Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
September 8, 2010
Burning the Qur’an
I’m going to break one of my longstanding rules this morning. I try to avoid criticizing another minister’s words or actions if at all possible. Jesus prayed for Christian unity “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). But this is an issue which I believe demands a biblical response.
You probably know that Terry Jones and his 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is planning a Qur’an burning this Saturday in commemoration of 9-11. A global protest has ensued, from Christian leaders to government officials. The church has been denied a burn permit but plans to proceed anyway.
Now Gen. David Petraeus, our top commander in Afghanistan, is warning that this desecration of Islam’s holy book “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” He told the Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Qur’an would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan—and around the world—to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
Our embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan has also issued a statement protesting the church’s plans. Pastor Jones has been informed of the general’s warning, but he and his members plan to go ahead with an action he calls “long overdue.”
I’ve been to the church’s website, listened to Rev. Jones’ video, and read their “reasons to burn the Koran” (better spelled Qur’an). I understand their concern about the rise of militant Muslims in our world (I invite you to read my essay on radical Islam for more). But I do not believe that burning Islam’s holy book is the way Jesus would respond to this issue, for two reasons.
First, he taught us to “be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We must be wise and strategic in all we do in his name. Radical Muslim leaders are doing their best to portray our military actions in Afghanistan as a war by the Western world against Islam. This action gives them stark evidence for their claims and threatens unnecessarily those troops who risk their lives in defense of freedom.
Second, Jesus and his followers built bridges to those who needed his grace. He spoke kindly to a despised Samaritan woman (John 4:1-10) and a hated tax-collector (Luke 19:1-10). Peter taught us to defend our faith “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We must not avoid unpopular truth (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4), but neither should we place roadblocks which will hinder the gospel. Are Muslims more likely to come to Christ as a result of this action?
Jesus testified that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Have you prayed today for Muslims around the world to experience God’s love in Christ?
Yesterday afternoon I was writing with one eye on my computer screen and another out my window as our part of Dallas was under a tornado watch. The stormy weather caused me to think about difficult circumstances and God’s steadfastness. Read more.
Note: a global spiritual awakening is occurring in our time. More Muslims are turning to Christ than ever before. At The Greater Cause this Friday and Saturday in Dallas, Anne Graham Lotz and I will invite participants to join this great movement. You can still register for this free conference by visiting the event website. Please join me in praying that the messages which Anne and I are preparing would be led and anointed by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God.
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