LYNCHBURG, Va. — The
president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary has apologized for calling
the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) International Mission Board
(IMB) a liar, saying he got carried away in an interview while criticizing a
mission strategy used to evangelize Muslims.
In a Feb. 24 podcast on the
SBC Today web
site, Ergun Caner, a former Muslim turned Southern Baptist who has
written extensively labeling Islam a false religion, defended earlier
statements critical of a strategy called the Camel Method.
The method uses verses from
the Quran to convince Muslims that what the Christian Bible says about Jesus is
true. Caner said that is like using the Book of Mormon as a bridge to someone
in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But Caner said he “became an
idiot” and “stepped over the line” in a Feb. 3 SBC Today podcast with comments picked
up by other media accusing IMB President Jerry Rankin of lying by
allowing missionaries to use the method in engaging church-planting movements
in the Muslim world.
“I believe that the Camel is
lying,” Caner reiterated in the new podcast interview. “It assumes the
ignorance of a Muslim by saying, ‘Oh, you believe Allah? I believe in Allah.’
That’s one of my ethical issues with the Camel. I think it’s based on
“And then the idiot opens
his mouth and says, ‘Do I believe it’s lying?’” he continued, quoting his
previous words. “Sure. Do I believe that Jerry Rankin is lying? Yes.”
“And so what happens is, in
one fell swoop I cast aspersion on a brother, and given the last few days I’ve
discovered that’s not the biblical thing to do,” Caner said.
Caner said he acknowledged
his mistake before students in a chapel service at Liberty Theological Seminary
and in a letter of apology sent directly to Rankin.
“If you’re dumb enough to
say something like that, you’ve got to be man enough to own up to it,” he said.
“What does it mean to call somebody a liar? You’re questioning their motives.”
Caner said one reason he is
going public with his apology is to separate his criticism of the Camel Method
from his statement about Rankin.
“I don’t want to confuse the
Camel issue — which I believe is absolutely based on deception — and opening my
stupid mouth and sinning against a brother,” he said. “I don’t know Dr. Rankin’s
motives, and I don’t know why he would believe the Camel is usable, but you
certainly shouldn’t say something like that.”
Caner said he isn’t opposed
to using “Allah” as a title for God when discussing the gospel in Arabic, but
it should be clear from the outset that the God of the Bible is not the same
being that Muslims believe is revealed in the Quran.
“I think you can use the
Quran (for witnessing), just like you can use a Rolling Stones lyric,” Caner
said. “The problem comes when you say the Rolling Stones are as inspired as the
Caner said the Camel Method,
developed by a Southern Baptist missionary who adapted it from mission strategy
already in use in places where large numbers of Muslims are converting to
Christianity, “assumes that the Quran is partially correct” and acts as “a
valid bridge” toward understanding God.
“I would argue that it’s not
a valid bridge,” Caner said. “I don’t think it’s a good bridge for anything. I
think you begin by proclaiming Jesus. What did Paul say? He said ‘I preach
Christ and him crucified,’ and the Quran is explicit that Jesus wasn’t
David Garrison, global
strategist for evangelical advance at the International Mission Board, said in
on The Christian Post web site that he thinks most criticism of the Camel
Method is based on confusion about how it actually works.
Garrison said the method is
very explicit about not using deception, and that if a Muslim asks a missionary
using the method if he or she is a Muslim, the correct way to respond is, “No,
I’m a Christian who loves Muslims.”
Garrison said he has used
the method many times.
“One of the first questions that Muslims will often ask
you if you do get into a conversation with them is, ‘Have you read the Quran?’”
“And when you can say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been reading the Quran,’ it is easy
and natural to follow-up with ‘Have you read the Injil?’ which is the New
Proponents of the Camel
Method say it is similar to the Apostle Paul’s conversation with Epicurean and
Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts
Noticing a city full of idols, Paul acknowledges the Athenians are
very religious and then appeals to a particular altar inscribed, “TO AN UNKNOWN
GOD,” which he tells them is the Lord of heaven and Earth that they already
worship in ignorance.
But Caner said there is an
important distinction between Paul’s appeal to an unknown god and telling a
Muslim that God and Allah are one in the same.
“He doesn’t use any of the
gods that they have named,” Caner said, “because, goodness gracious, if you do,
now you’re in an area of syncretism, which is confusing the two gods.”
Caner pointed to recent news
coming out of Malaysia, where Muslims have taken Christians to court over the
issue of using Allah to describe the Christian God.
“You cannot use Allah; that
is our name for our God,” he quoted the Muslims as saying. “So even the Muslim
scholars, even the Muslim leaders — the imams and the leadership — even they
know that word is exclusive for the Muslim world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is
senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)