A comment by Thomas Schirrmacher, Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance
This blog entry is a supplement to the following German communication in Bonner Querschnitte, translated her from the German:
The World Evangelical Alliance condemns the Murder of UN Workers
But not before Jones had dragged Jesus’ name through the mud
(Bonn, April 1, 2011) The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has condemned in the strongest possible terms both the burning of the Koran by a miniscule splinter group in the USA as well as the murder of UN workers in Afghanistan. As the General Secretary of the WEA, the Canadian Geoff Tunnicliffe communicated in a statement, a detestable act which has nothing to do with the Christian faith could never be used to justify an even more detestable act. Tunnicliffe expressed his deepest condolences to the family members of the UN workers and called upon Muslim leaders around the world to calm those prepared to commit acts of violence and to make it clear that the burning of the Koran had been condemned by all Christian churches.
The Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, Thomas Schirrmacher, declared that the burning of the Koran is an act that occurred against the clear will of Jesus, who prohibited his disciples from using the sword against others as well as calling down fire from heaven. With their act, the congregation in Gainesville, in the presence of Terry Jones, sullied the name of Jesus Christ before the entire world. Terry Jones pointed to the fact that the WEA had repeatedly expressed massive opposition to the Koran burning and in the USA had closed ranks with Muslim leaders on this issue.
Schirrmacher also pointed out that the WEA had warned Jones and others repeatedly that the price for the madness was not to be paid by Jones and others in the safety of America but rather by innocent people around the world. Precisely that has now happened, as little as the burning of a book could justify the murder of people.
The fact that in the attack Hindus and non-religious people were murdered shows, according to Schirrmacher, that Islamism is not only directed against Christianity, but rather that it is a mobilizing agent against all of those who think differently. Peace loving people of all religions and world views have to corporately direct themselves against such a thing. Religious freedom, peace, and justice are indivisible.
German Source: www.bucer.eu
While Jesus prophesied to his followers: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God“ (Matthew 5:5,9), and while the Apostle Paul summons us as follows: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), Jones decided that playing with fire is the order of the day. In the first place this was literal. It used social networks on the Internet for an international trial against the Koran and then brought a subsequent conviction and burning of a copy of the Koran.
Even if it is the case that everyone is in danger of not living up to the Gospel, there is something special that applies here that God has said: “’God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you‘“ (Romans 2:24). In any event, up to now Terry Jones has made neither the God of love nor Jesus known around the world. He has only made himself known.
Terry Jones is trying to win capital for the faith out of the political mood against Islam. Still: “’ . . . all who draw the sword will die by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52). Over against that is the following: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness . . .” (Galatians 5:22-23). Our mandate is thus another one: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone“ (Titus 3:1-2).
Terry Jones intertwines the mandate of the church and the mandate of the state over against Islam to a degree that is beyond all recognition. In the end he pledges neither to the church nor to the state, but rather as an individual takes things into his own hands in the place of the supposed too friendly church and the too lax state. The Islamic idea that the individual may exercise violence and force through Islam if the state and society should do it but do not, making every state monopoly with respect to law and the use of force impossible, has found its parallel in pseudo-Christian garb.
It is naturally wrong that Muslims react to such provocation with violence. However, in spite of this, anyone who so excessively provokes in a manner that knowingly fuels violence and in the process utilizes the language of war is at least in part responsible for the violence that results. For that reason, the World Evangelical Alliance rightly notified Jones of future visits of widows of Christians if there husbands would be could by Islamist violence in reaction to Jones’ deeds.
Christians are glad that God himself is the judge and has retained for himself each and every final judgment. Only God himself can look into the hearts of people, and in the end we cannot see his verdict, since “the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart“ (1 Samuel 16:7).
God has forbidden us from enforcing any sort of punitive sentence on our critics and punishing people for their ‘unbelief.’ Even Jonah had to experience that God was more merciful than Jonah himself, for Jonah would have rather seen judgment come upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:4:1-10). And Jesus clearly rebuked the thought of his disciples to send down fire from heaven upon any villages that rejected him (Luke 9:51-56). Christian preachers may regret with a bleeding heart that people reject the offer of salvation in Christ, but they never have the right to declare such people to be monsters, to attack them, to incite the state against them, or to entreat judgment against them or carry it out oneself.
According to the biblical understanding, the monopoly on force in this world is a matter held only by the state, which has neither the mandate to proclaim the Gospel nor to increase the size of the Christian church. Indeed it has to stay out of questions of conscience and religion. It is for this reason, conversely, that the state, as ‘God’s servant, expressly has to punish Christians who do evil (Romans 13:1-7). The state has to protect Christians only insofar as they protect everyone who does good, and the state in its efforts to promote justice and peace has to hinder anyone who plans violence or exercises violence, whether they are religiously motivated or not.
Would Jesus probably have burned a Koran? Would Paul have spoken out in favor of it? Indeed Paul was also “distressed” about the many idols in Athens (Acts 17:16), but he then spoke in a friendly manner and with respect for the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:22-23). This is due to the fact that Christians always ‘defend’ their faith “with gentleness and respect“ over against critics (1 Peter 3:15-16).