Kevin Greeson promotes a method for reaching Muslims called “The Camel Method”. In his book The Camel: How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ Greeson endorses believers using the Qur’an, the Muslim Bible, in witnessing to Muslims.
First, let me say that I appreciate Kevin Greeson’s burden to reach unsaved Muslims. When I read his book my heart was stirred to more fervently pray for and witness to Muslims and also support missionaries who have targeted Muslims. I have the privilege to minister in the 10/40 Window and know the great potential. I also believe God has and is using The Camel Method to win Muslims to Christ and even though I disagree with the method, I can “notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
This method, however, has ignited a firestorm of controversy in the hot topic of contextualization.
Before I discuss specifically The Camel Method, I need to give the big picture of the contextualization debate in witnessing to Muslims. In 1998, John Travis, a pseudonym for security purposes, a veteran missionary to Asian Muslims for 20 years wrote an article in Evangelial Missions Quarterly in which he provided a guide for contextualizing the gospel with Muslims. Here is how John Travis, described his guide. He states that he “presented a model for comparing six different types of ekklesai or congregations (which I refer to as ‘Christ-centered communities’) found in the Muslim world today. These six types of Christ-centered communities are differentiated in terms of three factors: language, cultural forms, and religious identity. This model, referred to as C1-C6 spectrum (or continuum), has generated much discussion, especially around the issue of fellowships of ‘Muslim followers of Jesus’ (the C5 position of the scale). Parshall (1998), an advocate of contextualization, feels that C5 crosses the line and falls into dangerous syncretism” (Contextualization among Muslims, Hindus, and Buddists: A Focus on ‘Insider Movements” Mission Frontiers. September-October 2005). Phil Parshall’s article in Evangelical Missions Quarterly is entitled: “Danger! New Directions in Contextualization.”
Here is how Joseph Cummings describes and summarizes the C1-C6 spectrum:
In technical terms this is known as the “C4-C5 debate,” drawing on a scale designed by Travis to describe various Christ-centered communities (Cs) with which Muslim-background believers in Jesus (MBBs) identify, and the ways they understand their identity.
Joseph Cumming and his family lived fifteen years in a Muslim community in North Africa. He currently directs the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Yale University, and meets regularly with senior Muslim leaders around the world. More info at http://www.josephcumming.com. (The Global Conversation ChristianityToday.com/go/conversation). There are a series of different perspectives on contextualiztion with Muslims in the last web-site mentioned.
John Travis describes his C1 to C6 Spectrum in Evangelical Missions Quarterly. I, Dr. White, will add my comments:
C1: “Traditional Church Using Outsider Language. A huge cultural chasm often exists between the church and the surrounding Muslim community” (John Travis, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 407).
Their worship is in a language other than their mother tongue. These churches use “outsider language” or a language foreign to the Muslim culture. There is basically no contextualization in C1.
C2: “Traditional church Using Insider Language” (Travis).
Same as C1, but worship is in the MBBs’ mother tongue. These churches use “insider language” or language not foreign to the Muslim culture. These churches also use non-Muslim names such as God, Jesus, and Christian.
C3: “Contextualized Christ-centered Communities Using Insider Language and Religiously Neutral insider Cultural Forms” (Travis).
These churches adopt much from local Muslim culture, such as dress and customs, without adopting Islamic customs such as prayer postures. These churches meet in traditional church buildings and not mosques.
C4: “Contextualized Christ-centered Communities Using Insider Language and Biblically Permissible Cultural and Islamic Forms” (Travis).
These churches adopt some other Islamic practices, prostrating in prayer, and using Allah instead of God, and do not meet in traditional buildings. They call themselves “followers of Isa the Messiah” but not Christians.
C5: “Christ-centered Communities or ‘Messianic Muslims’ Who Have Accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior” (Travis).
These believers call themselves Muslims and continue to identify culturally and officially as Muslims. About this group, J. D. Greear says, “Those parts of Islamic theology that are deemed incompatible with the Bible are reinterpreted or quietly discarded” (Breaking the Islamic Code. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010, page 151).
I believe this is what The Camel Method does. I will demonstrate in my next post that the Qur’an very aggressively rejects the deity of Christ and yet The Camel Method uses a neutral passage about Jesus to witness to Muslims about Jesus. This is giving credence to the Qur’an which rejects the Trinity, Jesus as God, Jesus’ vicarious death on the cross, salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ, and the Scriptures as God’s Word.
C6: “Small Christ-centered Communities of Secret/Underground Believers. Many come to Christ through dreams, visions, miracles, radio broadcasts, tracts, Christian witness while abroad, or reading the Bible on their own initiative”(Travis).
Where does The Camel Method fit in the C1-C6 spectrum?
J. D. Greear in his book Breaking the Islam Code writes that “Kevin Greeson’s ‘Camel’ method, a popular tool among C-5 advocates, argues that the Qur’an should be used as a ‘gospel tract’ pointing Muslims to Jesus” (J. D. Greear. Breaking the Islam Code, 154). In a footnote Greear writes that “Greeson’s 2007 edition of the Camel manual, however, makes a substantial movement toward a more C-4 approach, suggesting the Qur’an be used more as starting point than an authority.”
I agree with Phil Parshall that “C5 crosses the line and falls into dangerous syncretism.” I would put The Camel Method in the C5 even in the 2007 edition.
In my next post, I will detail the Qur’an’s rejection of the major doctrines essential to the gospel which makes the Camel method invalid as a witnessing tool.