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Caner apologizes for calling IMB head a liar
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
February 26, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

Caner apologizes for calling IMB head a liar

Caner apologizes for calling IMB head a liar
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
February 26, 2010

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

deception.”

Photo by Jon Blair

Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va., delivers a 2009 service sponsored by the Convention of Southern Baptist Evangelists at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Caner is the group’s elected president.

“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

Bible.”

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

crucified.”

David Garrison, global

strategist for evangelical advance at the International Mission Board, said in

an interview

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?’”

he said.

“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

Testament.”

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

17.

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.)