Winging its way to me through the United States Postal Service is the revised version of The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ. I've decided to publish a "Before" post detailing my convictions before reading the book and an "After" post detailing my response to having read the book.
My Beliefs Before Reading The Camel
- Any legitimate way to use Jesus sayings in the Qur'an as a bridge to the presentation of the gospel I will support. In fact, it would be a real mistake not to give strong consideration to the best way to employ those saying in the presentation of the gospel. Necessarily, there are the best ways to use them and the worst ways to use them. Let us be diligent to find the best ways.
- The Qur'an, fairly read, is incompatible with Christianity. Years ago in the class "Introduction to Philosophy of Religion" I first received instruction regarding the differences between the Muslim portrayal of Jesus and the Christian portrayal of Jesus. This incompatibility is true not only of the Qur'an as a whole, but also of every individual portion of the Qur'an. For example, consider Surah 19 (Maryam). This Surah (chapter) couldn't be more clearly anti-Christian:
83. Seest thou not that We have set the Evil Ones on against the unbelievers, to incite them with fury? 84. So make no haste against them, for We but count out to them a (limited) number (of days). 85. The day We shall gather the righteous to ((Allah)) Most Gracious, like a band presented before a king for honours, 86. And We shall drive the sinners to Hell, like thirsty cattle driven down to water,- 87. None shall have the power of intercession, but such a one as has received permission (or promise) from ((Allah)) Most Gracious. 88. They say: "((Allah)) Most Gracious has begotten a son!" 89. Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! 90. At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, 91. That they should invoke a son for ((Allah)) Most Gracious. 92. For it is not consonant with the majesty of ((Allah)) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.Thus, to use this Surah in leading a person to biblical Christianity must ultimately involve refuting this Surah, not relying upon it. I hope to learn that The Camel does precisely that.
- The Muslim Allah is not the Christian God and is incompatible with the One True God whom we serve as Christians. Yes, the word Allah in Arabic apparently has the simple generic lexical meaning of "God." However (and I'll give credit to Dr. Russell Moore for reminding me of this), keep in mind that the Old Testament Hebrew word בָּעַל (Baal) has the simple generic lexical meaning of "Lord." One might legitimately (as lexical meanings go) have referred to God as Baal. Yet Elijah did not go up to Mount Carmel to confuse the identities of Yahweh and Baal; he went there to make a pointed distinction between the two (see here). The differentiation that Elijah made is at the heart of evangelism. Thus, to lead a person to biblical Christianity is to make certain that he knows that the biblical God is not the Muslim Allah, that the real God did not author the Qur'an, and that Muslims are worshipping a non-existent false god.
- Identifying oneself as a Muslim is incompatible with being a Christian. Yes, Paul identified himself as a Jew. But the Jewish Old Testament is genuine special revelation from God. Prior to the life and work of Christ, one was supposed to be a Jew. The Qur'an is not revelation from God. There has never been a moment in human history when it was not an act of rebellion against God to be a Muslim. Being a Muslim is something of which one must repent in order to become a Christian.
- What's It Gonna Take to Reach Muslims with the Gospel? It's gonna take the gospel.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) So will be My word which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)In general, I want us to be confident in the spiritual power of the unadorned-by-human-tomfoolery gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, let us remember what the Bible says:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-4)The presentation of the gospel of Christ ought to differ greatly from a Ronco® commercial. The more we depend upon anything other than the gospel, the more we weaken any evangelistic initiative. It is not a question of pragmatism vs. orthodoxy—losing our confidence in the gospel and choosing instead to rely upon a bait-and-switch scheme is both theologically indefensible and pragmatically ineffective. It is like removing the engines from your 747 and then planning to fly to Japan. I hope to read that the Camel Method very briefly uses the Qur'an and then directs people quickly and exclusively to the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ presented in the Bible, thereby refuting the Qur'an.
- Trickery will come back to bite us. Do you know what Muslim orthodoxy says about Christianity and the gospel? It says that the New Testament gospel was originally pure, but then we Christians came along and corrupted it, twisting it to say something different than what God actually revealed. If we were to build an evangelistic strategy upon twisting the Qur'an to make it say something different than what it plainly says, what's going to happen when we're found out? You don't think that the imams are just going to lie down and take it, do you? And when we are confronted, wouldn't the end result of such a method be to confirm in the minds of Muslims everywhere that Christians are everything that they have heard us to be in the mosques—that we won't let a little thing like honesty get in the way of our agenda? I hope to read that The Camel method deals honestly with the Qur'an, not opening Christianity up to charges like these.