>Using the Koran as a Path to Jesus

>The New York Times has an interesting article on the controversy among Baptists concerning the issue of using the Koran to introduce Muslims to Jesus. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Ergun Caner, president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lynchburg, Va., focused attention on a Southern Baptist controversy when he called Jerry Rankin, the president of the denomination’s International Mission Board, a liar. Dr. Caner has since apologized for his language, but he still maintains that the “Camel Method,” a strategy Dr. Rankin endorses for preaching Christianity to Muslims, is deceitful.

Instead of talking about the Jesus of the New Testament, missionaries using the Camel Method point Muslims to the Koran, where in the third chapter, or sura, an infant named Isa — Arabic for Jesus — is born. Missionaries have found that by starting with the Koran’s Jesus story, they can make inroads with Muslims who reject the Bible out of hand. But according to Dr. Caner, whose attack on Dr. Rankin came in a weekly Southern Baptist podcast, the idea that the Koran can contain the seeds of Christian faith is “an absolute, fundamental deception.”

David Garrison, a missionary who edited a book on the Camel Method by Kevin Greeson, the method’s developer, defends the use of the Koran as a path to Jesus. “You aren’t criticizing Muhammad or any other prophets,” Dr. Garrison said, “just raising Jesus up.”

He explained that after reading the sura in which Maryam, or Mary, gives birth to Isa, a missionary might ask a Muslim, “Do you know of any other prophets born of a virgin?”

And, Dr. Garrison continued: “It says in that passage that Isa would be able to cleanse the leper, even raise the dead. At that point in the conversation with Muslims, we say, ‘Isn’t it interesting that Isa had this tremendous power that God gave to him? Even death was under his power.’

“Then you ask the question, ‘Is there any other prophet that had this kind of power?’ And in Islam, there isn’t.”

“Camel” is not (readers might be gladdened to learn) a reference to a beast of burden in Arab lands. Rather, it is Mr. Greeson’s acronym — Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life — to help missionaries remember aspects of Isa’s story.

Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

One has to read the whole article to understand the nature of the disagreement between the parties involved in this controversy. After reading the article, even I am divided on the effectiveness of the Camel Method.

On one hand, by using the Isa of the Koran, a Christian can open a dialogue with a Muslim and explain who Jesus is. This can be effective in allowing a Christian to discuss his belief about the person of Christ and the nature of his ministry.

However, I have a problem when Christians try to introduce the God of the Bible as Allah. As Caner said:

“You can ask any Muslim: Do you think that the Allah of the Koran had a son? The most important sura in the entire Koran, sura 112, the pre-eminent chapter of the Koran, says explicitly, ‘Allah does not beget, nor is he begotten.’”

It is here that the contextualization of the Gospel ends because the God of the Bible and the god of the Koran are not the same. Thus, one can use the Koran only as a way of opening a path to Jesus, but once that path is open, the path must diverge into another direction.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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6 Responses to >Using the Koran as a Path to Jesus

  1. >I've heard of similar methods used to convert Hindu's in India as well. In that method, they talk about "the path of devotion to one god" and that Christians do the same thing when they devote their lives to Christ.The problem that I see with that is that it causes confusion. Yes, you may make a conversion, but why should someone choose to worship Christ above Kali, Vishnu, Krishna, or any of the others? Many Hindu's wind up putting images of Christ alongside other deities on their prayer altars.Personally, I think that there are different methods of evangelism and that God can use anyone or anything to bring people to Christ…but I question any method that may cause confusion or distort the Biblical truth.


  2. >Joshua,This is the same reservation I have. I think it is a mistake to baptize a pagan idea and make it Christian. This is what the Catholic Church did with the natives in South and Central America and now many of them still pray to Jesus and to their native gods.P.S. I have not forgotten your request.Claude Mariottini


  3. Chris says:

    >Ok, Asian perspective: how then can one present an un-Westernised gospel to people? The Western symbolic world can be pretty foreign to the Eastern mind.Perhaps a bit removed from your contexts, but a big things where I come from, where Christianity is sometimes viewed as a Caucasian and/or Coloniser faith.


  4. >Chris,You have a good point. In my post I was not against using the Jesus of the Koran as a beginning point. I was against identifying the God of the Bible with the Allah of the Koran.We have to begin by emphasizing that Christianity did not begin in the West. At the beginning Christianity grew in Syria, Turkey, and Egypt before it was brought to the West. Jesus himself was not a Westerner.If you work in Asia, you have a challenge in your hands. My prayers are with you.Claude Mariottini


  5. Greg says:

    >Dr. Mariottini, I think there are two important things to consider when thinking about this subject.First, I think the Islamic conception of "begetting" isn't the same that Christians have regarding God "begetting".For example, we do not think that God literally had sex with Mary, but Muslims do think that when thinking of God begetting a son.So when we read verses in the Quran that says that God does not beget, these verses need to be read with the Islamic understanding of "begetting" in mind, not Christian "begetting"!When seen in that light, Christians are actually in agreement with what the Qu'ran says about this issue. God did not have sex with Mary.If you are interested, there may be more information on this subject that I can look up and pass on to you. Let me know.Second, it would seem to me that one can have an inaccurate understanding of God and yet still have the same God in mind.For example, Jews do not believe God is trinitarian in nature, while we do, yet I have never heard it said their God is not my God. They simply worship in ignorance what we worship in truth.Or, there are some within the Christian faith that believe God is totally sovereign over all things, including the will of individuals. But there are others who do not believe this quality about God.Would that mean each group worships a different god, or that the God of one group is not the God of the other?Or wouldn't degrees of knowledge play in this as well? You are an accomplished scholar and preacher of God's Word. You have followed Christ longer than I have been alive! Surely you understand more about God and His character than I do, as I'm just a layman. There may be some aspects of God that I do not know or believe because of my ignorance, while you, because of your knowledge and wisdom, do believe those things.Because we have different conceptions and maybe even beliefs about God, would that mean we do not worship the same God?Perhaps then Muslims worship the same God you and I do, but just with a greater degree of ignorance.To use an analogy, imagine a wall with a round target painted on it. Christians shoot their arrows and hit the target. Some closer to the center then others, but they at least hit the target.Jews and Muslims, on the other hand, miss the target but still hit the wall. Its not enough to win the prize, but its not as bad as the pagans and atheists who are missing the wall entirely!Does any of this make sense? As I said earlier, I probably have resources that I can find that really goes a lot deeper into this subject then I did here, if you are interested. I have an interest in reaching Muslims for Christ, so I've been exposed to various ways of understanding this issue, and others as well.Thanks for listening, and I think your blog is awesome!Greg


  6. >Greg,First of all, thank you for your nice words about my blog. I seek to write a blog that will help people develop a deeper appreciation for the Bible.As for the issue at hand. First, let me say that any way you and others use to open dialogue with Muslims is acceptable, provided that in the end people gain a better understand of Jesus and of the God of the Bible.My fear is the problem of syncretism. In the past, the Catholic Church tried to convert indigenous people by identifying their pagan gods with biblical people. That failed.In Israel people tried to identify Baal with Yahweh, and that also failed.My concern and desire is that Muslims gain a better understanding of who Jesus was and who the biblical God really is.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


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