An Important Response to Terry Jones from Covenant Seminary

Last week, Keith Simon posted a blog about Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center. This is the pastor and the church that publicly threatened to burn the Qur’an.

Warren Mayer later left a helpful comment under Keith’s blog post regarding a letter that Covenant Theological Seminary sent to Terry Jones and the members of the Dove World Outreach Center. Last week, I had also received an email from Covenant Seminary with a link to this same letter, since I’m a graduate of that seminary. It was a letter worth reading for several reasons: a) it is a good response to Terry Jones and that church, and b) it also provides a very good example for us as Christians in dealing with those who oppose our beliefs.

You can read the entire letter for yourself here:

One thing important that this letter demonstrates is the principle of finding things to commend rather than just criticize. It’s always easy to criticize. It’s always easy to attack. Especially when you’re joining the whole nation in doing so. But what I appreciate about this letter’s approach is that they do an unpopular thing in citing things that are right in Terry Jones.

And that’s an important reminder for all of us when we find the need to confront, correct, or criticize someone’s beliefs or approach. Is there first something we can commend, something that’s right about their beliefs? Where do we agree? And this letter mentions six things for which Terry Jones and his church should be commended. I appreciate that we see that approach in this letter.

Then the letter addresses some important criticisms and corrections of Terry Jones and his church’s approach in their burning the Qur’an. Here are what I believe to be the most important principles regarding Terry Jones’ approach to Islam versus what should be the Christian approach (there is another important paragraph in the letter I’m leaving out here for sake of time—but you can read it at the link above).

To quote from the letter:

Christians, whether individually or organized, should eschew violent and inflammatory actions taken as Christians against anyone—particularly violent and inflammatory actions taken in the name of, and with the alleged support of, expressly religious teachings.

Using proper force, including violent force, is a God given prerogative of certain societal and governmental authorities (including Christians serving in those roles), but not ordinarily of Christians (or members of any other religious tradition) as individual or organized Christians (or as members of any other religious tradition).

Violent and inflammatory actions taken for expressly religious purposes usually (often unwittingly) support other, nonreligious interests, for example political, ethnic, and economic interests.

The Bible is replete with teaching to be peacemakers, including the apostle Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And I find this paragraph particularly important for us today as Christians:

Christians must not simplistically categorize Islam, whether uniquely or together with other religious traditions, as “of the devil.” Instead, Christians should see non-biblical religious traditions as a combination of human aspiration for the Creator God, sinful rebellion against the same Creator God, and satanic deception. It is overly simplistic and reductionist to categorize Islam or any other religious tradition by reference to less than all three of these aspects. Moreover, simply labeling Islam as “of the devil” is insulting, derogatory, and unnecessarily inflammatory towards fellow human beings, fellow bearers of God’s image, and fellow citizens of local communities, countries, and the world.

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