Tonight I have just completed reading "An Assessment of The Camel" by Daniel Akin, David Nelson, and Bruce Ashford. After having read the assessment, I am puzzled by several points.
If I were a lawyer, if The Camel were on trial, and if this "assessment" were being offered as testimony, I would have to object, "Assumes facts not in evidence." Consider, for example, how the assessment handles the statement in The Camel, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." Akin, Nelson, and Ashford suggest alternatives for this phraseology, which they acknowledge as "problematic." They proceed to say:
We do not believe that The Camel is a fundamentally deceptive book (although there are a couple of statements that we believe need to be changed; see below). From our experience, charges of deception often rest on the fact that the Muslim evangelist using the Camel does not immediately tell everything that he believes about the Qur’an or about Muhammad. [emphasis mine]
Actually, those who critique The Camel do so not because we are quibbling over when in the book it demonstrates how an evangelist would reveal everything that he believes about the Qur'an or about Mohammed, but because the book never instructs any evangelist to do so at any point. If The Camel is not a syncretistic, heretical book, then it is something like the pilot training manual that teaches unorthodox approaches to the preflight and takeoff, and then never teaches the student how to land at all. The most important parts are completely missing, and that is The Camel's salvation! The best defense anyone has ever devised for this book is to argue that the gospel is missing from this key to "how Muslims are coming to Christ."
Akin, Nelson, and Ashford seem perfectly content, with the very gospel on the line, just to presume that everyone reading this book will easily fill in the many critical missing pieces on their own. They seem anxious to presume that Greeson himself has filled in all of those pieces. Indeed, after finding that the book does not give any indication of how Camel converts would in any way appear distinctively Christian, the authors of this assessment opine:
We find it hard to believe that Greeson is saying that Christians are not different from Muslims in any of their forms of life and worship.
I don't particularly want to believe it either. But these men are assuming facts not in evidence. At least, these facts are not in evidence for anyone who simply picks up The Camel and reads it. Perhaps if one engages in lengthy sessions of Camel apologetics in which Greeson and Garrison and whomever else explain themselves and demonstrate what fine, orthodox people they are…then, perhaps, one starts to read the book differently.
But books aren't supposed to be like that. If a personal interview with the author is required to come to understand "what he really meant to say," then why not just give a speaking tour and skip the book altogether? But here we have a book being hawked around the globe by all manner of denominational servants, and the experts in our own seminaries have to ask Greeson to explain how these "Christians" are actually any different in their life and worship from Sunnis and Shiites. How, if these learned men walk away with such profound questions, will the average reader be misled by this book?
The "assessment" seems determined to give every positive assumption to Greeson. Although The Camel includes the "Korbani Plan of Salvation" as a suggested presentation of the gospel, the assessment seems willing to assume that some other, more complete presentation of the gospel follows this "pre-evangelism." In the Mohammed section, the assessment is unwilling to evaluate the statement, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed," as deceptive, but will only conclude that this statement—and I know that if I said it, it would be a brazen lie—merely "leaves [Greeson] open to the charge that he is deceptive" (no doubt leveled by the inquisitorial accusers stigmatized later in the paper). Although there's not a single syllable uttered to a Muslim in The Camel that challenges the epistemological validity of the Qur'an, the assessment is perfectly willing to assume that The Camel "[is] not setting up the Qur'an as an epistemological authority."
And yet, the "assessment" seems determined to make every negative assumption about those who have been critical of The Camel. It presumes that The Camel's critics are simply opposed to any mention of the Qur'an, any hint of contextualization, any use of the word Allah, any bridging whatsoever. The assessment ends by giving the back of its hand to any who have criticized The Camel:
We would also want to point out that we wonder if it is not unfair for certain people to subject Greeson’s book to such intense public scrutiny for certain missteps, while leaving on the Lifeway bookshelves numerous best-selling texts (written since the “Conservative Resurgence”) in spirituality, evangelism, and discipleship that have made much larger missteps.
Well, brothers, I do not claim to have perused every word of every book on the shelves of the local Lifeway, but I do hope that you will reveal for us all the "much larger missteps" out there beyond, "I believe what the Qur'an says about Mohammed." I hope that you will identify for us the wares for sale that err much more grievously than a book instructing people in this method of (pre-)evangelism, a method specifically targeted at people who are following a false prophet in the rites of a false religion in the worship of a false god, yet a method that does so all without ever instructing the evangelist to identify the prophet, the religion, or the god as false. If such works are out there, then I will gladly make time to post about them, too—all without ceasing to tell the truth about The Camel.