A New Life for a Dead Camel in the New York Times

March 18, 2010

Just when one thinks something has been debated ad nauseum we find others take up interest.  The New York Times recently ran an article on Dr. Ergun Caner’s disagreement with The Camel Method.  This came to their attention through our podcast #21 where Dr. Caner made some bold statements and even had to apologize because his passion over rode his verbal abilities.  What is amazing is The Times did not pick up our podcast #24 where Dr. Caner was more explicit about his disagreements with The Camel Method.

We are seeing The Camel Method debated on SBC Impact where two of our contributors have tried to engage the theological side of the debate.  However, as I read the recent New York Times Op-Ed a new understanding has been presented as to the reason The Camel Method is a deceiving agent that makes it a bad “bridge”.  The author of the most recent NY Times article,  Robert Wright, (who covers culture, politics, and world affairs) points to the fact that The Camel Method’s deceitful tactics are enraging Muslims.  Mr. Wright points to the Christians that use this method as saying they are trying to get the “camel’s nose” under the Muslim tent.  Notice how he describes the deceit behind this terminology.

But a more apt etymology would involve the “camel’s nose under the tent.” The “overture” — the missionary’s initial bonding with Muslims via discussion of the Koran — is precision-engineered to undermine their allegiance to Islam.

Mr. Wright goes on to describe the problems with this kind of “wiliness”.

In some cases even the “camel’s nose” image doesn’t do justice to missionary wiliness. “Trojan Camel” might be better; some Christian missionaries call themselves Muslims — or at least muslims — because, after all, “muslim” literally means one who surrenders to God. A few have gone way undercover, growing beards and abstaining from pork.

You will notice that in the Camel Method tract it references being a “Pakka Muslim”.  This is exactly what Mr. Wright calls the “Trojan Camel”.  The Muslim community is beginning to respond to these deceiving tactics.

In Malaysia there are laws being drafted that will not allow Christians to refer to “Allah” as the God of the Christian Scriptures.  In Nigeria Christians are losing their lives because Muslims were many years in the majority but now are in the minority. In an interview with a Nigerian born cab driver, Mr. Wright found that one problem was, “American missionaries going abroad and trying to leverage the Koran against itself”.  The Op-Ed author reveals his liberal bias as he then proceeds to observe that aggressive evangelism techniques are part of this problem as well.  I am not against Christians being aggressive in their evangelism I believe we need more aggressiveness.  However, the common denominator that elicits the Muslims ire is the deceitful tactics used to win their family members.  To make one believe that he/she can still worship in the Mosque, abide within secrecy in their household, and feel they are still Muslim but now they are  Pakka Muslim, is deceitfulness plain and simple.

It seems that if we are going to present the Gospel we need to remove all appearances of deceit.  So that I can be plain.  There is nothing wrong with using the term “Allah” when one is speaking Arabic to refer to the Creator God as our Father. There is nothing wrong with using, for illustrative purposes, something from a person’s culture to point them to Jesus.  However, when one builds an entire presentation combining false documents that the Muslim culture holds as sacred with Holy Writ, that is not contextualization that is syncretism.

It seems that Dr. Caner and we here at SBC Today have found a voice of agreement in one of the last places we would suspect–the liberal media. As I heard one Brother say; ” What an ironic day we live in when liberals and Muslims are more likely to agree with us than our own IMB.” I will leave you with Mr. Wright’s closing paragraphs.  It reveals the liberal bias of the author and the heart of our differences with the Camel Method.

I’d like to be able to report that the “critics” in this headline are Christians who worry about heightening tensions and so refrain from offensive proselytizing. Alas, they’re Christians who favor assertive proselytizing but are offended by any suggestion that Muslims and Christians might worship the same god. One of them, Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lynchburg, Va., said in a recent podcast, “There’s nothing that the two gods — the god of the Koran and the god of scripture — have in common. Nothing.”

Well, to look at the bright side: Maybe that’s a basis for interfaith rapport; Caner can sit around with Malaysian Muslims and agree that they worship different gods.

Still, I like to think that their gods would beg to differ.

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rastis

I affirm that truth is truth regardless of the source. However…. we need not let pagan governments [The Malay Government in particular] dictate our terminology nor secular media convince or dissuade us from positions for or against contextualization. I think we need to settle these in-house. I don’t really think that Governments or media personalities are really qualified to sort through such nuanced discussions. The former is primarily concerned with power and stability and the latter is willing to settle for a good fight [which arguably they have found…].

In regards to “leveraging the Quran against itself”: one reason I do not use the Camel is because if I am going to go the rout of “picking a fight” I would rather be fighting over what the Bible says than what the Quran says. If I win the latter fight, I am really not much closer to convincing anyone of the truth of the gospel. One of the dangers of the Camel is talking to the wrong person who knows too much about the Quran. It is about as effective as newagers who try to re-appropriate the Bible with me. The camel has seen the most success in the far east where they do not speak Arabic.

From the Middle East

Well, to look at the bright side: Maybe that’s a basis for interfaith rapport; Caner can sit around with Malaysian Muslims and agree that they worship different gods.

Priceless!

Tim Rogers

Brother Rastis,

Your comments affirm what we are saying. The issue that I see, is that you do not personally use a presentation that you see flaws with, but you do not have a problem with others promoting this flawed presentation. That is the part that I honestly cannot agree with you on.

Brother FME,

And what is wrong with Dr. Caner agreeing with the Malaysian Muslims that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God?

Blessings,
Tim

From the Middle East

Brother Tim,

Re: your question to me – not a thing is wrong with them agreeing. I would just love to hear that discussion ;^)

Re:

The issue that I see, is that you do not personally use a presentation that you see flaws with, but you do not have a problem with others promoting this flawed presentation. That is the part that I honestly cannot agree with you on.

While this was directed at Brother Rastis, I would like to respond if you do not mind. So far as I can tell, Brother Rastis and I agree on the CAMEL method. I do not use it for the many of same the reasons he mentioned in his critique of it a couple of weeks ago. But neither do I use FAITH, EE or the Four Spiritual Laws – they are all flawed from my perspective as well. So I do not use them. But what I, nor Brother Rastis, have not done is to call any of these methods heresy. Do they have flaws? Sure, but do those flaws amount to heresy? No. This is what Brother Ergun has done. This is what you have done. Unless the method comprises one of the core doctrines of our faith, I am unwilling to call it heresy.

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

rastis

My reticence regarding the camel has more to do with “style” or methodology rather than theology. I would never call the writers or practitioners of the book heretics, arians, or liars. I use and agree with many of the ideas [contextualized language, quranic bridging], I just don’t like silver-bullet, bait-and-switch presentations. That does put me slightly at odds with the Camel, as it does with the majority of evangelism programs.

Tim Rogers

Brothers Rastis and FTME,

Thank you for presenting the exactness of our disagreements. However, that exactness presents the very issues that we see the problems.

First, you say there is not heresy being presented. In the Koran it references Isa and it references Allah. While we understand that “Isa” is the reference to Jesus, we also understand that Jesus that the Muslims speak of is not the same Jesus that Christians speak of. We see this same issue within the western context. The Mormons speak of Jesus Christ, but we would be hard pressed to speak to the Mormons and present their Jesus as the one that died for our sins. It is heresy to deny Jesus is God. (1 John 2:22) This is the very denial of both, the Mormons and the Muslims. We now have Christians accepting the Muslims understanding of Isa as the same Jesus we as Christians believe in. It is heresy to teach such.

So I can be plain. I am not calling anyone a heretic or a liar. I am saying that to teach the Camel Method is to teach a heresy and to deceive the Muslims.

Brother FTME,

Please, help me understand where FAITH, EE, or the Four Spiritual Laws have any theological flaws that would make the practitioner present anything like a false Jesus?

Blessings,
Tim
Blessings,
Tim

rastis

Thank you for bringing up the Mormon example. It is a great analogy. In spite of our theological differences with the Mormons, we still use the same terminology. We even use one of the same books. When I talk with Mormons, would it make sense to start using Hebrew and Greek names for God and Jesus so they know we are talking about something different? Life is too short. I use our/their names and then describe him in a biblical fashion. I even, on occasion, quote from doctrine and covenants and the book of mormon, when it suits the occasion. Showing someone how their beliefs are self contradictory is a beneficial step in removing the stumps and rocks so that the seed of the gospel can be planted. In most faith traditions, the modern practitioners have added to the original beliefs. If you can show them from their own writings that the very things they use in defense are contradictory to the founders and authoritative writings, then you have helped open a door.

“We now have Christians accepting the Muslims understanding of Isa as the same Jesus we as Christians believe in.”
Can you give me an example of this? Not even Greeson does that. He is very clear on the differences. After all, he calls Jesus God in the Camel… I don’t think that is a Muslim understanding of who Jesus is. Neither do they think he is the savior of the world or the final prophet.

“So I can be plain. I am not calling anyone a heretic or a liar. I am saying that to teach the Camel Method is to teach a heresy and to deceive the Muslims.”
Really splitting hairs there… What is one who practices teaching heresy? What is one who practices deception? Pretty sure that is a lying heretic…

Even if you do not personally call these people lying heretics directly [though I think apophatically you do], this blog has been the source of much controversy giving air time to those who do call them heretics directly [and arians and liars].

This is a nuanced issue. I respect that there is more than one position on the camel and issues in the camel. It doesn’t really bother me that people hold a negative view on the camel. My problem is that in spite of how nuanced and complicated the discussion is, those who don’t like the camel are very “black and white” about it–hence the great ease with which they brand biblically faithful missionaries.

Tim Rogers

Brother Rastis,

Let’s look at the Mormon variances. Why would one begin with Greek or Hebrew. One would begin with the understanding of “who is Jesus”? Once that comes into play one will ask if Jesus has siblings from God-the-Father. That is where one would show the differences. While we use the same book–The Holy Bible–we do not use the same authority. We use the Bible only while Mormons place more emphasis in the Book of Mormons. Huge difference. We never approach a Mormon and say; “This is what the Book of Mormons says and you know, I am a Mormon” That is exactly what is taught in The Camel Method. You take the Koran and say, you know I am a Muslim. However, I want you to know how to be a Pakka Muslim.

No one has called anyone a heretic, or an arian. Dr. Caner did allow his passion to over-ride his verbal abilities and for that he apologized to Dr. Rankin (both privately and publicly) for his use of the term ‘liar’. Now, let me know where one has said our missionaries were heretis or arians. We have made it explicitly known that they were Christians but they were teaching heresy either unknowingly or because they know different but are pragmatically driven. A heretic is one knowingly teaching heresy with no regard to changing their position because they truly believe in the heresy that is being taught is sound doctrine.

Blessings,
Tim

rastis

I am not trying to downplay the differences between true Christians and Mormons. Many people want us to use different names and ideas for working in the Muslim world than the concepts which exist within culture [not that we leave them there, but we do start there]. In the Mormon world, we keep all of our own lingo and dont do what many CBBs do in using different lingo. That was the purpose of bringing up Greek and Hebrew names. In spite of the gross theological differences with Mormons, we keep the same terminology. We make our “hill” over what that means.

Dr Caner has called the Camel heresy. Also, on your show the other day, he called it arianism. It was in the same breath that he was recounting his apology–which made it ring a little hollow for some. We have all had moments where we spout off–I am no exception. Dr Caner appears to have made a habit of it, and you guys seem to give him an uncritical platform for doing so.

I cannot imagine how demoralizing that must be for those serving in the far east… That is part of the reason I wrote the two posts I did; it is ok for people to disagree on this, I just hope we can all be more understanding and gracious.

Tim Rogers

Brother Rastis,

You are correct as to what Dr. Caner said. However you are wrong in your taking what he said out of context to charge him with making accusations on the M’s serving. He made it plain he was not charging anyone with being a heretic or falling into an Arian camp. He said plainly that he was saying The Camel Method expressed a teaching that was heresy because it fell into the realm of the Arian camp.

Blessings,
Tim

From the Middle East

Brother Tim,

You asked:

Please, help me understand where FAITH, EE, or the Four Spiritual Laws have any theological flaws that would make the practitioner present anything like a false Jesus?

Apologies for the poor communication. I did not mean to insinuate they have theological flaws. They are fine beginning points for those content with canned methods and/or bait-and-switch… just as the CAMEL is.

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

rastis

I didn’t take his comments out of context. I said “Dr Caner has called the Camel heresy. Also, on your show the other day, he called it arianism.” I never said he called anyone in particular that, but it seems we are hair splitting over semantics if we think that we can call something heresy without calling the practitioner a heretic. That really is just the apophatic way of saying the same thing. If you definition of a heretic is “one knowingly teaching heresy with no regard to changing their position because they truly believe in the heresy that is being taught is sound doctrine,” then, according to that definition, Greeson and Dr. Rankin would fall under that condemnation. They are not naively teaching/affirming this method. They have been in many conversations with many high ranking SBC theologians discussing the strengths and weaknesses of this system [Some agree, some don’t]. Again, there is such a fine line between calling something a heresy and someone a heretic, and the issue is so deep and nuanced that those who are so quick to pull out the labels in any context is acting prematurely if not immaturely.

The claim about demoralization is a separate claim. Most people in high positions–and Dr Caner is not the only one–do not think about the collateral damage their grandstanding causes.

Again, I affirm that there are valid concerns which I can definitely understand why someone would not want to use or even reject as invalid the camel method. But those people seem to not see that there is an equally valid position on the other side.

Maybe I just come from a radical tribe where we burn heretics rather than support them with CP dollars….

FTME

Brother Tim,

You said:

A heretic is one knowingly teaching heresy with no regard to changing their position because they truly believe in the heresy that is being taught is sound doctrine.

and:

We have made it explicitly known that they [missionaries] were Christians but they were teaching heresy either unknowingly or because they know different but are pragmatically driven.

and:

Now, let me know where one has said our missionaries were heretis or arians.

It seems you just did. To say to Dr. Rankin, “You are not a heretic, but you teach heresy” is either to say he does not believe what he is teaching or it is logically incoherent… akin to something like “I’m not a sinner though I do sin” or “he’s not a murder, but he does commit murder.” If some folks are teaching heresy (e.g. Arianism), are confronted with it (and the IMB has been) and then they continue doing so, there are heretics. And you have a duty to disfellowship such brothers.

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

Tim Rogers

Brothers Rastis and FTME,

I can see we have just entered the world of circular argument. I say I didn’t you say I did. We apparently are not going to convince the other of our position and thus it is useless to continue this line of debate. Thus, I will concede to you that in your heart you believe I am calling the M’s heretic and arians, if you will concede to me that in my heart I do not believe we have any M’s that are heretics or arians.

Blessings,
Tim

rastis

I now have a greater appreciation for how you guys have reached your conclusions on the Camel and contextualization issues. It is all starting to make sense now.

Peace

Tim Rogers

Brother Rastis,

I guess my question to you is two fold. First, do you concede my position in comment #13? Second, if you do, why are you persistent to position me as being feelings based in my argument. I honestly have tried to say, my statements are based on disagreements I have concerning information contained within the Camel Method. I have honestly seen you try to engage it also. But to know hit me with that last barb, I believe is a unfair.

Blessings,
Tim

rastis

I was trying to be more funny/sarcastic than barb-like. My apologies.

I will only concede the point if you guys quit calling it heresy. After all, if yall weren’t doing that, there would be no need for a defense/rebuttal in the first place. There are many theological positions with which I disagree. Take the end times, for example. However, I simply believe those other views to which I do not subscribe to be wrong and incomplete or perhaps a wrong interpretation. I don’t start going after those beliefs as heresy. There are various positions on how far some are willing to go with quranic bridging. Some people go to far and while I might think they are wrong, or that their position is dangerous, I will only call something heresy if it formally rejects or contradicts a doctrine which is essential to one’s salvation.

I still seriously have a problem with what I view to be a false dichotomy between what someone teaches/believes and what they are. Maybe I am from a tribe of simpletons, but one who practices homosexuality is a homosexual, one who steals is a thief, one who lies is a liar, one who teaches heresy a heretic, and one who formally teaches that Jesus is not fully divine and eternal, an arian.

You guys are practicing a double standard. You guys would never tolerate someone saying half of what gets said about the camel [and not the practitioners] were it said about your teaching and not you personally. It was just a few debates ago that I said your argument was a nonsequiter and you took that to mean that i was saying you were irrational personally. You guys have a double standard in that while Kevin Greeson, Dr Rankin, the IMB, and Camel Practitioners are open game, the moment Dr Caner taps out–even though he is one of the most vocal instigators–he is suddenly exempt from critique and discussion [as evidenced by you guys cutting off the comments when he issued his statement.].

Allow me for a moment, to put the shoe on the other foot so that hopefully you can see how the folks on my side view your level of rhetoric.

What if people on my side were to go after the teachings of Dr Caner as heresy. I promise, we could make his missiology look heretical [admittedly, it would only stick as well as the claim of arianism sticks to the Camel, which is not that much since Greeson starts with the statement that the final name for God is Isa]. What if we poked holes in his understanding of Islam? What if we showed what a Muslim really heard when he walks into a mosque declares himself an infidel and teaches that Jesus is God[Most of those claims would lead Muslims to assume that we are atheists or polytheists, we eat pork and drink alcohol, sleep around with women and affirm either oneness pentacostalism or tritheism–I don’t believe any of that is true of Dr Caner, but that is what they hear when he says that…]? What if we pitted different statements against each other and claimed that only one set could be true and the others were lies? Remember, we are talking about his teaching, not him as a person. Could you really be as objective “removed” as you are asking us to be? If we were to say his views and statements are lies and heresy and modalism, would you really not think we were only talking about his teaching? I am sure you understand how people on my side can think like we do. But if we were to know that there were good reasons for concern, and then to call those concerned arguments heresy, don’t you think that would be a bit much?

I agree to concede the point as soon as you stop saying things that make me doubt it. I fully respect a position which differs with mine on matters of contextualization much in the same way that I respect differing positions on the end times, the rapture, and views on the atonement. I tend to view premature statements about heresy [note, i am talking about the statements and not the people!], especially when there are valid arguments on the other side, as either ignorant of all the nuances of cross cultural work, or intentionally malicious, knowing full well the nuances but choosing overly simplistic for “ratings.”

Again, I do not mean any of this personally against you, this blog, or Dr Caner [or the countless others who have said similar things]. I hope that in putting the shoe on the other foot you can see what some of that looks like from this side.

Pulling out the heresy label over a nonessential is not grace. If we truly have arians in the IMB [or any other SBC entity for that matter] I promise to join arms with anyone in fighting it and seeking the restoration of those brothers. However, I am equally steadfast in my resolve to do the same for those who misuse the accusation.

Peace

rastis

Meant to add,
and I leave the last word to you unless you ask something directly since I agree that we are probably going in circles at this point.
Peace

FTME

Brother Tim,

You said:

Thus, I will concede to you that in your heart you believe I am calling the M’s heretic and arians, if you will concede to me that in my heart I do not believe we have any M’s that are heretics or arians.

If you are asking if I think you are being truthful about what you think, then, yes, I do think you are being truthful about what you think.

However the truth is not subject to what you or I think or believe in our hearts. We hold mutually exclusive views as to whether or not you are calling Dr. Rankin a heretic in your writings – one of us is correct and one is incorrect. So, if what you are asking is whether or not I might consider your view to be valid in any way, then, no, not in any way shape or form do I consider your claim that you are not calling him a heretic valid. Now, my rejection of the validity of your claim has no bearing whatsoever on your honesty. You have been quite open about your logically erroneous position. Thank you for that.

Now, I would like to redirect your attention to comment #13 where I demonstrated (using your own statements and definition of the word “heretic”) that your accusation against Dr. Rankin is of heresy. And I would like to once again call you to either recant your claim that they are heretics or to disfellowship them. With that, like Brother Rastis, I think this conversation is over unless you have anything to add or a question for me.

Thank you again for the leaving the comment section open and being willing to hear those who challenge your position(s).

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

cb scott

Guys,

Maybe it is time to get off your Camels and begin to write about the Wild Geese who are nesting on the Flamingo Road.

rastis

I’m cajun. I prefer the taste of spotted owl ;)

Tim Rogers

Brother FTME,

I have not called anyone a heretic and I will not recant of any such thing. I have honestly tried to debate this issue with you guy. First, you have not acknowledged that the Camel Method contains heretical thoughts. Are you going to tell me that the Isa of the Koran and the Jesus of the Scriptures are the same? That is where you have to be to say this method is the same as FAITH or EE, or 4 Spiritual Laws. You respond that the Book explaining this method reflects that the Muslim is to be told that Jesus of the Scripture is God. However, no place in the tract–the promotional aid used–does it promote any such thing. As a matter of fact it says there is a need to become a Pakka Muslim. That is heretical in agreeing that Muslim is a linguistic tool that means “follower of God”. The liberal editor at NY Times and the Muslims both acknowledge this is deceitful.

Now, you may desire to quite supporting M’s if you like. However, I will not stop support because a few in leadership will not address this issue.

Now, one thing I will recant. I no longer concede what I did earlier. The reason? It is very clear that you and Brother Rastis both are doing nothing but defending heresy. You either denounce this Method as what it is, or acknowledge that you agree with heresy.

Blessings,
Tim

J.D.

Just a quick question.
Tim you said:”We now have Christians accepting the Muslims understanding of Isa as the same Jesus we as Christians believe in.”

Is there a different Historical Jesus? I am not for sure what you mean. They have different views on who the Historical Jesus is but is he not the same Historical Jesus we believe in?

J.D.

Tim Rogers

Brother JD,

The Isa of the Koran is a created being. The historical Jesus that we serve was Jesus before he was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the Isa the Koran speaks of is not the Jesus of the Scriptures.

Blessings,
Tim

J.D.

Tim,

You are correct that Muslims believe that Jesus was a created being. That and they believe that he was also a great man and prophet according to the Koran. There is more that they believe about him but that could take a whole book to talk about.
I have been studying Islam for many years and talked with many Muslims about Jesus. I think what you are getting at in your response is that they are the same historical figure but Islam has their beliefs about him skewed. I am not going to get into all the details here but history points us to the fact that the Jesus in the Bible and the Jesus in the Koran are the same historical Figure just not the same belief about Him. You are right to say that the Isa of the Koran is not the Jesus of scriptures but only in the sense that what they say about him is not accurate. I can explain more if you would like. Thanks for the discourse.

J.D.

Matt2239

I think this discussion demonstrates a major problem with the IMB under Rankin. I don’t question his passion, motives or personal integrity. I do question his theology. He started out his career outside of the mainstream of Baptist life and I don’t think he ever veered back. Theological concessions had to be made in order to give him the job. Caner on the other hand is a theologian and an apologist. This makes him professionally sensitive to bad theology even if it has pragmatic advantages. However, deceit will not long have those advantages. Time for Rankin to enjoy his retirement. He has earned it.

Phillip Draper

I am glad that people in the States are finally becoming aware of things that are happening on the field. In the last several years there has been a movement called the insider movement. It is fueled by developments in the American church, especially the Emergent Church. The Camel method is definitely related to this. Although, many of the proponents are orthodox , some are clearly crossing over into heretical areas. E.G. One missionary( not from IMB ) told me that Jesus is never referred to as God in the NT. Also in the book Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road by Paul Gordon Chandler there are many heretical statements.

One problem also with the Camel Method (and other insider programs) is that many people who use it have a very inadequate view of the Gospel. They are just trying to get someone to “pray the prayer” with them. Not much emphasis on repentance. I know of one IMB missionary who was very quick to lead people in the sinner’s prayer in the country my wife and I use to serve in. Most of them would later go back to Islam. Of course he thought that it was not a huge problem since they were still saved, only they became “dead-wood christians.”
I along with the author of this post want aggressive evangelism. However, let’s be upfront with people and depend on the Spirit to reveal truth. Why can’t we believe that God can transform lives in the muslim world. God has given me the priviledge of leading quite a few people into the Kingdom. But I only believe that they have truly believed when they show the fruit of repentance.

Andrew

Sorry about responding to a dead(ish) thread, but I have been thinking about the whole approach and would like to add my thoughts.

I have just been through an introduction to the Camel method. Many years previously I read a book titled “Sharing your Faith with a Muslim”, which I thoroughly recommend, which covered a lot of the material in the Koran that makes reference to material that has some roots in the New and Old Testament, but does not propose anything like the Camel approach.

I was personally a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of approaching a Muslim as though I had questions for him, when in fact I was wanting to share my thoughts with him. I am not convinced that deception is the correct approach, even if fairly mild, although I don’t doubt that God has sometimes blessed people despite that. As a result, I shall not be following the way they suggest.

However, I am interested in the debate here over the use of “Isa” and “Allah” and of “bridges”. I think that JD is right to state that both the Koran and the Bible refer to a historical Jesus, and that we should not worry about the fact that different people can have different perspectives (some of which may be wrong or mistaken). If a non-Christian swears using the name of Jesus, I am offended. Similarly, if someone has a bad interaction with my brother and perceives him in a certain way, and even if they get facts about him wrong, the fact is that they are referring to the same person as me when they talk to me about him. I can try to put them right on the facts and I can explain the way that my experience of him is different, and indeed I should. I therefore do not think it unreasonable to declare that both Christians and Muslims are referring to the same historical person, even if understandings differ.

Dear Brother Tim, the Koran speaks of Isa as being conceived in a Virgin by the will of God (surah 3 called al-Imran, verse 47), and describes him as a “Word of Allah” (ibid verse 45 – kalimatullah), which is said of no other, and perhaps puts him on a par with the Koran, which they believe is the eternal word of God. He is also called Spirit of Allah (“ruhullah”) and the Messiah (“al-Masih”). Verse 55 also reports Allah as calling Isa to ascend to Heaven, using a word (“mutawaffika”) that means literally “to cause to die”, and that he now lives in Heaven. While Muslims may point to another verse in another book that that could be read as disagreeing regarding Jesus’ death (“they slew him not”, surah 4 v157), that verse can also be read as stating that Isa did not die according to the will of the Jews, which we can agree with, since it was God’s will that Jesus should die for our sins and He could have intervened at any point (and the Romans did the deed anyway!). Finally, in the Koran, Allah is reported as requiring Muslims (literally “those who have submitted”) to “keep their duty” and “obey” Jesus (surah 3 v 50). The Koran does not reporting any of Jesus commands, but elsewhere it points Muslims to question “those who read the Scriptures before you” (surah 10 v94), referencing elsewhere the Taurat (Torah), Zabur (Prophets) and Injil (Gospels) as having been revealed by God.

Now, while we should not take these in place of what the Old and New Testament says, I do not see anything in Scripture that would stop us from using these verses in the Koran as starting points in discussion. After all, Paul took the same approach when he preached at the Areopagus about “the Unknown God”. We can be sure that Paul would not have agreed with the perspective of those who had previously sacrificed or prayed to “the Unknown God”, but that did not stop him using the name of the “Unknown God” or using it as an opportunity to introduce them to the God that was unknown to them.

In summary, I can understand if people are uncomfortable with the Camel approach in its full formulation (as I am), but I think it makes some good points, and never moves away from the primacy of Scripture. I also do not think that there is necessarily any problem with the use of the Arabic names of people in the Old and New Testament, and we should respect the sincere desires of many Muslims to please God, and, as led by God, to help them to experience the liberating power of the Gospel, the redeeming sacrifice of Yeshua, the Lamb of God.

Blessings,

Andrew

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