I have received my copy of Kevin Greeson, The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ!. The text is compelling and easy to read—I had finished the book within a couple of hours of receiving it. I have now read it more than once and am prepared to offer my thoughts. In fact, I have already typed out enough of my thoughts to see that my remarks are far too lengthy and involved to be contained in a single post. Please consider this the first installment in a series. The problem of Muslim evangelization is thorny indeed. We are rightly desperate to accomplish it, recognizing how many millions of people are deceived by this false religion. We see the absence of religious liberty in so many of the Muslim strongholds around the world and we wonder how to carry the gospel into places where doing so is illegal and dangerous. Any genuine breakthrough in Muslim evangelization will justly be the "killer app" of modern missiology. Many have offered The Camel as just that—the "killer app" of Muslim evangelization. Consider the words of one missionary in the foreword to the revised edition: "Is it fair to say that [The Camel] has impacted my ministry? No. It has completely transformed it." But in light of our desperation for success in this field, the substance of the theological tenets involved, and the everlasting consequences of the outcomes, calm and reflective consideration is in order regarding this method. In particular, I think we must be careful not to confuse progress with arrival as it regards the evangelization of anyone—in this context, Muslims.
What if?You meet a Muslim. He believes that there is only one god, the Muslim Allah. He believes that Mohammed is the seal of Allah's prophets. He believes that the Qur'an is holy scripture. He prays the Muslim ritual prayers. He rejects Christianity. He has never read the Bible. He knows little of Jesus. You pray for this person and interact with him. After a while, his beliefs change. He learns that his holy book (the Qur'an) also commends to him the Christian Holy Scriptures (the Bible), so he adopts these as additional holy books in his personal canon. He affirms salvation through Jesus Christ as revealed in all three of his holy testaments, but especially the latter (the Qur'an). He begins to refer to himself as an Isahi Muslim (a "Jesus Muslim"). He is not in fellowship with those who identify themselves as Christians, but he has gathered a group of Muslims who share his views about Jesus. Is that movement? Absolutely. Is that progress? Perhaps. Is it evangelization? If it is, then we owe an apology to the Mormons. Mormons accept the Old and New Testaments. They affirm salvation through Jesus Christ. They even go so far as to call themselves Christians. They have gathered "churches" that, although out of fellowship with orthodox Christian groups, conspicuously proclaim a message regarding Jesus Christ. So, why don't we regard Mormons as Christians? Because they claim special revelation subsequent and in addition to the Bible, redefine Jesus and God, adulterate the gospel, confuse truth with error. Dr. Phil Parshall (not the "Dr. Phil", but a missiologist) provided a snapshot of just such Muslims in his article for Evangelical Missions Quarterly entitled "Danger! New Directions in Contextualization." In this article, Parshall provided the following statistical survey of a group of "Christian Muslims":
- 50% go to the traditional mosque on Friday.
- 31% go to the mosque more than once a day. They do standard Arabic prayers which affirm Mohammed as a prophet of God.
- 96% say there are four heavenly books, i.e., Torah [i.e., Old Testament Pentateuch], Zabur [i.e., the Book of Psalms], Injil [these people were probably referring to the New Testament gospels, although traditional Muslim interpretation of this word is somewhat different], and Qur'an (This is standard Muslim belief…).
- 66% say the Qur'an is the greatest of the four books.
- 45% do not affirm God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- 45% feel peace or close to Allah when listening to the reading of the Qur'an
What do we have here? Contextualization or syncretism? A few points to emphasize. [The subjects of the survey] are leaders; the work has been ongoing for 15 years; the believers have had access to the New Testament; there have been short-term Bible schools for leadership; and, lastly, mosque attendance has been encouraged by the "outside" Bible teachers. Is this a model to follow or avoid?Southern Baptists face this exact question regarding The Camel and the Korbani presentation of the gospel endorsed and taught therein. If we will be consistent in the way we treat Muslims and Mormons, the following must characterize conversion of a Muslim to Christianity:
- He must reject the Qur'an as not being holy scripture.
- He must reject Mohammed as not being a valid prophet.
- He must reject the Muslim concept of God (I'm avoiding "Allah" here to prevent people from embarking upon red herrings as though the question here were merely one of terminology) as not being the true God.
- He must reject the Muslim concept of Jesus as not being the true Jesus.
- He must reject the Muslim concept of works salvation and embrace the Christian gospel.