tml> Biblical Ethics and Islam
  1. Introduction
2. The Bible on its own terms
3. The Koran on its own terms
4. Contrasts between the Bible and the Koran
5. Holy War in the Bible, Jihad in the Koran
6. Christian expansion, Islamic expansion
7. The ministry of the Prince of Peace
8. Questions from the audience
   
Biblical Ethics and Islam

Love of Hard Questions Seminar #220
21 April 2002
7. The ministry of the Prince of Peace


Okay, let me conclude my thoughts with two stories--or one story and then one article I’ve written. Because I’ve spoken longer than I wanted to, I won’t read the article, I’ll just sum it up. But a story, how in the face of a genuine incommensurability of communication, Islam will not accept our definition of history, okay.

How therefore can we talk about the history of conflict? How can we communicate? In some ways I think September 11 may be a break in the dam of Islam, because all of a sudden the nature of Islam is being telescoped across the whole planet, and people are looking at it critically like they’ve never looked at it before. And we need to be a praying people.

You know the last church in Kabul that was destroyed in 1973 was pastored by my seminary professor, now with the Lord, Jay Christie Wilson. And so he and his sons whom I know, who knows what God has for them for Afghanistan. I pray that the Gospel will come into Afghanistan. I hear that there’s all sorts of even spontaneous revivals that are on the Pakistani border’s periphery. But I don’t know much detail about that yet, but I think the need is so evident.

September 11 may really be an opportunity, that when the religious and political liberty of a nation founded on biblical ethics is assaulted, we have a contest where we need to be a praying people and ask ourselves the tough question, how, therefore, do we show peace.

A friend of mine, Rick Harden, who goes to my home church, art professor, radical fellow, home schooling parents of six, and that’s radical in this nation, and an incredible artist, when he was up in Back Bay, Boston, before his first daughter was born, and Georgia must be about 18 now, he made a very fine living painting beautiful pictures for wealthy patrons. Having a gallery in Back Bay and a gallery in the Village in New York City. But the culture was overwhelmingly pagan and oppressive. So when their first child was due, they bought some land in Connecticut and moved down and his business went down the tubes because to succeed he had to be at the galleries consistently, and also he got tired of painting pretty pictures for wealthy people. He wanted to be prophetic in his art and his art is incredible. And he has some of his art hanging in some of the finest museums in the country, including, as an evangelical Protestant, one of his pieces is hanging in the Vatican. Why is that?

In the late 1980s, he went to Poland to observe the Solidarity movement, and that’s where one of his lithographs he did of that is hanging in the Vatican. But more recently, about three or four years ago he went to Kosovo, to the refugee camps. He felt led by the Spirit to do this, a man of modest means financially. He went there and he got permission from Egyptian clerics, if I remember the story correctly to do so, because he was a Protestant Christian. They had never met a Christian who wasn’t a Serbian Orthodox, and their whole history was 900 years of war and massacres. So the thought of a Christian was a terrible idea to conceive of. And yet he came in there, not as a government agent, not as a preacher, but he came in as an artist. He pulled out his sketchpad and began to draw pictures, and had hundreds of kids around him like that. Their parents around him, fast friendships, why? A cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. He said, “I care about you, and I want to draw pictures about you to help the outside world see your plight.”

You see the sheer goodness? You don’t chase the darkness by identifying it or cursing it. You simply live in the light. That’s exactly what Rick did. Well as a result of this, he was so well received, he came back to the country, raised $100,000 and rebuilt an entire school for a village including all of their soccer equipment. As a result he’s met with leaders of Kosovo who’ve bought his paintings and regard him as a friend. That’s a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. How can we accomplish that?

And now for my proposal, which is wending its way in certain political contacts in D.C., but it’s eventually aiming toward the president, and I’ll be very brief here because I could take a lot of time on this. How can you have conversation between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Between Christians and the Wahhibi sects or the sharia imams.

I think the only way to do it is that we need to say something like this. What I’m recommending of President Bush, and he’s the one who could pull this off, is to have what I will call a Presidential Convocation on the Middle East. And invite every source from every nation interested, start in the United States, and host it in any nation that wants to, as an ongoing unlimited series. And what you do is you say, we have a debate over who the God of Abraham is because the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, all claim to be the God of Abraham. The God, Allah, is not the God of Abraham, and I’ll put my assumptions on the table up front.

But I will say that I don’t want one inch of greater liberty to say what I believe than I first give to you. And then I would articulate or I would have someone convening this articulate six ethical components from the Bible: the power to give, which means we give and don’t take, the power to live in the light honestly above board, the power of informed choice. We’ve talked about that, the power to love hard questions, no question is off the table, the power to love enemies, which is the key that there’s no Islamic tradition for, but the Jew and Christian tradition has it fully.

And then, the toughest of all, the power to forgive. You know the power to forgive is where the Bible concludes, the power to give is where it begins. To forgive is to give in the face of having been violated, and that’s exactly what is needed and only the Messiah can accomplish that. But the only way you can ever talk about that is if you demonstrate the act of giving, which is what my friend Rick Hardin did.

So how can we give at one level and then as well, can we have a convocation where you let every Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist who wants to participate, talk about the history of the conflict, back to the beginning, so that every point of view, from every nation can be heard fully.

Because I’m convinced of this, and I’ve been doing these Mars Hill Forums for a decade and debates before that, when you allow people to be listened to, the catharsis is wonderful. And so I’ve been asked many times, why do I let people, in my Mars Hill Forums go on and on sometimes, or make statements, or posture or so forth. This has happened twice in the last three days. I said because--let me give you another example….

I was doing a forum on paganism and Wiccan religion in America at SUNY Buffalo, and there were two modern pagans of Wiccan religion who asked me a question at the end of the event, and they both stood up, and they said, this is the first time we’ve ever been public about our paganism. It’s a very Catholic city in Buffalo. First time we’ve ever been public about our paganism, because we’ve always feared for our lives. And Margot Adler, my guest there who is a reporter for National Public Radio, and a self-professing pagan, she says, “And the reason you can do it is because John, as a Christian minister, created the forum for you to do so.” And the next man said exactly the same thing. Do you see how the Gospel goes forward at that point? I give a freedom for a contester of the faith to lay out his faith. I think the Islamic issue is far tougher. But if the President of the United States could say a convocation, as many times as we need to meet, in as many nations, with all the leading people having an unlimited opportunity to speak what they want to speak, do you know what would happen? You’d build friendships, you’d actually allow debate to come into existence. And who wants to say--I mean most of the Muslims want freedom, it’s their leaders who don’t want freedom for them. The image of God is universal, anyhow, that’s just a little bit of my ideas there.

Let me make a brief announcement then we’ll take some questions and answers. Even though we’re later than we intended, I’m glad to be here as long as you wish, and Nancy you can conclude at any time you think is appropriate in terms of the timetable. But let me pass out to you some propaganda, this is on the Theological Education Institute. Those of you who want to know more about the ministry, I’ll let you read about it without giving you a blurb, but if you want to be on my mailing list or my e-mail list, there’s a response card in there where you can fill it out.

Give it out to me personally, or mail it to me and also the ministry of the Theological Education Institute, which is basically me, myself, and I right now. It has a much larger vision, which is to bring a biblical understanding to the grassroots of the church to equip us with confidence and competence to show love in the face of a hurting world. And I do it in many different contexts and you can read the material.

And the thing that makes the ministry happen financially, a large chunk of it is free will offering by God’s people, so you will see also there’s an opportunity there if you want to become a monthly pledge supporter, or you want to give a one-time gift. And the lovely thing about the one time gift is there’s no limit on what you can give.

I have a philosophy. You send it, I spend it. And eventually if you send enough, I’ll get up to solvency and then I’ll hire other people, and we’ll spend it on advancing the ministry. But let me break at this point and take questions and answers. And if you would, please come up to the microphone. And as you do so, give me at least your first name. You can give more if you want, and I’m glad to take your questions.

NEXT
  1. Introduction
2. The Bible on its own terms
3. The Koran on its own terms
4. Contrasts between the Bible and the Koran
5. Holy War in the Bible, Jihad in the Koran
6. Christian expansion, Islamic expansion
7. The ministry of the Prince of Peace
8. Questions from the audience