Years after interfaith leaders criticized the Southern Baptist Convention for producing prayer guides targeting adherents of other religions for conversion, the denomination’s International Mission Board continues to produce on-line resources capitalizing on what missionaries view as errors in other faiths.
A “Praying for Muslims” guide entreats God to “reveal yourself and your Son, Jesus Christ, to Muslims in South Asia through dreams and visions.”
The brochure–available on the Web site of the IMB’s South Asia Region, home to 430 million Muslims, more than the entire Middle East–claims “barriers are crumbling all the across the region and record numbers of Muslims are coming to Christ.”
“It is reported that more Muslims have accepted Christ in the past 20 years than at any other time in history,” the pamphlet says.
In order to keep the Quran flawless, the guide says, Muslims believe it should not be translated outside the Arabic language. As a result, many Muslims have never read the Quran but rely on religious teachers called imams to tell them what it teaches.
“Prayer points” in the guide include asking the Holy Spirit to “fill Muslims with a desire to read the Bible, to realize that even the Quran encourages them to read it. Help them to understand and accept that the Bible is the complete, incorruptible and unerring Word of God.”
The prayer guide beseeches God to “use the power of your spoken Word to help them hear and understand the truth of who Christ is” and to “teach them how to build a community of faith that will touch others’ lives with love, joy, and peace as they experience the presence of the Living Lord.”
A popular but controversial witnessing tool to Muslims developed by a Southern Baptist missionary uses a particular verse from the Quran as a bridge to elevate discussion about Jesus’ status from prophet to savior.
The “Camel Method” is based on a Muslim proverb that Allah has 100 names but has revealed just 99 to the sons of men. The 100th name, according to the proverb, has been revealed only to the camel, and the camel “is not talking.”
Borrowing from the model of Paul’s incorporating an altar to an “unknown God” in a sermon recorded in Acts 17, the Camel Method seeks to convince Muslims the unrevealed 100th name for Allah is Jesus Christ.
Amid higher profile squabbles among IMB trustees over the last year about private prayer language and baptism, some conservative trustees have questioned use of the method, which they say encourages new converts to hide their Christian faith, remain in their mosques and continue to act and worship like a Muslim.
Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a sermon in March 2006 that some mission experts “apparently consider baptism a Western rather than a biblical activity.”
At the most recent IMB meeting, one trustee made a motion asking that all board members receive a copy of The Camel–How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ! to familiarize them with methods being used by Southern Baptist missionaries.
Among concerns with the book, according to a blog report by IMB trustee Wade Burleson, is its use of the term “Allah” to refer to God. While it is the natural term to designate a supreme being in the Arabic language, some conservative trustees object to the term based on their belief that Allah in the Quran and God in the Jewish and Christian Bibles are not the same entity.
Another “Praying for Hindus” guide leads prayers asking God to “free Hindus from the confusing and mistaken belief in the cycle of reincarnation.”
“God, how your heart must grieve to see Hindus performing meaningless rituals and bowing before man-made idols in their temples and home,” the guide says.
Another guide portrays Buddhists as “caught up in a hopeless cycle of belief in reincarnation.”
Southern Baptists have in the past been criticized for prayer guides that leaders of other religions viewed as denigrating their faiths.
In 1999, the International Mission Board distributed a booklet focusing prayers on Jewish evangelism during Judaism’s High Holy Days. Jewish leaders criticized it as insensitive and disrespectful.
Another prayer booklet that year timed with the most important Hindu festival of the year, a three-day “Festival of Lights,” described Hinduism as spiritual “darkness.” Hindu protestors called it a “malicious attack” on their religion.
A similar guide targeted Muslim worshipers during a religious holiday.
Individual SBC leaders have often been criticized for public remarks critical of world religions like Islam and Judaism. A current seminary president once used an analogy comparing Judaism to a “deadly tumor” and a former SBC president called Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile.”
Recently the SBC’s immediate past second vice president, California pastor Wiley Drake, voiced support for three Christian protestors arrested after disrupting the first-ever prayer by a Hindu clergyman to open a session of the U.S. Senate.
“What a shame that not one of our Christian Senators would object to this ungodly action,” Drake said in a statement.
“We have freedom of religion in America but not the freedom to invoke a false god to visit our U.S. Senate,” Drake said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.