Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Burning the Quran
Reverend Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is planning to burn the Quran (also spelled Koran) in order to honor those people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. According to Jones, he is also using this occasion to proclaim that Islam is an evil religion.
Jones’ lawyer has advised him that his First Amendment right allows him to express his belief about Islam and to proclaim his belief by burning the holy book of Islam. Although Jones has the constitutional right to burn the Quran to express his view about Islam, I believe that his action is wrong and expresses a negative view of Christianity.
General David Petraeus, the general commander of the American forces in Afghanistan, has expressed his concern about what could happen to Americans in Afghanistan and in the Muslim world if Jones carries out his threat. Petraeus has warned that Jones’ plan to burn the Quran could provoke violence against American troops in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries.
The events of September 11, 2001 will remain in the minds and hearts of Americans for many years. The pain, the suffering, and the loss of those people whose friends and family members lost their lives in those barbaric events in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania is still fresh in their minds. But what Jones plans to do this Saturday will not bring back those who lost their lives, will not honor their death, and will not bring honor to Christianity.
There are two accounts of book burning in the Bible. The first case was the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll by Jehoiakim, king of Judah. In the case of Jehoiakim, he burned Jeremiah’s book because he was unhappy with Jeremiah’s message:
“Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary; and Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier”
(Jeremiah 36:21, 23).
By his action, Jehoiakim showed that he did not believe the words of Jeremiah. He also did not believe that the words of judgment Jeremiah had preached were true. It is also possible that by burning the book, Jehoiakim believed that God’s word in the mouth of the prophet would not come to pass. Jehoiakim burned the book but he could not burn God’s word. God told Jeremiah to write another book as a sign that he, God, would bring the disasters he had pronounced against Judah.
The second example of book burning in the Bible was in Ephesus. In Ephesus, God performed extraordinary miracles through Paul’s ministry there. As a result, the fear of God fell upon many people and scores believed in Christ. As the writer of the book of Acts reported: “Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars” (Act 19:18-19 NLT).
However, Jones cannot use any of these examples to support his plan to burn the Quran. In the first case, the burning of Jeremiah’s book was an act of Jehoiakim’s unfaithfulness to God. Because Jehoiakim did not believe the message of judgment Jeremiah was proclaiming, he burned Jeremiah’s book.
In the second case, the new believers in Ephesus burned their books of magic and sorcery as a demonstration that they had abandoned their old life and made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ.
As Jones’ lawyer said, the First Amendment gives him the right to express his belief about Islam by burning the Quran. However, in this case Jones should not listen to his lawyer, but to the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Paul also wrote:
“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no cause of trouble to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31-32).
If Jones loves the Lord and loves the church of God, he should listen to Paul’s words. He should also refrain from carrying out his plan to burn the Quran.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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Tags: Terry Jones, Quran, Book Burning, Jeremiah