Thoughts on the Camel Method

I had asked my students in my Asian Faiths class to read the Camel Method. It is a method for sharing the Christian Gospel to Muslims utilizing a few select passages from the Qur’an. I asked my students to talk about their thoughts on this method. I then responded with the (somewhat amended) posting:

I noticed that pretty much all of the comments regarding the Camel Method were rather positive. Nothing wrong with that. I definitely think there are times that the Camel Method can be valuable (although I have never tried it). However, there are some people who don’t like the Camel Method. Their views are worth considering.

1.  Some reject the use of other religion’s holy writings to teach the gospel, utilizing “the devil’s words.” I really don’t want to get into the argument of theories regarding Scriptures of other religions. However, to me, the Qur’an is good to the extent it expresses truth, and bad to the extent it expresses falsehood. If we use parts of the the Qur’an that clearly express truth, we are not doing wrong, I believe.

2.  Some reject the use of the Qur’an not because it is “wrong” to do so, but because we need to help people trust the Bible more, not the Qur’an. They are suggesting that when we use the Qur’an, we are giving the impression that it is authoritative. I understand that argument… but in the end, we need to start with where they are at. 

For example, suppose a Mormon is trying to convert you to Mormonism. He (or she) is not going to start quoting you verses from “The Book of Mormon” or “The Pearl of Great Price” or “Doctrines and Covenants.” He knows that you don’t recognize any of those works as authoritative. He will instead quote you verses from the Holy Bible, despite the fact that Mormons believe that the Holy Bible is tainted by mistranslations and editing. He knows that you will immediately reject anything shared to you from The Book of Mormon. You really need to start with what the person values or thinks is authoritative.

In fact, let me give you a more specific example. A business guest of my father visited and when he had gone we found that he had left a copy of the Book of Mormon behind. I did decide to read it, which I am sure is what he wanted. I was actually expecting it to be more interesting than what it was, but interest is a subjective thing of course. But in that book the guest had left a bookmark and that bookmark had Book of Mormon verses that were supposed to demonstrate its authenticity. I remember one was a verse reference to show that the Book of Mormon had “predicted” the coming of Christopher Columbus to the New World. I can imagine that such a reference would be quite comforting to a Mormon who believes that work to be an ancient document originally written onto gold. But for a non-Mormon who is quite convinced that it was written in the 1800s by Joseph Smith, any reference that could be thought of as referring to Columbus would be absolutely unconvincing.

3.  Some will caution the use of the Camel Method because some Muslims will be offended at Christians using the Qur’an. This is actually a somewhat valid concern.  For example, I have heard Muslims use the passage in the Gospel according to St. John where Jesus says He is sending a Comforter, as a prophecy of the coming of Muhammad. My natural tendency is to get a bit offended at a Muslim ripping a verse out of the Holy Bible, rejecting the broader context of the passage, and abusing its meaning to support his/her own theology. I think the Camel Method can be useful, but be careful in its use. Some may react negatively to the message.

4.  Others will note that while the Camel Method can be effective with some Muslims, it will not be for others. For those who are very serious students of the Qur’an will recognize that the person using the Camel Method is very much selecting certain ayah (verses) from the book, while ignoring others. This is much like the case study from one of my students where a Muslim friend used one verse in John where Jesus avoided admitting to deity (or at least was quite vague), while avoiding numerous places where Jesus’ used quite strong statements about who He was. The other group that is likely not to respond are those who know little to nothing about the Qur’an. If challenged from the Qur’an, they are likely not respond… or at most go ask their imam about it. Most Muslims are like most Christians— somewhat nominal in the practice of their faith, being more strongly connected to their religion by culture than belief. For such people, dreams, signs and wonders, and acts of kindness may be more effective.

Overall, I would say that acts of kindness (expressions of Christian love) is the strongest foundation for witnessing to a Muslim. However, being loving without a message may just lead the person to thinking that you are a nice person. The Camel Method provides a way of supplementing the expression of the Great Commandment, not a trick to share the gospel without love and kindness.

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