One would think the Golden Rule would be sufficient to prevent a Christian from burning the holy book of another religious group, but this appears to not be enough for Pastor Terry Jones in Gainesville, Florida who plans to go ahead with plans to mark the anniversary of Sept. 11th by burning a number of Korans. While I think common courtesy, loving one’s enemies, and respect for the human conscience would all be in operation here, I think there is another reason why Christians wouldn’t want to take such an action; God has Muslims around for a purpose.
To understand why that is, I think Joe Carter proposes an interesting thought experiment in a recent post on First things:
Imagine that you (a devout Christian, Jew, Mormon, Hindu, etc) are shown a button and are told that if you press it, all knowledge of the Koran will cease to exist. Every text version across the globe will instantly disappear and any passages that were memorized will be forgotten. Muslims will not otherwise be affected other than their having no recall of the words of Allah as collected by Mohamed.
Would you press the button? How would you justify your decision? Would your decision be different if you had to make it solely based on the teaching of your faith and not on received cultural assumptions?
As a Christian I most decidedly would not press such button because I believe that God Himself places the powers that be (which include nations and people groups) in the world for a purpose, that purpose ultimately being to bring Himself glory and maximize the number of people who would come to know Him. As the book of Daniel so eloquently puts it:
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,for wisdom and power belong to Him. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; he removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” – Daniel 2:20-21
Ultimately as a believer I must accept that anyone who has power or influence in this world does so for a reason – because God allows it. In the Old Testament we see a number of nations raised up and utilized by God for His purposes – Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, etc. All ruled for a time, had a place in God’s overall plan. This has always been the case and always will be. And the result will always be the same – God will get glory, His truth will be advanced, and His people will triumph. What is often forgotten is that everyone who exists is necessary to this end, whether they believe it or not and this includes all follow the Koran.
Now this does not mean our response as believers is passivity, because we are here for a purpose as well – but our purpose isn’t to eliminate people God chose to exist but to represent truth in our prayers, our lives, and our words and so play our part in maximizing the number of those who will experience the ultimate reality of eternity with God.
So if offered such a button the answer is ‘no’; as is the answer to the request to help burn a stack of Korans.