Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Open Letter on Quran Burning:

I am double posting this. I just put it on my STTA blog.

An Open Letter to the Pastor and congregation of Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida: Pastor Jones, you and I have not met, and I'm not familiar with your church. I was glad to read a statement attributed to you, that your ministry stands for the "truth of the Bible." That is a passion that I share. It is on that basis, and that we both lead flocks entrusted to us by the Chief-Shepherd, that I ask you not to burn a copy of the Quran.Several of the news articles I have seen and heard ask you to reconsider Saturday's ceremony, because it is offensive to Muslims, or because it endangers people--in particular members of our armed forces. I agree in part with your reply to these critics. While these ought to be, and I am sure are, matters of grave concern to you, they are not sufficient reasons to compromise the truth. However, I would ask you to consider the following: Islam is a religion that knows no separation from the state. In the mind of the Muslim there is no secular and sacred. A "good" Muslim government provides an environment in which its citizens can--in a sense must--be good Muslims. Of course the Mosque is in total support of such civil rule.The church, on the other hand, always has been, and very much needs to continue to be, counter-cultural. While Christians are instructed to be good citizens, we do so in full awareness that we are citizens of another, a greater, an eternal realm. The civil authority put our Lord to death, and sentenced millions of our sisters and brothers to the same fate. The Bible does not encourage us to expect much more from the goverment. We are to be the conscience to our nation, not the Bureau of Publicity-stunts.Yes, we are at war--ideological as well as military--but it is not the task of the church to wage that war. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the Crusades.
While we disagree with the truth claims contained in the Quran (and other purportedly holy books that contradict the Bible) we ought to treat these books with respect--at least in the presence of those who honor them.When the Apostle Paul was building his case that all the world stands guilty before God, one group of people he addressed was his own nation, the Jewish people. Of course Paul's countrymen were adamant about avoiding any hint of idolatry (Romans 2:22). The apostle challenged them, however, with the possibility of having desecrated temples through robbery. Apparently this was a practice that was not unknown. When Paul and his companions were brought before the judgment seat in Ephesus it was said in their defense that they were "neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess [Artemis]." (Acts 19:37)Acts of desecrating the objects of worship of others--even false objects of worship--are not in keeping with the pattern we find in the New Testament. (The fact that we do find such actions in the OT I can't consider at this point, beyond saying that we know things this side of the cross that were unknown in that era.)
When Paul found himself in one of the most pagan places in the world, Athens, he did not go about knocking down or defacing the idols and altars to false gods that were there in abundance. Rather he used the presence of these objects of worship, and the hunger in the hearts of the Athenians that these objects brought to light, to engage in one of the most brilliant pieces of evangelistic discourse ever recorded (Acts 17).
We are told, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." (Romans 12:14, NASB95) And to not "pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . . If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." While burning a copy of the Quran might make some of us feel courageous and righteous, I would recommend that which takes far more courage, and not only feels righteous, but is righteous and spreads righteousness.
Some folk I know have offered to study the Quran with nominal Muslims. As the emptiness of the book--and even more so, the emptiness it leaves in the heart--is made clear, my friends have been able to share the truth of Jesus Christ with these folk.
Another friend of mine--a tall red-head (well, it is mostly gray now)--pastors a church and leads a school in a Muslim land. He has not led followers of Mohammed to to become followers of Christ by burning copies of the Quran. He has done it by loving those whom others--even their own Muslim neighbors--have rejected. That kind of love will shine brighter and farther than any fire you will start this Saturday. Pastor Jones, I urge you not to burn the Quran, not because it is risky, but because it is wrong. Sincerely in Christ, Howard Merrell It's STTA.


Howard Merrell said...

Doug Williams a Missionary, and a guy who has done a good bit of study on Islam, Christianity and outreach to Muslims sent this. He gave me permission to post it:

"Not to mention the untold suffering it will likely cause to Christians
living in Muslim controlled lands who will suffer the reprisals that
will almost surely take place. Is he thinking at all about his
brothers in Christ and the suffering he will cause them?"

Howard Merrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard Merrell said...

The response to yesterday's STTA, and other statements that recommend respect and restraint when dealing the Muslim community reminds me that I probably need to make the case once more for the Doctrine of Minding Your Own Business.
I have never seen a Theology text where this teaching is explained, yet it is a concept that is found in many contexts in the Bible. It is a prime aspect of the Bible's teaching on the home, forgiveness, doing good deeds, and more. The doctrine counteracts the universal human tendency to focus more on what others should do than my repsonsibility.
I saw a gentleman--I presume Jewish--carrying a sign that read, "You can build a mosque at Ground Zero when I can build a synagogue in Mecca. Christians frequently make the same point. The lands where Muslims are demonstrating, objecting to the burning of the Quran, planned for this Saturday, are almost universally places where the distribution of the Bible is seriously, if not completely, prohibited. The ban is so complete that in some cases our armed forces serving in those countries have had to receive special permission just to have a Bible, and then they are expected to not allow it to be seen in the open.
I could go on. There is no doubt that the Worldwide Muslim community wants to play the game of "How Outraged Are You?" on a seriously sloped field.
They are wrong. Muslims in Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and scores of other Muslim lands should stop persecuting, kidnapping, repressing, and murdering Christians and Jews. But I am a Pastor of a conservative Christian congregation. My thoughts yesterday were addressed to a fellow-pastor, and others who read the open letter. On my side of the piece of paper what does it say I should do?
The fact that many Muslims are not doing what they should, and many more maintain a deafening silence while their fellow followers of the Quran act like very poor neighbors does not change the responsibility that I have. Sure I should protect myself. Certainly I ought to lobby for laws that will enforce a true freedom of religion, but I ought not publicly desecrate what others hold sacred just to make a propaganda point.

It's STTA.