Would Jesus Burn the Ground Zero Mosque?
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:13-17).
This is a useful passage to determine whether or not it is lawful under the New Covenant to break or smash graven images made in the likeness of a false god. This is called iconoclasm, or literally, “image breaking.” It is a controversy that goes back to the early centuries of the church. St. Augustine wrote in The City of God in the fifth century that he was concerned that the emphasis on relics was distracting from an emphasis on the Word of God. By the eighth century, the controversy erupted again and both sides could point to the Church Fathers in support of their position on the use of images and relics in worship. On one extreme end, the iconoclast party supported the smashing and burning of images of the saints that they believed had become objects of idolatry. At the time of the Reformation, iconoclasm erupted again, but the Reformation leaders took a moderate approach. Martin Luther spoke out against the iconoclasts who had begun smashing images of the saints in many Catholic churches throughout Europe:
I am not of the opinion that through the Gospel all the arts should be banished and driven away, as some zealots want to make us believe; but I wish to see them all, especially music, in the service of Him Who gave and created them…. I have myself heard those who oppose pictures, read from my German Bible…. But this contains many pictures of God, of the angels, of men, and of animals, especially in the Revelation of St. John, in the books of Moses, and in the book of Joshua. We therefore kindly beg these fanatics to permit us also to paint these pictures on the wall that they may be remembered and better understood, inasmuch as they can harm as little on the walls as in books. Would to God that I could persuade those who can afford it to paint the whole Bible on their houses, inside and outside, so that all might see; this would indeed be a Christian work. For I am convinced that it is God’s will that we should hear and learn what He has done, especially what Christ suffered. But when I hear these things and meditate upon them, I find it impossible not to picture them in my heart. Whether I want to or not, when I hear, of Christ, a human form hanging upon a cross rises up in my heart: just as I see my natural face reflected when I look into water. Now if it is not sinful for me to have Christ’s picture in my heart, why should it be sinful to have it before my eyes?
The fact of the matter is that the Qur’an is very useful to Christians because even though it contains false doctrine, it is the bridge we must cross to reach Muslims. It is also world literature. Like the sayings of Confucius, or even the poetry of Edgar Alan Poe, it is not inspired scripture, but is is useful in understanding the worldview of a major religion, in this case, one held by about 21 percent of the world’s population.
One thing is certain, if a Muslim or a Christian reads both the Qur’an and the Bible side by side, he or she will see many similarities – some which are surprising – but also many differences. The Muslims also consider the Bible, both the Old and New Testament, as a Holy book. The Muslim has to grapple with the question of what to do with the places where the two diverge. The answer given most often by Muslims is that the Jewish and Christian scriptures have become corrupted, while the Qur’an remains as a faithful copy of the original autograph.
Without getting into the evidence against this idea, we ought to merely ask the Muslim using this argument how a sovereign God would allow a holy book to become corrupted in the first place? Nevertheless, the Qur’an speaks highly of the Hebrew patriarchs, the prophets, Jesus and his disciples. To challenge a Muslim with the truth claims of Jesus to be the Son of God, we would need to understand the inconsistencies of believing in an inerrant “Word of God” that is not unchanging. This inconsistency goes to the heart of the Muslim’s worldview that transcendent truth may fluctuate from time to time and situation to situation. This needs to be challenged as inconsistent and impossible.
If there is a New Covenant vs. Old Covenant principle that contains one overarching theme on how to deal with issues such as the “Mosque at Ground Zero” controversy, it is best explained by the book of Hebrews. The Old Covenant dealt with shadows, types and physical objects. The New Covenant deals with reality, fulfillment and deeper spiritual truth. In the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel was commanded to put to death all the Canaanites who worshipped false Gods, especially those who sacrificed their children to Baal, Molech, Asherah and Ashteroth. Every spiritual revival among Old Covenant Israel began with the destruction of idols in the grounds where child killing took place.
The question of a Ground Zero Mosque ought to be extended to all mosques in general. What most people don’t realize is that many mosques throughout the world are symbols of military conquest dedicated to Allah. Ironically, a few yards away from the place where Jesus once expelled the money changers now stands the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.
The Temple of the Lord had stood on Mount Zion since the days of King Solomon (c. 960 BC). It was later reconstructed in Nehemiah’s day (516 BC) and then restored by King Herod in 19 BC. Then in 70 AD, Roman armies destroyed the Temple once and for all in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus (Matthew 24:1,2). In 637 AD, Jerusalem was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate army during the Muslim conquest of Syria. The Dome of the Rock was erected on the Temple Mount between 689 and 691. The Dome of the Rock Mosque stands as a testimony to the Jews’ refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Other moques throughout the world have been built on the sites of Christian churches whenever Muslims have conquered a nation. Over the long history of Muslim territorial advance, thousands of mosques, from Spain to India, were built on sites of important religious or political value to their defeated foes. Some examples of this the Grand Mosque of Damascus, which was converted from a church dedicated to John the Baptist in 705. The world-renown Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was a thousand year-old Christian church before being transformed into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque like to point out that the namesake of the Cordoba House, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, was itself a Visigoth Church that was converted and rebuilt as a mosque following Muslim conquest in 784. The Mosque of Cordoba lasted nearly 500 years before it was recaptured and converted back into a Catholic cathedral. Is the naming of the “Cordoba House” for an Islamic center a few blocks away from Ground Zero then a coincidence?
For Christians, the building of any mosque ought to symbolize the temporary triumph of idolatry over the Christian Gospel. The question we ought to ask is not whether there should be a mosque at Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York. Rather we should ask whether there should be open idolatry tolerated on Main Street in Anywhere, USA.
It is a mistake to think that our task is simply to push the Cordoba House – now situated two blocks away from Ground Zero – to three, four, five or more blocks away. How many blocks away would be appropriate? Would it be any more appropriate to operate an abortion clinic, as Planned Parenthood has done, just blocks away from the place where thousands of Americans were slaughtered on 9/11? What about off track betting, stores that specialize in pornography and nightclubs that feature nude dancing? All are forms of idolatry that operate just a few blocks from Ground Zero. Why are we not as equally outraged as that?
The work of the Gospel is to eradicate idolatry in the entire world. First, we must realize that idolatry lives in our own hearts. The primary idol we must break is the “fear of man” in our own selves and then root out every sin of bitterness, lust, anger, resentment, covetousness and heresy. Then we may address the open and gross idolatry that has overcome our nation like a flood of filth. Islam is one of many idolatrous religions that need to be utterly destroyed – not just at Ground Zero – but in every corner of the world by the people of God.
One of the problems we face is that the false doctrine of dispensationalism has erected a wall of eternal separation between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Of course, we believe that the two are separated in that we should never compromise with idolatry. However, modern evangelicals don’t believe for the most part that Christ’s kingdom will be victorious over the kingdoms of this world in time and history. They don’t believe that Islam will ever be eradicated prior to the rapture. However, if we are to take 1 Corinthians 15 at face value, the order of events in the dispensational model is reversed.
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-27).
Christ must put all His enemies under His feet before He returns. This is the plain meaning of this text. Christians in our day would do well to jettison the dispensational model in favor of the covenantal view that Christ is even now ruling and reigning over the kingdoms of this world.
As I wrote in the article The Fallen Star of Islam, I believe that we are entering an era when God is already beginning to judge Islam. I believe that this began at the time that the Soviet Union collapsed. We live in an era when political reform in the Middle East and advances in technology will allow the Gospel to be preached in every corner of the world including Muslim nations.
In part four, I’ll delve into another can of worms, the issue of Islamic state sanctioned martyrdom of Christians, such as Asia Bibi of Pakistan, a Christian who was sentenced to death for “blaspheming the prophet Mohammed.”