Burning the Qur’an and Crucifying Christ

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

The burning of the Qur’an and the murder of human beings are not morally equivalent. That’s true. And it is, frankly, outrageous the way some commentators speak with more moral indignation about the burning of holy books than the butchery of human bodies. In the western media this seems to me to be sheer fear.

But, of course, my conviction stems from a certain view of the world that is not shared by Muslims.

Andrew Walls, founder of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, and retired professor at Edinburgh University, gives us an insight that may carry more explanatory power than even Muslim rage realizes.

Mark Noll says, “No one has written with greater wisdom about what it means for the Western Christian religion to become the global Christian religion than Andrew Walls.”

Walls draws our attention to the fact that one of the differences between Islam and Christianity is how translatable Christianity is by its incarnational nature, and how resistant Islam is to translation:

Christian faith must go on being translated, must continuously enter into vernacular culture and interact with it, or it withers and fades.

Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine Word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic, the language of original revelation.

For Christians, however, the divine Word is translatable, infinitely translatable. The very words of Christ himself were transmitted in translated form in the earliest documents we have, a fact surely inseparable from the conviction that in Christ, God’s own self was translated into human form.

Much misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims has arisen from the assumption that the Qur’an is for Muslims what the Bible is for Christians.

It would be truer to say that the Qur’an is for Muslims what Christ is for Christians.
(The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, 29)

Did you catch that last line?

The parallel between Christianity and Islam is not that Christ parallels Mohammed and the Qur’an parallels the Bible. The parallel is that the Qur’an parallels Christ. The giving of the Qur’an is in Islam what the incarnation of Christ is to Christianity.

If this is so, then Qur’an-burning is parallel to Christ-crucifying.

But ponder the implications of this. On the one hand you might say this goes a long way to explaining Muslim rage. Yes. But more importantly it goes even farther to show the deep differences between the two religions.

In the process of being crucified, Jesus rebuked the use of the sword (Matthew 26:52) healed his enemy’s amputated ear (Luke 22:51), prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers (Luke 23:34), and sent his followers out to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them (Luke 6:27).

So the Qur’an has been burned and the Christ has been crucified—and continues to be crucified.

The test is in the response.