The Unbiblical Reality of the Blog Post: Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran
John C. Rankin (August 30, 2010)
On August 22, 2010, Fran Ingram of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, posted an article: Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran (on the homepage of www.doveworld.org).
I have been in phone conversation and email communications with Fran, seeking to dissuade the church and its pastor, Terry Jones, from such a hostile action planned for September 11, 2010. Fran is both gracious in her person, and verbally articulate in advocating her position.
Nonetheless, in her Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran, the first nine cite no biblical reason for the proposed action. In the tenth reason, the rationale cited from Acts 19 is a classic example of eigegesis, inserting and reading into the text what is not there for the sake of a non-biblical idea. This is the opposite of biblical exegesis, which means to dig into the origins of a text to see what is really there.
Let’s look at the prologue, then walk through the ten reasons, and make the salient biblical observations.
The prologue states, as lifted off the website verbatim: On 9/11/10 we are burning Korans to raise awareness and warn. In a sense it is neither an act of love nor of hate. We see, as we state in the Ten Reasons below, that Islam is a danger. We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful. We do not hate any people, however. We love, as God loves, all the people in the world and we want them to come to a knowledge of the truth. To warn of danger and harm is a loving act. God is love and truth. If you know the truth it can set you free. The world is in bondage to the massive grip of the lies of Islam [and she lists them, see below].
In my Affirmation: Yes to the Bible, No to the Burning of the Qur’an (click here), I seek to sum up a theological overview of the territory at hand. Accordingly, how can an act of burning the religious text of a people be other than reactive, rooted in fear and accusatory in nature? Here Fran also faces a logical disconnect. She says, on the one hand, (i)n a sense it is neither an act of love nor of hate, but on the other hand, she states, God is love and truth. So the question is this: Which is it – a middle ground, or love itself? As well, can truth ever be advanced apart from love, especially since love is the essence, the eternal ontology of God himself (1 John 4:8)?
The Bible warns of us of the consequences of sin and broken trust, but how are those warnings given? They only come as a result of the prior love of God, and in accordance with what people know of that love (large territory about which I write elsewhere).
Thus, Fran needs to show a specific biblical parallel that would be instructive here. In her tenth reason, she cites Acts 19, and I will address that accordingly.
But let’s think deeper for a moment, two examples where two of the greatest prophets in the Hebrew Bible came face to face with pagan scriptures – Moses in Egypt (1446 B.C. ff), and Daniel in Babylon (605 B.C. ff).
As a child, Moses was raised to be a son of the Pharaoh, thus instructed in all the religion and scriptures of the Egyptians. Yet, years later, when Yahweh Elohim called him to declare to the subsequent Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” Moses did so in a proactive and redemptive measure, followed by signs and wonders. He did not excoriate the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or other Egyptian scriptures, he certainly did not burn them, but he simply called for true justice. In other words, he did not attack the darkness on its terms, but simply appealed to the Light.
And, to make a crucial observation – the authority of Moses was confirmed by signs and wonders.
Daniel and his three friends – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah – were captured Hebrew slaves in Babylon, prior and subsequent to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in 586 B.C. They were educated in all the “language and literature” of the Babylonians (Daniel 1:4). As well, Daniel was gifted in understanding visions and dreams (1:17). They proved “ten times better” in their wisdom “than all the magicians and enchanters” (1:20) in Babylon. Daniel interpreted dreams for the king, his three friends were supernaturally delivered from the fiery furnace after refusing idolatry, and later Daniel was protected in the den of lions after refusing idolatry.
As the result of his first dream interpretation for King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was appointed to a “high position” in the Babylonian empire, and his three friends administered the capital province of Babylon itself. Daniel was at court with the king, and was also placed “in charge of all its wise men” (2:48-49).
In other words, Daniel knew the Babylonian scriptures inside out (the Enuma Elish, a/k/a the Babylonian Genesis). He rebuked King Nebuchadnezzar following the second interpretation of his dreams: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed” (4:27). Just prior, Daniel warned of impending judgment until “you acknowledge that Heaven rules” (4:26).
Nebuchadnezzar was judged, and lived like an animal for seven years, eating grass like cattle until he repented. And in that repentance, he said: “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of Heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (4:37).
In those seven years, a Hebrew slave, as de factor prime minister, ruled Babylon, administering the justice that the king had refused to do. In other words, it was Daniel’s positive character and diplomatic skills that preserved the Messianic lineage in a hostile land. This is completely remote from burning the scriptures of a non-biblical people.
And, to make a crucial observation, now for the second time – the authority of Daniel was confirmed by signs and wonders.
Thus, what biblical basis is there to burn the Qur’an? What antecedent parallels can be found?
The first reason listed by Fran Ingram, again verbatim from the website as I will do with the rest of her blog post, is: The Koran teaches that Jesus Christ, the Crucified, Risen Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords was NOT the Son of God, nor was he crucified (a well documented historical fact that ONLY Islam denies). This teaching removes the possibility of salvation and eternal life in heaven for all Islam’s believers. They face eternal damnation in hell if they do not repent.
The Qur’an claims to supersede the Bible, and it opposes Jesus as the Son of God. This is serious theological territory. But is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? Should every other piece of human literature that deviates from the Bible be likewise burned? Or is this a selective doctrine? Paul quoted the pagan poets Epimenides, Aratus and Cleanthes in Acts 17:28, in service to his preaching the Gospel to the Athenians. Should he have instead burned these poems, indeed as Cleanthes’ poem was entitled “Hymn to Zeus?”
The second reason states: The Koran does not have an eternal origin. It is not recorded in heaven. The Almighty God, Creator of the World, is NOT it’s source. It is not holy. It’s writings are human in origin, a concoction of old and new teachings. This has been stated and restated for centuries by scholars since Islam’s beginnings, both Moslem and non-Moslem.
Fran here refutes a central assumption of the Qur’an. How does this translate into a reason to burn the Qur’an?
The third reason states: The Koran’s teaching includes Arabian idolatry, paganism, rites and rituals. These are demonic, an ongoing satanic stronghold under which Moslems and the world suffer.
Once again, is the mere reason of disputing the Qur’an’s nature sufficient cause to burn it? For genuine concerns about demonic strongholds and suffering, and how to overcome them, Jesus proclaims the words of Isaiah right after his temptation by the devil in the wilderness: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Can Fran in any biblical capacity line up the ethics of burning the Qur’an with these words? And too, does the burning of the Qur’an in any capacity affirm, serve and demonstrate the signs and wonders of the Messiah, as Moses and Daniel prophetically did, and as we shall see Paul doing likewise?
The fourth reason states: The earliest writings that are known to exist about the Prophet Mohammad were recorded 120 years after his death. All of the Islamic writings (the Koran and the Hadith, the biographies, the traditions and histories) are confused, contradictory and inconsistent. Maybe Mohammad never existed. We have no conclusive account about what he said or did. Yet Moslems follow the destructive teachings of Islam without question.
Again, is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? The Qur’an is sourced in both historical and non-historical realities, but there is no question of Muhammad’s existence and his impact on history. Muhammad’s claim to have received the Qur’an through the angel Jibril only has his internal witness to it, and thus Muslims trust in Muhammad alone in this regard. This is a dynamic place for honest communication across the differences between the Bible and Qur’an. But a reason to burn the Qur’an? Nonsense. Is it not the same as burning a people instead of loving them?
The fifth reason states: Mohammad’s life and message cannot be respected. The first Meccan period of his leadership seems to have been religiously motivated and a search for the truth. But in the second Medina period he was “corrupted by power and worldly ambitions.” (Ibn Warraq) These are characteristics that God hates. They also led to political assassinations and massacres which continue to be carried out on a regular basis by his followers today.
There is much territory here in distinguishing the Meccan and Medinan periods in Muhammad’s public life. But is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? And there are some important questions to examine. But be prepared to answer questions about warfare in the Hebrew Bible, sinful believers, and fast forward to the Spanish Inquisition. I can answer all these questions as rooted in the foundational assumptions of the Bible, and where believers have been consistent or inconsistent with them. And then I can pose the same questions of Muslims with respect to the Qur’an and Muhammad. Then too, here, in the fourth reason given by Fran, she questioned if Muhammad ever existed. Which way will it be in coming up with a list of ten reasons?
The sixth reason states: Islamic Law is totalitarian in nature. There is no separation of church and state. It is irrational. It is supposedly immutable and cannot be changed. It must be accepted without criticism. It has many similarities to Nazism, Communism and Fascism. It is not compatible with Western Civilization.
There are many quick fire accusations here. I seriously question the intrinsic nature of the Qur’an, and I pose of Islam the question as to whether it has any proactive basis for advancing unalienable rights for all people equally – the underlying concern here. But is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? So much territory has been summed up in this reason. Now, Pastor Terry Jones admitted to the New York Times on August 26 that he has not read the Qur’an. How well has Fran read the Qur’an, and what is her knowledge of the Sunnah, the Hadith (e.g., the 7,397 ahadith that Sahih al-Bukhari authenticated through historical verifiability of the 600,00 or so circulating in his time), or Islamic history over the past 1400 years?
The seventh reason states: Islam is not compatible with democracy and human rights. The notion of a moral individual capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for them does not exist in Islam. The attitude towards women in Islam as inferior possessions of men has led to countless cases of mistreatment and abuse for which Moslem men receive little or no punishment, and in many cases are encouraged to commit such acts, and are even praised for them. This is a direct fruit of the teachings of the Koran.
No moral reasoning in Islam? It is there, but without the revelation of the Bible, and social evil is there too. But is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? Here is the point – how can the Qur’an and Islam be opposed until first you know it well? And even more crucially, as I outlined in the Affirmation, is it biblical to oppose a religion, or rather to affirm Jesus in the face of calling all people to repent of evil deeds as he shows them the Good News? To be proactive, not reactive; to be confident in goodness. In Acts 17:22, as Paul began to address the Areopagus (Latin: Mars Hill) assembly, he stated: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” He did not then slam their pagan scriptures, but instead, used their religion to affirm a common humanity tracing back to “one man,” then drawing them to the truth. The opposite to the nature of burning the Qur’an.
The eighth reason states: A Muslim does not have the right to change his religion. Apostasy is punishable by death.
Islam is a one-way religion, where conversion away from Islam has not been historically permitted, apostasy has equaled death from the outset, though not always implemented, especially in recent years. Nonetheless, is this a reason to burn the Qur’an? Why not rather demonstrate an attractive invitation to true freedom?
The ninth reason states: Deep in the Islamic teaching and culture is the irrational fear and loathing of the West.
Does this mean that “the West” is co-extensive with Christianity? If any Eastern Orthodox, or Coptic, or Maronite, or Southern Indian (tracing back to the apostle Thomas) Christian has reason to oppose elements in western culture (e.g., elements in the history of colonialism), are they also to be condemned? Is this a reason to burn the Qur’an?
Structurally, where does the logic of these ten reasons originate? In a systematic grasp of the territory at hand; or in mere scatter shot reactions?
Finally, the tenth reason is the only one where a biblical rationale is attempted: Islam is a weapon of Arab imperialism and Islamic colonialism. Wherever Islam has or gains political power, Christians, Jews and all non-Moslems receive persecution, discrimination, are forced to convert. There are massacres and churches, synagogues, temples and other places of worship are destroyed.
From Acts 19 (Amplified)
18Many also of those who were now believers came making full confession and thoroughly exposing their [former deceptive and evil] practices.
19And many of those who had practiced curious, magical arts collected their books and [throwing them, book after book, on the pile] burned them in the sight of everybody. When they counted the value of them, they found it amounted to 50,000 pieces of silver (about $9,300).
20Thus the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] grew and spread and intensified, prevailing mightily.
Like the Christians in Acts 19, we are publicly burning a book that is demonic. Many of our greatest supporters are ex-Moslems. They know these evils first hand. We are not, like the Nazis, stealing books, destroying properties or harming any people. We are not Nazis nor are we like Nazis. The Christians in Acts 19 did not go on from their scroll burning to harm anyone. They used the public burning as an opportunity, a demonstration to preach the truth. Only to preach and leave the decision of whether to follow the truth or not.
Do not forget POINT SIX. Islam (not us) is totalitarian in nature, like Nazism, Communism, and Fascism. This evil nature of Islam needs to be seen. Moslems around the world burn and kill on a regular basis, every week, properties and people. All you have to do is follow the news. The many death threats we are receiving, the warnings about terror attacks also prove our point. Do Christians make these threats when Bibles or churches are burned? No.
We have fallen asleep since 9/11/01 and have been hoodwinked by the growth of a (for now) non violent Islam. Shall we give in to threats, then, and allow Islam to grow in America unopposed? We at Dove World Outreach Center will not, even if it costs us our lives. For those who support us, we say thank you for standing with us in courage. For those who oppose us, we say wake up and do not give in to the fear and lies!
Islam is a one-way religion that historically expects the whole world to come under its political hegemony in time. But is this a reason to burn the Qur’an, regardless of violence done in the name of Islam? Why not instead show the beauty of the kingdom of God, live it, and expect signs and wonders to accompany our declaration of the Good News? The use of Acts 19 here is erroneous. In the context of first century Ephesus, the burning of the sorcery scrolls was done by former practitioners. They were new converts to Jesus, and were not responding to a Christian burning their scriptures, as it were. Rather, they responded to the demonstrable power of the Holy Spirit through Paul in miracles and deliverance; and to the reality of the seven sons of Sceva being unable to do so likewise, thus being beaten up by the demons as they themselves did not know Jesus. They were, of their own informed choice, ridding themselves of their resources to practice pagan sorcery. A powerful act of repentance. Ephesus was the largest pagan worship center in the eastern Mediterranean at the time. It traced back to the legend of the Amazons, the goddess worship also leading later to the temple of Artemis, and the central reality of sacred prostitution. Documents have been unearthed in Ephesus containing incantations and secret information of sorcery. It seems likely that these are the type of scrolls burned in Acts 19, and why they had such high value (50,000 drachmas then would be worth about 5 million dollars now). The proposed burning of the Qur’an has no parallel here, as it is being done by putative Christians in the face of Muslim peoples – to accuse and shame them, not to love them. It is foreign to the Gospel.