On Feb. 3, 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