Would Jesus burn the Qur’an?
As a former resident of Gainesville, Florida (1989-1992), it was fascinating and surreal to read the numerous reactions of Christian leaders and commentators on the Gainesville pastor, Terry Jones, who made international news with his publicized plan to burn the Qur’an on September 11th, 2010. Although he never carried out the promise burn the Qur’an, he garnered the almost universal scorn of the Christian world as having committed the ultimate sin of intolerance.
But did Jesus condemn religious intolerance? I’ve heard the “Sons of Thunder error” invoked a few times in criticism of Terry Jones. The disciples James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven on a city that did not receive the Gospel. Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56, NASB).
However, does this mean that the message of an eternal punishment in hell is inaccurate or should not be preached? No, it simply means that even though Christians are sons of God, we are not the eternal Son of God who will act with either mercy or wrath in the final judgment. No one is “too wicked” or “too old” or “too lost” to be saved. We cannot presume to know when and if someone will repent and believe the Gospel.
Even if we had this knowledge, we still could not act as a judge in the same way that Jesus will act in the final judgment. In fact, this is what Jesus meant when He said, “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” This does not negate the doctrine of Hell, but rather it describes Jesus ministry as “the Son of Man” on earth. However, Jesus is fully God, the Judge on the Great White Throne who will cast unbelievers into an eternal lake of fire.
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:5-8).
As to whether Christians ought to burn an inanimate object as a form of protest today, there is no commandment for or against this. We are commanded to show compassion for the lost and use wisdom, not being hasty in condemning people who may still repent. I would argue that part of showing compassion and using wisdom is in helping our neighbors who have a false understanding of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Jesus Christ is “He who sits on the throne.” Who could sit on God’s throne, but God himself? To preach these words is neither unwise nor unloving.
“Would Jesus burn the Qur’an?” is the wrong question to ask. On the “Last Day,” Jesus will “burn” all the Qur’ans and all the false doctrines ever published. Moreover, He will judge all idolaters. As Peter said to Simon the sorcerer, who had made an idol of the love of money:
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23).
Peter later wrote:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10-13).
That being said, it was still disheartening to me when some Christian pundits lambasted Pastor Terry Jones as a hate-filled, religious zealot. Partially, this view is rooted in the fear of man. Some simply do not want evangelical Christians to look intolerant in the eyes of the liberal media. This ultimate sin of intolerance toward idolaters is viewed by many Christians as being as worse sin than idolatry. A serious error comes when we suppose we can preach repentance from idolatry without preaching that idolaters worship the devil.
We also must realize that Muslims view Christians as idolaters and their “holy book,” the Qur’an, prescribes warfare, death and imprisonment for the “idolatry” of those who worship God in the Trinity. Islam and Christianity are equally intolerant of each other. Those on both sides who preach a moderate view do not represent the tenets of the Bible or the Qur’an. The threat to burn the Qur’an was meant to bring attention to the blasphemy against Jesus Christ contained in the prophecy of Mohammed. I believe that Pastor Terry Jones merely meant to bring attention to this. Once he saw that he had stirred the pot beyond the furthest reaches of what he originally imagined, he realized burning the book was no longer necessary.
All this being said, my advice to Christians who want to oppose Islam would be, “Read the Qur’an, don’t burn it!” Then with our knowledge of what the Qur’an teaches, we need to engage in debate. Over the years, The Forerunner has published several articles on Islam describing the history of the religion and the teachings of Mohammed.
See: IslamIn 1991, shortly after the Persian Gulf War erupted, one such issue of The Forerunner caused a controversy on the Dartmouth College campus. We had received a grant to distribute the newspaper on several of the Ivy League school campuses and many of the students at Dartmouth received copies. A Muslim student leader met with The Forerunner distributors at Dartmouth and complained that the articles unfairly characterized Islam as a violent religion and said that several of his potential converts had been dissuaded by our propaganda.
A few years after that, I met with Muslims in Tatarstan – a part of the former Soviet Union and now an autonomous region of Russia. Several young converts gave me their testimonies describing how they had come to Christ out of Islam. We printed those testimonies both in the Russian and English versions of The Forerunner. A few years later, the articles appeared on-line and I received some emails from western missionaries working in Tatarstan who all but demanded that the testimonies (which did not include the last names of the students) be taken down immediately because it might put the lives of Christian Tatars in danger. Ironically, one of the young people I interviewed, Alphia, contacted me by email and wrote that she was proud of her testimony and not to change a word.
Report from Kazan, Tatarstan – Region is crucial in evangelization of Muslims
Tatarstan: Making a Decision Between Islam and Christianity – A Special Report from the Russian language Forerunner
Report on Trip to Ukraine, Russia and Tatarstan – Predvestnik
Conversion of Muslims to Christ in former USSR – Kazan is a city on the Volga river and the capital of Tatarstan
However, another young man wanted his name and a one line quote removed from an article. We certainly are willing to try to protect Christians and missionaries living in Muslim countries. But what upset the American missionaries was our decision to preach the Gospel through the Internet using the testimonies of several young people who converted to Christ from Islam. If we preach the Gospel openly and without the fear of man, we will certainly come into conflict with Islam.
I see similar opposition and anger coming from Muslims who object to the 20-minute video testimony of Yuce Kabakci that we produced two years ago. The most common objection is that Yuce is not a “true Turk” or must be “a Jew.” Thus the ethnic hatred inherent in the philosophy of many Muslims is exposed. Yuce himself points out in his testimony that the Turkish pastor who discipled him became a martyr for Christ several years ago. Yuce has said he is willing to die for his testimony if that in fact is God’s plan for his life.
While we certainly don’t go about trying to inflame Muslim anger through unwise actions, we cannot be motivated by the fear of man. This is the attitude in which we ought to oppose Islam. Here are a few examples of our preaching response to Islam in debate, writing and testimony.
There are some Christians who have opposed The Forerunner’s distribution of literature that refutes the teachings of Islam because of the “backlash” that might come from violent extremists. In this way, the only difference between me and Terry Jones is that my “Qur’an burning” has taken the form of strongly worded opposition to the teachings of Islam in published articles. That makes me no less of an infidel according to the teachings of Mohammed.
It is my hope that God would use the Qur’an burning incident to wake us up to the fact that we are all targets in many places in the world if we would preach the full Gospel in earshot of a Muslim. While Christians are still free to do this in America, as soon as we fear to speak the truth here in our own land, we will have lost this freedom. Hopefully, we can all use wisdom and show compassion as we do this, but we would do better to realize that the idea of a “neutral ground” where the two religions can peacefully co-exist is an illusion.