Friday, November 16, 2007

The Camel and the IMB Contextualization Guidelines

At the recent IMB meeting in Springfield, IL, the board adopted five principles for contextualization. Having mulled over the principles for a few days and having read The Camel carefully multiple times (see series of articles summarized here), I proclaim it an obvious fact to any impartial observer that The Camel is in violation of the new IMB principles.

The first principle is a simple affirmation of the unique nature of the Christian Bible. I believe that the Camel's reliance upon the Qur'an to the near exclusion of the Bible could be construed as violation of principle one, but the Camel does not explicitly violate this first principle. The second principle poses greater problems for the Camel method.

We affirm that there is a biblical precedent for using “bridges” to reach out to others with the Gospel (Acts 17:22-23). The fact that Paul mentioned an aspect of the Athenians’ idolatrous worship was not a tacit approval of their entire religious system. He was merely utilizing a religious element of their setting (an altar to an unknown god) to connect with his hearers and bridge to the truth. Similarly, our personnel may use elements of their host culture’s worldview to bridge to the Gospel. This need not be construed as an embracing of that worldview. It should be noted that Paul not only used their system to connect, he also contrasted elements of it with the truth. Our evangelism must go beyond bridges to present the whole unvarnished truth of the Gospel (1 Corinthains 15:1-4). (HT: SBC Today)

The Camel is long on varnish and short on gospel. It fastidiously avoids the kind of contrast that Paul performed at Athens (see my earlier post on just this subject here). The Camel is just the kind of misapplication of Paul's work in Athens that is explicitly singled out in this principle as faulty.

The Camel is also at odds with the third principle.

We affirm an incarnational approach to missions that is bound by biblical parameters. Following the example of Him who became flesh (John 1:14), it is appropriate that our personnel continue to tailor their ministry to their setting. The Apostle Paul likewise embraced this approach, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). We advocate the learning and appropriate utilization of language and culture. Constant vigilance is required lest contextualization degenerate into syncretism (1). Where linguistic categories and cultural mores are deficient, these must be challenged and corrected with biblical truth (2).

Note that footnote two deals with the use of the name "Allah."

For example, the theological construct represented by the term “Allah” in the Qur’anic system is deficient and unacceptable. However, the primary issue is not the term. The same name is used by devout Christians and it represents a sound, scriptural view of God. In fact, historically, the Christian use of “Allah” predates the rise of Islam. The missionary task is to teach who “Allah” truly is in accord with biblical revelation.

This footnote calls for the missionary to "teach who 'Allah' truly is in accord with biblical revelation" as an amplification to the idea that "[deficient linguistic categories and cultural mores] must be challenged and corrected with biblical truth. [emphasis mine]" Yet the precise core of the Camel method—that which makes it what it is—is the great care it takes not to challenge or correct Muslim notions about who Allah is. Rather, the Camel craftily suggests that the New Testament simply gives some additional information (sanctioned by Islam, no less!) to broaden the Muslim's understanding of Allah. The IMB offers a footnote about explaining who Allah is as an explanation of a proper situation calling for challenge and correction of false cultural ideas. To be in conformity with principle three, the Camel must incorporate a direct correction indicating that the Christian "Allah" is not the same as the Muslim Allah.

The fourth principle poses an additional hurdle for the Camel in its present adaptation.

We affirm both the sufficiency and unique nature of biblical revelation (2 Timothy 3:14-17). We deny that any other purported sacred writing is on a par with the Bible. While reference to a target group’s religious writings can be made as a part of bridge-building, care should be exercised not to imply a wholesale acceptance of such. [emphasis mine]

Yet the Camel says "I agree with what the Qur'an says about Mohammed" (see my post here), encourages the prospective convert to search the Qur'an as confirmation of the gospel message, and nowhere offers the slightest critique of the Qur'an in its authority, content, or any other thing. Surely one can presume that "[exercising care] not to imply a wholesale acceptance of [the Qur'an]," whatever that phrase might mean, means something other than doing absolutely nothing. Yet the Camel method does absolutely nothing to prevent the presumption that the "Isahi Muslim" is totally convinced of Quranic authority—indeed, the philosophical underpinning of the whole method is a presumption that everyone involved will affirm (even if dishonestly) the reliability of the Qur'an. The Camel violates principle four.

Finally, the Camel method is patently in violation of the last principle.

We affirm the need to be ethically sound in our evangelistic methodology (2 Corinthians 4:2). Becoming all things to all men in an incarnational approach does not necessitate an ethical breach. Jesus instructed his disciples to be as “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We are to be wise in our bridge building. We are to be harmless in our integrity as we hold forth the truth ( 3).

Be sure not to miss footnote three.

Integrity requires, for example, that we not imply that a false prophet or a body of religious writings other then the Bible are inspired. There is a level of contextualization that crosses the line of integrity. Our Board has dismissed personnel who have refused counsel and deliberately positioned themselves beyond that line.

I have already demonstrated invincibly that the Camel dishonestly handles the question about what Christians believe about Mohammed (see my previous post here). Given the inclusion of the footnote, I do not see how anyone can come to any conclusion other than that the author of principle five had in front of him The Camel open to page 144 as he was penning this proscription. For anyone to suggest that the Camel might be compatible with principle five is to strain the limits of credulity.

Now that our trustees have given us these sound and godly principles, all that remains to be seen is what they and our IMB staff will do to correct an obviously aberrant missiological strategy in our midst—the Camel method.

52 comments:

Jack Maddox said...

Bart

SInce you chair the resolution committee of the SBTC, you might find it interesting to see Bro. Burleson taking our state convention to task on his latest post.

jrm

Bart Barber said...

Jack,

Thanks for the heads-up. At your insistence ;-), I strolled on over there to speak up for the fine people involved in this process.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I was under the impression that the Camel Method was updated to the point that it was in line with these principles. Thus, I understand that Dr. Akin affirmed the Camel Method along with others at the latest IMB BoT meeting in Springfield.

Have I missed something? Wasn't the Camel Method updated and that update was what allowed Dr. Akin to affirm this method?

Blessings,
Tim

Ken said...

Bart , Forgive me as I have not totally digested your post and will do that later.

I do have one honest question. I mean this sincerely: If not using the word Allah when communicating to an Arabic speaker, what word should we use that will communicate the idea of the supreme being and one that will share the idea of a supreme being? As a missions pastor I travel a lot in Muslim contexts and I am not aware of a word that will share the idea of a supreme being other than Allah. I am talking from an international context not American.

Bart Barber said...

Tim,

I have not seen any updates. At this point, they are only a rumor. If and when changes are made, I'll evaluate them.

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

Good question. If you were witnessing to a Muslim here in the USA and were using the word "God" you would still have to clarify that the deity described in the Qur'an is not God and is not of whom you speak. The problem with The Camel is not its use of the word "Allah" in its text, but its reliance upon a strategy not to differentiate the One True God from the Muslim god.

Anonymous said...

The problem with The Camel is not its use of the word "Allah" in its text, but its reliance upon a strategy not to differentiate the One True God from the Muslim god.

Bart,

In your view, what is the difference between the Creator God of the Bible and the Creator God of Islam that would necessitate us making a distinction between the two? Or, to pose the same question a different way, why must we begin from ground zero rather than beginning with the common ground we have and building upon it to bring Muslims to a more complete understanding of who the Creator is?

The assumption in my question above is that you are saying that Muslims worship a different God than we do. It is entirely possible that I misunderstood what you were saying and you do believe Muslims worship the Creator but in ignorance. If the above assumption is incorrect, my apologies.

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Ben Macklin said...

Bart - Have you read this article? http://www.christianindex.org/3313.article

One quote stood out to me, "The 'Camel" is meant to be a bridge, not a parking lot." It sounds like it is a method of introduction and illustration, not a method of evangelism.

Ben Macklin

Anonymous said...

Ben,

The following is a quote from the first chapter of the most recent version of the Camel that I have:

The primary method of reaching Muslims in this country is using the Qur’an as a bridge. Evangelists use passages in the Qur’an to begin speaking with Muslims about Jesus. Then, when they find those who are interested in hearing more about Jesus, they take them from the Qur’an to the Bible.

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Anonymous said...

Bart,

I probably should not have answered Ben's question directed at you. My apologies for over-stepping.

His grace and peace be with you,
From the Middle East

Tim Rogers said...

Brother/Sister Anonymous from the ME,

You write; "In your view, what is the difference between the Creator God of the Bible and the Creator God of Islam that would necessitate us making a distinction between the two?" If one does not believe Jesus was the agent of Creation as John 1:1 teaches, nothing. However, if one does believe that Jesus was the agent of creation, just like John 1:1 teaches there would be a serious problem in referencing the God of the Bible as the same Creator God of Islam.

Not trying to carry Brother Bart's water, but I thought it was interesting in how this is debated.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Guthrie said...

Good anaylsis Bart. Keep it up, you are saving me some study time on some of this so I can do other things - I appreciate it!

:)

TG

Anonymous said...

Brother Tim,

Do Jews worship the One True God or a different god?

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Tim Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Rogers said...

Brother/Sister Anonymous ME,

After re-reading my earlier comment it did not make sense to me. So I deleted it and replaced it with this comment.

Yes they do worship the God of the Bible. As it is proven scripturally the Jews worship the God called Elohim as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that the Jews themselves asked Jesus this same question. John the Revelator in his Gospel recorded this exchange in something called the "I Am" narratives. He expressed to the religious leaders something that went like this; "Before Abraham was, I Am."

The God the Arabs worship they call Allah which they believe is the God of Esau, and Mohammad.

Huge difference. Wouldn't you agree?

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

I comment today from my new iMac! Please forgive my absence while converting over to a new computer.

Bart Barber said...

"From the Middle East"

The differences between the Muslim Allah and the Christian God are the same as the difference between me and this person (the sixth person listed on this page). The purported deity described in the Qur'an is different in essence, character, past actions, present relationships, and future plans than the One True God. Similarity in terminology is meaningless.

Bart Barber said...

Ben,

Have you read the book, brother? It includes a suggested presentation of the gospel. It purports to be the whole shmear, not just "pre-evangelism."

Second, the problem is not that the Camel avoids the difficult issues that arise at the point of evangelism, but that it prevaricates concerning them. The whole "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed" question is a great example. This is presented in The Camel as the answer to that key question.

Third, is deceptive pre-evangelism really helpful? When and how does one broach the truth? The "tangled web" phenomenon eventually becomes a problem, doesn't it? Tracy and I have taken the approach of being open with our children all along that they are adopted. Lying or even avoidance of the truth until someone is eighteen has just proven to be a horrible, unproductive strategy. Likewise, relationships designed to share the gospel should not begin with lies, either.

Anonymous said...

Brother Tim,

I might agree if your presuppositions were accurate.

My question is not does the Bible teach that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. But rather do the Jews worship the Creator God we know from the Bible with considerable misunderstandings about who He is or is the god they worship totally different? Or, if you prefer, did the Jews of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ days worship the Creator God as revealed in Scripture with major misunderstandings of his nature and character or were they worshipping a totally different god?

The distinction above is significant because you based your rejection of the Islamic idea of the Creator on Muslims not believing that Jesus was the agent of creation and the Jews have done and continue to do the same. So, do the Jews worship God (albeit in ignorance and without benefit) or a totally different god?

You said:
“... Jews worship the God called Elohim as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
and:
“The God the Arabs worship they call Allah which they believe is the God of Esau, and Mohammad.”

Notes:
1. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all revered holy men in the Islamic religion.
2. Which Arabs are you referring to? Muslims? Atheists? Christians?
3. Both Arab Muslims and Christians refer to God as الله ... commonly transliterated as Allah. All Arabic translations of the Bible that I am aware of (5 in number) use this term.
4. I am not sure where you heard that Esau is somehow attached to Islam, but I have not found him mentioned in the Qur’an nor in the Hadith. It could be that he is and I just was not looking for him while reading. If you know of a place that he is mentioned, please let me know.

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Anonymous said...

Bart,

It is evident that there are differences between essence, character, past actions, present relationships and future plans of God recorded in the Bible and the Qur'an. However, there are many similarities (which are unique to the Creator and the Creator alone) in all of these areas as well.

Why must we start from scratch rather than taking what is already understand by Muslims (ie God is just, merciful, the Creator, holy, exalted, forgiving, the King of kings, Lord, truth, etc) and building upon that?

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

John Killian said...

Dr, Barber,
Thank you for your willingness to stand on this important issue.
John Killian

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

Because God is a personal, not exclusively propositional. God has a lot in common with Ba'al (whose name, by the way, simply means "Lord"). God has a lot in common with Dagon. God has a lot in common with Krishna. God has a lot in common with Zeus.

You and I have a lot in common with one another. I have even more in common with the guy I linked above. We both will answer to "Dr. Bart Barber." We have the same color hair, are approximately the same age, and can both probably recite the FFA Creed ("I believe in the future of farming...") But he'd better keep his grubby paws off of my wife. Because, no matter how much he resembles me, he isn't me.

One can compare concepts and conclude that they are enough alike to be basically the same thing. We don't compare persons in that manner. To be the same person, you must be precisely the same instance of a person.

God is a person, not simply a concept. In Old Testament and new, when confronted with other gods, our God never said, "Hey, that's pretty close. Good try! The Canaanites are worshipping me by another name. Let's look at what all they got right." No, the consistent message is, "The LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." (Deut 4:39)

Now, as far as having to "start from scratch," let me make clear that the problem with the Camel is not so much where it starts as where it ends up (or rather, doesn't end up). Start out talking about how much "Yahweh" and "Allah" have in common if that helps you. But a person is not a Christian so long as he confuses God with an idol or a false god, and you have not presented the gospel until you have made that fact clear.

Anonymous said...

Bart,

First, while I know the topic of this post has to do with the Camel, I am not so much interested in your take on the Camel itself. What I am interested in is your claim that we must jettison an already present understanding that there is one God, that He is the Creator of the heavens and the Earth, that He alone is the Judge of all men, that He is good, just, exalted, glorious, merciful, compassionate, the only One worthy of worship, that Adam & Eve sinned against Him, that Cain killed Abel over a sacrifice, that God judged the world via a great flood keeping Noah, that Abraham was great man of faith, that Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist were all great men of faith as well, that Jesus is the Spirit and Word of God, that He performed miracles, healed the sick, taught truth & even raised the dead, that blood sacrifice is a necessary thing in the eyes of God and that the Bible is the word of God ... and in spite of all of this, He is unknowable! We're going to throw out that common ground?

Would you do this with a Jew?
Would you do this with a deist?
Would you do this with an American who says that he believes in God, but that he does not think God would send someone to hell because He is forgiving and full of grace?

I think that you would not. I think that while there are vast differences between our understanding of who God is and a Jew's understanding of who God is or a deist's understanding of who God is, you would "correct" their misunderstandings. Would you tell the above mentioned American that he needs to find a different god? Or would you build upon his understanding that God is loving, graceful and forgiving, but also proclaim to him the holiness and justice of God thereby giving him a fuller picture of who God is? Would you tell a deist that his understanding of the Creator is so far off that he needs to find a new god? Or would you proclaim to him the Good News that this Creator he instinctively knows is somewhere out there is not far off, but near to each of us?

You said:
God has a lot in common with Ba'al (whose name, by the way, simply means "Lord"). God has a lot in common with Dagon. God has a lot in common with Krishna. God has a lot in common with Zeus.

Notes:
1. All of the "gods" you mentioned are part of a polytheistic worldview, not a monotheistic worldview.
2. None of the above "gods" is viewed as the Supreme Creator. The closest is Zeus who is simply the most powerful of the Greek "gods." But was still created by other "gods."
3. All of these "gods" can be represented by created things (wood, metal,etc).
4. Items 1-3 are not true of the Creator God in Islam.
5. The "gods" you mentioned are oranges. When speaking with Muslims, we are dealing with apples. Praise God that we have common ground! We have the advantage of proclaiming to those who already understand what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 1 ... that there is only one God!

You said:
One can compare concepts and conclude that they are enough alike to be basically the same thing. We don't compare persons in that manner. To be the same person, you must be precisely the same instance of a person.

Questions to consider:
1. Do you learn more of God's character and nature each day?
2. When your understanding and insight into God's nature and character are deepened, have you learned of a new god? Or simply come to a fuller understanding of the One True God?

My apologies for typos or incomplete thoughts, I am a bit rushed right now.

His peace be with you,
From the Middle East

Amy Downey said...

Bart,

While I agree with you that Jewish people do worship the same God that we as Christians worship, I would caution you in your explanation of the statement.

This is due to the fact that it can confuse people in regards to the urgent need for Jewish evangelism. If you doubt my words, go check out that "pastor" in San Antonio.

While the God of the OT and Judaism is the same God of the NT (Christianity is both OT and NT), 99% of Jewish people have not realized that Jesus is the Messiah for whom they either are desperately waiting for or have given up on in desperation. We must tell them now the truth of Messiah Jesus before it is too late.

Thanks! Shalom.

Acts 20:24,

Amy Downey
www.tzedakahministries.org
mysterysolvedwithmessiahjesus.wordpress.com

P.S. If you want to include me on your blog links, I wouldn't say no!

Amy Downey said...

Bart,

Thanks for the correction regarding the fact that it was Tim Rogers who made the comment.

Tim,

Read what I wrote to Bart.

Grosey's Messages said...

Well, ME Misso,
I guess that is where you and Bart differ: "you would "correct" their misunderstandings."
Bart would lead them to a personal relationship with the Lord.
You would proclaim the tenets of the god they worship in ignorance.
Bart would tell them they are religious extremists (acts 17:22) not worshipping the true God (17:23, 29) and call them to repentance and faith (17:30)
because Bart would see them as needing Jesus Christ as their Saviour (17:31) right now! and not in a year's time when you might (or might not DV) get around to telling them how your belief in the tenets of Jesus is really the culmination of true Islam.

Bottom line? Will you evangelize or proselytize?
Steve

Anonymous said...

Steve,

1. To correct someone's misunderstandings about who Jesus is necessitates declaring the truth of who He is.
2. I proclaim to Muslims that there is only one God, the Creator of the heavens and earth and that there is only one mediator between God and man and He is the Messiah Jesus.
3. I proclaim to Muslims that the Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
4. I proclaim to Muslims that He was buried and then raised on the third day.
5. I proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation.
6. And to all who will listen, this is proclaimed the FIRST time we meet.

I assure you that I clearly declare the Truth to Muslims. I have been considered overly evangelistic by some! Those who know me and have served with me will testify to this as well.

Perhaps you would like more clarification?

May His glorious face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

Oh...you only wanted to consider MONOTHEISTIC religions. OK, here you go. God has a lot in common with the deity of that religion, too—nearly as many things as He has in common with the God of Islam (monotheistic system, Creator God, etc.). :-)

Are you saying that only polytheistic gods are false gods?

Steve said...

aaaaaah so ME you do NOT subscribe to the camel method in all its fulness!! then what's the beef?
:)
I have to deal with missos that DO subscribe to the camel method. Some believe there is NO difference between Islam and Christianity with regard to where its adherents will spend eternity (they being universalists)... except ours is a nicer way socially.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Will you be answering the questions for consideration?

His peace be with you,
From the Middle East

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

Regarding your second question, again you miss the point. I know my wife, yet I learn more about her every day. Had I once been married to another woman (let's say I was a widower), then there very well could be an occasion when I would meet a new wife. Although you could refer to either as "Mrs. Barber" or by the titular label "Bart's wife," they remain two distinct persons.

The One True God has revealed Himself in Old and New Testaments. He has given us a name for Himself. He has come to us in the flesh. Islam has not developed in isolation from God's self-revelation and incarnation—Mohammed knew of these things, deliberately rejected them, and asserted Allah to be someone other than the God revealed in the Bible.

Thus, Christianity is not a clarification of Islam, a cousin to Islam, a corollary to Islam, or a corrective to Islam (I feel a little Adrian Rogers coming upon me in my alliteration here). Christianity is wholly other than Islam. To become a Christian necessarily entails ceasing to be a Muslim. It means leaving behind a false god for the One True God.

The long list of concepts that you have listed, you need not leave behind. I think Paul did a great job at this point in Athens. He said, essentially, "You Athenians have this temple to an unknown god. In some ways, the true God is like this god you ignorantly worship. But the true God does not live in a temple made by people. And God is not going to tolerate your ignorance forever. It is time for you to acknowledge Him."

Paul didn't jettison any of the concepts, but he did reject the person of the Greek temple and direct the Greeks to drop their false gods and embrace a different God—the One True God Yahweh.

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

These things take time. A little patience.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Please read the comment stream. My "beef" has nothing to do with the Camel method or Bart's evaluation of it and the new guidelines/policies.

You said:
Some believe there is NO difference between Islam and Christianity with regard to where its adherents will spend eternity (they being universalists)... except ours is a nicer way socially.

It is unfortunate that anyone would believe such a thing. Even orthodox Muslims would never say such a thing!!

Peace to you,
From the Middle East

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

With regard to your three hypotheticals, Jews actually are worshipping the same God as we, although "not according to knowledge." That is, we accept the Old Testament and know that Yahweh is the only God and is He whom we serve. Furthermore, and most importantly, in the Old Testament we see that God Himself has verified that these people have indeed identified the correct God. If we accept the Old Testament, we must acknowledge that Old Testament Judaism is the worship of the same God whom we worship.

Regarding a Deist, I confess that I have never seen one come to Christ and am entirely ignorant of the best evangelistic methodology in presenting the gospel to Deists. Nevertheless, I'm willing to conjecture that a Deist needs the same sort of confrontation that a Muslim requires. The deity proclaimed by a Deist is not our God.

Regarding your hypothetical American, you've not given me enough information for me to know whom this American means to indicate when he says "God." I find the sentiment that you have offered up to be not so much a statement about who God is as it is a statement about what God might or might not do. If this is coming from an American who is an adherent of the Bahai religion, then I would put that person into precisely the same category of someone who needs to abandon a false god and come to know God.

Now you can answer mine: What constitutes a false god?

Anonymous said...

Bart,

You said:
"The One True God has revealed Himself in Old and New Testaments. He has given us a name for Himself. He has come to us in the flesh. Islam has not developed in isolation from God's self-revelation and incarnation—Mohammed knew of these things, deliberately rejected them, and asserted Allah to be someone other than the God revealed in the Bible."

The above statement may represent the root issue in our conversation. That issue being that you misunderstand Islam. Muhammad never asserted that Allah is someone other than the God revealed in the Bible. Rather he affirmed the Bible as an accurate representation of who the Creator is but then added to it. He thought that his teachings were in line with those of Moses, John the Baptist and Jesus! (Incidentally, the only recorded influence that Muhammad had from Christians in his lifetime was that of heretical sects ... what a shame!) Thus I submit to you that becoming a Christian means to turn from a faulty way of “getting to God” and embracing the redemption that is found only in Jesus.

You said:
"Regarding your second question, again you miss the point. I know my wife, yet I learn more about her every day."

Thank you for the clarification. Let’s go with your illustration: Even if you were not married to your wife, she would still be the same person. Had you not made a covenant with her, she would still be the same person. Even if you saw her from afar and thought that she was very different than she truly is, she would still be the same person. Whether or not you have a relationship with her or even what your perceptions of her are does not change the truth about who she is. In the same way, Muslims look at the Creator from afar, they even make some assumptions about Him that are not true. However, this does not change who the Creator is. The Creator is the Creator! It seems as if you are unintentionally making Him subject to the perceptions of people. The question is not whether or not God is Allah for the concept of a Creator who is holy is evident to all (Romans 1). Rather, the question, in the case of Muslims, is how to be acceptable to the One who created them.

You said:
"With regard to your three hypotheticals, Jews actually are worshipping the same God as we, although "not according to knowledge." That is, we accept the Old Testament and know that Yahweh is the only God and is He whom we serve. Furthermore, and most importantly, in the Old Testament we see that God Himself has verified that these people have indeed identified the correct God. If we accept the Old Testament, we must acknowledge that Old Testament Judaism is the worship of the same God whom we worship."

And this does not apply to Muslims who affirm the Bible as the Word of God? Again, they have added to it and are certainly not loyal subjects of the King, but they do affirm the Bible! If Muslims are identifying themselves with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ... why in the world are we telling them they have the wrong God rather than proclaiming to them how to become one of His people?

Again, Jews do not accept Jesus’ divinity or even triune nature of God. Therefore, by your standard, they are not worshipping the same God ... for “to be the same person, you must be precisely the same instance of a person.”

His peace be with you,
From the Middle East

PS -- False god = a god among a plurality of gods and/or any created thing

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

Normally, I would immediately concede that someone "from the Middle East" was much more the expert in Islam than I could possibly be. Yet I find myself perplexed when I read statements like "Muhammad never asserted that Allah is someone other than the God revealed in the Bible. Rather he affirmed the Bible as an accurate representation of who the Creator is but then added to it." I've never lived in the Middle East, but I have read the Qur'an. You know, the book that flatly states that God could never have a son. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is God. Muhammad asserted that Allah is not Jesus Christ. Therefore, Muhammad most certainly did assert that Allah is someone other than the God revealed in the Bible.

Bart Barber said...

My son sitting next to me hit "Publish" before I wished. Forgive me for breaking this comment into multiple posts.

Bart Barber said...

...continued...

So, although I recognize your closer proximity and greater expertise in this subject, I nevertheless recognize other people to have even greater expertise than you. Actual adherents of Islam assert tahrif of the text of the Torah and gospels. So, just as Mormons claim to be followers of the biblical God, but are not because they have redefined and revised the biblical concept of who God is, Muslims have rejected the biblical witness to who God is, having rejected what the Bible actually says in favor of the supposed text of a conjectural Bible.

This is the difference between Jews and Muslims. With regard to Jews, we can say, "The God revealed in your scriptures is precisely the God whom we proclaim." With regard to Muslims, we cannot say this. The Qur'an is not a medium of special revelation. The Qur'an does not accept the Bible as its text stands today (Surah 3 verse 78). The Qur'an pointedly refutes some of the central teachings of the Bible. Accepting the God revealed in the Bible required rejecting the god revealed in the Qur'an.

This is not a matter of God being changed by people's perceptions of Him. This is a simple objective reading of the holy books of three religions. Two of those religions have holy books that are genuinely inspired inerrant revelations of that God. One of those religions has a book that is an misleading work of human origin that contradicts the teachings of the other two books. Every unbelieving Jew has rejected the God of his own faith's scriptures. Every believing Christian Jew has come to embrace the God of his scriptures. Every MBB has rejected the God of the Islamic scriptures to come to embrace the God of the Old and New testaments.

Thus, in my illustration, the "wife" is the God revealed in the Bible. Muslims accept a different god revealed in a different Bible—the uncorrupted one that nobody has ever seen—and further revealed in the Qur'an. Your illustration is interesting, but does not accurately reflect this situation.

I think I have answered your third objection while answering the first two.

I would define a false god as any god other than the God revealed in the Old and New Testaments. The definition that you have asserted is circular (at the "any created thing" point. The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" folks assert that the spaghetti monster is creator, not created. When you assert that something is the creator, you have necessarily asserted that it is not any created thing. So, your definition falls back to simply the distinction between monotheism and polytheism.

Finally, I would assert again that your drawing the line at monotheism/polytheism in defining a false god is an action of your own personal fiat and completely without biblical foundation. Many assert that Hare Krishna is a monotheistic religion. Is Krishna not a false god?

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Thank you for continually being civil in this discussion. I appreciate your passion for the Scriptures as well as you ability to discuss them in a respectful manner. Stateside doesn’t always mean not busy, but here is an attempt (albeit rushed) to respond to your response!

You said:
"The Bible says that Jesus Christ is God. Muhammad asserted that Allah is not Jesus Christ. Therefore, Muhammad most certainly did assert that Allah is someone other than the God revealed in the Bible."
and later:
"I would define a false god as any god other than the God revealed in the Old and New Testaments."

Notes:
1. Does your definition of a false god then include all who believe in the Bible as worshipping the same God regardless of interpretation? Does it include 7th Day Adventists? They claim the authority of the Bible! Does it include modalists? Does it include universalists? All of whom affirm the Scriptures but poorly exegete them?
2. Does your definition of a false god also exclude all who do not believe the whole Bible (as this is the only way to get the full picture of the Creator) from worshipping the same God? Careful, this would include Jews.
3. It seems that you have absolutely no common ground with anyone other than a Christian. This statement includes Jews as they have rejected the New Testament and interpret the Old Testament in a far different way than you and I. While it would be nice to say that they have rejected their own God, in your way of thinking, if the belief system is not the same, the god is different. And, when they reject the New Testament, they are creating a new god for themselves.

You said:
"This is the difference between Jews and Muslims. With regard to Jews, we can say, "The God revealed in your scriptures is precisely the God whom we proclaim." With regard to Muslims, we cannot say this. The Qur'an is not a medium of special revelation. The Qur'an does not accept the Bible as its text stands today (Surah 3 verse 78). The Qur'an pointedly refutes some of the central teachings of the Bible. Accepting the God revealed in the Bible required rejecting the god revealed in the Qur'an."
and
"Muslims accept a different god revealed in a different Bible—the uncorrupted one that nobody has ever seen—and further revealed in the Qur'an."

Notes
1. I’m impressed that you know of tahreef. But the questions of tahreef is not as cut-and-dry as you have presented it. Let’s just start at the surface level. First, I would ask that you read the Qur’anic passage again. What it says is that the people of the Book corrupted the Book with their tongues (sometimes this is left out in the English “translations” that tend to be more commentary that translation.) Vast difference between verbal corruption and corrupted text. Muhammad was illiterate and relied upon Jews and Christians to read to him the Scriptures ... the corruption referred to in the Qur’an is a reference to the times they lied to him about what the Scriptures said. There are Hadith that affirm this as well. I know of Muslims who have become so convinced that the Bible is the word of God that they distributed dozens of copies prior to their own conversion! But if you think they worship a different god ... I guess this would be of no use in getting a copy of the Scriptures into the hands of a Muslim who has never heard the Gospel.
2. The Qur’an actually does accept the Bible as it stands today. Unfortunately the mind-set of most Muslims is that only the learned can interpret it ... always a dangerous proposition. I wish you could sit with me and watch Muslims faces as I point out (using a combination of logic, parables and even the Qur’an) how the Bible cannot be corrupt -- those who have ears to hear get excited and ask for a copy of the Bible in their own language!
3. Because Islam has for it’s foundation Judaism and Christianity, I do not accept your premise that Christianity and Islam are not related. On the contrary, it seems apparent that Islam is a perversion of Christianity. So much so that one of the most gifted IMB evangelists (not to mention brilliant missiologist and former seminary professor) concludes that Islam is the “New Testament virus.” Roman Catholicism being the “Old Testament virus.”
4. Please define for me, from your perspective, the “central teachings” on who the Creator is that must be affirmed so that someone will be worshipping the One True God. Just as we have minimum standards on what makes one a Christian as well as minimum standards for being a Baptist, what are the minimums on theology proper?

You said:
"So, your definition falls back to simply the distinction between monotheism and polytheism.
Finally, I would assert again that your drawing the line at monotheism/polytheism in defining a false god is an action of your own personal fiat and completely without biblical foundation"

Notes:
1. I read once a system for breaking up apologetics/worldview/common ground. The purpose was to show where we must start in terms of evangelism/apologetics with different folks. It went something like this:

First Level -- that there is objective truth (we would differ with postmoderns here)

Second Level -- that there is a Creator (we would differ with hindus, etc here but have common ground with Jews & Muslims)

Third Level -- the Way to that Creator is only found in the Bible (we would differ with Jews and Musilms here)

Fourth Level -- acceptance of Jesus as the Way of reconciliation with the Creator

2. So, yes, if someone affirms a Supreme Creator of the heavens and earth. I will encourage them to find out all they can about Him. And then, I will proclaim to them the Image of the invisible God!
3. My definition of a false god is grounded in Scripture. One example: ALL understand the Creator exists as Paul clearly states in Romans chapter one. This being the case, it is our responsibility to build upon this knowledge and proclaim the Way to the Creator.
4. Please show me where in the Scriptures you find men of God rejecting others’ belief in the Creator (even in the presence of misunderstandings of who He is, how to get to Him, etc). You might check out the Apostles interaction with Jews for this ... of course your answer to this question is going to depend heavily upon on your answer to number four in the previous set of notes!

Finally, you should know that after my first interaction with Muslims, I felt exactly as you do about whether or not Muslims worship the Creator of the universe or a different god. It was only with hours of studying Islamic theology (not just from Christian authors), the Qur’an, the Hadith, Arab worldview (much of Islamic theology is based upon this very specific worldview), hours upon hours of interaction with Muslims, hours of prayer, hours of searching of the Scripture and hours of interaction with other missionaries to Muslims that I have come to these conclusions.

Again, I would like to commend you on your peaceful attitude, which often seems to be lost in the “Baptist Blog World.” And I do eagerly await you definition and biblical references to the last question.

May you live in His presence today,
From the Middle East

Ben Macklin said...

Bart -



I'm not sure I can say that Jews worship the same God. The “knowledge” in Romans 10:2 is to be contrasted with ignorance, and ignorance leads to condemnation (Romans 10:3-4) since they “do not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

To worship God means to ascribe to Him the supremacy worthy of His character and nature (my off-the-cuff definition). If Hebrews 1:1-3 is the inerrant word of God, which I accept it to be, then to deny the person of Christ is to deny God. I know that jews and muslims have some historical connection with our faith, and jews much more than muslims, but I must acknowledge that Peter's reference in Acts 10:34-35 is an accurate picture of the shift that the early church saw in the working of God. God receives individuals who receive His Son as Lord. Conversely, He rejects those who deny Jesus as Lord in their heart (Matthew 7:21 ff.).

To worship the fully revealed God is to be saved by that very God. If jews worship the same God then how can they be damned without Christ? Jewish worship has many historical connections with our worship, but its soteriological connections terminate in the ineffectual law.

Can they be saved? Absolutely.
Do they worship God? No
Whom do they worship? A shadow whose substance is Christ.
Do Jews need to be evangelized like all other peoples? Yes, or they will die in their sins.

Maybe I'm wrong, but worship as I believe the Bible means it to be is a soteriological reference, not an historical or ethnic one.

Ben Macklin

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

I'm in a bit of a quandary as to how to reply to your last comment. I have seen many exchanges on the Internet in which evangelists to Muslims have argued for exactly your point (i.e., that the Qur'an asserts tahrif al-ma'na but not tahrif al-lafz). My experience up to this point suggests that Muslims generally assert the actual corruption of the text, while non-Muslims (esp. evangelists to Muslims) assert merely the corruption of the meaning. I have no desire to throw out on the Internet for all of humanity an argument in favor of the Muslims contra those trying to win them to faith in Christ!

I will only pose this question rhetorically—who should be regarded as a more reliable authority regarding what Islam teaches, outsiders who have studied Islam, or Muslims themselves? Since I do not read Arabic and am not an expert in Islamic studies, that is precisely the choice that I face in this discussion. I'm inclined to think that Muslims know what they believe.

Now to your questions. I'll address Ben in this reply, since the discussions are interrelated. When I'm speaking of Judaism in this thread, I have in my mind a reference to Old Testament Judaism. There are Jews today who are atheists—a great many of them (see the story in my upcoming post). The Old Testament speaks of the God whom we worship. I am not asserting that Jews are not in need of salvation; I am merely indicating that the Jewish scriptures, when they speak of God, are referring to the same deity of whom we speak. Likewise, lost people who attend my church understand to whom I refer when I say "God," even if they have not come to know Him personally.

So, what constitutes the line between mere rebellion against the true God on the one hand and allegiance to a false god (which constitutes a form of rebellion against the true God) on the other hand?

We do not identify God (as though we could). Rather, God has identified Himself to us. His revelation of Himself has taken place in the Old and New Testaments. Those books identify God relationally and personally. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the one who led Israel out from Egypt and gave the law to Moses.

Muslims, when they speak of God, are speaking of whatever spoke to Muhammad. Whatever spoke to Muhammad is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. Yet this is the god that they worship. They explicitly state this in the shahadah. You correctly note that they believe the God of Muhammad to have been the one to appear to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet they are mistaken. Whatever influenced Muhammad, that is not God, yet that is what they worship.

Jews, when they speak of God, are speaking of the One who spoke to Abraham, Moses, Elijah, etc. And indeed, that is the One True God. Until they acknowledge His incarnation, death, and resurrection, they cannot be saved, but the God to whom they point in the Old Testament is truly God, and there is no other.

This discussion has been invigorating for me, and has pressed me to express my thoughts with greater precision and reflection. Thank you for engaging me in this discussion.

volfan007 said...

bart,

your last response is almost exactly what i was about to say. :)

and, this post and comment thread has been most enlightening and interesting. thanks bro.

david

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I am with Brother David on this. Your last comment is the reason I had to drop by the side. I simply could not express what I believed to the extent that you did.

I had the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but when I was instructed, by someone who knows the arguments better than myself--mind you, I had to throw up my hands and yell, I quit. It is invigorating to see this discussion go back and forth. It certainly places the issues out there.

Blessings,
Tim

Anonymous said...

Bart,

I must admit that all of this talk about declaring the Gospel to Muslims has me ready to head back overseas! It has be invigorating for me as well.

"We do not identify God (as though we could). Rather, God has identified Himself to us."

Agreed. We learn of, experience and are obedient to Him.

"His revelation of Himself has taken place in the Old and New Testaments."

Agreed ... to an extent. I am positive that you will concede “general revelation” as well. That is that nature and moral law both reveal the One True God of the Bible while not providing enough revelation for salvation. This being the case, it is entirely possible for one to attempt to worship Creator God .... but in vain ... as his worship is not acceptable to God.

"Those books identify God relationally and personally."

Agreed. They define who He is. I think you are missing the point here. So, allow me elaborate just a bit ;^)

You encounter a difficulty here if you state that those who affirm the Old and New Testaments are worshipping (or attempting to worship) the One True God. The reason for this is that you have included 7th Day Adventists, Jews, many universalists, a number of cults, etc, etc. They would claim their authority is the Bible. But in reality, they allow other things to influence their understanding of the Bible (ie the writings of Ellen White, human emotion, cult leaders, rabbinic literature, etc). You would say that they are lost. (I would agree by the way). The difference? Interpretation of the Scriptures. You would say that they do not understand the revelation of God. You would say that when they speak of God, they misunderstand “the essence, character, past actions, present relationships and future plans of the One True God.” Here’s the rub: Muslims do the same (even to the point that they say they believe in the Bible).

All of those mentioned above distort God’s nature (including Muslims). In short, they misunderstand the His nature and thus put their trust in a false Gospel. Does this mean they believe in a different god? In your way of thinking .... some do and some don’t. One group misses the essence, character, past actions, present relationships and future plans of God, affirms at least a portion of the Scriptures but at the same time, in practice, makes the Bible subservient to something else. But, they affirm the Bible, so they must be worshipping the same God. The second group misses the essence, character, past actions, present relationships and future plans of God, affirms the Scriptures but at the same time, in practice, makes it subservient to something else .... Yet they are attempting to worship a different god? I don’t accept this.

We do not worship the Bible. We worship the Creator. The Bible (as well as general revelation) teaches us who He is. If someone gets to the point that they understand there is one Creator, supreme over all of creation and that He does have a moral law ... it’s time to proclaim how they can be restored to His presence. (Even if they get to this point ONLY through general revelation). In reading the Qur’an and the Hadith, it seems pretty clear to me that Muhammad got to the point that he understood there is one Creator, that He has a law and it is not something to take lightly.

I am known by a different name in Arabic than I am in English. Yet I am still the same person. Because I am a father, in some Arabic speaking countries I am known as “Father of ....” On this blog, I am known by the name “From the Middle East.” In spite of this, I am still the same person. If you speak to people in some places, they would say that I am not a nice person. If you speak to people in other other places, they would say that I am a nice person. Neither changes the truth of who I am. Some say my eyes are blue. Others, who see me from a distance would say that they are green. Yet they are still blue and if someone says, “Do you know that nice, green-eyed foreigner who speaks Arabic you know Father of ...?” Even though his description of me is not perfect, he is still describing me. Would you say to the man asking the question, “No, I know a different person, his name is From the Middle East, he is not nice and his eyes are blue. Completely different person.” Of course, we need a little something to go on. If someone said, “Do you know that handsome latino that goes by Pedro?” Even if they were referring to me, you would have no way of knowing. This was my question to you in my last post.

So, we need a lowest common denominator (this is why we have doctrinal statements). I tried to employ this concept in asking you what the minimums are that someone has to believe about the Creator for them to be attempting to worship the One True Creator God. Your response was “They have to believe the Bible.” While this was addressed in one way above, allow me to address it in a different manner now: I don’t agree. But this time on another basis. And that is that people don’t just have to believe the Bible. The Bible actually says something. And we have to believe what it says. We have to believe the “stories, truths, etc” found in the Bible. If someone says they believe in the Bible, but reject what it says (like Jews) ... well, they don’t get it. But the converse is true as well. If someone finds something to be true without ever reading the Bible ... it’s still true. The Bible is not the end ... Who it teaches us about is. At the very minimum Muslims do agree that there is one Creator and that He has given us a Law to live by. In Romans one Paul declared that those with this understanding should give glory to the Creator. So, I will continue to call Muslims to repent from trying to please the Creator and to put their faith in Jesus the Messiah thereby becoming acceptable to Him.

"Muslims, when they speak of God, are speaking of whatever spoke to Muhammad. Whatever spoke to Muhammad is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. Yet this is the god that they worship. They explicitly state this in the shahadah. You correctly note that they believe the God of Muhammad to have been the one to appear to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet they are mistaken."

“There is no god but God. Muhammad is his prophet/apostle.” The creed makes two statements. The first is that the only god that exists is God. The statement implies the Creator of the heavens and the Earth (he took the very concept from Judaism and Christianity). The statement also implies that the god spoken of is the God of the prophets who came before Muhammad (ie Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The second statement is that Muhammad is the prophet of the One True God. I would disagree with the second statement but affirm the first. You disagree with the first statement in that you believe this Creator that Muhammad speaks of is not really God. But affirm the second statement in that Muhammad could be a prophet of this other god. Again, I rely on Paul’s teaching in regards to this.

Brother, from the end of your last post, it seems that you are ready to wrap this one up. I’m fine with that as well. My brain is dead for the week and I'm ready to eat!

If you want to keep this dialogue open ... maybe next week sometime.

When all is said and done, my hope is that we will both continue to plead before the Almighty King on behalf of Muslims around the world. May they turn from darkness to Light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified in the Messiah.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May His peace be yours in abundance,
From the Middle East

PS - While I understand your taking the party line from Muslims over my teaching that the Qur'an does not state the Bible is corrupted in word ... In the months before we came stateside, I was batting over 50% in conversations less than 15 minutes long on this topic with Muslims. Meaning that greater than half admitted that the Bible could not be corrupt. About half of those asked for Bibles!

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

Yes, the Turkey is upon us. I must disengage either from this forum or from my marriage. I choose to disengage from this forum. But only after this post. I leave to you the last word (How O'Reillyish of me!) ;-)

I'm not so sure that one can reasonably dissect the shahadah—although there are two sentences, each provides the context for the other. With you, if I am given the option to take the first sentence out of its context, disregarding the second in interpreting the first, I could affirm the statement that there is no God but God (indeed, I think I have uttered something much akin to that statement at some point in this dialogue).

But I think it would be inappropriate to do so. Certainly I would not want anyone exegeting the Bible in such a fashion. I believe that one must take the two sentences together as they are offered. That is what I have sought to do.

But perhaps here is some common ground. The Camel is the context out of which this discussion arose. In its text, this book does not call upon the prospective convert to step away from the second part of the shahadah. Certainly it would not be Christian to affirm both parts of the Islamic creed?

Anonymous said...

Bart,

How's this for a last word:

You said:
Certainly it would not be Christian to affirm both parts of the Islamic creed?

Notes:
We agree!

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
(God's peace be upon you and His mercy and blessings),
From the Middle East

volfan007 said...

anonymous,

may your camel not slobber on you, and may the sands of the desert not get in your shorts. now, it must be midnite on the oasis...put your camel to bed. :)

seriously, my bro., may the Lord bless you and watch over you in whatever part of the world that you're in. may He give you souls for your labor.

david

Bennett Willis said...

I offer my congratulations to all who have participated (and continue to participate) in this thread. This is the sort of discussion that is worth reading and one that will probably clarify for all who wrote (and many who read) some point or other.

It is probably the most column inches I have ever seen that has stayed on the subject and not gotten "tacky" in some way or other.

May God bless.

Bennett Willis

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bennett Willis,

I agree with your last statement.

Brother/Sister FME,

Thank you for that dialog. As we kick off Lottie Moon beginning 12/2 I will lead our prayer teams to remember you and your family specifically. I do know that you are blue eyed, so you cannot be the Latino Pedro. But I will share with our body that you are serving in a Muslim environment and need our prayers as you seek to advance the Kingdom.

Brother Bart,

Thanks for just being Bart. Seeing you are from Arkansas and your wife's brother is living in Mississippi, I can only imagine the family gathering you will be part of. (I will give you $5 to slap your brother-in-law.:>))I'm kidding Matthew.

Brother David,

Being from Tennessee I know that you guys have already substituted the turkey for either that thing on Wes' blog or a opossum.

To all,

Share with our Lord this Thanksgiving day all that you are thankful for. Also, do not forget the Missionaries that are not able to share with their biological families. Remember them this day. Ask our Father to be special to that M that is especially homesick today.

Blessings,
Tim

volfan007 said...

all of you out there just need to be thankful that the pilgrims had turkey on that first thanksgiving day instead of coon or possum.

david :)

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, thanks for the post and the string of comments on "The Camel" and Islam. Keep up the good work.

ben macklin said...

Bart -

Very Good response. We agree! Hope you had a great thanksgiving.

Ben