

3. You arguments would be more compelling if you exchanged in a dialogue with him since he is an authority on his method.

Just a few more reasons.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

Read my latest post, including the full quotation of Greeson and the full quotation of the verses (ayat) quoted by Greeson. Greeson does not agree with what only those verses of the Qur'an say about Mohammed, much less the whole Qur'an. Those verses all affirm Mohammed as a true prophet.

I'm not the one misconstruing snippets out of context.

Now, it is possible for someone to say, "OK...Greeson doesn't really believe what those passages from the Qur'an say about Mohammed. But, Greeson isn't trying to have an academic discussion about what the Qur'an says about Mohammed. He's just trying to keep the focus on the gospel. He's found a way to pull phrases out of context from the Qur'an to further his argument. This is a little white lie, and one told to accomplish something noble."

But I encourage you to imagine in more detail precisely the conversation that you have imagined, and perhaps from the other side of the fence. You have been raised a Muslim. Someone has come to you and is trying to tell you that the Qur'an would point you to faith in Isa al-Masih. You're intrigued. You're listening. You're interested.

But you have a nagging question in the back of your mind. If you place your faith in Isa al-Masih, what does that mean regarding your view of Mohammed, whom you have been raised to venerate? So, you ask this question of the person who has been encouraging you to learn more about Isa. That person responds to you in such a way as to suggest that there is no tension whatsoever between trusting in Jesus and what the Qur'an teaches about Mohammed—indeed, that person asserts that he believes what the Qur'an says about Mohammed.

Has that person answered your question honestly? Have you been given a true opportunity to "count the cost" of your potential decision for Christ?

Bart Barber said...

Bennett,

That would resolve the problem if there were a verse of the Qur'an speaking about Mohammed with which a Christian could agree entirely. I encourage you to look at my latest post, read the passages of the Qur'an given in their entirety, and see whether you could say that you agree with what any of them actually say about Mohammed.

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

I do not know how to say it more plainly. Kevin Greeson is entirely welcome to come here and engage in the discussion. I am not preventing him. I do not have contact information for him. If anyone reading does have contact information for him, please invite him by all means to come join in the discussion.

You correctly observe that I am interacting with the book. The book is what is being used to teach the method. If the method is something other than what is contained in the book, then perhaps my critique will lead to an improvement in the book. And that would be a good thing, since the promulgation of this method is taking place mostly through the book, not through personal appearances by Kevin Greeson.

Todd Nelson said...

Bart,

Before clicking "publish", I previewed my comment and saw Simple Student's at 12:40 and Bennett's latest. I concur. Now I continue with my own thoughts.

Regarding your five "musts" or tests for Muslim conversion listed in your previous post...

Would you say all five should be shared and required by the missionary "up front", or might they happen gradually and one or two at a time with #4 being the crucial indicator and the one to aim for?

I've heard it shared by an IMB person in the region where I live that there are three critical changes in the process of a Muslim's conversion:

There should be a change of allegiance:
1) from Mohammed to Isa
2) from Quran to Injil
3) from Muslim ummah to Christian community (but preferably a gathering of other Muslim converts so they can continue to win others in their own context and not have to join a church that is "foreign" culturally)

I think one of the key ideas here is to see conversion as a process as much as it is a point in time. Engle's scale comes to mind.

And friendship evangelism versus confrontational evangelism would be the way to win most Muslims. I've never known a person to say after a debate or argument, "Oh, I see now. You're right; I think I'll convert!"

Regarding contextualizaton vs. syncretism... I think that Paul's fight against the Judaizers has some relevance here. We must not insist that Muslims *become* like us or *think* like us in all or most of our Christian cultural ways before we, as guardians of the faith, grant them status as "genuine believers." For missionaries and mono-cultural Christians at home holding the ropes, this is a real struggle.

I readily agree with you that these are thorny issues. And as I said on Wade's blog, let's discard any rhetoric and discuss the challenges of mission work and Muslim evangelism with cool heads, warm hearts, and bended knees.

Thanks for the opportunity to do so on your blog.

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

A final rejoinder: It is not my desire to put nails into coffins. It is not my desire to dismantle Kevin Greeson's ministry. My desire is to see people come to Christ.

If we are leaving people in Islam or shuffling them off into some hybridized Christian Islam or Muslim Christianity, all while telling them that they are safely in the Christian faith, then we have done them a grave disservice.

We have these discussions because the stakes are incalculably high. Greeson's reputation, my reputation, the IMB's reputation, the sales of a book, previous disagreements you and I may have had—these things all disappear into the noise on this question. They are altogether inconsequential in the face of the greater issues that are at stake.

Thanks for going to the book and reading it first-hand. I hope that you didn't stop with 144-145. Read the whole thing.

Todd Nelson said...

BTW, Bart, the reference to "rhetoric" was not aimed at you, but in anticipation of what often escalates to harsh and judgmental statements against good-willed people who are on the same team -- or should be. ;)

Bart Barber said...

Todd,

Regarding how much is necessary at the time of conversion, I have no desire to add to the gospel. Repentance is an essential part of conversion. In the New Testament, Jews did not need to repent of being Jewish—before Christ's atoning death people were supposed to be Jewish. The call to repentance among Jews explicitly called upon them to own up to their complicity in rejecting the Messiah and having him crucified (another biblical concept jettisoned in The Camel in an attempt to reconcile Christianity with the Qur'an). Among Gentiles, there was an explicit call for them to repudiate their idols immediately.

So, a Muslim cannot become a Christian without repenting of being a Muslim.

Perhaps he will have subsequent doubts. Perhaps he will be tempted to go to the mosque at some point in order to avoid suspicion. Perhaps he will be tempted to delay his baptism or hide his conversion. People are...well...people. We stumble and fall in many ways.

But while it is one thing to repent of being a Muslim and succumb to subsequent temptations or have subsequent doubts or areas of poor understanding, it is another thing altogether to believe that one can be a Christian without stepping away from being a Muslim. My list in my previous post was intended to indicate ways in which one could repent of being a Muslim in order to become a Christian.

I am not the gatekeeper to Heaven, thankfully. Yet we have no biblical basis to direct anyone's hope toward syncretistic faith.

Bart Barber said...

Bennett,

One might resolve the difficulty by saying, "Even the Qur'an does not claim that Mohammed knows the way to eternal life, but the Injil tells us that Isa does."

Todd Nelson said...

Bart,

Forgive me, although I’m not completely ignorant of the Camel Method, I don't have a copy of the book; and living where I do, I will not be able to get one quickly. So I don't plan to comment anymore after this until I do read it all.

Regarding repentance and conversion, maybe the Camel Method calls for too little too slowly, but I can't help but think that you're expecting a bit too much all at once.

Yes, dramatic and comprehensive conversions of Muslims can and do happen, or seemingly so. But they are the exception. Usually there is a process involved. And, of course, there is the problem of backsliding, just as there was with the early Christians reverting back to Judaism and modern Christians sliding into compromise with the world.

"A Muslim cannot become a Christian without repenting for being a Muslim."

How about repenting for being a sinner? For many Muslims, their religion is not so much a set of propositions to which they consciously assent, as it is a way of life -- their culture: religion, family & society, government & politics, respected leaders, and worldview.

They desperately need to hear and see the gospel lived out and explained in ways that do not erect unnecessary cultural barriers to their conversion. I think the jury is still out on the Camel Method. Yes, there is the skandalon of the cross in the gospel, but as I’ve said, it is often intertwined with western and Christian cultural offenses. This is the heart of our challenge in contextualizing the gospel for Muslims without ending up with a syncretized version.

In the process, I think we must ask the question: How much will we trust the Spirit and Word of God to work on converting a person and bringing them all the way to assurance of salvation without resorting to our own propositional and cultural litmus tests for true conversion? Similarly, when converts are discipled and a church planted, or a movement started, how much will we trust God’s Word and Spirit to guide the church to be truly indigenous rather than foreign (i.e., conforming to or approaching our comfort level)? I do wonder how many IMB trustees and SB pastors have really wrestled with these kinds of questions. It appears that more will be doing so these days. And that is good.

I hope IMB trustees don't really expect a gathering of Muslim converts to look just like, or even think just like, a Baptist church in the good ole USA.

I'll bow out now 'til I can read the book.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS said...

Dr. Barber,

Your statement sounds good to me. Especially good if you could put it in terms that would enable/"give permission" to the Muslim to explore the Bible then it could be both useful and true.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

It's a tool! Enhance it!

Al Comb-ova said...

Consider Proverbs 12:22-23.

This, and a passage in John, may open a small crack wherein the Camel method passes biblical muster.

First, Proverbs 12:22 - "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight."

No argument here; lying is bad and truth is good.

However, now consider verse 23: "A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness."

This seems to me to be close to the troublesome part of the Camel method - the prudent missionary withholds (conceals) some knowledge until the heart of the convert is prepared to hear it (is no longer foolish).

There is a passage in John that suggests Jesus used such misdirection during the Feast of the Tabernacles:

John 7:8-13 - "Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up [yet] unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come." When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

Only later, at the end of the feast, does Jesus proclaim the Truth:

John 7:37-38 - In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."